There is another earth!
The revelation rocked Strongarm. A part of him had not wanted to believe Anti-Matter. His skepticism of those who claimed to serve Praetoria, of Cole and his Praetors, had been growing steadily since he had joined the Powers Division, practically exploding into full disbelief when he met and worked for Praetor Tilman. Anti-Matter was different, however. A disgraced, former Praetor, the man definitely held a grudge and it was clear he felt unappreciated, so Strongarm ignored or dismissed much of what Anti-Matter said as false bravado or vain self-promotion.
Until he encountered Longbow. And Arachnos. Or, perhaps more accurately, a man who called himself Dark Watcher. Standing in the middle of Anti-Matter’s lab, his fedora and trench coat hiding his features in shadow like some cliche from a noir movie, Dark Watcher had revealed to Strongarm that Longbow and Arachnos came from a place called Primal Earth, a mirror dimension. He warned that Arachnos was the real enemy.
Which proved to be true when they attacked the reactors. With the help of Interrogator Kang, Strongarm stopped the raid. Afterward, Kang asked Strongarm to meet him at C.D.E.C. later that evening; Kang had discovered something he needed to show Strongarm.
The sun was setting behind the towers of Imperial City as Strongarm opened the door to the Cultural Direction and Education Center. He had only been here a few times to research some enhancements to his containment suit. From corner of his eye, he saw Kang nod as he walked into the shelves of the C.D.E.C. library. Strongarm followed.
“Glad you decided to come, Strongarm.” Kang kept his voice low; his eyes flicked back and forth, full of wariness.
“Sure. What’s up, Kang?”
“Remember when we fought those Longbow agents? And those ‘Destined Ones’ from Arachnos? And I said I was going to do some more investigating about who they were and where they came from?”
“Is that what this is about, Kang? I already know. They come from a mirror dimension called Primal Earth.”
Kang paused. “How did you find out about that?”
Not sure how far he could trust Kang, Strongarm skirted the question. “I have my own resources.”
“Fine. Then I can skip right to the recording.” Kang pulled out a mobile playback device from his pocket, removed a small memory chip from under the wrist of his glove, and plugged it into the device. Then he handed a bluetooth earbud to Strongarm and pressed play.
“We’ve been ordered to mobilize.” Anti-Matter’s voice spoke as the video started. It appeared to be camera footage, looking down at a large bay filled with men and women in lab coats circulating through ranks of giant clockwork, though they hardly resembled the maintenance bots that littered Praetoria’s streets. These monstrous hulks had cannons and rocket launchers for arms, and their eyes glowed with a menacing light, if they had faces at all. In the background, some sort of conveyer was moving the robots through the bay to another location.
“The target is Primal Earth,” Anti-Matter’s voice continued. "Each of the War Walkers can handle at least a dozen of Primal Earth’s super-powered beings. I have designed them with a microwave band emitter that should disrupt the medi-porter technology used on Primal Earth.
“Once the attack is launched, Cole predicts the war will be over in a week. No super-powered being on Primal Earth will be left alive. In Cole’s words, ‘There will be no survivors.’”
The video ends and Kang pockets the device. “Strongarm, this has to get out. Cole is planning a slaughter, and innocents will be caught in the crossfire. We can’t allow this to happen.”
“And you think leaking this video will stop him?”
“I think it will be enough to get people to rally against Cole. This army could be used against the threat of Hamidon. I’ve tried so hard to do what was right, only to see people like Tilman and Berry put their own selfishness ahead of the needs of the people. And now Cole is planning to do this. I sacrificed my own daughter to help Praetoria. My own daughter! I can’t continue to do it anymore. I can’t continue to support Cole and his government. Are you going to help me?”
Strongarm let Kang’s words wash over him. Could this little video really do all that Kang thought? He felt Kang’s anguish and disgust, and shared it. Praetoria was not the country he once thought it was. From the inside, the tarnish had become much clearer. But what could one man do to change the course? Strongarm had seen more than one protestor shot down by PPD officers. And how many Resistance plots had he personally stopped? It seemed like any effort to bring down Cole was futile.
But could Strongarm live with himself if he didn’t try. “All right. What do you need me to do?”
Kang grinned. “Take this.” He handed Strongarm a burner. “Call the number. Ask for Jessica Flores. She’s a reporter with TPN.”
“You want me to give her the video? There is no way TPN will play it.”
"Jessica has other…avenues to get the footage out. Call her. Send her the video. Then dump the burner.
“Look, Strongarm, you do this and your done in the Powers Division. It may take them a while, but they’ll trace it back to you. And me. I’ve made contact with the Resistance. A man named Steven Sheridan. He knows what I’m planning. Once the video has been released, he’ll contact you.”
Strongarm nodded as he took the burner from Kang.
“You’re doing the right thing, Strongarm. Good luck.” Kang turned and left without another word.