Chapter 13: Beginning is the end is the Beginning


Disclaimer: As usual, Aberrant...still owned by White Wolf (but if they want to sell the rights for cheap, I'd be interested). Incredibles, created by Brad Bird, owned by Disney/Pixar. "Du Hast", written and owned by Rammstein (and amusingly performed by Buddy Pine). Neil owned by Disney/Buena Vista entertainment. Miss Parker (though briefly mentioned and not seen), owned by NBC/TNT (or whoever owns The Pretender these days). "A Space Oddity", written and owned by David Bowie (and poorly sung off key by Buddy). Okay...I think that covers the disclaimers.


The darkness is coming, that much is certain. And while it is inevitable, it concerns me that the war may be brought upon us prematurely by those who wish to control the outcome for their own gain. Some would say it is the baselines who would do such a thing, but sadly, even those of us of the true race are vulnerable to our baser instincts. While both sides are more than willing to point their fingers and say "the other side" will make the first move, it doesn't change the fact that something is indeed coming.

The only thing we can do, is be prepared. And pray that God, if he truly exists, will allow us to survive it.

- From the private journal of Pedro Santiago, the "Mathematician".


North of Los Angeles

Violet wasn't sure what to expect as they approached their destination. Hell, she wasn't even sure why she agreed to act as David's personal chauffeur for the day. She had a couple classes she should be studying for, not driving two hours to a suburb north of LA. On the other hand, she was also curious...what kind of environment did Syndrome 2.0 grow up in?

Stop it!

Ever since she met David a few weeks ago, she kept having a mental war with herself, half of her trying to figure out what this new evil mastermind was up to while the other half kept trying to tell her that David was not Buddy Pine.

A quick glance over at David, she noted some of David's similarities with his father. He had the same hair color and similar facial structures, especially when he laughed. But the eyes were different...they weren't like Buddy Pine's.

"You're doing it again, aren't you?" David said as he looked up from his laptop.

"Wh-what?" Violet managed to stammer.

David smiled at her and she momentarily flinched as she remembered the same expression on Buddy Pine's face. "Comparing me to him."

"I'm sorry," Violet said. "It's just that...you look a little bit like him, but you're different. And yet..." her voice trailed off.

"You're still not sure what to make of me," David finished for her.

Violet nodded, not sure what else to say.

"It's okay," he said, smiling at her again. This time, it wasn't the smug self-assured grin that Violet associated with Buddy Pine. This was a softer and reassuring smile. "Sometimes I don't know what to make of me, either. Then again, that could be said of anyone."

For some reason, Violet couldn't help laughing. "Okay, you just proved you're not entirely your father. Buddy Pine was hardly philosophical."

David chuckled. "Ah, then my master plan is working."

"And what would that be?"

"Distracting you from my true evil plan for world domination by vaporizing the world's supply of toilet paper."

"Wouldn't work, that's what Reader's Digest is for."

David snapped his fingers and frowned. "Dammit! Foiled before I could begin...when will I learn?"

They both laughed, and once again, Violet actually felt herself being lost in the moment and enjoying it. This was real laughter and it felt good. Then she realized who was in the car with her and reeled it in.

Remember, he's not his father...but what if he's worse...stop it!

David gave her a smug grin. "You're still doing it, aren't you?"

"Okay, how are you doing that? Can you read minds?"

"No...unless you were an AI or mentally linked into a computer somewhere, but that's not the case." David logged off and closed his lap-top. "I picked up a habit when I was younger, studying people...how they interact, how they move, how they react in certain situations...it was very useful, especially in middle school and high school." He smiled at her again. "Kept the football players from beating the shit out of me, stuffing me in a locker, or whatever they felt like doing to a geek."

Again, Violet found herself trying to stifle a giggle. "You...a geek? Okay, aside from the clip-on tie-"

"Can we please not bring that up?" David winced.

"I told you, I'll forget about it in a couple years. "I don't see it...yeah, you're smart, but geeks don't generally wake up at five in the morning and do a six mile free-run through the city."

David stared at her for a moment, a stunned look on his face. "Violet Parr? Have you been spying on me?" Then he laughed. "So...exactly how often do you spy on me? Do you happen to follow me back to my apartment when I take a shower? I feel so...so...violated."

"I do not!"

"Oh suuuure, I believe you...little Miss Invisible." He tilted his head to one side. "Tell me that you have never used your power to...say...go into the boy's locker room during PE in high school?"

"I haven't," Violet said, an edge starting to creep in her voice.

"Okay, girls locker room?"

"David!"

"Hey...nothing wrong with that, I mean-"

"I have never used my powers to do anything like that."

David held up his hands defensively. "Okay...okay...it got a little out of hand there," he said. "But our little exchange just now did accomplish something."

"Really? And what might that be?"

"It got you to stop having a mental war with yourself trying to compare me to my father."

An awkward silence filled the car as Violet realized David had done. He was trying to distract her, keep her off balance...much more subtle than his father had been.

"Look," she finally said. "I know what you're trying to do. I know you're not him, but there are some striking similarities there that hit a little too close to home for me."

David's expression softened. "It's okay," he said. "I knew when I approached your family that this was going to be hard for everyone. But given what's going on in the world today, I'd rather have you as allies than enemies."

"Is that all we are to you, David? Just allies?"

The smile was back, but it didn't strike Violet as being Buddy Pine. "For now, Vi. I wish I could say we were friends, but let's face it, there's too much bad blood between your family and me. It's not my fault, but I also know that what Buddy did to your family and other members of the super-powered community...that can never be forgiven."

"Then why even come out in public like this? You could have lived a quiet life under a different identity and been successful that way."

"Maybe," David said. "And if things were different and I didn't know what I know, I probably would have done so."

"What things?" Violet, now curious. She also noticed that David had shifted once again from being funny to suddenly serious.

"Life," he said, staring at the road in front of them. "Then again, I guess life in general wouldn't be interesting if one could simply move about with no challenge along the way. In that regard, life is like a game, a simulation, except the rewards and consequences are real."

"Wow...cryptic much?"

"When I want to be, Vi. Unfortunately, it's the truth this time." There was hint of sadness in his voice. "And no matter what we want, we can't change it." Then the sadness vanished as he sat up in his seat. "Okay, we're almost there, make a left at the next intersection...then it's the third driveway on the right."

Violet did as she was told, pulling up into the third driveway that belonged to a two-story home. At David's urging, she parked behind the drab-green van that was parked out in front of the home's garage. She then got out of the car to look at the building...a two story, possibly a four bedroom home, painted a blue-gray color...an atypical home found in just about any suburb. It didn't fit with what Violet had expected.

David smiled as he ran his fingers along the side of the green van. "Yep, Neil's home."

"Who's Neil?" asked Violet.

"Foster father. I sometimes slip and call him 'Dad'...because he pretty much is. He's probably out in the back yard barbecuing something. C'mon, I'll introduce you." He got out of the car and made his way to the front door.

Violet got out as well and followed David up to the doorstep, but stopped right at the doorway, causing David to turn around when he entered the house.

"What's wrong, Vi?"

Violet shook her head. "Sorry, it's just..."

David rolled his eyes and gently pulled her inside by the arm. "Come on...time to unsuspectingly enter a wannabe super-villain's lair," he said. "You really need to relax, Vi. We're here to pick up a car, not carry out some cataclysmic plot to take over the world."

Violet allowed herself to be led through a short hallway and into a living room. The first thing she noticed was the coffee table that had what appeared to be blueprints of a hospital. She also saw various strange looking tools on the coffee-table, one looked like a crescent-wrench that had a blade coming out of the other end.

Then there were the pictures. Several of them showed David, a girl about the same age, and a man in his early 40s engaged in various activities...mountain climbing, white-water rafting, bungee jumping. That was when she saw it...and almost choked from the laughter.

"Oh...my...god," she said, walking up to pick up the picture that showed David in a soccer uniform. Then she saw another one that had David pole vaulting at a track-meet. "You were a jock?"

"Huh?" David said, then his eyes widened when he realized what Violet was staring at. "That was a long time ago!"

"Um...it was two years ago," Violet giggled. "A geek and a jock."

"Besides, I wasn't that great of an athlete."

"Uh-huh," Violet said as she picked up a small soccer trophy and read the inscription. "Most Valuable Player...you've been holding out on us."

"Hey, put that down," David snapped, grabbing the trophy from her and putting it back on the shelf.

"You know...we really need to talk about your past some time," Violet laughed. She then focused on the picture with David and his adopted family. "I take it the old guy is Neil...who's the girl?"

"Oh, that's Megan, she Neil's daughter," David said. "She's into extreme sports and stuff. She's the real success in the family...she'll be heading off to the Air Force Academy next year."

"You have a weird family, David."

"I'll take that as a compliment." Both David and Violet turned around to see Neil standing there wearing a cooking apron and carrying a plate with a large steak on it.

"Hey, Dad," David said as he walked up to his foster father. "Steak looks nice..."

"Get your own," Neil growled, though Violet could tell there really was no malice there. He then looked over at Violet. "So...you must be Violet. Didn't think you'd take the job...your father must be pissed. So, how many walls did he punch holes through?"

Neil's blunt approach caught Violet off guard. "Um, yeah I am...er...he is...um..."

"Relax, Miss Parr. I know about you and your family, that's part of the NSA package."

"What?"

David couldn't help laughing at Violet's confusion. "It's okay, Vi. He used to work for Dicker and the NSA." He then glanced over at Neil. "Though he still won't tell me what he did exactly for the NSA."

"You know, with all that mega intelligence and super ability, I'm surprised you still haven't figured it out yet," Neil chuckled.

"Aside from the fact that you have several identities, Neil Flynn, Glenn Matthews, Tom Fordham, and...my personal favorite...Dr. Jan Itor." David shook his head. "And those are just the four main ones...haven't even bothered to track down the others yet."

Neil gave him an evil grin. "And when you do that, we'll definitely need to have a serious talk."

"I'd love to, but don't have that kind of time," David said.

"Given what I've seen in the last few weeks about you, I can understand." Neil set the plate of steak down on a counter that separated the kitchen from the dining room. "So, what brings you here, kiddo?"

"Oh...not much, just thought I'd visit," David said, giving Neil his best grin.

"You're lying," Neil said.

"Am not."

"Are too."

"Okay...there is an ulterior motive." David sighed, deciding to get right to the point. "I'd like to buy Black Beauty from you."

"Black Beauty?" Violet asked.

Neil's expression suddenly became serious. "You're joking, right?"

David shook his head again, pulling his checkbook out of his coat. "Fifty-Thousand, Dad," David said as he wrote out the check. "I need a car." He tore the check out of the book and handed it to Neil. "And that's a good deal."

Neil sighed and shook his head. "Sorry, Davey, she's not for sale. I saw what happened to your last car."

"But Dad, it went for a good cause."

"So you trashed your BMW mini to save her ass," Neil quipped. "I'm sure that's crowd pleasing to some, but that was a waste of a decent car."

"Hey!" Violet snapped.

"Dad, it was just a BMW...not worth crying about," David said. "Besides, she was in trouble and I would do it again if I had to."

"Thank you," Violet said.

"Don't mention it, you have a cute ass, it deserves to be saved."

"Hey!" Violet smacked David in the back of the head.

"Ow!" David yelped. "But it's true."

He was awarded with another smack to the back of the head.

"Ow, Vi...stop hitting me."

"Are you two done?" Neil asked.

"Yeah," David said, rubbing his head. "Look, Dad...it's not like you're driving it. And I promise I'll take care of her."

"I don't know, Davey. We put a lot of work into her and I don't want to see her get trashed."

"Oh, for crying out loud, you two," Violet groaned. "This is just a car."

Both men suddenly stopped and turned to look at her in shock. "Just a car!?" they both repeated in unison.

Fifteen minutes later, Violet found herself in the passenger seat of a restored 1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1 and silently praying that she would not die of a heart attack as David tore around a street corner. She also concentrated on trying not to enjoy the adrenaline rush and ignore David's semi-maniacal chuckle.

"Oh yeah...this thing handles like a dream," David said as he slowed down and parked behind Violet's Beetle.

"And I suppose you're going to soup it up with your usual high-tech approach?" Violet asked.

David looked at her, a horrified look on his face. "What? Are you insane?"

"All I'm saying is that your last car was modified with various 'upgrades', I wonder what you'll do with this."

"Violet, this car is almost forty years old...it was a project car that Neil and I started restoring when he took me in." David shook his head. "This is American history we're sitting in...a relic of the past...not some toy to be modified and played with."

"Okay, am I missing something or is there a story here? Because you hardly seem like the person who would get this worked up over a car."

David stared at her for a few seconds before answering, a thoughtful look on his face...as if he were trying to figure out what he should actually tell her.

"Awhile back," he finally said, "Neil had taken me in...I wasn't exactly your typical kid...come to think of it, I don't think I really was a kid back then."

Violet saw something in David's face when he spoke, a hint a sadness. "As opposed to the pinnacle of maturity that you are now," she said, trying to lighten the mood.

David smiled at her, but she could tell that it was faked. "Something like that. Anyway, I couldn't quite fit in with the other kids. But when I saw this old junker Neil had in his shop, I just started working on it right away."

Okay...that sounds a little weird, Violet thought. "If you don't mind me asking, David, what was your childhood like before you moved here?"

Again, David seemed lost in thought. It was now obvious that he was struggling with what he should tell her. "I'm not supposed to talk about it, Vi, but let's just say it was very short, okay?"

Violet didn't like that answer. "David, what the hell did Buddy Pine do to you?"

David shook his head again. "Sorry, Vi...that's classified information...maybe Dicker will let me tell you someday, but not now." The sad smile returned. "And I'm not sure if you could handle the truth right now...so just let it go for now, please?"

Violet was going to push a little further, but stopped at the look in his eyes...something she had never seen before...fear. "Okay," she finally said. "I'll let it go...for now."

An awkward silence filled the car for several seconds until it was interrupted by a tapping on David's window. David rolled down the window and managed to put a smile on his face. "So...Dad...can I have her?"

"You still have the check?"

David pulled the check out of his pocket, but Neil paused before taking the check from David's hand. "Before I take this check, you need to agree to the following," Neil said.

"Like?"

"Premium unleaded at all times, no cheap shit."

"Well...duh."

"You will not use her in questionable situations."

"Yeah...right...as if you were never making out with someone in this car. I remember that one blind date you went on with that gun nut...that Parker lady with the leather fetish."

"Not talking about that kind of activity...I'm talking about the kind where you trash your car needlessly to take down a rampaging nova."

"Ah."

"No eating in the car."

"That's a given. What about coffee?"

"Only if it's in a covered container."

"Okay...is that it?"

"And she gets washed and waxed regularly."

"Yeah...and oil and fluids changed regularly...kind of figured that part out."

"In that case...she's yours." Neil took the check and then headed into the house, leaving David and Violet in the car.

David turned to Violet and smiled. "Well, mission accomplished, I got my car."

"Yeah, it cost you fifty grand," Violet said.

"For all the work we put into this, it's worth it."

Violet got out of the car as David started it up again. "Just stay out of trouble."

"Always," he said. Grinning, he shifted the car into reverse and gunned the engine, causing the car to do a one-eighty degree spin before he shifted it back into gear and drove off.

Violet shook her head. "Boys with their toys," she grumbled...then she found herself starting to laugh. "Really weird day," she said. Then she saw Neil wave at her as he exited the house and headed for his van. "Oh yeah...really weird day."


The Neptune Facility

Utopia Maximum Security Prison

Somewhere off the coast of Africa

Blackness...yep...blackness, the absent of color, light, or whatever...just pure dark nothing...that is what he was aware of when he regained consciousness. Blackness and dull throbbing pain throughout his body...except his right arm.

"Hey, I think the fucker is waking up," he heard someone say.

Well, audio works, but how come I'm getting no picture...

An odd thought, just one of many that suddenly ran through Buddy's mind along with flashes of images...the prison cafeteria, a fight, a guard being tazered, the smiling face of some punk kid that looked a little bit like him...

"About time," someone else rasped. "You saw what he did to Jennings. I'm telling you, they should just lobotomize him and dump his ass in the sea."

Dammit...why can't I get a damn picture...oh...wait..eyes..c'mon...start working, dammit.

It took him a couple more seconds as his mind began to clear up and he began to remember what had happened. He had incited a riot in the cafeteria, and they took him down. The dull pain going through his body started to become more defined as his body began to finally register the punishment he had taken. From the way gravity was pulling on him, and the pressure being put on his body at key points, he can tell he was locked down on some kind of upright platform and his left arm was stretched up over his head and locked down as well. His right arm...his cybernetic arm...nothing.

"Okay, 342, time to wake up. Asshole."

C'mon, eyes...work for me.

His eyes finally opened and he blinked to clear them up...just in time to register that he was in a dimly lit room and a fist was flying towards his face. His head snapped to the side as the blow caught him in the side of the mouth. Aside from the pain, he could feel the taste of blood in his mouth.

Oh yeah...this is definitely back in the real world.

"That's for what you did to Jennings, you fucking prick," he heard the first guard say. "What have you got to say about that?"

Buddy blinked his eyes a couple times again and the room finally came into focus. Yep, he was definitely in the infamous "Black Room". The little cell outside the general prison's surveillance grid where prisoners were "interrogated". He had been here once before...a couple years ago. Last time, he used his cybernetic arm to break free and beat one of the guards into a coma.

Ah yes, those were good times...speaking of which...where is my arm?

He looked across the room and saw his cybernetic arm lying on a table.

Well...that worked out nicely. They can learn...not that it's going to help them.

"What the fuck are you smiling at?"

Before Buddy could say anything, he got a fist to the stomach that knocked the wind out of him.

Damn, this guy must have some real rage issues...probably got bullied at school. Guess I can relate to that on some level.

The other two guards in the room laughed as their companion proceeded to pound away on Buddy.

"Way to go, Mackie. I think he's coughing up blood now."

"Ten bucks says he's going to last at least an hour."

"You're on!"

He felt someone grab his hair before they pulled his head up so they could look him in the eye. A gaunt face and angry eyes stared at him with an expression that was fifty percent hatred and fifty percent ugly.

Very ugly...I swear, that must be a requirement. Where the hell do they find these people? Is there a section on the job application that asks "Are you an ugly bastard with mental problems?"

"C'mon, Pine...you're supposed to be this big badass who killed a bunch of people...you started shit in the cafeteria...not so big now without your arm, are ya?"

Another shot to the stomach and Buddy was sure he was going to throw up in the next few minutes.

"What's the matter, Pine?' asked the guard that Buddy had tagged as "Mackie". "Say something."

Buddy only managed to gasp for air for several seconds...after all...he was trying to breathe and hold back his last meal. After a few more seconds (and he was certain that he wasn't going to throw up), he looked his tormentor in the eye...and smiled.

"I like bacon," he said.

Mackie and the others stopped what they were doing and just stared at him silently for a seconds in disbelief.

"Huh?" was the only thing Mackie the guard had to say in response to that.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" asked one of Mackie's fellow guards.

Buddy only smiled and looked at his cybernetic arm on the table on the other side of the room, ignored by the guards. Upon hearing the voice-command, the arm's internal circuitry and recently modified CPU went online. He had spent the last month making modifications, small subtle ones, making sure that he didn't trigger any built-in security measures the Utopia engineers might have put into his arm when they built it. It really wasn't much...just a small CPU and networking interface, along with a little bit of dormant programming that wouldn't activate until he said the designated code-phrase.

Upon being triggered, the tiny CPU with its little networking chip sent out a signal and linked up with nine little devices Buddy had planted near various power conduits. It also linked to the prison's network and immediately uploaded a tiny little virus that began altering command protocols.

The lights suddenly dimmed, reducing visibility in the room for everyone. Buddy immediately closed his eyes and turned his head to the side, knowing what was going to come next.

His arm suddenly moved, its servo-motors making enough noise to attract attention.

"What the hell?"

"Someone kill that thing."

"Careful, it might be-"

Mackie the guard never finished his sentence as the arm exploded, the bright flash blinding everyone and its shrapnel cutting down two of the guards. Mackie was knocked off his feet by the concussive force of the explosion and thrown against the wall.

The clamps holding Buddy in place suddenly opened as the lights returned to normal, allowing him to slide off the table.

"Security override established," responded the cool and unemotional female voice of the prison's AI. "Initiating new protocols. Warning, EMP activity detected..."

Buddy grinned. "Don't worry baby, it's not meant for you...though you probably won't be around much longer anyway." He then walked over to one of the now deceased guards whose face was shredded from the amount of shrapnel he took from the blast. "Ow...and that, you little shit, is why you need to wear a helmet." He searched the man's body, hoping to find a key-card when he heard a soft moan. His eyes lit up with malicious glee as he recognized the person.

"Mackie!" Buddy laughed as he walked over and kicked the one surviving guard in the head, knocking the man back down to the ground. Then he saw the shock-stick that Mackie was apparently reaching for. "Oh yeah," he said, stooping down to pick up the shock-stick. "You know what the really cool thing about the Unitech 330 stun-baton is?" he asked casually as Mackie tried to get up again. "No? You don't know? Well...the Utopia people, or to be more precise, their masters...the ones who truly run this facility...wanted something with a little more kick, but made sure that certain safety protocols were put in so lowly security guards like you couldn't access the higher settings. Computer...disengage the safety protocols on shock-prod..." he paused for a moment to look at the numbering on the stick, "Delta-seven-one-three-bravo-lima-six-three."

"Safety protocol disengaged."

"Thank you," Buddy said. He kicked Mackie in the middle of the back, forcing the guard back to the ground again. "Now," he said, twirling the baton in his hand. "Allow me to introduce you to the concept of electric sodomy...sorry, no lubricant is available at this time."

Then he brought the shock-stick down hard in the middle of the guard's back, his soft cruel chuckle drowned out by Mackie's screams as he was electrocuted.

William Morgan had been a guard at C-12 for nearly six years...almost from the time they had converted the old remote oil-drilling platform into a prison. As a former Navy SEAL, he had seen a lot of things in his lifetime prior to his posting to C-12, but the nova prisoners he had seen show up at this facility were the worst. Nearly two hundred of these monsters were sentenced here, kept in line only by regular doses of moxinoquantimine and the ankle bracelets that each prisoner wore.

Yes, novas came in all shapes and sizes, some were hideous monsters both literally and figuratively, but he found that most of those paled in comparison to the "normal" looking ones. He thought it ironic that the more "human" looking novas that would have almost no blending into the baseline human population tended to be the more vicious of the "rogue" novas. But none of them came close to the one nova he actually worried about...Buddy Pine.

Buddy Pine, oddly enough, was cordial with Morgan. Of course, there were the usual death threats from Pine, but the man was more than willing to carry on a decent conversation. Other guards, and most of the nova prisoners for that matter, didn't think much of Buddy Pine. To them, he was a low level nova who only made fancy gadgetry and weapons. But Morgan was one of the few who knew the truth about Buddy Pine...the man was a living time bomb waiting to go off.

What most people didn't know was the fact that C-12 was primarily made to house Buddy Pine. Utopia's leadership knew the danger Buddy Pine posed, but they also weren't ones to pass up having a captive scientist/inventor at their disposal. For five years, Buddy Pine was kept detained at C-12, forced to develop new technologies for Utopia, technologies that Utopia would occasionally "share" with the rest of the world, though they tended to keep a majority of Pine's inventions away from the public, citing that 'the world is not ready'.

Morgan was no fool, he knew a line of bullshit when he saw it. Utopia's leadership was keeping the real big breakthroughs for themselves, planning to reveal them to the rest of the world when it was politically or economically convenient. And yet, for some reason, Pine really had no problem with it...and that's what bothered Morgan.

It's like having Lucifer prisoner. Except people tend to forget this is literally the devil we're dealing with and we're eventually going to get burned. I just hope I can get the hell out of here before it hits the fan.

Until a couple months ago, Morgan was content to work another two years and retire with a decent benefit package. But that changed when Jonathan Lansing, the now former director of International Operations for Project Utopia showed up with an order granting Buddy privileges and allowing him some concessions. Though assured that the small laptop Lansing had given Buddy was limited and certain functions had been permanently disabled, Morgan didn't like it.

Giving that bastard any type of personal electronic equipment is just asking for trouble.

Morgan voiced his concerns to the warden, but was told that there wasn't anything they could do about it. Since being allowed back with the general populace, Buddy Pine had been a model prisoner, but Morgan didn't buy that either. He knew the bastard was planning something and there was nothing he could do about it except pray that he was far away when that plan came to fruition.

Thankfully, they did approve of his request for a transfer and he would be gone within a couple weeks. Granted, they assigned him as a guard at some remote monitoring outpost near Talaud Island, but he would rather deal with volcanic eruptions, poisonous wildlife, and occasional earthquakes than be anywhere near Buddy Pine.

Then the incident in the cafeteria happened. Pine had picked a fight with a new guard named Jennings, claiming he only wanted a cigarette. He incited a riot that was immediately shut down by the ankle bracelets that fried their wearers, allowing the guards to drag the rioters back to their cells. Buddy Pine was dragged off to what everyone referred to as "The Black Room", an area that was part of an isolated cell-block that was away from the general prison population and not as heavily monitored. Morgan didn't blame the men for wanting some payback on Pine, but he had a bad feeling and immediately made his way towards the warden's office which was located in the upper-levels of the facility near the residential areas for the prison staff. He passed by one of the few large observation windows and noticed the storm brewing outside. He could see lightning off in the distance and saw several waves slam against the facility, the white backwash splatter momentarily reaching up to the observation window and blocking the view before dissipating.

Damn, this is going to be an ugly storm.

He had seen his share of ocean storms, but Morgan wasn't concerned. C-12 had endured at least a couple hurricanes a year, so he thought nothing of it, though he had to admit that it was rare to see those kind of waves hit the facility like the one he just saw. He made his way to the command center of the facility where he found the warden talking to one of the techs.

Warden Bradford Tyler, like Morgan, was a former soldier, a twenty year marine veteran who worked his way up through the enlisted ranks before becoming an officer. And, like Morgan, signed on with Utopia, lured by the big paycheck. The only thing Morgan had against the warden was the man's listening to bureaucrats that made up the Utopia leadership these days. However, what redeemed Tyler in Morgan's eyes was that he didn't like having no choice but to execute whatever orders the Utopia directors passed down. There were times when Tyler would follow the instructions of his superiors, but made sure his people knew where the loopholes were so they wouldn't be bogged down by bureaucratic red-tape.

Unfortunately, when it came to Buddy Pine, they were very particular with their orders. Someone high up in Utopia regarded Buddy Pine as a valuable commodity and went out of their way to make sure that he was secured and kept from "extensive damage".

Oh yeah...we're definitely going to get burned from this.

Tyler looked up as Morgan approached and gave him a tiny smile. "I understand we had some excitement down below," he said. Then his smile faded. "I heard it was Pine."

"Yeah," Morgan replied. "I'm not sure what his game is, but he wouldn't do anything like that...not without a reason."

Tyler sighed and shook his head. "Great," he grumbled. "How many people did Pine maim this time?"

"Just Jennings, poor kid took multiple shocks from a stun-baton and a mild concussion from being knocked around, but that's about it."

"Where's Pine now?"

"Mackie and the others dragged him off to the Black Room."

"Shit," growled Tyler, shaking his head again. "Mackie's a loose cannon. I don't mind the crew smacking Pine around for whatever shit he's trying to pull, but if that fucker seriously injures or kills Pine and the higher ups find out about it, they'll take it out on us for killing their golden goose."

"Well, we could always claim he was killed in an accident or something," Morgan offered.

That comment actually brought a smile to the warden's face. "No," he said. "I wish we could get away with that, but you know there would be an inquiry. Unfortunately, Utopia loves their rabid dog and doesn't want us to put him down like we should. Contact the idiots in the Black Room, tell them that playtime is canceled and to dump the little shit back in his cell."

"Yes sir." Morgan keyed on his communicator. "Mackie, this is Morgan...cancel playtime and drop the bastard back in his cage."

Morgan was expecting to hear some smart-ass response from Mackie, the usual irreverent tone that bordered on insubordination. Instead, all he got was silence.

"Mackie?" Morgan frowned as he remembered the last time Mackie was this silent when dealing with a guest in the Black Room. "If you seriously injured that piece of shit, it's your hide."

"Oh...wow, Morgan, I didn't know you cared," chuckled an all too familiar voice.

Morgan heard several gasps of shock and disbelief, and he could have sworn the temperature in the room dropped by ten degrees.

"Oh c'mon, people," Pine snickered over the line. "You knew this day would come eventually, right?"

Tyler leaned forward and tapped a key on a nearby console that activated the facility wide PA system. "This is Warden Tyler, we have a breach in sector 42, I want a level 4 detail-"

"Uh-uh," interrupted Buddy Pine, cutting off Warden Tyler's announcement. The lights suddenly dimmed for a moment before returning to normal and there was an audible click as all the doors to the command center suddenly locked. "This is my game, Warden Tyler, I make the rules now."

"Um, sir," said one of the techs as he frantically tapped away on the keyboard and read the data on the screen. "We have a problem. He's put us in emergency lock-down."

"How?" asked Tyler.

"I don't know, sir," the tech replied. "Oh god...sir, the inmate's security anklets...they've been deactivated."

"And so it begins," Pine's voice boomed ominously over the PA system before breaking into another chuckle. "Oh god...that was way over the top, wasn't it."

However, Pine's comments were ignored by the personnel of the command center as they were paying attention to the monitors that displayed the chaos that was starting to erupt in the prison as inmates suddenly realized their restraints were neutralized and began to attack the guards.

"Shit, we gotta' get in there," said Tyler as he saw guards being taken down and dragged off by inmates.

"We're trying, sir, but he's got the area sealed off." The tech paused to check another screen. "He's also cut off communications in the facility...we're helpless here."

"We have to do something," Morgan said as he walked over to where another tech was trying to bypass some of the security protocols. "Think you can break it?"

"Maybe," said the young Asian man. "It'll take awhile, but I think I can break it...never thought my hacking skills would be used here."

"How long?"

"I don't know...about an hour."

"Not sure if we have an hour," grumbled Morgan, but he knew better than to take it out on a the tech. "Just do what you can."

"Hellllllloooooooooooo...anybody there?" Pine asked. Then he started to sing terribly off-key. "This is Ground Control to Major Tooooooooooooooooooooooom..."

"Can someone please at least cut that fucker off?" Tyler ordered.

"Wow, such language, Warden Tyler," laughed Pine. "What kind of example does that set for those under your command. Granted, I know that you were once a marine and it's almost impossible for a marine to say go a whole sentence without saying the f-word, but c'mon...you're not a grunt anymore."

"What do you want, Pine?" asked Morgan.

"Ah, Morgan, you ARE in the command center. It's good to know that there is someone with a working brain cell over there...not that it will do you much good."

"What do you want, Pine?" Morgan asked again.

"Oh...the usual," there was a pause...followed by the sound of something metal, a tool perhaps, hitting the ground. "Damn, sorry about that. Only got one arm at the moment and it's a bitch to talk to you and work on my stuff at the same time without dropping something. As for what I want...well, the usual criteria...money, power, my enemies dying a gruesome death preferably by my hands...er...hand...though I've really been craving a bacon cheeseburger for some reason...not sure why."

"The guy's fucking psycho," muttered another guard in the command center.

"Well...duh," laughed Pine. "Anyway...hold on a sec...it's time for me to make this a facility wide broadcast-"

Suddenly the facility shook violently as if something had hit it.

"What the hell was that?" asked Tyler.

"According to our instruments, that was a wave sir...a ninety footer," replied the first technician.

"Is that possible?"

"Not unheard of, but-" the tech was cut off as the facility shook again. He looked down at his screen and his eyes widened, the panic clear in his voice. "Oh...my...god."

Tyler looked down at the screen and saw a satellite view of the area and the computer was automatically tagging at least three or four more large anomalies approaching the facility.

"Whoa," said Buddy Pine. "It feels like things are starting up a little bit sooner than I intended. Guess mother nature really doesn't like being fucked with like that. Excuse me for a moment, would you?"

"Pine, what the hell did you do?" growled Morgan.

"He can't hear you, sir," said the other tech. "He just cut the connection."

Buddy frowned as he studied the lab's monitor, mildly upset that the EMP pulse generated from the base of the facility being a little more powerful than he planned. Oh, he intended for the result to be powerful and destructive...he was just hoping to have a little more "fun time". Getting to his work lab was easy enough though. After he had fried Mackie the guard, leaving a charred corpse in dire need of a proctologist, he had the system's AI lock everything down except for passages that led to the lab. To prevent security personnel from stopping him, he had the AI gas the passages, killing everybody unfortunate enough to be there. He could have gassed the whole facility...but that wouldn't have been any fun.

However, he managed to pause for a moment, just a moment because he didn't have much more time to spare if the readings were any indication, to bask in this moment of triumph...a moment that was abruptly ended as the facility shook again.

"Dammit," he grumbled to himself. "Of all the times for me to outdo myself, why did it have to be on this project?"

Then he shrugged and returned his attention to the small weird archway he had constructed in his lab. It had taken him a couple weeks to cobble this thing together. He managed to get away with it by telling his observers that he was building some sort of small power generator using his zero-point technology...which wasn't really lying, it did have a portable ZP power unit attached to it...he just didn't bother telling them that it was a "one-shot matter transmission device"...or, in layman's terms, a teleportation unit.

He checked the power levels on the archway and smiled as they hit eighty percent. Then he hit the activation switch to start calibrating the unit and lovingly slid his hand down the side of the unit.

"Oh...baby, look at you," he said softly. "Perhaps one of my greatest creations and I'm only going to use you once before kicking you to the curb." He suddenly paused and shook his head. "Okay...now I know I'm going nuts if I'm stating to talk and fondle the machinery...I definitely need to get out of here."

He then returned his attention to the computer terminal, going through a batch of mp3 audio files he discovered. Normally, he would have cared less, but he felt like he needed some music to fit the mood, especially given what was happening now and what was going to happen in the next ten minutes. He browsed through the list, pausing for a moment on "Dragula" by Rob Zombie when he saw another selection.

"Oh yeah," he chuckled. "They'll do nicely...granted, my German's a little rusty...but I'll improvise."

Back in the command center, Tyler and Morgan were going over their options as the various technicians tried to hack their way back into the system.

"We're running out of time, Brad," Morgan said. "The little shit is planning something."

Tyler nodded. "Agreed, but what could he possibly want? I mean, if he wanted to take control of the facility, why not stage a full scale riot, overwhelm us, and take over. Yes, we've lost control of the station, but he's keeping the general prison levels separated from the outer levels...why keep the inmates contained?"

That's what's bothering me, thought Morgan. "Buddy Pine could care less about the others," he said, "he's only out for himself. Trust me, he's got an end-game planned, but I have no clue what he could be up to."

"But could he possibly come up with?"

As if in response to Tyler's question, the facility shook again. This time, alarms went off and the groan of metal being torn away could be faintly heard.

"Sir!" one of the techs almost shouted. "We just lost the eastern observation tower!"

"Get me a visual," Tyler ordered.

The tech obeyed and keyed on the main vid-screen, accessing another satellite view.

"Oh god," Morgan heard someone say...though he was wondering if he said it himself because of what he saw. The eastern observation tower was gone...along with the helipad that was on top of it. It was as if it had been ripped away, leaving the jagged remains of the supporting structures. But what scared him more was the strange way the water was starting to churn around the facility itself, as if it were in the middle of a the beginning of a whirlpool...a massive whirlpool.

"That's not possible," Tyler managed to choke out after several moments of silence.

Then the image on the screen suddenly vanished to be replaced by a grinning, one-armed, Buddy Pine holding some sort of remote control device and standing front of some weird looking arch-way made of metal that was ominously shooting off the occasional blue spark.

"And helloooooooo, Neptuuuuuuune!"

One of the techs tried to cut Pine off, but shook his head. "Sorry, he's taken control of all communications and he's broadcasting all through the station. Can't cut him off."

Back on the screen, Pine grinned at them. "This is Buddy Pine aka 'MC 342' speaking...as some of you may have guessed by now, the facility is no longer under the control of Project Utopia...you could say it's under new management!"

In the general prison area, the inmates who had recently subdued, injured, or just out-right murdered the their guards looked up at the three-dimensional hologram being projected over their heads. Some were applauding, while others were laughing or hollering out their encouragement.

"And I know, for most of you, this sounds like a good thing." Then Buddy frowned at them. "But, sadly, this is only temporary. Because, I'm sorry to say, this facility will no longer be here much longer."

The laughter and amusement of the inmates died down almost immediately and they, like those helpless in the command center began to experience a sense of dread. They also heard the sound of the large metal doors that kept the general prison area separated from the rest of the facility start to grind open.

"Yes, people" Pine continued. "It's sad, but true. My advice to you is to stop taking your aggressions out on the guards or each other and focus on getting to the available life-pods. Survivability is only about fifty percent for those of you that make it that far, but it's a hell of a lot better than no chance at all for those that remain."

The inmates didn't have to be told twice. Almost immediately, they all went storming as an unruly mob toward the main doors, pushing, shoving, and fighting each other on their way to the exit. Some tried to use their newly reactivated powers to fight their way through, only to find themselves fighting other inmates whose powers were starting to return.

Back in the lab, Buddy smiled at the chaos he saw on one of the screens, but kept talking. "Now, that being said...this is usually the part where I ramble on incoherently for no reason other than to reveal bits and pieces of my master plan, but...well, I got nothing." He shrugged at the camera and gave it an apologetic look. "Sorry, but it's hard coming up with new monologue material with every scheme and since I've kind of been out of action for the last five years, I'm a little rusty. However, I promise the next time I come up with a cataclysmic plan for world-domination or something, I will have stuff."

He then held up the remote and pointed it dramatically at the camera as if it were a gun.

"But not this time. No fancy monologue, just the fact that most, if not all, of you are going to die a savage and brutal death while I make my escape. So...have a nice day and...rock on!"

In the command center, Buddy Pine's image blinked out and was replaced by the satellite view of the facility. Then the command center and the facility's intercom system kicked on at full almost deafening volume as a song began to play.

"DU...DU HAST...DU HAST MICH!"

"What the hell!?" Tyler yelled.

"You got to be fucking kidding," one of the techs muttered. "The bastard is playing 'Du Hast' by Rammstein?"

Du

Du hast

Du hast mich

Du

Du hast

Du hast mich

Du

Du hast

Du hast mich

Du

Du hast

Du hast mich

Du hast mich

Du hast mich gefragt

Du hast mich gefragt

Du hast mich gefragt und ich hab nichts gesagt

Down in the lab, Buddy Pine was head-banging in tune to the music, then began to sing along to the refrain.

Willst du, bis der Tod euch scheidet,

Treu ihr sein für alle Tage?

Nein!

Nein!

Willst du, bis der Tod euch scheidet,

Treu ihr sein für alle Tage?

Nein!

Nein!

The facility shook again. This time, there was a loud shriek of metal as parts of the prison were being ripped off. Up in the command center, the last thing Tyler said was "Oh shit!" before the entire upper part of the facility was torn away and water flooded the command center, drowning everyone.

Some inmates had managed to make their way to the life-pods, small mini-subs that were relatively safe, if they weren't subjected to the elemental forces that were being unleashed on the station. A couple of the subs were dragged down by the whirlpool while the rest were ripped apart.

Down in the lab which was starting to fall apart around him, Buddy typed in a few final commands in the remote before tossing it aside. "Well," he said. "Time to go." Then he shook his head again. "Damn...really need to stop talking to myself."

Then he heard more sounds of rending metal and water start shooting though various pipes at high pressure. "Oh shit...bye bye!"

He then jumped into the now glowing blue archway. Just before the archway began to disassemble his molecular structure for transmission, he suddenly had a thought.

Wait a minute...I'm going to show up naked on the other si-

He never finished that thought as the archway suddenly shot out a blue beam of light that ripped through the ceiling, through the maelstrom of water and debris, and continued on up into the Earth's upper atmosphere before hitting the prison's communication satellite which then redirected the beam back to its intended target before self-destructing. Its task done, the archway burned itself out, only to be suddenly swept away by millions of tons of water that ripped through the facility on its way to destroying the station's power source.

Within twenty minutes, it was over. The Neptune Facility was gone, as if it no longer existed and the water now occupying its former location was starting to calm down. Unfortunately, the waves generated by Buddy's EMP wave were still going strong, taking out at least half a dozen freighters in international shipping lanes before slamming into the coast of Somalia and other countries, instantly wiping out a handful of seaside villages while flooding several others.

Over the next twenty-four hours, the news networks would declare this a natural disaster of almost biblical proportions. Conspiracy theorists word-wide would claim that it was a Utopia experiment gone wrong. Representatives for Project Utopia would try to calm the world and assure them that they, and all branches of their Team Tomorrow super team were doing what they could to assist those affected by the disaster.

Then there were those who were the true power behind Utopia, those who suspected what had happened. Needless to say, six of those seven had no idea of the scale of destruction Buddy Pine was truly capable of.

As for the one who truly knew what Buddy Pine was about...she had done something she had never done before in her life.

She prayed.


Metroville, California

He had lived many years...he wasn't quite sure of his own age anymore...he lost count after his eighty-fifth birthday, but he knew he had to be pushing at least a hundred and ten. Not that it mattered because he had the body of a thirty year old and the physique of a greek god.

The man who called himself Divis Mal allowed himself a small chuckle as he walked through the suburban neighborhood. Instead of his usual garb that associated him with the Teragen, he wore normal clothes...well, as normal as a being like himself would allow...an expensive Italian suit and overcoat still made him standout, but the baselines would have mistaken him as some wealthy individual with a fine taste in clothes.

He had many names and lived many different lives over the last century. He was born at the time the horse and buggy were still the main means of transport, and watched as humanity made great leaps in technology in a relatively short time. He was there when the first generation of superhumans first appeared in the early twentieth century...hell, he was part of of it, and he was there as he watched them slowly disappear with each generation before they were banned for almost two decades. He also noted during that time how some simply disappeared (and then later learned that most were murdered by a psychotic genius calling himself Syndrome).

Then Galatea happened shortly thereafter...correction, he caused the Galatea incident, but only he and perhaps two others knew that. He smiled again as he thought about one of those individuals...David Pine Flynn.

Ah...my young self-proclaimed 'Prometheus'.

Mal thought it was ironic that the boy, who was the son of the man responsible for so much death and destruction, had started his own company and deliberately chose to call it Syndrome Software and Technologies...almost as if mocking his biological father.

Then again, from what we know of the boy, that probably isn't that far from the truth.

David Pine Flynn was an enigma to Mal and the rest of the Teragen. It was obvious that the boy had his own agenda, but even Mal was surprised by the path David had taken. It was not the true path, but nor was it the Utopia way where baselines could exploit novas like David. What Flynn had done was hardly innovative, but it was daring, and even Mal had to admit that it looked like David was more than capable of pulling it off. The young man had founded SST with the intention of getting the best and brightest young talent of the baseline and nova community and forming a sort of co-op where they could sell their inventions without having to go through a group like Utopia. Because SST was an American based company, it was not under UN/Utopia jurisdiction, which meant that while they could complain about it...they had no say in what David Flynn's company did, despite their claims.

In many ways, David Flynn reminded Divis Mal of two young men from the 1970s and 1980s that revolutionized the computer industry.

Except Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were baselines. Flynn is much more than that...at the rate he's going, he will give those two some serious competition.

However, David Flynn was not the reason he had returned to Metroville. This time, it was personal. As he approached the two story house, he actually caught himself hesitating, pausing as he watched a young boy...probably about nine or ten years old dribble a basketball in the driveway, pretending to play against an imaginary opponent.

"Parr...with ball...sidestepping...he twists...turns...shoots!"

Mal watched as the child started to fall, but managed to launch the ball in the air where it seemed to linger for a moment before swishing through the basket.

"Three pointer! The crowd goes wild chanting the name...Jack...Jack...Jack...Jack!"

Mal smiled as he watched the child.

He has his mother's eyes...my eyes.

For a moment, he hesitated again...he had promised her that he would stay out of her life. He respected that wish. After all, he really wasn't part of her life to begin with. He almost turned to start walking in the other direction, thinking that it would be better not to get involved.

But I have no choice...we have no choice...she must be warned.

He still hadn't moved, preferring to stay there and observe the boy playing basketball from a safe distance. Having seen what the boy was capable of, he thought it was amusing that a being with the powers of a god was enjoying something simple as an imaginary game of basketball.

Ah...to be that young and carefree again, not a worry in the world.

Then it occurred to him why he was still standing there...he was afraid. That thought actually made him laugh...he, Divis Mal, the most powerful nova on the planet...afraid.

If only the others saw me now...their great leader afraid of something as petty as this. Except it's not fear of her...it's fear of what I risk dragging her and the others into...but she must know.

After a few more seconds of silently arguing with himself, he managed to continue walking to the driveway, pausing to address the boy. "Excuse me, young man," he said politely. "Is your mother home?"

The boy looked up at him and laughed. "She better be, otherwise it would be called child neglect."

"Such complex language for one so young," Mal chuckled. "And where does one learn such language and sarcasm?"

"The main source of education for kids like me these days...television."

"Ah," Mal said, nodding his head in understanding. "That makes sense." He then proceeded up the walkway to the front door, pausing for moment before knocking.

"Just a second," he heard someone call out. A moment later, the door opened. "Yes, wha-" Helen Parr's eyes widened in surprise as she recognized the man at the door. "Dad..."

"Hello, Helen. We need to talk."