MAU: Can't Take the Sky From Me! -3- & -4-

Griffin and Danny learn that plans doesn't always work out the way you want.

MAU: Can't Take the Sky From Me!
Chapter 3


“Ow” He laid still.

“Hey!” Danny asked, wheeling next to him. “Are you alright?”

“Define Alright.” Griffin groaned. “I don't think I broke anything, but my tail bone may never be the same. Who knew just jumping six feet could be so hard?”

“Well, we could always try some other way over that fence.” His friend in the chair suggested. “It is only seven feet high.”

“Only seven feet he says.” Griffin sat up. “We've been over this. I'm not the most athletic person in the world.” Wasn't that an understatement. While he did okay at the things he practiced and worked at, like Grandpa Joe's version of self-defense and bike riding, none of it came easy. It was all more of that his body not fitting right.

“I would need a ladder and something to throw over those spikes. Ornamental or not, those things would be a problem.” He went back over all the reasons why to go high. “Then we run right back into the trouble with the cameras. You would look a little suspicious dragging that stuff behind you on your wheels, and we can't do it from my yard since that would point straight back to us. That would be bad.”

“Like falling from three stories up isn't?” Danny asked, dryly serious. “Trust me. You don't want to fall and break your back. Living on a set of wheels isn't all it's cracked up to be.”

“I believe you.” The big redhead struggled to his feet. “Jumping is one thing, but trying to do a standing broad jump while perched on an edge is not that easy.” He was thankful that his friend Danny suggested they tried a dry run through part of the Plan. The edge of the picnic table was only three feet off the ground, but showed just how difficult jumping from roof to roof would be.

“And we haven't added in the mask and gloves you'll need tonight.” Danny added, thoughtfully. “You know, it might just be technique you're missing.”

“Probably,” Griffin agreed. “I'm really not built for running or jumping.”

“Then I might have a solution.” Danny grinned. “We can look up the proper method and form online. I hope you're up to more practicing.”

“Just wonderful.” He grunted, carefully stretching.

“You know we may have another problem too.” Danny held out his tablet so he could see.

“UFO spotted over residential community!” The Tweet read.

“Yeah, Iron-Man.” Griffin grimaced. “He didn't do that much flying around, but I guess he did enough.”

“That might bring the MIB's around pretty fast.” Danny said. “And others too. There are any number of people who could be interested. Anyone who got stuck in a form they don't like, as well as any number of corporations. That Box made Iron-Man armor. I'm surprised Lockheed, Sukhoi, and every other hi-tech company aren't beating his door down.”

“That's because they don't know … yet.” Griffin held his head as if in pain. “I think we're going to have to try for tonight. If they do their usual routine, Steven and Brian will go clubbing and won't get back till late. Assuming the MIBs find out about this today, they could be here tomorrow or even later today.”

“Griff, it is the weekend.” Danny argued against that timetable. “Most the news feeds are on reduced staff and only report major stuff. Do you really think a few UFO sightings are going to get anyone's attention?”

“We have to assume the worst. If we don’t want to lose our chance, we have to be ready.” Determination to do this overcame his aches. Griffin took a deep breath. “Show me how to jump.”

“Sure.” his friend grinned having found the right web link. “Let's do this, but cool out. It's only the government. It's not as if the Storm-Troopers or something were on their way to break down our door.”

501st Legion Garrison Outpost

location withheld

Beth smiled at Sean as she came into his workshop. Looking up from the project he was working on, Sean knew he was in trouble. She always had this certain way of walking when she wanted something from him.

Smiling back, he knew that was because she usually got it. “What's up, Dear?”

“I got a request from Danni by way of Emmy.” She waved a memo sticky sheet. “Someone has been inquiring online about MAU's. Usually they send a member of the Collective out to take a look, but this one raised some flags. There were not one, but three inquiries in the same area.”

He and some of the other Troopers with actual combat experience were investigating how to downplay some of the more cinematic elements of Storm-Trooper armor. After all in the movies, the damn stuff never seem to provide very much protection, even from Ewoks for Gawd's sake. However, if the 501st was really going into harm's way it had to be better.

On the other hand, nobody wanted a Waco, Texas incident with their Legion Garrison as the stars on the evening news. But, more and more they'd taken a greater role of following the Collective's lead in keeping MAU incidents from becoming big problems, usually by just being helpful.

It was amazing how a Force sensitive and few Clones or Storm-Troopers could make problems go away. On more than one occasion they had aided the MIB's from the shadows. For the most part the guys in Black motives didn't appear sinister and they did help those altered by the alien devices get on with their lives.

However, it was also clear that they would do just about anything to get their hands on an active MAU. Sean's trust of the government went just so far. The Collective was pretty sure that all they had was a warehouse full of deactivated units like something out of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' but he was also aware that Danni hadn't told them everything either.

“Let me guess,” He answered, “We're close by?”

“You got it.” His wife smiled. “It's just on the other side of the bay.”

“Same area where those UFOs were seen last night?” Sean asked, standing. He was getting one of those feelings.

“I wouldn't be surprised.” Beth nodded.

“I must be becoming psychic.” He sighed, using the Force to trigger the hidden compartment where they kept the 'good' stuff. Most of their equipment was hidden in plain sight, mixed in with their 501st cos-play gear. However the power cells and removable critical components were kept separate, just like locking up your guns and ammo in different safes. It paid to be careful.

She reached in and removed a pair of ElG-3A blaster pistols, along with their light sabers.

Sean nodded, agreeing with her choices. The pistols were fairly concealable and, more importantly, didn't look like firearms. From 'The Phantom Menace' they looked like Sci-Fi fantasy movie props which was a good thing if they ran into trouble with the authorities. However, if there was something to those UFO reports, then having the stun capable weapons would be comforting.

As for the light sabers, what was a Jedi without one?

It was too bad there wasn't a Convention anywhere nearby this weekend, but they could always claim they going to a friend's house to practice for an event. Besides everyone knew about Star Wars.

It was too bad it was the merry month of May and far too warm for their long coats, but they'd learned how to make do. With any luck they would find it was just another false alarm and head home after taking a nice drive across the bay. However the UFO reports were ominous. Usually, people got themselves in trouble by letting their imaginations run wild with a machine that could make just about anything come true. That is until the damn thing stopped working. Unfortunately, sometimes the MAUs fell into the hands of those who saw … other possibilities.

Well, that was why the weaponry, just in case.

Chapter 4

“Okay, good” He told Griff over his phone. “You got the last one installed. I've got clear views of the entire backyard and the house. It's a good thing cameras are so cheap now.”

“What are you talking about?” The Farm-boy snorted. “We didn't buy anything. They weren't being used and were gathering dust in your closet. Still you had a good idea about them being a lot better than that web cam I jury-rigged last night. It is too bad we had to wait till nightfall till I could get out on the roof to put them up.”

“Hey! At least I had them. My spy gear phase drove my parents and sister nuts while it lasted. They should be thankful that I didn't have one that could fly. ” Danny joked. “And look at it this way. It gave you time to get that jumping thing down. You now have a 70% chance of not falling off your neighbor’s roof. Besides, we can use the time to review that web cam footage you recorded while we wait.”

“That's not a bad idea.” Griffin agreed. “I can see that someone has been busy in their backyard. Probably Brian, since he does all the gardening stuff.”

“Besides, it'll make the time pass faster if it looks like we're doing our usual online gaming thing.” Danny added reasonably. “The more we make it seem we're not up to anything the less that you-know-who would even look twice at us.”

“You've got that part right.” Griff replied over the Blue-Tooth headset. “In and out just like a ghost.”

“And failing that.” Danny added, “Confuse the hell out of him as to who did the deed.”

“You got it right again.” Griff's voice said with feeling. “Even with the tweaks we've planned for ourselves I don't want to face whoever he's turned himself into at the time.”

“I just want to be able to do the things everyone else takes for granted.” Danny sighed into his headset. “Yeah, maybe I did overdo those 'tweaks' you were just talking about, but nothing like you showed me he did; Batman, Iron-Man and I think I remember seeing the Terminator too.”

“Yeah, I saw those too.” Griff replied. “Okay, I'm back inside now. You can really mess yourself up with that thing, but I can't say I wouldn't be tempted to try some crazy things with it if I had the chance.”

“Speak for yourself.” Danny said, forcefully. “I've seen those search results remember? If even half of that stuff was real, some of those people messed themselves up but good.”

“I'm not going to argue that.” Griff agreed. “Perhaps its a good thing that we only have one shot at this. Nothing wasted, we've done our best to make it all count.”

“Okay,” Danny announced. “I've got that footage loaded. Here it comes.” He said clicking his mouse.”

Separated, they still watched it together.

“And lets speed this up some.” Danny added after a moment of watching a very boring backyard. “Yell if you see something interesting.”

The static scene jumped as a person appeared with the jerky movements of being in fast forward.

“Hey!” Danny exclaimed. “Who's the girl?”

He stopped and put it on slow reverse.

The feminine figure walked backwards to the machine to where she got 'out,' but it revealed a man getting in.

“Whoa.” Danny stopped the recording again, staring. He'd known the MAU could make radical changes, but he never expected that.

“You know.” Griff said after a moment. “I think that's Brian, but I never thought he was Tee.”

“Tee?” Asked Danny placing the footage back on forward. “She looks a lot like Daisy Duke to me, Catherine Bach and not Jessica Simpson.”

“Yes she does.” Griff agreed. “Hmmm, Tee stands for transgender. I knew he was gay, but Daisy could be just him being curious.”

“Not to be ignorant,” Danny inquired politely, sensing this might a sensitive subject given how much his friend seemed to know about this. He opened up another search window as he spoke. “But isn't it pretty much the same thing?”

“Not really.” Griff replied. “Gay guys are guys who like other guys. Some might be a bit effeminate, but they are still happy with being male. Transgender is really sort of a misnomer. Some prefer the term gender variant, which means they have a mixture of the masculine and the feminine about them. It's like that Yin and Yang philosophy thing with everyone having a bit of each. Tee is sorta kinda like having too much of that of the opposite gender. For some, just wearing the clothes sometimes is enough, however for others they need more.

“And to confuse things.” The Farm-boy continued, “Sexual orientation, who they like, doesn't have to match their perceived gender. Think of Eddie Izzard and what he used to say. 'I'm a lesbian trapped in a man's body.'”

“Sounds complicated.” Danny remarked, watching the woman in the Daisy Duke shorts set up an event tent over the alien machine. Maybe his body couldn't do much about his desire, but she sure did rock that outfit.

Even distracted, he didn't miss how she efficiently set up that pop-up tent. He'd watched his Dad and Uncles struggle at putting up one of those things. However, she did it all by herself and made it appear easy. Then again, being a florist frequently working outdoor events, she'd probably counted as a professional.

Noticing that Griff had gone silent, Danny asked. “So how did you meet Brian anyways? Most the kids in the neighborhood give 'The Perv' a wide berth and only know Brian as his boyfriend.”

“Well.” The redhead laughed. “It was one of those 'conspiracies of circumstances' things. When I visited here during the holidays, we kinda ran into each other. I was wearing my Flash Tee-shirt with the lightning bolt in the red circle symbol, and he had on a DC comics Captain Marvel Big Red Cheese tee, also with a bolt. I think one of us said something about lightning striking twice for an ice breaker, and we discovered both of us were SF and comics fans.”

“So what happened?” Danny inquired. “You two seem to keep your distance now. Was it Steven?”

“No, but I guess maybe yes, in a way.” Griff said cryptically. “It was more of that comedy of errors thing. He thought I was older because of my appearance, and I thought he was younger. I guess we both thought we were about the same age instead of there being a considerable difference. With his being gay and the knee-jerk reaction people have, he thought it a bad idea to become too friendly with a high school student.”

“Yeah,” Danny replied. “I can see that, especially with 'The Perv' involved. I know Steven has never been caught doing anything, but the way he looks at some of the kids sometimes is really freaky.” Just as bad, none of the adults ever seemed to see it.

However, Steven never put himself in a situation in which he was around kids. Maybe just looking wasn't a crime, but Brian did look really young, even if he wasn't. Danny did get how the younger man didn't want to be guilty by association.

“It sucked at the time because I that was before I meet you.” His friend paused. “That was a bad time for me, just after moving here. I really needed friends, but I got the why of it like you said.”

“Yeah.” Danny said simply. Griff's mother was a looker, but compared to his own Mom, she didn't have much of a motherly instinct thing going on. His friend had been really broken up about losing his grandparents. If you needed someone to organize a bake sale for a charity, go to Griff's mom. However, if you needed motherly compassion, not so much.

If anything, Danny had the opposite problem with his Mom being too motherly, but knowing the state of his health he'd always taken pains not to leave how he felt unsaid. He loved his parents fiercely and wasn't shy about letting them know it. That's not to say he didn't have his bad days when he was a serious pain to anyone nearby, but he tried to have more good days than bad.

“Wow, look at her go.” Griff exclaimed, as they saw the transformed woman erase all signs that anything had landed in the perfectly maintained yard.

By the time/date stamp, before Danny and Griff had even had lunch, nobody could see anything unusual about Steven's backyard, much less that Iron-Man had flown from back there.

However, they both observed that, before the aforementioned Steven had returned from his golf game, Brian had returned to his usual male self, outwardly at least. Who knew if he had tweaked himself like they were planning.

The recording showed the two men played with the MAU some more, although Iron-man did not make another appearance. Nothing else, unfortunately, was off limits or sacred as the men 'explored' the limits of the MAU.

“Please tell me, we just didn't see that?” Danny begged Griff.

“I'll be right back.” The Farm-boy joked. “I've got to get the eye and brain bleach.”

“Save some for me!” The teen in the wheels said with all seriousness. “How could he let Steven talk him into looking that young? I mean the Terminator and John Conner from the second movie really? That's just wrong!”

“I'm hardly the expert on interpersonal relationships.” The redhead reminded his friend. “But when you care about someone else you give a part of yourself to them. I just hope that when it happens to me that they treat it with more respect than he did.”

“So this is what they did this afternoon?” Danny shook his head. He'd thought himself worldly because of all the diving he did in the darker parts of the internet. He was learning that he was a sheep in the woods full of big bad wolves, of which one lived right next door to his friend.

“Well, you have access to the live feed just like I do,” Griff replied, “But I understand why you don't want to look. Right now, it appears that they took a break for dinner. Please Lord, let them go out!”

“I'll second that.” Danny joined him. “Amen!”

That did not happen.

Instead the two went back to playing with the alien box, and perhaps because it was now night, Iron Man did make an appearance; worse, so did War-Machine. At least the cameras that Griff had placed had enough of an angle to see most of the action.

In this case, Steven was War-Machine, but they noticed that Brian had some trouble getting Iron-Man to work. Although it looked authentic, it was non-functional. A fact that Steven rubbed the younger man's face in. The two teens watched as Steven had to help Brian get the Iron-Man armor right.

“Now that was interesting.” Danny stated.

“Wasn't it though.” Griff agreed. “I think Steven, for all that he really is a Perv, also has a degree in robotic engineering. Perhaps he mostly does business stuff these days, but he has the knowledge.”

“And what is Brian's degree in again?” Danny already knew, but really he just wanted it confirmed.

“That would be in biology and genetics.” The farm boy replied. “It seems that you do need to know something about what you're requesting from that thing.”

“It's a good thing you did that cramming earlier.” Danny said. “I hope its enough.”

“Me too!” Griff said back. “I hope they don't...”

“No, there they go.” He said, as the two armored men took off into the night sky.

“So much for they going clubbing tonight.” Danny sighed. “This is going to bring those MIB's like rats to cheese.”

“And I don't dare try to do it now, because with them in those suits, their sensors could very well spot me even though we can't see them.” Griff said, aggravated at the delay

“We just have to wait.” Danny said, advising patience.

“I know. “ Griff replied. “But it's hard knowing we're so close. However, I do hope Brian doesn’t get shot down by the Air Force or anything.”

“I'm more worried about the Air Force.” Danny replied. “Steven isn't Tony Stark. If he gets shot at, he might shoot back.”

“Should've figured he would pick War-Machine because of the big gun.” The redhead said, disgusted.

“Well,” Danny said soothingly. “Maybe they won't be out long, and then they'll go out.”

“I wouldn't count on it.” Griff sighed heavily. “I mean if you could fly would you come down before you had to?”

“Not until the Air Force shows up and makes me.” Danny said, conceding his friend's point.

“When the stars shine bright through the engine's trail.” Griff sang softly.

“You can't take the sky from me.” Danny sang back skipping a few stanzas. He didn't have his friend's memory, but he did recall those words from the 'Firefly' theme song.

“Amen, my friend.” Griff replied. “Brown-Coats forever.”

“It always seems the best shows never stay on for long.” Danny observed. “But I guess Joss got his revenge with Avengers.”

“Yeah.” The Farm-boy agreed. “There's nothing like making great big pots of money to make your point, and he was able to make 'Serenity' after all.”

“You up for some gaming?” Danny asked, changing the subject. “That is what we're supposed to be doing, and it'll pass the time.” He clicked his gaming icon, pulling up his Tank character.

“Might as well.” The redhead accepted his suggestion. “I'll bring my Spell-caster. I feel like setting some fires and blowing up a few things.”

“Let's see if we can find something easy so that we won't need a Healer.” Danny said, getting into the spirit of things.

Although they kept an eye on the real prize, that tent covered alien machine, hours passed before War-Machine and Iron-Man made their return.

“There they are.” Griff said, alerted by the sounds of repulsors landing in the neighbor's backyard though his open window.

“I can hear them though your headphones.” Danny announced, tiredly. His endurance was never very good, even though he was accustomed to late night gaming on the weekends.

“But it's too late, now.” The Farm-boy sighed. “They won't go out.”

On the cameras the two watched just that. The armored guys went inside.

“We will have to try for tomorrow.” Danny said, logging off their game. “Maybe they will go out then.”

“I hope so.” Griff prayed. “You did see they went inside with their 'suits?' I don't think I can dare even try and sneak in later after they're asleep. Not with those suits in the house. They could have some sort of sentry function.”

“Like I said.” Danny replied, evenly. “Just be patient. Tomorrow, Okay?”

“Yeah,” Griff unwillingly agreed. “Tomorrow. Good night, Danny.”

“Goodnight Griff.” He replied setting his virus scanners going.

Looking out of the window, Danny looked up at the stars peeking through breaks in the fog and clouds. “Please.” He asked in prayer. Then, using the hoist remote, he got himself into bed. Sleep overtook him as, for the first time in so very long, he entered his dreams with hope.

501st Legion

Recon detachment

Vicinity of Upton Heights

“I think we're going to need bigger guns.” Sean said, watching the two armored suits descend for a landing within the upper class gated community.

The advanced, binocular-like imagers gave a clear picture of the Iron-man armor suits despite it being two o’clock in the early foggy morning.

“You know they could be peaceful comic book fans, right?” His wife asked, watching them with her own device.

“If half of what we overheard about War-Machine's playing chicken with those jets are true, there are some fly boys that are going to be busy washing out their flight suits.” Sean gave her his opinion, tapping the data pad that'd let them listen in on the Air Force's secure communications. “At least he didn't fire on them, but it's pretty damn clear that suit is fully operational. There's no way the MIB's will be able to deal with those.

“However,” He admitted. “I am willing to give the Iron-Man some slack. He turned and ran like any sensible person under the circumstances.”

“You're right about that.” Beth pointed out. “War-Machine did appear aggressive. I don't know if we can deal with him. We might have to bring in Danni and her friends in on this one.”

“I agree.” Sean was pulling out his com-link. “At the very least we'll need special support from the Garrison HQ. We will try it the easy way first and hope it's just a pair of fans that got carried away. If not...”

She nodded her understanding. Neither had to say it. Both of them had been running all over the bay looking for signs and clues. Something had pushed them to stay longer when common sense said it was time to go home.

Beth could see it in her husband's eyes even as she felt it herself. They were both getting used to this Jedi stuff, but some things were unmistakable. For a Jedi having a 'bad' feeling usually meant trouble. Disturbances in the Force were always problems that rarely turned out well.

To Be Continued!

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