Shutting the television off filled the workshop with total silence. Basil leaned back on his chair – he had been working on the prototype for a stun gun when news of Desolation-in-Light’s appearance in Moscow came through. He had spent the last two hours watching as the Sovjet Union had deployed nearly every single superhuman they had and, as had everyone before them, failed to do more than slow DiL down for a bit.
It somehow reminded one of their mortality. Maybe it was the way Red Star, who still looked like a sixteen-year-old, had been torn limb from limb before being impaled on the Sovjet Flag in front of the Kreml. Red Star had been one of the more powerful S-Class metahumans.
He stood up and stretched. The stun gun was a great idea, but not yet feasible. Maybe if he worked on something simpler first, he could work up to making it actually work. But for the time being, he had other things to concentrate on.
He turned towards a mirror on the wall next to his workbench. A lot had changed in the three months since the day he had told his sister about his plan. Which basically boiled down to avoiding the biggest mistake most gadgeteers (and, in fact, most capes in general) made: going out immediately upon gaining a power and a decent costume (the second being optional).
If a Gadgeteer needed time to become strong enough to survive by themselves without being forced to join a larger team, then he would take the time!
So he had spent the first month after that day gathering money. Amy had offered to fund him, at least in the beginning (turns out that The Dark paid really well), but he did not want to use money that she had gotten for being a supervillain. Nor did he want to depend on her for this.
On the other hand, money – and access to material – was the single largest hurdle any technology-based cape had to pass in order to even begin using their powers. Which meant that he would need to spend quite some time gaining funds.
He’d had a lot of luck, back then, when he had found a few barely protected accounts used by the local mob, but they had caught on and moved their money before he managed to steal greater sums from them. His sister told him that the whole thing had become known in the wider underworld and whoever among the mob had been stupid enough to put money in unprotected accounts had probably been ‘disposed’ of for punishment.
That gave him nightmares for a few days – until he decided that if he moped for every criminal who was killed by his own people due to his future acts as a superhero, he’d never get a good nights sleep again. It was not his fault that the mob was murderous.
But he still needed money. So he had sat down and started to write various scripts that searched for any other accounts for illegal funds. After nearly two weeks of work, he had been lucky and found, in fact, the accounts containing the moved money he had been unable to steal earlier. Does taking money from thieves and murderers even count as theft?
After spending another week working on specialized scripts to get the money away and make sure it could not be traced to him, he had finally struck. Two days and more than three thousand lines of code later and he had nearly three million dollars in an anonymous account he had opened with the Underbank – a neutral organization specializing in administrating the money of superhumans who did not want to use official channels.
So then he went about aquiring his own secret base. Because he was not going to have a lab in his house’s basement. Seriously. Not. Happening.
Plus, he wanted to avoid any problems with his sister. Familial love and mutual trust were great, but having your superhero base under the house of a supervillainess was just inviting disaster.
He ended up renting storage space at the northern edge of the city, close to the forest. It was basically a big room in a warehouse that had been rebuild into numerous smaller rooms to rent. His was on the ground level on the far back and right corner from the entrance. First thing he did was lining the walls and ceiling with lead and sound-dampening. Then he turned it into a temporary workshop.
The next two weeks were spent inventing the equipment necessary for building a tunnel that led fifty meters underground – thankfully, the city stood on a lot of bedrock – where his machines slowly build a three-cavern complex, with two larger tunnels leading to different points in the woods where they ended in camouflaged entrances, three that were barely large enough for a human that opened to different points in the city and another larger one that opened on the north-east corner of the city, close to the scrapyard. He also made sure to line the entire complex with lead, just to be safe.
After that came the fun work of obtaining the parts to create an energy source for the base, so he wouldn’t be traceable because he tapped into the city grid. At this point he finally caved in and used some of his sister’s contacts to obtain large enough quantities of helium-3 for a nuclear reactor. Downloading several plans from the internet and improving on them, he built a fusion reactor in the lowest cavern of his base.
Compared to all that, installing proper lighting and secure connections to the internet, phone network and television turned out to be rather trivial.
Inventing a new kind of flat-screen monitors was boring, but being able to watch The Avengers on a monitor the size of a delivery truck and in true 3D without glasses was totally worth it.
The cavern right above the reactor room became his workshop, with all the equipment he had come up with himself or bought and modified (he used almost nothing as it had arrived from the shop). It was the largest of the three caverns, being large enough for his entire house to fit in, so he had a lot of spare space left.
Before he went to finally work on his equipment, however, he first outfitted the top floor to be a combination between control room (though he did not yet have anything to control), surveillance center (again, lacking the surveillance equipment) and rest-room, including a shower and bedroom. Then he reworked the storage space he was renting to conceal the entrance to his base. When he was done, it looked like a highschooler’s semi-secret hangout/lovenest, complete with off-the-shelve tv and an official phone line and internet connection. Then he wrote a few scripts on a computer he installed that would make it look like the internet and phone were used regularly when he was down in his base, just in case someone got the idea to check up on that.
Then, after two months, he finally sat down to work on his equipment.
* * *
By the time he got to work on the equipment for his superhero persona, he had already spent some time on various concepts and approaches, as well as a theme and a codename. He’d decided early on to go the non-lethal route, with incapacitating equipment. He had also decided to first focus on protection and defense.
While he had been working on his lair, he had also been working out and had actually taken up his sister’s offer to use her telepathy to implant knowledge of various martial arts in his brain. Simply knowing them all did not automatically make him a master, but it meant that he could, with just two hours of training a day for the last two months, make the kind of progress that most people made after two years of training.
Having taken a liking to Eskrima or Kali, the traditional martial art of the Philippines, he created a pair of stun batons that attacked the target’s nervous system, numbing it to the point that they became unable to move after one or two hits (if hit right and lacking protection), but with no long-term ill effects. The sticks had internal batteries that would be charged either by sheathing them or through a port in their hilts that drew energy from fitting ports in the gloves of the armor he planned to create.
Now the armor, that got really interesting. The stun batons had taken him less than a day to come up with and build. The armor turned out to need way more time.
First, he worked on a material to base the armor on. He did not want to simply use some metal alloy, since that would leave him vulnerable to electric or magnetic attacks – and wasn’t that a trite cliche. Searching for some substitute for the usual choices – Adamantium, Titanium and other such metals – he finally came up with his first all-original invention.
It was a ceramic compound that took him almost two weeks to work out and produce. It ate nearly half of his remaining funds, but it turned out to be totally worth it. The resulting material had a dull black colour and was very light-weight, but could stop high-caliber rounds, provided it was not too thin. He named it I-43, it being his forty-third invention. It was also completely insulated and non-conductive. If it wasn’t so damn expensive, he would have replaced the lead-lining around the reactor with it.
After he had finally invented and produced enough I-43, the actual design and assembly of the armor worked out in just a week – though he used schematics he had found online and modified to suit his needs (it seems it was considered good form for gadgeteers to put their outdated work online for future gadgeteers to work with).
The result was a skin-tight black bodysuit made of an electric impact-mesh with a small but very long-lived battery on the back of the waist. It was build to automatically contract on a hit to absorb the impact, providing his innermost layer of defense. The main part of the armor consisted first of a rig that increased his physical strength to the point where he could lift up to one ton if he strained, while also providing another layer of defense against large blunt impacts. Around that came the actual ceramic armor. Since he was not going to integrate any weaponry or larger equipment, he was able to make the armor very form-fitting and flexible, the armor plates fitting smoothly onto and around his body, accentuating the muscles he had begun to build up (though there was not that much to see yet) while also making sure that, in combination with his natural height, no one would assume that he was just a high school student. The gloves had the necessary ports to charge his batons. There were also sheaths on his hips for them. The only part of the armor that wasn’t form-fitting was the back, where there was a backpack-sized, three-centimeter thick battery that would supply the energy for all of his equipment. The armor was topped by a helmet that encased his entire head. It was made of the same ceramic as the rest of the armor and imitated the shape of a generic face, like a mannequin. There were no eyeholes, instead it had several cameras that were practically invisible and gave him a field of vision just as wide as he would have if he did not wear a helmet at all. The whole suit was environmentally sealed, using microphones to hear and a rebreather with a reservoir of compressed oxygen installed right beneath the battery on the back and large enough to last him for an entire week.
He also built in a lot of extras beyond the base stuff. The helmet provided telescopic, low-light, infra-red and x-ray vision, up-links to pretty much every radio frequency, police bands, the internet and television. It had a build-in phone, a PA-system, sonar, sensory shielding and, of course, a built-in computer to manage all of that and then some. The controls for all of this were built into his gloves, so he could control the armor through finger movements. There were also redundant controls in his boots to be used with his toes and in the helmet itself, which he controlled through blinking and lip- and tongue-movements. Every part of the helmet’s inside that wasn’t taken up by speakers, monitors or controls was lined by a shock absorbing foam for additional protection.
The final piece was the utility belt that also held the sheaths for his batons. He had several gizmos stored in and on it – flashbangs, smoke, fire and freeze grenades, pepper spray (way more useful than one would think, especially against superhumans with enhanced senses – which was one of the most common secondary powers) and a grappling ‘hook’ that was actually a soft ball that used van der Waals forces to stick to almost every surface, attached to a long, thin cable made of a metallic alloy he had found online and modified. It doubled as a ranged taser.
The same van der Waal technology built into the grappling hook was also integrated into the soles of his boots and the palms of his gloves, to allow him to easily climb even the smoothest vertical surfaces.
The whole setup sported the ceramic’s dull black colour. Over it came a black cloak with wide sleeves and a hood that was slightly pointed, giving the distinct impression of a raven’s beak. The cloak connected to the armor at the front and back of the shoulders using, again, van der Waal forces. It was open in the front, allowing for easy access to the equipment around his waist. The cloak was fashioned out of kevron, a gadgeteer-made improvement on the outdated kevlar, which was now commonly used by most law-enforcement and thus provided an additional layer of protection.
Having decided on a raven-theme for his superhero persona, Basil chose the name Brennus.
With that, he was finally ready to go out and enter the game! After he went to school, of course.