[ASH] The Reverse Engineers #0 - New Kids In Town
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Mon Jun 18 10:05:37 PDT 2007
Cover shows a slightly graying Doctor Developer picking his way through
ruins, his eye catching sight of a tattered doll partially crushed by
rubble. Cover copy exclaims, "FORESHOCKS!"
.|, COHERENT COMICS PRESENTS An ASH Universe Story
'|` THE REVERSE | ESREVER EHT #0 - New Kids In Town
ENGINEERS | SREENIGNE copyright 2007 by Andy Burton
[March 15, 2014 - Los Angeles County, CA]
The sound of children crying was not something Doctor Developer was used
to hearing in a super-villain's lair. Screaming, begging, pleading, the
howls of hybrid werewolves, and cackle of mad scientists were all sounds he
expected to hear. Crying children, though...not so much.
"Would you tell them to shut up?" a voice snarled. It was masculine.
No discernable accent. He had the combination of tone and cadence of someone
in charge, the boss.
"I did," a second voice replied, "It didn't do no good." The second
voice was masculine as well, not as deep. Still no accent. Definitely a
"Then reach in there, and hit them," Boss said, as if the idea was
"My hand won't fit in the cage," Lackey replied, the cringe was so
strong Doctor Developer could hear it. There was a pause. "I mean, it'll
fit, but I can't see who I'm swinging at, and the last time I tried..."
"We know," a third voice spoke, "'The little gimp bit me.' Grow a pair,
already." The third voice was female, even mocking Lackey that was obvious.
Probably Boss's girlfriend or at least he figured she was.
"Why don't you?" Lackey snapped back.
"Why don't you all just *SHUT* *UP*!" Boss bellowed. It was enough to
quiet the two adults and the crying children. Boss was definitely the boss.
Doctor Developer held perfectly still, sending a message to his robotic
drone, Prototype, to follow suit. There might have just been three of
whoever they were, but there might have been more. Three people like Boss,
Lackey, and Girlfriend weren't enough to make him very concerned. They were
too old to be supers, and with only three of them they would be no match for
him, his modified Pranir blaster, and Prototype. If there were more of them,
though, it could get dicey.
The children were an unknown as well. He didn't know how many there
were. More importantly, he had a sneaking feeling if they were locked up in
a cage, they might be more wildcards than the adults. Adults might be too
old to be super, but he'd heard rumors that kids were being born with the
More information was required before he could really make a plan. All
he really knew was that a quick, quiet exit was not an option if hostages
were involved. Jennifer would never have left, which meant until she got
back, he would have to stay and not leave in her place.
He looked down at Prototype, beaming a series of commands through the
wireless system in his goggles. Without saying anything more than a couple
of parity checks and a "command received" ping, Prototype started moving down
the hallway, toward the voices. Doctor Developer hung back a few yards,
waiting until Prototype was spotted before he did anything.
Lackey was the first to the little robot, and he replied with a whoop,
followed by several rounds of gunfire. The bullets pinged harmlessly off
Prototype's body as he stood impassively in the corridor, watching and
relaying what he saw back to Doctor Developer.
Through his goggles, Doctor Developer saw what Prototype saw: three
people standing around a large, metallic cage that looked like it was
designed for ferrying wild animals with a mind for keeping them in rather
than displaying them. Doctor Developer nodded absently. If he were going to
transport a super with unknown powers, and had to make do with whatever
salvage he could find, that model cage would have been his first choice. The
children were most definitely supers, which meant rescuing them became doubly
"I thought you said nothing in here worked," Girlfriend snapped, from
her position behind the cage.
Boss snapped back, "I did! I don't know what it is!"
"It's mine," Doctor Developer yelled out.
"Who's there? This is our turf, man," Boss called back, "You get out
now, or else..."
"Or else my little robot friend shoots you?" Doctor Developer asked.
"Stand up. Drop your guns. Get in front of the cage, or else." It didn't
take long for the trio to start complying.
The situation was becoming disturbingly clear. The trio had some how
stumbled onto the location of one of the Tinker Ten's hideouts, its camoflage
holding through the end of the Second Heroic Age and the entire Third Heroic
Age until being cracked by the Big One last year. They were here for the
same reason Doctor Developer was: salvage. The difference was that he came
to remove, hide, or destroy whatever he could find. The trio no doubt came,
with the Magene-born children, to activate whatever they could find and
likely establish themselves as a power within the ruins of California.
Doctor Developer sighed and counted to himself:
1. Save the children.
2. Stop Boss from taking over California.
3. Destroy the Tinker Ten's base to ensure #2 never happens again.
Doctor Developer watched until he was sure the trio was all in view and
not going to try anything. Once they were out, he stood up as tall as he
could, tried to remember what it felt like to order his own minions around,
and briskly walked toward Prototype.
As he rounded the corner so the trio could see him, Doctor Developer
began to speak, "Before you ask any questions or make any assumptions, let me
ask one question: when was the last time you saw someone as old as I am with
one of these," he pointed to Prototype, "or one of these?" He aimed his
Pranir blaster at the floor and fired. The energy bolt burned into the metal
plating, creating a small pool of glowing slag.
"No way, man!" Lackey croaked. "No way! All you guys got..."
"You're a super...?" Boss asked.
"I'm a super-villain," Doctor Developer told him. Judging from the
looks of the trio, they couldn't have been more than children when the supers
disappeared. Hopefully they wouldn't know the difference between Violation
Technology and very advanced, hybrid-alien Normal Technology. He stepped up
to Boss and looked him square in the eye. "So, whose turf is this?"
Boss held his position for several seconds, but eventually flinched.
"Yours," he replied, his chest deflating.
"Aw, man," Lackey whimpered.
"Very good," Doctor Developer replied. "Very good."
* * * *
Running Boss and Lackey off had been done much better by Prototype than
Doctor Developer; the two had been pretty keen on becoming minions to a
super-villain. He was pretty sure a couple of low-yield blasts to the backs
of their legs extinguished those flames of hope. Girlfriend had been a bit
more persistent, and she'd seemed to pick up that he wasn't as inclined to
shoot at her. She eventually followed after Boss when she was pointedly told
that "Pragmatician" (the man who originally used that name was gone anyway,
and wouldn't mind McKay borrowing it) preferred the company of his robots.
Only when they were gone, and Prototype was standing guard by the only known
entrance, did Doctor Developer begin to open the cage.
The children had remained quiet for the most part after he'd shown up.
As he picked at the lock holding them in, he could hear quiet whimpers from
them. Like their captors, there were three children in the cage. He could
only make out that much until he finally unlocked the door.
He paused for a moment before opening the door. Children were never his
specialty. The only one he'd ever had extended contact with was Moira's boy,
Sam. He was okay with Sam, but he'd never had to deal with a Sam who had
been abducted and who knows what else. Doctor Developer silently wished
Jennifer was the one doing this. She was better at handling children,
But she wasn't here, he told himself, and until she got back, he was
going to have to be here for her.
"My name is Doc..." he stopped, and started over, pulling the door up
and open as he spoke. "Kids, my name is Deedee," he said gently. As the
door finished opening, the three children, two girls and one boy, huddled
together, their eyes tightly closed. The cage was too small for Doctor
Developer to crawl into if he was going to have to drag them out, but that
probably wouldn't go very far in convincing them he wasn't going to hurt
them anyway, so it wasn't really an option, tight fit or no.
"Are you three hungry?" he asked. That question seemed to get their
attention, enough that they opened their eyes to look at him. "I've got a
couple of these," he reached into his jacket and pulled out a pair of candy
bars, "If you want them." The three pairs of eyes in the cage looked at each
He unwrapped one of the bars, and broke it in two halves. He followed
suit with the second bar, but kept one half for himself. The other three
halves, he slid halfway into the cage, far enough for them to reach without
leaving their corner. The three kids waited until he took a bite of his half
before they moved to claim their halves.
Well, two of the kids moved. The boy, Caucasian with mop of dark brown
hair, grabbed his half and began eating. One of the girls, with medium brown
skin and equally medium brown hair, grabbed the other two halves. She kept
one half for herself, but handed off the other half to the second girl. The
second girl was very Caucasian, very pale, with deep, red hair. There was
something different about her, but...
"It's not nice to stare," the first little girl said, "just because she
Doctor Developer raised an eyebrow. He realized he ha been staring.
"You're right," he agreed with a nod, "and I apologize. I didn't know." He
paused for a second. "Did they," he pointed in the direction Boss had left,
"hurt you?" he asked.
The first girl, who seemed to be the unspoken leader of the group, which
fit with her looking a couple of years older than the other two, shook her
head. "It happened in the quake," she explained.
Doctor Developer chanced another quick stare at the second girl, turning
his goggle's scanners up as far as they would go. Another bit of re-
appropriated Pranir technology. Their bio-scanners may have been designed
for organlegging purposes, but combined with the medical diagnostic expert
system in his backpack and a wireless connection between goggles and
backpack they made for a handy medical scanner for fieldwork. There was
definitely a paralyzing fracture in her lower back, but aside from that and a
bit of malnourishment, she was as healthy as she could be. Whatever Boss and
his cronies had done, they at least did it without hurting her or, after a
quick scan, the other two.
"Is your name really Deedee?" the boy asked.
Doctor Developer shut his goggles down, and pulled them off his eyes.
"It's a nickname," he explained. "My real name is Cameron." The boy seemed
satisfied with that. "Do you have a name?"
"My name's Ralph," Ralph answered.
"Nice to meet you, Ralph," Doctor Developer replied. He looked at the
two girls. "How about you two?"
"I'm Rachel," the first girl told him. "She's Scarlet," Rachel
explained, pointing to the second girl.
"A pleasure, Rachel," he said with a nod, "Scarlet," he nodded at the
* * * *
From formal introductions onward, things went as well as Doctor
Developer could have hoped. The kids had come out of the cage after a few
more minutes of talking, and even Prototype's return didn't seem to scare
them. That was a particular godsend, because after a few quick modifications
to a wheelchair from the Tinker Ten's infirmary, Prototype became both
Scarlet's mode of transportation and babysitter, while Doctor Developer went
through ruining any possible chances for someone to use any leftover
super-tech left in the base.
He ultimately chose not destroy the base itself. It was still
structurally sound, and structurally sound buildings were in short supply and
high demand in California that year. After transmitting the location and
status to his connections within the Combine government, Doctor Developer
corralled Prototype and the kids into his transport, a not-so-fancy MI-24
helicopter he'd modified to run off of a power pack of his own design...not
as efficient as super-tech, but better than fossil fuels.
Even finding the kids' parents went better than he could have hoped.
Once Rachel got accustomed to seeing things from the air, she was able to
guide him back to the small shantytown where she and Scarlet and Ralph had
been abducted. It wasn't until he actually met the thankful parents that
complications set in.
"Please take them away from here?" Scarlet's mother asked. She managed
to keep her voice from cracking as she sent Scarlet away to show off how she
could ride around atop Prototype.
"Excuse me?" Doctor Developer asked.
Another adult, who could have been Rachel's father agreed. "Those
three...we don't know how or why...have something that no one thought think
we'd ever see again. Cragstone's gang," probably Boss and the others,
"hasn't been the first to try and get them, and they won't be the last. As
much as we love them, we can't protect them."
"And heaven only knows what would happen if someone made use of them,"
someone else interjected.
"I can't...I mean..." he hedged, "You're asking me to take them half a
continent away from you." That didn't seem to change their minds.
"Please," Scarlet's mother pleaded, "It's not safe here for my girl.
He probably could have changed their minds. There were rumors that the
Combine had a solution in mind for the new generation of supernormals, even
if these people didn't seem to believe it would happen soon enough. Plus, he
was a super-villain. Technically, he could have explained, they were asking
him permission to make their worst fear come true.
"You're no 'villain,'" he heard Jennifer's familiar voice echo.
Doctor Developer nodded. There was no other choice.
"Okay," he said, "I've got a safe place for them to stay." Maybe Moira
could offer some suggestions for raising super-powered kids. "I'll get the
copter set up for the trip. Just bring them when you're ready."
* * * *
[March 15, 2014 - Detroit, Michigan]
Several hundred miles and innumerable shed tears after leaving
California, Doctor Developer eased his helicopter onto the landing pad atop
the building that housed his lair, late of being The Four Strikes' base of
operations. None of the three children wanted to leave their home, and none
had been too concerned letting him know about it. Even though Scarlet was
the only one with a surviving parent...a parent who had declined to come
along with them...the children knew where home was.
They also knew they were being taken from it.
"Where are we?" Rachel called out from the back end of the helicopter.
The three children were strapped in as well as pre-teens could be strapped
into seats designed for fully equipped, adult soldiers.
Doctor Developer awkwardly climbed over his seat, moving into the cargo
area with the children and Prototype. Only when his feet were back on solid
plating and his coat was safe from being hung up on any controls did he begin
to answer. "We're home," he said simply. "My home...and yours now," he
explained. The answer didn't seem to satisfy Rachel. "We're in Detroit," he
"I want to go to my real home," Scarlet half-moaned and half-grumbled.
Before Doctor Developer could begin phrasing the argument for uprooting
the kids, something began banging on the outside of the helicopter. It
started on one side, causing the four humans inside the hull to jump, and
moved to the opposite side stopping just short of the hatch. After another
moment, the banging picked up again, followed by a muffled voice from
The voice shouted, "Open the door!"
"Oh," Doctor Developer exclaimed, "Right."
* * * *
By the time Moira Zimmerman stepped into the hanger bay where Doctor
Developer, Cameron to her, stored his helicopter, her son Samuel was banging
on the exterior of the hull. When he let out a loud cry, "Open the door!"
Moira shook her head. To say she'd raised Sam on her own would have been an
injustice toward Cameron's presence over the years. However, sometimes she
couldn't help but wonder if Sam's grasp of etiquette might have been stronger
without an ex-Mad Scientist acting as an impromptu father figure.
"Samuel Patrick Zimmerman!" Moira scolded.
Sam spun around just as she walked up behind him, looking ashamed.
"Sorry, mom," he apologized. His shame only lasted a moment as it gave way
to excitement. "But you know how Cam...Mister...uh...Doctor McKay is. He'd
be in there all day if I didn't remind him to come out."
Moira let out a small sigh. Sam might have been right, but any answer
she might have voiced was stifled the moment the helicopter door opened. The
hydraulics within the door let out a small hiss as its bottom half dropped
down to the ground and the top half lifted upwards. When the door was fully
opened, Moira could see the surprise Cameron had been hesitant to describe
over the radio.
"Moira," Cameron said stepping aside so she could see the three kids,
By now you probably know who Doctor Developer is, however the next
generation of Detroit's heroes are an unknown factor. What are their powers?
What are their code names? Why is this book called The Reverse Engineers?
See how Sam, Rachel, Scarlet, Ralph and the others grew up as the world
recovered and grew into the familiar one of 2026.
Not much to say this time. A quick note, if it wasn't obvious before:
Sam doesn't call Cameron by any formal name unless his mother's around. It's
tough trying to raise a kid with a Mad Scientist in the house. Christmases
are interesting, though. Oh, yes.
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