Risen From The Ashes
The atmosphere in the office was cold, wary, much like the men currently inhabiting it. Outside the din of traffic and millions of people milling about confirmed the overall feel of the Big Apple. New York City. A haven for people of all nationalities, making it an ideal place for conducting international business, both legal and not.
The French arms dealer eyed the man sitting across from him suspiciously, not believing his eyes. The man looked exactly as he had months before when they had originally begun negotiations. Before he got himself entangled with a local band of superheroes, before he’d had a parking garage dropped on him.
“We heard you had… how you say… passed away? Where have you been all zeez months?”
“I’ve been getting myself together, so to speak…” CLU responded with his trademark smile, all white teeth and false charm.
At the statement, he flashed back to waking up in the garage to see Nona standing a few feet away from him tending to a mortally wounded Jordan. He remembered the conversation they’d had; then Nona trying to crush him to death with 15 tons of concrete. He was certain she was successful as the blackness closed around him. For an eternity there was nothing. No sound, no light and he had wondered what kind of purgatory he had been doomed to. And then without warning, deafening noise and blinding light flooded his senses! As it turns out, an ambitious duo of young scientists from Silicone Valley had watched the entire incident on TV and had reasoned if they could uncover even a small amount of CLU’s tech, they could reverse engineer their way into millions.
After what ended up stretching into months of digging, they uncovered nothing other than the villains’ mangled corpse. Or not. It was discovered rather quickly that he was not dead but rather in some sort of suspended animation initiated by the nanites to ensure their survival. Once awoken in the workshop of their small startup, the young men were both amazed and horrified as the little robots snapped CLU’s bones back into place, one by agonizing one. Within ours, he was fully healed and ready to help them take their research to the next level, or so they thought.
After studying the duo’s research and making tweaks to improve the overall formulas, CLU had managed to create a smarter, stronger nanite. The young men were ecstatic, believing they had found their holy grail. Unfortunately, CLU had only been using them for their resources. He promptly stole all their research and burned the building to the ground with the two young men still inside. Now that he had a brand new supply of nanites under his command, he was ready to resume his former business dealings.
“How do I know zeez nanites even work? You were defeated by zee Firebird, no?”
CLU felt his jaw clench unconsciously at the mention of his nemesis. He had no idea if Jordan had made it out of that cavern, no one had seen any of The 11:59 since that day. He had reached out to all his contacts and the story had been the same. Everyone thought he had killed the Firebird and the rest of the team disbanded because of her death. He didn’t believe it. Nona had been determined to save her sister that day. If he had survived, she could have as well. He couldn’t take that chance. He knew he could have easily given his associates the teams’ civilian identities but he didn’t want any of them taking steps that belonged only to him.
“You’re right to be skeptical,” he answered smoothly. “However, the formula I offered you a few months ago was simply a prototype. I’ve worked out the bugs since then. As for the Firebird, I have safeguards in place to ensure she stays as dead as everyone claims she is.”
“Show me zis new formula? What can it do better zan zee last?”
CLU just smiled and reached into his jacket pocket. The burly men behind him readied their guns but he held one hand up as a sign of peace before placing a small vial on the desk in front of him. The liquid inside glittered his trademark blue, seeming to climb the sides of the glass enclosure.
“I come offering free samples.” He gestured towards the vial with an easy smile. “Just a tiny vial can place anyone you like under your complete control. They also have some exciting new capabilities.”
“I’m so glad you asked…” He raised two fingers to his lips and let out a shrill whistle. There was a commotion outside the office as copious amounts of blue fluid begun leaking under the office door. Before the startled men’s eyes, the pool of liquid formed into two very large dog-like creatures. They immediately approached CLU and began nuzzling him affectionately.
“As it turns out,” He began while scratching one creature gently under its muzzle, “This new batch is capable of creating sentient life. That cost extra of course but it is quite remarkable if I do say so myself.”
These creatures were much different than the mindless beasts he had created when he fought Jordan. Those had merely been extensions of him with no real motives or thoughts of their own. These “girls”, by all indications, thought entirely independently. He had found no manner of controlling them beyond the usual pet/owner relationship standards.
He rose from the chair, buttoning his exquisitely tailored suit coat and donning a pair of dark sunglasses. “Come along Thelma. You too, Louise.” The two creatures followed him as he headed for the door, leaving the other men agape. He opened the door then glanced back, “I look forward to your offer. Day, gentleman.”