Phineas looked himself over in the bathroom mirror.
Where have the years gone, old man? he thought to himself.
His bald head reflected the bathroom lights. Veins were faintly visible beneath his pale skin. His long white beard strongly contrasted with his black dress shirt, a bright red necktie the only colorful thing on his person. Like the man within, the clothes were visibly worn, coated in two decades worth of turmoil. Phineas gave a heavy sigh. His frown turned into a smile and he headed for the door, a slight mechanical whirring filling the silence with each step.
Phineas stepped out of the bathroom and into the workshop beyond. A party was in full swing and he was expected to make an appearance.
Phineas slowly made his way through the crowded lunchroom before returning to his seat at an empty table, a newly opened bottle of beer in his left hand. He watched the various hobnobbers socialize around him. Most of the crowd consisted of Anderson Robotics employees, patrons, or personal friends of Vincent Anderson. A few representatives of Marshall, Carter, and Dark also were in attendance, their business attire looking out of place among the casual outfits of the majority of the Anderson staff.
Phineas took a long sip from his beer and looked across the room. A banner reading “10,000 SOLD!” stretched across the far wall. He closed his eyes and sighed.
“Is someone being a party pooper?” a bubbly voice asked. Phineas opened his eyes to the site of a short, middle aged woman with shoulder length brunette hair and faint blue eyes. She wore a flowered sun dress and smiled warmly as she took the seat across from him. “It’s as much your day as it is ours. You should be ecstatic.”
“I think he removed his ability to feel joy when he put on that last prosthetic,” said a tall, lanky young man who took the seat next to her. His eyes were slightly obscured behind a mop of curly blond hair, but the thick glasses he wore were still plain as day. When he wasn’t speaking his lips seemed to permanently be turned up in a smirk. “Still, in all seriousness, you’re the man of the hour. The Gyrfalcon series would never have worked without you. This party might as well be for you.”
“Afternoon Medea, Jason.” Phineas raised his eyebrows in amusement. “Always nice to see the dynamic duo. But your praise is poorly spent on me. You two were ones who finally got the damn things to work. It’s your baby now. I’m just the old fool who kept messing it up.”
“Always so modest,” Medea said with a small laugh. “You need to start taking credit, Phineas. Out of all of us you’re the one who has poured their entire being into this company. We’d be dead in the water without you.”
Phineas responded with a small shrug.
“If you’ll excuse me,” he said as he got to his feet and began to walk away. He crossed the room and entered the hallway. Jason was quick to follow.
“Hey man,” he said as he placed himself in front of Phineas. “All my mom was trying to do was pay you a compliment. The least you could do is not be a monumental dick about it.”
Phineas swiftly grabbed the boy by his arm and pulled him in close. Jason let out a small gasp in surprise.
“I know about that little Nankeen project you were working on with Isaac, and about Ian, and how you lost him to the Foundation,” Phineas whispered into Jason’s ear. “Now, I suggest that if you don’t want me to tell Anderson you go right back the way you came and the two of you give me some space for today. I am in no mood to pat anyone, especially myself, on the back. Am I clear?”
Phineas released the young man’s arm and watched as Jason took a few steps back.
Jason returned to the lunch room without another word. Phineas took a seat on the floor with his back pressed against the wall. He raised his beer in a mock toast.
To the monumental dick, he thought to himself, and took another sip.
Phineas looked up when heard footsteps. A middle aged man with dark skin approached, his face permanently pressed into an expression of worry. He carried a bottle of beer in his hand, and gave a small nod to Phineas. Trailing behind him was a young man in his mid-twenties. His skin was the same tone as the first man, and his head was shaved.
“Thought you’d be running a little empty right about now,” the middle aged man said as he handed off the bottle to Phineas. The old man chuckled and popped the top off the bottle with his left hand.
“Thanks, Jeffery.” Phineas took a long sip. “How’s it going? Enjoying the jubilations?”
“It’s not really my thing,” Jeffery sighed.
“How about you, Miles?” Phineas looked towards the young man.
“It’s just a bunch of employees sucking up to the rich and successful.” The young man shrugged. “Not really my cup of tea, either.”
“Guess we could start our own club,” Phineas chuckled and took another sip from his beer.
“Miles, I’d like to speak to Phineas alone for a bit, do you mind?” Jeffery asked. Miles nodded and headed back into the lunch room. Jeffery watched the young man leave before turning back to Phineas.
“I always appreciated that you call him Miles. Isaac insists on calling him Saker-00.”
“Well, for all intents and purposes he is Miles.”
“For the record, I told Anderson that this party wasn’t the best idea,” said Jeffery. “But he insisted that we have a reputation to uphold now, and that this event would be the perfect opportunity to up the ante with the investors.”
“Anderson sure does love causing a spectacle,” Phineas sighed. “I appreciate the attempt though. Thanks.”
“Any time.” Jeffery began to make his way back towards the lunch room door. “Are you coming back inside soon?”
Phineas slowly nodded.
“In a bit. Just let me finish this last beer.”
Jeffery briefly smiled and headed back into the din of the party.
Phineas had just finished the second beer when he heard the doors to the lunch room open again. Looking over, he saw a muscular man in a business suit approach. The man’s hair was neatly combed back, and a faint scent of aftershave seemed to follow him where he went. Phineas rolled his eyes.
“To what do I owe the pleasure Isaac? There’s no one out here for you to schmooze.”
“Funny,” Isaac replied. “Anderson wants you. He’s about to do his big announcement.”
“Does he need me to talk for him?”
“Stop being such a little bitch and come along,” Isaac said flatly. “Anderson doesn’t want to begin without his best friend and partner, and you should want to be there. The Taita series was your design after all. A little socializing won’t kill you.”
“Socializing with MC&D reps might,” Phineas mumbled under his breath. He then sighed and got to his feet. Isaac trailed behind him as the two made their way into the lunch room.
The room quieted down as Phineas slowly made his way towards the front. Awaiting him, next to a large object obscured by a sheet, was Anderson. His employer wore a blue dress shirt, with a silver vest and matching slacks. The silver comedy mask gleamed in the lights of the lunch room. Eventually Phineas took his place by Anderson’s side.
“The, uh, man of the hour has arrived,” Anderson chuckled. The audience laughed in kind. “As you all are aware by now this little shindig is to celebrate the sale of our 10,000th Gyrfalcon series prosthetic. This, um, milestone would not have been possible without months of dedication by this man here.”
The crowd burst into applause. Phineas frowned slightly and then turned to Anderson. His old friend placed a hand on his shoulder and quieted the audience.
“But, uh, on top of such a wonderful achievement, today we are pleased to announce the completion of a new prototype. The Anderson Robotics Taita Series Security Droid. This, um, new line is Phineas’s baby, and is going to easily become our new high selling product.”
The crowd began to cheer once more as Anderson handed Phineas a corner of the sheet.
“Would you do the honors my friend?”
Phineas nodded, sighing as he turned to face the crowd, the corner of the sheet in his hand.
“Before I reveal the Taita series, I have something I would like to say.” The crowd instantly quieted down to hear his words.
“Most of you who have worked with me know that I don’t give speeches often. Not my cup of tea, I suppose. However, I have something I’ve wanted to say for a long time. All you hobnobbing bastards can kiss my ass. Especially those of you from MC&D. And especially Skitter and that soul sucking Lana Fuentes.”
With a fluid motion, Phineas reached into his pocket and pulled out a glob of neon blue goo, effortlessly chucking it at the sheet covered object. The droid beneath let out a horrid death wail and crumbled into rust. The crowd fell silent as Phineas gave a bow.
“Have a nice party,” he said with a smile, and stormed out of the lunch room.
Phineas stood on top of the Anderson Robotics office building, his eyes staring into the Portland sunset as he took a long drag on a cigarette. The sound of a door opening behind him indicated that he was no longer alone.
“You, uh, really made an ass of yourself today, Phineas,” said Anderson as he approached. Phineas looked over his shoulder. Anderson’s mask had changed from comedy to tragedy.
“Perhaps I did,” Phineas said with a shrug. “But I finally got to say what I really wanted to say.”
Anderson stood next to his friend and looked out at the sunset. Phineas offered him a cigarette. Anderson hesitantly accepted, and slowly took his mask off. In place of eyes, he had what appeared to be two small camera lenses that glowed with a faint green light. Rather than a nose, he had a triangular grating that occasionally hissed with the passage of air. Anderson lit the cigarette and took several short puffs.
“So, um, was all of that supposed to be your two week notice?”
“More or less. I’ll have my office cleaned out by Monday.”
“You just really can’t accept the fact that we are successful now, can you?” Anderson continued to query. “You just have to be the underdog, huh? It, uh, just gets to you that you might actually be, uh, The Man now.”
“Success is a funny way to look at turning a small custom shop into what is little better than a terrorist cell,” Phineas replied. “Especially if you consider that our company not only regularly engages in espionage, but has catapulted an entire section of the population into an arms race to become the bigger and better cyborg. And the real cherry on top is that we’re doing all of that on MC&D’s dime.”
"Who are you to judge anyone for improving themselves you hypocrite!" Anderson yelled. "How on earth do you have a leg to stand on?”
Phineas dropped his cigarette and crushed it with the sole of his shoe, turning back to face his friend.
“You’re right,” he said with a melancholy smile. “I’m guilty too. Tried as hard as I did to cut off the hydra’s head, two more would always take its place. Eventually it was easier to just roll with things. But not anymore. I quit.”
Phineas began to move toward the stairs, stopping when three Peregrine units emerged ahead of him, each brandishing a high caliber pistol.
“So this is how it’s going to be then?” Phineas asked, turning back around to face his friend.
“You're, uh, more than welcome to stay,” Anderson replied. “In fact, I insist. Please don’t go, Phineas. Don’t leave me alone.”
“Don’t do this, Vince. Just let me go.”
“I, uh, know for a fact that if you leave this company, you’ll be back to throw every monkey wrench under the sun into our operation. Just don’t leave.”
“This isn’t what I signed up for back in ’94, man!” Phineas shook his head.
“I know, right? Boy did we ever sell out,” Anderson said with a sad laugh. He then placed his mask back on his head and threw his cigarette butt away. He gave the droids a nod.
The droids opened fire in unison. At the same time, Phineas clapped his hands together, sending a sonic wave across the rooftop. The incoming bullets scattered. The Peregrine and Anderson were thrown backwards, clattering across the concrete like discarded toys. Losing no time, Phineas turned on the spot, throwing a wide arc of neon blue goo at the Peregrine units. The three droids wailed and writhed in pain on the ground before disintegrating into piles of rust.
The old man then began to sprint towards the edge of the building, turning his head briefly to see Anderson sprinting behind him. Anderson’s right hand was extended, the index and ring finger pointing as if they were a gun. Phineas immediately jumped to the side. A bolt of lightning shot past him, striking the concrete on the far side of the roof with a loud bang. Lightning continued to sail past the old man as he approached the ledge of the building. With a great leap, he jumped over the side, but not before a final bolt nailed him square in the chest. Phineas then fell four stories to the earth below.
Anderson gave a heavy sigh as he approached the ledge of the building. He glanced down to the parking lot below. Phineas lay crumpled below within the small crater he created upon landing. His left arm and legs arced with electricity as he shouted in pain. His right hand reached into his pocket and pulled out a large wad of black goo, quickly slamming it into the pavement beneath him. Anderson quickly raised his hand and fired off one last bolt, but to no avail. Phineas vanished into the black goo, and was gone. The bolt harmlessly struck the pavement below.
“See you around, old friend,” Anderson whispered to himself. He then turned around and headed back inside.
Agent Sasha Merlo sat alone in her office at Site-64. She took a long sip of stale coffee, and quietly brushed a strand of her brunette hair out of her eyes as she read over MTF Gamma-13’s most recent string of reports. As usual, all their current leads had turned into dead ends. She let out a heavy sigh. She didn’t know what she would say to Director Holman this time.
The sound of her cellphone receiving a text and breaking hours of silence almost caused her to fall out of her chair. Lazily she opened the text message, her brow furrowing as there was no listed sender. The message itself only contained a single phrase
I know how you get him.