The Enhanced: TRI - 37

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By Diana M. Howe, Edited by Melanie Howe, Cover art by Monica Plant
Copyright © 2004, 2015 by Diana M. Howe
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction
Or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any
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Invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in
Any information storage or retrieval system is forbidden without the
express written permission of the copyright holder.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are
Used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead,
business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.


Previously

“Dickensian?” Julian repeated blankly.

“Sit down and let me explain it to you,” Greg said, pouring Julian a cup of coffee, “and if nothing else, it’ll be good for a laugh, and you have my permission to dissect it for flaws…”

Chapter 37
Endgame

Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.’
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Nathanial Ravensclaw was having a bad week, he had barely dodged the bullet on the Aerodyne fiasco and managed to pin the misappropriation of funds on a nameless underling, but that FBI agent, Gail Paxton, was still making waves in government circles. Still, she was a minor headache compared to the strange continuing collapse of some of the shell companies that The Council used to hide wealth, and he was finding it nearly impossible to discredit that rat Greg Howard’s ideas and inventions for some reason.

It was as if the man was able to influence events from beyond the pale. Still, he could amuse himself by humiliating Paxton then eliminating her and maybe he could get a good old-fashioned border conflict going somewhere. Yes, that might be good for a laugh or two. He glanced at the wall clock and noticed it was almost 9:00pm. Nathanial decided to go and have a sumptuous dinner and then head back to his condo and get a good night’s sleep. He arrived home shortly after 11:00pm to a dark quiet house. His staff was not a live-in one and he preferred it that way, it just meant that there were less people that could testify against him at an increasingly theoretical trial. Besides, he had a direct link to the best security the world had to offer, his darling daughter.

Around 11:30, as he was preparing to get into bed, he heard a small noise from his den. Nathanial was not a paranoid man, but he did make it a habit to take precautions. He moved quietly to retrieve the Desert Eagle 50 AE that he kept in his bedside table. It was a powerful weapon by any standard and more than enough to discourage any intruder.

God bless my adopted land!

he thought as he eased the handgun out of the drawer with as little noise as possible. He had the gun in his hand when the lights in the condominium all went dark. He bit down on a curse and waited until his eyes adjusted to the sudden blackness. Sliding the safety off and making sure his panic button was in the pocket of his robe, he crept down the hall, noticing that the surrounding blocks of the city were all dark as well.

A God-damned power failure! That’s all I needed, he thought savagely.
Well, it makes for equal ground between the intruder and me. Pity for them I don’t play fair,

a smirk played across his lips.

He hefted the weapon and approached the den stealthily. There was an eerie luminescence cast by the stars whose light didn’t usually reach Manhattan. His desk chair was turned around to face the picture window and that definitely was not how he’d left it. He entered the room slowly and crossed to the halfway point when he recognised a familiar voice…

“The stars are almost as beautiful here as they were in Barcelona, aren’t they Nathanial?” The chair slowly swung to face him.

“It can’t be you, you died by my daughter’s hand…” Ravensclaw choked out thrown off his usual equilibrium by the unexpected turn of events.

“Yes, I was meaning to have a word with you about that, but it can wait,” the figure in the chair replied casually. “You’ve been naughty, Sonny-boy. You just couldn’t wait till I died of natural causes, could you?”

“This isn’t real! You can’t be St. John! No… I’ve just been too worried lately,” he said while screwing his eyes tightly shut and rubbing them with his fists.

“Ah, but this is too real Nate. I even brought some friends with me,” Lindquist laughed.

There was a noise behind Ravensclaw and he spun to see who was there. In the shadows were four colourfully dressed people. His dead super soldiers. The biggest one moved forward.

“Hiya Boss! Nice place you got here. How come you never had us over before?” Sam Munio inquired. Nathanial whirled back to face Lindquist and there were two more people standing on either side of the chair.

“Nathanial, allow me to introduce Rumiko Takahashi and Jonathon Tyler,” Lindquist offered. “You had them killed at Howard’s European complex, remember?”

Jon nodded while Rumi just glared at Ravensclaw. Nathan turned again and saw two more men and a tall blonde woman.

“I guess you don’t have to pay for our services Herr Ravensclaw. We did fail in our assignments after all,” she said sarcastically.

Nate’s jaw sagged as he gawked at the figures appearing out of the darkness.

“P…P…P…” he stammered.

“I believe the name you’re grasping for is Paulina, Sir,” Joachim Azeri filled in. There was another scraping noise to his right. He slowly turned his head towards it.

“Good Evening Monsieur Ravensclaw. You certainly have a lot of visitors for such a late hour,” a voice commented smoothly from the shadows.

“DeLongiles! Johnson!” Nathanial groaned. Then to his left he heard a low amused chuckle.

“Well, well, well Nate. It’s beginning to look like old home week here at stately Ravensclaw Manor…” Nathanial pivoted in the direction of that wret
chedly familiar voice.
“YOU! Howard!” Ravensclaw barked. “You’re behind all of this, somehow!” Greg shook his head and laughed again.

“How could I be behind anything Nate? I’m dead, remember? Your little friend Joachim over there, finished me off in Canada,” Greg indicated the assassin, “and boy, did he look pissed when he showed up on this side of the veil. We all got together after Lindquist showed up and compared notes. Once your super creeps, no offence,” he nodded to their collective, “crossed over, we all just decided to drop in for a visit.”

The room seemed to be filling up with more and more shadowy figures. Most lacked any definition but were visible. Nathanial couldn’t take this anymore and started firing his gun at anything that seemed solid enough to take a slug. He finally ran out of rounds but kept pulling the trigger. Greg just shook his head pityingly.

“Why Nate, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you weren’t happy to see us,” he clucked his tongue. “What’s the matter Buddy, got a guilty conscience?” he asked sarcastically. Ravensclaw closed his eyes tightly again. What made this crazy situation even worse was that Howard’s shade seemed to be deriving immense satisfaction from witnessing his distress.

“You’re not here, not one of you!” Nathanial dropped the gun as he struggled to regain his equilibrium. “I’m having some sort of stress-related breakdown, that’s all. I’ll open my eyes in a moment and you’ll all be gone. Then I’ll have a good, stiff drink and go to bed.”

Ravensclaw slowly opened his eyes and was relieved to see he was completely alone in the room once again. The lights chose that moment to come back on and he nearly jumped out of his skin.

“OK Nate. Calm down and have that drink. It was all just a paranoid break,” he said aloud to the empty room.

“Sure Nathanial, keep telling yourself that. What do you want to drink? Scotch, Bourbon?” Ravensclaw turned and saw Greg at the bar with a glass in his hand, and another ready to receive the booze.

“Scotch then, you figment,” Ravensclaw decided to play along with the delusion. “Why are you still here?” he asked.

“Well, you looked like you were going to have a stroke, so we decided that you’d be better off dealing with just one of us,” Greg made a face, “and I got the short straw.”

“OK then Howard, why were all of you here tonight? Aside from the old ‘change your ways and be saved speech’… I’ve read the classics,” Nathanial took a long pull from his drink.

“Hey Nate, I’m not here to save your soul. I would really prefer to see you roasting your toes in the pit, but that’s just me,” Greg grinned suddenly. “Actually, I heard a good joke the other week and it’s appropriate to this situation too,” he cleared his throat and began. “A skeleton walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a beer and a mop chaser. Ba-dum-tsch!” Greg punctuated his joke with a rim-shot.

Nathanial’s jaw dropped for a moment, then he started to laugh and had to sit down on the sofa. He waved at Greg to bring his drink over and sit down too. He kept on laughing, then finally caught his breath and smiled.

“Now I know it’s you Howard, I heard your rank humour when we met in Bonn. So, spook, if you’re not here for my salvation, then why are you here?” Ravensclaw asked curiously.

“I just wanted to see how you’re doing now that all of the strings are starting to slip through your fingers. How do you like losing control?” Greg pointed toward the far wall. “I mean, you just shot up an original Van Gogh over there.”

“I…AM…Not…Losing control!” Nathanial struggled to reign his anger in. “There is something going on lately, but I’ll find out the source of the problem and command it or crush it, as always. I took care of you, didn’t I?” he reminded his apparent hallucination. Greg walked to the desk and leaned up against it.

He’s really going for this, isn’t he Trish?
Yeah, his vital signs are all over the place… hmmm…
What’s up Trish?

Greg asked.

I’m seeing something in his bioscans that shouldn’t be possible. He’s full of nanomechs. They appear to be inactive but there are trillions of them in his bloodstream and tissues,

she replied incredulously

What?! How’s that even possible? He has no access to that technology!

Greg demanded.

I don’t know Greg. All I do know is that they’re in there at near threshold levels,

Trish said, at a loss herself.

“No snappy rejoinder Howard? Losing your wit?” Ravensclaw baited. Greg narrowed his eyes and looked at Nathanial speculatively.

“No Nate, but it still appears that you don’t understand what’s going on here. You still assume this isn’t a real encounter,” Greg responded. “I mean, if I’m physically here, and your hand canon is over there what’s to stop me from crushing your skull like this paperweight?” Greg picked up the large piece of glass on the desk and ground it into a fine powder between his hands.

Ravensclaw just smiled and reached into his pocket. He held up a small black box with a single button on it.

“A garage door opener?” Greg inquired sarcastically.

“No Fool, a signalling device. I press it like this…” Nathanial matched action to words, “…and my darling daughter comes charging to my rescue.” There was a crash from the front door of the apartment and Natalia stood in the doorway of the den.

“Father, what’s wron… You!” she caught sight of Greg. “It’s not possible, you’re dead!”

“Nope, not dead yet Natalia... you two really must look for a body before drawing conclusions. Miss me Sweetheart?” he drawled. “Oh, wait… there’s something I’m forgetting… ah yes, that’s it. Natalia? Kryptonite.” Greg grinned maliciously at her.

Greg! There’s something happening to Nathanial! The nanomechs have all just activated!

Trish announced with alarm.

At that moment, the holoprojectors Greg had placed around the room came online simultaneously and the Professor’s image solidified in the room between the 3 of them.

“Hello Nathanial, Natalia. Hi Greg,” he said jauntily.

Julian?” Greg’s jaw dropped.

“Sorry to steal your thunder Greg, but I had to be here for the endgame,” the Professor announced.

“Endgame Saber?” Nathanial snarled. “What’s going on here?”

“Yes, endgame Nathanial, and I’d suggest that your daughter not move,” Julian replied mockingly, “or she could injure herself severely.”

Natalia just snorted her contempt.

Trish, what the hell’s going on here?

Greg was getting more confused by the minute.

I don’t know Greg, but the nanomechs in Nathanial’s body are starting to disassemble his cells!

Trish replied with dismay. The Professor continued blithely on.

“You see Nate, I was not as limited in my lab conditions as you thought or hoped when I was your… guest,” Julian said with a shudder. “I programmed the nanomechs that I’d created at your… request… most carefully. My first revenge was the defence and healing shutdown command that Gregory just gave… Kryptonite. It rendered your soldiers incapable of resisting damage and stopped the rapid healing functions.” He looked over at Natalia and explained further, “You still have all your strengths and powers, but you are now as vulnerable to injury as a normal human being.” He looked back at Nathanial.

“For you Nate, I came up with a much subtler revenge. I programmed the nanomechs that were in your soldiers to seek out your DNA and enter your body to await further orders. Every minute you spent in the presence of your team, more of my little bugs would enter your system,” Julian’s eyes gleamed with a touch of madness. “For you, when the code word was spoken in your vicinity, the nanomechs would activate in disassembler mode and start attacking your cells, a rapid cancer if you will. No doubt you’re starting to feel the affects by now,” the Professor narrowed his eyes and peered at Ravensclaw. “Oh dear, is that a nosebleed?” he asked innocently.

Nathanial’s hand shot to his face in disbelief and came back stained with a smear of blood.

“Howard!” he shrieked. “What’s going on? I demand that you do something!”

“Sorry Nate, I have nothing to do with this,” Greg shook his head sadly. “Just remember that you tortured an old man almost to his death and then ask yourself whether his methods are justified or not. It’s no worse than scorpions, now is it?” Trish shifted their form and addressed the Ravensclaw duo.

“I tend to think this is no more then you deserve Mr. Ravensclaw,” she said. “My father is normally a gentle man who only wants to help the planet and her peoples. The only person that you’ve ever thought of helping is yourself. So help yourself now Mr. Ravensclaw… if you can,” she then looked over at Natalia. “And you Natalia, you’re just like him,” Trish chided, “…totally self-absorbed, unwilling to help anyone but yourself, not even your own father.”

“And just who the hell are you supposed to be Chicky?” Natalia demanded. “Where’s Greg?” Trish just smiled and shook her head.

“That’s right, I’d forgotten, we never were formally introduced, were we?” Trish smirked. “My name is Tricia Saber-Howard sometimes known as Sachi Watanabi or Shadowknight.”

Trish let the ACM seal up in full battle mode and waited. Natalia shrieked her fury and flung her Escrima staves at Trish. She deflected one and snagged the other out of the air.

“So that’s the best you’ve got Natalia Darling?” Trish asked, her voice dripping with contempt. She casually bent the rod double and dropped it at her feet. Natalia’s face went red and she charged across the room at her full speed. Her impact with Trish carried both women out through the plate glass window and into the air over Manhattan. Trish kicked in her lifters just before she started to freefall and looked in Natalia’s direction. Natalia’s skin was blistered and red from the air friction caused by her velocity and she was bleeding from the multiple cuts caused by the window glass. Trish observed her without pity.

“Well Vengeance, I’m waiting, are you just going to float there all night?” Trish taunted. Natalia screeched her defiance and shot towards Trish once more. Trish drew her katana and casually cut her opponent twice... a shallow slash on each cheek. Natalia drew back in surprise and fury as Trish sheathed her sword.

“You bitch! I’ll kill you for that!” she bellowed.

“You’re quite welcome to keep trying Natty, but just remember that I still have my defences and healing and you don’t,” warned Trish.

Vengeance charged once more and caught Trish on the point of her shoulder. The impact carried both women across the concrete canyon and into the wall of an office building. The impact was hard, but Natalia took the brunt of the damage and fell away from Trish, down into the night. Trish flew back to the apartment and dropped the hood of the battle suit.

“They never listen, do they Father?” she asked Julian.

“They never do My Daughter, they never do. How are you Nate? You seem to be in some pain. Would you like an aspirin?” Julian sneered.

“You’ll… never… get… away… with… this… Saber… the… police…” Ravensclaw wheezed.

“The police will find a pile of dust where you are and no explanation for the bullet holes around the room. They’ll find the door that your daughter broke down, and they’ll find a pistol with your prints,” Julian pointed out coldly. “They will not find me, they will not find Shadowknight, and they probably won’t find your daughter either because she has fled, like the true Ravensclaw she is, to save what’s left of her own skin,” he finished contemptuously.

“The… security… system…” Nathanial gasped.

“Will see nothing except what I want it to see. I’ll be leaving you now Nathanial. I’d say be well, but you won’t be, so what’s the use?” There was a bright flash as the holoprojectors disintegrated and the Professor disappeared.

Trish shifted back to Greg’s form. He looked at the damage in the room and Nathanial on the couch. He shook his head as he stepped over the firearm on the floor and headed out the door. All that could be heard from the room was a dry crackling noise and the sound of Nathanial’s moans, and soon, even the moans had stopped as well. Greg was silent as he flew slowly towards Battery Park where he’d left his truck. He’d witnessed a cruel form of justice tonight, but he’d never have expected it from that source.

Greg, you’re really upset by what you saw tonight, aren’t you?

Trish asked quietly.

Yes and no Darling… yes and no,he sighed. Julian was within his rights to seek revenge on Nathanial, I guess,

Greg sighed again,

I just never expected to see it or be a part of exacting that revenge. I suppose that Julian could have just picked up a telephone and said the word to Nate, but he wouldn’t have been able to witness it then. It’s just…
…less human than you expected Father to be?

Trish completed Greg’s thought.

Greg, he’s not a saint, he’s a human and he suffered incredibly at the hands of Nathanial Ravensclaw. Did you expect him to forgive and forget?
No Tricia, I didn’t, but he gave no indication of his plans to me… to us!

Greg’s irritation was evident.

We were used like the trigger on Ravensclaw’s handgun and I don’t understand why he wouldn’t confide in us… in me.
Because My Beloved Man, he knows what everyone who meets you knows. He sees in you what you can’t see within yourself, she chided him gently. You’re a gentle person, a pure spirit, an anomaly among most other humans. You are a good person to your core. I’ve seen what violence does to you, it makes you ill, and you will always choose to avoid it if there is any other possible solution.

Greg was silent as she continued,

If he had confided his plans to you, would you have gone along with them, or urged him to choose another course? I know you, you wouldn’t have willingly gone along with his revenge,

Trish smiled.

You chose to rehabilitate Lia and you let Theo make his own choices. Many people would take this as a sign of weakness, but I know that it makes you stronger than most people. It also used to separate you from the world of ordinary men,

she soothed.

I know logically what you’re saying is true Trish, but am I any less separated from the world than I was before I found you?

Greg entreated sadly.

I think you are more in touch with people, but the best of humanity surrounds you, this time around. Forgive them their foibles as you know they forgive you yours,

Trish coaxed.

They landed by the truck and began the long drive back to Parry Sound and Home.



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