Orchestrated By C.M. Rich (Magnetman)
By Makenshi, Raijin, Magnus, Hardman
About a day after the conclusion of Good Ideas
"Whaddaya mean... 'Gone?'" I asked. Gag kicked the ground
"Uh... not here? Missing?"
I sighed in frustration. "An' WHERE were ya?"
"Look, last thing I knew, she was sleeping! She was five stories underground in a VERY safe bunker! Then, she doesn't show up for breakfast, and when I go to look for her, she's just not here. So, yeah, Gone," the little blue robot huffed indignantly. "And it ISN'T my fault."
I gave him a look.
"Okay... it MOSTLY ain't my fault."
"Actually, Mr. Hardman, I believe it's my fault," said an all-too-cheery voice behind me. I turned to see Gaderham, not looking NEARLY as sorry as he ought to after saying those words, and he offered me a grin. "I believe you and I need to talk in private," he said after a moment.
"Yeah, let's do tha'." I grunted, and followed him into a miraculously uncrowded room. I only noticed after I sat down that the name on the deask wasn't a name. It was a title. "Why're we 'n th' Chief's officer?"
"No one else is in here at the moment, and I did say we neederd to talk in private," Gaderham said as if it was one of the most obvious things in the world.
"So whaddaya gotta say?" I asked, choosing to ingore a few other questions that were now in my mind. Questions like 'Where is the Chief', and 'Is he going to be angry if he find us here'.
'Well, let me assure you that your young lady friend's disappearance is, indeed, not your son's fault." The words carried an odd tone as he spoke them. I think it was the way he skirted around usuing names that was irking me. Maybe it was calling Gag my 'son.' I never really thought of him like that. More like cheap labor... Gaderham continued. "The young lady has actually gone missing on a covert mission that we needed a human with some battlefield experience for."
"Wait... ya put Cass in th' field? Where?"
"I can't say," the wheeled nuisance shrugged. "Classified information and all that. Suffice to say she is in good hands."
"When ya say 'battlefield exerience,' whaddaya mean, exactly?" I asked. I was curious how much Cassandra had told the little guy about our history. It wasn't something she'd just start talking about unless something else was bothering her.
An odd look crossed Gaderham's features. "Why, the engagement with the Scissor Army units inside the hardware store a few weeks back. Surely you remember it? You were the one we dispatched to retrieve her squadron that was rescuing refugees."
Something went off in my head. I hadn't been 'dispatched' to do anything. I'd run off on my own to rescue Cassandra, and it was only through Snake's quick talking that I hadn't been offlined on the spot. EVERYTHING Gaderham had just said had the spin of politics to it. Politics that made my head hurt. Why twist the truth? And why call Cassandra and Gag a 'squadron' when 'two people with badges and a head for finding out where people had hidden themselves to avoid total slaughter' was more like it?
Then it occured to me. It was all about paperwork. Gaderham's bread and butter. He did it ALL. He could make anything happen, or make it so anything had happened. So, on paper, I had been dispatched, which meant nobody had to ask why my own shutdown hadn't taken place, let alone considered, and that same paper made Gag and Cassandra an official squad, which had gotten Cass her 'battlefield experience' that she'd needed for this... covert operation.
What the hell was Gaderham up to?
"Yeah," I said numbly after a while. "S'first time I ever got hit by a mine that had been put ON me."
"I'm glad we understand each other," Gaderham nodded, his smile never moving.
I sat there for a second, not really thinking about anything. "'S there anythin' else?" I asked, eventually.
"Well, I can only ask that you keep this quiet," Gaderham said, before picking up a piece of paper. "You have a guest in Interrogation Room D. One 'Hyper Storm'. I believe you two know each other?"
"Yeah," I mumbled as I stepped out of the room and back into the wading pool-like crowd that parted for my bulky form. I made my way, slowly, down a flight of stairs (the elevators didn't like me. Something about 'weight limits') and down to the third sub-level of the HQ, where the holding cells and one-way-mirror rooms were. I was met by Landigarm, much to my dismay.
"Yo, Metalhead," he sneered, "Your playmate is sitting pretty. Says he can't remember anything about his time in the SA. Have fun," Landigarm practically spat as he threw a clipboard at me and darted up the stairs and out of view. I sighed. One of these days, I'd find out what the hell his issue was.
I was waved past by the guards on the door of the room and let myself in, the somber form at the table barely moving as I entered. I set the clipboard and the paper Gaderham had given me down before sitting down heavily in the chair opposite the former SA officer.
"Yo," I grunted. Hyper Storm looked up at me.
"You," he grimaced. "Not pulling any punches, are they?"
I cocked an eyebrow at him. "Whaddaya mean?" I seemed to be saying a lot lately.
"Standard interrogation tactic, bringing in the guy that brought you down."
I gave a half-hearted shrug. I couldn't say I knew why Gaderham had seen fit to have me weigh in on this particular discussion, so let the guy assume whatever he wanted.
"Truth is, I'm lucky you RPD guys picked me up from that field. If the General's forces had recovered me, I'd probably be dead by now."
"Gen'ral Cutman don't seem like th' type ta fergive 'n ferget," I agreed.
"So I want to help!"
I looked Hyper Storm over. He was... smaller now. In a lot of ways. He'd been stripped of his SA armor almost immediately, partially so it could be studied, and partially to remove the possibility of his just crashing his way out of a holding cell. He looked a lot like... well, like Hyper Storm is supposed to look. And the look on his face seemed... overly sincere.
"Joinin' up wit' th' SA prolly won't look good on yer resume," I told him.
"It wasn't by choice," Hyper Storm said with some disgust in his voice. "That idiot leader of ours, Quint... he led us into a trap! We were all brainwashed by that Mesmerman guy. I swear, its the truth!"
I wasn't inclined to disbelieve him, that was for sure. The Seven Mercenaries, while slightly off the radar, hadn't really been a bad group of people, all things considered. I could have seen them throwing in with Wily, but their allegiance to the Scissor Army had come as a bit of a surprise. And taking apart the team and putting them back together as the loyal officers of the Scissor Army sounded JUST like what Mez would do.
"Bu' what c'n ya offer th' RPD?" I asked. "Sure, ya got all kindsa spunk, I'll give ya tha', but yer not whacked-out-crazy-powerful anymore. Wha' kinda chance would ya honestly stand 'n a fight against th' SA now?"
"I think I can do okay," Hyper Storm said, looking hurt. "You beat me AND Ballade, so I can probably take on a few crazy robots, too."
I sighed and shook my head. "Look, kid, ya jus' don't have th' kinda time logged in on this stuff tha' I do. I've got years, maybe a decade on ya when it comes ta fightin' it out wit' people. I beat you an' th' purple chick, bu' barely, an' I had ta get assitance off th' field after tha'. Say wha' ya will about Ballade, tha' sonic thing sh' does HURTS, an' I don't mind admittin' it."
"But I want to help! Not just the RPD, I have to help save the other Mercenaries! They're my team..."
I looked him up and down, sitting there, in shackles that probably wouldn't hold him if he REALLY wanted to get out of them, looking downcast. I couldn't just ignore his past as a Scissor Army officer, and there was no way I could think this wasn't some kind of trap, but it was possible, just maybe, that all those blows to the head he took when he and I threw down in Madrid had knocked some sense into him. It was certainly something I'd have liked to believe. I try to think the best of people, I guess.
And his sentiment... saving his team. Bringing them all together again. In these dark times, we sought familiarity. I know I did. I'd distanced myself from the Mechs as a whole when the Shutdown Code started to become a serious idea, seeking solace in the company of my long time friend and best employee. But... I'd forgotten that the Maniacs, in their own way, were just as important to me. I had to stop thiking of the team as co-workers, and more like a family. Like how I thought of Cass and Gag. Well, less on the Gag thing, really.
Maybe that's what Top had been talking about before he'd left.
"You okay?" Hyper Storm asked, startling me out of my inner reflection.
I shook my head and stood up. "Yeah... I'm just gonna go get Crorq. Make yer case ta him..." I said, and I left.
--------------------Magnus grumbled to himself as he sat at the table. That jackass Crorq was supposed to be a walking super computer, yet he seemed to have the IQ of a braindead monkey with an ego almost the same size as Forte's, if not bigger. He sighed when Hardman later returned with the previously mentioned RPD 'commander'. The moron couldn't lead a squad of officers to water even if he was on a fishin' boat.
--------------------"Well, you've certainly convinced me! Welcome aboard Hyper Storm!" Crorq announced with no small amount of sarcasm in his voice.
--------------------Occurs at the end of Rematch in Alaska!