The New Warriors #98 (June, 2002)
- THE NEW WARRIORS #98: "The End is Near Part 2:
Negative Reinforcement" (June, 2002)
Night Thrasher--Mysterious weapon against crime!
Justice--Telekinetic fury! Nova--The Human Rocket!
Firestar--Mutant mistress of radiation!
Speedball--Bouncing bundle of energy!
Silhouette--Shadow teleporter! Rage--Urban Avenger!
Turbo--The human torpedo! Hindsight--Cyber geek!
Multiple Man--Self-duplicator! Bandit--Electrocuting
street fighter! Fireworks--Uncontrollable burst of
flames! Together again for the last time!
[ The Crash Pad. The fifth sub-basement. ]
It was a tear in space, at least. Not a tear in
time, because there was no time distortion involved,
but definitely a tear in space. Some other dimension,
one more powerful than the one in which humanity
resided, was just on the other side, accessible except
that it was jam-packed with energy that would force
any solid object out. Rather, it would force anything
out. Anything it felt didn't belong.
It brimmed with energy. Brimmed with it so much
that some was expelling into humanity's dimension. And
it tore even more. Having been open for a few years
now, it was gaining a considerable size, drawn here, a
few meters underneath where its 'anchor', or at least
the largest mass of itself, commonly resided now.
Or some scientific thing like that. There was a
reason why it was here, something that had to do with
that superpowered individual upstairs. It wasn't
sentient, but there were things at work more than
simple chance that made it appear here in this
basement, as if somehow it knew its future was
entangled with this place.
It wasn't sentient. No, not this kinetic energy.
But it 'chose' this place.
[ Ground floor. ]
"Robert Baldwin," the white-cloaked man called
Sayge began. Robbie's heart jumped as Sayge mentioned
his name with that whispery voice of his. Robbie was
scared and outraged at the same time. How dare this
guy come in here and do this? How dare he say all this
stuff about Robbie, and yet not tell him a thing about
himself? Everything he'd known about himself for his
entire superhero career, this... this rehab victim was
challenging. What an utter surprise it would be when
Speedball would start to wale on this guy, start
trouncing him and his pansy cloak into the ground!
Sayge turned to look at Robbie, or rather at the
darkness shrouded inside his white hood turned, the
one that drooped over his head as if he were hiding
something important. "So much you do not know about
yourself. So much you need to realize."
"So get on with it," he found himself saying. Was
that him? His knees were drumming some psycho beat
against each other so loudly that he was surprised
he'd said anything at all. He approached Sayge, moved
away from his friends. The whole gang was here: Eldon
(Rage), Rich (Nova), Dwayne (Thrashman), Angel
(Firestar) and Vance (Justice), Sil and Bandit,
Carlton (Hindsight), and Fireworks (David, the Mad
Thinker's orphaned nephew). Jamie (Multiple Man) and
Mickey (Turbo) weren't around. He had no clue and,
frankly, no desire to figure out where they were right
now. "What's goin' on?"
"Robert, you are human no longer. Not since you
were initially bathed in kinetic energy." He held his
breath--well, he could do that indefinitely, he
recently discovered. This whole cockalorum was making
his head feel like a ping-pong ball constantly
ricocheting between two paddles. His head was being
stabbed with invisible knives, or at least that was
what his headache made him feel.
But this entire situation was a load of bull.
There was no way, absolutely no way, he wasn't human.
He refused to stress over this, refused to give into
this cloaked man's stupid lies.
The thing--this white, lying, floating
cloak--continued, "Robert, can you remember a single
thing about actually being bathed in kinetic energy?"
Robbie said, coldly, "Yeah. Sure. Why?"
"What do you remember?"
"I remember--" He stammered. "I remember...
well.... I was being bombarded by these coloured
balls. Huge. Bigger than I've ever been able to make.
Then a couple seconds later--" There was a gap in
there. A kind of a lurch in memory, like a badly
edited movie. "I ended up against the wall of the lab
or something. I--I can't remember exactly." He looked
up at his friends, at Nova, at Rage, at Thrash. They
wore concerned expressions; he really wished he knew
what they were thinking. Were they actually believing
this prankster? Don't tell me. He clicked his tongue.
"Gang, don't tell me you're actually buyin' into this
whole rigmarole! C'mon--"
"Robert, you don't remember that instant because
your consciousness was in the process of transferring
itself." The cloaked man paused. Robbie wished he
could grab the guy's legs, pull them down, pull the
legs off his body! But he had to allow this thing to
continue. "Robert, your consciousness took a total of
four seconds to transfer itself. What had
happened--what you do not realize about when you were
bombarded with kinetic energy--may be too shocking for
you to know. But you must. You must realize the truth
"No, you can't be serious. You can't--Just--just
shut up! Get out--"
"Robbie." The sound of that voice calmed him. It
was Angel, and she put a hand on Robbie's shoulder,
trying to make him remain calm, to 'maintain', as Nita
would always say. "Robbie, please calm down." He
didn't even turn around to see her, just shut his
eyes, shut them as tightly as he could and put his
chin against his shoulder, put his head down, took
deep breaths. He'd let the cloaked thing continued.
He'd let it continue... then bounce it all the way to
"Robert, let me explain to you what happened. What
you think happened--according to your own
consciousness when you entered the laboratory, was
that you were barraged with the tangible apparition of
kinetic energy. Indeed, the kinetic energy in this
dimension and the kinetic energy in the kinetic
dimension are quite similar. They both possess the
same properties: They give objects the ability to
move, to be manipulated by forces around them. But
they have one distinct difference: In the kinetic
dimension, kinetic energy can be seen. It can be
touched and felt. It can also be manipulated... but
only by those that can properly interact with it.
Those that have been endowed with that extra
capability. Otherwise, trying to manipulate it would
have the same effect as it has here: One would be
repelled--bounced--away from the energy. He or she
would be harmed, possibly killed, if too much energy
struck him or her. And you were bombarded with the
energy as it was entering this dimension, as it was in
a state of flux, where it was semi-tangible, as it was
"But as it struck your body, Robert, you were
killed. Your heart stopped, your skull was crushed.
Robert, you were clinically deceased as of the time
you perceived the energy to bathe you. But, as it was
in that state of flux, it attracted your mental
energies, in much the same way a telepath's energies
are drawn to whomever that person seeks. Your soul
entered the energy, as it was transformed, and it
"You cannot recall the few seconds between when
the kinetic energy struck you and when you struck that
wall simply because... Robert, your mind was being
transferred into the kinetic energy."
Robbie was suddenly aware of the open-mawed
expression he wore, the stunned silence of the entire
group. He was not dead, no way. He'd know. He'd have
seen his body and--Yeah, he would have seen his own
body. "Where was my body then? Why didn't I see it?"
"Things would have been so much more facilitated
for you had you seen it. But you simply were too
distracted. If you recall, you entered the male's
lavatory and suddenly realized that you had undergone
a transformation: You were slightly taller, your
muscle structure was more pronounced, you wore a blue
costume with patterns of orange bubbles. Your hair was
erected straight up from your head. You wore orange
'goggles' around your eyes and your voice assumed a
more echoed, metallic double-tone. Your voice was
merely a side-effect of the kinetic energy manifesting
itself as a noise, much like when you ricochet, but
your body was a manifestation of a subconscious desire
for you to be taller, more muscular. The hair--much
like static energy, the kinetic energy caused it to
stand up and wave in the air. The bubbles around
you--the bubbles you leave in your wake--are residue
kinetic energy that you are attracting, some that does
not cling to your bodily form.
"Robert, you will remember the one time you were
able to manipulate the physical construct of your
'costume', the one you wear now... when the appearance
of your chest area, the bubbles you now wear over your
eyes, were manifested. That was simply a desire of
yours to create yourself a new costume, much like your
previous one, but different. The kinetic bubbles were
reconstructing you based on a desire. Robert, that is
because you have no physical body except for what you
perceive. Technically, you are not a physical entity,
but rather merely a consciousness in the form of
kinetic energy that assumes the physical construct of
either Robert Baldwin or Speedball. You are nothing
more than energy with a stream of consciousness."
It hit him again. These last few hours were like a
boxing match between himself and a convoy of buses,
like a ten-car pileup with him on the bottom. He
doubled over, he felt nauseous and his stomach clamped
up like someone was twisting it with a corkscrew. The
bubble--that was when he remembered it. He swallowed
something--it was singing to him, calling to him, much
like that kinetic tear in Room 5H was. It beckoned
him, egged him, dared him to take it, to... to swallow
it. And he did.
And that was when....
He was going to throw up again, had to stop
thinking, had to concentrate on regaining control of
his good ol' gag reflexes before he continued. He got
that control and then processed his final thought:
That bubble told him exactly what this thing was
telling him. He was nothing more than kinetic energy
made up to look like Robert Justin Baldwin. How had he
forgotten? By exiting the kinetic dimension?
That was why the kinetic dimension was doing all
those kooky things to his body, why he appeared as a
bunch of individual bubbles, why he could stretch
himself, why he felt so at home with the kinetic
dimension. He felt so at home... because the kinetic
dimension was his home. Because that's where he came
"But... what about Gideon?" Robbie unclenched his
stomach as the sickening feeling receded. He uncurled
as best he could, but the muscle cramps were still
there. "He ended up stealing my power and he wasn't
killed... but you can't tell me he was a kinetic
"He only stole the properties of your power, not
the kinetic properties themselves. Robert, you never
wondered how you could change your own physical
properties? How you could survive a fall from a tall
building and yet transform into Speedball only at the
point you struck the ground? Why you could freeze
objects merely by will when you were actually willing
its kinetic energy to stop, for it to freeze in space?
Why you did not need to breathe? Robert, is it now
obvious to you... that you are human no longer?"
He had to sit, had to get himself a barf bucket or
something 'cause it was certainly gonna come out,
wished he'd eaten now so that he did have something he
could puke out, finally realized he hadn't eaten in
hours, not since he found out about that double body.
The double body that was now actually his own original
body--his only body.
This was absolutely impossible. It couldn't
happen--but, then, how could a bouncing
chick-magnet-turned-grade-A superhero be possible? He
didn't know, wished again and longed immensely for
this morning, when everything was so simple and he was
"And so--" Nova's voice. "--So Toothpick is
really.... He's a bunch of energy collected together
because it thinks it's Robbie?"
"Correct, Richard," Sayge replied. "He is not
actually himself, but misinformed, conscious energy."
"That's absolutely whack," Rage replied.
"So..." Robbie stammered, trying to keep his words
out and the sickening tug of his mouth--the vastly
weird sensation in his throat--from launching his
innards out with them. "So what happened to my real
body? How'd that end up floatin' in the river?"
"Dr. Richauser was an associate of Dr. Benson,
present with him when the experiments on the kinetic
dimension were performed. He returned to the
laboratory immediately, before Benson entered. He
discovered your body as he examined the results of
their failed experiment. He was afraid. He did not
want to warn authorities of your death, and simply
took your body before his colleagues could discover
it, wrapped it up, and disposed of it in the water.
You were not seen again, until four years later. Until
"And so this Richauser know who I am, knows that
I'm Speedball?" Robbie lookd up, stress stretching his
voice and his face. Oh, no.
"For a while he did. It was not until months
later, Robert, that Richauser saw you around the
laboratory, identified you as the dead youth he'd
found whose body he disposed of. He realized Speedball
burst onto the scene only that very day, and made the
connection. Unfortunately for him, he died of a heart
attack only months later, before he could reach anyone
with this information."
Robbie calmed. At least there was some good news.
He couldn't hold his breath, found it laboured, but he
tried to slow it down so the others wouldn't hear. His
heart was thumping so hard he could feel it, which was
rare. "How do you know so much about me?" And even
Robbie could perceive the drudge, the disdain in his
"Robert, I know the truth about you simply because
I am the truth. And, yet, there is more. Much more
that you can never know."
"No!" He felt a complete reversal of opinion. A
second ago, he didn't want to know a thing, didn't
believe anything this feeb had to say. Now he found
that he was eating everything up like it was gospel.
"I need to know! You're sayin' I'm a human mind
trapped in a complete kinetic body, that it's not just
a wrapping, that the entire through-an'-through is
kinetic energy! You tell me that I don't need to eat
or breathe or probably even sleep, that I can freeze
motion, that my powers aren't 'cause I'm a human that
controls kinetic energy, but I'm kinetic energy
itself! You come in here, tell me all this... and you
won't tell me the rest?"
"The one final ounce of knowledge. That is what
you must never know."
"Tell me!" Robbie launched himself at Sayge, tried
to grab hold, tried to strangle the life outta this
guy, find his neck underneath that cloak and squeeze!
"Oh no, you don't," Rage said and grabbed his arm
with a meaty, chain-adorned arm. He felt another clasp
around his other arm and--No. Energy. Telekinetic
energy used by Vance to hold him back.
"I have him, Eldon," he heard Vance say, and Rage
withdrew his arm. Vance circled around Robbie, looked
him in the eye and the force field or whatever it was
that Vance created made his face looked a little
distorted through its semi-invisible texture. "I can't
let you hurt him, Robbie--"
"Lemme go!" Robbie screamed, struggling to escape
even though he knew it was futile.
"Even now, Robert," Sayge continued, "you exhibit
characteristics of the truth you do not know even when
given the truth you should know. It is a dangerous
thing." And he turned to the others, he addressed the
room. "And with that, New Warriors, I must take my
" No! No!" Robbie struggled to get away, struggled
to free himself of Vance's teke-field, to stop that
cloaked guy from escaping, to force him to tell Robbie
more about who he really was, what he'd become! But a
sweep of his hand, and Sayge was completely gone, not
blipped from existence or in a puff of smoke, but just
Vance dropped his teke-field and Robbie fell the
half a foot to the ground. Immediately, he scurried to
his feet and dashed to where Sayge had stood--or
rather had floated. He whipped his fingers through the
air, trying to feel a thickness or something solid,
something that would indicate he was still there but
just invisible. No. No! He wasn't anywhere, but Robbie
had to know the rest! Why wouldn't he tell him the
"Where are you, you cloaked punk?" Robbie
screamed, slowly turning in a semicircle to survey the
room. He clenched his fists, could feel the heat
rising in his face, all over his body. Where did he
go? "Get back here! Tell me the rest!" Sayge wasn't
responding! "Tell me the rest of it." Robbie could
feel the energy sapping from him, dripping out of his
pores like sweat on a hot day. Could feel himself
getting tired now that Sayge was gone, now that his
anger was subsiding, now that the 'truth' had been
forced to the back of his mind, letting his drive to
find Sayge take the fore. His legs wobbled. He could
feel them turn to paper, could feel--everything was
[ Two hours later. ]
Bandit sat on the couch, wrapping his arms around
Silhouette's upper body like shoulder seatbelts. They
huddled together on the old leather sofa like two
"I don't see what the huge deal is," he said as he
watched Madrox walk past the doorway. "He's just a
young punk. All he does is bounce around, and here
they are milking around him when we just found out the
Folding Circle has some huge New York takeover
planned. Beat it out of your brother for sure." Should
forget about that blubbering idiot, get onto more
Silhouette looked up at Bandit, at the glaring
yellow lightning bolt tattoo across his left eyebrow
and cheek, the one he'd gotten just after finding out
his entire childhood had been stolen from him by that
cad, Dwayne. He hated sharing half his blood with that
butt-wipe. She clicked her tongue. "Donyell, Robert is
their friend. They do not know what's wrong with him,
and they have an emotional interest to find out. I
know you may not understand the value of human
companionship, not having had parents when growing up,
but that does not excuse you from being so callous at
such a time."
He looked down at her, realized he'd hurt her, the
only person who'd ever meant anything to him in his
entire life. "I'm sorry, babe," he said, placing a
gentle kiss on her forehead. "I'll try harder." And he
would. Not for anyone but for her. Because she meant
everything to him. Dwayne could have his stupid
fortune and corporation. But Bandit had ended up with
[ Some time later, although Robbie didn't know how
He woke up. The pounding knifing in his head had
degenerated to nothing more than a fading throb. His
vision was blurry--where was he? What had
happened?--but he'd be able to see soon enough. And
already a formless face hovered over him, blocking a
heat lamp from view.
"Robbie?" the face's voice asked, a little echoey
and distant. But he knew it as Mickey's. It was
unmistakable, even when his vision was swimming like a
thousand distorted, broken television sets with no
horizontal hold and a wavy picture.
He stood up and squinted, the light still too much
for his waking eyes. He rubbed them, encrusted sleep
in the pits of his sockets. He flicked it out and
opened his eyes again. "What happened?" he said. He
couldn't think of something appropriate to say--just
that maybe Mickey could join him in the bed he'd lain
on--so just settled for that stupid question.
"In one of the infirmaries we found in the
subbasement. A little cold down here with the heater
broken, but we found a heat lamp and a couple of
blankets to keep you warm. Cup of water?" she offered,
holding out a mug of steaming water.
"No thanks," he said, finally hearing his own
voice normally. His hearing was returning. "How about
somethin' with an alcoholic punch to it?"
"Not much for bartending, but I can mix a mean
Coke and ice."
"S'okay." His voice was still throaty. He swung
his legs over to the side of the bed,moving aside the
thick blankets. He wanted to hop off, but the dulling
throb in his head returned just a little. In a couple
of minutes his stomach would stop doing the backstroke
around the room, then his head would work on the pain.
"I'd better call the others, tell them you've
woken up." She pecked her comm-badge with a slender
finger and spoke into it. "Dwayne, he's up." She
turned back to him. "How are you feeling?" She took a
seat on the bed next to him, but he didn't feel like
making any comments about it anymore.
"Heads hurtin' a little, but other than that, the
only thing hurt is my concept of what the heck it is I
am. Where is everyone?"
"Well, Jamie's off upstairs checking up with Dr.
Richards on whatever information they have on the
kinetic dimension. And Hindsight is doing the same
with scientific Internet news groups. Rage is brewing
you what he calls 'the meanest chili Granny Staples
ever made', and the rest of the team is just worried.
Apparently you took a nasty spill when that Sayge guy
He felt his head, and a painful bruise had swollen
itself there. But, apparently, it didn't really
matter. He groaned, thinking about what Sayge had told
him. It wasn't really a bruise on his head, but more
him thinking that he should have a bruise on his head.
Hard to get his mind around that.
He got off the bed and wobbled, taking a quick,
lurching step forward before catching himself with his
foot. "I gotta get upstairs."
"Oh, no you don't," Mickey responded. She gently
tugged on Robbie's arm and guided him back to the bed.
"You stay here until your mind eases."
The doorway blackened over. Robbie couldn't see
from the extreme glare of the heat lamp, but it looked
like Night Thrasher's silhouette blanketing the door,
blocking the light from outside the room. "Rob?" he
spoke. Was no one going to call him Speedball anymore?
Dwayne never called him anything else! Were they
afraid or something? Robbie could see him come into
the room, noticing he wasn't wearing his armour at the
moment, was just wearing training pants and a heavy,
hooded grey sweater. "You okay?" He sat down on the
bed next to Robbie.
"Yeah. Course. What's with the mellow attitude all
of a sudden?" He noticed that Mickey walked out of the
room, watched her leave and then looked over at
"Just.... We're just taking things easy with you
right now. That's all. This is a pretty big thing to
swallow all at once."
"Wait, wait. You're not believing this guy, are
you? I'm right here! I'm flesh an' blood!" Robbie
padded his chest with spread fingers. "C'mon!"
"Rob." Dwayne breathed out, closed his eyes, and
pinched his nose at the bridge. He opened his eyes and
turned to Robbie. "I've met Sayge before. He helped
show us--show everybody--that the world we once lived
in was fake, that it was a construct put up by the
female Sphinx. He helped us get our necks out of some
pretty deep stuff. I think you should listen to what
he has to say."
"No. No, it's not true--"
"Rob--" He put up a hand, silencing Robbie. "We're
here for you. We always have been. We're going to help
you get through this thing. Finding out you're not a
human being anymore, well... that's a big thing. It
was tough for us to swallow as well. Eldon is still
"But none of it's true! That's just it! There's
nothin' to be choked up about!" He believed it when
Sayge told him. What was so different about it now?
Who cared? Sayge was wrong, wrong, wrong! What was so
flippin' unbelievable that he was still human? He
wanted to punch a wall if it would finally make sense
"Robbie, just consider it for a little. At least
until we get some word back from Dr. Richards, maybe
run some tests, take a blood sample--if we can--" And
then he whispered... "--if you have blood."
"Thrashman, what--what do the others think?
Upstairs. What do they think about the whole thing?"
Dwayne sighed. He looked up at the wall, looked
around a bit. "They think that Sayge has a lot of
truth to say." He looked over to Robbie, and Robbie
could tell he felt a stinging pain as well from all
the information. "I'm going to leave you alone with
this for a little," Dwayne said and stood up. He
walked out, the clicking of his footsteps unusually
absent now with his armour not on. Robbie lied back,
let his head hit the soft bed. He couldn't help
feeling torn about this, one moment thinking he was
human, the next doubting even that. But which was it?
He was human. He knew he was human. Felt it! Felt
everything a human was supposed to feel! So why wasn't
anyone believing him? Why couldn't he figure this out
And what was that missing part of information that
Sayge refused to tell him?
[ Room 5H. ]
It still throbbed, now was growing. Not bigger,
but longer. Higher and lower, almost piercing the
floor. It was taking a shape that it never could
before now that time was drawing closer and closer. It
felt it. Again, the energy was not sentient, but there
was a certain logic it used. It was like a plant,
non-sentient and yet reactive, stimulated by
environment and circumstances that people of this
plane couldn't understand.
It throbbed wildly, watching as those scurrying,
four-legged creatures came in contact with it more and
more, how when they did they would bounce back
uncontrollably, be temporarily endowed with kinetic
characteristics. Only temporarily, though. None of
them was the one the kinetic energy was being drawn
toward. None of them was the human that was endowed
with the power permanently.
None of them was Speedball.
NEXT ISSUE: PART 3.
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