Midnight Sun: Monbulk's Monopoly #2
Written by Matt Hamilton, Edited by
Midnight Sun: Monbulk's Monopoly Part 2
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Cerabel had been browsing a catalogue of upgrades on a small screen given to her by the enslaved creatures. She did not want to arouse any suspicions by rejecting their offer, and so pretended to be lost in the decision-making process. Indeed, the array of modifications available to the small craft Monbulk had leant them was staggering, and it was no problem to seem interested in the pictures and text scrolling before her.
The creatures had made no attempt to communicate to her. A soft voice had spoken to her from the monitor, welcoming her to the yard and explaining how to read the catalogue. It had also mentioned that if she needed anything more, to tell the screen. It seemed that these poor animals served as little more than transportation for a technological system of commerce.
At length, she looked up and surveyed her artificially lit surroundings. How long could she expect M'Nai to be gone? An hour? A few hours? She could not expect to sit here perusing catalogue items for that amount of time!
"There are too many choices," she said to the screen. "I need some time to think about it. Could you return in the morning?"
The machine's soothing voice replied. "I'm afraid that we do not allow long-term stays on our property without work being carried out. You may have some time to decide, but no more than two hours. If you like, we can return then."
Two hours! Would it be enough time for Midnight Sun to find the owner of the yard and end his tyranny over the creatures before her? It would seem that she had little choice. "Very well. If you don't mind, I'd like to take a stroll and look around."
"Certainly," replied the computer. "Please keep to the paths. We shall meet with you again in two hours' time." After an ominous pause, it added "Wherever you are."
M'Nai surveyed the head-office of the shipyard which stretched into the sky before him. It's glass front reflected the yard's lights for the first few stories, then disappeared into the night. Security cameras were obvious above the front door, but looked easy enough to avoid. It was the less-obvious ones, which would inevitably be waiting inside which worried him most.
In a flash, he was at the front door, having circumambulated the cameras' range of vision. Curiously, there did not seem to be anyone inside. Perhaps the operation was completely automated, with the proprietor living a life of luxury on the topmost floor. The shadow warrior could not see any interior cameras, which meant that they were cleverly hidden, and necessitated another form of entry.
M'Nai spread his arms, and activated the antigravity generators mounted within the disks on his hands and feet. Slowly he rose, levitating to the first floor window. He looked inside quickly, then continued his ascent. Faster and faster he flew, passing dozens of stories, until he found a floor, which looked safe enough to enter. Once that decision had been made, however, the actual entry had to be accomplished.
The window did not appear to open - not at all surprising at this altitude. Midnight Sun wondered how safe it would be to break it. He was very near the top floor, and would no doubt be able to reach the owner of the yard before any security measures were initiated. However, he would then have to get back to the ship undetected, lest he reveal the fact that he was in league with Cerabel.
The decision was made for him, however, when the room on the other side of the window lit up. A wandering security sentinel had entered, spied him through the window, and quickly raised the alarm. There was no time to think, only time to react. M'Nai launched forward, crashing through the window, and assaulted the security robot with a barrage of blows. Thirty seconds later, the sentinel was reduced to a useless pile of metal plates and circuitry, and Midnight Sun was riding an elevator, already three floors up.
The building was a maze of corridors and offices, most empty, but some housing storage equipment for the immense computer records. M'Nai wondered just what kind of business required a building this big, with seemingly no staff to manage. Perhaps any living staff was situated at a more reasonable level, closer to the ground floor. It stood to reason, however, that the person responsible for the control of the gormites would house himself near the top of the building, like a god looking down on his creation.
A god that would soon be cast out of his self-made heaven.
Cerabel had sat down to rest. The yard stretched out forever in all directions, it seemed, and there was little chance of her losing the omnipresent drones. Gormites went about their business around her, oblivious to the electrical harnesses that shackled their minds. They carried equipment, cleaned the ships, and even made technical repairs.
Suddenly, an idea struck Cerabel. She stood, and slowly made her way over to a collective of the small creatures, each busy working on the hull of a large cargo ship. When she felt that she was close enough, the Inhuman sat cross-legged, and closed her eyes.
Using abilities that she had had since her exposure to the terrigen mists, she reached out with her mind. The presence of the animals appeared as warm spikes to her psychic senses, and they reacted when they felt her touch. With all her concentration, she tugged at the mental chains wrapped around the creatures' minds. She prompted them to struggle, to reveal themselves to her, so that she could learn of their true nature.
Suddenly the chains loosened, and the veil lifted from the creatures' psyche.
And Cerabel's eyes snapped open in terror.
Midnight Sun scrutinized the door before him. It was the most heavily guarded of any he had yet encountered. The remains of at least five large robots lay scattered on the floor down the corridor, tracing the path he had taken. The door itself was heavy set, with ominous writing in a language he could not read. No doubt a warning to trespassers who had made it this far.
He ignored it.
A barrage of attacks dented the door, and with the recent training from the Inhuman known as Karnak, Midnight Sun knew just where to strike to unhinge it from the wall. Alarms sounded afresh, but it would be too late for the room's occupant.
The shadow-warrior leapt into the room, darkness spreading from his form like some bizarre parody of an avenging angel.
Cerabel ran blindly towards the building on the horizon. The handful of gormites that she had released from the mind-control devices was well behind her now, but for some reason, she could not contact Midnight Sun. Some kind of telepathic damper was in effect around the building, and it blocked her only means of communication. It had seemed redundant to carry electronic communicators, with the psychic link they shared.
How close was he to the main computer? Could she warn him in time? The building did not seem to be getting any closer.
The office was furnished with a large desk, which faced Midnight Sun from across the room. The chair behind it was occupied, but its owner was not visible, as he was facing the window, overlooking the shipyard. To the left was undoubtedly the main computer, protected with the ship's owner in the building's most secure office.
Ever wary of unseen security devices, M'Nai walked toward the desk. The office's occupant must have been aware of his presence, yet made no sign of acknowledgment. Nor did he even bother to turn his chair around. Could he be so confident that the cyborg would be unable to destroy the computer?
There was only one way to find out.
He stepped boldly across the room, and silently hopped onto the table, crouched in a ready stance. Slowly he reached out, and spun the chair around; one arm withdrawn ready to strike.
The seated figure surprised him more than it should have.
The cold steel at Cerabel's back was a harsh reminder of the death that surrounded her, and perhaps awaited her. Before her was a collection of gormites, each free of their individual mind-control harnesses. Some sort of feedback had disrupted the network of harnesses when 'Bel liberated the first small group, and one by one the population was escaping their mutual bond. Without the sedating effects of the harness, the creatures had reverted to their natural state of savagery, and were ready to take their first victim.
They snapped at each other as they approached, some stopping altogether to engage in a fierce brawl, often to the death. Cerabel looked up at the skyscraper to her right. She was so close! Yet, even if she was to escape from this small group of creatures, the fact remained that Midnight Sun was about to destroy the central computer, and free the rest. There was no chance of escape. Not now.
The young Inhuman closed her eyes, and said a silent goodbye to the parents back in Attilan who had been glad to see her leave.
M'Nai turned from the corpse in the chair. No doubt, the owner of this shipyard had been dead for decades, at least judging from the state of his remains. Apparently, the computer was running the show now, probably unaware of its master's demise. Ironic to think that Monbulk's great competitor was a rotting skeleton and a machine!
Only one thing remained, then: Free the gormites. The computer's main unit was here in this office, and would not withstand a powerful blow from Midnight Sun's cybernetically enhanced weapons. He stepped up to the machine, and struck a hole deep into its core. With the flight disk attached to the palm of his hand he was unable to grab the circuitry, so instead he enabled the antigravity field of the disk, crushing the machine's electronic intestines.
Within seconds, a belated security alarm sounded, and the room darkened. The shadow warrior spun around, and decided to beat a hasty retreat. The only door was no longer an option, so he stepped back, and took a flying leap at the window. It shattered, and he began the slow descent back to the planet's surface, where he hoped to find Cerabel and a few thousand peaceful gormites.
He was halfway down when the wave struck.
Cerabel's eyes flickered open. She was alive! Slowly she raised herself onto her elbows and looked around. Before her, and seemingly all over the shipyard, were the bodies of gormites. Dead, or unconscious - it was hard to tell.
Two things struck the Inhuman very quickly. First, the realization of what had happened. Second, the fact that M'Nai had been within range.
She stood, still giddy from the exertion of her subconscious psychic attack, and started to trot towards the main building.
Midnight Sun was lying face up at the base of the building, surrounded by shards of glass. His bright yellow eyes, always open, gave no sign of his state of consciousness. For all Cerabel knew, he might be dead. She knelt to him, and lifted his head with one hand. It was useless checking for breath, or a pulse, since the cyborg no longer had either. Her mind was in no state to communicate telepathically, which left only one means of determining her friend's health: She asked.
"Will you wake now, Midnight Sun?"
Monbulk looked up from his desk at the shadowy figure standing over him.
"So that's what happened. The two arrived; I sent them on an errand; they came back. In return for that (and some of their cargo), I fixed up their ship, and sent them on their way."
"You make no mention of their reaction to the trap you laid for them," replied the figure.
"Yeah, well. They were not too impressed, to be sure. But I included some extra stuff to sweeten the deal. Business is business, and in the end they left satisfied."
"But I am not satisfied. You have harbored criminals, and aided them in their escape." The humanoid stepped forward into the light, revealing his green armour and blue skin. "The Kree will not stand for it. You stand Accused."
"H- hold on, there, buddy!" Monbulk raised three of his hands in a defensive gesture. "I did what I had to do! Like I said - business is business!"
"Indeed. And your business is closed." Ronan raised his Universal Weapon, a mace infused with cosmic power, and pointed it directly at the shipyard owner. "Permanently."
Midnight Sun and Cerabel were far enough away from Monbulk's yard for the explosion not to register on their scanners. Indeed, they would not have noticed it if it had, busy as they were inspecting the bonuses the trader had given them.
For now, Cerabel's mysterious outburst had been ignored, filed away by the cyborg for another time, when both of them were ready to talk.
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