MAU: Can't Take The Sky From Me! Chapter -10-

“We got not one, but three hits off of Google searches.” M replied, tossing him the hard copy folder. “And all three are in the same area as the initial sightings on Friday night. Do you still want to bet that an MAU wasn't involved?”

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. None of the characters, places, or anything else is meant to be represented by anything in reality. Duh! Fiction, get it? I the author reserve the rights, so please don't go posting this anyplace else without my permission. A very special thanks goes out to Cathy who spent the time to make this story readable. Another round of thanks goes out to all the others out there in BCTS land who have encouraged and inspired me to write and keep writing. Any remaining mistakes are all mine.

MAU: Can't Take The Sky From Me!
By
Grover
Chapter 10

Secure facilities

McDill AFB

“I don't know if they came from an MAU or not, M.” Agent G briefed his fellow investigator on the interview. “However, from the data and the debrief, someone has created two sets of Iron-Man's armor straight from the movies.

“After the UFO reports from Friday night, the Air Force guys pre-positioned a pair of F-16s from Homestead. Receiving word that the UFOs had returned, they scrambled an intercept. Since their target hadn't appeared on radar the night before, they had jerry-rigged a pair of targeting acquisition sensor pods to increase their chances of seeing something.”

“I take it that it worked.” Agent M said, closing the folder in front of her.

“The pilots reported intermittent, weak radar signatures,” Agent G nodded, “But not nearly enough to get a radar lock. Even the infrared failed to achieve a lock. Fortunately, this unit was just back from Afghanistan and had upgraded to the latest equipment. The visual system did get a good look at them.”

“Let me guess.”The agent smiled, “Because they were shiny?”

“You got it.” He confirmed. “In theory, the Air Force does have weapons that can target them, but they would not be ones designed for air-to-air and likely not very effective, given the high mobility of our 'UFOs.'

“They out-flew those two F-16's from Homestead which broke off the engagement when they drifted over the city. No shots were exchanged, but Captain Baker reported that War-Machine's shoulder mounted gun did track on his aircraft. I think we have to assume the suits are armed and dangerous.” Agent G finished his report.

“We got not one, but three hits off of Google searches.” M replied, tossing him the hard copy folder. “And all three are in the same area as the initial sightings on Friday night. Do you still want to bet that an MAU wasn't involved?”

“That's not odds I'll take.” He shook his head. “The home office must be burning the midnight oil to get these to us so quickly.”

His partner nodded, knowing that with the moratorium on using data processing systems, someone had to physically look at each and every piece of information to pick out useful data.

“They're taking this Code Critical very seriously.” Agent M replied. “As the military POV for this, how do you suggest we handle this part of the investigation?”

“It's Sunday evening and most everyone will be home.” Agent G pointed out. “If our two comic-book fans have any of that Iron-Man armor that can fly across the room to put itself on them, we might have big problem.”

“I would rather avoid turning this into that kind of confrontation.” She agreed. “Although, with what looks like three separate locations in one neighborhood, we'll be noticed.”

“I know,” He sighed, “How much the home office wants an active unit, but I think in this case, pushing things at this time is taking an unwarranted risk. The smart thing to do is wait till tomorrow when the greater majority of the residents are at work and school.”

“So your recommendation is to do nothing tonight?” She asked, knowing this was very atypical for her military, man of action partner.

“I didn't say that.” He grinned. “We can still check out the area, and I happen to know two Air Force pilots that have aircraft equipped with some very modern sensors that a little rain isn't going to stop.”

“And since we know the addresses we can at least check out the area for impact craters.” She continued.

“Exactly.” He stood. “With luck perhaps we'll be able to narrow down our search.”

<><><><><>

501st Legion Recon Detachment.

Near Upton Heights Acres

On patrol

“Looks like tonight’s a bust.” Sean told Beth over their com-links. “But we did fulfill our mission objects and got a good look at the lay of the land.”

“We didn't see anything either.” She replied. “I got a couple of twinges from the Force so I know we're in the right area, but like you said, nothing is happening tonight.”

“We did a little scouting on foot.” He reported. “This is a gated community, and it does have an honest to goodness wall. However, it is more for appearances than security. We can be up and over it in less than a minute. Additionally, one side is open to an inlet, which will let a boat come right in. There is a camera there, but it is much easier to get to than the one at the gate.

“Sounds like that might be the best way to get Dani's representative close enough to do their thing.” His wife and fellow Jedi suggested.

“That is, if that disturbance out in the Gulf doesn't change into a tropical storm.” He pointed out. “Although, if our promised 'assistance' is a couple of Klingons, they might actually prefer the 'invigorating' weather and being up to their armpits fighting the skeeters. It's always good to be of assistance to our allies.”

That was a polite lie as they remembered the tension of that first Con where the Trekkers and 501st had met. It had nearly broken out into violence, but with a little help from the Force, common sense had prevailed.

“They might at that.” She laughed, “But it's probably better to hope for good weather and plan for worst. Neither Dani nor Darla would appreciate tramping though a Florida marsh. We'll leave that to you and the Knob-Heads.”

One of his troopers muttered something about 'good' training, which almost made him snort. That was a term you only used for the most miserable and unpleasant of experiences. However, that was what training was for, to prepare you for the worst case scenario so you could be at your best when things went belly up.

Hearing the unmistakable sounds of military 'fast-movers,' a fighter jet, up above the rainy clouds, Sean suspected they weren't the only ones out looking for Iron-Man. It was a not so subtle reminder that, for all of the Collective and Legion's 'neat' toys, the Federal Government always had the larger toy box, even if the contents weren't as 'spiffy.'

For all of their sakes, he hoped the two that had found that MAU were only having some fun, but then got in over their heads. More importantly, if the damn thing stopped working already, it would be best if they hadn't gone crazy with the changes they could make to themselves. Although, at least for the worst cases, Emmy and Dani were willing to help out and 'fix' things.

However, he was increasingly getting that bad feeling which didn't bode well one damn bit. Behind that wall something bad was growing. Perhaps it wasn't the Dark Side, but just ordinary people had always proved more than capable of doing evil.

<><><><><>

Steven

Upton Heights Acres

Steven grinned as his boyfriend entered the MAU. Perhaps he hadn't gotten the mind-control to work, but he had figured out how to return it to the original compact form and then back to the operational booth. On the plus side, after he'd tweaked the pheromone thing, that power worked almost as well as the mind-control. He could incite anything from attraction to out right lust. Regarding Brian, a drunken-like fugue in which he was suggestible worked best.

There were obvious problems. One was, it was the shotgun approach, which didn't let him target just one person in a crowd. He had to get them alone first, although perhaps just emitting a little 'attraction' might help things along.

So the project, while not a great success, did have its achievements.

He was still thinking of Griffin.

Tonight was proof of concept. Brian had willingly accepted all of his proposals for a new body. A few were things his Little Florist had balked at before, so he could tell that his new modifications were working.

As a safety precaution he added a device that emitted the pheromones inside Brian's armor, since it being an environmental sealed unit, it would prevent him from controlling his boyfriend if suited up.

Steven wasn't that foolish!

Maybe Brian's suit was less powerful, being an earlier Mark, but any Iron-Man suit was a force to be reckoned with.

The MAU's door opened, making him smile. There would be time tomorrow for getting even with that annoying teen. After all, there would be a window of opportunity between when school let out that he would be at home all alone. However, right now the delightful creature inside who looked up at him demanded all his attention.

Shrinking the MAU to its compact form and taking his transformed boyfriend by the hand, he took both of his prizes into his house.

<><><><><>

Danny

Upton Heights Acres

“Hey Griff!” Danny greeted his friend the next morning, as the drizzling rain threatened to turn heavy.

Never had he had such a restful night's sleep, or had awakened so energized. A quick consultation with his Auto-Doctor, Dr. Otto, get it?, assured him all was well. Repairs to his body's infrastructure, stunted due to his 'burden,' were continuing apace. However that process also meant he needed building materials and fuel.

Danny was hungry. No, he was starving!

Maybe his Mom could miss seeing changes last night, but he knew she would notice this. However, it seemed she was happy enough to see her son rested and happy, instead of worn-out from a fitful sleep, that she didn't ask if there was a cause.

Even his appetite was a matter to celebrate as far as his parents were concerned. Honestly, he had questions about all the medications he usually took, but Dr. Otto simply replied they'd been disassembled for their useable components and the rest discarded with the rest of the 'patient’s' waste byproducts.

So for once he was full of energy and ready for the challenges of school. He'd just enough time to read just one more of those replies to his query from last night.

“The world really needs more people like you! It is very hard for those with gender 'difficulties' to talk about it to others. It is even harder to take those first steps to do something about it. I think you confronting your friend would send the wrong message. That's why I'm recommending you take option C, 'quietly supportive. When she, assuming the friend has been presenting as a male, starts to feel you out about how you feel about the subject, do your best not to make a big deal about it. Simple acceptance is what we all desire.

“Hey!” Griffin grinned as he sauntered up to him while they waited for Danny's Mom to take them to school.

Danny sighed, clearing the display and seeing his friend was still moving, 'differently.'

“Did you get the phone stashed away like we planned?” He asked. Last night, after he'd come back with the phone he'd purchased, they'd reprogrammed and prepared it to call Brian while they had alibis with being in class.

“Yeah I did!” Griff answered making sure they couldn't be overheard. “With my memory, I picked out a trashcan that won't be picked up until mid-morning, making it look like someone made the call and then dumped it.”

“I hope this works.” Danny whispered. They did not need Iron-Man coming after them.

“Me too.” Griff replied, “But we had to do something. I saw what he talked Brian into changing into last night. He could've passed for a junior high student.”

He definitely had the feeling the Farm-boy wasn't telling the whole story. Knowing what little he'd seen of past changes, Danny really didn't want to know. It was enough that they were trying to do the right thing and warn Brian about the expiration date on the MAU.

“There's something else you need to know too.” Danny hoped he was being diplomatic.

“What's that? Another emergency?” The red head inquired as the van's ramp descended.

“Don't know.” The boy in the wheels replied. “Might be.”

“Well, give.” Griff whispered so Danny's Mom wouldn't hear.

“You're moving, walking, differently now.” He returned the whisper, but stopped from saying anything else as he was lifted inside and seated.

“When did it start?” Griff asked as they began their drive and had a little privacy.

“I saw it yesterday,” Danny answered, “But it really became noticeable last night after you came back from your shopping as well as this morning.”

“I guess I'm not much good at this acting stuff.” His redhead friend sighed.

“You kinda used to move like a truck.” Danny tried to explain. “No one in their right mind wanted to get in your way, but now you're moving a lot smoother.”

“That was me alright.” Griff snorted softly, “Bull in the china shop.”

“I was trying to be tactful.” Danny smiled at the image.

“I'm just being truthful.” The Farm-boy said, ruefully. “It's those 'issues' I talked about yesterday.“

“You boys okay back there?” Danny's Mom interrupted them.

“We're fine, Mom!” He rolled his eyes. “Just talking guy stuff.”

“Just as long as you two aren't cooking up some kind of mischief.” She replied over her shoulder as they stopped at the gate.

“Who, us?” Griff made a his best angelical and innocent face.

“You two can't fool me.” His Mom laughed. “Just because you don't get in trouble, doesn't mean you're not up to anything.”

“It just means we haven't been caught.” Danny finished his Father's favorite line that been used when his sister Pam was still living at home. What the hey, it'd been true!

After they'd all stopped laughing Danny's Mom added, “Griffin, all humor aside, I want you to know if you ever have problems at home, our door is open, Okay?”

“Sure, no problem.” The Farm-boy replied a little embarrassed.

“And speaking of problems, “She continued. “This storm has strengthened into Tropical Storm Arthur. Now it's supposed to pass us by and just relieve the drought we've had, but it wasn't supposed to be a tropical storm either. So be prepared to leave school early if the worst happens.”

Both boys nodded. With Danny's transportation difficulties, getting him loaded up while in the middle of a rush of other parents trying to get their kids too, could be a real mess. That was not adding the probable torrential rains and wind from Arthur if it came ashore near them.

They didn't have a chance to say anything else as they stopped at their school. Between the strengthening rain and wind as Griff tried to shield his friend as they waited for the ramp to lower, they were too busy staying dry.

“Have a great day, you two.” Danny's Mom waved as she ducked back inside her van, also trying to keep from being soaked.

“Sure thing, Mrs. Cee” Griff waved back as they began their day of classes.

<><><><><>

Mid-morning

Unidentified waste refusal container

Exactly as programmed, the pre-paid phone came to life. Normally it lacked the memory to perform the task designated by its owner, but other functions had been ruthlessly compromised to allow it to do just this one thing.

Ringing the number, it sent the text that had been loaded the night before. The entire process took less than a minute. It's task finished, the battery overloaded, cooking the insides, but not hot enough to cause a fire.

A half hour later the waste disposal company's trash man winkled his nose at the strong acidic smell that came up as he opened the can.

“Woo!” He exclaimed, glad for the rain and wind which took the stench away. “And I thought I didn't have a sense of smell anymore.”

Without a second thought, he upended the can into the garbage truck, sending the phone on its last journey.

<><><><><>

Secure briefing room

MacDill AFB

“This one is our best bet.” Agent G tapped the images Captain Baker and his wing-man had taken the night before.

“This one of the three is several blocks away, but the other is right next door.” He counted off the reasons why. “Neither one of those shows any signs of disturbed ground.”

“This one doesn't either.” Agent M tapped the image he'd singled out.

“Ah,” He smiled like a hunter going in for the kill. “No, it doesn't have obvious indicators like a crater, but according to my intelligence analyst friends here on base, the ground of this place has been turned. The technique was developed to help find where enemy bunkers were being dug.” Agent G explained.

“As much as I want to play my normal role of Devil’s Advocate, I have to agree.” She admitted unwillingly. “A Face-book search reveals that the owner Steven Dewitt, is the CEO of a robotics consultation firm, who also has several engineering degrees. Additionally, the other occupant, Brian Tucian, has master's degrees in botany, biology, and genetics.”

That was one of the reasons why he would fight to keep her as his partner. She knew when to break the rules. The Agency's moratorium on computers was a major ham-stringer, but M was smart using their other Alphabet Agency's ID's to get the important stuff like this.

“Additionally,” She continued, “The other two properties are owned by a lawyer and a construction magnate with political ambitions. Neither one shows the kind of interests behind those armored suits. Curiously, both of those households have teenage boys, who go to the same school and are both honor roll students.”

“Really?” He raised his brows not impressed.

“I don't mean two nerds who are members of the chess club.” She smiled at her partner. “We're talking about one kid who has an incurable disease, but has an IQ that's plain off the charts, and the other, who is larger than you. And I don't mean fat either.” She smirked at him.

“Football player?” He inquired, wondering if the kid should be recruited.

“No,” She said, still smiling, “He was raised by his grandfather, a Vietnam era Special Forces veteran. His scholastic records suggest he'd been taught a few things by his grandparent. No real trouble, but he did immobilize two of those football players of yours without injury to them or himself.”

“Vice-principle's private notes.” She answered his unasked question. “I too have friends in the area.”

“So the two kids saw the MAU come down or witnessed it being used, and did a computer search.” Agent G summarized.

“And since the ill boy hasn't announced he's been healed by a miracle, we can make the guess that they haven't used the MAU themselves.” M added. “They both showed up at school this morning without any obvious modifications.”

“Maybe.” He temporized. “You know as well as I that some of the changes aren't always noticeable. However, I provisionally agree with you. If that kid is as ill as you say, then I think he would've had that miracle you were talking about.”

“It is possible they're playing a deeper game.” Agent M said. “Griffin Morgan has discovered and named several asteroids using only very basic instruments. Daniel Cole is the author of several popular mobile applications and other computer programs. They're both child prodigies who've never gotten the chance to shine because of their situations.

“However, with that said,” She shook her head, “I can't see the Cole boy not changing himself if he had a chance. Imagine, Steven Hawking as a teen already confined to a wheelchair. As for Griffin Morgan I don't know. You know as well as I do the ways people change themselves with these things have entire clinics of psychologists baffled.”

“I know.” Agent G replied. “Some of it I can understand, but most of it puzzles the hell out of me. However, now that we have narrowed it down to a single address what do you say we go and give them a visit?

“I thought you would never ask.” She stood, securing their files. “I always wanted to meet Iron-Man.”

To Be Continued!


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