Song recommendation: Portugal. The Man - Floating (Time Isn't Working My Side)

Author's note: And, after making people happy when Victor showed up, I'm going to make them really mad with this one. I probably shouldn't take pleasure in that, but I think writing requires a certain degree of sadism. You need to take pleasure in tormenting your characters, and since readers want to see the characters be OK, you need to enjoy tormenting the audience, too. Anywho, one down. Two more of the characters who appeared in chapter 129 won't be around to see the end of the West Coast Knights. Guesses? All feedback is appreciated. hotwing: Janet doesn't fight. If she were to take down a secret organization, it would be by remotely hacking their computers and shutting down their defences while other superheroes beat them up.

January 13, 2013

Valour blasted the giant robot to no effect. A strong energy blast from one of the catwalks hit his force field, stopping his movement as the robot swung its arm at him. He was knocked through a wall into what seemed to be a barracks, judging by all the beds.

"You OK?" Granite asked Tiny.

"'M fine," Tiny grunted. "Jus' gimme a minute. Ngh." His nose was clearly broken, and it looked like his left arm was sprained. He was also having some trouble breathing, which suggested internal damage. Hopefully, it wasn't too bad.

"Unreality, can you do anything about that robot?" Grey Guardian asked as he sliced through two more robots.

"It's too big," Unreality shook his head. "I'm too tired to affect something that big."

"All right. Keep Tiny safe while he recovers. Granite, Elastic, let's see what we can do about that robot."

The three of them entered the next room. Granite entered first, taking an energy blast. He was knocked down, but quickly regained his feet. Guardian jumped out of the way of another blast, while Elastic Woman avoided its pincer. It blasted Granite again, but this time, he stayed on his feet. "How're we gonna take this thing down?" Granite asked.

"Especially with these guys on the catwalks bugging us," Elastic Woman said. She flung an arm out to punch a pair whose shots came uncomfortably close.

"We'll think of something!" Guardian shouted. "Just keep breaking robots while we think!" He impaled a robot ahead of him and used it to vault over to kick the head off another one. He landed in a crouch, chopping through the robot on his left side, then the one on his right.

"How the hell does this guy have so many frigging robots?!" Valour asked as he flew straight through another group, scattering and wrecking them. "It's never-ending! Ooph!" He got hit by a blast from the giant robot, and sprawled back across the floor. "Oh, you son of a bitch."

Granite was still throwing robots at each other, and was also hitting the giant robot's leg, but doing little damage to it. Guardian teleported up to the catwalks behind the robot and knocked out a quartet of men there, then glanced at it. "I see something on the back of its head," he said. "Might be a control panel or something. I can teleport over, but I wouldn't be able to hang on."

"I can handle that," Elastic Woman said. "But there's no way I'll be able to get to it without being shot down."

"I think I can help with that," Granite said. "Get in my hand. All we need's a couple seconds peace. Valour?"

"Peace you shall have," Valour said. He scattered the robots around Granite and blasted at the giant to attract its attention. It fired its blaster at him, which he easily avoided.

"Now!" Granite threw Elastic Woman. As she approached its head, she stretched her legs to wrap around its neck, then moved around to the back of its head. Grey Guardian tossed her a sword. She found the panel Guardian was talking about, and managed to pry it off using his sword, which she then tossed back to him. She kept her eyes on the robot's arms, and moved her body to avoid getting grabbed or blasted.

While she worked, Valour made sure the guards on the catwalks couldn't stop her, by shooting them before they shot her. Grey Guardian teleported around the room, sometimes knocking out guards, sometimes slicing up robots. Granite stayed on the ground chucking robots at each other.

Inside the head was a lot of complex circuity. She didn't understand most of it. "Well, when in doubt," she said to herself, "start tearing out whatever you can grab and hope it breaks something."

She started pulling out wires, circuit boards, everything she could get her hands on. There were some electric defences inside, clearly designed for just such a situation, but her costume was insulated, and she had a slight resistance to electricity herself. At first, it didn't seem to do much, but as she got further, it started firing randomly, whipping its head around, flailing wildly, and finally, it simply stopped.

"Good job," Valour flew up to grab her and bring her over to a catwalk. "Now we just need to figure out where to go from here."

"Well, let's start trying doors," Elastic Woman said. She opened the door nearest to her. It had a number of beds. Barracks.

"Let's start from the bottom!" Granite shouted. "And work our way up! Like this!" He charged forward straight through a wall. A laser cut into his torso, another barely missing him. He ran back around the corner, his body cut into in several places. "I hate lasers."

"I can handle them," Valour said. He fired a blast at each of the laser guns at the end of the hallway. "Shall we continue?"

The four of them moved down the hallway, and Granite busted down the door at the end. They found themselves in a vast room, bigger than the others they'd seen. It was full of machinery none of them could even guess about. Tubes and pipes ran between them and into the walls. Some of the devices reached all the way from the floor to the ceiling high above. Catwalks gave access to all the machinery. It was also full of more robots and guards who opened fire on the team.

"So what's the plan?" Granite asked as he withstood the barrage. "Smash everythin'?"

"No!" Elastic Woman shouted, weaving through the fire. "Smashing things is the last thing we want to do here! We don't know what anything here does, or what would happen if we broke it!"

"You don't even know who you're up against," a man said from nearby. They looked over and saw a frail-looking man wearing a labcoat and large glasses. "I am Chronok, Master of Time!"

"And I'm Valour, Master of Hitting People." Valour let fired a blast, but Chronok had a force field of his own, and the blast vanished against it. "OK, maybe not a master, but I've at least got a doctorate in Hitting People. Let's see how your force field does up-close." He flew towards Chronok, but the room felt like it was even longer than it looked.

"Well, now we know what he meant by 'Master of Time'," Guardian said, taking down more robots. "He's put Valour in slow-motion. Let's see if he can do it to multiple people at once." He teleported behind Chronok. But before he could punch him, a nearby guard hit him in the back of the head with his rifle. Guardian fell slowly, and took a kick to the ribs before he even hit the ground. The guard looked to him like he was moving with superspeed.

"So the answer's yes," Granite mumbled. "Wonderful. Awright, fine. Elastic Woman, stay outta his line'a sight! I'll try 'n' deal with him." He grabbed a large chunk of the wall and threw it at Chronok, only to see it stop dead in mid-air. "No big deal. I can take whatever your guys can dish out! An' sooner or later, I'll reach ya!" He started running forward, very slowly.

Some of the guards moved Chronok back in the room, to a slightly safer vantage point. Grey Guardian had teleported away to another catwalk, but was pinned down by fire from the robots. Valour and Granite were moving slowly, but they weren't being hurt. Elastic Woman was the only one able to move at her normal speed, and she took advantage of this to stay safe. She slid along the catwalks around the room, keeping distance between her and Chronok as she made her way to the back of the room. She figured if she could find where the robots were coming from, and stem their tide, they would have a fighting chance.

She saw them coming from a large door. There seemed to be one coming out for every one that was destroyed, keeping their numbers steady. They came out slowly, which wasn't a good sign. She quickly dropped down and moved into the room, slamming the ones coming out into each other. There was some sort of portal in the room that the robots emerged from. When she went to a computer console to see if she could figure it out, the computer suddenly exploded. Elastic Woman guarded her face with her left arm, and felt her skin burn. A quick check assured her it was only a first-degree burn, nothing serious. When she looked back at the portal, it was closed.

"OK, then," she said. "I have no idea what happened here, but at least there won't be any more robots. Unreality? Tiny? Can you hear me?"

"This is Unreality," came the response through the earpiece.

"Great. I just shut down the source of the robots. If Tiny's up to it, you can break any remaining and follow the trail of destruction to join us. We'll need all the help we can get. But be careful, the guy we're up against can slow people down."

"No problem. I've had a chance to rest, so we'll finish off these bots and come help you out."

Back in the hangar, Tiny had used the two smaller planes to block off the two side doors, leaving only one door the robots could continue coming through, and they'd mostly stopped, with the others in the main room. Tiny was looking worse than before, though. He'd taken more hits from blasters and prods while blocking off the doors, and he was getting tired. "I'd better get you back to the plane," Psyche told him.

"I'm fine," Tiny grunted. "Just need a minute to catch my breath."

"You need a doctor. Since we don't have one, the next best thing is to get you somewhere warm and comfortable."

"I ain't pussin' out!"

"I'm going back to the plane, with or without you. If you're fine with me maybe being ambushed while I'm out there, fine, be a big jerk. But I'd prefer to have you keeping me safe."

"That, I can do. Don't worry, babe, nothin's gonna happen to ya while I'm around."

"I'm glad I can rely on you."

Unreality grabbed her arm and pulled her close. "Good work," he whispered in her ear.

"It's all just a matter of knowing how to talk to a guy. Pheromones help, too."

Elastic Woman grabbed a blaster from a nearby table and returned to the main room. She blasted at the robots while avoiding their counter-fire. She stayed far back from Chronok, not sure of his range and not wanting to risk getting too close until she had a plan.

The others had returned to normal speed, and were having little difficulty with the foes on their side of the room. Valour was on the ground, wading through the robots with his fists. He was starting to get low on energy, and knew his force field wouldn't last much longer. He'd need to rest soon. He decided his best chance was to go back to Unreality, but he wasn't ready to go back yet.

Granite took down robots on the ground, and threw them at robots and guards on the catwalks. The blasters had been chipping away at him, but he felt very little pain in his stone form, so it wasn't even slowing him down. Even so, he hoped they could take Chronok down before the blasters hurt him enough to actually kill him. He could heal if he got outside, but he wasn't going to abandon his friends.

Grey Guardian kept to the catwalks, dealing with the guards. There were a lot of them up there, but getting in close to them gave him a clear advantage. They couldn't use their guns when he was so close, and he was a much better fighter. He'd sheathed his sword, not wanting to kill them. He had no problem with hurting them, though, and he broke limbs without a second thought.

Unreality was walking towards the cavernous lab. There were still some robots and guards along the way, so he finished them off first. The floor swallowed up the robots, and the guns the guards carried turned to plastic. They ran away, allowing him to move forward.

But they dared not go after Chronok himself. Not until they had some idea for how to deal with him. Luckily for them, he was distracted with something, as he worked feverishly on a console. Some of the machinery began to power up.

"Crap!" Grey Guardian swore. "We need to shut this place down! Now!" A stray blast hit the pipe he was standing under, and some sort of steam came out. "Shit!" It wasn't hot, but there was something weird about it, so he teleported somewhere safer.

Or tried to, anyway. As soon as he started his teleport, something went wrong. He teleported, but wound up in the same place. Then he teleported again without willing it, once again reappaearing in the same spot. Again and again, it happened. He faded in and out of view. He said something, but there was no sound. He couldn't even hear himself. "Eddie!" Valour shouted. He rushed over to his friend, seeing the confused look on his face. He finally disappeared as Valour reached him. Valour continued on to the other side of the gas. The Grey Guardian was no longer there.

"Guardian!" Valour shouted. "Guardian, can you hear me? Respond! Dammit, Eddie, where are you?! Eddie!" He flew around the room as fast as he could, but there was no sign of Eddie. "Chronok! You son of a bitch, you killed my friend!" In his rage, he blasted some of the machinery.

"Valour, stop!" Elastic Woman shouted. "We don't know what destroying this stuff will do!"

Valour was beyond listening. He was furious about Eddie's disappearance. He wrecked some more machinery, then charged at Chronok. He slowed down, but he was still moving fast enough to reach Chronok in half a minute.

"No no no," Chronok was mumbling. He was looking at read-outs on his console. "This wasn't supposed to happen. It wasn't supposed to be this way. She said it would work. She said I would be able to conquer the world with these devices."

"Shut up!" Granite said from below. He pulled out the catwalk beneath Chronok, and the older man came down with it. Apparently, his force field didn't do much good against falls, and he laid there injured and barely conscious, mumbling about what 'she' said.

"Who's this 'she' he's talking about?" Elastic Woman asked.

"Who gives a shit?" Valour replied. "We need to find out what happened to Eddie. Wake him up so we can make him tell us."

"I think the guy's gonna be out for a while," Granite said. "Might be better to call Janet, get her in here. She should be able to figure it out, right?"

"Right. Unreality?"

"Yeah?" Unreality said from right behind him.

"Gah! Where'd you come from?"

"I was just coming to help you guys out. I guess I'm not needed after all."

"Dammit, I wanted to tell you to get back to the jet to call Janet."

"Psyche and Tiny are there now. Tiny was getting hurt pretty bad, so she took him to the jet to get him out of danger."

"Oh, good. Psyche?"

"Yeah?" Psyche replied through the plane's communicator.

"Call Janet, tell her to get down here as soon as possible. Eddie's disappeared, and we need her help to figure out where he is."

"Disappeared? What happened?"

"I don't know. That's why we need Janet. Hurry up."

"All right, all right, calm down. I'll give her a call. Tiny's fine, by the way. STACI helped me patch him up a bit. He'll need to rest for a couple days, but no serious injuries."

"Glad to hear, I guess. Better call the police, too, so they can come collect all the guys we've knocked out. Valour out."

"I'll start rounding up the unconscious guards," Elastic Woman said. "You know, get them ready for the police. Or the Army. Or whoever it is who comes to clean this place up."

"Good. Thanks."

"Don't worry, man," Granite told him. "Janet'll know what to do. She's, like, the smartest person on the planet, right? It'll be a piece'a cake for her. She'll bring him back, safe an' sound."

"And then he'll probably want to retire again," Valour chuckled. "I hope you're right. But he looked scared. He had no idea what was happening."

"Hell of a set-up this guy had," Unreality said. "Who is he?"

"He said his name is Chronok," Granite replied. "Master of Time."

"Time? Huh. I wonder if that's what happened to Eddie. Maybe he got lost in time or something."

"Shit," Valour said. "I didn't think of that. You're probably right. Shit."

"Janet says she's on her way," Psyche reported. "She figures she'll be about an hour or so, while she gets some shit together and heads over."

"Thanks, Psyche," Valour replied.

"See?" Granite said. "She's on her way. An hour to get here, an' then she'll prob'ly bring Eddie back in, like, twenty minutes. Half an hour, tops."

"I hope you're right."

Next: I provide no answers, and the team confronts The Menace of Mystery Isle.