ASH: EUROPA - Infirmary Omega

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Wed Feb 18 04:56:57 PST 2015

The Academy of Super-Heroes Universe Presents:

             Eurasian Union Ruling Order Paranormal Authority
                        copyright 2015 by Tony Pi

                             Infirmary Omega


[May 15, 2026, Prison Omega, Switzerland]

     "I don't see why you can't send me to Rome HQ, Doc.  I can heal and help
them hunt Talos at the same time.
     My doctor at Infirmary Omega was only nineteen years old.  Superhuman
like me, but still.  At his age I had been lucky to pass calculus.  From the
looks of his pristine lab, the Eurasian Union had spoiled him rotten.  The
platinum-white room was dotted with bleeding-edge chrome hardware, magnesium-
alloy datapads, and rust-red cybernetics in lead glass jars.
     Caladrius adjusted the force-field clip that held my arm-cast in place.
"Request denied, Hotspur.  It took three surgeries and an induced coma to
keep you alive.  You've only been awake five days."
     "Talos killed my friends!  I can't sit idly by!"     
     "Honour their sacrifice and take the time to heal," he insisted.  "A
month has passed since your battle in Nice.  Someone with as high a Tesla
Index as you should've been back in top shape by now.  You're staying here
until we know whether your problem's biological or psychological."
     He nodded.  "We Homo sapiens magi bend reality with our minds.  You
believe in your power to sense and melt metals, to resist heat and smoke, and
so you can.  Same with our supernatural healing.  But, it cuts both ways.
Guilt, despair, or anger can sabotage our powers."
     My reputation as a hothead had preceded me.  I sighed.  Without his
medical OK, I couldn't return to active duty.  That meant I was stuck in this
super-prison infirmary.  Heroes didn't belong here.  If only this hadn't been
the closest parabiology ward that they could airlift me to in time.
     Caladrius took my wrist.  I felt my skin tingle.  "I'm reminding your
cells they can super-heal, but there's no substitute for rest."
     A voice on the intercom interrupted us.  "Doctor Caladrius, please
report to the prisoners' wing.  Dusker's picked a fight with Giantstar
again.  Broken jaw on Dusker, gash on Giantstar."
     "On my way." Caladrius stood.  "Wait here."
     A feud between two super-prisoners?  I slid off the examination table
and straightened my hospital gown.  "You might need me."
     "The guards sedate them before bringing them up, and the Anchor officers
lockdown their Magene superpowers.  Rest, Lieutenant.  Leave the doctoring to
      He dashed out of the lab before I could swear at him in three different
     In Nice, Talos had laughed off my attempts to melt through his bronze
hide.  The creature had burned with a supernatural fire, and though I'd been
impervious to his heat, I couldn't escape his crushing blows.  If Rasputin
hadn't given his own life to save me, I'd be dead.  When I'd learned of my
friend's selfless sacrifice, I'd vowed to never stand on the sidelines
     I grabbed a datapad.  "Override Alpha, dammit.  Recognize voiceprint:
Lieutenant Henry Keane, Eurasian Union Ruling Order Paranormal Authority,
code-name Hotspur."
     The screen unlocked.  I pulled up Giantstar and Dusker's prison
     Giantstar: Irish gunrunner with the Magene.  A ruthless terrorist, he
crushed his opponents by growing in size and strength, and blinding his foes
with his skin's viridian glow.
     Dusker: cyborg saboteur of the Light Brigade.  His crew of photonics
tried to turn the people of Paris into living light, and almost succeeded.
The American had no Magene and was mostly flesh, but his hardlight cybers
made him a deadly threat.  A note indicated that Dusker's implants had to be
replaced with harmless counterparts made of chrome and plastic.  
     That explained the jars on Caladrius's worktable.  The doctor had
removed those five implants, and had scheduled a final surgery to remove the
cybernetic eye.
     I compared their profiles.  Dusker was half the size of Giantstar.  Why
would he start a fight he couldn't win, much less twice?  Was this part of a
prison break?  If so, Caladrius might be in grave danger.
     I left the lab and headed for Security.  The architects had a bit of fun
with the layout of the new super-infirmary.  The staff wing resembled the
Greek letter alpha, and the prisoners' side omega.  A cross-shaped security
zone linked the two, controlling staff and patient access.  The guards had
better let me through or I'd melt my own way in, regulations be damned.
      My heart raced when I saw the zone.  There should be two guards on
duty, yet all I saw was the splatter of blood on their side of the glass
     "Find help," I shouted at an orderly behind me.
     The security door was locked, but made of mere steel.  I imagined a
half-oval arc and flash-melted the metal along the line, and kicked the panel
     I stepped inside.  To my left, an officer lay unmoving in a pool of
blood, his throat cut.  Half-hidden behind a sparking control station,
another guard clutched his own neck wound, trying to hold onto life.  No sign
of an assailant.
     I quickly knelt beside the guard.  With my left arm still broken, I
couldn't carry him out.  I could only keep him calm while we waited for help.
     Out of the corner of my eye, I saw patches of floating blood skimming
over the porcelain flooring.  Before I could act, something near-invisible
was upon me.  It leapt onto my force-field sling and started to whine like a
spinning rotary saw.
     Had it been metallic I could've shut it down, but it wasn't.  Its
invisible tendrils touched my shoulder.  Before it could reach my jugular,
however, I turned part of the fallen door into molten steel.  I rolled into
the orange-bright pool, coating my small assailant.  My hand found a mug on a
table nearby and dumped coffee onto the thing, cooling and hardening the iron
around it.
     The whirring noise stopped.
     I pried the metal mass from my shoulder and slammed it on the console.
     Help arrived.  Two medics rushed in to tend to the guard, and an officer
checked the control station, punching dead buttons in hopes that something
might still work.
     "We've got this," one of the medics said.
     I breathed a sigh of relief, but knew the threat was far from over.  I
examined the thing I'd caught.  It was a hardlight forearm, flickering
between rust-red and invisibility.  Infrared spectrum, perhaps?  Its photonic
wires had been its legs.  But wasn't this thing in a jar back in Caladrius's
     I turned to the nurse who brought help.  "Go to Doctor Caladrius's
office.  There's a cyber-arm that looks exactly like this.  Fetch the jar,
     He nodded and ran.
     "Surveillance is down, sir," the officer reported, panic in her voice.
"So are Communications and Access.  Nothing's working, including the
     "We can't wait for backup, then.  What can I expect on the other side?"
     "Two guards and two Anchors, sir," she replied.  "Doctor Caladrius and
four nurses.  If you count the two they just brought in, then six inmates."
     "No E.U.R.O.P.A. agents?" I could use superpowered help.  
     She shook her head.  "They pulled both of ours this morning to deal with
a hostage situation in Liechtenstein."
Damn, I knew the agency's spread too thin these days.  I was on my own.
     "I'll get them out." There were too many innocents at risk, and the
Anchors were useless against photonics.  And if the prisoners were all part
of the escape....
     Quicker than I expected, the nurse returned with a jar that held an
exact copy of the cyber-arm I'd caught.  He opened the jar for me, and I
reached in.  My hand passed right through the arm.  I pulled out the tiny
bead of hardlight that was projecting the illusion.  "A hologram.  They must
have freed themselves sometime ago and left these to fool us."
     Five photonic cybers must still be at large: two cybernetic hands, a
sawtooth exospine, a forearm with a mounted laser, and the cyber-eye still
embedded in Dusker's head.  
     The nurse coughed.  "Sir.  Allow me to re-tie your gown in the back."
     I'd forgotten.  My powers always shielded my clothing, so the gown had
survived my roll in molten steel.
     "Thank you." The drafty open back was unfortunate, but at least I wasn't
fighting crime nude.  "I'll need surgical scrubs.  And weapons."
               *              *              *              *

     Scrub bottoms made me feel far more decent for the coming fight.
     The officer accompanied me into the battleship-gray corridor connecting
the two wings.  "Let me go with you, sir."
     "No, I need you on this side.  Lock the door behind me, but let any
wounded through.  Watch for the hardlight critters.  They can go invisible,
and your bullets won't work against them." 
     The nurse had loaded weights from Physio onto a wheelchair for me.  My
     Were the photonic cybers trying to free Dusker, or all of the three
hundred inmates in Prison Omega?  Either way, I wasn't going to let them get
away with it.
     I opened my metal-sense to my surroundings, but it seemed harder to
taste the elements than usual.  I could normally sense all the metals in a
three-kilometer radius, but now no further than fifty meters.  Could it be
the painkillers still in my system affecting me?  Or that psychological
barrier Caladrius spoke of?
     No matter.  Short range would do here.  There was titanium in the
wheelchair, cast iron in the weights, and reinforced steel before me.  I
probed past the door into the prisoner's wing.  The layout beyond revealed
itself to me, obvious from the tempered steel wall girts and networks of
copper wiring.
     I strained to detect smaller quantities that would reveal where people
were hiding.  Wedding ring gold.  Eyeglass frames of beryllium.  Two were
cowering behind the nurses' station.  Two others lay motionless.  I feared
the worst, and pushed down the rage building inside me.  I had to stop these
infernal devices before they killed again.
     She turned the manual release wheel, opening the door slowly.  I pushed
the wheelchair forward, ready for another unseen assault.  Everything was in
Cool Down Pink, which the Swiss believed would calm aggressive inmates.  I
called to the two nurses in hiding, and saw them safely through the doorway
before the steel barrier slid shut again.
     The dead were officers in black and gold: Anchor colours.  One poor soul
had his throat crushed.  The other, her eyes burned out.  These senseless
deaths made my blood boil, and I vowed to throw Dusker in the deepest cell
and melt away the key.
     I searched for the cyborg through his metal implants, and sensed him
down the left corridor, horizontal atop a stainless steel table.  The sliding
door to the O.R. stood half-open, and tungsten carbide surgical instruments
laid strewn on the floor.  Not good.
     I wheeled the chair into the operating theatre.  Dusker was unconscious,
with a surgical sponge over a bleeding right eye.  Behind him, a hardlight
exospine was strangling Caladrius.  The doctor barely held back the exospine
from his throat, at the cost of cutting his hands on its jagged edges.  He
tried slamming the photonic against the wall, to no avail.
     Grabbing a twenty-five pound dumbbell, I started forward to free
Caladrius.  But on my first step I slipped on something round and lost my
balance, falling flat on my back.  It knocked the wind out of me, but I spied
a photonic cyber-eye rolling for the exit.  Cursing, I threw the dumbbell at
it, but missed.  I let it go; I had to save Caladrius.  
     I reached for the exospine's tailbone, but it stabbed at me scorpion-
like with its coccygeal spike.  I grabbed an IV drip stand and pinned the
exospine around its halfway point to the wall.  Thought the cyber was
weightless, it writhed with great strength, and refused to release the
     Caladrius's right hand let go of the exospine and reached for me.
     "Don't give up, Doc," I said through gritted teeth.
     But no, he was pointing at the force-field clip on my arm.
     Of course.
     I turned off the force-field, freeing my arm and cast.  I clamped the
clip onto a hardlight dorsal fin and activate it.  A thin force-field
materialized around the exospine, rendering it rigid in mid-throe.
     "Thank you, Hotspur," Caladrius said in a hoarse voice.  He tweaked the
controls, re-shaping the force-field around the exospine and eased his head
out of the chokehold.
     I grabbed the trapped cyber and dropped it into the soiled linen hamper.
"You OK, Doc?"
     Caladrius rinsed the blood off his hands and bound his wounds.  "I'll be
fine.  Know the saying, Physician, heal thyself?  Quite literal for me."
     I smirked.  "I prefer the saying, let's kick ass."
     He lifted the sponge from Dusker's face to assess the damage, then
touched his forehead with a pinky.  "His cyber-eye wrenched itself out
viciously, but I can save him.  His cells just need to cooperate."
     The cybers weren't after Dusker, I realized.  "They want Giantstar."
     Caladrius nodded.  "He creates light, which makes him the perfect
candidate to become a true photonic.  If the cybers integrate with him and
boost his latent power...."
     "He could become a being of light who could simply walk through prison
bars and glass barriers." Had this been the cybers' plan all along, to trick
Dusker into challenging Giantstar so that they'd both land in the infirmary?
The cyber-eye could have easily used false images to rile up Dusker.
     "Where's Giantstar?"
     "Isolation Room One, at the top of the omega loop." Caladrius grabbed
two cam-comm headsets and tossed one to me.  "We use these in surgery.  It'll
let me see what you see, hear what you hear."
     "Thanks.  How do we stop them?"
     "Trap the parts.  Shut down Giantstar's power before they fuse.  I'll
give you a hand once I have Dusker stable."
     He left unsaid the obvious, of course, given his oath: Giantstar's
death.  Once he became living light, weapons like mirror-bombs and glitter-
guns could destroy him.  Not that I had any, but I despised even considering
such a permanent solution.  "Thanks.  We've caught two cybers.  Let's hope
that slows them down."

               *              *              *              *

     I could hear Giantstar's scream ahead, around the bend of the tubular
corridor.  As I continued down the turn, a red laser fried the wheelchair's
left wheel.  I darted back, dodging another volley of blasts.  I might be
immune to the heat dump from prolonged beaming, but having been struck by
lasers many times in training and battle, I knew a direct hit would deliver a
shock akin to a lightning zap.
     I couldn't risk simply racing past the photonic forearm.  If I got hit,
it'd disorient me and leave me vulnerable to the other cybers.  I needed to
improvise with whatever metal I had.
     I relied on my metal-sense once more.  Wheelchair; weights; aluminum
door handles; fire sprinkler heads made of steel; and tungsten cathodes in
the fluorescent lamps above.  On the corridor wall opposite was a fire hose
station: iron in the fire axe; brass in the nozzle; and aluminum in the
extinguisher.  I could use them all, but how to get to them without being
     Stepping further back, I superheated the weights, letting them melt,
flow, and set the fabric of the wheelchair on fire.  The dark smoke would
help, but I needed more.  I flashed-heated the fire-sprinker, triggering a
shower of water over the molten metal.  An instant explosion of steam.  I
kept the pool of iron hot so the water would continue to boil and fill the
corridor with white mist.
     I ran for the fire hose cabinet.  A laser flared past my ear, but
missed.  I grabbed the fire extinguisher and hurled it down the hall towards
the photonic arm.  With a yell, I pumped a surge of heat into the canister.
The pressurized gas inside expanded explosively and burst into a cloud of
carbon dioxide.  Though nowhere near the force of a bomb, hardlight weighed
next to nothing, and I was betting that the cyber had been blown far by the
blast.  I grabbed the fire axe and dashed down the slippery-wet hallway
towards the cries of agony.
     Emerald light pulsed from the open archway of Isolation Room One.
Giantstar crouched on the floor, his prison uniform in tatters.  The bearded
man had already flattened the bed in the room with his increased weight.
Three photonic cybers had locked themselves onto his body like rusty gloves
and a cyberpunk monocle over his right eye.
     As the villain grew larger he flared green, but the cybers pulsed red
and ate that light.  Giantstar screamed and shrank, and his flesh nearest the
hardlight turned translucent.
     "Giantstar, can you hear me?" I shouted.
     "What.  Are.  You.  Doing.  To.  Me?" he managed between breaths.
     "It's not us.  Fight the cybers."
     He screamed and shone like a jade sun once more, doubling in size.  The
light almost blinded me, but I caught a large shadow striking down towards
me.  I stumbled backward right before a spiked cybernetic fist pulverized the
floor where I'd been standing.
     No reasoning with him, then.
     Something struck my upper back, sending my muscles into spasm.  Laser!
I fought through the pain, spun and threw the the axe at the cyber-arm.
Though my throw was off and only caught the cyber at an angle, it was enough
to send it skidding across the floor.
     I couldn't risk being trapped.  I retreated down the hall, sliding
through thin layer of water now coating the pale floor tiles.  Glancing back,
I saw Giantstar human-sized again, stumbling out of the isolation room.  The
laser cyber-weapon flung itself onto his right arm, latching on.
     "Did you see him, Doc?  Prognosis?" I asked through the headset.
     "The cybers are creating a positive feedback loop," Caladrius resplied.
"They inflict pain on Giantstar, forcing him to reflexively use his power.
Every time he grows, he emits paranormal light that the cyber-parts absorb to
increase their strength.  Then they hurt him even more."
     I hopped over the lump of metal that used to be the wheelchair and
weights, reheated the mass for another wall of steam, and kept going.  "How
do I break the loop without killing him?"
     "You can't, Hotspur, but I might.  I need to touch him flesh to flesh
for ten seconds."
     My metal-sense noticed that the superheated mass was being picked up.
Summoning all my power, I raised a one-meter protective sphere against all
metals just in time.  Giantstar had thrown the iron missile at my head, which
would have smashed my skull in had my barrier not superheated it into
liquefied metal.  The molten iron splashed off my back like a harmless bucket
of water.
     But my aura also melted wires, the lights, another sprinkler, and even
my headset.  I was thoroughly soaked and exhausted from using my most
powerful defense.  I dropped the protective sphere and stumbled to the O.R.
door.  "Ten seconds, Doc?  He'll tear you apart and carve you open with that
laser in three.  Can't you do it faster?"
     Caladrius pulled surgical gloves off.  "I'll try.  But I've never asked
someone's body to reject implants."
     "Maybe I can buy you the time.  I need a large mirror."
     "Vision Care, two doors down."
     "Brilliant."  I sensed the mirror ahead in amongst the ophthalmology
equipment: silver backing with a layer of copper.  "Hide and wait for an
opening," I said, and ran.
     A quick flick of the hand and I melted the screws that held the mirror
in place.  I stepped back out into the hallway holding the mirror as best I
could with a broken arm.  The laser fired on me again, but I caught the beam
and reflected it back on Giantstar, angling the ray at the side of him that
was still flesh.
     Hard to miss someone that size.
     The hit from the laser sent Giantstar into another spasm.  He grew even
larger, hardly fitting in the corridor.  He slipped on the water and fell
     "I have his foot!" Caladrius shouted from behind Giantstar.
     I pressed forward towards Giantstar.  His signature emerald glow became
blinding, but I held the mirror before me to block the light.  Perhaps it was
even too much for the cybers to absorb at once.  The cybers flickered ruby
and emerald, cycling through the two colours.
     Slowly, Giantstar calmed and stopped glowing.  Whatever Caladrius was
telling Giantstar's body, it was working.  The Irishman shrank, but unlike
other times, his body tore away from the cybers.  He bled where the hardlight
had bonded to his skin, but he was no longer a cyborg slave.  The cybers
themselves shrank, still alternating colours.  When the devices were red, the
falling water rolled off the hardlight.  But when they were green, the
droplets fell through them.  Were they transmuting into true light?  If
     "Hey, cyber-scum!"
     The laser spun to aim at me.  It flickered green.
     I threw the mirror through the emerald cyber, flash-heating a pattern of
cracks in the silver and copper.  The improvised mirror-bomb shattered into a
countless pieces of metal and glass, blasting the photonic into reflected and
refracted oblivion.
     But the other three parts sped past me, now almost steadily green.  I
spun around and saw them dash behind the nurse's station ahead.  I chased
after them.  All of a sudden, their glows vanished.  Had they turned infrared
     No.  An optical cable had been ripped out of the base of the station.
They had escaped as light through the goddamn fibres.  There was no way for
me to follow.

               *              *              *              *

     The backup crew had arrived at last from the main prison complex.  A
crew of medics tended to Dusker and Giantstar.  Caladrius and I were
compelled into wheelchairs, despite my curse-laced protests.
     While they wheeled us away side-by-side, Caladrius nudged my arm.
"Don't beat yourself up over this, Hotspur." 
     "I've let another monster escape." Security had reported that the
photonics had been spotted speeding north from the Alps to destinations
     "You saved many lives today.  That's always a good day."  Caladrius
sighed.  "This was my fault.  I shouldn't have assumed that those implants
were safe once detached from Dusker."
     "You redeemed yourself in there, Doc.  Thanks for your help."
     I couldn't stop every villain that came my way, not by myself.  Just
like I learned in Nice, and here today.  Even if I trained to boost my
powers, which I fully intended to do, there's always that danger.  I worked
best with teammates as Rasputin, as Caladrius.  People who had each other's
     Doc had been right.  First, I needed to heal.  I could help the warden
with the holes in his security while I was here.  Then I'd take it upon
myself to recruit and train stronger teams in E.U.R.O.P.A., starting with
Caladrius.  "You're too good to stay stuck in a lab," I told him.
     "Combat medic, Doc.  Give it some thought."


Editor's Notes:

     If you're reading this from the ASH archive, you probably know what all
is up, other than the fact that this story was originally written for
submission to a magazine, in the same way the Zoo of Malice origin story was.
     However, if you're reading this from Tony Pi's page, and don't want to
go wading through all the material on the ASH webpage (which is also linked
from Tony's page), here's a precis:
     The setting was a fairly "standard" superhero world, with WWII Golden
Age heroes, more "realistic" science-based superheroes in the Silver Age, and
a Bronze Age that went totally nuts in the 1990s as gods out of myth returned
and used advanced marketing techniques to win over worshippers.  Okay, that
last bit isn't standard.  And it led to the near annihilation of humanity
when the gods called in their markers.  July 6, 1998 saw two thirds of the
world's population vanish into nothingness, and only the sacrifice of nearly
every superhuman on the planet stopped it from being three thirds.
     Most ASH stories, such as the one you just read, take place a generation
later, as the first superhumans born after 1998 come into adulthood and
positions of authority.  The world is rather different, barely having
survived the events of 1998, and a handful of supernations such as the
Eurasian Union and North American Combine dominate the diminished population.
EUROPA is the EU's main superhero team, a mix of super-spies and more public
cape-waving sorts.  Hotspur is recovering from injuries sustained fighting an
incursion from a generation farther into the future, while the photonics
resulted from one of the few surviving villains of the 20th Century.
     Caught between the past and the future, the present is a touch
complicated, yes?


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