Even after Doctor Fischer terminated the Wreck Room program, Prodigy had kept fighting. It had taken the remaining fighters to take him down: the Cold Detective had worked with Eiron, Greystone, Mezzanine and Ursa to reverse the transformation. Through it all, Sentry realized that what Greystone and Maze had said was true: Anne’s abilities were almost identical to his…
Watching her fight, the android was in awe of the cannon her arm unfolded into. It was his first time seeing it from the outside—watching as the the skin proved to be nothing more than plates on an intricate system of hinges that folded back to reveal a metal frame supporting lenses designed to weaponize light.
Like her male counterpart, Mezzanine appeared to be stronger and more durable than the average human—aspects owed to the metal frame that served as a skeletal system. What damage she did take from Prodigy’s wild attacks was restored as quickly as it was received: her body worked to frantically repair itself after each successful hit.
Thanks to her efforts, the young heroes were victorious in liberating the boy from the mask’s influence. Sentry had so many questions for her—so many things about himself he yearned to know—but before he could ask, the headmistress of the Vienna school appeared, followed by those who had helmed this competition.
The headmistress chewed out Mister Noble and Mister Bradley for even authorizing the battle. Like deer caught in the headlights, the students of two schools were paralyzed to do anything but stand and watch.
Finally, the woman dismissed her faculty and addressed the Americans. She welcomed them to the school and apologized for such an induction. She asked her students to escort their guests to the cafeteria where a feast of a luncheon awaited them all.
Sergio hurried to the locker room and changed in a rush; he was anxious to talk to Anne—to find out what she knew about who he really was or where he came from. While the other boys were still changing, he dropped the borrowed uniform where he had procured it and hurried out of the room and into the hall.
Gregaro was already here; as he did not wear a uniform, he had nothing to change out of. Though the two nodded to each other, they did not exchange words. Gregaro was a solitary person—more so since their battle with the Damned—and Sergio was not interested in passing the time talking to him: he only wanted to talk to Anne.
He did not have to wait long for the female android to emerge from the girl’s locker room. She moved to walk past him and stopped only when he moved to bar her path. “Salutations,” the dark haired girl intoned apathetically.
“Hi,” he said, offering out his hand. If he had a heart, it would have been beating faster. “I’m Sergio.”
“My name is Anne,” she said.
“I know,” he said. “I wanted to talk to you. I think you can help me…”
“I will do whatever I can to assist you.”
At first, he hesitated. It was unsettling how indolent she was compared to him; Anne acted like every robot in every bad sci-fi movie he had seen. Still, no matter how unsettling the girl was, Sergio’s desire to know who he was banished all vacillation from him. Extending his right arm out, the American commanded it to transform into a cannon resembling the one she had employed in fighting Prodigy; Anne showed no surprise. “I’m just like you,” he said. “The thing is, I don’t know who I am or where I come from. I didn’t have anything to go on until I met you. I… I think that whoever built you built me too.”
Anne shook her head. “I apologize, but I am the only model my father has constructed. While I grant you that the similarities between our arms are astonishing, it is impossible that my father built you.”
“Your father?” Sergio thought to what Greystone had said back in the Wreck Room. “Mister Newton, right? Jack asked if he built me too…”
“Affirmative: my father is Isaac Newton.”
This revelation hardly shook Sergio: the boy simply presumed that her inventor had been named for the mathematician. “Can I talk to him?” Sergio asked. “He might know…” He sighed. He wanted to cry. “He might know where I can look next…”
Anne nodded before making her way down the hall. “If you will follow me, I will take you to his office.”
“His office?” Sergio asked, hurrying to catch up with her. Behind him the doors to the boy’s locker room opened and Lucas emerged. Sergio paid him no mind and left him to entertain Gregaro. “He works here?”
“He is one of the administrators of this school,” Anne explained.
She said nothing more as they stepped onto the elevator. Sergio said nothing as they rode the car up to the main level. She had been obdurate that her father had not built him—he doubted talking to her would win him any more answers. He just had to hope her father knew more…
When they arrived, they found Doctor Howell leaving the headmaster’s office. Sergio set eyes on the Vienna school’s co-administrator and was taken aback by his appearance. Though his hair was hardly long and worn in the style so many portraits depicted him with, the white-haired man did resemble the seventeenth-century astronomer. Gone too were the clothes of days long by—replaced by only the finest Italian suit. “Ah,” he said at the sight of the androids’ arrival, “Doctor Howell, I’d like you to meet my daughter. Anne, this man is Doctor James Howell—he’s the headmaster of the American school.” The man eyed her guest with interest. “And this must be one of his charges, I presume?”
“Yes,” intoned Doctor Howell, “this is one of our seniors, Sergio Leone.”
Mister Newton could not help but smile at the boy. “I take it your parents were fans of Spaghetti Westerns?”
“It was a moniker I bestowed on the boy,” Doctor Howell offered. “Our Mister Leone is most curious case: an android who does not recall his past…”
“An android?” Mister Newton looked at him with newly-won interest.
“It’s actually why I asked Anne to bring me to meet you,” Sergio said. “Sir, there are some similarities between Anne’s design and mine and… I was hoping you could help me figure out exactly where I came from.” Once more, Sergio activated his arm and Mister Newton stared at the transformation in wonder. “Anne’s pretty adamant that you didn’t but… I have to know, sir: did you build me?”
Mister Newton studied the mechanisms of Sergio’s arm closely. His gaze lingered on certain parts. At times, he took the weapon in his hands and moved parts himself, as if to see how it worked. “It’s my design,” he admitted, “but it’s been improved on.”
Sergio shuddered. “You didn’t build me then?”
Mister Newton straightened himself before shaking his head sadly. “I’m sorry, son,” he said. “Before this moment, I truly believed that Anne was one of a kind. This—all that you are?—it bares the mark of my craftsmanship in the same way a modern car has hints of Ford’s original design. This is Anne’s model evolved… Whoever built you did things I never even considered doing… Take these panels? Your skin cells are tiny solar panels: you are constantly absorbing light and using it to power yourself. Anne still requires electrical recharge…”
“Sir, did anyone work on Anne with you?”
“No, I developed her alone.”
“Was she ever abducted? Did anyone ever have an opportunity to study her? Is there anyone who could take what you designed and use it to build me!?!”
“No,” Mister Newton said helplessly. “I can think of a handful of people who could have observed Anne in battle and possess the intellect to reproduce it: one of our teachers—Mister Manuel, one of the students—Jason Lamperouge, Lacu-”
“Sol Invictus!?!” Sergio asked. “When I first arrived here, they said that I said that just before I collapsed. We don’t know what it means but… does it mean anything to you?”
Mister Newton looked to Doctor Howell in confusion. “I know he was a Roman sun god but other than that… I’m sorry.” Reading the android’s depression at his apology, Mister Newton was overcome by a need to give him more than his regret. “I don’t know who built you, Sergio, but I will do everything I can to help you find out who did.” The man looked to Doctor Howell uneasily. “If it’s all right with you, James, I’d like to see about transferring this boy to my school…”
Doctor Howell left the decision in Sergio’s hands. Approached by the possibility of answers for the first time, he had no choice but to accept.
Saying yes came easy but saying goodbye was a challenge… While he had not made many friends since coming to the New Vindicators Academy of America, he felt some kinship with his classmates—Carl and Gage in particular, but mostly Carl. That night, he postponed telling his roommate about his transfer. The next morning, half of the Americans were attached to Mister Bradley’s History class and toured Hofburg Palace. The next day they found themselves sitting in the Musikverein, anticipating the private performance Mister Bottom had somehow convinced the Vienna Philharmonic to give his music class. Through it all, Sergio remained in a stupor: even with Mister Bradley’s passionate retelling of the Habsburg dynasty’s story and even when the symphony began to play, Sergio’s mind was on the inevitable farewell he would have to say and the anxiousness he felt at coming one step closer to finding out who he really was.
It was on the fourth day of their visit—with just one day before his peers would depart for New York once more—that the android had worked up the nerve to tell Carl that he would not be coming back with them. Today, they were guided by Mister Knight through the Liechtenstein Museum. It was here, flanked by Rubens, that Sergio approached his roommate. “I need to tell you something,” he said as his roommate gaped at some of the most well-known pieces to come out of the Baroque period. “About tomorrow…”
Sergio hesitated and then turned when he heard a cell phone ring. Jack Rexroth’s face was scrunched into a confused expression as he looked at the device’s screen before warily answering it. “Mister Newton thinks that he might be able to help me find out who I am and where I come from,” the android said, trying to put the distraction out of mind.
“That’s great,” Carl said enthusiastically. “Any leads so far?”
Sergio shook his head. “No, but… in order to…” He tailed off when he realized that Carl was not really focused on him; turning around, he saw that the tattooed youth held his friend’s attention.
Jack’s call had been a brief one: he had returned his cell phone to his pocket and shifted forms. Segmented plate-like scales now covered his flesh; talons tipped his fingers; wings tore through his simple black shirt to rise behind him.
The sight of him in such a form alarmed his classmates and their teacher alike. “Iconoclast!?!” Mister Knight exclaimed, scanning their surroundings for any signs of attack.
None came. Jack Rexroth had simply shifted forms and began to calmly walk out of the museum.
Fiore hurried after him and planted himself in the American’s path. “What’s wrong, Jack?” the Italian asked. “Something happen at the school?”
Jack grabbed the senior by the shoulder and—with one swift motion—hurled his lithe classmate across the gallery.
At the sight of such an attack, Sergio realized that something was terribly wrong. Though they had not known him long—and though they had heard less-than-flattering things from Jack’s classmates—Sergio had the impression that Jack was one of the good guys. To see him bully someone seemed out of character for the American…
Instantly, his arm transformed. He looked to his classmates—the four who would soon be his former classmates: he had fought beside Carl, Solon, Gage and Gregaro against the legions of undead the Damned had summoned and felt they made a good team.
It seemed Greystone would be the one they would have to test that against…
To Be Continued... wrote:Solar Flare, Sentry, Coulomb, the Cold Detective and Fiore versus Greystone