Home, Science Fiction

Do You Know the Quiet Engineer?

She says it so quietly at first. Barely louder than a breath. Abigail has never been so quiet.

This is the first clue they have crossed the line.

Her friend Liv (a known criminal. The reason for this intrusion into Abigail’s lab, her home), lies in a pool of her own blood, as Abigail, a renowned engineer, speaks quietly for the first time since the start of the battle. She stands between her friend and the heroes of her city, eyes shadowed by her blonde bangs, arms spread wide, feet planted.

“Get out.” Abigail whispers in the tense silence. The heroes glance at one another, but no one moves. On the floor, Liv weakly raises her head, winces, and blinks at Abigail’s back. Abigail’s shoulders tremble as she slowly lowers her arms. The heroes do not move, weapons and fists still raised.

“‘Gail?” Liv asks, her uninjured eye wide. Abigail doesn’t reply, a a grim acceptance fills Liv’s gaze. She lies back down, and tries to steady her breathing.

“What are you doing, Dr. Smith?” Calls the hero groups leader. A tall, strong man with incredible power. He could take out an entire army without breaking a sweat, yet Abigail, powerless vulnerably human Abigail, doesn’t move. She stands like a shield, and repeats herself, just a little louder.

“Get out.”

“She’s a villain Dr. Smith.” The man insists, stepping forward as he lowers his hands. He throws Abigail a pleading look, if she can even see it from under her bangs. “We don’t want to hurt you, but we were ordered to take that villainess and we will.” He says, sighing when Abigail still doesn’t move. “I am well aware of your ‘neutral’ standing as well as your forgiving nature Dr. Smith, but the Heroes Association gave us explicit orders. We aren’t leaving without that criminal.”

“No.” Abigail hisses, raising her head. The other heroes step back. There is so much cold rage in Abigail’s eyes, so much promised pain if they were to continue to defy her. And coming from such a normally vibrant happy woman, it is beyond terrifying.

“I will not let you hurt her anymore. I will not let you drag her away and kill her in secret.” Abigail growls, fists clenched to white-knuckles at her sides. “I know exactly what the Heroes Association is like. Do not test me, Commander.” Violently, she points her finger behind them, towards the door. “Now get out of my lab.”

“We won’t –” The man — Commander — protests, stepping forward again, one hand gesturing for his comrades to lower their weapons. Abigail, for as much as she’s being an obstruction, is still a civilian. A brilliant scientist, and a well-loved civilian. A civilian without powers.

“Don’t you dare lie to my face, Commander.” Abigail growls. The Commander frowns, lowers his hands, and sighs.

“Dr. Smith,” He tries again, a warning growl in his voice. “If you continue to block us, we will have no choice but to use lethal force against you.” At that declaration, the Commander’s hands burst into flickering bright fire. Abigail doesn’t even flinch. “I ask you one more time; stand aside.”

Abigail does not move. She simply glares back in silence, head held high, feet planted.

“So be it then.” The Commander says. Then he’s moving, rushing towards the unmoving stubborn human woman, hands alight, the heat of his flames leaving scorch march under his feet. He raises a hand, furious at Abigail’s complete disregard for her own well-being —

Something hard slams into the Commander.

He hits the ground with a gasp, skidding across the polished metal floor. He rolls over with a wheeze, and blinks up at his teammates, black spots dancing across his vision. He breathes, then realizes his entire team is staring at something out of view.

The Commander sits up, then turns his head. His jaw drops at the sight of two car-sized robot wolves braced at Abigail’s sides. Their glowing eyes burn into him, pure animalistic rage, as they snarl, large metal fangs gleaming under the overhead florescent lights.

The Commander gapes as his teammates pull him to his feet. Abigail has turned from them, hands on the villainess they had come to collect, aiding the criminal in sitting up. The whirl of charging weapons fills the air, yet still Abigail spares not a sliver of attention to the danger. Her back remains turned as her deft hand slide across bloody injuries. As if she has nothing to worry about aside from seeing to her friend’s wounds.

Before the Commander can settle his furious teammates, there is laser-fire and energy blasting. But the wolves simply step forward and open their gleaming jaws. Horror grows in the Commander’s chest as those earth-shattering bolts of energy are swallowed, without ceremony, by Abigail’s robots.

Steam and smoke billow from the beasts jaws, but that is all that happens. The beasts stand, claws scrapping against the metal floor, distorted snarls dripping from their maws. Only then, as the Commander and his team shudder in disbelief, does Abigail address them once more.

She rises, calm and slow, and pivots on her heel. Her face remains cold, her eyes burning points of ice. She lays a hand on on of her beasts, unhurried and unbothered. As of there weren’t a group of highly-trained super heroes threatening her.

“Would anyone else like to try?” Abigail asks quietly. Silence answers her, but Abigail waits, gaze locked with the Commander’s. She waits for a reply. She’s waiting for them to give up and leave. She waits in vain, for the Commander’s throat is dry. For the first time in a long time — he is afraid.

“I am an engineer, Commander.” Abigail finally answers, her gaze dropping to one of pride and kindness as she looks to her creations. “The public knows me for the wonderful machines I create for the betterment of our civilization. I build robots to aid in the environment. I build complex machinery that aids in medical and engineering fields. I create machines with the intention to help, Commander.” She sighs, and though the sound is happy and wistful, it makes it no less unsettling to the Commander, nor his men.

“But you — you don’t build weapons.” The Commander protests. “In your file it said — you’ve never sold or shown off any weapons!” The Commander cries. “What else have you been hiding –”

“Weapons are easy to build, Commander.” Abigail replies,  cutting him off, her hands still pressed across the snarling beast’s flank. “I prefer more challenging projects. And while I’ve never been a fan of violence, that doesn’t mean I can’t wield it just as easily as any soldier if it becomes necessary.” A smirk crosses Abigail’s face, and the Commander has never been more afraid of a regular human.

“Did you think I put all of my creations on the market? Does your organization think I show them every project of mine?” Abigail laughs. “I’m a world-renowned engineer! And you didn’t think about my defenses?”

A realization washes over his mind like a frigid waterfall. They stand in Abigail’s domain, her lab, her home — They have no chance of besting the engineer here. At his paling expression, Abigail smiles.

“It’s not that I can’t build weapons, Commander. It’s that I don’t want too.” Abigail answers stepping back to stand proudly between her wolves. “I hate seeing people in pain, Commander, but,” She pauses, gaze returning to it’s former glacial brilliance as she stares the Commander down. “I am not so naïve as to not to build myself a shield. And I will not tolerate those who seek me or my loved ones harm.”

Abigail had not been begging them to leave to protect herself — she had been warning them of the danger of her, and her creations. The Commander stares up at the beastly wolves, and wonders if they are the best of Abigail’s arsenal. He looks back at Abigail, and in her eyes her sees that they are barely the tip of the iceberg.

The Commander swallows, his eyes slide over the still-bleeding villainess, the wolves, and Abigail. His eyes flicker to the constructs laying under tarps, the dark corners of the lab, and all the empty metal spaces that may slide away to reveal something.

The Commander makes his call. He and his team retreat, and as they flee, he thinks over everything he knows about Abigail. He thinks of those reports. He thinks of the bubbly, kind, and passionate woman written down on those papers. A woman who was always moving, always talking like words and ideas were her air. The bounce of her heels and the laugh-lines etched in her face like they had always been there. He thinks of the people who praise her kindness and genius. The lives her creations have saved and will continue to save.

Then, he recalls of the frigid burning of those normally warm eyes, and the gentleness of her hands as she helped a known criminal. The fearless way she laid her palms against the unyielding metal of giant beasts. Commanding them without a word.

He thinks of the quiet and furious way she told them to get out, and wonders exactly, who Abigail is? He wonders is he will ever –if the world will ever get to know.

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