May 25, 2000. New London
It had been over a month since the being who had chosen the name of Sam had arrived in this dimension. During this time he had learned much about the culture. Enough to know that he had to conceal his strange features. The slight blue tinge to his finely furred body, the sharp features, and almond shaped eyes. And the brightness of this place!
A job and an apartment was needed. Both discovered in a place called Ucluelet. Sam had come to be an apprentice for the Great Gerdini. A magician. Someone people paid to fool them. Such strange beings these earthlings.
It was mid afternoon and the sun was painfully bright even behind the sunglasses that had been Sam 's first purchase in this new world. He was walking in a place called Port Albion, his mind filled with how to find the beast called - Quantum.
How can I possibly track down one person in a land so vast? Perhaps I can find a great mind who can locate the animal I seek. Perhaps I could… Sam walked right past the building and then stopped. He tilted his head and read the sign again. Quantum Science Institute.
What's this? What kind of person is this? Could he truly have a building named after him? A Science Institute? What does that mean? Is he some kind of scientist? Whatever he is I must investigate. Have I found my clue already?
He paused at the doorway. Wait, be rational about this. At least careful.
Sam quickly checked his disguise. Everything seemed in order. Looking around quickly he glanced down an alley way far enough in off the street to hide himself should he need to make a quick exit. His mind performed the child's exercise, learnt to quickly and accurately memorize a place. That completed he squared his shoulder, took a deep breathe and entered the Institute.
The reception area housed a secretary. She sat behind a large desk at the back of the room. She looked up and smiled as he strode across the carpet. Off to the side a door opened and two men walked out in earnest conversation. One was a large young man, towering over the other with long hair tied back into a loose braid. The other man was older and was trying to calm the younger down. Their conversation easily reached Sam's ears.
"What do you mean you don't know where my father is?" the younger man scowled. "He has been missing for two days. Did he just vanish into another dimension?"
"Calm down Daniel. I'm sure your father's fine. He probably just locked himself into his lab again so he wouldn't be disturbed. Dr. Quantum knows what he is doing."
Sam froze at the name. Quantum.
"May I help you?"
Sam looked down into the smiling face of the secretary. "Yes, I was hoping to meet with Dr. Quantum. Is he available? I'm Doctor Albert Black. I have an appointment." I hope she doesn't ask what my specialty is.
"I'm sorry but Dr. Quantum is indisposed for an indefinite period. If you like, I can reschedule your appointment." The secretary reached for her appointment book, still smiling at Sam.
Sam reached out and touched her pen and pictured a spot on the floor behind her. He felt a very slight twist and then the secretary was bending to retrieve her 'dropped' pen. With a slight effort of manual dexterity, Sam pocketed the appointment book.
The secretary sat back up and then looked at her desk in some surprise, "Where did my appointment book go? I am sorry Dr. Black, I just have to find another one. Please wait here."
As she searched the desk, Sam looked around. Behind her desk was the door the two men had emerged from. Some sort of locking mechanism rested to its side. A small box with a slit in the top.
He could see the two men leaving the building. As the secretary takes down the name and number that Sam pulled out of his head. Thanking her he left the building, thoughts circling in his head.
Hmmm. If I want to pursue the appointment approach, I can always come back later. It would be easy to make them think that a mistake had been made with the numbers. Remember to put that back. Stealing isn't really necessary and I don't want to arouse any suspicions. Let's try these two jokers.
Sam approached the gentlemen before they got too far.
"Excuse me, gentlemen, did I hear you mention Dr. Quantum?"
The younger man sighed and turned. He looked like he had answered this question many times in the last few days, "Look, I'm sick of you reporters asking me about my Dad…"
"Oh, no," Sam responded quickly, "I'm a colleague of his. He called me in regards to his research. I just arrived from New York. Has something happened to him?"
"Daniel," the older man touched the younger's arm, "we should be going."
Daniel held up a hand and looked at Sam," Look, I'm sorry I didn't get your name."
"Dr. Black, Dr. Albert Black," Sam responded quickly, shaking the young man's hand with a gloved one of his own.
"I'm Daniel Quantum. Richard Quantum's my dad as you can guess. Dr. Black, to be perfectly honest, I don't know when my dad will be able to speak to you. He went into his private lab two days ago and no one has seen him since. He's still there, we think."
"What do you mean you think?" Sam asked.
"My father's private lab can only be locked and opened by his voiceprint. The lab is still locked, so he must be in there. And since he made the lab to withstand a nuclear attack, well, all we can do is wait."
Sam felt stunned. Though if it is the Quantum I seek, he thought, I should not be surprised. "Why would he make his lab so hard to get into?"
"My dad always said that he wasn't worried about something getting in. He was more worried about something getting out. You see, Doctor, my dad is working on interdimensional travel… oh, geez." Daniel glanced down at his watch. "I'm sorry Dr. Black, but I've got to meet someone for supper. Leave your name with Amy and we will let you know when my dad returns."
Well I think I found my man. Only problem is that I can't do anything about it now.
With this the two climbed into a car and drove off. The older man seemed agitated.
Sam glanced at his own watched and used a curse he had heard this morning. The Great Gerdini was to perform at the Wentworth Charity Ball this evening. I have to get ready, he thought in a near panic.
Sam arrived at the Crystal Palace with minutes to spare before the scheduled entertainment was to start. The Crystal Palace was one of the most glamorous restaurants in the city. The whole restaurant had been reserved for this gala. The restaurant itself was the upper level of a several stories high building. The bottom level was devoted purely to reception and put most hotel lobbies to shame. Sam only got glimpses as he was wisked to the service entrance. There he found Gerdini at the back of the stage. He didn't look pleased.
"Where the hell have you been Sam? The ball's entertainment is about to start and Gerdini, Renowned Entertainer of the Rich and Famous, is nearly forced to unload his own equipment. Oh, the indignity! Prepare Gerdini's props, Gerdini must not disappoint. Gerdini must meditate before he performs the dreaded Chinese Water Trap Escape."
As Sam started to prepare the props, Gerdini came storming back, "The savages! Gerdini asks for pure spring water, not tap water! Sam, go to the kitchen and fetch Gerdini proper water. Quickly!"
Sam, sent on his mission from someone who thinks of himself as God, entered the restaurant proper. By the Collection's Power, he thought, this place is huge. Sam was nearly blinded by the glare form the place, for the Crystal Palace was called that for nothing. Crystal was everywhere and the place was so well lit…
What am I going to do with the Great Gerdini? He thinks he is such a magician, yet it seems his only magic is fooling the audience. I so much want to show him so real magic, maybe then I wouldn't have to depend on him so much. Then again, I need to be careful when I'm using my skills, so I won't push him just yet…
Sam gingerly moved along the wall, trying to avoid being blinded and trying to keep out of everyone's way. A little ways a way, Sam noticed a familiar face. Reaching back in his memory he pulled out a name. Richard Wentworth, the man who was holding this ball. Got to remember these things, Sam thought. Within, any person could be an ally against Quantum. Or for Quantum.
Wentworth stood about 5'10", had long blond hair and a kind face. There was a stiffness to his walk, and as he turned to speak with someone Sam noticed the cane. Behind him stood a large East Indian with a bald head and a constant scowl. He never speaks or smiles, or blinks for that matter.
Hmmm, I'll have to be careful. Wentworth's friend makes me wonder. What if Quantum also has a friend or two to keep him company? I'm worried enough about Quantum, but if he has friends, I'll have a difficult task before me.
Finally Sam's hand hit the kitchen door. Merciful absence of light and crystal, Sam breathes a sigh of relieve. As he collects the water, he hears the sounds of the first entertainer, an opera singer. As he starts back to the stage, he bumped into someone.
Water flew. Sam was so surprised that anyone would be along the wall, that he falls, quickly he glanced up. Glaring down at him was a petite woman, about 5'3", maybe 100 lbs soaking wet, which she was now; short black hair and in a black dress that seemed more appropriate for the bar than a high society function.
Oh, no! What am I doing? All this work to fit in and not attract any attention, and then I do this?
"Okay," the woman starts slowly, "who the fuck are you and why are you skulking around by the wall that I happen to lean on? Nobody is ever by the wall at these things."
"Oh! I'm very sorry, madam. Please forgive me!" Sam looked around for something to dry the woman off. There's no need for my quest to take up all my time, and like I said before, who knows who might be an ally.
Sam grabbed a towel off a passing waiter. The woman grabbed the towel and began drying herself.
"Can I make it up to you by showing you behind the scenes of the Great Gerdini?" Sam asked, trying to imitate Gerdini's flourish. "Unfortunately, I cannot stay and talk now. The show is about to begin and I need to prepare."
"I'm sorry again, and I hope to see you later."
She looked him up and down with a suspicious eye, "You are a magician? Okay, if you really are a magician, then perform a trick for me. And you better be good because I don't fool easily."
"Well, I have to get back to Gerdini, he needs his water. But I could show you after the show…"
As Sam made to move around her, she grabbed his shoulder and summons a waiter, "Waiter, take some water to the Great Gerdini. If he asks, tell him that his assistant, or friend or water bearer or whatever is having his fate decided by me, " a hint of an evil grin crossed the woman's face.
The waiter threw Sam a quick look, Sam thought he detected pity in it, "Yes, Ms. Horowitz."
"Now," the woman ignored the fast disappearing waiter and turned back to Sam, "you are going to show me some magic. You see, you bumping into me is one of those climatic moments in an evening. It can either be the only interesting thing to happen in another boring function that I had to come to because of my father, or it can be the chance to let loose my frustration on some poor idiot who soaked me and then pretends to have to be somewhere else. So if you really are a magician, fool me."
She leaned forward and Sam felt like one of those small towns on TV just before a tornado hits, when all is calm, too calm.
"Your future ability to procreate may depend on it." A sly grin grew on her face. Sam suddenly found himself wishing that Quantum would attack or something to get him out of this.
Oh my god, what do I do now? I've got to go before Gerdini kills me, and I have to stay… or this madwoman will. What a dilemma. Then again, I suppose I can solve them both at once.
After a quick glance around to make sure that there's no one around and to find a good escape route.
"Since you have asked so nicely," Sam whispered to her, "I will do one small trick, even though I'm not suppose to perform just yet."
"Typical man. Never ready to perform" she replies.
Sam continued, leading her into the kitchen. "I haven't had much preparation time but I suppose I could do the little known Oven Escape trick." Sam found a huge oven and opened it. "Inspect it if you want."
She looked at Sam sceptically. "Oven escape trick? OK Houdini, do it."
Sam worked himself into the oven. Tight fit. "Turn on the oven if you want to, be sure to wait exactly three minutes before you open the doors, okay?"
"Do you want me to stick a fork in you too?" she answered. Sam could tell that she did plan to turn the oven on.
Ignoring her, Sam closed the door with a great flourish and teleported away.
The hallway Sam arrived in was empty. He adjusted his magician's costume, dusting it off, and proceeded towards the restaurant doors to re-enter the ballroom. As he rounded the corner, a shocking sight greeted him. The maitre'd lay in a pool of his own blood, with some sort of sharp object in his throat.
Okay, Gerdini will have to wait now!
Sam teleported in a tight circle making himself invisible and proceeded towards the body. The object appeared to be a large sliver-like object lodged in the throat. Sam could now see that he had fallen in front of the doors to the restaurant These doors were, luckily for Sam, glass, so that he could see inside. Two masked men were collecting jewellery and wallets from the guests throughout the restaurant. About fifteen feet from the doors the restaurant stood what looked like a giant porcupine. All Sam could see was quills, similar to the one in the maitre'd. His (its?) back was towards the door. He didn't seem to have noticed Sam.
Sam could hear noises coming from inside, like a woman yelling. The voice was oddly familiar. The porcupine man turned to his left. Sam strained to look and see… oh not her! Ms. Horowitz was being led out at gunpoint by another masked man to the porcupine man. The porcupine man raised his left arm…
Hmm… seems to be some sort of a problem here. Perhaps I'll talk to this misguided individual… Only problem is that annoying Ms. Horowitz is in the way. Perhaps I'll fix that first. She may be annoying, but I don't think she deserves the fate of our poor maitre'd.
Sam teleported into the room, mere inches away from Ms. Horowitz. Grabbing her arm, they reappeared behind the crowd of frightened people near the back of the room. No one noticed their presence. Sam heard Ms. Horowitz gasp, barely audible, "Well, fuck me."
"Not now, ma'am, maybe later," Sam whispered.
He missed her startled look as suddenly, the crowd screamed with terror. The crowd surged backwards. Could Ms. Horowitz's disappearance cause such a reaction? Sam quickly scanned the room. At the front of the room, mere feet away from the porcupine man, lay another tuxedoed body, a quill embedded in his chest. The porcupine man had fired into the crowd instead of at Ms. Horowitz! The vile fiend walked towards the barely moving form in front of him and picked up a briefcase. All eyes were on him, including the gunman and the three other masked men Sam could now see amongst the crowd, holding garbage bags full of loot.
"All right, everyone," the porcupine man yelled, "It seems we have a few heroes in the room tonight. As I recall, each hero equals 100 dead hostages, which with two heroes, means all of you are going to die unless I get two dead heroes. Come on out Mr. Magic, wherever you are."
All right, now what's going on here? Someone else tried to stop our fine prickly friend? Not too smart - wait, is he still alive? Sam yelled to 'prickly,' "You'll get no resistance here, take your money and go!" It sounded surprisingly loud in the chaotic room. Sam prayed that he sounded heroic, not foolish. Then he teleported behind the prickly man.
Sam found himself staring at the quills in his body? costume? They were only a few feet away from his face, gleaming in the bright light reflected off the crystal in this far too bright place. Sam squinted, were they coming closer? Yes, they were. The prickly man was moving backwards. Sam moved back with him as the porcupine man put his back to the wall. He stopped, his quills mere inches away. The prickly one nodded to his men, and they begin to move.
Hmm… doesn't look good… If he's giving secret orders then he's not playing nice… It's time to take him on a little trip!
"Okay, fine - you want to be that way, then I'll just have to speak a little more forcefully…" Sam boldly declared, reaching out and he grabbed prickly man. Sam felt the sharp quills dig into his flesh and he started to think, This was a bad idea. They disappeared into that limbo between Earth's third and fourth dimensions. The prickly was still with Sam and so are his quills. As always, the coldness of this limbo ripped the breath from the lungs. Then Sam returned to the third dimension and so did the pain. The prickly man staggered and dropped to one knee, muttering something.
And then Sam looked down. His entire costume was covered in blood. At least Sam knew it was his own blood. To everyone else, it was a dark blue that Sam knew would turn fluorescent when it dried. It would be one hell of a costume, Sam thought. Why did I think that?
Oh yeah, the blood loss. Why are those people screaming?
Sam could hear other voices and the light… so blinding… snippets came to him… "What the fuck is that! Grab the boss! What about the others? Shit, he's heavy."
Why is the room spinning? Am I going back?
Then a voice yelled across the room? time? space? "I'll find you, motherfucker. If not you, that Horowitz bitch will…"
And then Sam was moving, being dragged actually. "Damn it Cindy, why don't your elevators work?" Sam opened his eyes. It's her.
Ungh… what was I thinking?… I saw the spikes, didn't I? Why didn't I listen to that voice on my shoulder?… Oh look – it's replaced with pretty birdies circling me – how lovely… bright side: at least they didn't hurt anyone else… dark side: they hurt me! … … okay, I guess I should say hello…
"Ungh… okay, who's Cindy, and what's wrong with her elevators? And by the way, what happened to me?"
"Her elevators are fucked! And so are you if I don't get you to a doctor."
Sam felt himself being dragged again, eventually reaching cold porcelain. He then found himself staring at his reflection on a white surface.
"Its… the… woman's bath… fucking… room… so you… would think… a woman could… lift it!" Ms. Horowitz was obviously expending a great effort on something. Sam saw her stagger out of what he now realized was a bathroom stall.
"LOOOK OUT BELOW!"
She returned. "OK he who hurls himself on to spikes, I hope you're not expecting frequent flyer miles. Or a second date."
She dragged Sam to a window In the bathroom?! Not just any window, a picture window. Sam now knew why Gerdini told him to go before they came. Outside this window, A window. In the bathroom. Why? Sam asked the birds as they floated above his head, Why is there a flying motorcycle? Well, why the hell not? Though in his dazed state, it sure beats bleeding to death or explaining the whole thing to the Collection. He jumped/fell on to the cycle and hoped its her steering as they flew off into the night.
Hmm… well, I'll rest while I'm trying to figure out where the heck we're going…
"Okay, I'll forgo the FF miles, but I missed the first date, I'm certainly not going to give up on the second so quickly!" Sam looked at her with his best dashing smile, or tried to. Another startling revelation hit him.
"Um… I'm going to pretend that flying motorcycles are normal, so the next question is: where are we going?"
"To the one guy who might be able to patch your guts up without misplacing any body parts or putting you on an episode of the X-Files."
She paused dramatically, "DR. EDWARD T JACKSON."
And the name… meant nothing to Sam.
"By the way, I'm Winona, not the untalented actress, but the genuine article. And you are… about to fall off if you don't hang on."
Sam could feel the wind whistling through his hair and intestines.
"No seriously, what should I call you? The Human Target? Pincushion? Least likely to live?"
"Call me Blackjack. And thanks for the help back there. By the way, is the fly flying motorcycle a standard issue for genuine articles looking for DR. EDWARD T. JACKSON, or are you just special?" Sam asked, taking her advice and holding on more tightly.
She glanced down at him and smiled. "You either have the biggest balls of anyone I've ever met or the smallest brain. To answer your question, the flying motorcycle is unique to me, but let's keep the flying part of it our little secret, OK?"
Sam felt the cycle lower to the ground as wheels sprang out of the bottom. It became a conventional motorcycle and they drove down the street of a upper to middle class part of town. Winona stopped and helped Sam off the bike, making sure no one was watching. She took him to the front door and knocked. A attractive white woman answered.
"Candace! Is Eddie home?" Winona asked.
"No, he's… Jesus Christ! What happened to him?" Candace answered, pointing at Sam.
"No, I'm afraid I'm not Jesus Christ," Sam mumbled. "I was definitely pricked once or twice, but the crucifixion is out of the question."
Both women ignored him.
"He saved my life and he got just a little fucked up and as you can see, he's not your average bear, so I thought Eddie could help."
"Quick, get him inside before someone sees!" They took Sam inside the house to an office area and laid him on a couch. "Eddie's still at the TV studio, someone kidnapped Judge Blanchard."
"On the air?! Holy shit!"
"Look, I'll call him and get him here right away. You just hang tough…"
"Blackjack," Sam managed to answer.
"Well, while we're waiting, could you fill me in a little? I arrived a little delayed for the whole party earlier… Were those guys just high powered muggers or was something else going on? And who's Judge Blanchard?"
"You're not from around here, are you?" Candace observed wryly. "Judge Carmen Blanchard is the most actively anti-metahuman judge in New London, if not Canada. He is the person who helped push through the vigilante by-law in New London." She was pushing what looked like every towel in the place against Sam's midriff to stop the bleeding. "Of course, you probably don't know about the by-law either. Simply put, if you are a masked mutant/meta/trained paranormal and destroy property without compensation or show little regard for human life, you are declared a vigilante."
"The good news is," Winona put in, "the chances of you ever serving time or reaching trial for this are small. Of course, that's also the bad news. Lt. Taglianetti and the Special Crimes Unit aren't known for fucking you gently. But then again, neither am I."
"As for Quill and the Pricks at the Crystal Palace, I thought they were just after the money at first, but then I heard a little deathbed confession from that guy Quill shot. It seems he was supposed to meet his contact to sell some information at the charity dinner. And it seems a little odd that Quill picked him to kill and then run over and get the briefcase with said info in it. By the way, Candace, remind me to tell Eddie that I know how Quill gets out of jail free. He has this portal thing…"
"Sure thing," Candace snapped, "I'll just write a reminder in this man's BLOOD! He is dying you know!"
"No, wait…" Sam raised a hand slowly, "I'd like to hear more about this portal thing. Do you know how it works?"
"All I saw was that this black vortex quickly opened up." Winona frowned. "The vortex quickly elongated backwards and formed an aperture. Kind of like a black Stargate. Anyway, it looked like you fucked up Quill's armor, because he was moving like a pregnant yak, so his goons dragged him off into this portal. Oh and in case you didn't hear, he threatened to kill you and me before…"
"Don't worry, people threaten to kill her all the time, its part of her personality," Candace observed dryly.
"…before he threatened to kill all military types that interrupt him in conversation and then he disappeared into the portal, portal closes up, panic ensues, etc.…"
"Somehow I doubt that it was a coincidence that Quill picked him to kill…" Sam mumbled. "He seemed rather anxious to threaten about everyone in sight. I'll bet this guy wasn't too important, and Quill just decided to make things easier by getting rid of him. He got his information one way or the other…"
"Hmmm…" Winona said, "I wonder what Dr. Quantum is up to now?"
"Huh? Dr. Quantum? How's he involved in this?"
"The guy Quill wasted is or was Mr. Porter, Dr. Quantum's administrative ass…istant. Before he bought it, he told me that he broke into Quantum's computers and stole data about his project. And its about goddamn time you got here!"
Sam realized that the last comment wasn't directed at him but at the well-dressed black man who had just entered the room. His mouth fell open at the sight of Sam. This is the noble Dr. Jackson, here to save me at last.
"MY COUCH!" the man screamed. Strange, Sam thought, are the doctors on this world perhaps it is some sort of shamanistic tradition of theirs, good luck perhaps.
"No, don't move him now, its already wrecked. Candace, get me my equipment." The man threw off his jacket, washed his hands and then… Sam mercifully passed out from the blood loss.
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