Previously on Blessed Inversion SWAT…
With the aid of the Inhibitors, Doctor Khonshu, Black Ice, and his son Jetstream, SWAT-Spider stops Pheromaster’s plan to invade the Nucleus. But while Raja and Doctor Khonshu move onto new goals, Steven tries to regain what stability he had…
-RajTEK Head of Security
-Front Desk Security
It’s been well over a week since I last went into work at RajTEK. Between recovering, that Pheromaster crap, training Gabe, and helping Wendell adjust to life in Silver Plains I’ve been all over the place. All I want is for things to be somewhat normal again.
It was a normal Monday morning for RajTEK, which meant the staff would be groggy at best. Begrudgingly coming into work because they were obligated to. Only people like Doctor Khonshu seemed to really want to be in. Even the normally preppy and cheerful Carol was dull and listless. It was a good place to start for Steven as he walked in. It took him a considerable amount of time to put on his security uniform but being able to walk into work like he used to do so frequently was worth it.
“Morning Carol.” Steven says as he walks into the first door. Carol sat at the front desk barely awake. The smoke that masked her face petering in and out. Brief glimpses of the skeleton beneath coming into view.
“Steve? You’re back already?” She asks confused.
“Only you’d think to sneak back into work.” she sighs. I can tell she’s concerned.
“Yeah, well I can’t keep staying home all day laying on the couch.”
“Really? I wish I could do that. Just stay home…take it easy…get paid…That’d be the life.” she leaned on her left hand in her daydream.
“If you like bedsores.” I scoff jokingly. “Is Dr. K in?”
“No, he’s at home with a special project. Raja is in though?”
“No, I’ll call up for you.” she says before placing her call on the front desk phone.
“Call up?” I thought to myself. Somethings off, I’ve never needed to be called up before. I haven’t even been out of work for that long. “Come to think of it…there’s a lot of new faces here.” I was so focused on just coming back in to work I didn’t immediately notice how many new faces were in the lobby. My eyes and Guardian Aranea’s quickly survey the room. It’s not uncommon for there to be new people coming in and out of RajTEK but they weren’t just passing by. Most were in suits, but all had ID tags. “Over two dozen at the very least…Did Raja go on a recruitment binge? It’d make sense after the two attacks we just had…But even so, this is a surplus.”
After a few minutes pass, I’m greeted with a familiar face and voice. “Steven!” Raina Dahmani, former Inhibitor, and one of my students literally flies into me with a bear hug.
“Raina?” I’m surprised by her still being here. I figured Raja would leave her in a hotel and let her roam free. I’m more surprised by her Inhibitors uniform now recolored to emulate a RajTEK security uniform. The top and pants were navy blue with hints of orange on the logo. Not the most flattering colors but I’m not exactly someone who can judge another’s fashion sense. Either way, it explained how we could still understand each other.
“It’s so good to see-” Raina lets go and jumps back. “I’m sorry! I heard about your injury but I was so excited and I forgot.” she covers her mouth amidst her stammering.
“It’s okay.” It wasn’t, but she’d just freak out if I said otherwise. “You’re working here now?”
“Yes I am!” she grinned from ear to ear proudly. “I convinced Mr. Eishner to let me help.” she kept beaming with pride. Out of the Inhibitors, she always wanted to help people the most. After what the team went through I’m glad she was able to land on her feet.
“I’m glad Raina.” I pat her on the shoulder and smile back. “I guess you’re my escort to see Raja?”
“Yes, as the new head of security it’s my job!”
“Head of security?” I could see Carol waving her hands in her reflection on Raina’s eyes. Someone didn’t want me to know I go replaced. “That’s quite a position.”
“I didn’t expect it but he insisted. Maybe being an Inhibitor…well…” her cheerful expression begins to waver. It isn’t hard to see her trying to keep it together. The Inhibitors were important to her and now she may never go back. “ex-Inhibitor…helped me get the position. I’m excited to help people again though.”
“You and me both.” I reply lowly. I don’t say anything to Carol. She doesn’t attempt to either. She didn’t need to, anything I had to say or ask Raja was going to answer in the next few minutes. I let Raina lead me to the elevator and we begin to take it up to the second highest floor. Odd…Raja and Kreon’s lab is the topmost floor…
“Is Wendell okay?” Raina asked as we waited to reach our floor.
“Yeah, he helped me take Gabe to school and went to the arcade after. He’s a good kid. It’s an adjustment for him but he hasn’t complained.”
“Does he…did he…you know…” Raina tries to ask if he asked about her or the others but couldn’t muster the words after everything that happened to him.
“No.” I exhale. “I left the door open for it but didn’t try to force it out.”
“Oh…okay…At least he’s fine.” she says both hurt and relieved by the news. She couldn’t blame him for not wanting to talk to or about the Inhibitors. But not even asking still hurt too.
It doesn’t take long after that awkward conversation for us to arrive at our floor. She takes me down the hallways I’ve walked through so many times to an office where Raja sat. It wasn’t nearly as large or lavish as the normal lab with they probably hadn’t finished repairing it yet. It was oddly serious and lifeless for an office of his. No special posters or figures or anything really. It was strictly business and not even a picture sat on his desk. Just a computer desktop and papers.
“Hey, Steve.” Raja greets me. His eyes avoiding mine all the while.
“Hey.” I respond and sit down in one of the two chairs opposite his desk. “Looks like a lot’s changed since I last came in.”
“Yeah…” his voice was low. If everything up to this point wasn’t enough of a sign something was up, this sealed the deal.
“I’m guessing I wasn’t supposed to find out for a while was I?” I cut straight to the point.
“I’m sorry.” he apologizes. He didn’t need to be a genius to know I already could tell what was coming.
“Why?” I don’t want to make it personal but I need to know.
“After talking to Jason I realized something. I’ve been a pretty shit CEO. Sure we’re rich and sure we’re making great products but we aren’t even looking at the costs. Last few days I’ve been doing some visits.” Raja looks at the papers in front of him before checking three of his drawers. He pulls out a file folder from the last drawer and hands it to me. “It’s a list of every business we indirectly or directly caused to get shut down in New York. Not counting anyone who willingly merged with us.” I look at the list and find at least two dozen names. A lot of small-scale things, a few big ones, and a lot of red graphs. “The ones that are still around taking huge financial hits.”
“Then business is wrong!” he shouts surprising both me and Raina. “How many lives have we ruined? Are we ruining?” he shakes his head and rubs his face. “All this time I was working on making stuff I didn’t even consider how messed us Bronze Plains is. How many people we screwed when that plan with Kazuo Industries failed. We didn’t even try to salvage it did we? Did we?”
“I’m sure they did their best.”
“Bullshit. Those old guys probably never even seen what any of these people look like. But I have…You should’ve seen her face.” I can see how pained he is. How fast he’s breathing as he tried to avoid looking at me.
“Who?” I asked.
Normally Raja doesn’t get directly involved with the vigilante business like Doctor Khonshu or myself. He’s still trying to cope with it all and not doing very well. “Look, Pheromaster-”
“Jason, his name is Jason. Something Ms. Lidehari made abundantly clear to me when she told me how SWAT-Spider attacked his airplane over Ireland.” *
“We both know that’s a lie.”
“Yeah well a high profile CEO just went missing and as far as his replacement knows, you’re responsible.”
“And that’s why you’re firing me? Because some asshole tried to kill you, kill me, my son, and take over the goddamn world and we stopped him?”
“Because everything we’ve done till now is what pushed him to do this in the first place! If Kreon and I never did any of this he wouldn’t have tried to end the world.”
“You don’t know any of this. For all we know that was just a convenient excuse to blame shift.” I try to stay calm. I know he’s still dealing with being a hostage but he’s really trying my patience. “I get how you’re feeling. But you need to take a step back and relax.”
“And I can’t relax to think with you around.” he finally looks in my eyes again. “I had a lot of time to think and step back and us working together just ends up badly. I sent you to train the Inhibitors and nearly get murdered.* Then I send you to investigate Acel-Corp and you get tortured for two days straight.** Which led to a poison gas attack which led to a whole string of murders and assaults at the Cell.*** All because I had to take over and make not only Pheromaster but the Stars of Doom too. So hundreds of lives ruined or ended and that’s just what we know of. How many people are we really helping Steve?”
“Does it matter? Just saving one life is enough.”
“Yeah…well maybe it’s not. No matter how much we do to try and help things don’t change or just get worse…Maybe we should just leave the heroing to someone else.”
“Which is why you’re firing me.” I can’t help but scowl. I can see him practically jump out of his skin at the sight.
“We’re friends. I’m not firing you but I can’t have you here. Just…an extended leave of absence…”
“Firing me without saying the word fired huh? Did Khonshu sign off on this too?”
“He…didn’t fight it no.” his eyes look away from me once more.
“You can keep it. You’d probably steal it back if we didn’t just give it to you.”
“I guess that’s that then.” I stand up and turn to leave. My eyes not meeting him or Raina. “Good luck in your future endeavors Mr. Eishner.”
I don’t wait for a response from either of them. I had too much shit to deal with of my own. I can understand how he feels…it’s easier to do things when you don’t have to deal with it face to face. To see the actual risks and costs of everything you do. Not everyone can. He’ll be fine after he takes a break…even if it meant throwing me under the bus to do it. He’s finally seeing how things really are up close. I’ve grown up always seeing it. Probably why I’m so dedicated to this. But he’s only half right. Things do end up badly when we work together. But not because of what he thinks…
Hours pass and darkness returns once more to Silver Plains. The neon lights and streetlights that’d normally keep it at bay now struggling amidst a rainstorm. The civilians who normally would love the nightlife seeking shelter under any cover they could find. Umbrellas barely managing to stay strong against the buffeting wind. But as always, crime never stopped. Even with Biohazards new rule to be more covert, certain people just couldn’t resist themselves. Especially with a stormy night providing extra cover. On nights like this, they could easily mask their gun shipments as a late-night delivery to a department store. The overnight crew working the main floors completely oblivious to the undercover crew working the basement. Both crews entirely unaware of SWAT-Spider as he made his approach from below.
“Everything here?” one of the guards asks. I have a general idea of where he is. But I don’t know how many people are with him.
“Yeah, the boss is gonna be happy. Who knew those rich kids could actually do something useful?” Of course, the weapons were from the Rebellion. Even if the higher tier members didn’t need it, the lower ranked ones usually did.
“We sure about this? Maybe we shouldn’t be backing the big boss man.”
“Don’t let anyone hear that shit. The last guy who talked like that had his head ripped off and shoved up his own ass.”
“That’s not a funny joke man.”
“It’s not a joke. I saw that shit…Still, have nightmares about it.”
“Jesus…no wonder the boss man bends over backward for him.”
Sounds like they’re talking about Biohazard. But I need to get to the surface to tell who their boss is. In Silver Plains, it could be a number of people. Time to pay them a visit. I’m injured but tonight that won’t matter. No more second visit, no more making a show of things, no more second chances. Raja was right, things did end badly when we worked together. But that’s always been because I was trying to do things his way. Tonight…we do things my way…