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[Fiction] Things Worth Doing


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Ever think you’ve got someone figured out then you find out you really don’t? Then when you think you’ve got the whole picture that someone turns it upside down and throws off your point of view? Yea, makes you think, doesn’t it?

See, a few days ago Director Laragione told me, Team Tomorrow Auxiliary luminary Wrench (master of all machines at the tender age of 19!), that I was being sent out in the field to watch a recently hired nova apprehend a rouge and supposedly insane woman named Eclipse. Not to help take the lady in, not to use my unparalleled abilities in combat for once, but to just baby-sit. Talk about a waste of my powers and time. What was more insulting was who was assigned to bringing the nutcase in: Singularity. Man, not only was Laragione making me just watch he was sending in just another thug. Total fucking waste of my time, time that could be better spent with Janus over at Ibiza and a few baseline hotties.

So instead of trying to pull a Fredo with some waitresses, I was stuck waiting to be warped over to some backwater war zone in the Amazon. Well, waiting isn’t the right word. Watching is more like it since I took the liberty of catching the tail end of Singularity’s conversation with the Director (damn it’s great being able to possess machines and electronics, especially the surveillance cameras found in the arcology) and the former elite didn’t look happy.

“…ot care who signs my checks, I do not even get paid at my own choice, Laragione. I am not some kind of errand boy.” God, what a puffed up bastard.

“You have certain responsibilities, Mr. Alden,” the Director responds, with more civility than I would have I might add, “Would you prefer for Pax to change the Team Tomorrow rosters, perhaps shuffle some people around?”

Singularity narrowed his eyes, apparently affected by Director Laragione’s words, “No, that will not be necessary. Do you want Eclipse alive?”

“Yes, we arrest people here, not play judge, jury, and executioner. Wrench is coming with you. He should be with Mendoza, prepping to be warped to…” And that was my queue to get the hell back to where I was supposed to be. I don’t think Laragione would have appreciated me listening in.

I barely reformed my physical body next to Janus in time to before he was ribbing me, “What, you can’t get enough of him too?”

“Shaddap, at least I wasn’t caught by Pax while boning the receptionist,” I responded, loving the blush coming up on his face.

Before Janus brought up something involving my mom, Singularity walked into the room. Guys like him are run of the mill: strong like ox, swift like stag, smart like fish. I had no idea why Laragione didn’t send out Janus and I to take care of Eclipse instead of this unimaginative and boring washout. Whoopee, so he’s strong and fast. Janus can manipulate space and anything electronic or mechanical is my bitch.

“Wrench, I presume,” he says, Mr. Statue himself, “I assume you are ready?” Ooo, I don’t use conjunctions because I’m so smart!

“All set, muscle-man. We’ll be picking up our equipment at the UN peacekeeping camp.”

“Good. Send us away, Mendoza.”

Janus nodded after giving me an odd look and opened the warp. Singularity immediately stepped through, leaving me to play catch up. “Be careful, Wrench. Whatever he’s out there doing must be nasty if they managed to pull him away from Codex.”

“Whatever, man. Ain’t nothing able to stop me from doing what I do.” I shot back to Janus before stepping out of the air conditioned arcology and into the sweltering heat of the Amazon. Damn, do I hate the jungle.

Once the spatial rift was closed behind us, we walked over to the cluster of blue tents. As you probably know, the UN has kept a few peacekeepers out in South America to help with the little brush wars between the Medellin, wannabe cartels looking to make a name, rebels, banana republics, blah blah blah. Now just like Mr. Clean and Kurtz from Apocalypse Now, some guys get their brains zapped being out here in the jungle. People end up running around naked while eating raw meat, or just sit in a corner and rock. These kinds of people can cause all kinds of problems and they tend to flock together. From what we knew, Eclipse had followed the whole Brando route. Fortunately she hadn’t picked up any followers yet. Unfortunately she was a nova, making her Project Utopia’s problem when the UN heard about her proto-commune in the jungle.

The local Utopia liaison (Charles, a very cool acquaintance of mine) squared us away with our equipment: a bone-conducting ear bug radio and loaded palmtop for Singularity and an “acquired” nanosect for me. Singularity gave me an odd look as he put in the earpiece, “No weapons or equipment for you? Not even a radio?”

I smiled. Obviously, he hadn’t heard about me. “Nope, all I need is this baby right here,” and I let myself turn into an electric field and I merged with the tiny robotic dragonfly. I gave my new wings a bit of a flutter before creating a field to transmit over the radio, “Now I can just be a fly on the wall. Or a dragonfly on your shoulder.”

With a quick leap and flight, I got myself placed on Singularity’s shoulder and started the uplink to the recorder. “Here’s the plan: Eclipse’s last known location is indicated on the topographic map in the palmtop. It’s your job to bring her in with minimal casualties and fanfare. That means no killing, tough guy.”

He ignored me and flipped through the palmtop to the map. Well, I could tell he didn’t like my little comment, but not everyone notices the little things like I do. “What, too hard for you to read?”

He looked up from the palmtop, stepped outside of the tent, and studied the landscape before activating his radio, “No, Wrench, it looks fine. Hold on.” And with that he leapt into the air, sending us hurtling several klicks out into the jungle. And then did it again and again.

“I know stealth isn’t your big thing, but could you at least try to not announce our presence?”

“No.” After the third jump, Singularity took some time to look around. We were pretty deep into the jungle near a small river and bluff, neither of which appeared together on the map. I figured the big guy probably got us lost. “And are you not just an observer,” he asked.

“Hey, I’m here to make sure everything goes right and gets reported back to the big guys. Sometimes huge muscles don’t…”

Before I had even finished my transmission I was wrapped in Singularity’s hands, dark fire crashing around us. Once I was free again I saw the blackened earth and foliage around Singularity’s apparently untouched body, and a sinister voice filled the air, “Looks like another errand boy from Utopia has come to become another corpse.” Another? The reports didn’t say anything about earlier missions.

I fluttered onto a tree away from Singularity as he addressed the black clad woman floating in the air before him, “Cut the villain speech, you are coming with me on your feet or on your back, it is your choice.”

“I remember you, little man. You seem different. Still, Alden, you’re going to make a cute little grease spot on my land.” She might have been a little crazy, but she was a looker: dark hair, creamy skin, ruby red lips, and curvy in all of the right places. She looked like a tasteful version of that strange horror movie host my hick relatives loved so much.

Singularity rolled his eyes, “Whatever,” and he rushed her with blinding speed. I saw footage of him when I was a younger, watching him rip apart fortifications with his bare hands, but it was different seeing Singularity fight in person. In a fraction of a second he was slamming into the floating Eclipse, driving her back into a tree before exploding into a flurry of strikes. I was able to follow his motions (gotta see things fast if you want to ride a machine) and I was rather surprised. I knew he was tough, but he was using forms way more complex than anything they showed us in combat training. Singularity was behaving: he was using non-lethal force on her. But it was disturbing to see someone so mechanical, so systematic in combat.

Eclipse managed to get away from him after a bit and gave a nasty grin through her bruises, “Nice try, Alden, but now it’s my turn.” Her eyes narrowed and she did something, used some kind of power (hey, it gets obvious after awhile). I couldn’t see it but Singularity sure looked surprised. “Let’s see how you can handle my wrath now,” she purred before unleashing her dark fire on him and sending him back ten meters. What surprised me were the wounds he was sporting: last I knew this guy was impervious. Singularity didn’t seem to be bothered by the rapidly healing gashes and burns on his side, but I was worried. I wasn’t in the mood to risk combat with someone like her nor did I want to do all of the paperwork for loosing him in the field.

Black energy ripped through the rainforest, tracking Singularity’s dodging motions as he tried to make his way back into hand-to-hand range. He was fast, but Eclipse managed to keep him away, repeatedly slicing and burning his regenerative body. With her attacker on the ropes, she backed up several meters into the air to the reaches of the canopy solidifying her position. I saw Eclipse pause, pulling together herself together and Singularity tried to take advantage of the situation by leaping at her. Too bad for him she was ready: she cut loose with a massive blast of energy, a beam of dark energy as thick as a man, sucking the light of the jungle into it. It slammed into Singularity, cutting a two meter wide gouge through the trees before cutting to the rocky bluff thirty meters away, driving Singularity into the new hole before the now loose rock filled it in.

“Singularity, do you copy?” I lost the radio feed and figured he was lost in the rocks, crushed into oblivion. I decided to bug out like the robot bug I was, but my motion on the tree brought Eclipse’s attention to me. Before I could take off, she floated down and fixed me with her cold eyes.

Red lips parted with another grin, “Now now, it’d be rude for you to leave so quickly. I can’t let you bring back your baseline masters to me.” I got to share Singularity’s surprise when she used that strange power on me before. I felt my control over the bug slip away and my flesh and blood body reform. And there I was, a very breakable me standing in front of a nova with a positively unpleasant demeanor and I had no access to my powers (not that it mattered out here in this ultra-rural setting; what the hell was a robotic dragonfly going to do to this lady).

Thankfully, someone up there still liked me: the bluff shook before I could respond. Eclipse and I turned our attention to the rocks and saw Singularity blast his way out. He stepped forward, blood and dust staining his body and eufiber. He was covered with severe bruises and cuts, left arm shattered with broken ends piercing the skin. I expected to see rage or at least some kind of emotion from him, but he was still that cold, mechanical fighter from before. I stared dumbfounded as he moved as if he didn’t feel any pain, smoothly and quickly scooping up a meter wide rock and throwing it into Eclipse before she could react.

He crossed the distance to her with that same speed, his left arm snapping back into shape before his left fist slammed into her jaw with enough force to go through plate steel. She tried to fight back, but Singularity countered her, keeping a firm grip on her as his body slowly knitted up. Finally he slammed his fist onto the back of Eclipse’s head, sending her falling to the ground unconscious. Singularity paused for a bit. I think he might have been regretful, but then he looked in my general direction, “Are you all right, Wrench?”

I slowly walked over to him and the now unconscious Eclipse, trying my best to not trip on the downed and blackened trees, “Yea, I’m ok. You gonna be fine or should we call in an air vac?”

He shook his head, his regeneration stopping with a number of small cuts and bruises still present. “My radio was destroyed in the rocks and, if I remember correctly, the only other radio is in the nanosect.” I could transmit on my own without the radio, but he didn’t need to know that. “I assume she blocked some of your powers too?” I nodded and Singularity furrowed his eyebrows while looking about. He picked up Eclipse and slung her over his shoulder like an empty bag with a sigh, “It will be a bit before I can jump us back, let alone finish healing so we might as well walk. Are you coming?”

I fell in next to Singularity, following his lead back through the brush. After what I saw, he seemed different. Sure he was tough, but that look, the nonchalant attitude he approached combat was disturbing. It was like he had turned off part of himself when Eclipse attacked and became a simple device of destruction. And when he was done… well, he seemed so regretful, like someone who hated what he was. I didn’t think he’d hate himself for his abilities. “Look, Singularity, sorry about the cracks earlier and thanks for saving my ass.”

“Not a problem, it was my job.” He kept looking forward, carrying the attractive woman.

“Hey, I’m glad you’re with us. That was some scary stuff you did back there.”

He shrugged, “It is what I used to do. I would rather not live a life of battle anymore but we do not always get to choose our paths.”

“I guess.” We walked for a bit before I spoke again, “Did you hear that ‘baseline master’ crap she was spewing before? I didn’t think she was a Terat.”

“Neither do I and it does not make her a Terat. Nor are supremacist and transhuman attitudes limited only to the Teragen.”

I rocked a bit as we walked, “What do you mean? Didn’t you get the memo; we’re humans just like baselines. That’s the whole deal behind the Project, man.”

He smiled, “We were born as baseline humans and our minds and beliefs are predicated on baseline thought, but we are something else. For better or worse we’re no longer human. Denying that basic idea is moronic and repressive.”

That pissed me off. I just risked my ass and then I found out the guy with me was another V. “What, so we should just pack it in? Join the Teragen and revel in our power? Fuck all baselines and fend only for ourselves?”

His silver eyes darted at me, “No, I did not say that. Come on, kid, stop and think for once. Being different does not mean superiority. I said we are not really human anymore. But I do not believe we are ‘better’ beings, nor that we should rule over baselines, nor that we baselines and novas belong apart.”

“So we’re not human but we can live together?”

“Yes,” he responded in a strong matter of fact tone. “We should not just abandon humans just because we’re different or ‘more evolved.’ It is arrogance to think that we should remain separate just because we are different. Did you know there is a beach in Western Australia where dolphins bring their young close to shore so they can play with humans? No baiting, no animal mastery. The dolphins come on the own, despite all of the problems humanity has caused. Theoretically, they are just as intelligent as humans and they seem to understand that it is worthwhile to coexist.” He sighed and shifted Eclipse on his shoulder, “The Teragen as a whole and the Null Manifesto are not evil, they are merely one point of view. Some parts are correct, others are not. That is what life: various shades of gray. Know who and what you are working for, Wrench. I do not agree with everything Utopia stands for, but they allow me to do what I want to do. Albeit with a few strings attached.”

We finally came back to the UN encampment, and I let it drop for a bit. I gave a quick report to Charles and Singularity and I were directed to tent with restraints for Eclipse. Once Singularity had her locked up and we were alone, I brought up the topic again, “But how can you say or even think that and be apart of Utopia? Why are you here if you’re not trying to serve humanity and make the world a better place?”

“Why? Because I destroyed too many lives in the past. Because my knowledge can be used by others so they will not become victims of my former comrades.” He stopped, tipping his head to the side. It looked like he was listening to something, something apparently welcome but I didn’t hear any chatter. “And because I am keeping the world a wonderful and beautiful place one person at a time.”

He walked over to a makeshift cabinet, rustling through some papers, “When you get back after this, Wrench, I suggest you take some time to think. I do not define myself by my occupation or my affiliation. It took a long time, but I found myself and now I believe I have figured out where I want to be.” He pulled out a book, briefly reading the first page before setting it down, “It has been hard, but the things worth doing normally are.”

Before I could respond Codex stepped out of the book, taking a minute to survey the tent. She looked shocked when she saw Singularity looking a little beat up and then she apparently calmed down after he put his hand on her shoulder. He didn’t say anything but something passed between them. Telepaths… those guys are just creepy.

Singularity seemed more relaxed and yet more alert after she arrived. I couldn’t read her (I knew she wasn’t combat material but a few cuts and bruises can’t that unsettling) but I knew he liked having her around. “So where are we going, Codex?”

“The Congo. Team Tomorrow is making an appearance to show Utopia and the UN won’t tolerate more conflicts.”

Singularity nodded, taking a loose towel to wipe his brow and briefly clean off the dried blood, dust, and dirt. He took a drink from one of the clean water jugs before slowly rolling his head, “All right, let us go.”

I couldn’t believe it. The guy just got his powers messed over, buried into a rock face, and regenerated himself enough times to die five times over and he was still going out into the field as a bodyguard. “Whoa, wait a minute, Singularity. You’re going back into the field after what just happened? What if an elite who has a beef with her shows up? What if Charr shows up?”

Codex paused, looking at Singularity. He smiled and looked at me, “Just like old times. And there is nothing worth more doing.” He turned back to Codex, seeing her concerned look, “Come on, we had better go before Pax blows a gasket.”

The little blonde took Singularity’s hand and they disappeared into the book, leaving me with an unconscious Eclipse and my thoughts. Yea, so the meathead became the reluctant warrior and then the philosopher. Maybe it’s all bullshit, but he did make me think. About novas and baselines, about humanity, and about who I am. I couldn’t wait to get back; I needed someone to talk to about this, someone who’d understand. Charles wouldn’t get it. Maybe Janus could pick me up soon, he'd understand...

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