Heroes Legion: America's Most Wanted
Chapter 3: The STRIPE Conspiracy
Technogopolis, Illinois: October 15, 2014: 7:00 AM
"Uh…" Velocity said nervously, "Something tells me that it's not going to be so easy to talk to your friend Robo."
Parked on the top of an adjacent parkade overlooking the building, the Heroes Legion and their two allies looked on at Benson Industries Tower.
The business tower was now surrounded by SLEET/STRIPE drones and soldiers, they had been beaten there by their enemies it would seem.
If STRIPE was here, this didn't look good for Robo-Warrior's friend and CYBER-29's creator Carlos Benson.
Carlos Benson, CEO and lead developer of the worlds leading cybernetics and applied technologies/ defense company and part time developer of gadgets and weaponry for the Heroes Legion, had recently secretly aided the Heroes Legion during the Ryker's Crusade incident to hack in a signal jamming drone that the compromised SLEET was using to keep any information that could lead to an investigation into the Manhattan Island quarantine leaking out.
A ploy that had aided in their successful attempt at murdering any witnesses to the contrary to what was going on in that city upon bombing the island unfortunately. With all signals blocked, it was easy for STRIPE to say that the Heroes Legion had destroyed the city.
Lies and propaganda mixed with concealed strategic false flag operations meant to stir public and official opinion into taking the steps they wanted to further their goal seemed to be their forte.
What if the STRIPE conspiracy had realized that Carlos Benson had aided them in New York?
"How are we going to get inside?" Ravager wondered as he looked out the front window of the Battle-Falcon with the others.
"We aren't, we step outside and they'd spot us before we even got to the front door" Techne responded, "believe me, I know."
"Well then what should we do?" Murdoch wondered, any magical way he could think of to get inside that building weren't exactly subtle and stealthy.
If there was ever a time that they would have had use of a slipstream drive device or Shadow Knights shadow teleportation ability, it'd be now.
Unfortunately thanks to current events and past events influenced by the instigators of current events, neither of those were an option to take now.
Thankfully, CYBER-29 came to the rescue.
"I have an idea, Andy, keep the Helmet's Optical visor's line of sight aimed at the building. Don't take your eyes off it until I say you can move. I haven't quite broken this new gizmo in yet" the sentient A.I of the Robo-Warrior suit said to his pilot and friend.
"Why? What are you up to?" Andrew Griffin asked confused.
"If father's in there, and he undoubtedly still has that encrypted cellphone of his he keeps in his coat pocket, then I can use the armor's signal hacking device he installed before we went to get into this craziness again to zero in on the signal….and communicate with him and get us some answers. Hopefully, he's still in there."
"You can do that?" Marty Osmond said in awed disbelief.
"Robo-Warrior's suit makes a swiss army knife look like a kitchen butter knife" Velocity said almost in jest.
The Heroes Legion waited anxiously for five minutes as CYBER-29 worked his magic.
Then it happened.
"CYBER-29!" it was the voice of Carlos Benson they heard coming through the two-way speakers of the Robo-Warrior armor, "You don't know how glad I am to hear your voice. When I heard about Manhattan, I thought you and the rest of the Heroes Legion had been killed. Then I started seeing wanted posters, dispatches in the news broadcasts for a nation-wide manhunt and government bounty's being brought up. When these STRIPE guys came in and "secured" the building for mine and my employee's "protection" as these clowns put it, I figured it was only a matter of time before you managed to contact me. I assume that you're with the others. Andy my boy, are you there? What about the Heroes Legion, are they all, all right?"
"I am, we're all fine" Andrew Griffin answered, "What about Mom, Kara…everyone, are they okay?"
"They're fine my boy" Carlos Benson assured him, "When the presidential address for the warrants on your heads went out, I sent her and the others to a secure location only I know off outside of the city to wait this madness out…unfortunately, I couldn't join them. These stormtroopers came in and I had to play along to keep up the plausible deniability that I don't know the Robo-Warrior or any of the 'terrorists' who destroyed Manhattan Island. It hasn't been pleasant."
"Are you okay? Where are you talking to us from" CYBER-29 asked concerned.
"The executive men's room" Carlos Benson answered.
"Oh, okay too much information…. caught you with your pants down huh?" Velocity quipped, "Sorry. We'll call you later then when you're off the can."
"Velocity!" the Heroes Legion groaned at his poor attempt at humor.
"I'm not on the can, smart aleck, the guards stationed here by this STRIPE/SLEET collation following the destruction of Manhattan are keeping tabs on everyone. They follow each person here around individually to keep an eye on them, everything is monitored…. well, in this case thankfully not everything. They don't know about my special secured IPhone prototype I designed and use, and the guards stand outside when nature calls myself or any of my staff to do our business so to speak. This was the only place where freedom from 'Big Brother' STRIPE is possible, and unfortunately, this is what they plan to do to every city in America until the so called 'Metahuman menace' is as they say…. curtailed."
"Trust us Mr. Benson…" Shadow Knight said ominously, "this is tame compared to what they did to Manhattan! We need your help."
"I figured as much…" Carlos Benson, "when I last talked to you kids, I figured that whatever was going on in New York was in good hands. Something obviously went horribly wrong. You wouldn't be calling me if you didn't have a little bit of trouble, you needed me to help you with after all."
"This is NOT a little bit of trouble Mr. Benson!" Velocity snapped in annoyance, "An entire shadow cabinet of genocidal killers has taken command of the US chapter of SLEET and they blew up an entire city borough to make us look like terrorists and themselves Heroes defending freedom and liberty from the 'metahuman menace' to the gullible and frightened twits that make up 98 % of the United States of America. Were being slandered, libeled, framed, chased around and have had permission given to be shot on sight like wild animals by any idiot with a gun or an empty wallet looking to get rich off that reward bounty. We need you to help us find M-Leader so we can clear up this mess and doh, ray, me pal. We need a place to hide."
"I don't have anywhere you can hide, sorry, if SLEET is compromised then none of the places save for my secret development lab here in the building is safe" Carlos Benson responded, "but helping find M-Leader, what can I do to help?"
"Heroes Links: One" Silicon answered, "The main apparatus was destroyed in the explosion, but the scanning satellite is still in orbit. We need you to help us take control of it to find out where they have stashed M-Leader."
"Provided he is still alive of course" Commander Hardcastle pointed out cynically.
"Huh…" Carlos Benson said in thought, "you wouldn't be able to take control of the satellite without a powerful enough transmitter and a signal scrambler device to keep people from knowing your hacking into the satellite…it IS a SLEET satellite after all. It has a warning system meant to inform SLEET and you bunch if it's ever compromised. Since SLEET isn't exactly shooting straight these days, you're going to need to get the scrambler first before you even attempt to use the transmitter."
"Where is the transmitter and the scrambler?" Techne asked.
"The scrambler is in Lunar City; the prototype is being made by Kishi Enterprises by way of a joint commission between myself and the army to develop new ways to defend against any hacking or espionage by FEIND against our satellite defense network. That's the easy part. Now here is the kicker, the transmitter" Carlos Benson answered, "the only transmitter device powerful enough to contact it however is located on the HMS Damocles."
"You've got to be kidding me!" Murdoch said in shocked disbelief, the HMS Damocles was the flagship and nerve center of the entire SLEET organization, it was where the whole thing was run from. It was also as a result a veritable fortress in the sky.
"How the hell are we supposed to get on that thing?"
"One problem at a time speed trap" Atlanta interjected, "Where is Lunar City, I'm not THAT familiar with this country."
"It's on the other side of the country from where we are currently" Shadow Knight answered, "On the east coast in the state of Washington."
"It's Shadow Knight's home city" Raven Ducard added.
"So what?" Commander Hardcastle pointed out, "SLEET will no doubt already have the place as locked down as Technogopolis. With SLEET/STRIPE soldiers and M-Ray scanning drones and checkpoints everywhere. How will we even get inside?"
"I can get in there" Marty Osmond said, voluntarily.
"You? You're a civilian?" Commander Hardcastle said in disbelief, "What can you do?"
"Well for one thing…" Marty Osmond scoffed, "I happen to know the son of the guy who owns that company. I'll just call him up and say I'm ready to take his father up on that job offer he talked to me about when I came back from College."
Marty Osmond didn't need to look, because he knew Shadow Knight was looking at him with knowing eyes, realizing what his friend was up to…while glad he was respecting his wishes for only himself and Raven Ducard being the only ones present who knew he was Kagae Kishi, the billionaire's son in question.
But he was also a little concerned, because it brought the rest of the Heroes Legion and the former commander of SLEET closer to possibly finding out who he was if he wasn't careful…especially who their high school friend "Kagae Connors" had really been.
He decided to focus on the problem at hand, instead of worrying about what might happen when they got to Lunar City.
There were greater things at risk than his masquerade being broken and his wearing his trademark mask to hide his identity becoming redundant when around the others.
"Then we'd best start for Lunar City. Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Benson. Looks like we owe you another one" Shadow Knight thanked him.
"And I'm keeping track" Carlos Benson responded sarcastically, "Good hunting Heroes Legion."
Unknown Location: October 15, 2014: 10:00 AM
In the cell he was currently contained within, M-Leader, weak and in agony from the torture he had endured so far, lay there on the floor exhausted.
Watching this on a monitor screen, was Col. Edward Fisk.
He was on the IPhone with the commander of STRIPE, Col Malcom Talbot.
"How is the subject holding up?" Col Malcom Talbot asked regarding their prisoner.
"He's a fighter, like his father" Col. Edward Fisk responded, "but we'll break him soon enough, then we can prepare him for the device. It's such a shame his father was depowered and now languishes in a SLEET cell somewhere, it would have been a delicious irony to use Meta-Master to power the device."
"Indeed" Col Malcom Talbot agreed.
"How goes finding his superpowered brats?" Col Edward Fisk asked.
"The files our man now commanding SLEET from the HMS Damocles gave us indicates the existence of a satellite that can scan metahuman DNA. Unfortunately, it doesn't tell us the location of or which one of the billions of satellites SLEET has in orbit it is. If we had access to this device, we would have found them and every other Metahuman in the country by now. However, the bounty has been placed, martial law is declared, and the country is sealed off" Col Malcom Talbot responded, "every one of the scarred sheep that look to us to shepherd them from these freaks will be on the look out for them. We'll find them sure enough. They can't hide and run from us forever."
"When you do find them, what will you do to capture them?" Col Edward Fisk asked genuinely curious.
"I was hoping you'd ask that Colonel" Col. Malcom Talbot said proudly, "Allow me to put you in conference with the rest of the group by putting the phone on speaker, will you?"
Col Edward Fisk listened in as a separate voice belonging to Senator Ennis sounded through his communicator's speakers.
"Our soldiers managed to capture Brawl and Dominatrix outside of New York before we had to destroy the place" Senator Ennis explained, "Our best scientists and geneticists have been hard at work studying them. In the woman's case, we've managed to reverse engineer her bionic limbs and cybernetics and have managed to come up with this. We call them HUNTERS."
An image file was sent to Col Edward Fisk's IPhone.
He opened it up, and what he saw surprised him for a moment…before he grinned in realization that this could work.
"If the woman alone could give them a challenge, then what we have planned for them will surely be too much for them to handle…" Col Edward Fisk said in triumph, and then he sneered "especially when we have their leader locked up AND one of their powerhouses has been neutered like Meta-Master."
A third voice belonging to an unknown industrialist joined in, "And my company is more than capable of building these new weapons for the new century, the profits will be lucrative, and the demand will high from the defense contracts these beauties will make."
"And there is ALWAYS an ample supply of volunteers for the program" a fourth voice chimed in, "wounded veterans, amputee's, mercenary groups. The desire for power to even the odds with the metahumans and the chance to walk, run, or do anything with limbs again will be a sales pitch too juicy to ignore. We will soon have an army of HUNTERS before the end of the month, maybe even the end of the week. Sure, congress will debate. But they wont debate it for long if another 'attack' occurs. Then we will truly have carte blanch to deal with the Metahuman problem once and for all!"
"Even then, we have been given presidential permission to deal with the Heroes Legion" Col. Malcom Talbot spoke once again, "So we can deploy the prototype HUNTERS against the legion. In fact, that's exactly what we are going to do."
"Is that wise, sending the prototypes out against THEM?" the industrialist wondered.
"We've tested them against several metahumans who registered themselves onto the database under the dictation of the Metahuman Registration Act" Col. Malcom Talbot countered, "they never failed to defeat their target. Thanks to our infiltration and usurpation of control of SLEET from that metahuman lover Lt. Carol Hardcastle, we have access to M-Leader's files which before ousting her were out of our hands and now we know the weaknesses of these teenagers. They won't stand a chance."
"And I was more than happy to give them to help the cause" the new commander of SLEET said in the background.
No doubt he was talking to the rest of the conspirators to via a video screen in the secret meeting room they usually held meetings like this in secret in the past…before they took control of SLEET that is.
"But how will we find them?" Senator Ennis asked.
"How else do you hunt an animal? You set a trap and use the right type of bait" Col. Malcom Talbot responded, "Now the former commander, Arcane, was no fool. He never trusted information of any kind being put in any database. He always kept it with him in his head, so as a result of this we have no files or information on the Heroes Legion save for the file on their strengths and weakness's. However, we still have a trump card."
In the conference room where the rest of the conspirators were conspiring against the Heroes Legion and metahumans in general, far away from the location where Col. Edward Fisk was torturing M-Leader.
The image of a few Lunar City newspaper clippings, particularly the ones pertaining to the sightings of the "lunar city vigilante" …Shadow Knight.
"We know from information gathered from newspapers and tabloids published in Lunar City that this 'Shadow Knight' character operated here before he ever joined the Heroes Legion. His sightings were more frequent than Raven Ducard or Robo-Warrior in their sightings in Technogopolis and New Orleans, so we know that that city is his home for sure. He may be depowered, but he's still with the Heroes Legion. If he returns, they will no doubt be right behind him. We just need to use the right bait to draw him and the rest of the Heroes Legion out from their hole….and I know just the kind to use. You want to lure so called 'super-heroes' into a trap; you give them what every superhero can't resist: Civilians in danger. You put them in danger, they will come to their aid. Even with every citizen in this country hating and fearing them now, they will come to their aid. It's what they do. They think they are heroes straight out of a comic book when they are teenage menaces on a power trip with delusions of grandeur just as dangerous as Meta-Master and his group. They will soon find out that this is reality, and it has no tolerance for anyone acting out such power fantasies. There is only ONE power allowed and will not be challenged lightly by some by-products of mad science, and that is the power of mankind, of the government."
"Are we sure we want to go that far?" Senator Ennis asked warily, "Manhattan Island was one thing, but I had hoped that the shedding of normal human blood would end there."
"This is war Senator, war for the survival of the human race" Col Malcom Talbot said darkly, "and in war there is and always will be casualties, especially with the innocent. Any deaths caused by the actions we take will be unfortunate and tragic…but ultimately necessary. That has been STRIPE's mandate since it's founding. I'd give them all medals if I could for their sacrifices, but they are unavoidable casualties of war…one that we MUST win!"
There was a moment of silence, and then Senator Ennis spoke again "Fine. Do it, this will be on the so-called superheroes heads, not mine. If they had died in the attack on Manhattan, we wouldn't have to do this anyway. I can live with this if it gets rid of them to allow us to complete our plan to eliminate the metahuman menace without interference."
"Good…" Col. Malcom Talbot said sinisterly, "I'd have hated to have had to cut you from the plan because you got squeamish for once and worried about reprisal…you remember what we did to the last person who lost their resolve and tried to out us. He ended up spread across the sierra's when his private plane ran out of fuel with no parachute. Now, I'm to meet with the president in a few hours, so continue with your assigned tasks everyone. This issue with the Heroes Legion will all be over soon enough. Then nothing can stop us. Nothing."