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A Life Unrelenting: the Saga of the Dark Harrier
Chapter 2

Rolling Stone Magazine, Volume 27, Issue 6

Unrelenting: an interview with the Dark Harrier by Thomas Weiderman
[cont. from Page 48]

TW: Wow! So, what happened?

DH: Well, Tyrant got away. The walls came down on us, and if it weren’t for
the force fields and the Metaforces robots, we wouldn’t have lasted long. As
it was though, the two androids in that squad began digging us out
immediately. One of the other heroes, the pregnant girl, Simon Says, helped
her boyfriend, that was Straight Jacket, overcome some fear he had and he
teleported a few others out. Everybody pretty beat up, villains got away at
the time, but nobody died.

TW: Call it a draw then.

DH: Yeah.

TW: Now, if I remember correctly, that wasn’t the first time you’ve survived
a building collapse, though, was it?

DH: No, it wasn’t. The other time was in Boomtown, year or so before the
Zig.

TW: Want to tell the story?

DH: Sure. I was in a small group of heroes I knew. My pal Master Sergeant
Riley – that squad that saved us in the Zigg was actually his guys, Third
Squad – a wizard named Elumien, and a young hero named Tick Tok. It all had
to do with Tick, actually. Tick was kind of a weird story. Someone took the
soul of him as a young boy and put it into a Clockwork robot, and when he
became aware he got away from whomever it was did that, and became a hero.

So, we had a lead at the time that the Clockwork King was nesting in Baumton
and was up to something. Tick wanted at the King, so, we went to see what
was going on….

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


In one of the wrecked buildings of Boomtown, the Clockworks had been up to
something.

Entering in the footsteps of Tick Tok, who’d impetuously charged alone down
the flights of steps into the structure’s sub-basement, eager to face the
machine master who’d allowed the boy’s soul to be placed into it’s current
mechanical body. With any hope of subtlety gone, the three older heroes took
the stairs two at a time, and eventually came out into a large space.

His breath was quite taken away by the scope of what they were seeing. It
was almost like an excavation for the pyramids of Egypt, except that this
had been done in.. well, what, less than a week since the Clockworks'
assault on the apartment complex they all shared, perhaps? Or had it been
going on before that? Whatever the case, they had just blundered into it,
and everything was likely about to change.

At least two floors below this had been completely excavated. Huge support
beams had been wrenched from other locations in the bombed-out zone and used
to shore up the building above, where it’s foundation had been displaced by
the creation of this vast chamber. Clockwork minions swarmed the floor and
walls like ants. Electric arcs lit the depths. Beams and rebar were being
molded to their wills and welded together. Cables swung on armatures, lone
robotic arms lifted detritus and swung it into place for waiting clockworks.
Deep at the center was a dome of metal latticework; it was lit from the
inside, though what it contained was hidden by distance.

The heroes were perched on a kind of gangway suspended from the doorway out
over the pit. The three human figures and their clockwork-like companion
only paused there a second, before Tick Tok once again dove headlong off the
ledge and into the pit below.

Eric was  about to start a discussion as to what this all could be about
when their robot guide charged into the great hole, yelling and grabbing the
attention of everything nearby. "Oh great!" he groaned.

He spun back to Riley and Elumien. "Look guys... this is gonna get bad fast
if we don't organise. I know we are outnumbered, but look.. I've been
fighting these scrap-heaps since I was a kid, practically... unless the
'King is here AND he's invented some new drones with alot of firepower in
'em, I don't think there's anything in here that's gonna kill me. The
electric's gonna screw me up, but as long as these things don't get the
chance to tie me down or lock me in a vault or something, I'll take the
heat. Just.. back me up as much as you can, OK?" Eric thought he had a good
gauge of El's ability to lay down area cover, and looking at Riley, Eric
realized this guy might be upset that Tick Tok was running around yelling
his head off and blowing cover.. but he wasn't breaking a sweat. So, with
sound support, he accepted what he was about to do.

He turned back to gaze out into the pit, slid his new glasses off to tuck
them somewhere secure, then said, "I'm goin' in!" and leapt into the abyss.

His cape flapping behind him, he dropped down past freshly turned earth and
metal structures stuck into the bedrock, and saw a group of clocks rising to
intercept him. They'd been standing around rather somnambulantly, just
watching the heroes, probably wondering things along the same lines as Eric
and his group.. were these guys crazy enough to come closer? There were four
that came upward, propellers whirring.. Eric kept his momentum rather than
stopping, and extended his arms as he dropped into the group. With an
echoing crash he smashed through the blades of a pair of the robots, and
these two dropped away, their flight apparatus shattered. He hovered then,
just below the other two, and as one came into range, he snap-kicked high
above his own head, almost inverted in the air as he removed one arm from
the charging mechanical with the heel of his boot.

The untouched Tesla Knight unleashed a brief blast of electricity, and Eric
gritted his teeth through the familiar agony. The problem with being as
invulnerable as he was, was that despite being relatively unharmed by many
things that would kill an ordinary man, he nonetheless experienced almost
all the pain an electrocution would bring. He uttered a vibrating groan
through gritted teeth, many of his muscles tensing uncontrollably, until the
Tesla's charge played out. Then, he turned eyes full of anger at the
offending robot, ignoring completely a vicious swipe to his back by the
one-armed flyer.

"Don't do that again," he growled, as he clasped his fists together, and
brought them down on the clock, who had paused with what appeared to be a
look of confusion on it's relatively unmoving facial features.

The Knight's head crumpled like a beer can, and he plummeted from the air
with flailing limbs. In a smooth continuation of his motion the 'Harrier
windmilled his arms, his body twisting in air, and a rapid pair of punches
pummeled the one-armed clock into nonfunctioning. It too, dropped to the
overturned ground below, but it fell through a hail of many electric beams
which stabbed upwards at the hovering hero.

As the clocks began approaching in earnest, some on foot and some in the
air, Eric cried out as his body came under assault. Of his own volition, he
canceled his hover and simply dropped from the air, downward and beyond the
range of the clocks who'd climbed to back up their brothers faster than they
could turn to pursue.

As the situation devolved Riley hunkered down an unlimbered his M41 rifle.
With Elumien using magical frost to freeze robots in place while the
Metaforces soldier shattered them with high-powered army ordinance.

Eric struggled to keep as close to Tick Tok's general area as he could; no
sense making Riley and El cover two areas at once and put everyone at risk.
But now that he'd dropped to the base of the pit, this was getting harder to
do. The odd geodome-like structure the clocks were working on was like a
huge set of kid's monkey-bars. There was definitely something going on
inside it, but if he slipped within the 'Harrier doubted he'd remain in
visual contact with his two teammates; he could barely see within the thing
as close as he was. He cast a brief glance back up to the long tongue-like
platform, and saw the soldier hero blowing Clocks out of the air with his
fantastic rifle. He could not at that moment see Elumien.

He turned back and was confronted by another charging group of Clocks. This
one was headed up by one of the great smoke-belching Assembler Princes. Eric
winced; this thing was build like a robotic quarterback, complete with
extended shoulderplates and guards welded to protect it's knees. It was a
hulk, but it moved slowly; the little Teslas and builders outpaced it, and
that for them, was a final mistake.

Eric had been practicing a new manouver, and as the group of minirobots
swarmed him, he dropped into a crouch and spun on the ball of one foot, his
other leg sweeping out and catching each of the attackers at ankle-height.
Almost as one the smaller Clocks were all knocked backward, a few of them
banging their bodies into the girders making up the dome-like structure
around them and doing them more harm.

The Assembler Prince strode right through his downed minions, crushing one
himself under his great metal feet. A huge fist balled and raised up, and
though Eric tried to dodge as he rose from the ground, the Prince slammed
the hero back down with a mighty blow.

The Prince made to follow up with a second blow at the downed human, but
Eric rolled through the dirt and debris and the fist struck the earth
instead. With a flight assist Eric spun and rose to an upright stance, and
continued fluidly into a kick the pressed teh heavy robot back. There was a
sudden flurry of electric blasts from the remaining minions, and while
caught in the beams, Eric staggered forward closer to the larger mechanical.

Though his body was still limned with blue electric beams, one of his arms
shot forward and, rather than punching, he grabbed one of teh Tesla Knights
by the arm. The robot, confused, continued to unleash coherent lighting, but
his body and his targets now formed a kind of circuit, and his own systems
began sizzling as he pumped power through Eric's body and back into his own
in an awful loop.

Augmented by the beams from two of its own companions, the Tesla in Eric's
grasp reached some kind of critical damage point, and as a panel on it's
back blew out, it gave up the fight and collapsed. The 'Harrier then lifted
it's limp form in one arm and, as the Assembler stepped towards him, he
clubbed the taller robot over the head with it's own assistant.

"You ain't got nothing on me, beer-can!" the Hero in Black shouted at the
Assembler as he systematically began beating the android with the remains of
the Tesla Knight. Riley took this opportunity to snipe one of the other
Teslas, striking it first in the head, then the chest, with finely aimed
bullets from high above.

As the 'Harrier ducked another nasty swipe from the Assembler, the legs of
the automaton erupted in an odd crackling sound; Elumien had come through
with an area-effect to give the fighters more of a chance. Ice snaked its
way from the ground up to the robot's body, and the smaller minions around
it found themselves abruptly encased. A few simply fell over, but the
Assembler Prince was not to be stopped by such an inconvenience. The great
pistons making up his limbs let out a pneumatic groan, and the covering
simply cracked and fell away from him. It's appearance had given the
'Harrier a moment, though, and he delivered a strong kick to the 'Prince's
torso, knocking the towering opponent over onto its back.

It's head came up with a look of determination, as Eric spent the moment of
respite wrecking several of the immobile minions with cheap punches and
kicks, cackling to himself as they went down helplessly.

He turned his attention to the Assembler in earnest as the thing placed its
claws on the dirt to try and right itself, but somewhere, a wizard got his
groove on, and the entire ground area about them froze solid. Eric leapt
upward, hovering suddenly seven feet in the air, and the 'Prince disovered
that its claws, once sunk in soft earth, were now inches deep in solid ice.
It yanked impotently for a moment with its arms, but its hands were stuck
fast. The 'Harrier suppressed a chuckle at his foe's plight, for the jump
had been close for him; even at this distance, the frost was bone-chilling,
and he himself might have been crippled had he come in contact with it. But
as it was, he soared over his foe, ignoring him completely in search of the
errant Tick Tok.

He could hear more frantic fire now from his back; Riley and El may have
been getting in deeper, and he pondered going back, but up ahead, he thought
he'd caught a glimpse of an actual framed entry way into the dome's
framework. He hovered there at the doorway, and gasped.

Sparks were flying in showers from the center of the pit covered by the
dome, for the Clockwork King reclined there, plugged somehow in a
bewildering array of tubes, pipes, steaming conduits and wire harnesses of
every color. All these things lead away to towering consoles and server
banks, but, just as they fed him, perhaps, great power or information
streams or both, they also held him relatively immobile while there,
crawling over his massive body and striking with great fury, was Tick Tok.

Eric had to give it to the little guy; in bites and nips he was giving the
Clockwork King hell. The robot leader and the little hero were exchanig
words, and Tick seemed completely enraged, but Eric could not heear what was
being said. The 'King had already damaged some of his support systems
because of Tick, as one huge wire harness was wrapped around and hindering
the strikes he attempted with one huge motorized arm. Tick fired a blast of
electricity point-blank into the elbow joint of the impaired limb, and then
turned, screaming something Eric couldn't understand in the din, and fired
again right into the King's face.

"Hot damn!" Eric cried to see such determination. He moved to enter and
assist, but suddenly, he was struck from the air, stunned by a massive
mental wave. Whatever the message was, Eric did not know; it had been so
overpowering that his mind grasped only the echoes, not the shout itself. He
came to, sprawled on hands and knees, and was then knocked to the ground as
a horde of agitated clockworks flooded past him, then right over him,
stampeding through the doorway to the aid of their maker.

They weren't even trying to harm him, only trying to get past, and so, he
flew straight up, and hovered unsteadily in the open air under the dome.
Which was fortunate, for he was just in time to see something quite
spectacular.

Tick took both hands, grabbed the sewer-pipe thickness of a pulsing power
conduit, and yanked with all his tiny might. The tube came loose from its
moorings in a slot on the Clockwork King's side, spewing forth glaring,
molten power. He then turned the opening, and shoved the spewing energy duct
right into the Rikti battery compartment of the massive robot leader's
chest.

The concussive shockwave spun Eric in the air, knocked him through the
gridwork of the overarcing dome, and into the bedrock walls of the pit. He
fell to the ground, stunned, but groggily forced himself to his feet. His
ears and head were ringing, and ghostly afterimages dogged his eyes, but he
forced himself to slog back into the chamber.

Inside, the entire center area where the Clockwork King had lain, was now a
deep crater or sinkhole, and cast-off wreckage was the only sign left of the
'King's support apparatus. Laying there, tumbled in one of those piles, was
the smoking body of Tick Tok.

"Tick!" Eric knelt down, and wasn't really sure what to do.. how could he
check for a pulse? Tick's arms were particularly damaged by the blast, but
his new armor seemed to have held together pretty well in the very eye of
the tremendous blast. "Little guy, you are one pissed off little robot," the
'Harrier said as he hefted Tick's body and flew immediately upward, right
through the shattered gridwork and up the long shaft toward the platform
where Riley and El had been.

As he passed upward, very bad sounds began echoing through the great
excavation. The concrete support pillars that had held up the building over
its uninvited modification were cracking, and groaning alarmingly. Soil was
now cascading down in many little falls all along the edges of the pit.
Cement was falling first in dust, then in chunks, from the floors high
above. Also falling were the inactive bodies of every clockwork they had
seen, somehow robbed of voliton, tumbling and crashing to oblivion in the
excavation below.

In great haste, the Dark Harrier alighted on the platform near Riley and
Elumien with Tick in his arms, and shouted, "Boys, this place is coming
down! We gotta get the hell outta here, NOW!"

Calamity struck even as he'd finished speaking.

The power circuits which had survived the Clockwork King's little explosion
were now wiped out by the avalanche of debris from above and the lights went
out with finality.. It was like some awful Harryhausen movie of Atlantis
collapsing, except this was going to kill Eric and everyone with him.

Columns suddenly feel around and on the slim platform where they all stood,
and Elumien stepped away to protect himself, so Eric watched as the party's
teleporter slipped out of range of him and his charge. Riley seemed to at
least be nearer the wizard, and in any case there was simply no way for Eric
to reach him. These awful realizations fell down on his mind even as
concrete death rained down over his body, so Eric did the only thing he
could think of to escape being buried: Clenching Tick Tok's unmoving form to
his chest, he flew straight up with all his might.

His thought processes seemed to have sped up quite a bit as the world
collapsed around him. He felt terrible pangs of regret that he did not
simply stand there and die with Riley and Elumien, but the instict to try
hard to the very last breath was in him now. He liked them both, and would
miss their company as he died, he also thought. he felt worst for Riley, for
despite his great skill as a soldier, Riley impressed Eric as just a normal
guy, and his body would have no defense at all against the grinding blender
he would now die in. El was very old, so perhaps he had lived long enough
and would not mind death so much.... all at the same time, he was able to
note the brief flashes of smashing light bulbs far below, and could pick out
different pieces of debris as it all fell down around him. He was able to
actually dodge alot of it; but there was no way to escape unscathed. The
first piece to strike his shoulder hurt like hell, and he managed to cry out
in pain but still maintain upward motion on the path he intended. The second
thing to hit him was a huge mahogany desk, filling his vision until his body
reacted to the impulse to swerve. The chairs that came with the desk were
practically splinters lready in teh horrible grinding stormcloud of debris,
so the 'Harrier flew toward it instead, but the spinning desk was moving too
fast and it clipped his legs as it went past. Eric knew he'd broken
something now, and as he corkscrewed through the air the pain smacked his
brain and he closed his eyes.

Spinning through the air, now flying at an angle yet still upward, Eric was
unable to avoid more falling stuff now, and he felt he impacts striking him
like rain; he opened his eyes again in time to avoid a concrete support the
dimension of a subway train as it carved its own way downward to the abyss
below. As it passed, some pieces trailing behind struck him, and suddenly
Eric's head took a really bad shot; his left eye stopped working and blood
flowed down into his mouth. He never stopped flying though, and he screamed
angry epithets, swearing and cursing the Fates as he turned himself into a
missile now; there was no point in trying to be careful any longer. With all
the speed and force he could muster, he shoved himself through the air,
adjusting his angle only slightly, for his vision was hindered and the pain
in his body almost unbearable. A great light suddenly opened up in the air
near him, for the collapse had crumpled a huge hole in the side of the
building at ground level as everything began caving in on itself. He tried
desperately for it, but the floors above the hole had to follow what had
already fallen, and suddenly a curtain of death dropped with finality in
front of the brief exit.

A huge set of sewer pipes sat exposed in the wall twenty or thirty feet
below the street level, coming into the building from the outside system,
their mouths open where the clockworks had welded the rest of them off for
the metal, and this was the last thing Eric coherently saw. Still a missile
in the air, he bulled towards it, felt a number of dreadfully solid objects
strike him, and threaded the needle with his eyes closed. His body, still
desperately clutching the small robot hero, rocketed into teh sludge pipe,
ricocheted off the pipe wall, and crashed into the nasty congealing mud on
the bottom some forty feet deeper inside the tube. He had been unconscious
long before his body came to rest, and knew nothing more for several
hours....

Time did not pass easily for the 'Harrier.

A while after the dust had settled tiny & groans of shifting material were
the only remnants of the building collapse, Eric woke up for the first time.
What had woken him was pain, but this was a new, momentary pain. Tick Tok
had shifted from under him, and a slip of flesh on the Harrier's chin had
been pinched between the joints of one of Tick Tok's arms. The little robot
hero slid out from under him, and Eric's battered body rolled off, onto the
hard surface of the now-dry pipe. The dust from the collapse had congealed
all the muck into a dry crust, though the smell rose in the hero's nostrils
enough that he would later never be able to say if it, or the incredible
agony of his healing wounds were what had once again forced him into the
dark of unconsciousness...

He awoke again. He was being dragged. Tick Tok had latched onto a part of
Eric's costume, and was dragging him toward a visible cone of light. The
lumps and bumps of the journey jostled Eric, and his hazy consciousness
tried to grasp the situation. He may have mumbled something. The left side
of his head was ringing, and he could not see out of his left eye at all.
Had he been able to see himself, he would have, perhaps, been horrified, for
one of the blows he'd taken had actually punctured his left eye. The
shattered bones of his eye socket were already on the mend, though, for he
and the robot hero had lain in the sewer tunnel for many hours by now. The
popped eyeball had actually already closed; however, the regenerating
aqueous humor and nerve endings made his head feel like it was swarming with
worms, and he retched weakly, then passed out again.

He came to again briefly. He lay at the bottom of a shallow tunnel, looking
straight upward from where he lay sprawled on the floor. The shaft of light
he'd seen earlier was beaming straight down on him, and he could barely make
out the shape of Tick Tok's body high above. The robot had some kind of
welding torch attachment, and was carving open an old sealed manhole cover.
Eric watched for a while in a painful, dreamlike state, then fell away into
darkness again.

He did not wake again until the night was deep, and the little robot the
'Harrier had saved had returned the favor and dragged him back out into the
cleaner night air.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TW: Wow! So, wait, what happened to your other friends! I know Sergeant
Riley survived…

DH: Oh, they both did. Elumien covered them in a bubble of thick ice, they
managed to get out too, though he later told me the strain for casting that
much magic almost killed him anyway. Because Gevin [Riley] was there we got
army choppers that medivaced us all out. There were some loose ends attached
to that day, but the short of it is, Tick wound up returning to his real,
flesh body. But with his mechanical skill he wound up making himself an
armor suit and he stayed on as a hero. Got pretty big time, too, for a young
kid.

TW: Yes, both Tick Tok and Master Sergeant Riley are very famous, in their
own right.

DH: Yep! And I knew ‘em, back when we were all just puppies!





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