FIC: All Change At Halloween (17/?)
“I find this an unlikely place to find a genius,” Doyle commented as he looked around the careworn café that Wood had brought him to, its many smells filling his nostrils and decades-old rock crackling through the wall-hung speakers competing with the rattling of pots and pans echoing in his ears.
To the right stood the slightly faded counter with a trio of bored looking people stood working behind it. To the left were a dozen or so tables fixed to the cream-coloured walls and encased in booths, their seats made to look as if lifted from fifties muscle-cars. The café’s theme was continued with wall-hung framed posters from 50s movies peering down on the booths and the booths themselves filled with a variety of blue-collar types industriously chowing down on the café’s fried offerings while arguing about the day’s political and sporting issues.
Wood smiled at his words and nodded. “Perhaps not, but it is the place to meet someone else who was changed by Halloween.” Suddenly his companion glanced to the waitress walking up to them. “Isn’t that right, Anne Steele?”
The pretty but harried-looking girl flushed. “Do I know-, Mr. Wood.”
“Hi Anne, you remember me from Sunnydale High of course?” Wood continued before the girl had chance to answer. “We both know Sunnydale isn’t a town to be out in at night and yet I have multiple photos of you out on multiple nights, including entering the town’s cemeteries. Who did you go as at Halloween?”
The girl flushed. “You’d laugh.”
“Ah lassie, give us boyos some credit, we’re far too charming to laugh at a pretty lady,” Doyle soothed.
“Okay,” the girl looked around before continuing, her already soft voice dropping, “she probably doesn’t even remember, but a few weeks before Halloween, Faith rescued me from a vampire. She was so assertive, so confident. After that,” the girl flushed, “when I was invited to a Halloween party, I borrowed a leather jacket and bought a stake from that costume shop.” Anne shrugged. “After that I was changed somehow. Faster, stronger, more energy.”
“It appears that a lot of us were changed by this spell, we’re not entirely sure why, but we’re using these powers to help people,” Wood answered. “We’d love for you to join us.”
Anne hesitated then nodded. “Well I guess I already know what sort of good you do. I also have two friends, Veruca and Nina Ash, who went as female Jedi.”
“And we already have Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade working for us,” Wood’s smile widened. “The more, the merrier.”
* * *
Oliver Pike looked up from under the hood of the BMW he was attempting to fix to look towards the sound of footsteps at his garage’s entrance. His eyes narrowed at the tall, powerfully-built black man in a custom-made suit and the shabbily-dressed white man stood beside him. They were quite a contrast to say the least. “How can I help you gentlemen?” he asked as he wiped his hands clean on the nearest rag.
“I’m Wood, my companion here is Doyle,” the black introduced, “are you Oliver Pike?” Pike nodded silently, wondering where the conversation was heading. “Might I ask why you moved here and what costume you wore at Halloween?”
“I had a little trouble in LA, so my uncle offered to take me in, so I moved here just over two years ago and he trained me to run his garage,” Oliver replied, his eyes narrowed. “Why are you asking me all these questions?”
“Myself and my companion were both changed by Halloween ’97,” Wood replied. “I went as Mr. Terrific and my companion went as Devil-Slayer.” The older man paused, his brow furrowing. “And to judge from the equipment you’ve had shipped to here since then, you’ve had the benefit of an enhanced intellect?”
Pike flushed. It seemed his guests knew everything. The person he’d been had been far behind the times scientifically speaking, but he’d had to indulge his hungry intellect and raging curiosity. After reading a few science periodicals, he’d had to experiment. Finally he spoke. “I went as Doc Savage.”
“The pulp hero?” It was the Irishman who spoke. “The pulp hero was a bloody genius as I recall.”
“Excellent, we’d like to make you an offer,” the big black man flashed him a gleaming smile. “My associates and I run an organisation fighting demons-.”
“Come now laddie,” the Irishman interrupted his protests. “You’re a logical man, how else do you explain Halloween? The supernatural exists.”
Wood continued before Pike could protest further. “And we’re also in the process of setting up a think-tank that will include the minds of the likes of Henry Pym, Mr. Terrific, Batman, Blue Beetle, amongst others. We pay everyone who works for us a six figure sum, one hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year, and full medical.”
“Sorry,” he couldn’t help but be tempted, but his uncle had put him on the right track when he was struggling to find his way, he could never repay him, “I have obligations here, my Uncle had a heart attack a couple of months ago, he needs me to run this place for you..”
“Alright then,” the black man pursed his lips together in thought before nodding, “I can certainly appreciate your loyalty. How about this then? We give you a no-interest loan of half a million dollars, you can use the money to employ people to run the place for you, buy new equipment, rent new premises, run an ad campaign in the local paper, whatever you want to do with it as long as you come to work for us. That’s in addition to the salary offered to you.”
Pike caved in to temptation. “I’ll need a few weeks to sort everything out, but okay, I’ll do it.”
* * *
Wood blinked as they teleported into an alleyway. “And why pray tell are we in LA?”
Wood glanced at his companion as he strode out of the narrow alleyway. “There was a few likely candidates who either were in Sunnydale on business or vacation, then moved back here.”
“And the first prospect is?” Doyle pressed as they crossed over the busy road and to a gleaming skyscraper. “Someone who works here?”
“No,” Wood smirked as he came to a stop outside the building, “someone who owns this building.”
Doyle’s eyes widened. “This is Nabbit-, you’re saying David Nabbit is your prospect?”
Wood nodded. “Hotel records have him in Sunnydale for Halloween attending a charity bash. He could have brought his own costume from LA, but there’s a chance he’s one of us.”
“And how do you figure to find out?” Doyle demanded.
Wood’s smirk widened. “Follow my lead.”
Doyle sighed then shrugged and followed him into the spotless reception. “Hello sirs?” the pretty receptionist fluttered her long eyelashes at him and pouted her full lips. “How can I help you?”
Wood flashed the woman his most winning smile. “We’d like to see Mr. Nabbit?”
“Oh,” the receptionist stared at each of them in turn. “Do you have an appointment?”
“Just ring him and tell him it’s about Halloween ’97.” Wood reached over the desk, picked up the phone and passed the receptionist the phone when she just stared at him. “Please.”
“Okay.” After a few seconds’ chat, the receptionist hung up the phone. “Go straight up. It’s the only door on the top floor.”
“Thank you,” Wood turned to his companion as they entered the elevator, “do you think he’d have agreed to see us without an appointment if something hadn’t happened at Halloween?”
Doyle shrugged, his expression sceptical. “You’d expect him to be a busy man,” the Irishman conceded. “For the rest, we’ll see.”
The elevator door hissed open and into a grey-carpeted corridor with an orange-brown door that Doyle knocked upon. “Please, come in.”
Wood raised an eyebrow at the owner’s reedy voice even as he grabbed the brass handle and pulled the door open. Wood and Doyle strode into a plushly decorated office with a diminutive, nervous-looking man with greasy skin and diffident eyes sat behind a vast desk. “H…..hey.”
“Mr. Nabbit, I’ve been a big fan of your charity work for years,” Wood praised. “And who did you go as at Halloween?”
“W…why?” the software inventor stuttered.
“Because we’re aware of what occurred at Halloween-.”
“Which agency do you represent?” the inventor pulled himself upright on very shaky legs. “I can have lawyers here in minutes.”
“Ach, laddie, do I look like a fed?” Doyle drawled.
“Well an undercover one,” Wood sniffed as he glanced at his scruffily-attired companion, “deep undercover.” Wood looked towards the inventor and shook his head. “Sorry for any alarm we caused, but you’ve jumped to the wrong conclusion, we work for a group with people who were also changed by their costumes. I myself went as Mr. Terrific while my companion went as Devil-Slayer.” Wood glanced at Doyle who on cue teleported himself behind the billionaire.
“Eeep!” the inventor slumped back in his seat, eyes wide with shock.
“The very fact that you allowed two strangers up into your office without an appointment at such the vaguest mention of Halloween indicates you were also changed,” Wood went on. “If I may ask?”
“I wanted to go as Tony Stark or Reed Richards, but both their costumes were gone when I got there,” the inventor shakily replied. “So I picked up John Henry Irons’ costume instead.”
“John Henry Irons?” Wood queried.
Nabbit flushed. “He was a brilliant weapons designer in the DC universe who created his own battle-suit and tried to take Superman’s place after he was killed by Doomsday.” Nabbit looked up, his jaw clenching with the effort of meeting their gazes. “You say you people were all affected by Halloween and work together, but you never said work together doing what?”
“We have two aims, principally fighting demons, vampires, and the like, but also I’m in the process of forming a think-tank aimed at the betterment of the mankind, we already have intellects like Mr. Terrific, Batman, and Blue Beetle working for us. You’d be a great addition.”
“I…I h…have a business to run,” the inventor protested.
“I’m sure you have business managers to do that for you, and would you have an opportunity to work for the intellects such as the ones I mention?” Wood pressed.
“Thanks to Halloween we also have access to advanced knowledge and tech from the Terminator, Babylon Five, and Star Wars universes,” Doyle added.
“Wow,” the inventor’s eyes widened then he slowly nodded. “It’s not like I do much most days anyway, just as long as I attend board meetings, I suppose I could join your group.”
* * *
Virginia Bryce grinned as she looked through the peephole of her penthouse apartment’s door and saw a pair of men stood in the corridor outside. The black man looked too ‘GQ’ to be one of her father’s thugs and the smaller guy dressed shabbily enough to be a hoodlum, but was way too scrawny. She shook her head as she opened the door. “I’ve gotta give my father credit, he doesn’t give up does he?”
“You’re in error, Ms. Bryce,” the black man strode in without invitation, which either made him rude or someone who knew the truth, “we’ve never met your father, we’re here about Halloween ’97.”
Virginia’s eyes narrowed. She’d originally run to Sunnydale to escape her father’s clutches, only to return when the power-up she’d received after Halloween meant she never needed to fear her father again. “What about it?”
“We’re aware that Halloween permanently changed some people, including ourselves,” the man continued. “I went as DC’s Mr. Terrific and my companion went as Marvel’s Devil-Slayer. Who did you go as?”
Virginia stared at the man for a long moment before nodding. “Monet St. Croix.”
The black man shook his head. “I can’t say I recall her?”
“She’s a Marvel mutant with enhanced strength, speed, senses, and stamina, and a greatly enhanced IQ,” she supplied.
“Excellent,” Wood flashed her a gleaming smile, “in that case I’d like to make you an offer to join a think-tank that contains the minds of myself, Batman, Blue Beetle, Henry Irons, and Henry Pym. We’re part of an organisation that fights demons.”
Bryce smirked. If she joined an organisation that actively fought demons, she’d have even more protection from her father. Probably unneeded, but even so. “Okay, I’m in.”
* * *
“Hey bro,” Rondell looked up at the voice of the sentry watching their security screens, “a brother in a tight suit with a white guy dressed in a fedora and a leather jacket just came walking down Sanders Street, they’re definitely looking for something.”
“Okay,” Rondell nodded. “Bring them in.”
Minutes later and the duo were sat before him, a duo that looked surprisingly unruffled despite the half a dozen armed people surrounding them. “Who are you?”
“A man who likes to get straight to the point,” the shaven-headed black man smirked. “I’m Robin Wood and this Francis Doyle.”
“And you’re looking for us?” Rondell demanded.
Wood’s smirk widened. “Let me answer a question with a question. Were you in Sunnydale, Halloween ’97?”
Rondell blinked. The night everything had changed, he’d changed. “How did you know that?”
“Hotel records can be obtained if you have the know how,” Wood replied. “Please humour me, why were you there?”
“I have friends in Sunnydale and I wanted to visit them-.”
“And yet you never saw the Gunns that night.” Wood smiled at his blink. “My companion and I are good friends with the Gunns. Please continue.”
“It was if I was compelled to be there I guess,” Rondell shrugged, his eyes narrowed. “I guess your next question is who I dressed as?”
“Smart very smart,” Wood nodded. “And in the hope of inspiring trust, I went as DC’s Mr. Terrific, the possessor of 14 PhDs and six black belts, and my partner went as Marvel’s Devil-Slayer, a teleporter.”
Rondell shrugged. “I went as Black Panther.”
“Excellent,” Wood nodded. “Another genius intellect, quite apart from his redoubtable physical skills. I wonder if you’d be interested in joining our group, we have a number of enhanced people including the Gunns who went as Luke Cage and Storm, and a considerable amount of funding dedicated to fighting demons. We already have a number of geniuses working for us, including myself, and people possessed by Henry Pym, Batman, Blue Beetle, Henry Irons, and Monet St. Croix.”
“No,” Rondell shook his head. As tempting as the offer to be around the Gunns was, as tempting as it was to work with some of the geniuses Wood had mentioned, he had obligations here. “I can’t leave my crew.”
“I appreciate your loyalty and your efforts here,” Wood replied. “However, allow me to make a counter-offer. The world needs vampire hunters wherever it can get them. Our organisation would be willing to fund yours for as long as it runs to the tune of three million dollars a year if you stay here and run it. Or alternatively, if you leave and come with us, we’ll pay five million dollars a year every year.”
“Imagine the sorta digs and equipment your crew could have then,” added Doyle.
Rondell rocked back on his heels. Thanks to his new-found genius he was both able to do some work for certain local businesses who couldn’t pay degree-level experts to do electronics or software engineering for them, and his inventions meant his people had better equipment than before. But this money would do far more for people than he could ever do on his own.
He nodded slowly. “Okay, I’ll talk to my crew, if they’re agreeable I’ll come with you.”