DS Marvel: Chapter 2
This was a terrible idea, Luke decided, as he stepped through the doorway, Cress following timidly and Chili and Cilan more grumpily. Unfortunately it was a terrible idea that the guns pointed at them really didn't give them much choice about.
Oddly enough, once he saw the inside of the space and noticed the charcoal grey interior and the plush chairs with seat belts, the most pressing question wasn’t how they were going to get out of this, because for better or worse they were already in this, whatever this was. Nor was it how to call the police, because Luke had the most uneasy feeling that these were the police. Instead, he found himself wondering how they’d gotten a limo onto the seventeenth floor. He couldn’t see out any of the windows due to the dark tinting, which added to the authenticity of this abduction attempt.
There were some other aspects of the limo that seemed off, such as what looked to be some sort of mysterious ornate box and fondue pot situated within reaching distance of all the seats. As Luke watched, a levitating dinner plate on a tray rotated under the box. When the tray reemerged, it was piled high with chicken parmigiana, wine glasses, and a bottle of merlot.
Cress took a breath as well as a spot beside him. “This is impossible,” Luke finally spoke aloud for the rest of them.
“What tipped you off, genius?” the gruff blue soldier in the visor behind them asked brusquely. It belatedly occurred to Luke that his assumption that the man was wearing face paint was mistaken – those were actual scales, like a lizard or a dragon. At this point he thought he wouldn’t be very surprised by the later. “Move,” the soldier barked at Chili, who was still particularly recalcitrant. The bunny girl and the fiery red fox stepped up behind him, a wall of force and intimidation.
The other brothers bristled and sat together for solidarity, with Chili in between so he didn’t get shot for trying something. “There are no engines, no electrical circuity,” Cress defended Luke, “only glowing letters and crystals.”
Luke’s father took the chair opposite from them and raised an eyebrow that his son hadn’t gone into details about the technological features of the limo, or lack thereof. The AI looked away, abashed and feeling some judgement in the stare. The last soldier in the group shot him an almost sympathetic look as he took the next spot.
“Yes, it’s all quite magical, isn’t it?” the red haired aristocrat in the glasses with the bohemian tastes mocked them. He waved a hand and a glass of sparkling water lifted from where it was hovering to float his direction.
It didn’t quite reach him, as the apparent leader of this group stepped in and intercepted the plate without even a glance. “Excellent, the first course is ready.” The wall slid shut behind the Major, leaving no seam, and the vehicle rumbled with their departure. “I would recommend you all eat, I can’t guarantee when we might get around to touring the kitchens and dining hall.”
The mystery box served more plates and the four boys reluctantly took the food that drifted their way, the veiled threat of hunger stealing their resolve. However, before they could lift their forks, the magical limo ride jolted to a stop.
“Here we are. Welcome to Astrum,” the older man announced, then caught the crestfallen expressions on his prisoner’s faces. “Ah. My apologies. The dinner service is mostly for physical distances, not planar shifts. We can’t get the blasted pasta dispenser to stop.”
As their captors filed out ahead of them, Luke considered staying back and trying to hijack the transport, but then realized the security systems could probably turn him into a frog. They were stuck here for now. Luke grabbed the bottle of Merlot on the way out for good measure, then emerged onto the docks and surveyed the towering obsidian spires and constant lightning strikes before them. Cress shivered. “That’s not at all ominous,” Cilan commented.
“We sometimes have to camouflage our headquarters when we travel to darkened worlds,” the officer explained, lifting a hand towards the facade as the shadows melted away. Underneath welcoming ivory archways and baroque towers outfitted with levitating crystals and colourful silk sails gleamed at them.
Luke decided now was a good time to start chugging the wine. The brothers paled. “Worlds?!” Chili yelped in alarm.
That meant – “W-where are we?” Cress stammered, equally unnerved.
“Somewhere over the f@$&in’ rainbow,” the bunny girl impatiently growled, rolling her eyes and checking her oversized rifle again. As that sunk in, the two rougher soldiers prodded them to get moving again. Luke obligingly passed around the bottle until all of them started to feel pleasantly bleary – it was the only way they could really cope.
As they crossed the courtyard and approached an elaborate fountain, an almost familiar glowing woman in a suit with short cropped dark hair, coiffed, darted out of one of the many doors along the building facade. A hologram, Luke realized as she spotted them and waved. A blue beetle about the size of a cat followed behind her, carrying a piece of disassembled machinery.
“Welcome back!” she bubbled at them, energetically enough that there was some question if the sparkles around her were some kind of drug.
The Major sighed. “Hello, Doctor.” His gaze drifted over to the bipedal beetle, tapping a hind claw in a very human-like gesture of agitated frustration and impatience. “Your handiwork, I suppose?”
She laughed cheerfully. “I was reading some of the reports you had about cosmic rays inducing superpowers and I had to check out your laboratories! Then I just had to see how it all worked!” she waved at the bug. “Karrl suggested that I should talk to you before I start putting it all back together. Oh! Also, some sword lady ported in to see you,” she informed him.
A nod. “Yes. Thank you Karrl. Please help the Doctor repair the damages, if you will.”
“Okee-dokee will do!” the hard light hologram declared, and the beetle gave them all what could only be a long suffering look before tottering after her again.
The Major waited until she was out of earshot. “Captain, would you mind overseeing their progress and that the Doctor doesn’t destroy any more equipment out of curiosity?”
“Yessir,” answered the would be superman soldier with a salute, before he marched off sharply towards the side doors.
The interruption dealt with, they continued on, the Major pausing and seemingly inspecting Luke and Cress. “Are you both all right?” he asked.
The question caught them off guard. Was there some reason they shouldn’t be, aside from all this new strangeness? Cress nodded uncertainly, as Luke tried to focus through the alcohol haze. There was something, wasn’t there? After a few minutes he couldn’t come up with anything, and shrugged. The Major, satisfied by something, pushed open the main doors into an impressive foyer.
An actual knight in shining armor was waiting there, along with a couple cat things, a yellow thing, a floating light, and – “What happened to your face?!” Luke blurted out at the red haired thing. All attention turned to him, most of it disapproving.
Those wounded eyes amid the lines of scars caught his, piercing and clear, but in a haunted way that he wondered if he’d even been heard or that his graceless comment wasn’t just another drop in the ocean. “Charming isn’t he?” said Bill, “Sometimes he even has tact.”
Luke bristled a little. Takes one to know one, he thought back, as the Major stepped forward and valiantly tried to smooth over the diplomatic stumble.
“Luna,” the wizard greeted the knight and taking her hand in a gallant gesture. “We are always grateful for your advice.”
“And I am ever grateful for your assistance against the darkness, and the shelter you offer to the lost,” she replied, giving a quick glance over his group. “I have guided these children here, seeking refuge. Their worlds have fallen.” Their heads bowed together, a moment of silence, as the cute cat things looked on curiously, not understanding, and the red head and the yellow thing gazed off into a terrible distance, understanding all too well.
There was something unnerving about the moment – they only just learned there were other worlds, let alone that they can be destroyed. Luke noticed that the fox creature looked particularly intent, then noticed something else. “Chili? Where’s Chili?”
The Doctor sat up on the lab counter, kicking her sneakers girlishly. “They didn’t notice anything at all,” she smiled. “The Major was worried for nothing.”
Henry glanced over at the bug rummaging around under the parts trying to reconnect everything, and the wires strung out across the room. He was distraction to buy them time to put the lab back together, but it wasn’t an arduous task with this company. “Just because you aren’t her, doesn’t mean Cress wouldn’t have panicked,” he points out.
“Not for long,” she answered, self-assured that she was a friendly presence and could win anyone over. “They seem nice though, it’ll be fun to get to know them!”
The soldier hummed noncommittally. The three chefs didn’t really seem like agent material, and Henry could tell the tech genius didn’t like him much and was going to be hard to train.
That was when the group burst into the lab themselves, Cress and Cilan immediately going to to the test chamber and pounding on the viewing windows. “Chili! What are you doing?! Get out of there!” Eventually they forced open the seal and swarmed in, calling their brother’s name the whole time. There was some furious argument as they dragged the intruder back towards the exit and a struggle that knocked the door closed on them.
Karrl made the final connection and the instruments hummed with the cosmic rays they were testing. There were some shouts of alarm from inside the test chambers, then quiet.
Luke was yelling from the outside for them to hurry and get out, and went still for a moment at the silence. He kicked himself into action sooner than Henry expected though, and went over to the computer system and bypassed security instantly to try to find a way to turn the equipment off.
He really wasn’t supposed to be able to do that. The soldiers moved to stop him, then the light faded and the test chamber hatch opened again. No one emerged until the three boys were carried out, unconscious and unresponsive. They pried Luke away so that he could accompany them to the infirmary, and Karrl sighed and grumbled and had the lab monitoring equipment start self-diagnostics and a full system scan.
If he hadn’t, none of them would have noticed that someone had attempted to hack into their operatives database.