“I thought you wanted to see me,” Mitch Shelley said to Arsenal as he moved to a set of steps.
“Nice little trick to take out my glider,” Arsenal admitted after finishing her cursing. “But I am still going to beat you.”
“Less talk and more action,” Shelley said, almost tauntingly.
Arsenal laughed at Shelley. “Trying to get me angry, pretty boy, so I will stop thinking and start reacting? Too bad it’s not going to work.”
“It was worth a try,” Shelley said as he advanced carefully up the steps, looking for an attack.
Arsenal aimed a web blast above him, but the gun didn’t work. The freezing water had hardened the web compound mixture, to Arsenal’s dismay. A quick inventory of her remaining weapons made her curse again. He’s good, but I am going to win somehow.
The two opponents moved around the empty mall, searching for ways to defeat each other. Several minutes passed as they stalked each other with all the skill and training that they each possessed.
In another part of the base, the man known as Ryo-wo watched the contest with interest as the computer displayed the battle from every angle. A smile was on his face as he reviewed each of the maneuvers that the opponents used. He turned to Mikron O’Jeneus. “My daughter is becoming quite skilled in the use of the copied weapons that you build for her.”
Mik smiled at the mention of his weapons. “Yes, boss. She just needs experience to augment her natural skills to become a top flight warrior.”
“Yes, but will she let her pride overrule the learning process to make her all she can be?” Ryo-wo mused as he watched the battle.
“What do you think of my latest find? Will he join us or decide to leave?” Ryo-wo asked.
“I have no opinion about that side of the business you are in,” replied Mik. “I joined your group because of all the new things you said that you would show me. Aside from my personal friendship with the A-girl, that’s the main reason I stick around. I don’t really care what you do, as long as the planet Earth isn’t blown up, but the guy is impressive, even without his memories.”
“At least you are honest in your replies, unlike some of the people who have served me in the past.” Ryo-wo chuckled as he tapped the monitor screen to see Arsenal busy placing several miniature grenades on a walkway as she watched for Shelley.
Finally, after covering all of the walkways with the miniature grenades, Arsenal whistled loudly. “I am getting bored waiting on you, old man.”
Mitch Shelley emerged from one of the storefronts on the other side of the second floor and looked at Arsenal with a speculative gleam. “I was wondering what you were doing with those little balls of yours.”
Arsenal smirked at Shelley and made a come here gesture with her hand. “Why don’t you try to come across and see what these little toys of mine can do?”
“If you insist.” Shelley began to walk slowly across one of the walkways while Arsenal watched for him to reach the middle. She raised her hand and gestured for him to stop. Shelley looked at her with no fear in his eyes, just a deep curiosity.
“Each one of those little balls contains a highly compressed charge of oxygen that is released when I press this button.” Arsenal touched one of the buttons on her left armband.
Shelley looked at the five grenades spread out on the walkway he was standing on with curiosity before looking back up at Arsenal. “So you press that button, and all of the walkways get zapped with a concentrated blast of air, sending me falling to the first floor?”
“Actually, the blast will probably either send you up into the air or tear you to pieces. So, if you don’t want to die, you can surrender to me now. Of course, you were rather stupid to walk out there when I told you to do it.” Arsenal smirked at Shelley as she playfully tapped around the button.
“I was curious about the little balls and figured this was the fastest way to find out what they do. As for me surrendering to you, there’s no chance of that, little girl.” Shelley’s face hardened with determination.
“I guess I get to see what these things do to human flesh, then. Last chance to give up, old man.” Arsenal put her finger on the control button and looked hopefully at Shelley.
Mitch Shelley put one hand on the railing and jumped over the side of the walkway just as Arsenal pushed the button with reluctance. The concussive force of the blasts shattered the walkways, sending them tumbling downward. The blast of air sent him skyward to the third floor, where he grabbed hold of the railing and pulled himself up.
Arsenal looked relieved that the old man survived the explosions as she looked for a way to get to the third floor to continue the battle. A quick glance at her uniform revealed that she was almost out of weapons. She activated her taser gloves to make certain that they worked before going into one of the mall stores and getting some rope. A quick toss, and she was climbing up to the third floor.
As Arsenal climbed over the top, the power abruptly went out in the simulated mall from all of the damage inflicted by the battle. Arsenal activated her goggles, sending the darkened mall back into focus.
Ryo-wo was pleased at his daughter’s display of ruthlessness as he turned his attention back to the finely dressed Mikron O’Jeneus. “Yokito informed me that you were going to show our possible new recruit the manner in which we gathered the more secure data. I think you should not, since even Yokito is not cleared for that knowledge.”
Mik looked sheepishly back at his employer. “I was too caught up in the moment when I made that offer, boss. I would have showed him something else besides the area where we get the information from the T-bugs. It shouldn’t really matter now, anyway, since without the charge made from either temporal or parallel dimensional jumps, the T-bugs lose interest in the subjects we had under observation.”
Ryo-wo shook his head. “It doesn’t matter if we are unable to use the T-bugs at this time, since I am certain that the barriers will either be broken or be loosened in the future. It took too many years to create the interface devices that allowed us to gather data from the T-bugs to let even one more person than necessary in on the secret. How goes your efforts into penetrating the barriers, anyway?”
Mik grumbled about trying to work on something that seemed to be based on magic. “All efforts so far have been ineffective, but I did track an anomaly that might allow a small transfer between the five existing universes. It appears to be a sub-dimension with primary connections to the world dubbed Earth-One by the natives. I managed to send one of the drones in through one of the secondary connections leading to our universe, but a dinosaur ate it before I could gain any information. The connections are very unstable, since the next three drones were destroyed trying to transfer through.”
Ryo-wo looked regretful. “Then I recommend keeping the anomaly under observation without attempting any more transfers. Perhaps someone else will be able to find a safer way through without us wasting valuable resources on it.”
Mik nodded his head. “If that’s what you want. I’ll keep trying to find a way to penetrate the barriers elsewhere, but I think the damn thing is magically reinforced by some powerful force. Perhaps my increasing knowledge in magic-tech will show a way to breach the barrier. A-girl and the old guy are fighting hand to hand.” Mik pointed at the image on the holographic screen.
A fast and furious battle was taking place in the mall between Arsenal and Mitch Shelley as they exchanged a series of powerful blows robbed of much of their force by the inertial absorbing costumes. The far more acrobatic and agile Arsenal was spinning around like a mad dervish around the slower Shelley. Mitch Shelley, guided more by instinct, was dodging the blows and reciprocating in the exchange of fist and feet. Arsenal activated her taser gloves and snapped two quick punches directly in his face.
The electric shock dazed Shelley as he tumbled back into one of the columns. Arsenal moved in to deliver several more of the electrically charged punches but was swept off her feet by Shelley. She flipped backward to avoid any attacks and gave herself room to move. The electric charge that had seared Shelley’s face was already vanishing as his body’s incredible healing powers kicked into action.
“Pretty good moves for an old guy,” Arsenal said, trying to catch her breath. “I have never seen that style before.”
Shelley was silent as his mind tried to come up with a plan to remove the taser gloves from the battle equation. He went into motion, aiming a carefully designed sequence of kicks and punches at the fast-dodging Arsenal. She blocked the ones that allowed her to use the taser gloves in retaliation and dodged the others. Feeling confident about her chances of victory, Arsenal now began talking again. “There’s no shame in losing as long as it’s not me doing it, so give up.”
Mitch Shelley allowed a small, crafty smile to appear on his face. “I have already beaten you, little girl, except you don’t know it yet.” Shelley stopped throwing punches and allowed Arsenal to tag him with the taser gloves several more times.
“The electric shocks must have scrambled your head more than I thought,” Arsenal replied as she knocked Shelley off his feet. She got ready to deliver the knockout blow when her arms and legs began to go numb. She tried to remain standing, but fell to the floor with an audible thump.
Shelley got up and looked down at the paralyzed Arsenal. “You should have paid more attention to where those last couple of blows landed, instead of being glad to get a chance to use your gloves on me. Each one that you didn’t dodge hit a nerve that, when the sequence was completed, temporarily paralyzed you.”
Arsenal grimaced at being beaten. “Damn it. I should have known you were up to something. I guess I have no choice but to say you beat me.”
Mitch Shelley reached down and pinched Arsenal’s nose, making a honking noise as he did it. “It was a good fight.”
“Don’t do that!” Arsenal shouted as she began to feel sensation returning to her limbs.
“Sorry — couldn’t resist,” Shelley said as he pulled Arsenal to her feet.
Arsenal leaned reluctantly on Shelley, as her limbs were still unsteady. She struggled to say the next words. “I suppose that you do have the potential to… ummm, teach me some new things that would make me better at this.”
“Maybe if I decide to stay I can, but I am still weighing my options,” Shelley replied as he looked at all the destruction they caused in the mall.
“It’s not real, old man. All you have to do to make it like new is say: ‘Computer, reset program to original settings.'” Arsenal laughed at Shelley when the mall sparkled briefly before becoming like new again.
“I wish real life was that easy to fix.” Shelley looked around, marveling at the repaired mall.
“You can let me go now. Your paralyzing touch is almost worn off.” Arsenal pulled away from Shelley, standing on her own without aid.