“What’re you thinkin’?” Gears asked his brother.
“I’m thinkin’ we might need to go to the cops with this.”
Olivia frowned, her tail twitching behind her. Why is it always the police? They really don’t like me. Isn’t there someone else we could call?
“Honest, think hard about this now. Can we do this on our own? Those aliens ain’t fuckin’ around. They’ve got a news station under their thumb for some damn reason.” And those laser guns hurt. “But this is our fuck up in the first place.”
Skulker grunted noncommittally in response. Olivia winced to herself as she paced next to Gears’ truck, the burns across her body red and inflamed. “I’m wonderin’ if the cops would even believe us,” said Skulker.
“Well, there’s a Siberian corpse down there,” said Gears, jerking his thumb in the direction of the old gym with an underground base they’d stumbled across. “They’ll believe that.”
Olivia stopped and asked, “Could we call Cyrus? He seems like a good guy, and he’d believe us.” Oh, and maybe he’ll bring Hank. We haven’t seen him in weeks. Since he left with Cyrus, actually.
“We gonna drag Cyrus into our shit every time we come against somethin’ tough? This is our fuck up,” said Gears.
“I’m with him,” said Skulker. He and Gears both seemed to make up their minds, standing up a little straighter. “We got tricked like scrubs. An’ if word gets out Sarah made this weapon, she’s gonna get dragged down with us. I say we try this on our own.”
“We need to let Delta an’ Miya know what’s goin’ on. Then we come up with a game plan,” added Gears.
Skulker and Olivia nodded in agreement. She kept an ear out for anyone approaching their abandoned car lot as Gears called the others. We can do this, she thought as she resumed her pacing, tail dragging along on the rough and cracked asphalt of the lot. It’s OK. We got out of this one OK. I just can’t do anything stupid next time. We’ll be fine.
“Alright,” said Gears, hanging up his phone. “No problems on their end. An’ I just thought of somethin’. We could sell the shit down there like the lasers to the Company. They’d pay real good for any alien shit.”
“Let’s see if we can get this done on our own first. If we can, sure. If not, we gotta give the cops somethin’ so they’ll believe us,” replied Skulker.
“True. Let’s do this,” said Gears, hand on the door handle.
“Hold on. You guys keep saying ‘this’. I get the general meaning, but what exactly do we need to do?” asked Olivia. Just so I’m not messing anything up in my head.
“We need to go to that TV station an’ figure out what exactly the Siberians are doin’ there. We take out whoever we need to, an’ we figure out why they have a fuckin’ TV station,” replied Skulker. “Then we figure out where to go from there, an’ if we can put a stop to this brain meltin’ ray thing.”
“OK,” said Olivia with a cautious nod.
“You feelin’ up to this?” Skulker asked Olivia, motioning to the laser burns on her chest.
“I’m fine,” she replied. “They’re not that bad.”
“If you say so. Want a ride or you gonna fly?” he asked.
“I’ll fly.” I hate sitting in cars.
“Alright. It’s towards downtown. Be careful.”
Now that night had fallen completely, Olivia could fly far lower on their way to the news station. The skyscrapers of downtown Westward City towered above them, reaching the heights Olivia usually cruised at. Why do they always have lights on? Doesn’t that just waste electricity?
A few cars passed below her as she circled over the TV station. The triplets had parked behind an old car dealership across the street from it, their massive matte black truck towering over the smaller Japanese cars. I’m not seeing anything immediately strange. It’s just a normal building, actually. She tucked her wings in and dove, landing behind the truck.
“How are we lookin’?” asked Gears, once she’d dusted herself off.
“Fine. I couldn’t see anything weird,” she replied.
“It’s just after ten. The night news crew should have wrapped up their show about now,” said Skulker. “Probably still here.”
“It smells weird,” added Olivia. “Like those guys back at the gym.”
“So more of those spooky guys,” said Gears. “You know, I’m not sure those guys were real people.”
“They smelled kind of like the Siberian.”
“We’re dealin’ with some weird, weird shit, then.,” said Skulker with a shake of his head. “There any actual people in there?”
“Yes. Mostly normal people, actually.”
“Why this place?” muttered Gears.
“It’s not as though there’s a ton of security around a normal local news station. Not exactly a national defense priority. Must have been easy to take over. But why? I don’t fuckin’ know why.”
“I guess we can figure out why later,” said Gears. “How do we wanna get in there?”
“We gotta be careful about this. Don’t want the cops bargin’ in.”
“And what about those other people who are still there. We don’t want them getting hurt,” said Olivia.
“We wanna wait for ‘em to leave?” asked Skulker.
“That just means the aliens have longer to do whatever it is they’re gonna do with that laser thing. I say as soon as possible.”
Skulker and Olivia nodded in agreement. The waiting is always the worst part.
“Back door might be best,” said Skulker, nudging Olivia. “Less obvious. Won’t matter if it’s locked or not.”
“I can do that,” she said.
“Then let’s get movin’,” said Gears.
Olivia took flight as Skulker and Gears weaved through the cars of the dealership and hurried across the street, masks off to keep from tipping off the few cars driving past. They circled around the TV station to a back door, a bright red exit sight lit up over it. Olivia landed, keeping balanced on her clawed feet. Skulker and Gears jogged up a moment later, slipping their masks on over their faces. Their leering, grinning faces nodded as Olivia wound back a kick and demolished the door.
No alarm sounded, once the racket of the ruined door crashing to the ground died down. Olivia stepped aside for Gears to go in first, shotgun held at the ready. They followed him inside, Olivia keeping an ear open for any movement. Yeah, it smells a lot like those guys from the gym. A small set of lights, near the ceiling, began silently blinking. Footsteps rushed towards them.
“There’s the alarm,” muttered Skulker, bringing up the rear.
A squad of long faced men in cheap dark suits, all nearly identical to the men they’d dealt with in the secret lair in the gym, met them with laser rifles in hand. Gears opened fire, his shotgun blasting the first man off of his feet. Skulker teleported in, knife in hand. Olivia charged after him. She toppled over another handful of men, a single laser blast glancing off of her shoulder. She grabbed a man by the throat and slammed him against a wall. Her tail mindlessly whipped back and forth behind her, slamming into more of the spooky men as they tried to stand upright.
She tossed aside the broken man and spun around, ready to tear into another. The triplet and her tail had taken out the rest. Gears kicked the last man in the chin. His head hit the ground with a hollow thunk as he went limp. Oh, it’s over. They got them.
“Teamwork!” said Skulker.
They continued on, further into the TV station. Various posters with staff announcements or upcoming events plastered a cork board they passed. Gears led the way through a set of double doors.
A Siberian whirled around as they entered. It snarled and flung a coffee mug in Olivia’s face before leaping at Gears. Skulker lunged after it, long knife digging into its scaly leg and bringing it to the ground. Olivia wiped the ceramic shards from her face and brought her claws down on the Siberian’s chest. Bones cracked as the alien let out a high pitched yelp. A blast from Gears’ shotgun brought it down.
They stepped around the Siberian’s corpse and took in the room. Rows and rows of desks and computers filled it. Is this where the reporters worked? Or writers? Or whoever does the stuff for the news? Family photos and other small knickknacks rested on most of the desks.
“He was messin’ with this one,” said Skulker, leaning over to get a closer look at a computer screen. “They ain’t real low key in here, are they?”
Olivia and Gears joined him. A mess of technical diagrams After a moment, Gears said, “That’s lookin’ like the plans they stole.”
“Really?” I got no fuckin’ idea what’s goin’ on here,” said Skulker. Same here, thought Olivia.
“I could be totally wrong, but that’s my best guess,” said Gears.
“So these guys have got it, too. Didn’t think about that. They could have copied the plans a hundred times an’ sent ‘em to their home by now.”
Some muffled murmurs caught her attention. “Hang on, I hear something,” she broke in, following her ears to a door to the left of where they’d come in.
Skulker gripped his knife tight as he opened the door with his free hand. A group of half a dozen ordinary people huddled before them, spread out in a large conference room. The two groups locked eyes for a moment, taking each other in. They’re just normal people. Then an older man stood up and screamed “Intruders!” He rushed towards Olivia.
What? The man’s fists bounced off of her. She looked back at the triples. What am I supposed to do here? Skulker teleported, tacking the man to the ground and pinning his arms against his back.
“Get off of me,” the man pleaded as he struggled against him.
The other people in the room had sprung to life. Rather than attacking, they crowded around
“Don’t hurt him!” said a young man, pinning the older man’s legs down.
“He’s been here too long!” shouted a woman, standing between Gears and the others. “He’s been brainwashed!”
“You’ve got some explaining to do,” growled Gears, not lowering his shotgun.
“An’ get me somethin’ to tie up this fucker with,” added Skulker.
“OK, OK,” said the woman, raising her hands in front of her. “I’m Janice. We’re not with the aliens. When the alarm sounded off, they herded us in here and told us to stay put.”
“You mentioned brainwashin’ or somethin’?” asked Skulker, pressing his forearm against the back of the neck of the older man.
“That’s what they’re trying to do,” said Janice.
“They own every news network,” said the younger man as a third person passed Skulker some electrical cords.
“It’s slow, very slow,” said Janice, pointing to the older man. “Some of the people who have been around here longer, they change.” She shuddered.
“We always thought they were with Overlord, but it’s been weeks since Overlord died and they haven’t gone anywhere. They seemed almost happy about it, actually.”
“They couldn’t have been with Overlord. Everything got taken out when Overlord attacked, even for our building,” added someone else.
“I saw a squad of robots try to get in. The spooks fought them off.”
“How did you know?”
“I heard those robots screaming.”
“Hold up, hold up,” said Gears, shotgun now pointed towards the floor. “One, how do you know it’s brainwashin’?”
Janice pointed to the older man and said, “How else do you explain that? He was always super loyal to the spooks, even when the aliens started coming around.”
“OK, fair. Second question. They just let you know all this shit?”
“This is recent,” said Janice. “After Overlord died, the Siberians came in. It got a lot worse. We always thought the spooks were just some weird super in management or something. Then when Overlord invaded they pulled out these freaky laser guns. They threatened to kill us if we told anyone.”
“Those spooks,” said Gears. “They just brainwashed or somethin’? There’s somethin’ real off about ‘em.”
“They’re not people, just organic robots. They’re all exactly the same, just with those different things, like skin color.”
“We’ve seen a lot of them. They usually just change the face a little bit between the clones,” added the younger man, finishing tying down the older man’s legs.
“Who is he? The original one?” asked Olivia.
“We have no idea. There might not have been, they could have just cobbled the together from a dozen different humans,” said Janice with a shrug. “we’ve only really seen a lot of them in the last two weeks. It had something to do with Overlord, I know it.”
“Maybe Overlord spooked the aliens. I got no idea though,” mused Skulker.
“They can control any information. They keep a low profile, so they let politicians do what they want, but they usually spin it for whatever reasons they have. You’ve got to stop them,” said Janice.
“Hold up. Why ain’t we all like this guy?” asked Skulker, nudging the now quietly weeping older man with the toe of his boot.
“Like we said, it’s slow. They really didn’t care too much for what we did until two weeks ago.”
“Where do they keep this brainwashin’ shit?
“We don’t know where they store it,” said Janice. “It’s probably near the recording studio or the editing room. Do you know where those are?”
“Then I can get you there. But don’t expect me to be able to open every door.”
“Olivia, you’ve got lockpickin’ skills,” said Gears with a laugh. What? I just knock down… oh.
“Rest of you,” said Skulker, pointing to others. “Pick up the old timer an’ get outta here. That back exit we came in through should be safe.”
“Let’s go,” said Janice with a deep breath. She led the triplets and Olivia out of the conference room as the others behind them headed for the exit.
As they passed by the rows of desks, Olivia spotted a decorated skull on screen out of the corner of her eye. It’s like that one on Dr. Sullivan’s desk, the one she said she got from Mexico. “Come on,” called out Skulker, breaking her train of thought. She followed after the triplets and Janice.