Walking was too slow, even for someone who could speed-walk from the east coast of America to the west coast faster than the time it took for a five-pound weight dropped from a height of one-hundred feet to reach the ground. Flying several feet above the ground seemed to be the optimal mode of travel, except then he wouldn’t locate traps as easily if they were rigged for someone to trip who was walking, considering the possibility that there were more traps. So far the ones that had already been triggered made Eclipse think that was the case here. So he walked, not nearly as fast as he knew he could, but nothing near as slow as the snail’s pace normal human walking speed seemed to him, either.
So far he had spotted two imperfections in the ground and one in a wall that suggested they could be triggers for traps. Naturally he hadn’t tripped them, since not only would it serve to alert those he was searching for that he had escaped, but he had no idea what the results of the traps might be. For all the facts he didn’t have about those who had set these traps, at least one of them could be rigged to harm people above ground, just for the thrill of it.
He had been able to backtrack his steps – even though part of the time he’d been moved along an unknown route while he’d been unconscious. Still, he had trailed the freshest movements in the dust and pea gravel covering the paths through this subterranean maze. He knew he was on the right track when he pulled up short with the tunnel sealed off by the same substance that had trapped him in the first place. From floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall was a solid barrier of identical substance. He ran a hand carefully along the surface and focused in to check the material on a sub-molecular level. Definitely the same substance.
Eclipse knew he wasn’t going to be able to get through this material – not without a long, tedious battle, perhaps with his laser-vision focused as he had earlier, or perhaps through more grueling minutes leading to hours carving out small sections of discs. He decided the best course was to find a way around this barrier through one of the side tunnels he had passed earlier.
Retracing his steps Eclipse turned right through a tunnel only to discover a slight emission of light in the distance. He nodded his head. Either it led to where he might find some answers – possibly Ozzie Bunso, in fact, or into another trap. He realized the possibility that more aliens such as the ones he had already taken care of could be waiting for him down this corridor. At least he now knew who he faced and how to deal with them.
Using more caution Eclipse moved through the tunnel, his vision constantly scanning every inch of the ceiling, floor and walls, searching for triggers to traps. He had made it almost to the source of the light when voices came to his hearing. Tuning his audio-receptors he was able to pick up what was being said.
“…not my fault if someone was trailing me,” the voice came in a high-pitched, nasally whine that he knew could only belong to Bunso. Eclipse smiled to think their “rabbit” had led him down the warren straight to those they’d been looking for. Or at least some of those who worked for the Kingpin.
“Please!” Bunso continued to beg, “You gotta let me outta here. Don’t let them take me when they come back. You know they won’t let me live. You’ve seen how those – monsters – laugh at how easy it is to break the bones of humans. You know what they can do to human flesh! What kind of men are you if you let alien monsters torture and kill other men?”
So that was it. Bunso was being held by lowly human henchmen so that when the alien overlords returned they could torture the sniveling petty criminal. Eclipse wasn’t about to let those aliens get their, ah, claws – literally - into Bunso, but he didn’t have to rescue him until after the aliens returned, either. That way he’d be able to set his own trap for these servants of those who had forced him to give up his hero identity.
Eclipse moved a short distance back up the passage so the initial, slight hum of the cloaking function built into his suit wasn’t picked up by any of those holding Bunso prisoner. That was one of the cleverer functions he had thought to include so he had something to demonstrate to officials like the FBI if they asked for a display of what he could do. The cloaking function didn’t make him invisible, but it did blur and fade his image enough that when he was in a dark place, such as this chamber and the passageways leading up to it, those without his sense of sight wouldn’t discern him He had intended it to simply be a ruse when displayed to others. He would activate the cloak and as it faded his image he would vibrate himself at such a frequency that he would effectively vanish from sight. It wasn’t something that had reasonable applications in real life most of the time, but for demonstration purposes it would be a real crowd pleaser.
There was a hollow section back from the passage over to one side. He decided that would be his best place for concealment. That way if those he was waiting for arrived by way of this same passage they wouldn’t run into him. He wanted this meeting to be on his terms only.
As he waited in silence, hearing only the whimpering and whining of Bunso, he considered his change in crime-fighting techniques and style. A few short months back he had been openly using his powers in full strength and almost nonchalantly. After all the years of using his powers and honing them to perfection so he knew exactly what he could do and how to handle nearly every situation any criminal, super or non, could throw at him. Now he was using covert methods, taking leaf after leaf from the playbook of his old friend and ally The Darknight. Who could have conceived of such a change in his lifestyle?
A sound came from the opposite side of the area where Bunso was being held. It was obviously the sounds of more than one – individual. He hesitated to use the term “person”, since for all he knew those arriving were more of the same aliens, or worse, their masters who commanded the armada of spaceships encircling the Earth, watching for any sign that he was once more actively using his powers. At least he now knew he could come out of hiding, though he elected to keep his cloak on. The edge it gave him should be just enough to allow him a surprise advantage when he attacked.
Peering slightly about the edge of a rocky outcropping Eclipse spotted exactly what he had expected to see – a squad of four of the servant aliens – Mar ‘doxx – their race was called, making each of them Mar ‘doxxals. The large, ugly brutes moved in a way suggestive of slugs oozing their trails along the ground. Not that these creatures oozed a slime-trail, but their feet, such as they were as the ends of their lower appendages flared out more than two-feet across at their widest, and came in contact with the ground. The edges of their – feet – pulled back and spread out slightly as the bodies moved forward, very similar to the average banana slug.
One of the Mar ‘doxxals lifted an arm and reached toward the imprisoned Bunso, who reared back as far as his chains allowed, trying desperately to back-walk up the side of the craggy wall behind him. The fear on Bunso’s face was all too obvious. He knew what these aliens were capable of and he knew they intended their worst for him.
The “hands” of these beings exuded a mild acid that ate away at porous surfaces, like human flesh. One touch would not only scar Bunso for the rest of his life, but eat through very slowly, dissolving his flesh micro-inch-by-micro-inch until all of his flesh was gone and his inner organs lay exposed. That wasn’t by far the worst of it, either. The acid produced a by-product enzyme as it dissolved flesh that covered the organs and held them in. That meant that in all likelihood, Bunso would out-live the destruction of his flesh as something looking very much like those toy models appropriately called “Invisible Man” used for teaching the human anatomy to children. He would still be in somewhat of a human shape while these creatures continued their torture of him.
Eclipse knew he couldn’t allow that to happen, no matter how much of a low-life Oswald Bunso was. He stepped out from behind the rocky outcropping, preparing to move at hyper-speed so he could intercept Bunso before the appendage could make contact with him and deliver its acidic touch. He was completely unprepared for the blow of energy to the center of his back that sent him sprawling forward, his cloaking function failing, making him visible to all around.
“Who the hell is that?” one of the human thugs cried out as the darkly-armored Super suddenly appeared from seemingly nowhere.
“That,” a booming, hollow voice that Eclipse had heard before called out with but a tinge of a sneer, “is exactly who I have been waiting for.”
Eclipse recovered from the blow and got to his feet. He spun about to face his adversary and stopped in his tracks, his face behind his mask frozen in unbelief. Before him stood the being he had fought years back, the half-organic, half-technological machine – CereB.O.R.G.
“Confused?” CereB.O.R.G. stood with his arms slightly out from his sides, sparks of energy crackling among his fingertips.
“You were destroyed,” Eclipse said without considering the ramifications of his words. Only the persona he had previously been would know of the destruction of this cerebral biological organic replicating genetics creature that had assumed the form of a man.
“You mean you destroyed me, don’t you, my old adversary?” CereB.O.R.G. grinned. He raised his hands with a move near the speed of light. Energy that appeared electrical in nature, but was far worse than anything Benjamin Franklin ever attracted down the string of a kite enveloped Eclipse. His body spasmed in agonizing pain even as he once more lost consciousness.
Then his eyes fluttered back open as he fought to regain his faculties, but the best he could do was to stave off the darkness that threatened to swallow him. Somewhere in the distance he thought he could hear the sound of a human screaming, though he had never heard sounds like those coming from a human before.