By Charles Swanson
My name is Gilligan Eggars. Those more wide-read of you will recognize the name from the National Summit Disaster Inquiry Report, in which my testimony, censored thoroughly, was instrumental in piecing together the sequence of events that was released to the public. It's not a secret that the Report contained alterations and deletions that changed the "letter but not the character" of the sequence, to quote the introduction to the Report itself, but not many people know exactly what was omitted. This is my full account of the event, with all of the more bizarre and heroic details intact. It is not technically legal to read this text, but to paraphrase Mr Universe, "It's extraordinarily difficult to keep data from privately changing hands on the Internet, especially if that data is plaintext."
I first met Rex Riptide when I was being mugged. I suppose that some local toughs had seen me in the Press line at the Summit Commencement Briefing and assumed that I had something interesting in my laptop bag, because when I had finished my preliminary coverage of the occasion and was looking for a quiet spot with unlocked Wifi to type up my shorthand notes, I ran into some individuals of the most disputable character. It was late and the hotel was having technical difficulties with its connection, though I personally suspect some press man was trying to get an edge over the competition, so I had to either accept the loss of one night (all but impossible to recover in my business recently) or journey into the wild Downtown region in search of a usable signal.
I must have made an easy target. I didn't have anything smaller than my netbook which could receive Wifi, so I had to stop every block, open it up, and search for an unlocked network. In retrospect, it was a lot like walking onto a redneck shooting range wearing a sign that said "please shoot". So I understandably caught the eye of some less reputable persons. Now, I'd been mugged before, so I knew the drill: give them the stuff, don't catch a bullet with your face. I had never been mugged in the City, though, so I was not prepared for what was to come.
I've often since wondered why the City was chosen for the Summit. Did they think the excess of masked vigilantes made it a safer place? Did they forget entirely the high number of random disasters that leave entire blocks uninhabitable until the very profitable reconstruction business gets their claws into them? In all probability it was just some guy deciding, "Hey, what about here?"
Right when the gun was just coming out, after the initial pleasantries, I was surprised to see a portly old man in a cape and colored sweatpants jump down from a slight concrete rise to break into a mock-heroic (or perhaps it was supposed to be genuine) pose and say in a commanding voice "Stop there, evil-doer! I'm Captain Calculus, and I'm here to save the day!"
You must appreciate the situation as I did: here I was being mugged in a city where there were foreign dignitaries discussing the future of the developed world, and I'm now being greeted with the sight of a bald, bespectacled, obviously out-of-shape man who had willingly dressed himself in a cape and superhero costume (plus sweatpants) for the express purpose of brightening my day.
The muggers did not see the humor in the situation. Instead, they fell upon the man with fury I can only attribute to being foiled by his kind before. Initially, he showed every intention of following through with his altruistic purpose, besides obviously hiding a rolled ankle from when he landed from off the waist-height rise. But after the toughs had worked him over a bit, he seemed much more interested in defending himself. The Captain was about as successful at this as he was at protecting my own innocent self. Before long blood soaked his ridiculous neck-beard and his spectacles had been stomped into powder.
All of a sudden the night came alive with impacts. The muggers reeled, as if struck by the darkness itself, and fell uniformly away from the Captain. For a moment I was only aware of the bizarre tableaux that the four prone figures made, vigilante curled up into the fetal position in the center and three bodies radiating out from him. Then I suddenly noticed a young man, or possibly a kid as it was difficult to tell his age, standing over the moaning quartet with his fists bared. He did not wear a mask. His clothes, aside from being all black, were normal for the season, accommodating to the coming heat of the day.
As he helped the poor Captain to his feet, I noticed a touch of familiarity, as if they knew each other. He spoke with a condescending tone, "Professor, I keep telling you not to involve yourself in this line of work. You have a perfectly respectable career at the University. Why do you insist on getting yourself beaten up like this?"
The Captain (or was it Professor?) was carrying his wounds well, with an exuberant optimism that belied his no-doubt pulped face. "Young man, I suppose you might be right. I should be content with passing off my expertise to the next generation. At least I know I leave the City in capable hands." He winked. Or perhaps he blinked; it was difficult to tell with one of his eyes swollen shut. "That's the crucial thing, anyway."
Only after the young man put the Captain in a cab did he acknowledge my existence. He offered his hand. "Rex Riptide", he said.
I gaped for a few seconds. I had done stories in the City before, even interviewed vigilantes after they had thwarted some maniacal demon's plans, but I had never seen them in action. More importantly just then, I had never heard of one quite so bizarre as Captain Calculus. At length I began to stammer out "G-g-g-g".
I took a breath. "Gil. Gil Eggars. Is my name."
His face brightened for a second. "Gilgamesh?"
I shook my head. "No, Gilligan. Sorry."
"Oh, well. That would have been fitting. Anyway, Gil, why are you out and about tonight? Don't you know it's dangerous to go alone, especially with the Summit in town? You have muggers, rioters, students who think they're rioters, jumpy national guard, personal-defense professionals with foreign dignitaries... The sunset was red with the particulate matter from burning public property. Didn't you get the feeling that what you were doing was not the optimal route?"
Rex Riptide seemed like a trustworthy individual. After all, he had just taken out three muggers within one second who were not only intent on taking my own private property, but who were also beating the crap out of a man who, it turned out, could not be expected to defend himself. It was more than that, though. I sized him up for a moment. When he'd been the dark spirit of vengeance, he'd seemed enormous, as tall and thick around as any body builder or biker you've seen. But now that he was simply concerned with my safety in a passive manner, I saw he was of average height, with an inexplicably slight build. When before he radiated a dispassionate capacity to kick wholesale ass, he seemed now to exude only a trustworthiness, the ability and intention to get me from danger into safety.
I told him my situation. I half expected him to look at me incredulously and simply repeat back the word "Wifi". Instead, he sounded like he understood my need perfectly.
"I understand. I can't imagine how you feel right now, away from any data you don't have inside your own head. Let's get to a coffee shop. The product the shop sells implies that it will be open at odd hours, and the audience to which the shop caters will mean both quiet and free Wifi. There's one around this block. Follow me."
It was remarkable to me that such a helpful individual existed in the world and wasn't well-off in some fundamental manner, as karma would have to provide if there existed any balance in the world. But I'd never heard the name. In fact, 'Rex' was a name I'd never before heard used to signify a real person.
We walked for about two minutes. The coffee shop was open and inviting after my ordeal. When I sat down to type up a story to send off to our paper's main server, I asked Rex to sit with me. I had the idea that, after dealing with the Summit stuff, I'd interview a real live costumed vigilante and gain the edge when it came to superhero-enthusiasts.
Rex sat patiently. He didn't look as if he were thinking very hard, but I got the impression that he wouldn't if he were. He seemed to be in a neutral mode right now. He wasn't exuding a ravenous, violent aura, nor was he appearing to be the helping companion he was on the way here. It was as if he'd switched something off. It allowed me to study him closer. There was nothing notable about him in his current state. His height, his build, his clothing, his looks... nothing. He was a completely neutral individual. Only one thing, barely even noticeable, touched on my perception. There was something minor about his face, as if there were some fundamental asymmetry that I couldn't quite place. If I focused on it, it could make him seem unnatural, otherworldly. But when I blinked I lost it, and was just looking at a regular guy again.
I couldn't wait to start the interview. "So you are a student here?" I asked.
He seemed momentarily surprised. "Yes," he said, "at the University."
"Which one?", I asked. This was a university town.
He looked at me incredulously. "The good one."
The conversation stalled. "So who was that guy back there?" I asked. He looked blank. "The Captain in the Sweatpants."
"Oh, the Professor." He pronounced it oddly, with a 'B'. "He does that whole vigilante thing. He's not very good at it. But he's got it in his head that he's my and my friends' mentor in the whole thing, and he won't let it go. I've had to save him more than a couple times."
I was confused. When Rex had said "vigilante", there was a sense of distance, as if he were talking about a group to which he did not belong. But I'd seen him neutralize muggers as threats. He'd even said 'my and my friends''.
"You're not a vigilante, then?"
"Not really. I have my own line of work. They just happen to intersect sometimes."
At that it became clear that I was expected to get back to typing. I looked down at my netbook again. When I looked up some minutes later, I was shocked to see Rex intent on something outside the window. I didn't see anything in that black square of Downtown. What was shocking was that Rex seemed to be gathering menace again. I recognized something to be the same as when he was battling the muggers, something indefinable yet definite. When I looked again he was gone.
He'd just left. I was less than three feet away from him, a table and netbook between us, and he'd somehow silently slipped away. It was more than silent, as he'd been visible in my peripheral vision when I was finishing up and sending my story. He'd somehow convinced me that he was still there as he was leaving.
I did not want to let this opportunity get away. I was released from his odd spell of trust, but I still saw worth in him as an interviewee. I packed up as quickly as I could, left half of the coffee I'd ordered for form's sake to be cleaned up by the proprietor of the shop, and dashed out of the door. The night was silent. There was no trace of where he'd gone. But there were hushed tones coming from an alley next to the shop. I weighed my options: risk being mugged again, or lose the chance to interview someone who at least had connections to a class of people that was worshiped as were the superheroes in the 50's.
I was never very good at balancing risk. I walked purposefully around the corner into the alley. Little light from the street got into here. Blobs of dark that were trash bags or oil spots moved backward past me as I proceeded into the passage. Eventually I resolved two figures from the grayscale mosaic around me. They were facing each other. As my eyes dark-adapted and my ears became accustomed to the silence more of the scene assaulted my senses. It was Rex and another man. They were conversing. As I got closer and could see more of Rex, what simply appeared to be the same figure I observed in the coffee shop became larger, more imposing. I'd wondered how I'd missed it from farther away. Some snippets of conversation wafted toward me.
"When, Gray? Give me a time."
"I can't, Rex. You know how this works."
"If I can't get a time, yours runs out. I'm sure you know that."
A pause. I wondered if they'd seen me. All of a sudden Rex became terrifying. Something he did tripped my fight-or-flight reflex. It was as if a rage as intense as the Sun, baking the asphalt at noon in summer, were turned to bear directly on me. Apparently, though, I only got a snippet, as this Gray fellow visibly whithered. It was all he could do to keep from pissing himself, I'm sure. In panic, he ripped a device from his belt and depressed some control. At that moment, he dropped. I wondered whether it was some function of the device, or whether he'd simply taken in too much of Rex's "charm".
Instantly Rex's character changed. He turned to me, no longer full of oppositional danger, instead brimming with an urgency, and said "You need to minimize your impact cross-section. Now." There was a pause. "Hit the deck!" He said.
I did so, wondering how long he'd known I was there. The second I did, pencil-thin lines of light appeared in the air above me. They were directed uniformly at Rex, though they came from seven or eight different directions. The sources of the lines were staggered in both angle of attack and altitude. I only had a moment to see this before the light that came from Rex's direction dwarfed that coming from the lines in the air and blinded my dark-adjusted eyes. There was no noise.
A smell like a nine-volt battery that's been stepped on, or the charge in the air before a transformer blows up, suffused the air. One of the spots of light at which the beams terminated jerked wildly away from where Rex used to be standing, illuminating briefly then vaporizing the source of another of the beams. It appeared to be metal, but a dark, non-reflective metal that the movie-going public now associates with military hardware. The source of the beam that jerked then became dark and dropped to the ground from some feet in the air. There was a crack, and I saw that every free surface on the roughly ball-shaped case was covered in thin graspers. Some of them still held broken concrete or steel, undoubtedly parts of whatever it was suspending itself from when it turned its beam on Rex. From where it dropped, there was a black blur, roughly Rex-sized, that I lost before I could even think about tracking with my eyes.
Some were pulled from their perches on the surrounding buildings, some were fried with their own beams, some Rex used as missiles to take out the rest. Within ten seconds, the ground was littered with the nightmarish devices. Rex jumped down from a spot that couldn't possibly have provided a hand-hold. He looked blurry from where the enemy's beams had dazzled my vision, but I could see that he was panting. He made a cryptic comment about rejecting waste-heat, more to himself than me, then suggested that we go back into the coffee shop to have a long talk.
"What were those things?" I said when we were back in the comfort of the friendly, bright shop. He looked as if he'd expected this question.
"How much do you know about Steel City?"
I gaped. Obviously I could remember from my childhood when it was common to hear the latest news of Steel City, its glittering phaetons and land-leviathans, but Steel City had been gone for decades. It was ancient history. Children, even children here in the City, were brought up without knowing anything about that particular blot on humanity's record.
"Rex, are you saying that those things... But it's gone... Gone!"
"There still exist people who concentrate wealth in one place. There are therefore still people who can afford to break that rule. Those things were Steel City, that man Gray was Steel City, and he told me that there are Steel City things coming here."
"But you didn't get anything out of him! He said he couldn't tell you!"
Rex opened his mouth to speak, then thought better of it. "Too obvious," he said.
There was another pause. "So we have to tell the government, right? We have to get the foreign dignitaries out of here." I said, trying to prompt some kind of action that was in proportion to what Rex was actually saying.
Rex looked at me. "Gil, I never told you what my profession actually was, did I? I said I was a student, and I said that my path crosses those of vigilantes often. Well, let me tell you: I like to consider myself a scientist. Incidental to being a scientist, lots of information comes my way that, in an optimal world, would prompt action from the authorities. It never does. I therefore conclude that part of a scientist's job is to deal with a certain class of problems. For example, have you ever heard of a Clone Hitler trying to take over the world, starting at the City? No? Have you ever heard of ninjas trying to kidnap the President? No again? What about impending cosmic disasters on a scale that so dwarfs you that you are as an atom compared to the Sun? Haven't heard of them, either? That's because of me and my friends. Do you see what I'm saying?"
The most important thing I heard him saying was something akin to "let's deal with this problem ourselves", and I did not like that one bit. I opened my mouth to protest, but again he beat me to it.
"Anyway, the decision is out of your hands. I never told you the timescale, did I? Gray didn't tell me because it's now. Steel City is coming here, now."
The gurgle of the coffee machines seemed to become unbearable to me, competing only with the blood pounding in my ears. Horror stories that were buried under the more fashionable ones of romance and intrigue bubbled up to my mind. I decided that, all in all, my life and the lives of everyone about whom I cared would be basically forfeit if the Summit were attacked by Steel City.
Rex started making phone calls. Most of them were calling people by first name and telling them to ready or place some cryptically named piece of equipment. Some were done in another language. Some were to people who had names that only the 50's golden era of comic books could have produced. In the meantime, I swam through my sluggish thoughts. The concept seemed to slosh around and around in my head. Through my shock-numbed reasoning I heard him finish up the last call, to someone named "the Atomic Girl".
"Yeah, I know I am. Just be there ok?" Pause "You can call me whatever you like once we're done here." Pause "I know, ok? You don't need to tell me again". At this last, Rex hung up the phone, looked at it for a moment, and mouthed the words "flipping annoying." It was the first and last time I ever saw Rex genuinely perturbed. He was not putting on an emotion like a costume. He did not do whatever he did to so profoundly affect those around him, blasting out annoyance or fury or trustworthiness like a fire-hose. He was just annoyed.
Through all of this absurdity, my own thoughts topped the list at "this will make one hell of a story." Why did I think that, rather than "Oh God I'm going to die" or "I need to get the hell out of here"? I don't know. I chalk it up to a failure to fully understand my situation. So as I came out of my stupor, I was thinking mostly about how I could get in on the action.
"Rex, how did you get rid of those â€“ robots? â€“ that attacked you in the alley?"
Rex looked at me, wondering why I was asking this question now. Then he seemed to accept the question. Maybe he saw through my motives. Maybe he was killing time until his plan began. He started: "It all started with my initial decision. My legs were bent when the attack started to give me 20 centimeters of play before they were at their limit. Taking into account the coefficient of static friction between my shoes and the asphalt, I could spring at a max of 45 degrees from the perpendicular to the ground, unless I waited for gravity to pull me down, bending my legs more. I went for the 45 degree option..." He went on like this, seemingly oblivious to the fact that I had no idea what he was talking about. He talked about his momentum, changing it with reaction forces, angles of attack on his opponents, rectilinear trajectories, and finally about speed-equivalent forces. Eventually he saw that I was lost. "Here," he said. "Let me draw you a free-body diagram."
With that he took a napkin out of the container on the coffee shop table and, without pretension or humor, sketched out stylized figures of himself, his surroundings, and the positions of opponents, then added arrows, magnitudes, and altitude markings on each. I took a physics course in high school. I recognized this is a tool that students used to analyze the motion of simplified masses. Basing a battle plan about Newtonian mechanics seemed more than a little bizarre to me. Besides, the diagram meant nothing to me. If he had told me that he'd taken the double headed arrow marked "angular momentum" from off of his chest and stabbed the evil robot with it, I wouldn't have known he'd been joking. Eventually he saw this in my eyes and trailed off.
"I take it you want to come along?" He said.
He was not manipulating me, as far as I could tell. I had been around him three times when he turned on his odd power, and I thought that I would be able to recognize it. This was not that. He was simply asking me. I hoped this showed a respect of me, rather than ambivalence. "Yes," I said, not quite knowing why, "I want to cover what happens. This will be the story of the century!"
"I want you to be sure before you say so." At this point, I began to get a whiff of urgency. He may have been starting to project it. "Things are going to start happening very quickly. You need to be sure."
I said yes, as finally as I could. I think he understood my choice. We went outside. It was clear that something had already started. People were running all around us, though not in the packs that you'd get in the daytime. There were few people awake, but they were all panicking. There was a light from the East sky, as if a tiny, localized sunrise were occurring. Everyone was running West. Police cars, sirens blazing, seemed to be split in their destination. For every one that went one way, another went the other.
A young woman, or perhaps a kid, a student like Rex, landed next to us. She was glowing with a white light. She was skinny, short. She wore a pink uniform that incorporated the suggestion of a skirt, even though her legs were covered by skintight superhero pants. When she landed, her arms brightened briefly and her drop was slowed. She touched down lightly.
"Gil Eggars, meet the Atomic Girl. Have you seen it?" The latter he said to the girl.
I had just seen someone fly. As in, I had just seen someone, under their own personal power, unassisted by motors or aerodynamic control surfaces, move freely through the air. I tried to keep up with what was being said.
"...300 feet tall, East of here, moving at perhaps 15 miles per hour" she said. At each number, Rex corrected her and put the numbers in metric units, though speeds were turned into meters per second rather than kilometers per hour, as I'd seen on signs when I'd been out of the country. I could tell that the Atomic Girl was using Imperial units deliberately, but she didn't get a rise out of Rex as she'd done on the phone. He was more focused now.
He said "Don't fly at it. Probably got a strong magfield. You ionize flipping everything; you wouldn't get through. The suitable way to deal with this is Towerminster."
She gasped. He may have gotten some satisfaction out of that; I couldn't tell. I'd spent enough time in the City to know that Towerminster was a skyscraper East of Downtown. It was an administrative building in a university (not the University) that stood alone, isolated by a steep rise and boggy land between it and its brothers in Downtown. It was the tallest object in the area around the University, and was a common landmark in navigating there. But what could Towerminster have to do with heading off an attack on the Summit? And wasn't the enemy East of Downtown anyway?
He finished giving her some instructions, and she flew away. Let me re-iterate that: Flew Away. Her glow intensified, and the air around her became uncomfortably hot. Suddenly the clouds of some vapor that formed around her went from stationary to streaming downward in the blink of an eye. She lifted off of the sidewalk and was gone.
An incredibly skinny young man came up to us wheeling some slight, two-wheeled vehicle. It looked like a dirt bike. Rex called out to him "Ah, Doctor Polski. You brought the bike, good. I assume you did what I asked...?"
The doctor laughed and unslung a spindly tube from his back. "Gave it continuous up to 20 GeV. Nothing got through. The magfield on that thing is unreal!" With that he handed the dirt bike to Rex and walked away, intent on some new task.
Rex got on, then looked expectantly at me. "What?" I asked. "You want me to get on that dirt bike with you? Don't you have better transportation? The Atomic Girl could fly!"
"First, Gilligan, this is a dual sport bike. Notice the turning indicators and license plate. Second, this is a perfectly fine way to get around, and it's a lot of fun to ride for leisure. This is the maximal utility to price ratio. Now get on." If he was sore about the mention of the Atomic Girl's ability, which I suspected from their previous interaction I'd witnessed, he didn't show it.
I got on the bike. It was stupid. The poor thing was total crap at acceleration, at going up a grade, and at anything that required more power than the minimum for cruising at 30 mph. Even making allowances for the fact that it was hauling twice the cargo (or more, since Rex didn't look like he weighed much), it wasn't any way to get around.
At length we got out of Downtown, toward the growing too-early sunrise in the East. Growing also was a rumbling, a deep growl that the ground was emitting as if being impacted rapidly. We passed through a group who looked like students, too concerned with their own flight to look up at us. Some were holding signs that protested the Summit. Some had soot on their hands and faces. A little distance later we came upon a huge, blazing bonfire fueled by anything flammable that was public property. Bus stops, park benches, insulation from some of the ruined buildings, anything that would burn. They were obviously having the time of their lives before they were so rudely interrupted.
One last corner we turned before we saw it. No description you've ever heard will tell you what a land leviathan looks like. You may have seen illustrations of one in a history book, or even one of the pictures that are incompletely classified and passed around the Internet until some law enforcement agency sends threatening letters to everyone who viewed it. These do not do them justice. It was as big as a skyscraper. It was completely covered with something metallic and shining, like polished brass. It was putting out a tremendous amount of warm, orange light. It was longer than it was wide, wider than it was tall, and it was 300 feet tall. Nothing that big should have been able to move, but two tractor-treads on either side turned over and over, propelling the beast forward. Founts of white steam from three great funnels blocked out the stars behind it.
In the same vista we beheld both the leviathan and Towerminster. Towerminster weighed in at 535 feet tall and so was almost twice as tall as the beast, but it was thinner by far. It seemed spindly, fragile before this monstrosity of glittering metal. And more importantly, it couldn't fight back.
Towerminster was nearing its hundredth birthday, which put its completion within the reign of Steel City. I shouldn't have been surprised when, at an electronic command at one of Rex's gadgets, a shock wave that shattered glass issued forth from it, and a cloud of dust was kicked up by some internal shift. It was one of the last buildings on which a tourist could still see the soot from a blacker period in the City's history, and right now the air was thick with it. I could not believe it when I saw an entire section of the building move. There was a sound of stone-on-stone that told of an unspeakable weight sliding over another, and the top-left corner (or eighth, I suppose, as it did not extend all the way back) moved out slightly, away from the center. Followed by the top-right. Followed by the same two on the side not facing Rex and me. In the cracks between the corners that had now moved apart, it was dark. Nothing could be seen of the tremendous force that moved it from within.
It seemed as if it were moving in slow motion when the building took its first step. Allow me to re-iterate that: The Building Took its First Step. The four lower corners split, also, and one was projected out in the direction of the leviathan. It was followed by another, then another, then the last. In this manner the entire tower moved, shaking the ground and crushing the roads when it got to them. It seemed silly that the stoneworks that held up the building were strong enough to withstand repeated impacts in this manner, but by now it was obvious that it was designed with exactly this purpose in mind. Rex had called upon some monster from the City's past to deal with the terrifying moving mountain of metal.
It seems almost corny to point out the polar differences between the battling sides, as if it calls upon the blatantly obvious symbolism of good fighting evil. It was almost too striking at the time, though, so I'll give it a shot: The enemy was shiny and metallic, squat like a bunker, obviously man-made and clean. Our champion, on the other hand, was dark and stone. It was taller than it was wide, and stood with an elegance denied to the leviathan. Whenever a corner of its motion reached its maximum extension, something was revealed for a split-second that suggested biology. It was blob-like, under there, and totally dark. Rex could not have chosen a more terrifying avatar.
In the slow-motion shuffle that ensued, it was not obvious which side would stop first. It took agonizing minutes for the bulky mountains of machinery (if indeed that's what the Towerminster was) to get into position. When they were close enough, however, the leviathan stopped. Some unknown part of the myriad bristling machinery on its back came to bear on the tower. For a moment only the shuffle of the tower split the night.
A beam, like the ones Rex dodged in the alley, suddenly appeared from the leviathan and settled itself over the tower. A shiver worked its way through our monster, and faster than it had ever moved before, it moved the four top corner-pieces to the front of it, as if to shield itself. The process still took in excess of 30 seconds.
With all four top corners shielding it from the light before it, its behind was bare of building-facade on the side that was facing us. Only the glare of the leviathan's attack kept me from seeing it in its full detail. What I did see, however, was haunting enough. It was pure black, and plainly biological. It had contours where some bone of a symmetric and structured skeleton was near the finely wrinkled skin. Squinting through the glare I could see the basic shape: four limbs on the exposed top, one for each movable corner-piece of the tower. To me, at that moment, it looked like nothing as much as the bent back of a man, toiling at some unending task, some enduring labor.
Even as it endured the onslaught of light, it pushed forward. Eventually it was all but upon the leviathan. At that moment its cover broke, and an entire corner of the building, making a slow but massive arc in the air, was propelled toward the top of the glittering metal beast. An impact that human intuition would put at less than a second was drawn out for several. During that time metal tore in great wrenching sounds, pressure vessels inside the beast broke and vented into the air. I was aware then of a beam that had been cutting the night, only to be turned before reaching the mechanical mountain. When the corner was slowed in its arc through the fragile metal enough to stop, and the tower-being, having absorbed the full onslaught of the light for several seconds, fell limp over it, the bend in the line of this thin beam disappeared, and for the first time it touched the surface of the leviathan.
At this moment Rex got a call from Doctor Polski saying the magfield was down. At his command, a dancing light overhead that could only have been the Atomic Girl ceased its holding pattern and darted toward the glowing, shining, tank-treaded beast. When she reached its surface, her path simply punched right through and into the innards. The light from the beast intensified, and became more red in character. From the very center, it was melting. Its entire form seemed to sag as slag gushed out of holes it had melted in its underside. The tower-being stirred and moved its massive frame from off the red-hot metal. It began a slow shuffle back to where it had stood for almost a hundred years.
It was only now that helicopters and jets were appearing on the scene. The familiar footage that every family has seen, the leviathan smoking and melting into its crater where it stands even now, was taken then by the news and government choppers. Here's where the rest of my story converges with the official report; where Rex Riptide and his friends go back to anonymity and their own personal work, where the government makes its speech that certain officials had known of the survival of Steel City entities, had not informed the rest of Defense, had therefore endangered the lives of diplomats from every developed nation, and were tried for criminal negligence and, in some cases, treason.
Here's where Gilligan Eggars, who was credible enough to cite as a source for the now-famous National Summit Disaster Inquiry Report, was not credible enough to be anything but a conspiracy theorist and a madman when it came to publicly speaking about what went on that day.