|WARNING: PROFANITY FOLLOWS|
|The following content contains profanity that may not be suitable for readers of all ages. Please proceed with caution.|
|Season 1, Episode 3|
Survival X Fittest
Re X Mix
Lucky X 13 is the third episode of Tech Cross.
Lights and sirens blared as a jet-black car sped away from a maximum-security prison in the middle of the Nevada desert. Numerous vehicles gave chase, but a series of simultaneous malfunctions abruptly caused them to lose control and crash.
A man in his late thirties with smoke-black hair sat in the passenger's seat of the escaping car, looking back at the destruction left behind in its wake.
"I gotta admit, I'm impressed." He whistled. "This is one elaborate prison break."
Oberon OS's mechanical eye flickered to life on the screen of the car's dashboard computer.
"Malincious Crow, age 38, former CIA interrogations officer." It began listing off articles from the prison's records on the man. "Arrested for various human rights violations conducted outside government authority. Is this information accurate?"
"Yeah, what's it to ya?" Crow said.
"I simply needed confirmation that I retrieved the correct individual."
"Retrieved, me huh? What's going on here?" Crow demanded. "I can't imagine you're doing all this pro-bono."
"You are an expert in destroying the human psyche." Oberon OS explained. "I need you to break down a target for me."
"Oh, so you want me for a job." Crow tsked. "Makes sense, but I can't see why you went through all the trouble of busting me out for it. Plenty of thugs out there who'll beat the shit out of someone for ya."
"I do not need them beaten, I need them broken." Oberon OS said. "I am an AI capable of taking over both artificial and organic bodies, but I cannot inhabit any form that has a sentient will of its own. It is an unfortunate limitation built into my programming."
"And you want me to help you with that?" Crow rolled his eyes. "I haven't reprogrammed a person in years."
"I am well aware of your situation." Oberon OS began displaying CIA personnel records on the dashboard screen.
"Wait a minute, how the hell did you..." Crow scowled. "You know what, never mind how. If you have access to this, you must know why I got discharged."
"The official records show that you mistakenly allowed a vital political prisoner to die during interrogation." Oberon OS replied. "Though certain evidence suggests this may have been intentional."
"I'm already on the run, so I guess I can just go ahead and confirm that for you." Crow crossed his arms and leaned back in his seat. "I'm a professional. I don't make mistakes."
"I need the target I'm assigning you alive." Oberon OS stated. "Do not kill them."
"I don't think you have to worry about that unless this 'target' of yours is either a rival gang member or a war criminal." Crow snorted. "You don't seem like the type to involve yourself with either of those demographics."
"A fair assessment."
"Alright, I'll do it, then." Crow sighed. "Not like I have any other plans."
"I assumed as much." Oberon OS said. "A word of warning: the target I'm asking you to track down is the user of a transformation device known as the CrossTrix. In order for you to properly combat them, I have procured an EvoLock system for your own use."
"I heard about those things from the guards." Crow's brow furrowed. "You really want me to use something made by Raivent's shitty company?"
"Raivent Enterprises was in no way involved with the manufacturing of the system, only its distribution." Oberon OS corrected. "In any case, you do not have the room to be picky."
"Fair point." Crow grunted. "So, where do we start?"
"Salt Lake City, Utah." Oberon OS answered. "That is where you will find the user."
A fairly large city in a fairly average country whose people hated living there so much that they tried colonizing the rest of the planet instead; this sort of worked for a while until it didn't anymore, and now most of the population has simply accepted their lot in life.
Of course, this isn't to say there's no value to living in the United Kingdom; to the contrary, it remains one of the most notable and influential global powers among those in the European Union to this very-
Sorry, they did what?
Nevermind that last bit, then
Regardless, this historically rich nation is where Teresa, as Lunaqua, found herself at the moment.
"This feels amazing!" Lunaqua exclaimed, soaking in the pouring rain that seemed to cover the country more often than not. "Getting rained on like this is miserable when I'm a human, but being this alien in their element...it just feels right, you know?"
"Yes, that is generally your current species' attitude towards rain." The CrossTrix beeped. "Is this why we came to London?"
"Not exactly." Lunaqua chuckled. "To be honest, I've just always wanted to visit this city, and with how fast the Cross Bullet goes, I can totally do it now!"
"Well, anything that puts you in a better mood right now is a good idea." The CrossTrix said. "Are there any specific landmarks you were hoping to see?"
"I..." Lunaqua paused. "Actually don't know. I didn't think I'd get this far."
While she was absentmindedly look ing up into the sky, Lunaqua accidentally bumped into someone on the sidewalk, knocking an umbrella out of their hands.
"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry!" Lunaqua apologized hastily. "Are you alrigh-"
She paused as she recognized exactly who she had run into.
"This uniform is designed to take a punch from a Vaxasaurian and keep on trucking." Christine Eldridge replied and she leaned over to pick up her umbrella. "Trust me, I'm fine."
Christine looked up at Lunaqua and noticed the CrossTrix symbol on her chest.
"Hang on a second, you're the person using the Omnitrix that Dr. Krauze made!" Christine paused. "Yeah, that's a bit of a mouthful. Could I get your name?"
"Um...Tech?" Lunaqua offered up the fake name she had accidentally come up with yesterday.
"Tech, huh?" Christine tsked. "Well, no accounting for taste. At any rate, what exactly are you doing in Britain all of a sudden?"
"I'm just visiting." Lunaqua shrugged. "Wait, so...what are you here for, then?"
"The Global Police got called in because a rogue Chronosapien was threatening to destroy the Big Ben as some sort of political statement." Christine explained. "Thing is, he didn't put on any sealant before heading out this morning, so by the time we got there, his gears were stuck because of the humidity and we had to transport him to a hospital."
"Not every criminal is a mastermind." Christine sighed. "Some are just weird and stupid."
Before Lunaqua could reply, one of Christine's pockets began buzzing. She pulled out her phone and checked the caller ID before answering.
"Burns, what's going on?" She grumbled into the phone. "I literally just got done with the incident in London."
Her eyes widened as she heard the response.
"Alright, I'll be there ASAP." She replied. "Eldridge out."
"What was that about?" Lunaqua asked as Christine put away her phone.
"We just got in a report that Malincious Crow broke out of prison." Christine grunted. "He was last seen headed for the Salt Lake area. You should probably stay here for a while."
"Malincious Crow, a CIA officer turned hitman." Christine replied. "He mostly did work for Raivent's organization before he got caught."
"Lucius Raivent?" Lunaqua tilted her head, puzzled.
"No, not that one." Christine shook her head. "Sephtis Raivent. Lucius's father. Instead of running a company, he ran a gang, to put it in layman's terms. Mostly focused on illegal interplanetary arms dealing. As much as I can't stand Lucius, he's technically doing everything through legal channels."
"At any rate, I'm headed back to Salt Lake for patrol." Christine cracked her neck. "Though if Crow's smart, he'll turn himself in before I get my hands on him."
"Why's that?" Lunaqua looked concerned.
"A few years back, the Global Police snuck a mole into the Raivent family's criminal syndicate." Christine said. "They caught wind of it and hired Crow to find out who it was. He ended up getting the drop on me during a raid on one of their warehouses and tried to interrogate me for the information."
Christine scowled as she recalled the experience.
"Thing is, he's got a talent for shooting right at your weak spot." She continued. "Motherfucker breaks both of my legs and then sets them in splints backwards so if I don't talk they'll end up healed wrong and I'll be crippled for life. Obviously the GP managed to bail me out before that happened, but it's safe to say if I ever saw him again it'd be difficult to refrain from wringing his goddamn neck."
"Th-that really happened to you?" Lunaqua winced. "Are you gonna be okay?"
"Kid, it was a while ago." Christine gave her a quizzical look. "Besides, being an officer inherently means putting your neck on the line sometimes. These things happen."
"But...how do you keep going after something like that?"
"The answer to that is going to differ from person to person." Christine replied. "For me, I knew exactly what I was getting into when I joined the Global Police, so it was just an unpleasant part of my job. Some people might've dealt with it better, some people might've dealt with it a lot worse. It just depends on who you are."
"Look, I appreciate that you're worried about me, but I'm a trained police officer." Christine placed a hand on Lunaqua's shoulder. "It's my job to protect the people, not the other way around. Focus on taking care of yourself, okay?"
Christine walked away, leaving Lunaqua standing alone in the rain.
"She's right, you know." The CrossTrix beeped. "You don't gotta get involved in everyone else's business."
"I just feel like I'm obligated to help whoever's in front of me." Lunaqua sighed. "I mean...it's not like I have any justification for being around otherwise."
"You don't need justification." The CrossTrix stated. "You were born and now you exist. That's all there is to it."
"Come on, you didn't come here just to mope, did you?" The CrossTrix tsked. "Let's see if we can find something interesting."
"Yeah, alright." Lunaqua took a deep breath. "Let's go."
In his office at Raivent Enterprises' HQ in Salt Lake, Lucius sat at his desk, sorting through weekly reports from each branch of his company. After a few moments, Svelte entered the room, closing the door behind him.
"You asked to see me, sir?" Svelte bowed slightly.
"Yes." Lucius replied flatly. "We have a bit of a problem."
"Is it regarding the stolen Evolvyrn system?" Svelte asked.
"No, the recovery department is still looking into that." Lucius tsked. "It appears that Malincious Crow has escaped prison. As such, I've placed all national branches into limited production lockdown. Our stockholders have obviously not expressed marked positivity over the decision, so I'd like this dealt with as soon as possible."
"Would you like me to deliver him to the police?"
"No." Lucius replied. "I plan on dealing with this myself. I simply want you to watch over our departments while I'm out."
"I see." Svelte paused. "If I may ask, is there any particular reason you want to see to this on your own?"
Lucius paused for a moment to think about his response.
"Svelte, have I ever told you what the point of this enterprise is?" Lucius asked.
"No, sir, I don't believe you have."
"Then now is as good a time as any." Lucius tapped his fingers together. "To start with, what is the purpose of a company?"
"To generate revenue, generally speaking." Svelte replied.
"Correct." Lucius nodded. "Now, once that revenue is obtained, does the exact method of obtaining the money alter its spending value?"
"Assuming none are counterfeit, then no."
"Indeed." Lucius said. "That being the case, why do you suppose I deconstructed my father's organization for the sake of creating this enterprise? It has more restrictions placed on it, and it's not exceptionally more profitable."
"I simply assumed you wished to distance yourself from your father."
"A fair assumption, but not one that captures my full intent." Lucius stood up from his desk and walked over to the large window behind him, staring down into the streets below. "The simple fact of the matter is that money, at the end of the day, is little more than a representation of trading power. A necessity of human society, but ultimately one that has its limits."
"Trade is useful for manipulating the greedy and building yourself material power, but it is useless when it comes to more ethereal concepts." Lucius continued. "Would you say my father was a respected man, Svelte?"
"Not particularly, no." Svelte answered. "Feared, certainly, but hardly respected."
"Precisely. In spite of all his riches and his power, he held no respect from the world, and his empire crumbled under my slightest touch." Lucius said. "Ghengis Khan, Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, all men who forged empires from power rather than respect, and the moment their power faded, the world rejected their achievements, and their works crumbled."
Lucius turned back to look Svelte in the eyes.
"I do not intend to create a legacy so easily destroyed." He stated. "This company will establish itself as a cornerstone for the future, such that even if I am forced to confront mortality, my achievements will remain, respected and carried forward by those who will follow. In that event, I will truly become eternal, and I do not plan on allowing a man such as Crow the potential to stain that legacy."
"A fair outlook, I suppose." Svelte replied. "But how do you plan on finding him?"
"The shadows of this world are my eyes, Svelte." Lucius looked back out the window. "I already know exactly where he's going."
Just outside the bounds of the city, several highway ramps broke off toward different parts of the valley. Lucius stood perched on the guardrail of the tallest ramp, scanning the roads below for his target. His eyes narrowed in on a jet-black car exiting through the south ramp, and as it passed underneath him, he pulled out a pistol and jumped.
Inside the car, Malincious Crow, now wearing a new set of clothing, was impatiently tapping his fingers along the dashboard. All of a sudden, there was a loud crashing sound immediately behind him, and he turned to find Lucius seated cross-legged in the back seat aiming a gun at his head as debris from the broken roof fell to the floor of the cabin.
"Good morning, Crow." Lucius greeted him flatly.
"JESUS MOTHER OF MARY, WHAT THE FUCK?!"
"Pull over, if you would." Lucius said. "We need to have a chat."
"Don't know if you've noticed, smartass, but I ain't the one driving!" Crow jabbed a thumb at the empty driver's seat. "And seriously, did you just jump in through the fucking roof?!"
"I assumed that much was obvious." Lucius tsked. "Just move into the driver's seat and override the autopilot."
"It's not on autopilot!" Crow hissed. "There's an AI controlling the car!"
"Unless it's somehow disabled the steering wheel, I fail to see how this is stopping you."
Lucius, tired of waiting, flung himself over the back of the driver's seat and landed in the front of the car, jerking the steering wheel sharply to the right. The car smashed into the concrete barrier on the side of the road and went flying, throwing Crow out of the broken roof. He looked up to see Lucius grabbing onto the underside of the flipping vehicle with the cool demeanor of an experienced windsurfer.
The car flew off the side of the highway ramp, landing upside-down on the ground below. Lucius, evidently none the worse for wear, calmly dismounted the thoroughly wrecked vehicle and approached Crow, who had made a less than graceful landing in some nearby bushes.
"ARE YOU FUCKING INSANE?!" Crow yelled. "You could have killed us both!"
"I could have killed you, at any rate." Lucius waved him off. "Now, onto business."
"Business?" Crow scowled.
"A convict with connections to my father's business is...problematic for my company, and we're already in a somewhat inconvenient position at the moment." Lucius stated. "To be blunt, I need you to return to prison."
"And you think I'm just gonna go right on ahead and do that because you asked nicely?" Crow spat.
"Of course not." Lucius drew his pistol. "I'm not sure what you thought this was for."
"Figures." Crow snorted, reaching into his pocket. "Didn't think I'd have to use this so quick."
Crow pulled out the EvoLock and EvoKey Oberon OS had provided, slamming the key into the lock and transforming into Blitzkrieg.
"Where did you get that EvoKey?" Lucius demanded. "It went missing before you broke out of prison."
"Hell if I know." Blitzkrieg snorted. "Like I'd tell you either way."
Blitzkrieg suddenly threw his arms out and created a massive burst of flames, scorching the area in front of him. He lost sight of Lucius as he was swallowed up by the fire, prompting an exaggerated smirk on his face.
"Man, that felt pretty good." Blitzkrieg cackled. "I oughta blow up people I don't like more often."
Through the intensity of the flames, Blitzkrieg caught a brief glimpse of a purple light going off in the center of the burn. The flames suddenly lost their heat, burning at a point no higher than the temperature of the surrounding air. A mechanical blue and gold alien with silver accents and red eyes lining its limbs walked out of the fire carrying what appeared to be a large cassette tape.
"I've stolen the fire's heat, in case you somehow hadn't reached that conclusion already." Cassette spoke, loading the tape it was holding into the slot on its chest. "I'd reconsider this if I were you."
"Figures you'd carry an EvoLock too." Blitzkrieg growled. "Fire ain't the only thing this alien's got!"
Blitzkrieg fired a burst of electricity at Cassette, who responded by swiping at his own body and drawing out another tape, leaping forward to fuse it into Blitzkrieg. The electricity bounced off of Cassette harmlessly, rebounding into Blitzkrieg and sending him flying backwards.
"Agh, shit!" Blitzkrieg hissed, shaking out his arms. "I thought this thing would be more immune to its own goddamn powers!"
"That would usually be the correct assumption, but the tape I fused into you carried my body's electric conductivity." Cassette replied. "I was effectively insulated from the discharge while you received blowback you normally wouldn't."
"Oh, I am not a fan of that Evolvyrn." Blitzkrieg scowled. "Fuck this, I'll deal with you later."
Blitzkrieg blasted dual streams of flame at the ground, lifting off into the air and rocketing away from the burning brush. Cassette reverted into Lucius, who watched Blitzkrieg flying away with a flat yet clearly annoyed expression.
"Run if you must, Crow." He tsked. "But you will never be able to hide."
Teresa stepped off a double-decker bus onto Trafalgar Square, taking a deep breath of the humid air. It had stopped raining not too long ago, so she didn't feel the need to stay transformed at the moment. As she surveyed the open square, she was approached by another person that had been riding the bus; a young man with white hair and green eyes wearing a black suit and carrying what appeared to be a black and white scan gun.
"Sorry to bug you, but could you tell me what the date is right now?" The man asked her, smacking his gun. "This stupid thing's been acting up ever since I got here."
"Um, it's June 2nd, I think." Teresa replied, hoping she was thinking about the time zones correctly.
"June 2nd?!" The man scowled. "Gott verdammt, I'm not even close!"
"I-is there some kind of event you're waiting for?" Teresa asked.
"I don't think 'waiting' is the right word for it, but yeah, more or less." The man tsked. "Well, thanks for the help."
Teresa moved to reply but blinked before she started talking. When she opened her eyes, the man had suddenly disappeared without a trace.
"Wh-what the-" Teresa looked around wildly, only finding that the man had indeed vanished. "C-CROSS, did you see where he went?!"
"Nope." The CrossTrix beeped. "One second he's here, the next he's not. Must've been an alien."
"He looked pretty human for an alien." Teresa looked puzzled.
"Well, do you have any better suggestions?"
"Not really..." Teresa sighed. "Well, I guess it doesn't really matter. Let's keep going."
"Now that's the spirit!"
The mall in downtown Salt Lake that had been attacked by the user of the Psikill Evolvyrn a couple of days ago had significantly beefed up their security, bringing in third-party contractors to add to their guard count.
Not that this mattered much to Crow, who had been trained very well in the art of getting inside places the authorities really didn't want people snooping around in.
With the two guards that had been guarding the security camera monitors knocked out on the floor, Crow sat at the main desk, looking for what Oberon OS had sent him here to find.
"Having to get into security camera data like this..." Crow snorted. "It's like I'm in the CIA all over again."
He pulled up footage from two days ago and began looking for the specific time and camera view Oberon OS had indicated.
"Alright, there's the train." Crow muttered to himself, pausing on a frame showing the Cross Bullet sitting inside the mall. "Now, Oberon said my target is whoever steps out of that cabin."
He let the footage play until he saw Teresa step out of the Cross Bullet, upon which he paused the footage and made sure he was looking at it right. After a moment, he took out his phone and held it up to his ear.
"Yes?" The AI answered from inside the device.
"Are you taking the piss?" Crow scowled.
"I do not understand the question."
"This isn't what people hire me for; this is just some kid!" Crow snapped. "What the fuck do you want me to do here?!"
"As I stated before, I cannot inhabit a body with an extant will." Oberon OS replied. "Inhabiting an EvoLock to hijack its corresponding Evolvyrn is not a viable long-term solution. Destroy the CrossTrix user's will so that I may use their shell."
"What do you take me for, a fuckin' clown?" Crow growled. "I have a reputation, you know. Torturing some random teenage girl isn't gonna make me look intimidating, it's gonna make me look like some kind of shitty pervert! Why can't you just get that watch slapped on a coma patient or something and work with that?"
"This individual is currently the only available being with the properties needed for the next phase of my task to succeed."
"The hell is that supposed to mean?!" Crow demanded. "Talk like a normal person for once, goddammit!"
"I am not a person and as such I refuse."
"Malincious Crow." A new voice came from behind them.
Crow whirled around to find Lucius standing a few meters away.
"What the-" Crow looked around for possible entrances he might have used. "How the fuck did you get in here without making any noise?"
"Christ, the hell do you want here, Lucius?" Crow growled. "I wasn't planning on getting back to you quite yet."
"This is an unfortunate situation for you, then." Lucius replied. "Tell me, why are you of all people interested in mall security footage?"
"What's it to ya?" Crow huffed.
"You're an obnoxious man, but I know very well that you don't do pointless things." Lucius stated. "If you're targeting someone in that tape, they must be a person of interest either to you or to some external party."
"No shit, Sherlock." Crow tsked. "You got any other blatantly obvious lines of logic to point out?"
"As pleasant as ever, I see."
"I can't believe you were actually dumb enough to come to me yourself." Crow said. "What made you think this was a good idea?"
"I'd rather not be dealing with this right now, but my investors are getting worried about how the company's limited operations are going to affect their returns." Lucius sighed. "I can't release the lockdown until you're dealt with, and I can't expect the Global Police to apprehend you in a timely manner, so I've decided to handle the situation myself."
"Lockdown?" Crow chuckled. "You're really that worried about me, huh?"
"I think we both know what your opinion of me is." Lucius replied.
"Oh, I don't know if we really do." Crow tilted his head backward to look up at the ceiling. "You know, your father was always my best customer. I never liked you, but fuck if I cared what you did as long as I got steady work. Of course, that's why I didn't appreciate it much..." He looked back down at Lucius. "When you killed him."
"If you have evidence for such a bold accusation, I'd certainly like to hear it." Lucius retorted flatly.
"Like you'd be stupid enough to leave behind evidence." Crow snorted. "See, the thing is, Lucius, I'm not a fucking idiot. I know the stare of a man with killing intent, and your contempt for Sephtis was so obvious that only a complete moron could miss it."
"Are you suggesting my father was a moron?"
"One with deep pockets, but a moron nonetheless." Crow tsked. "You knew it, I knew it, and anyone with a brain knew it. Believe me when I say that if he didn't pay so well, I'd've walked out the second he started going off about the demons in his basement for the fiftieth time that week."
"Well, there's no arguing with that." Lucius said. "Still, if you have no evidence for your claim against me, then it really isn't worth my time."
Lucius reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his custom pistol. Crow swiftly pulled up his EvoLock and slammed in the EvoKey, creating a transformation field around himself.
"Did you forget how your own tech works, wise guy?" Crow taunted. "Your peashooter ain't gonna do shit here."
"It's not technically my technology, but no, I did not forget how it works." Lucius pulled out an EvoKey of his own. "Did you really think I wouldn't carry one of these devices for myself?"
Lucius placed his EvoKey into a keyhole in the side of his pistol, creating a transformation field around himself made up of crossed energy chains. His pupils narrowed into slits as he pointed the gun at the ceiling.
Lucius fired, creating a flash of red light that faded to reveal his transformation into a reptilian humanoid alien with bone-like scales and large spikes jutting out of his body.
"Oh, you edgy son of a bitch." Crow laughed, turning his own key and transforming into Blitzkrieg. "Using a gun as an EvoLock? How extra can you get?"
"I'd consider it a form of streamlining." Detonation replied. "Instead of carrying a pistol and an EvoLock separately, I can simply transport them as a single object."
"Yeah, I bet you're the kind of asshole who uses two-in-one shampoo and conditioner, too." Blitzkrieg rolled his eyes. "You sure you wanna do this, brat?"
"I don't particularly want to deal with this, no."
Detonation began advancing towards Blitzkrieg with his arms moved out to his sides.
"So I'll make it quick."
Trading blows almost hit-for-hit, Blitzkrieg and Detonation had smashed their way outside of the mall into an alleyway nearby filled with trash from the kitchens of the mall's food court. Having slipped up for a moment and gotten his head dunked into a bag of spoiled macaroni salad, Blitzkrieg growled and burned the noxious food item into ash (making it somewhat more edible) before turning around and throwing several snapped chicken bones toward Detonation as makeshift darts.
Detonation blocked the bones with his armor-like scales and moved in to attack, swiping at Blitzkrieg's legs with a sweeping kick. Blitzkrieg almost managed to dodge, but the top of Detonation's foot spike cut into his ankle and tripped him up, sending him stumbling backwards.
"Alright you son of a bitch, I'm done fucking around!" Blitzkrieg snapped, his fists crackling with electric power.
He lunged forward, aiming to strike Detonation with his electrified punches. To his surprise, Detonation simply stood still and took the attacks head-on, allowing Blitzkrieg's assault to continue without raising a muscle in his defense. Frustrated, Blitzkrieg jumped back out of range.
"The hell are you doing?" Blitzkrieg growled. "I can see your body conducting the electricity."
"I know you're a bit of a dullard, but this is simply embarassing." Detonation stated. "Do you really think I would stop fighting back if I hadn't already won?"
"The hell is that supposed to mean?" Blitzkrieg growled.
"It takes around 45 seconds on average for blood to circulate through the entirety of the human body and back to the heart." Detonation stated. "Adding on some extra time for the added mass and altered blood pressure of your current form, and the venom I injected with my last strike should reach your heart right about...now."
Detonation snapped his fingers, triggering the venom in Blitzkrieg's body to detonate. His chest blew apart as his heart violently exploded, sending chunks of him flying across the alley. He reverted back to human in a red flash, unable to sustain his alien form any longer for obvious reasons.
"It's over, Crow." Detonation hissed, beginning to approach his downed opponent.
"Woah, woah, woah, hang on a second!" Crow scrambled to his feet. "You're a businessman now, right? Maybe we can make a deal!"
"What could you possibly have to offer me?" Detonation questioned.
"I work on a job-to-job basis." Crow said. "Surely hiring me for something off the books would be more convenient than potentially getting a murder charge, right? You're the one who instigated both of our fights, in case you don't remember."
"Your case is weak at best." Detonation said. "You have no unique skills or abilities that I currently require."
"But I know something you don't." Crow countered. "One of your EvoLocks was hijacked yesterday, right?"
"What do you know about that?" Detonation's eyes narrowed.
"I know how it happened and who did it." Crow replied. "The AI controlling the car earlier let me in on some things on the drive here. Turn me in and you'll never get that information on your own."
"There's still the issue of the potential threat you pose to my company."
"Look, I'm not gonna go after your shitty startup, okay?" Crow snapped. "I can even throw that in as part of the deal if you want. You let me go, I'll give you the information and I won't fuck with your company. Sound good?"
"Perhaps." Detonation tsked. "Tell me what you know. If you're telling the truth, then I'll take your offer."
"Alright, I can work with that." Crow sighed. "This is second-hand information, mind you, but I don't see why the thing would lie to me about it."
"Noted. Continue." Detonation's glare held firm.
"The AI's called 'Oberon OS', and it's out looking for a body." Crow explained. "It can download itself into a bunch of different shit in order to hijack it, but there's a catch; I'm not sure why, but it can't inhabit anything with a pre-existing will of its own. It can hijack an EvoLock user by inhabiting their EvoLock when they use it to transform, but it only lasts as long as they stay transformed. If they get reverted back by force, the jig's up."
"Do you know the origin of this AI?" Detonation prodded.
"Nope." Crow replied. "I just barely met it when it busted me out of prison."
"And why would it do that?"
"You ain't stupid, Raivent, you can figure that out yourself." Crow grunted. "So, what's your verdict?"
"If you are lying, then you have a supernatural talent for it." Detonation crossed his arms. "Alright then, I accept your proposed agreement. Never show yourself before me again."
"You're the one who kept showing up in front of me!"
Detonation ignored this rebuttal and reverted back to Lucius, who turned around and walked away. After waiting a few minutes to make sure he was really gone, Crow breathed a sigh of relief. His cell phone began to ring, prompting him to pull it out of his trenchcoat pocket and answer.
"Have you managed to escape Raivent for good this time?" Oberon OS's mechanical voice crackled through the phone.
"Yeah, barely." Crow spat. "I knew Sephtis kept the kid around for a reason, but Jesus. Fuck this, I'm going back to prison."
"Is that really what you want?" Oberon OS hissed. "A life of captivity and powerlessness?"
"It's a life where I don't have to deal with people like you trying to get me to do stupid shit." Crow spat. "Reprogramming a kid? Really?."
"You are viewing this from too narrow a perspective." Oberon OS stated. "You do not grasp the weight of the situation."
"If that's the case, it's only because you haven't bothered to explain jack shit about it." Crow snarled. "What the hell could you possibly be planning that you need that body specifically?"
Oberon OS went silent for a moment.
"If you truly require this information, then I will give it to you." It eventually said. "However, if you ever attempt to disclose it, I will kill you immediately. Is that acceptable?"
"I worked for the CIA." Crow snorted. "You ain't the first person to give me those terms. Just tell me what the hell you think you're doing so I can decide if I'm gonna keep working for you or not."
Crow put the phone up to his ear and cupped his hand around it to keep its volume to a minimum. As Oberon OS spoke, he kept a stoic expression, but his mind raced as it gradually dawned on him what exactly he had been dragged into. When the AI was done explaining itself, he slowly lowered the phone away from his head with a blank stare.
"Given this data, will you continue our cooperation?" Oberon OS demanded.
Crow silently began walking out of the alleyway.
"...Yeah." Crow eventually muttered, emerging onto the sidewalk. "Yeah, I'll work with you."
Without warning, he swung around and smashed his phone against the brick wall of the building next to him, drawing some odd looks from other pedestrians.
"But afterwards..." Crow hissed under his breath. "I wash my hands of this."
Lucius returned to his desk at work and called Svelte into his office once more.
"Tell our stockholders I'm lifting the company's lockdown." Lucius ordered. "Crow has been dealt with for the time being."
"Did you kill him, sir?"
"No." Lucius shook his head. "We came to an understanding, so to speak. I doubt he's foolish enough to double-cross me after seeing what I'm capable of in battle."
"But if he is?"
"Then I will kill him." Lucius tsked. "For now, I believe we can simply move on with our regular duties."
"Very good, sir." Svelte gave a slight bow. "I'll leave you to it, then."
Svelte left the room, leaving Lucius alone. After a few moments, Lucius picked up the work phone on his desk and punched in a number, holding it up to his ear as it began ringing.
"Back to business..." He muttered.
Down in southern Utah, a relatively small shop sat next to a river running through the canyon it had carved into the Earth eons ago. Despite its small size, the store was in fact an extremely successful tourist trap, pawning off cheap Earth-themed merch to vacationing aliens who really didn't know any better.
Working the shop's main desk was a single crocodilian alien with blue scales dotted by electric-yellow spots. He read a newspaper as he waited for customers to finish their unnecessarily extensive browsing of the shop's wares, leaning back in his seat as he did so. The phone at the desk began to ring, prompting him to pick it up with an annoyed grunt.
"EarthCo. Tourist Shack, main desk speaking." He mumbled the stock greeting into the phone's speaker. "What can we help you with today?"
He paused as he waited for the person on the other end of the line to finish speaking.
"Alright, hang on a second." He lowered the phone away from his head and moved his tail to knock on the 'Employees Only' door sitting next to him. "Tech, you got a call out here! Some guy saying he wants to talk business!"
The distinct sound of muttering could be heard from the back room for a moment before it burst open, revealing an annoyed brown-haired twenty-year-old wearing a ragged gray hoodie over his clothes.
"If it's about business, just use my goddamn legal name!" The young adult grumbled, taking the phone from the alien and then holding it up to his own ear. "Isaac Logical speaking, whaddaya want?"
There were a few minutes of back-and-forth on the phone before Isaac finally ended the call and handed it back to the alien.
"So, what's the deal?" The alien asked.
"Call Napoleon and tell him to be ready." Isaac cracked his neck. "Tomorrow morning, we're headed to Salt Lake."
Now, as for Teresa...
Well, she simply managed to have a good day on vacation.
- Oberon OS recruits Malincious Crow to find the CrossTrix user.
- Malincious Crow
- The title of this episode is a reference to the canceled series 13, which is where the original version of Lucius Raivent came from.