Avalanche – Snippet 11
Ramona sighed and swung her legs around. She could feel the chill concrete through her socks. “Rick, come over and sit with me. It’s ECHO-issue, I think it’ll hold the both of us.”
He narrowed his eyes, fist still locked against the wall. Blood mingled with the rest of the stains on his dirty grey pants. He forced the words out through clenched teeth. “If I get up from here, I’m walking out that door, Ramona. I’m not staying in another box, especially if I have to listen to some scared old man muttering in my ear day and night. I’m tired of waiting.”
She pinched the bridge of her nose. If Rick was looking for some measure of coddling or sympathy, they should have kept Trina for a little while longer. “That makes two of us. I’m pretty sure that punching walls and making empty threats isn’t going to hurry things up, though. Most of the strategists and decision-makers were there in Metis. They fought alongside the Metisians, worked to evacuate them to Earth, and gave everything they could to try and take down the Thulians.”
“So why aren’t we with them?”
“Because we’re temporary hosts for the two most important entities rescued from Metis! That scared old man who keeps muttering in your ear and the fussy perfectionist who keeps grumbling at me might be the difference in us beating back the Thulians when they decide to try and finish what they started!” She leaned forward, her voice only a few decibels short of a full-fledged yell. “Because the rest of them trust us to keep them safe for as long as possible, until they’re certain they have a better solution for them, and deep down, you know that.”
Mercurye’s arm trembled and bits of concrete flaked to the floor. He struggled to maintain the grimace, but Ramona could see his shoulders droop and his elbow start to bend. The fist slid down to rest against the floor, fingers partly uncurled. “But how much longer?”
“I don’t know.”
He sighed and glanced at the bloody mess of his left hand. “Long enough to get this bandaged up, I’d bet. Guess I should find a first aid kit or something.”
“Second shelf next to the sink. That concrete’s twelve inches thick, so it’ll take a few more hits if you’re so inclined.” Ramona stretched herself back onto the cot once she heard the metal clack of latches and the crinkle of sterile plastic wrapping. She didn’t like waiting any more than Rick did, but she did trust Bella, Pride, and Victrix to come up with a solution to their temporary housing problem.
She hoped it would be soon. If there was one thing that she had learned, it was that scientists made terrible roommates.
The speedster shuffled up to her, gauze in one hand and a bottle of peroxide in another. “Help, maybe? I promise not to punch another wall.”
That made her laugh. She patted the cot and took the peroxide from him. “Sure, but you have to tell me how you remembered a code like that to get in. Not that it wasn’t amazing, but I expected to have to get Vickie to override it.”
He shrugged. “The first number gave it away. It had to be the natural log of one, the square root of that, or the square. After that, it was easy.”
Ramona boggled at him. “Easy? How?”
“Natural log of one is, speed of light is, Planck’s constant is, and zero.” A slow smile spread across his face. “Nerdspeak for ECHO, y’know?”
She didn’t, but Tesla’s thoughts flickered through her own, and she could ‘see’ a hastily-scribbled blackboard with letters and numbers ascribed to them. Ech0.Â Realization combined with wonder, and she choked out a laugh as she started wrapping Rick’s knuckles in gauze. “And that was easy?”
“For a Trek-obsessed physics geek, sure.” His shoulders came up to his ears, and Ramona could see the shadow of an awkward teenager fascinated by mathematics and science. His expression sobered. “You really think that Victrix is going to figure out how to undo this? All of it?”
Ramona considered lying with something along the lines of ‘absolutely, there’s nothing to worry about,’ but they all deserved better. “I hope so,” she said. “I trust her to find the best solution, even if we don’t have all of the answers yet. She’ll figure out something.”
Soon was relative. “Yeah,” she sighed. “Soon.”
‘Soon’ stretched past two days, during which Ramona occupied herself with a methodical inventory of the bunker, a few long naps, and regular conversations via Overwatch with the rest of the ECHO seniority. Consequences had already started to ripple through major governments and affiliated metahuman organizations. Bella had her hands full with coordinating efforts at home and tapped into Yankee Pride’s connections to make sure that everyone shared the most recent information. Chatter from the Russian contingent filled her ears if she tuned into the CCCP frequency, but they provided the most up-to-date information on what was going on in her backyard. Marconi had a better handle on the language than she did, so he provided a rapid translation of the more technical terminology. While she felt bad about the constant eavesdropping, Ramona couldn’t bear to be kept in the dark. Ignorance wasn’t bliss at a time like this.
A long nap improved Mercurye’s disposition to the point where he helped Ramona with some of the inventory. The assistance waned as Tesla distracted him with conversations about theoretical physics and the possible extensions of metahuman abilities as they pertained to speed and motion. By the end of the first day, Merc chattered happily with the fussy scientific genius about the particulars of quantum mechanics while pressing himself up into yet another handstand.
Ramona forced the small of her back against the concrete wall and sighed. Another flare-up in one of the destruction corridors had sent the Overwatch channels into action. She thought about tuning in, but she felt Marconi’s consciousness nudge her attention toward Mercurye and away from the chatter. She gave in, a subvocal command shifting critical alerts to a corner of her retinal display. If something came up, she would know.
“Signorina, why not take advantage of the time that you have?” The grandfatherly tone chuckled. “There are so few quiet moments to be shared.”
She snorted. “Right, because making out with my boyfriend while we’re chaperoned by two uncles is exactly how I envisioned this happening.” She felt the shocked amusement and muffled laughter immediately. “I’ll wait for a little more privacy, Signor Marconi, but I appreciate your concern.”
“Noted. And he and Nikola seem to be enjoying each other’s company. I had figured your young gentleman to be of above average intelligence, but I would never have guessed that he would be at such a level to entertain my old friend.” The consciousness gave a sigh of content, something that manifested as a sleepy warmth spreading over her body. “It is a good thing, truly.”
“Mmm.” While Ramona wanted to ask more, she couldn’t help but find Marconi’s satisfaction a soothing balm of sorts. She felt herself relaxing into the sensation, then stopped. It took a conscious thought to pull herself away from the emotion and stand outside of it.
Ramona shook her head and activated her Overwatch connection. The secure line put her in direct contact with Vickie, who had her hands full with directing ECHO resources for clean up. “Still working on a solution, but these guys are pretty pissed after everything that happened. You need to revise that inventory you sent me?”
“Negative.” Ramona shifted so that Mercurye couldn’t see her lips moving. “I don’t think they mean it, but our tenants might be getting a bit too cozy in our brainspaces. There’s stuff I’m starting to feel and anticipate that I shouldn’t.”