At home with Ellena in the early afternoon, Roger closed the door to his private room and listened in on his police radio. It lit up within minutes. MACRON was making another strike. This time, it looked like they were converging on a molybdenum warehouse in Venice, a ways northeast of Los Angeles International Airport.
Molybdenum. What would MACRON want with molybdenum? From his prior courses in physical chemistry, he knew it was used in refining petroleum, but that wouldn't explain MACRON's interest. It also wasn't super expensive, only about 5-10 times the price of copper, so if they were stealing it instead of buying it, it implied they needed a lot of it in a hurry. He picked up the phone — a touchtone model, so he wouldn't have to keep turning a dial and letting it rotate back to its starting position — and called the Scientist.
"The Scientist's Top Secret Base," his voice said in the receiver. "Ain't no science too big for me to science. Who's calling?"
"This is Havok," Roger said. "MACRON's hitting a molybdenum warehouse."
"I know," the Scientist replied.
"Do you have any idea what they might need with that much molybdenum?"
"I'm not sure," the Scientist said, "But remember, we don't know how their antigravity technology works. It's entirely possible that molybdenum is central to its mechanism. It's also possible that it's consumed in the process of operating their anti-grav devices, so they need constant replenishment."
"Then they can't be allowed to get more of it," Roger said.
"Agreed. And yesterday, I would've been all about assembling the League and stopping MACRON at the warehouse. But today, they have my young, beautiful, virgin daughter, and I can't risk it."
"Yeah, I figured you'd say that," Roger replied. "All right. Guess all you can do is watch."
"Sorry," the Scientist said, and hung up.
Roger huffed. The police radio soon confirmed the obvious: the police could do nothing about MACRON themselves, and the National Guard was too slow to respond to these hit-and-run raids — if the National Guard would even stand a chance against those MALAVs of theirs. He took a deep breath, picked up the phone again, and dialed.
"Radio Shack," the voice on the other end replied after two rings. "Brian W. Ritchie speaking."
"Is Michael there?"
"Uh, yeah," Brian replied, "Lemme get him for you. Michael! It's for you!"
Roger heard a faint voice approaching from the other end of the line: "I told you, I'm not Michael, I'm Keybounce!" Michael/Keybounce came onto the phone anyway. "Hello?"
"Keybounce, this is Havok," Roger said. "Have you been listening to the police radio?"
"You bet I have," Keybounce replied. "MACRON's at it again."
"The Scientist thinks the molybdenum they're trying to steal might be used by their antigrav tech. He also, as you might expect, isn't willing to show himself for fear of his young, beautiful, virgin daughter's safety."
"Hmph," Keybounce said.
"But you know what," Roger continued, "The Scientist might be willing to let MACRON get away with it, but I'm not."
"Me neither," Keybounce growled. "Hey, since we've both tangled with MACRON before the League came along, if we were to stop this latest raid, we technically wouldn't be breaking MACRON's demands."
"I don't think a kidnapper is gonna care about the letter of the written contract," Havok said, "But they might think we're acting independently. Meet you there?"
"Thought you'd never ask," Keybounce said, and hung up.
Roger threw open the door to his private room, announced to Ellena, "Sorry, gotta go again! Emergency music composition student business," then headed for his garage.
She called out after him, "There sure does seem to be a lot of that these days!"
Havok on Turbine One, and Keybounce from the air, converged on the molybdenum warehouse. MACRON agents were already swarming the place, along with those damned tanks. It didn't take long for the agents to notice the two interlopers. Keybounce and Havok saw the agents turn toward them, and snapped on their force fields practically as one.
The bullets came flying next. Most missed. A few nicked their forcefields and ricocheted off to one side or the other. One hit Havok's turbocycle, but luckily at a shallow enough angle that it didn't penetrate the bike's thin steel hide. They both blew past the outermost wave of agents, and ran right into the outermost tank. It turned menacingly on its treads and started to swivel its turret toward them.
"Hah!" Keybounce said. "They don't realize that my magnetic powers are now strong enough to lift that entire tank off the ground!" He put forth his magnetic will, and the tank lurched off the ground, its treads spinning madly in the air. Keybounce lifted it higher and higher, fifty feet, a hundred feet, two hundred feet — then said, "And now, fall!" and released it.
The tank fell about ten feet, then stabilized in midair and kicked in its rear thrusters, banking lazily to one side.
"Oops," Keybounce said. "Forgot those things could fly."
"Not for long," Havok said, and blasted the general region of the sky where the tank was. The thundrous fireball detonated in a massive aerial burst, engulfing the hapless tank and turning the air to plasma for a hundred feet in every direction of it. The shockwave shattered windows on the warehouse's top two floors. Havok could feel the heat on his face from where he stood. When the sky stopped glowing, not even a wisp of vapor from the tank remained.
Keybounce looked on, horrified. "Each of those tanks has a human driver," he said.
"That one doesn't," Havok shrugged. "Not anymore, anyway."
The MACRON agents on foot nearby were pretty horrified too. If Havok should target them with a blast like that, they'd be goners just like the agent who'd been driving the tank. Several of them nearly broke ranks and ran; but Agent 456 was among them, and he called out: "Target Havok and take him down, now!"
A heavy weapons agent managed to push aside his terror, and draw a bead on Havok with his rocket launcher. Keybounce noticed him and, reacting as quickly as he could, grabbed the rocket launcher in his magnetic grip and hurled it half a block away. The agent almost didn't let go of it in time to keep from getting yanked along with it.
There were no other agents in the immediate vicinity with a rocket launcher, but there was one carrying a plastic explosive bomb. He'd intended to use it to blast open one of the warehouse doors, but this was a lot more urgent. Hoping that Havok's force field hadn't been beefed up to the extent that his energy blast had, the agent set the timer on his bomb for 5 seconds and heaved it toward the black-clad forcefielded terror on the motorcycle.
Havok noticed it landing right next to him, but his slow reaction time once again got the better of him. The bomb went off and knocked Turbine One out from under him, sending him flying forward with his own momentum until he smashed down on the pavement. Keybounce flew up to him in alarm. "Are you all right?" he asked.
"Yeah," Havok said, "My force field protected me from the impact." Then he turned to face the audience. "But you kids out there don't have force fields."
"That's right," Keybounce spoke to the audience too. "If you fall off a motorcycle and you're not wearing protective clothing, you could get seriously hurt."
"So take it from Havok," Havok said.
"And Keybounce," Keybounce said.
The two spoke in unison: "And always wear your helmet!"
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Havok charged back to Turbine One, now laying on its side, and righted it. The bomb blast had damaged the bike, but it was still rideable, and its jet engine was still screaming its banshee wail as it gulped air. He hopped back on and gunned it, accelerating toward the warehouse once again.
Keybounce, meanwhile, had surged ahead to within range of the warehouse's main access doors themselves. MACRON had gotten them open; he slammed them shut magnetically, right in a few agents' faces. Small arms fire from the agents outside the door bounced harmlessly off his force field; but one of them was another heavy weapons specialist, and he fired his anti-tank rocket at Keybounce, which hit him squarely. The rocket's warhead detonated on impact with his force field, blasting him backward through the air; but the extra Points he'd put into his force field had paid off. Not only did none of the blast get through, the force of the impact didn't even faze him. His magnetic grip on the warehouse's doors was still rock-solid.
Havok screeched to a halt up right beneath Keybounce, and said, "These guys givin' you trouble?" He pointed his fists at the swarm of MACRON agents and MALAVs right in front of the warehouse.
"NO!" Keybounce yelped. "Don't kill any more of them!"
Too late. Havok fired. A fireball the width of the entire warehouse building caught the entire mass of them. Only . . . this time, the light wasn't as bright. The BOOM wasn't as ear-shattering. When the light faded, all the agents lay intact on the ground, out cold but only lightly injured. The tanks — the MALAVs — were scorched and banged-up, but not wrecked. The warehouse doors were blown off their hinges, and the first floor windows were broken or melted, but the rest of the building was unaffected.
Keybounce was relieved, but puzzled.
"I used a low-power blast this time," Havok explained. "Same radius, fewer D6. I throttled back enough to let 'em live, but not enough to leave 'em conscious. Also not enough to hurt a thick concrete warehouse building like this one."
Mechanical rumblings reverberated menacingly around them.
"Unfortunately," Havok said, "That also means my blast wasn't powerful enough to stop any of the tanks."
"Oh crap," Keybounce said. He picked up one partly-damaged tank magnetically, and slammed it into another partly-damaged tank close by, finishing both of them off. But another tank pointed its turret at Havok and loosed its electrostun beam. His force field useless against the beam, and his fortitude being woefully inadequate, Havok fell to the ground unconscious.
The other tanks were already swiveling their own turrets toward Keybounce. Once again, the Electromagnetic God found himself wishing he had an escape plan. Maybe fly straight up, and hope those turrets couldn't track him? Maybe —
Off on the horizon he glimpsed a miniscule disk of . . . cloud? Fog? It was utterly silent, but growing quickly, like a tiny distant object hurtling toward him impossibly fast. It reminded him of something he'd seen at an air show, when a fighter jet broke the sound barrier and a vapor cone appeared around it. It grew, and then suddenly, something flashed past below him and the Earth shook with a terrifying sonic boom. It might have hammered his guts loose if not for his force field. Below him, the shockwave took two of the damaged MALAVs completely apart, and turned a third on its side. The one warehouse window that had survived Havok's blast obligingly shattered.
The fog cloud receded into the distance for a split-second, then curved back around, and Keybounce could see that at its apex was a person. A normal-sized person. No aircraft, no rocket, not even a jetpack — just a man in plain white satin. Or maybe a merman; the bottom half of his body was too blurry to make out. The man finished turning in midair and headed back, skimming barely off the ground.
Then, he slammed headlong into another MALAV, nearly splitting it in half lengthwise . . . but he himself appeared completely unhurt.
Quicker than any man should be allowed to react, this supersonic stranger was on his feet running toward Keybounce. His legs seemed to mince along the ground like an electric egg beater, stirring up horrible winds behind them. Then, he began kicking his legs back-and-forth even harder until they were moving too fast to be seen, and the resultant vibrations carried him skyward on a cone of thrumming air. He hovered in front of Keybounce. "You okay? You looked like you could use a hand there."
"Y-yeah!" Keybounce said. "Thanks! I'm called —"
"Keybounce," the man interrupted. "I recognize you from the news."
Keybounce flushed. "I'm famous?"
The man shrugged. "Fifteen-minutes-of-fame famous, at least. I'm called Wake," he indicated the exhaust cone thundering away beneath him, "For obvious reasons. I'm what you might call a speedster."
"Well, Wake," Keybounce said, "It looks like you came along in the nick of time. My buddy Havok down there is out cold, and I was doing all I could to stay alive." He pointed at the mass of agents and wrecked tanks below. Some of the agents were just getting to their feet, the others were scattering. "Now it looks like MACRON is in retreat!"
Wake frowned. "Retreat's too good for them," he growled.
"Hm?" Keybounce looked at him quizzically.
"Sorry," Wake shook himself back to the moment. "My reasons for going after MACRON are . . . personal."
Keybounce nodded. He didn't want to press the issue. Not just yet, at least. "Oh! It looks like Havok is coming around."
"Oogh," Havok said, blinking hard. "Did anyone get the license number of that truck?"
"Havok," Keybounce descended toward him, with Wake following noisily behind, "Meet Wake."
Havok's eyes bulged wide. "Yikes!" He scrambled to his feet as best he could, still dazed from the aftereffects of the stun beam. "Don't hurt me!"
Keybounce puzzled. Wake, on the other hand, just buried his face in his palm. "I see my reputation precedes me again."
"You . . . know about this guy?" Keybounce asked Havok.
Havok nodded, still wary. "There was an incident some months ago. He broke every window in the Century Plaza towers, just from flying past them."
"That's not quite true," Wake said. "I left most of the windows on the far sides of the towers intact."
Keybounce folded his arms and glared at Havok. "You are worried about his destructive potential?! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!"
Havok glanced down, briefly, at his own solid-black costume, then decided to change the subject: "There's a whole group of us dedicated to taking down MACRON. We're called the League of 250 Point Characters, because we're all built on 250 base points."
"What a coincidence," Wake said, "I'm built on 250 base points myself."
Keybounce and Havok blinked. Keybounce said, "You . . . wouldn't happen to have been exposed to a glowing monolith altar that talked to you last night, wouldja?"
Wake squinted. "N-no . . . what are you talking about?"
Keybounce said, "So . . . you got to have 250 base points, just . . . because?"
Wake shrugged. "I'm a pretty powerful speedster."
"Tell ya what," Keybounce said, "How'd you like to meet the rest of the League? You might represent the edge we need, since our fearless leader The Scientist is kinda cowed right now."
"Your leader's afraid?" Wake asked. "That doesn't sound very encouraging."
"He's staying his hand," Keybounce explained, "Because MACRON's kidnapped his daughter."
"His young, beautiful, virgin daughter," Havok added.
Keybounce winced, then went on: "MACRON's implying that they'll do terrible, horrible things to her if The Scientist interferes with any of their operations again. We know where she's being kept, but he thinks a rescue operation is too risky."
Wake smirked, then nodded. "Let's see if I can help the two of you talk some sense into him." He put his fists majestically on his hips. "Take me to your leader!"
"Follow me!" Keybounce exclaimed, and flew off toward the Scientist's Top Secret Base. He climbed to a high enough altitude to permit Wake to follow along behind him without causing property damage on the ground. Havok meanwhile, rode off toward the base on his damaged motorcycle.
After a moment, Wake flew up alongside Keybounce, his namesake shockwave trailing just far enough behind him so as not to catch Keybounce in the blast. It was still noisy, though.
Over the noise, as they both cruised along, Keybounce asked, "You said your reasons for going after MACRON were personal."
Wake nodded. "That's right." He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and, with a countenance speaking of contempt and determination, said: "MACRON made me."
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