Eight Months Ago:
“Madame,” the great grey eminence thundered, “your corporation has not gone unnoticed. You have accumulated too much power and wealth for someone like you,” and here he sneered, “to be allowed to go unhindered. You will sell stock in your company, you will allow us to change it as we will, and you will stop this ridiculous idea that your corporation should help people instead of making greater profits! If you do not, we will break you, we will destroy your company, and then, just to make it perfectly clear to everyone what happens when you defy us, we will have you killed. We’ve done it before.”
Eiko Takashima regarded him dispassionately. She had been summoned to this office in Lower Manhattan for, apparently, the purpose of being threatened by this bank’s board of directors. Her head lawyer, Mr. Oliver, wasn’t allowed in with her, nor was her executive assistant Mary. They’d made her surrender her bag before entering the room, and scanned her for electronic devices. With devices they’d bought from her own company, the fools.
“As to your proposal,” she said, and then she smiled.
There were good smiles, bad smiles, pretty smiles, and ugly smiles. And then there was this smile, which had apparently forgotten about all the other kinds and was entirely nasty, the kind of smile that some supervillains had seen and whimpered in terror. These men of business (her mind sang “men of steal, men of power” to her) failed to recognize it.
“When you get to Hell, you will know why it was a bad idea. Do not threaten me, gentlemen. I have seen pure, undiluted evil, and you do not scare me. I have looked into the eyes of madmen, and you do not scare me. You are small, and weak, and grasping to keep the tide from turning under you, and you do not scare me.” She looked around the table, into each pair of eyes. “And if you take action against me, my retaliation will be quick and painful, but I assure you that you will not thank me when I tell you that the worst part of it will be that I will let you live.”
The men rumbled at her statement, and then one stood. “You can’t prove we’ve said anything today. Now, your line of credit with this bank is cancelled, repayable immediately. No bank in this country will lend you a dime, and as a result we’re also calling in all your mortgages and will be starting foreclosure immediately… what’s that?”
The doors to the boardroom slammed open. Mr. Oliver stood there, flanked by a number of men in black windbreakers holding guns.
“Ma’am,” the lawyer said, “I believe you requested an intervention?”
The man at the head of the table sputtered, and then, composure lost, he cried out, “HOW?! You had nothing on you, this room was blocked? How?”
Eiko smiled, this time a nice one. She could afford to be pleasant now. “Did you really think I wouldn’t have a way to hide from my own security devices?” She held up her left hand, showing her watch – apparently a nice Rolex. “Mr. Oliver has recorded everything I transmitted. Your threats, your bluster, all of it.” The smile disappeared. “I told you it would be a bad idea to threaten me. I can’t wait to see who turns first. Ta-ta!”
As they were led away, the man who had sat at the head of the table swore he’d see her dead. Even if it ruined him.
It never occurred to him that he was already ruined. But when it did, it just made him remember how little he had left to lose.
“Are you sure, ma’am?” Mr. Oliver asked.
“Yes, I’m sure.” It had been a somewhat tiring evening, but necessary. Eiko’s plan for the revitalization of Philadelphia had been announced with a large press conference, and then a cocktail hour for wining and converting some of the city’s big movers to her side. She already had the Mayor and City Council on her side, but the unions were the one big sticking point, even more than some of the local companies.
But the presentation at the cocktail hour, including the fact that she planned to use union labor, and even help train them on the new technologies being used, seemed to swing them.
The local head of the Electrician’s Union, for example, was impressed that the plan included training and certification on the new fusion devices, giving them a leg up on other cities. The trash collectors seemed happy at the idea that they could stop using huge trucks, instead using smaller ones to go to the central spots of the fusion devices and dumping the trash in there. Even the mechanic’s union for the city was happy – while there were smaller trucks, they were also getting trained on the new Random Access Technologies/Tesla Motors trucks.
Hell, even the bureaucrats were happy – yes, the new building the company was putting up in Center City was going to be huge, and take up the land the City Services building now had, but Random Access Technologies was putting them up in new digs while it was going up, and then moving them back in to new, up to date, surroundings.
The power company wasn’t too happy, but since most of the industrial electricians worked for them, and the deal with the city would cede operational authority on the Fusors to PECO over a ten-year period after install, they were at least ameliorated.
So the evening had gone, the schmoozing had continued, and Eiko was in her limo (which she hated, she preferred driving herself), and heading to the Rittenhouse. But she was feeling oddly tense.
“I’m sure,” she repeated. “Pull over.” The limo did so, and she stepped out. She stretched a little, then started walking down the street, the dress swirling around her legs in the unusually-warm November night. It was seven blocks to the hotel, and she figured in the flats it would take her maybe five minutes.
It would have, except that on 17th, as she was passing Moravian, a dozen men in tactical suits and IR goggles poured out to surround her.
“Interesting mugging,” she said.
“Nothing personal, ma’am,” the one in front of her said, his voice electrically filtered. “We’ve been hired to do a job, so let us take care of it quickly.”
“Assassination? Twelve people to assassinate one corporate honcho?”
“You were stupid, ma’am. You were a superhero. But after what you did in New York, coming out alone and unarmed?”
Eiko Takashima smiled. “Who said I was unarmed?”
/* “War Dogs”
Before they could react, she tapped her belly.
The forcefield belt activated, disrupting the hologram that revealed she was wearing her old hero suit. The one with all the pockets of parts and different armaments she could put together. The uniform of the Gadget Queen.
“Oh, shit,” one said, and like that she was off. She’d equipped the super-strength and graviton-impellor modules on the belt, so when she jumped up, she went twenty feet up, and when she came back down, the shockwave knocked them off-balance. What looked like a pink frisbee was thrown behind her with her left hand, exploding into strands a foot from her hand, snaring five of the mercenaries, and then hardening to nearly the tensile strength of titanium. Her right, meanwhile, was dropping a flare bomb in front of her – a flare bomb tuned to IR. The howls of pain and whining of overstressed electronics from the others showed she’d made the right choice.
Half a second later, the wide-angle MASER tuned to 40mhz hit three of them in the helmet, sending them into seizure. The four who were still able, including the leader, had gotten their feet under them, lowering their rifles at her. Eyes narrowed as her mind raced.
“SPIDERan international terror organization bent on world conquest. Like they do. standard rifles. You boys ex-SPIDER, or just got them on the black market?” She threw her hands in front of her face as they fired, pushing her back a few inches, but she knew exactly what those guns could do.
(She should. Another life ago, he’dNot a typo – Eiko is trans. designed their original, before he knew he was being used.)
They lowered the guns, expecting her to fall. She gave her nasty smile. “My turn.” The MASER pistol, while she’d been taking fire to little effect, had been reconfigured and some modules switched out. She waved it in their direction.
The stream of electrified plasma it emitted, like a whip, slammed into them, the plasma seeming to ‘splash’ on their armor, then crawling inside, dropping five thousand volts at 10 milliamps into their skin, giving them a nice stungun effect and dazing the rest.
The police arriving at the sound of the incident was almost an anticlimax.
When she arrived at the hotel, Mr. Oliver was waiting in the front room. She gave him her best winning smile as he shook his head.
“Was it worth it, ma’am?”
“A little workout and some more evidence? Oh, yeah.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Evidence?”
“You would not believe how fast those guys wanted to turn state’s evidence in return for dropping their charges from attempted murder to assault one. Now, I’m hitting the shower, and I’m going to sleep like a baby.”
As she stepped into the suite’s inner room, she laughed. Definately a good night’s work. And tomorrow, another test of those Gauntlets. That should be fun, she thought, as she unzipped the coverall and kicked off the Chucks.
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