ELSEWHERE IN GARRISON, IN a room hidden from view—a room so secret that only three in the entire world knew of its existence—deep within a bank of monitors and controls, a red light began to blink in unison with a low, steady beeping that sounded throughout the space.
It was not a large room, nor was it small. It was round with high, domed ceilings. It held computers, tables, and lab equipment such as microscopes, test tubes, Bunsen burners, and centrifuges. Packed as it was with such equipment, there was still space enough for a dark automobile under an even darker tarp with a motorcycle at its side.
A door opened at one end of the room, light spilling in like an invading army. The overhead lights, which operated on motion control, switched on as a man entered the room.
The man was tall and lanky, yet stooped, with snow white hair and a thick mustache which drooped down over each side of his face, practically hiding the mouth beneath. He wore a dark suit which cost more than the gross national product of most small countries, and he walked with a cane. Yet, as stooped as he was, and despite the use of the cane, the man moved with such natural grace that any gymnast worth their salt, having spent no more then a few seconds with the man, would have given up all hope of gold medals and would have gone, henceforth, to the nearest fast food joint to beg for a position grilling burgers.
The man approached the blinking red light and sat in a chair before a small keyboard. He typed at a few buttons and a number of things happened in rapid succession. The small red light stopped blinking, the steady beeping ceased, a low hum sounded from somewhere deep within the room, and the wall which circled the entire room switched on, glowing with its own inner light.
On the wall screen, just before the old man in the chair, another old man appeared. He dwarfed the man in the chair, his head and shoulders taking up space along most of the wall before the chair.
“Peter Pembleton,” said the man in the chair. His accent was British, crisp and proper like a member of the Royal Family. “It’s been a long time, old friend. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“I gave Oliver the ring.”
“You did what!?” The aristocrat fled to be replaced by something a bit less dignifying. “Are you barking?”.
“We talked about this already, Gerald. It should come as no surprise.”
“No, you talked, I listened. I never thought you were serious, Peter. A pizza delivery boy? Have you finally gone senile?”
“He’s a good man, Gerald. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and he knows what’s right. He was the right choice.”
“He’s a Normal, Peter.”
“So was I. So were you. You’re letting your prejudices show, Gerald.”
“There are better candidates to get the ring, Peter. More deserving candidates”
“I’m not having this argument with you again, Gerald. Oliver has the ring now. It’s his choice what to do with it.”
“So you’re calling to gloat?” Gerald said.
“No,” said Peter. “I called because I need your help.”
“Well you can forget it,” said Gerald. “If you think I’m helping you with this farce then you’re definitely off your chump.”
“He needs you Gerald,” Peter said. “He has no idea what the ring even is. Not really.”
“That’s on you, Peter. Not me. If he destroys half the city trying to figure the damn thing out then you’re the one responsible.”
“Why don’t you teach him?”
“You know why,” Peter said. “I can’t be a part of that world anymore. Not after Cecilia.”
Gerald had no reply. He only frowned, his mustache drooping even further.
“Gerald,” Peter said. “Please.”
It was at this moment that another light began blinking in time with a soft alarm.
“That’s an alert,” Peter said.
“I know what it is,” Gerald barked back. He clacked away at the keyboard and a small window opened up on the wall screen just below Peter’s chin.
In the small window was the face of a costumed hero. Power Surge. He was talking but Gerald couldn’t hear what was being said.
“But I thought you quit all this—”
“Shut up,” Gerald cut him off as he increased the volume.
“…telling you it was him,” said Power Surge.
“How is that possible?” another voice said.
“Is that Walter?” Peter said. “Are you tapping into his system?”
“I’m trying to listen,” said Gerald. “Shut it or I shut you off.”
“…after he died,” continued the other voice, Walter, through the hacked feed. “Why would he return?”
“I don’t know,” said Power Surge. “He was attacking a Normal outside the Pizza Dude. I tried to intervene but he took me out like I was nothing.”
“You’re sure it was him?” Walter asked.
“Look, I may not have been around at the time, I was just a kid,” said Power Surge. “But I watched it live just like everyone else. And they play the footage every year on the anniversary. It was General Ruin alright.”
“General Ruin!?” Peter said.
“Attacking a Normal outside the Pizza Dude,” Gerald said, closing the small window down. “Oliver?”
“Who else?” Peter said. Gerald could see the worry in his eyes. “It’s too soon. He’s not ready.” Peter turned those worried eyes onto Gerald.
“Fine,” Gerald said. “I’ll help him. If it isn’t already too late."
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