Meanwhile … in an abandoned eastern US town, now the site of the Rehabilitation and Correction Facility known as “The Vault” …
A dust devil raced up behind the black SUV when it came to a stop on sun-baked asphalt. The parking lot had cracked from the weather, age and the rare use of energy ‘stun’ bolts. Despite that, it still surrounded the high walls of the correction facility to offer ample parking, and a clear ‘kill zone’.
Agent Phil Coulson stepped out of the vehicle. Agent Melinda May joined him a moment later. Both dressed in the customary ‘Safeguard business black’, however Agent Coulson’s was his usual dark suit while Agent May preferred her form-fitting combat armor.
May looked around her. “Phil, just where are we?”
Coulson shrugged in his usual, noncommittal way. “Oh, a little town a good bit south of New York and west of Metropolis. I don’t remember what its name was.” He glanced over at May across the hood of the SUV. “Town dried up several years back when the major businesses left. Because the town is so remote, the Cadmus Foundation came in and either paid to move the remaining residents or hire them. Then they put the Vault here right in the middle of the town. They keep some amenities open for the staff: Grocery stores, housing, gas stations and the like. But at this point, the Vault’s the thing here.”
Coulson watched the construction crews while they scrambled over the broken – if not shattered – walls of the high tech prison.
“Kinda like watching ants rebuild an ant-hill,” Agent Coulson remarked.
Agent May smirked. “In a way. Only if you assume the other ants inside are maladjusted sociopaths that can throw fireballs.”
Coulson nodded. “There is that.” He sighed. “Well, lets go hear the bad news.”
The two Agents crossed a burnt furrow in the ground that acted as a line of demarcation for the destruction. May’s watchful eyes darted around, while Coulson continued to scan the people and the damage. He pointed at the fifteen foot high, three foot thick titanium doors – which now sported a giant dent where they naturally would meet.
“Yep. A hammer,” Coulson remarked.
May frowned at the door, but couldn’t puzzle out the source of the remark. “What?” she asked.
Coulson smiled. It was a simple smile often found on a twelve year old boy who had just found his favorite comic book issue. It also appeared on Agent Phil Coulson when he tried to explain something about the ‘Meta-Powered Vigilante’ community. After all, he was a closet fan and they were his favorite ‘comic book’. This time words failed him.
“Ah, well. I just know a guy.” He replied with a shrug. “Blonde, biker guy. He’s got this hammer … an … well … he’s really good at throwing it.”
May glanced at the giant doors, the large dent, then back at Coulson. Her expression was cynical. She raised her eyebrows at him.
Coulson sighed. He shrugged. “It’s a thing he does. Y’know, when he’s not flying, or arguing with his brother. Ah … anyway … we’d better get moving.”
May shook her head and followed Coulson.
Deep inside the Vault, in cell block Gamma, Coulson stepped around fallen concrete sections of wall. Behind him, May maintained a short yet, discrete distance. Far enough behind that she could conceivably be part of the background, but close enough to back Coulson up in an emergency.
Next to a hole in the reinforced concrete, a tall man in an expensive blue suit turned to greet the agents.
“Agent … Coulson, yes? My office called to say you would be coming.” The man extended a hand in greeting.
Coulson shook the man’s hand briefly. “Good morning, Director Lyons. That’s good to know. I was kinda worried they couldn’t reach you here. I heard the phones might still be down.”
Director Lyons shrugged. “Earlier this morning, yes. There is still some interference, but nothing disruptive.”
“Good, good. Director Lyons, this is Agent Melinda May.” Coulson gestured towards Agent May. “Agent May, this is Jefferson Lyons, Director of the Cadmus Foundation.”
Agent May and Director Lyons shook hands.
“I’m the one with the egg on his face,” he quipped.
She gave the Director a polite nod and smile. “I wouldn’t go that far, Director. No one saw this coming.”
The director sighed. “I suppose not, hopefully in the future we’ll be better equipped. But enough about that and more about why the FBI sent you here.”
May gave Coulson a subtle look. He returned it with a nod to say ‘go with it’. Her only reply was to raise one eyebrow at him.
Director Lyons stepped over to a thin man wearing a loose jacket and jeans. He was deep in discussion with a pair of overall-clad technicians.
The director gestured to a holding cell that was missing both a door and one wall. “Specifically the former occupant of this cell. A winged mutant with a talent for inventions.”
Coulson folded his arms over his chest. “The Weaponer.” Coulson briefly glanced at May. “His real name is Kahlim Set. Brilliant guy, can make just about anything with technology.”
The director smiled wryly. “Unfortunately, most of what he usually made went to South American crime cartels and a few organized crime groups here in the States.”
May scrutinized the cell and the damage it sustained. “So this ‘Weaponer’ is missing. How many others are unaccounted for, Director?”
Director Lyons hesitated a moment to count. “Six I believe. Mr. Set is the worst of them. When I have the files, I’ll send those your way as well.”
“We’d appreciate that, Director. Is there any idea where Mr. Set was last seen?” Coulson asked.
“Yes,” Director Lyons replied. “Mr. Set was last reported heading North by North-East. But he’s on foot, so he couldn’t have gotten far.”
“Oh, I’m sure.” Coulson replied.
May finished her analysis of the damage. “Director, just how did Mr. Set get free?”
Before Director Lyons could reply, the thin man in the lightweight jacket and jeans turned around to face the group.
“I believe I can answer that. Dr. Sinjin Smythe, at your service.” The doctor shook hands with the agents.
“Dr. Smythe is on loan to us from Oscorp Industries,” Director Lyons explained. “He’s surveying the damage done with an eye towards upgrades and enhancements with some breakthroughs from Oscorp’s labs. It’ll be an improved scanning system and containment equipment. Hopefully, it will counter this from happening again.”
“Yes, indeed,” Dr. Smythe said. He gestured to the ruined wall. “This happened during the attempted break out. You heard about that, yes?”
Agent May nodded. She gave him a guarded reply. “Yes, we’ve been briefed on it.”
Dr. Smythe smiled. “Wonderful! Then unlike the other prisoners, this wreckage came from inside the cell. Not outside like all the others. Specifically, the biometric locking mechanism exploded on its own, effectively attacking the door locks and other cell barriers.”
Coulson frowned. “That doesn’t make sense … unless …”
“Precisely!” Dr. Smythe said with an exuberant gesture skyward. “From my calculations, Mr. Set was able to steal the technology he needed to rig a close range device to overload the biometric locks. Ingenious, really. His design – hasty though it was – is breathtaking. Well, in any case, once he had the device, it was child’s play for him to free himself, and those nearby.”
Coulson gave the doctor a wry smile. “That’s … great, doctor. Do you think you might could review Mr. Set’s work and give us a lead on where he might go?”
“Since he’s on the loose, given what he knows how to do, he’ll need equipment and supplies,” May offered.
Dr. Smythe smiled conspiratorially. “Ah, of course! And the equipment he needs would be very precise most likely. I’ll start right away!”
May replied with a brittle smile. “Great.”
Coulson shook hands with Dr. Smythe and Director Lyons. “Well, thank you both for your time, what with all the rebuilding going on. This gives us enough to work with. We’ll start by checking in with the state police and getting roadblocks set up. He won’t get far.”
“Perfect. I’ll be in touch with your office for updates.” Director Lyons said, before turning to speak in depth with Dr. Smythe about ‘stasis fields generators’.
Silently, Coulson nodded for May to follow him.
Outside, May came to a dead stop beside the SUV. She gave Coulson a hard look.
“He swiped a radio and whatever else a guard had on him and blew open a biometric lock?” May asked Coulson with a stunned voice. “From inside his cell? Phil, this guy is a serious problem.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Coulson replied. He glanced around to make sure no one was within hearing range. “Ok, Mr. Set rigs up devices to take remote control of them. Really, its almost any technology he gets near.”
“Right, like the biometric lock,” May said, her expression sour. “Something tells me that’s not the fun part.”
Coulson smiled, only this one was wry. “True. His records state Mr. Set is a ‘mutant’. Specifically a ‘hawk mutant’, like what crops up in Canada all the time. Wings, flies … yes, flies … heightened agility, the whole bit. Truth is that’s not right. He’s not even human.”
May looked stunned. “What?”
“Yeah, I know. He’s something called a ‘Thanagarian’. From some planet called ‘Qward’. We don’t know a lot about this ‘Qward’ or ‘Thanagarians’ so we’re not all sure about what it means. Set isn’t real chatty, other than to be a total jerk.” Coulson shrugged. “Anyway, that means we’ve got an alien – a mean one with a bad attitude – on the loose and looking to cause a problem.”
“Such as in New York,” May added.
“Yep, heading for New York,” Coulson echoed.
May pulled open the passenger door to the SUV. “He’ll be looking for a tech expo, university lab or something. An electronics store probably won’t have what he needs. What about Stark? Does he have one of those self-glorifying expos going again?”
Coulson opened the driver’s side door. “Nah, he’s off bothering the British Parliament this week for something he wants. I don’t know of any big … conference …” Coulson’s voice trailed off to nothing.
Inside the SUV, May frowned at Coulson, then closed her door. “You thought of something, what is it?”
“It’s bad,” Coulson replied. He closed the driver door and started the SUV. “The only conference right now is the New York City Comic Con.”
“A … comic book convention …” May said incredulously.
Coulson’s reply was defensive. “Hey, now, there is streaming media there, really high tech broadcasting units. Robot wars guys show up, hacker groups show up. It’s a lot more than comic books.”
May stared quietly out the front window of the vehicle. Coulson navigated it out of the parking lot and onto the road North to New York.
“New York’s thick with vigilantes, some are actually pretty formidable. We’ll still need some agents on site there to contain this.”
Coulson smiled again with that ‘little boy with a comic book’ smile.
“I know just the ones.”
… to be continued in Tales of Justice Team Up: Deathless Henchmen of the Weaponer …