The entire complex shook with the sound of sirens. The feeling of an intense urgency surged through the bodies of all within. As Buddy walked through the complex to the parking garage, he couldn’t help but feel the excitement well up within him. Something big was about to happen and he was a central figure.
Hordes of people wearing black suits were filing out of the building to enter their assigned vehicles and place themselves at their expected location near the town square. Once Buddy entered the parking garage, there were no more cars to be seen on the main level, outside of the steady stream that drove past toward the exit.
Buddy saw Alexa standing by the tank.
“Look at you,” she said as he neared.
“You like?” Buddy asked, gesturing toward the green spandex uniform he was currently wearing.
“Oddly enough, I do. I didn’t expect it to fit you quite so nicely.”
“Well, D.A.W.N. had ordered a new one to be created once she got a look at the super-sized version of me. I do have to say, I’m pretty impressed at how well it holds my body in a mostly flattering way. I’m also surprised at how mobile I can be with this tiny jacket on.”
“Not bad,” Alexa agreed.
“Wait for us!” came Ryan’s voice from near the entrance. Buddy and Alexa looked toward the source and saw two figures heading their way. Zero was wearing the same costume Buddy had seen earlier.
Ryan was wearing a red suit of armor, complete with what appeared to be a welder’s helmet on his head. Multiple gadgets were jutting out all over the exterior of the suit. Ryan’s face could just barely be made out in the midst of all the metal. On his back he wore a red version of the rocket pack Buddy had seen him wearing when they first met.
“Wow, so Dad really let you borrow his old suit, huh?” Alexa asked.
“I wish,” Ryan laughed. “No, this is something I’ve been working on myself. It’s based on all of the information I could get on the old Red Rocketeer suit, but with some minor modifications. In fact, this thing has got so much more fire-power, I’m surprised I can even move it under the added weight. Well, I would be amazed if I hadn’t added the strength-manip–”
“Alright kid, we don’t have all day,” Buddy cut Ryan off.
“Where’s your uniform, young lady?” Zero asked Alexa.
“Sorry, bub. I don’t wear costumes.”
“Oh, but these are not costumes, young Alexa, these are uniforms, designed to strike fear into the hearts of those who would oppose us.”
“They’re striking something, but I don’t think it’s fear,” Alexa laughed. “Seriously, what’s the point?”
“Well, I figured that if we’re going to be bait, we should probably be as colorful as possible. Want to give the dude every reason to find us, right?”
“Not only that, chum, but these suits serve to increase our mobility. Females especially tend to need clothing of a much less restrictive nature in order to ensure their ability to fight at their best. What you are wearing, Alexa, is much to concealing to be appropriate for battle.”
“Right, just cause I’m a chick, I should be showing off as much cleavage as possible. Got it.”
“It couldn’t hurt,” Buddy agreed, “could it?”
“It might hurt you if this discussion doesn’t end soon,” Alexa responded.
“Alright, so, changing the subject,” Buddy complied, “where’s Jeff?”
“I happened to overhear a conversation between him and Flores,” Zero answered. “It would appear that Jeff requested to head up the ambush effort. We’re on our own for the baiting.”
“Yeah,” Alexa added, “he made sure to make a big deal of it as he came through here earlier. Something about how he would join us in the battle later. . . I don’t know.”
“Okay, so I guess that’s it then, isn’t it? Are we really ready?” Buddy asked.
“Chum, we were born ready,” Zero exclaimed.
“Is there anything we should be bringing along?” Alexa asked.
“What,” Ryan joked, “you mean like snacks?”
“I could go for a snack,” Buddy replied. “But seriously, how much do we really need if we’re just going out there to be bait.”
“Good point,” Alexa responded. “I guess we should go then.”
“I guess we should,” Ryan added.
“Yeah,” Buddy completed the thought.
“I’m confused,” Zero said. “You all seem to be saying that we should be on our way, but no movement is occurring.”
“Zero’s right,” Buddy jumped up. “Let’s saddle up.” Buddy made a circular motion with his hand above his head as he said this and started climbing up the side of D.A.W.N.
“Don’t ever say that again,” Alexa responded.
“I thought it was rather cute,” D.A.W.N. spoke. Buddy almost lost his grip on the side of the vehicle, but immediately regained his composure and pretended nothing had happened as he made his way inside.
“Thanks, D.A.W.N., I knew someone would appreciate it.” Buddy disappeared. The rest of the group followed.
“Giddy up,” Ryan joked, causing an eruption of laughter from everyone. The hatch closed and D.A.W.N sped off through the garage to the exit point.
The uneventful trip to their destination caused the adrenaline levels in the group to drop quickly. As D.A.W.N. arrived at Sun Square, all four of them were already feeling that something was missing.
“Now arriving at Sun Square. Please ensure you take all belongings with you as you exit the vehicle.”
“It doesn’t get old for you, does it D.A.W.N.?” Buddy asked.
“Just trying to lighten the mood, Buddy. Now you guys be safe out there.”
Buddy stood and looked at the surrounding area through the view screens. There was a large number of people dressed in black and wearing sunglasses. “Arthur could use a lesson in subtlety,” he thought to himself.
“Alright, so, I’ve been thinking,” Buddy began. “I’m really grateful all of you have been willing to stick by me for all of this, but there’s really no reason for you to wait with me. If this all goes as planned, I should be in and out in no time. If things go wrong, well, there’s no reason for it to go wrong for all of us. I’m sure D.A.W.N. can get you back to the base without too much trouble.”
“It would be my pleasure, Buddy.”
“Am I hearing you right, chum?” Zero asked. “Are you really suggesting we leave you out here to have all the fun to yourself?”
“Fun?” Buddy asked.
“Yeah, dude,” Ryan agreed. “We didn’t come out here just to see you off. We’re out here to kick some Dominion keester.”
“Sorry Buddy, I’m with them. We’re not going to let you do this on your own. Plus, I have to admit, it is kind of exciting.”
“Are you all sure? I mean, you really don’t need to stay.”
“Stop your yammering, Buddy,” Zero said, “you’re stuck with us.”
“Well, alright then. I guess we’ve all got a date with destiny, huh?”
“Just stick with the script,” Alexa laughed. “You don’t do too well when you try to come up with your own material.”
“I liked it,” D.A.W.N. added.
“I think we must continue with tradition, old friend,” Zero said.
“Fine. Can we do it together at least? On the count of three?” The group nodded. “One, two, three.”
“It’s hero time!” the four yelled in unison as they all rushed out through the hatch.
Buddy climbed up the ladder last, his eyes squinting in the light. He jumped down off the side of the vehicle, feeling anxious for the action to begin. Ryan, Alexa, and Zero jumped down and landed beside him. All four of them looked off in the horizon, knowing Damon could appear at any second.
They stood in silence, looking in every direction. No one made even the slightest noise for the five minutes that passed before Buddy spoke.
“So, um, he could come pretty much whenever, huh?”
“Yeah, not sure why I expected him to pop up right when we got here,” Ryan added.
The group looked off into the horizon for another minute in silence.
“Well. . . that was anti-climactic,” Buddy said as he walked to a nearby bench and sat down to await his doom.
Go to Chapter Twenty-Three