Dr. Walter Glass wasn’t exactly in his natural element to begin with. Bustling crowds, throngs of people: Glass preferred quiet solitude. He avoided going out when he could get away with it: he did most of his shopping over the OmniNet, and relied on delivery services for groceries and quick meals. He even did most of his socializing through OmniNet forums, messaging apps and email.

Add into that swirling mix of social anxieties the potential prospects of this meeting and… well, it was understandable that Dr. Glass seemed (to put it mildly) on edge.

"Dr. Glass?"

Walter had been looking off in a different direction, and so was taken by surprise by the voice that called his name. He turned and saw a tall, beautiful Elven woman, with sparkling violet eyes and golden hair pulled up into a graceful bun atop her head. A pair of delicate, silver-rimmed glasses sat on the bridge of her nose, and a light smile came to her crimson lips.

“Y-y-yes,” Walter said, standing uneasily from his seat and offering his hand. "I’m Dr. Glass. Dr. Walter Glass."

The Elven woman took the scientist’s hand and shook it lightly. “Muse Neladain.”

“Yes yes, thank you for meeting with me!” Dr. Glass awkwardly kissed Ms. Neladain’s hand, and gave an overly gracious bow. "Won’t you please, madam, have a seat at my table, with me?.."

The woman smirked, thinking more loudly than she would remark aloud at Dr. Glass’ somewhat wanting interpersonal skills, and eagerly withdrew her hand. Gracefully, she took the seat opposite Dr. Glass. The table was a small round surface, small enough to almost just be a stool on its own, as was the style in trendy coffee shops across the Web. The rest of the storefront was filled with other tiny tables just like it, and those fortunate enough to grab one of the corner booths found slightly more spacious seating (in addition to access to wall outlets for charging laptops, tablets and phones).

“I have to say, I was surprised to hear from you,” Dr. Glass said. “I’ve been working at Kuat for so long, and I’ve tried so hard to send my ideas up the chain. Get someone to notice me. Someone, anyone, you know?” A nervous laugh. “It’s just surprising that you actually got my grant request. Again, I never thought the brass would notice me.“

The woman’s smile grew wider. “I’m afraid I’ve misrepresented myself a tiny bit,” she said. “You see I’m not with Kuat.”

”… No?”

“Oh my, no,” Ms. Neladain said. “As you said, they don’t seem to appreciate your work very much. The why of it is baffling, to be quite honest…” The woman produced a small manilla folder from her briefcase, set it on the small table and began to leaf through several memos, copies of schematics, and black and white copies of photographs. "Based on everything I’ve heard, seen or read, the Gnome Defense Field on Kuat’s mecha wouldn’t have been possible without your insight into solid light construct technology."

Dr. Glass blushed. “Yes, well… I was part of a team effort on that one.”

“Nonsense,” the woman said, "If that were the case, why did Damien Gavalian himself single you out to build a new solid light construct system for the superhero known as the Shield?"

Dr. Glass chuckled nervously. “Wow, you know lots of things… that… maybe you shouldn’t…”

“And even then, did you get a corner office? A pay raise?.. A dedicated team to work under you and make your designs a reality?.. even the courtesy of a phone call or email in response to your grant request?” Ms. Neladain stared intently at Dr. Glass. "You’re an expert, a leader, in the field of SLCs. And Kuat is just sitting on you, with you tucked into their back pocket, collecting dust and wasting the best years of your career."

Dr. Glass wasn’t used to hearing praise for his work. It was all a bit overwhelming. “Well. Gosh. I mean, thank you, I guess.” Laughing nervously, he reached across the table to take Ms. Neladain’s hand. She saw what he was doing, and politely (but quickly) withdrew her hand off the table. Playing it off as all part of the gesture, Dr. Glass left his hand sitting on the table, waving his fingers meaningfully (?) in Ms. Neladain’s direction. "It means… so much, to me… for you, of all the people in the Web of Worlds, to say those words… which you have said…"

Ms. Neladain cut him off: “Which is why we are here today, Dr. Glass.”

Dr. Glass suddenly remembered himself. “Oh. Yes, of course. … Wait… so if you’re not with Kuat, how did… who are you?”

“All you need to know is that I represent a concern that is very much interested in your work, Dr. Glass,” she said. "We want to fund you and help you grow. Help you flourish. Have you considered the non-military applications of some of your inventions? The way you could change basic life across the Web of Worlds?"

Dr. Glass fumbled. All of the positive attention was really getting to him; he had never sat and been subjected to so much positive reinforcement at any other point in his entire life. "Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I often think of myself as a… neat guy, who does, things… which…"

The elven woman slid a thumb drive across the table. "Here is your first assignment, my friend. If you’re willing to work with us, that is."

Dr. Glass balked. He knew that doing work for an outside organization would put him in violation of basically everything he’d ever put his name to as an employee of Kuat… but in that moment, believing as he now did that a utopian future for the entire Web of Worlds depended entirely upon his ability to, as Ms. Neladain had put it, “flourish,” mere conflicts of interest and the binding terms of non-disclosure and non-compete clauses seemed such small and petty things. “… What is it?”

“One of my firm’s clients is a major metropolitan emergency services department somewhere in the Core…” Ms. Neladain frowned apologetically. “At this point in our relationship, I’m going to maintain the thinnest veneer of anonymity in my capacity as an intermediary.”

“Oh, of course,” Dr. Glass said, suddenly wondering which of the great cities in the Web would be the first to erect a statue of him. In gold. He repeated the word “Intermediary” silently under his breath, as if toying with it for the first time.

"Local police forces, particularly in the Esper Dimension, have toyed with the idea of fielding small squads of mecha for some year now, but thus far only pilot programs have got any kind of a start. Some major cities have seen the value of fielding all robotic squads for search and rescue operations. My client-city, however, has drawn inspiration from a different source… one that, I’m told, you are quite familiar with."

From her briefcase, Ms. Neladain produced anther dossier, and opened it to reveal a number of images of the Shield.

“Oh! I met him!!” Dr. Glass said, excitedly. “He’s my friend.”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Ms. Neladain replied, cooly. “And as we touched on, you also worked at Mr. Gavalian’s direction to improve the Shield’s defensive suite by building for him --”

“Best friends, really,” Dr. Glass clarified. “I went to a party at his house once. Well, not his house, but he lives there, with several of his other friends. Who are not as good friends with him as I am, really.”

“How wonderful,” the woman said, clearing her throat. "So what we’re interested in, Dr. Glass, is some kind of a suit… a super-suit, if you will?.. not quite as bulky as Seraphim power armor per se… but something that nonetheless would employ your solid light energy field technology that would be useful for emergency services… police, fire, rescue, et cetera."

Dr. Glass smirked and chuckled. "Sounds like you want me to build something to make someone a superhero!"

Ms. Neladain nodded. “Yes, something like that.”

“I actually did have a few ideas on… that idea, before,” Dr. Glass said. He pressed his violet-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose. “You may have seen it on the OmniNet before, actually.”

“Oh really?” Ms. Neladain asked. “Do tell.”

“Well, as you probably know from your very well-researched dossier, I write fan fiction on a TunaPages board called Kimuland… one of my mains there is a hero named Prism Man, who fights against the evil Lord EvoNed and his Dark Kimu using the powers of the electromagnetic spectrum.“

Ms. Neladain arched an eyebrow. She understood basically none of what Dr. Glass had just said to her.

“In one of my stories, Prism Man and the Shield are best friends, and the Shield lets Prism Man be his sidekick forever.”

“Well that’s fascinating,” the woman said, forcing a smile. “Do I take all of this… stuff you’re saying right now to mean that you’ll get to work on a prototype for us? We can discuss payment and so forth after you can provide us with a demonstration of whatever you produce.”

“I actually have a drawing of what Prism Man’s costume looks like!” Dr. Glass drew his wallet out of his back pocket, and produced a folded up sheet of paper. Unfolding it and laying it flat on the table, it was a pencil-sketch (colored with crayon) of a man wearing a purple-spandex suit, with accessories of various colors representing all the colors of the visible spectrum of light. “His secret identity works as an underappreciated research scientist for a major arms and technology manufacturer.”

”… You don’t say,” Ms. Neladain said. "And you just keep this in your wallet with you, wherever you go?"

Dr. Glass laughed to himself. “Well, yes. I don’t really enjoy bragging, but I’m very proud of Prism Man. In fact you could say I modeled him a little bit after myself.” He carefully folded the sheet of paper and replaced it back in his wallet. “Ms. Neladain, I have come to a decision. I will do this thing for you, that you’ve asked me for. But I have only one condition before I do it.”

“Yes? What’s that?”

“I must retain all rights to the Prism Man character, any merchandising rights that follow witherto, and if our partnership should result in the production of a Prism Man movie and/or television series or possibly video game franchise, I simply cannot think of any actor who could capture the essence of the Prism Man character more adceptably than myself, yours sincerely.”

“Well naturally. I wouldn’t have even considered anyone else.” Ms. Neladain sighed, somewhat exasperated. She considered telling Dr. Glass that his participation in this venture did not necessarily require him to involve his sad fictional alter ego… but ultimately judged that would be counter-productive now that he had essentially agreed to play along. And, besides which, Ms. Neladain’s employer may have had this in mind all along anyway. (he did have an uncanny talent for anticipating the impossibly unexpected) "How soon do you suppose you might have the prototype ready to test?"

Dr. Glass leaned forward, resting an elbow on the table suavely. The small table then tilted unexpectedly, set off-balance by the weight that Dr. Glass had put on it, and clattered to the floor. Dr. Glass pitched forward awkwardly, fumbling in his attempt to steady himself and not face-plant. Suddenly all eyes in the coffee shop were on Dr. Glass as he struggled to regain his seat, right the fallen table and collect Ms. Neladain’s various scattered papers and dossiers with a single, continuous and extremely awkward gesture. The Elven woman just pressed her hand to her forehead and shut her eyes, shaking her head sadly.

Playing the whole thing off by patting the table gently, handing Ms. Neladain a jumbled stack of papers and then resting his elbow on his knee instead, Dr. Glass arched an eyebrow and stated: "Extremely soon, pretty woman. You might say that ‘soon’ is Dr. Walter Glass’ middle name."

It wasn’t. It was Eustace. But, having deftly avoided falling over completely in the attempt to deliver a cutting witticism, Dr. Glass believed he had made his point.

::Rooftop, APDHQ, Albrook::

Detective Bronze sipped at his coffee. He hadn’t been up on the rooftop for long, but the chill in the air had already made his once-steaming beverage ice cold.

The Shield had given him a one-way signalling device, and this was his first time putting it to use. It seemed rather odd, backwards even, for a hero like the Shield. I mean, the man flies around in cutting-edge Seraphim power armor, and the tech to call for him is basically a glorified pager?..

Regardless, this would be the first time he saw fit to give it a try. He wondered how long it would take for –

“Detective,” came a voice from behind him.

Bronze started and nearly spilled his frigid coffee. "Gods above!!.. How do you fly around, land right behind me in that bulky armor and not make a damn sound?!?"

The Shield shrugged nonchalantly. "Must just be another part of what makes me so ‘super,’ I guess. You called?"

Bronze furrowed his brow. “Yes I did,” he said. "I know you’ve been palling around with a couple of others when you do what you do in my city. But have you added anyone new to the roster lately?"

The Shield took a beat. “Not that I know of. Why do you ask?“

Detective Bronze pulled his phone out of his pocket, unlocked it and scrolled through to a series of pictures. He offered his phone to the Shield, who began swiping through them.

”… How do you do that without taking off those robo-gloves?” Bronze asked.

The Shield laughed. “Sorry to disappoint you if I ruined your clever scheme to capture my fingerprints,” he said, "But the gauntlets are designed with rubber pads that can operate a touch screen. What am I looking at?.."

Bronze grumbled as he choked down a sip of his coffee. “We’ve taken these photos over the last several nights. Our helicopter pilots first spotted it on routine patrol. There’ve been nine other sightings since, all centered around the Corporate Enclave.” Bronze took a beat, then made the reveal: "It’s a flying man."

The Shield shook his head as he swiped through the pictures. “That’s MY thing. He’s stealing MY thing.”

“Yes, well, why do you think I brought you here?” Bronze found it disconcerting that he could read absolutely no expression through the visor of the Shield’s helmet. “Your thoughts?”

“Well, he’s not exactly like me,” the Shield said. “He’s not wearing power armor: that outfit is woefully skin-tight. And he’s not very muscular… Possibly a wizard of some kind? Could be flight magic. Actually, given the percentage of the Web population that actually does practice magic, I’m surprised you don’t have more stuff like this happen from time to time in Albrook.”

“You’re forgetting the bank robbing-mage that your sword-wielding friend dealt with,” Bronze said.

"Well, yeah, but he didn’t fly!"

Bronze reached over and swiped to another picture of the flying man. “Well, what do you make of that?” he pointed at what looked like a gauntlet on the man’s hand.

The Shield looked closely. "Hmm. That could be tech. Hard to say from a blurry picture on a crappy phone. I mean, seriously? This is the best an APD Detective’s salary can afford?.."

Bronze snatched the phone back and tucked it away in his coat pocket. “You’re one to talk, with this signal-device thing. I mean, I might as well get a spotlight to shine up in the sky or something.”

“Hey. The one-way signaller is great. I got here faster than a delivery boy working for tips.”

“Color me unimpressed. You want a tip? How about you take a swing by the Corp Enclave and see if you can lay eyes on our flying man?”

"You know, where I come from, we have this thing we say sometimes: ‘Please.’ It’s considered polite to use when asking someone to go and do your policework for you."

Bronze sighed audibly. "You are making me seriously reconsider the understanding I’ve made with you. Just go see if you can gauge this guy, and if he’s something like you maybe you can bring him into the fold."

Shield gave a small salute, as he began to levitate off the ground. “Will do, Detective. I’ll let you know what I find out.”

From his perch on the rooftop above, Osprey watched.

His eyes were trained on a martial arts studio. It was after 10 pm, and the studio’s lights had long since gone out and the owners left for home. Still, he waited and watched.

His eyes fixed as he saw a car with dark tinted windows roll up in front of the studio. The front doors opened, and out stepped a pair of thickly-muscled men in suits – professional bodyguards, naturally – who then moved toward the rear of the car. One of them opened one of the rear doors, and out stepped a slight, feminine figure. She moved without concern for the vehicle or the two bodyguards, walking around the front of the car and approaching the empty martial arts studio. As she unlocked the front door and stepped inside, the two bodyguards positioned themselves to either side.

Osprey took to the air. He couldn’t fly the way Terry could, but somewhere between his avian evolutionary heritage and his training as an elite covert operative, he was one hell of a jumper. So much so that he moved from a rooftop across the street onto the roof of the martial arts studio in a single bound, tucking and rolling into a perfect landing.

Osprey froze in place and listened attentively for a moment for any of the tell-tale signs that he might have been spotted. None evidenced themselves: the bodyguards’ heart rates had not fluctuated, they had not taken to running inside the studio to protect their charge, and they had, in fact, struck up a conversation with one another (the topic of which was somewhat unflattering toward their mistress).

Noiselessly, Osprey darted forward, across the rooftop and toward the door that afforded entry to the building’s rooftop access stairs. His time was limited, but Osprey was not worried. This was not a high-security infiltration: it was a common civilian deadbolt lock. He could pick it in his sleep. (and yes, he actually did put his lockpicking skills on his resume, but alas to no avail)

Once again, without a single sound to betray him, he descended the stairs and entered the still darkened martial arts studio. Curious. Had his target not turned on the lights? Had she somehow decided to leave? … Had she maybe changed her mind about meeting him?..

Suddenly Osprey felt something cold against the back of his neck. Cold, and sharp. He froze.

“Brilliantly done,” came a voice from behind him.

Osprey bowed his head. "I should say the same. You have bested me. That does not happen often."

The lights turned on, and Osprey turned around. Kamiko stood there, holding a marvelously crafted Eblanese katana. In a single, fluid motion, she replaced it in its scabbard, then moved to a nearby sword rack and placed it carefully back where it came from.

“I am glad for the invitation,” Osprey said, admiring some of the photographs and wall art that decorated the studio. “You come here often?.. So late at night?”

“The owners are… friends of my family,” Kamiko said, knowing that “friends” was, perhaps, not the right word, but that the truth wasn’t something she could share freely with her guest. “When I first came to Albrook to study, they extended the open invitation, allowing me use of the dojo whenever I should please. I had not taken them up on the offer before tonight because I had no sparring partners to bring with me.”

“You could have come to spar with some of the students who train here during the day,” Osprey suggested. "Or, perhaps one of your bodyguards."

Kamiko scoffed, as if the idea were silly on its face. She regarded Osprey. "Does it not please you that I thought to bring you here instead?"

Osprey would have blushed, if such a thing could register on his avian face. "I suppose it does."

Kamiko drew a pair of wooden swords from the rack, and tossed one to Osprey. He caught it effortlessly.

“I have never sparred with a partner from one of the Guardian schools before,” Kamiko admitted.

“My style of fencing is not at all dissimilar to traditional Eblanese kenjutsu,” Osprey said. "I trust I shall not disappoint you."

Kamiko made no expression at this, but merely said: “If I found you in any way disappointing, we would not be standing here right now.” With a sharp cry, Kamiko lunged forward, but Osprey was ready for her and parried her blow effortlessly. He attempted to counter, but she blocked him and spun aside.

“That was not kenjutsu,” Osprey observed, recovering from the briefest moment of surprise.

Kamiko shrugged. “I never said I would stay within my school, Osprey.”

From his perch on the rooftop above, Prism Man watched.

He spied the scene below him with keen interest: a shadowy figure watching a car pull up in front of a darkened martial arts studio. Two men and a woman exit the vehicle, and then the figure on the rooftop springs into action, leaping across the street to the adjacent rooftop, then sprinting toward the roof access door.

The thin man in the ridiculous outfit clapped his hands together and squealed. Although he was new to the superhero game, he knew that the enemies of heroes were often ninjas. AND HE HAD JUST SEEN A NINJA ON ONE OF HIS NIGHTLY PATROLS.

Prism Man reached down to his belt and pressed a button, activating his googles’ vid-recording device. Ms. Neladain and her mysterious employer would love this! With a dramatic flourish (suddenly Dr. Glass regretted that he had not included a cape in his preliminary designs), Prism Man activated his repulsorboots and flew (with surprising grace and lack of clumsiness) down toward the martial arts studio below.

In his nightly flights, Dr. Glass had had occasion to test many of his suit’s capabilities. The repulsorboots allowed for flight, which would be invaluable for first responders arriving on the scene of a fire or other rescue situation. His spectrometric goggles gave him enhanced visual scanning capability (something like what he believed the Shield’s visor allowed for), which told him that there were only two people inside the dojo as well as two outside. The level of detail he was able to scan inside the building showed him that the two figures were presently engaged in a sword fight (HOW EXCITING!!!). The onboard computer presented tactical analyses and projected them right into his goggles’ HUD, showing him targetting information and analysis of his targets’ weapons (wood swords?.. clearly the ninja means to bludgeon his victim to death in order to confuse the police detectives later).

But here was a unique opportunity to test the centerpiece of the Prism Man suit design: his SLC generation matrix. Concentrating, he threw up a bodyshield of solid light, which surrounded him and all his gear and equipment like a full-body halo of shimmering yellow light, just a centimeter or so out from his outer layer.

Faster than Kamiko’s bodyguards could respond, Prism Man shot down from above, crashed through the front windows of the studio, and came to a landing on the tatami floor.

“Stop, ninja!” Prism Man said, holding up his hand. Both Kamiko and Osprey froze, unsure of what to make of the intrusion. "Leave the very attractive Eblanese woman alone and come out with your hands up!"

There was a pause.

“So… Do you think he’s referring to you or me?” Osprey said, half-turning toward Kamiko.

Kamiko’s bodyguards leapt in through the shattered window. One of them drew a pistol with suppressor, the other a pair of short Eblanese daggers. As the dagger guard charged forward, the other one levelled his gun and fired three times in Prism Man’s direction. The bullets struck Prism Man’s solid light field, but apart from a neat visible ripple effect caused no noticeable damage.

Prism Man turned toward his new opponents. As the dagger-wielding guard got to within striking distance, Prism Man threw a punch – literally. He wound up in a pantomime punching motion, and as he did, a solid-light boxing glove emerged from his suit’s energy field (this time, the effect was made of green light) and covered the remaining distance to take a swing at the bodyguard, pounding him into the far wall and sending his daggers clattering away across the room. The other bodyguard threw his useless gun aside and ran full-clip at Prism Man, but the giant green boxing glove caught him with a wicked backhand, sending him flying into the opposite wall, whose room-length mirror was now shattered to pieces.

Osprey drew Shiva’s Edge off his back, while Kamiko leapt to retrieve her bodyguard’s daggers. Prism Man turned back to face them, and placed his hands on his hips. “Oh I get it,” Prism Man said. "You’ve been affected by a ninja mind trick, and don’t realize that I am here to save you from the ninja bird. Don’t worry, I’ll still save you. PRISM MAN IS HERE!!"

Osprey and Kamiko exchanged glances. Kamiko struck first, surging forward, then quickly feinting aside and trying to stab Prism Man in the back with one of her daggers. The field flickered and turned blue, and as it did a jolt of energy charged up Kamiko’s blade and shocked her, sending her tumbling to the floor.

Osprey was in motion before Prism Man had time to process Kamiko’s attack. Leaping into the air, both of his taloned hands clutching the hilt of his sword, he brought it down hard on Prism Man’s head. The now-blue field of light turned indigo then, and though the hammer-like force of Osprey’s attack knocked Prism Man down a bit, it still reflected an energy-based attack at Osprey just as it had at Kamiko. Neither attack, however, had breached the strange little man’s defenses or harmed him in any discernable way.

“Okay, okay okay,” Prism Man said, as he scrambled to his feet. "You each got a free shot in. Now it’s my turn."

He extended his hands, and into each he manifested a glowing purple-bladed sword. “Just like a Damogun beam saber,” Prism Man mused, with a squeaky chuckle. Clumsily, Prism Man lunged forward, mounting a flailing, off-balance attack focused on Osprey. Osprey was able to deflect the attacks with Shiva’s Edge, but the sparks that the beam sabers were sending up made him suspect that a normal sword might have been sliced clean through by the energy weapons. He moved back steadily at Prism Man’s advance; he was an unskilled opponent and his random strikes were easy enough to deflect or dodge, but the weapons he was attacking with were frightfully dangerous, and his impregnable full-body shield meant that any counterattack would be futile. Osprey’s one hope was to keep this “Prism Man” focused on him, away from Kamiko… and to delay him long enough for help to arrive…

Which it did, in the form of the Shield (responding after Osprey surreptitiously activated his own one-way signalling device) flying in through the shattered front window and slamming into Prism Man. Prism Man tumbled over, still clutching his beam sabers, slicing and burning the tatami floor as he slowly rolled to a stop. He retracted the sabers and stood, only to be face-to-face with his idol.

“Why, the Shield!” Prism Man said, smiling broadly. “You’re here to help me!”

“Help you?..” the Shield said.

“Yes. I was attacked by ninjas. Clearly you’re here to help me clean them up and win the day.”

“Look, sir,” the Shield said, “I don’t know who you are, but --”

“Oh, it’s me. Walter.” Prism Man said – suddenly realizing he probably wasn’t supposed to say that in front of civilians and/or ninjas.

The Shield stood there, stunned. "… Walter? Walter Glass???“

Prism Man chuckled. “Well, way to blow my cover, there, newbie!” Prism Man laughed awkwardly, waiting for the others in the room to join in (they didn’t). “Secret identity much?!?”

“Walter, what in all the hells are you doing?”

“Well, it was SUPPOSED to be a big surprise,” Prism Man said, “But I’m gonna start doing what you do now! I’m a super hero. I’m helping you!”

“No, you’re not,” the Shield said. “Leaving aside, for a moment, the fact that you’ve totally trashed this martial arts studio… you’ve attacked my friend Osprey --”

“Oh. Oh! Oh hey, I remember you now! From the party, right? Gosh, I was saying to myself the whole time I was trying to kill you: ‘Don’t I know this ninja from somewhere?..’”

”-- as well as Tahi Kurita’s daughter and her bodyguards."

Prism Man blinked. “I’m sorry, should I know who that is?..”

“Lord of House Kurita,” Kamiko said. "Of Eblan."

Prism Man chuckled nervously. “Sorry, sorry. My bad, homies! I don’t keep up with current events really. Mostly just read science news, and fan media. Video game reviews…”

“Walter,” the Shield said, "This isn’t funny. You are in some serious trouble here…"

Prism Man faltered. “C’mon, man. It’s no big deal, right? I’m sorry. I was just… I was testing the suit to make sure I was ready to help you do your thing… dog…?”

“I’m afraid that’s not good enough,” The Shield approached Prism Man. “Let’s turn off your toys now and go talk to the authorities.”

“The authorities!?” Prism Man balked. He took a step away from the Shield. "You… You’re arresting me? You can’t be serious! I’m a hero, like you! We’re on the same side!.. we’re friends!"

The Shield paused. “You know I have to,” he said. “I’m sure once you explain everything, they’ll be lenient with you. I know you didn’t mean to cause any harm…”

“But you can’t arrest me,” Prism Man said, holding back tears. “W-w-we… We’re friends…” He began muttering to himself, mostly inaudibly, but those around him could catch snippits: "… not how the story goes… this isn’t how it happens… best friends, sidekicks…"

There was fragile hope in his voice. But the Shield remained firm.

“If that’s true, if you ARE my friend… then come with me to see the police.”

“NO!!!” Prism Man lashed out; a wave of solid red light knocked everyone on their backs. “This isn’t how the story goes!! Prism Man doesn’t get arrested!! YOU’RE NOT DOING WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING, TERENCE SHALE!!! YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE MY FRIEND!!!“

With a pained wail, Prism Man activated his repulsorboots and shot up through the ceiling, crashing his way through the small studio’s rooftop and out into the night sky.

Shakily, the Shield propped himself up on his elbows. He looked out through the hole in the roof, into the night sky, as “Prism Man” flew away.

”… secret identity, much?” the Shield muttered.

Subject: The End of an Era

From: prismarific@tunapages.ts (Prismarific)

Date: 12 Feb 43 WR 01:36:16 AMT

((OOC: I know that this is a terrible time for this to happen, with the Wanndig War finally in full swing and Prism Man having such a pivotal role in that storyline… but things in my life have just taken a turn for the worse and I may have to go on hiatus for a while. I don’t know how long. Garry, Yllidel, I’m sorry for letting you guys down like this, but hopefully this will just be a small bnump in the road and I can be back to my regular posting schedule in a few days, once things are sorted out on my end…))

::Somewhere high in the skies over the Amite-Wanndig Border::

::with the Wanndig Covenant rattling the saber, all able-bodied men (and also women, because they have equal rights) were called on to defend the realm of goodness. No man (or woman) was so desperately called for to help protect the Amite Empire than the mighty Prism Man, the Hero of Light, desired by women and admired by men (and also desired by some men, because gay people have rights, too). In fact it was Prince Tyngreil himself who called Prism Man on his personal phone and asked him to scout out Wanndig positions along the border to make sure they could not sneak across and harm the Empire.

::Only a great hero like Prism Man would be entrusted with this mission. And they knew he would succeed, because he was such a great, amazing hero, and he was handsome as well. And he would also succeed because everyone knew that he would take his sidekick The Shield with him, and they were such great friends that they would be successful with the power of true friendship – which was a power that only they had.::

The Shield: Prism Man! Look, down there, it looks to be an abandoned Wanndig military camp!

Prism Man: By the Light, you’re correct, The Shield! Let’s fly down there and have a gander.

::The two best friends, holding hands, descended from ther skies and landed. The camp was a mess, but it looked like it was only recently abandoned.::

Prism Man: This camp looks like it was only recently abandoned.

The Shield: How can you tell that, Prism man?

Prism Man: Look, the campfire is still smoky and hot.

The Shield: Wow, what keen powers of observation you possess, Prism Man!

Prism Man: This is why I am known as the greatest detective in all of the universes.

::he was the greatest detective, it’s true, that’s why crime in the Amite Empire had fallen 98% since he came there::

Prism Man: Wait, something isn’t right. ::inspects one of the tents:: Look at this. Whoever was in this tent left his spear here. A Wanndig warrior would never leave his weapon behind. Something doesn’t add up, The Shield…

The Shield: Oh, you think so? ::punches Prism Man::

Message Box: Prism Man gets whacked!!!

Prism Man: Agh!!! ::flies back in pain and smashes into a huge bolder, which shatters:: The Shield, what up holmes? Why did you punch me?

The Shield: Because I am a traitor. You see, I knew the Prince would send us to scout here. So I came along with you, but sent a message ahead to the Wanndigs so they would know we were coming. It’s a trap; so much for the greatest detective.

::suddenly several Wanndig warriors emerge from their hiding places, brandishing their evil swords and spears.::

Wanndig General: Thank you, The Shield. You have brought us the mighty Prism Man, great hero of the Empire. With him out of the way, we will capture the City of Am and become the most powerful kingdom in all of Kimuland.

The Shield: You are welcome, but don’t call me The Shield anymore. Call me… Evil Shield. My old life as a hero is now over; from now on, I will be evil and I will serve the Wanndig Covenant.

Prism Man: You won’t get away with this. My powers are great and I will fight.

Evil Shield: You fool! When you were busy looking at that spear, I removed the power source from your suit! Your powers are gone!!

Prism Man: Damn you, Evil Shield! How could you do this to me? How could you betray me! You were my brother and my best friend and I loved you, not in a gay way!

Evil Shield: Well, I’m sorry. I did love you, too, maybe in a gay way, but I’m not sure, I’m emotionally confused and not very smart. But really I think I was jealous of you, how powerful and brilliant and handsome you are. You always got all of the ladies and I never had any, but I might be gay so I’m not sure. I could be making a huge mistake that I will regret later.

Prism Man: You will regret this! The Wanndigs have no honor, and they will probably betray you.

Evil Shield: Maybe. It would be easy to betray me, I’m not very smart. But now, I am evil. And I hate you. Maybe with you out of the way I will get some of the ladies, if I’m not gay.

Wanndig General: Enough of this emotional display of a broken friendship!! Men, take Prism Man and enslave him to our custody!! For the Covenant!

Prism Man: Nooooooooooooooooooooo

::Balling his fists, Prism Man tries to fight back against the Wanndigs, but it is no use. The large, muscular soldiers close in around him, wielding their weapons. One after another, he takes powerful weapon strikes; they tear his uniform and bloody him badly, but still Prism Man continues to fight. He is so brave and so strong, even without his powers, but not even Prism Man could hold back so many Wanndig soldiers (although he does kill five of them in the melee, and severely wounds another 3 with broken bones). Badly beaten, bleeding profusely, Prism Man is subdued, chained up and taken away by the soldiers.

Wanndig General: Thank you, Evil Shield. Now you are one of us, and you will help the Covenant to crush the Amite Empire.

Evil Shield: Yes. This will go down as one of the most evil betrayals in the history of every universe.

Wanndig General: It will. You are a good traitor and we are happy to have you. In fact now I will make you one of our Generals of the Covenant Army. Even without Prism Man, you are quite formidable and strong.

    • *

      Subject: Re: The End of an Era

      From: garrytyme@tunapages.ts (GarryTYME)

      Date: 12 Feb 43 WR 09:15:46 AMT

      … well. That was… strange. Did you just make the Shield gay, and a badguy?..

Walter had a head start on the Shield, and apparently he’d made good use of it.

Terry started to wonder if maybe his time in Albrook had made him soft: “Prism Man” was, after all, new to the whole super-suit-with-powers game, yet despite that and the fact that he was wearing brightly-colored spandex and had the ability to make glowing solid neon light constructs that were sure to draw the attention of anyone without serious vision impairment, he appeared to have effectively vanished into the night.

He felt a little guilty… okay, more than just a little. That last outburst in the martial arts studio was clearly pained; Walter didn’t have a lot of friends (or, maybe, any friends) and appeared to have taken his association with the Shield to heart. Even if Terry hadn’t been in any way responsible for the formulation of Dr. Glass’ curious alter ego, he silently wondered if, perhaps, there might have been a better way to handle his confrontation with “Prism Man.”

Maybe if he’d been just a little bit nicer to Dr. Glass when he showed up unannounced at Roxanne’s party. Maybe if he’d made more of a show of recognizing Dr. Glass for the work he’d done on the Vanguard shield module. … maybe if he hadn’t pretended to not have gotten all of those text messages (even if, it must be said, Terry had never actually given Walter his number…)…

“Are you sure you don’t want help?” Osprey’s voice came over the comms in the Shield’s helmet.

“I’ve got this one, Os,” the Shield said, as he banked hard for another pass over the Corporate Enclave. It was the Shield’s responsibility; the Shield had a hand in making Prism Man, now he had to find him before anyone else got hurt.

“Aren’t we past the whole ‘I’m a loner’ cliche, after all we’ve been through?”

“This is different, Os.”

"How? Haven’t you figured out yet that you don’t have to go it alone anymore? You’ve got people you can rely on here."

Terry said nothing. He accelerated as he swept between two tall office buildings down Rimmel Street. There was no way a mere human’s senses could take in all of the information as it flew past his visor, but fortunately for the Shield, his suit’s sensors suite was able to work a knotch or two faster than the naked eye.

“You think it’s your fault, is that it?”

“Just let me do this, Os,” the Shield said, as he turned to circle around the block again.

“You’re smarter than that, Shield.” Osprey was well-practiced at minding his friend’s secret identity, even over secured communications. “Let me help you.”

"Just get Kamiko home. Or at least back to Roxanne’s place until I get a handle on this… Walter’s my friend. I’m gonna make sure he doesn’t do anything he’ll regret."

Osprey sighed audibly over the comms. “Sometimes you can’t fix everything, Shield.” He said. "Please call if you change your mind."

Terry flew around the night skies of Albrook in silence after that. He wasn’t even sure how long he was at it, how much time had passed from Osprey’s resigned sign-off, to when he called back:

“Terry,” Osprey said. There was some urgency in his voice, and he had clearly let the secret identity thing slip. "Roxanne’s place. He went to Roxanne’s place."

Terry stopped in mid-air. He scanned the horizon, shifted his direction, and rocketed off toward home.

He started to tell himself that he’d actually made the right call: if Osprey had been with Terry, helping him search for Prism Man, Osprey wouldn’t have returned to Roxanne’s apartment to find… whatever it was he found.

But that voice was quickly drowned out by Terry’s propensity to be his own worst critic. If something had happened to any of his friends… he wasn’t sure he’d be able to forgive himself. For a brief moment, he worried that Walter might be hurt by either Fara or Roxanne… but given the difficulty Prism Man’s powers had presented in their fight at the dojo, he couldn’t say for certain whether either of them would have fared any better.

When the Shield flew over Roxanne’s apartment building, he spotted Osprey and Kamiko standing alone on the roof. He came down to land next to them, and it didn’t take long to see how bad things were.

Roxanne’s apartment building was a squat, five-story building, and Roxanne’s apartment was on the fifth floor. One of the perks of being on the top floor was Roxanne had her own personal rooftop access, which was what enabled the Shield to come and go in his seraphim armor without awkwardly running into his neighbors in the downstairs lobby – or in the elevator, or on the stairs, you get the idea.

As the Shield came to a landing near Osprey and Kamiko, he saw Roxanne’s roof access door had been smashed open.

The Shield just stared. “… How bad is it?” he asked.

“I’m not sure,” Osprey said. “Roxanne and Fara were both out when I left earlier. Roxanne told me not to wait up… I’m not entirely sure what she meant by that. Not sure about Fara, though… Don’t know if she was back when this happened, but nobody’s home downstairs.”

“Fara wasn’t coming here tonight,” Kamiko said. "She was going to pull an all-nighter in our suite, something she wanted to have done and out of the way so she could enjoy her spring break."

The Shield sighed, relieved. "Thank the Gods. All we have to worry about is fixing that door, then."

Osprey cleared his throat. "Bim’s missing."

The Shield paused. “Oh. … Well. That’s awful.“

The lancer rolled his eyes. “Did you even remember that he was around?”

“Honestly? Most of the time I hardly know he’s there. Probably because you mostly just use him to prop up your feet while you binge your shows.”

”… He is a true friend. Also, he is an exceedingly comfortable foot rest. We cannot abandon him.”

“Agreed,” the Shield said, hoping to ameliorate Osprey’s foul mood. “But it seems like we’re back at square one. We have no clue where he flew off to after he was done here.”

“Well,” Kamiko said, "I actually think we have at least one clue."

Osprey and the Shield regarded her, and she pointed up at the sky. There, written in flashing neon rainbow letters, was the phrase: “FACE ME THE SHIELD,” with a bright pink line, chevroned along its length with little pointing arrow-heads, trailing away off into the distance. It looked like the glowing light trail ended somewhere in the harbor.

The three looked up at the sky and just took a moment to process.

“Huh,” Osprey said. “Think that’s our guy?”

::Albrook Harbor::

Walter had never taken a hostage before… but he had to admit, the one he had right now was probably the most convenient hostage ever.

Bim was wearing a bright yellow solid-light-construct ball-and-chain around his ankle. At Prism Man’s direction, the gryphon hand was standing perfectly still and erect. Atop his stool-like body, the delusional research scientist had propped up his OmniNet-ready portable broadcast camera. The scene was the deck of a large, mostly empty cargo freighter. And, standing a reasonable distance from the captive cameraman, was Prism Man himself.

Prism Man cleared his throat. “Let’s call this one: ‘Prism Man demonstration 3.’” Walter smiled pleasantly, and cracked his knuckles. “Hello out there, OmniNet. What you are watching right now is the first day of… the rest of the Web of World’s days. Henceforth nothing will ever be the same. For you see, I am the AMAZING PRISM MAN!” Prism Man tapped one of the buttons on his gauntlet, and above his head the word APPLAUSE appeared in glowing bright red letters.

“You know I don’t have hands, right, moron?” Bim said.

“That wasn’t for you, that was for the audience at home,” Prism Man said.

"… Well how would you even know whether or not they’re applauding?" Bim asked.

Prism Man ignored the hostage. "For too long, the Kuat company has kept me from flourishing! Well, I don’t need them anymore! I have a new backer, and she’s beautiful and her company is going to give me the money and respect I need to properly flourish, and we’re probably going to have dinner together after all of this is done!! But, ah, I can hear you say: ‘Prism Man, even though you are quite handsome and brilliant, why are you broadcasting this video of yourself and your amazing invention over the OmniNet right now? Do you think it will win any awards?’ Well, that’s an excellent question. Yes, I do think that I will win many awards once the greater scientific community is faced with the amazing innovations I have achieved. Also I think that my Prism Man suit will probably win some kind of award for best costume design, if they have that category for OmniNet videos. But even if I don’t win that one, I’m sure I will be celebrated with a cult following that admires my work. As to why this broadcast is even happening… Well, I shall tell you, gentle viewer. For tonight, you out there on the OmniNet shall meet a man who most of you probably used to think was a pretty cool hero. He may have even once been someone’s personal favorite hero, maybe you drew inspiration from his example, and even dreamed about meeting him or becoming his friend someday… But that man is NO hero, ladies and gentlemen! That man, by whom’s name you mayhap once knew as The Shield, is a FALSE hero. And a FALSE friend. And tonight, you are going to see, live across the ENTIRE Web of Worlds, the Shield be defeated by THE AMAZING PRISM MAN!!"

Prism Man smiled big, his arms spread, as he looked right into the camera. He inclined his head and muttered, through smiling-and-clenched teeth: "Turn. Turn the camera! Pan around!!"

Bim sighed and turned, panning over to reveal that the Shield, Osprey and Kamiko had been standing just outside the frame the entire time.

“Okay… Prism Man,” the Shield said. “You did your video intro. Now can we talk, please?”

“It’s too late for that, The Shield,” Prism Man said. "That camera is broadcasting LIVE over the OmniNet. Most of your family and your girlfriends are probably watching it right now. They’re about to see you get your buttocks handed to you by these two hands right here!"

Prism Man made a grab-and-squeeze gesture with his hands that he would later regret.

“I don’t think it’s too late at all, Prism Man,” the Shield said. "Let’s stop this before someone gets hurt. If we stop now, I can still help you."

Prism Man howled in anger, and a large green baseball bat materialized out of thin air. Responding to Prism Man’s mental impulse, the bat swung down at the trio. The Shield deployed his Vanguard shield and parried the blow, giving Osprey and Kamiko the opportunity to roll clear.

“Lies!” Prism Man screamed. “You don’t want to help me! You’re jealous of me! You’re worried that if I flourish I’ll replace you!!”

“Wal–” Conscious of the camera, the Shield stopped himself before he called Dr. Glass by his real name (guilty as he felt, he thought that maybe he owed him that small courtesy). “Prism Man… are you hearing yourself now!? How crazy that sounds? Why would I be worried that you’d replace me!?”

“Oh, it sounds CRAZY, does it? You don’t think I could replace you!?” Prism Man conjured a bright red boxing glove on a spring; it sprang out and caught the Shield unprepared, flinging him back into the side of an empty cargo container, which crumpled against his bulk. "Seraphim is old news, The Shield. Solid light technology is the future. PRISM MAN is the future!! Power armor and giant robots and miles-long battleships; when people wake up tomorrow they’ll wonder why they used to find such things so exciting. Instead, all they’ll be talking about is PRISM MAN."

From out of the shadows, Osprey leapt toward Prism Man with his sword raised. Despite his obvious lack of physical coordination, Prism Man’s reflexes were surprisingly on-point: a large, glowing indigo shield materialized, interposing itself between Prism Man and Osprey. The lancer slammed into the shield and found that the “solid” part of “solid light constructs” was an apt descriptor, indeed. Osprey bounced harmlessly down onto the deck, dazed.

The Shield stood, and drew one of his gravitic batons off of his belt. He hurled it and it sailed toward Prism Man – but then a bright orange disembodied hand caught it mid-flight. With a flick of Prism Man’s wrist, the orange hand flung it back in the Shield’s direction. A little stunned by how formidable Dr. Glass turned out to be when he turned to evil, the Shield raised his Vanguard shield to try and deflect the baton… but it slammed into him with the force of a freight train, and once again he was sailing backward. He plowed through a pile of stacked shipping containers, which collapsed all around him with the ringing of steel-on-steel.

“Isn’t it funny how your most successful piece of equipment so far in this fight was somehing that I built for you?” Prism Man laughed. "Clearly I am the superior and more attractive man."

A pair of shuriken lanced out of the dark, but they smacked against Prism Man’s last line of defense: a thin body-envelope of translucent solid light. As the stars clattered harmlessly to the cargo ship’s deck, Prism Man turned and saw Osprey standing there, another shuriken in his hand, ready to throw.

“Fly, birdy, fly!” Prism Man cackled, conjuring yet another boxing glove (this one bright blue) and swinging it at Osprey. The lancer was able to flip aside just in time, and once he was clear he quickly cloaked himself in magical darkness, slipping away into shadow. This wasn’t quite enough to protect him, however; moments after Osprey slipped from view, a large bright red fly swatter took a swipe at the lancer’s last visible location. It impacted with him, and Osprey pitched backward, smacking the floor and bouncing and rolling away.

Ready to dismiss Osprey’s efforts as inconsequential, Prism Man moved toward the Shield, who was carefully extricating himself from underneath the shipping containers. Prism Man glanced back at Bim, his captive cameraman.

“Make sure you keep us in frame!” he admonished. He turned his attention to the battlesuited super hero, wrapping a green octopus-like tentacle around him. "You’ve lost, The Shield. Prism Man has proven himself better. Also handsomer and probably also sexier."

Prism Man began to squeeze. Terry grunted.

“Dr… Glass…” The Shield sputtered, as he could feel his armor start to buckle.

“YOU CALLED ME DOCTOR GLASS???” Prism Man shrieked. He looked back into the camera. “Oh well. I suppose there’s no denying it any longer. Yes, Web of Worlds… this is the face of your newest hero…” Prism Man reached up and pulled off his cowl and goggles. “Indeed!” he cried, "'Tis true! Prism Man is really Doctor Walter Eustace Glass!!"

As Prism Man was distracted by his own stagecraft, Kamiko emerged from the darkness. She ran at full clip toward Prism Man and then tucked down into a slide. As she passed beneath the distracted Prism Man, she hurled a small capsule up into his face. The capsule shattered against his solid light body envelope, leaving a small puff of smoke to obscure his face.

Prism Man’s face scrunched up angrily as he turned to try and see where the small Eblanese girl had run off to, but he found he couldn’t really speak. A new smell had filled his nostrils, something sweet and… tingly. He rubbed at his nose, and found his vision blurry. He dropped his goggles and padded himself down to see where he’d put his glasses, and then, as suddenly as anything else involving the amazing Prism Man, everything went black and he collapsed face-first on the deck.

As soon as Prism Man lost consciousness, both Bim’s ball-and-chain and the green tentacle throttling the Shield dissipated. Unsteadily, the Shield dropped to the deck. He struggled to regain his feet… but, as if on cue, Osprey emerged from the darkness and helped the hero steady himself.

“Camera’s off,” Bim said. Osprey whirled around, only to see the camera sitting on the floor and one of Bim’s claws tapping it. He wondered silently to himself how the gryphon hand had managed to do that… with no hands…

Terry leaned against a dented cargo container, and as he did Kamiko emerged and reached up to remove his helmet. The Shield balked at this and took a step back.

“You needn’t worry,” Kamiko said. "I already know your secret, and would not betray it."

Osprey and the Shield looked at each other. “Yeah,” Osprey said. "She was there at the dojo when Prism Man blabbed, remember?"

Kamiko nodded silently as she moved again to take off the Shield’s helmet. "I knew well before that, Osprey. Now please, Terry, hold still and let me make sure you aren’t concussed."

Terry obeyed the request, and allowed Kamiko to take off his helmet. Then, a moment later, he blurted out: “Wait, you knew?!?”

“It wasn’t that hard to figure out, honestly,” Kamiko admitted. "But then again, I have trained in the hidden Eblanese arts of stealth and subterfuge. Few secrets are truly safe from me."

Osprey turned his attention to Prism Man. “What did you do to him?.. Sleep powder?” Osprey asked.

Kamiko nodded, as she produced a pen light and inspected Terry’s eyes. "Even with his defenses up, Prism Man was able to breathe and talk without restriction. It was the simplest weakness I could see to exploit."

Once Kamiko was satisfied, Terry slid his helmet back on and regarded Prism Man sadly. “I’m sorry, Walter,” he said, as he reached down and disconnected Prism Man’s power pack. He then had Osprey tie Prism Man’s hands behind his back, then bundled him up and flew off toward APDHQ.

::Coldsteel Penitentiary, Albrook::

Prison wasn’t that bad, Walter decided. Sure he lacked most of his freedoms, but the food actually wasn’t that bad, the people on his cell block were actually really nice, and he was allowed to use the OmniNet for an hour a day. Which was actually the worst part of the whole deal for Walter, but he understood that some of the other lowlifes locked up in Coldsteel alongside him probably needed the restriction (since most of them weren’t wrongly incarcerated the way he was).

Today the guards told him that he was meeting with his lawyer to discuss the charges against him. Destruction of property, abduction, assault, attempted murder… He was sure he was missing something in there, and some of the charges had different “counts” to them. Walter never understood that. Counts? Like a count for every piece of property he’d destructed as Prism Man? Foolish.

The guard lead him into a room that looked like the police interrogation room where he’d woken up after his fight with the Shield. Seated at the other end of a small metal table was a man he didn’t recognize: he had long brown hair tied back into a tail, a neatly-clipped beard and a smile that seemed to constantly broadcast “I know something you don’t.”

“Dr. Glass,” the man with the knowing smile stood from his chair and extended a hand.

Walter looked at him apologetically, motioning to his shackles, but hadn’t the time to say a word before the guard was unlocking his wrists and ankles for him.

Uneasily, Walter shook the man’s hand, and took a seat.

“So nice to finally meet you face to face,” the man said, resuming his own seat and folding his hands in front of him on the table.

“So… you’re my lawyer?” Walter asked.

The man pursed his lips. "Not exactly. But rest assured: I will be handling your defense, Walter. We’re going to make sure we get you out of here, as soon as our fine criminal justice system will allow."

Walter noted that the man wasn’t carrying a briefcase. In fact, he hadn’t brought anything at all with him. “If you’re not my lawyer, then… who are you?“

The man resumed his haughty grin. “Where are my manners? Troy Sordana.”

”… of Atreus?”

“The very same. And both my company and I are incredibly interested in some of your recent activities.” Sordana produced a smart phone from his coat pocket, and tapped the screen. It was playing part of the broadcast of his fight with the Shield. “Truly a remarkable invention, your Prism Man suit. Such amazing work you’ve done here. Oh, wait, I love this part.” Troy swiped the screen and replayed a segment where Prism Man wailed on the Shield with a giant cartoon boxing glove. "Astounding. Just astounding. My compliments to you, Doctor. … Do you think you could build one for me?"

Walter laughed nervously. "Oh. Oh no. Mister Sordana… I’m afraid I can’t help you. You see I’m in this mess in the first place because someone asked me to violate my contract with Kuat. I have learned my lesson."

Sordana chuckled. Best not to mention that “Muse Neladain” had been working for him all along. "Doctor Glass… your contract with Kuat is, right now, the least of your worries. You do understand that attempted murder is one of the things they’re charging you with?.."

Walter audibly gulped.

“Besides, I think that, as far as Kuat is concerned, they don’t really have much to hold over you anymore. You see, not only were you terminated once the company found out what you were doing… but your contract’s ethics clause means that Kuat can cancel your pension and benefits. That happened pretty much the second you were booked by APD.”

"My… I… what?!"

Sordana’s smile broadened. “Not to worry, Doctor! I’m a man of a mind that always seeks the silver lining. Lemonade from lemons. You get the idea. The upshot of your benefits being cancelled is that your non-compete and non-disclosure agreements are essentially null and void.” Sordana leaned back in his chair. "Or, at least, that’s what my lawyers will be arguing. And they’re very, very good at what they do. I imagine that, outside of three months we’ll have you out of prison and in a corner office suite at Atreus’ brand new Albrook headquarters. How does ‘regional director of research and development’ sound to you, Doctor Glass?.."

Dr. Glass thought for a moment. Everything Sordana had just told him was slowly, gradually sinking in. His old life was well and truly over and done with. Now, there was only the path forward. Forward toward revenge against all those who had betrayed him: namely Kuat and the Shield.

Dr. Glass looked up and locked eyes with Troy. He smiled. “It sounds like I just made myself a new best friend, Mister Sordana.”