The buzzing sound echoed through the spacious office, sounding like an annoying fly amid a perfect, silent garden of steel and crystal.
Everything about the room was immaculate, from the glass furniture to the silver paneled walls. Track lighting hummed softly above, each illuminated column set in faceted quartz and focused through cubic zirconium panes. The colours playing across every corner of the room were breathtaking, all the more so because they were the only hues in the office itself. Everything else was clear, white, or grey.
Even the light blinking under the glassine plate of the room's monolithic desk was white, flickering to indicate the continuing call attempting to come through. The light blinked five times, disappearing just before an automated answer system could pick it up. Then, a few seconds later, it would start again.
The caller was persistent.
The sixth call finally move the lone occupant of the pristine chamber. Broad shoulders and huge hands moved the wheels of his silver chair, turning it away from where he was staring out over Pagagon City's famed Atlas Park. Though the wheelchair possessed one of the finest micromotors known to man, its occupant rarely found cause to use it. He preferred to use his arms to move about. At least they still worked.
Reaching out over the softly glowing desktop, the man touched directly over the flashing call light and ended the annoying buzz echoing from speakers set in every corner of his office.
"What is it?" His voice was deep and he was not bothering to hide his irritation.
"We have a serious problem."
The man in the silver chair looked down at his desk, not needing the information display scrolling across it to tell him the caller's identity. According to the gleaming letters and images on the glass, the call was coming from a location halfway across Paragon City and the moniker attached to it was "Teravolt". He knew the man by a different name. An older name...
"Yes, Tesla. I know."
Oscillation lines stretched and jumped like cragged waves during an ocean storm, eloquently showing the panic in the caller's voice. "You know?!? Were you going to bother to tell us about it or were you saving it for a rainy day?"
With a deep sigh, the man now known as Fortress considered ending the call with a stroke of his finger but decided against it. Tesla would just call back. For hours if he had to. For a man with the attention span of a mayfly, the overcharged annoyance was impossibly stubborn that way.
"I was not going to trouble you with it until my people had him back under lock and key."
"Lock and key? Lock and key?!? He needs to be under six feet of asphalt, Bul! You swore he'd never wake up. That's the only reason I went along with the whole stupid drug-nap plan in the first place!"
Fortress stared at the desk again, finally touching the button that let him see Tesla on the other end of the line. These days, Fortress had the video aspect of his incoming calls turned off by default. He liked being alone, three hundred feet above the city, surrounded by all the trappings of what wealth and power could provide.
His own personal Hall of Shame.
The small screen manifesting on the desktop was almost too bright to look at; Tesla... Teravolt now... was shining like a warning beacon and his face was becoming masked by dozens of small crackling bolts leaping between the connections of his containment web.
"Calm down, Tesla. You'll blow a capacitor."
Tesla's hand, equally tempestuous, came up into the image. Lightning arced between his fingers and his shock of white hair, masking him in a wreath of raw power. Though it looked terrifying, Fortress also knew that it was as much a curse as his paralysis. He had this chair; Tesla had the containment web bodysuit he would have to wear for the rest of his life.
"You want me to calm down? Do what I said we should have done a decade ago! I won't lose everything we've built because you and Ann were too soft to finish what we started!"
Fortress was getting very close to hanging up now, call backs or no. "What do you want me to do, Tes? Kill him. Is that your answer to everything now?"
Tesla glared. "What is that supposed to mean?"
He glared back, almost daring the man on the screen to deny what he was saying now. "Team Primus, anyone?"
"That was an accident! The Rikti energy manipulator set my powers to overload. I almost died too, you know!" Tesla looked indignant. Indiginance was the only kind of lie he did poorly.
"And the fact that Primus Technology was rising faster on the market than your company had nothing to do with your accident? Their patents all reverting to holding groups under your ownerships after their deaths? The bid you put in on their corporate assets the day you got out of the hospital?"
Tesla balked for a moment, the electron web lines on his face pulsing blue for a moment. That was all the tell Fortress needed to see. Tes could fool the public, the media, even the people in charge of Paragon, but he couldn't sneak his sins past a fellow sinner.
"Damn it, Bul! That's got nothing to do with what matters right now!" The lines on Tesla's face were glowing white again, showing his agitation. "I want Ravyn dealt with and I want it done right this time. You promised me...!"
Fortress growled and slammed his fist down on the glass desk plate hard enough to crack it, sending most of the displays into a pandemonium of sparking chaos. "Don't you dare bring up promises, Tes! Don't... you... dare." The master of Fortress 500, the biggest security firm in North America, had his limits. Right now, Tesla was damned close to breaking them.
And by the sudden flares of blue and green, the voltaic man knew it too.
"Okay, okay. I'm sorry. But look, Bul, we..."
"Fortress. It's Fortress." His voice was returning to its usual icy calm, an emotion not at all mirrored in his mind right now.
"Fine. Fortress. Whatever. This isn't just something that will go away. You know him. You know what we did to him. What we made him capable of. I'm not asking you to deal with him for me, but please... do it for Ann's sake."
For a moment, all Fortress wanted to do was tear the desk out of the floor and smash it into a thousand pieces, screaming at the man he'd once called friend. How could he do that?!? How dare he say that?! Tesla knew damn well that Ann was a sore point, so much so that the bastard must have thought just speaking her name would get anything he wanted...
...and he was right. Damn him. Damn them all. Tes was right.
Forcing himself to calm down, Fortress closed his eyes. "I'll do it. But she can never know. Does she know he's awake yet?"
Tesla shook his head, his web showing that he was also relaxing. Slowly. The bolts discharging across his face and shoulders were dimming, hardly more than static now. "No. And I can keep it that way. Take him out quick and she never needs to know. I can make sure of that."
"Good." There was nothing good about any of this. "One more thing."
Tesla smiled. It was that little "aren't I gracious" grin he always got when things were going his way. Fortress hated that look. He hated that face. But most of all, he hated that man.
"I never want to talk to you again. I'll kill Ravyn for you... for Ann. But after that, do not call me. Do not contact me. I am cancelling F-500's contracts with you and my security personnel will be leaving your bases within the hour. This is the last thing I will ever do for you."
Before Tesla could protest, Fortress stared down at what was left of the screen. "There is no room for discussion here. You and I are through."
And with that, the call ended. Fortress took his finger off the disconnect button, almost hoping the man did phone him again just so he could hang up twice.
But he didn't. The phone did not ring. A minute passed. Then two. Then five and still no call. It was actually over. A hundred times, that conversation had played out in Fortress' mind but he'd never brought himself to actually do it until now.
Fortress allowed himself a moment of relief.
Afterwards, it was time to get to work. Unlike Tesla, he was a man of his word. What started years ago would end tonight. There was no alternative now; if he didn't end this, Tesla would. And if that happened, the collateral damage would be... unthinkable. Tesla would think nothing of using any weapon, any tactic, any amount of force necessary to kill the monster they all had made.
This way, at least only one man would die. Someone who probably should died eleven years ago. In his own twisted way, Tesla was right. This had been inevitable.
Fortress pushed a hidden button on his wheelchair, turning to face the far wall of his office as it slide open. Behind it, resting in its charging station, was the culmination of everything his worldly success had attained for him - Fortress One, the finest example of tactical battle armor in all of Paragon City.
With this suit, he could walk. With this suit, he was capable of still being a hero...
and with this suit, he could murder a friend.