Betrayal at Onyx Island
by Faith Van Horne
“I think I might have something.” Min tapped a page in Cynthia’s booklet. At the same time, she pressed down on the stone in the center of the ring on her opposite forefinger with her thumb. “Maybe I can fix this.”
She had set Greg down on the living room table. He popped up. “What did you just do?”
“Figured out your problem, I hope.” She pulled a flat metal plate from the gun’s base. It was covered in long green circuitry paths, nodes, and various other mechanical devices Greg couldn’t identify. “The primary mechanism appears to function by manipulating the occulto-magnetic field, causing a reduction in all the atomic radii of the subject.” She peered over the paper. “I mean, you.”
“That’s not what I meant.” Greg pointed a finger at Min’s ring. “You just touched that ring; it had some kind of button in it. What was that?”
Min tensed, looking from side to side. “Greg, I can’t.”
“What is it with all the women I know keeping secrets from me?” Greg charged forward on the table. “This has to do with my wife being the spy, right? Well, I don’t care!”
When Greg glowered into Min’s eyes, forcing all the condemnation he could onto his tiny face, he expected to see hurt there, or indignation. Instead, he saw a softening in the lines of her forehead, concentration shifting to concern.
“Greg.” She looked down, away. “Your wife isn’t a spy.”
Greg waved his arms at the papers and the gun. “She’s working for AtomoTech and created a shrink ray! She’s obviously working for the evil guys.”
Min squinted as she rotated the metal sheet in her hand. “Come on, you know she’s working for the bad guys. But she’s not working against her company.”
A cold wave began at Greg’s crown and washed down his throat, sweeping to his feet. “What are you saying?”
Min blinked at him. “You’re living on an island shaped like an X, composed of giant geodesic research domes, created by a mad scientific industrialist. How could you even pretend that Onyx Island existed for any purpose besides evil super science?”
“I always thought it was shaped like a cross.”
Min scrunched her eyebrows. Then a smile crept onto her lips, and she started to laugh, but not in a cackling, mean way; it was more of a release. “You really didn’t know! You actually are that innocent!”
Greg’s mind was too blank to think of a thing to say. Instead, he let his heart break and his world fall around him in silence.
Min smiled a second longer; then the lift in her face dropped, and her high color fell to its normal pale. “My god, this must be terrible for you.” She laid the papers on the floor and reached a hand toward him, then pulled it back. “I’m so sorry.”
Greg just shook his head and sunk down onto the table. He let his gaze fall between his spread legs. In the corner of his vision, the shine of metal winked. Min had laid the gun’s electronic power sheet on the edge of the table. “Greg, I can fix you, but I need you to help me.”
“No one can fix me.”
She either ignored him or didn’t hear. She pointed a finger at the paths of circuitry, and Greg lifted his head to see. For the first time he noticed the short ragged edges of her bitten nails. “I need to move some of the pathways here. The sequencing numbers are marked on the chips, but I can’t make them out without a magno enhancer. Your vision should be precise enough to make out the markings.”
“I don’t know any of this stuff.” Greg hauled himself up, arms on knees, and bent forward to take in the circuit board. It lay crosswise to him, about the length of his body. He could clearly see numbers on whatever the bead-like pieces attached to the board were. “I couldn’t figure this out even if I wanted to.”
“You don’t have to understand it. I do.”
Greg, still pitched forward, lifted his head slowly, seeing Min’s face again, for the first time since he’d learned the island’s truth. If it was, in fact, the truth. “You just said, essentially, that everyone working on this island is evil.”
Min did not look up from the paper, but he saw a change in her stance. Concentration on the page turned to bristling, as if preparing for an attack. But what could Greg do, at this size?
“That’s not what I said. This island is owned and operated for the purposes of advancing destructive super science. Is that necessarily evil? Besides, not everyone on the island is aware.” Her eyes flicked up, then back again. “You weren’t.”
“But you were.” He rubbed his chin, the back of his neck. “Your ring, you signaled someone.”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Then how can I trust you to fix me?” Greg stood as tall as he could. “How do I know you’re not going to kill me?”
“I can’t say I won’t; I think this will work, but I’m not sure.” She spun her bracelet then; Greg thought he noticed an additional shine to it. “But if I did kill you, it wouldn’t be on purpose.”
“You just pretty much told me you’re an evil scientist.”
“Evil lab assistant.”
“So how can I trust you?”
A low sound came from somewhere far away then, barely perceptible. Greg had heard the humming of air blimps over the island before, of course; aside from coming by seajet, it was the only way to reach the island. But trips to and from the island were carefully regimented; he and Cynthia had come to the island on a Saturday, like all newcomers. Today was Thursday.
Before he could ponder further, Min’s eyes met his. For the first time today, she did not hold back, try to hide behind them. She was open, as the two of them had been so many times on the jetty. “You called me. You know me.”
The humming grew louder. Whatever was coming was getting closer. Min lowered herself so her big eyes were level with Greg’s. She had to sit cross-legged on the floor before him to do it. “Greg, I know your wife isn’t the spy, because I am.”
“But you... you’re—”
“Not who I appear to be. I’m sorry, Greg, I hadn’t meant to lie to you. But please trust me.”
Greg jumped at a new female voice. “Why should he do that?”
Min jumped up in one neat move from sitting to standing in a flurry. Greg had never seen anyone move like that before. He noticed a bright glow beginning around the midpoint of her body. She backed up a step so that Greg could see around her, into the hallway leading to the kitchen.
Standing between the metal supports stood the tall, curvy frame of Cynthia. She was armed with a gun, this one larger than the shrink ray. “Step away from my husband.”
Before Cynthia had finished her sentence, a plume of light surrounded and radiated out from Min in waves. A rush of pressure knocked Greg to his feet and scattered the gun parts onto the floor. He fell over backward.
Min looked different, too; her hair, now long and flowing, shone bright white, and her skin gave off a clear glow. A delicate tinkling hum emerged from her, and her feet floated inches from the floor. Her bracelet spun freely on her wrist.
Greg hauled himself to sitting and pointed. “You’re one of them. A magic hero!”
Min turned to Greg; her eyes now were still green, but glowing ethereally. “Greg.” That’s when he heard the crack from Cynthia’s gun.
Of course it didn’t hurt Min. Villains were always trying to use their guns on heroes, and it never worked. Instead, a solid thud marked its ricochet into one of the metal walls.
Cynthia attempted to push Min out of the way. Min, or whatever she was now, held her back.
“Greg!” Cynthia reached out an arm toward him. “Hon, my gun, oh my god. Are you okay?”
“Greg, why did you go into my lab?”
Greg lifted himself up, brushing off his behind. “Why did you lie to me about what you were doing, and push me away since we’ve been here?”
“I never lied! I was sworn to secrecy!” Cynthia strained forward, but Min continued to hold her fast. Now the humming was immediately outside the building. “I didn’t mean to push you away! My work was just so important!”
“More important than me.”
“Greg, I love you!”
From somewhere Greg could not discern, Min pulled out a pair of handcuffs. She ratcheted open one ring and slammed it closed on one of Cynthia’s wrists.
“Hey!” Greg ran to the table’s edge. “What are you doing to my wife?”
“She broke the law.” Min’s eyes, were they watering? “Greg, I’m sorry, I have to.”
Cynthia continued a token struggle. “Honey, do you think I would have asked you to come with me halfway around the world, to be a valuable part of my work, my life, if I didn’t care?”
“I don’t know, Cyn. What is it you see in me, anyhow?”
Min spoke into her ring, still holding Cynthia’s top secret documents in that hand. “Alpha, Alpha. I have the package. You can send in the sweep teams. I am holding one of the lead scientists in custody.”
The cords stood out on Cynthia’s long neck, and a tear caught in the brush of her tawny hair. Greg met her eyes.
“You were the only one,” she said, deep lines marking around her mouth, “who kept me sane when I started to drift. In a world of egotistical scientists who want to take over the world, you were always just Greg.” She swallowed, and another tear fell. “You keep me grounded. Hon, I need you.”
Min closed the other cuff and began to read Cynthia her rights. She paused and turned to Greg. “I have to leave now. This place will be swarming with Hero Defense Squads any second. Every known accomplice on the island will be taken in.”
Frowning, Greg whispered, “Whoopee.”
She picked Greg up in one hand. Cynthia reached for him, but Min used the other hand to exert some invisible force that held Cynthia against the living room wall. She never turned away from Greg. “I can speak on your behalf; you’re innocent of any wrongdoing. I can take you off this island now, and our experts can get you to your right size again. We have many heroes whose powers lie in shrinking and expanding; I know we can fix you.”
“So can she.” Greg turned to his wife, now pinned against the wall.
Min’s eyes, too, were wet. “She’s going to jail. You can’t go with her. You didn’t commit a crime.”
“Well, I could right now.”
Min shook her head. Cynthia cried out, “Oh, Greg!”
That’s when Min carried them out, Greg in one hand, Cynthia trapped in an invisible force field exerted by the other.
Outside, a chaotic scene erupted. Incoming jets shot colored beams, and individual costumed heroes, some glowing like Min, battled against armed robot soldiers and laser cannons that appeared from panels in the domes.
Min rushed them to a waiting hover jet. Cynthia lunged at Greg, but two spandexed men grabbed at her, one at each shoulder, and pulled her toward the jet. She cried, “I’ll fix you, my love!”
“God, Min,” shouted Greg, “let me be with my wife! Cyn, I’ll call you as soon as I can!” With that, Cynthia, along with two presumed heroes, was flown away amidst laser blasts and explosions.
A blast rumbled Greg, still cupped in Min’s palm, and she covered him gently. Her big glowing eyes showed a glimmer of compassion. God, she was beautiful.
“Greg, we’ll get you lawyers, a safe place, all the help you need. You can visit your family again, if you like.”
“The only family I can think about right now is Cynthia.” It was true; in terms of relations, Cynthia occupied the largest section of his mind. However, part of it had given way to Min’s understanding, even as she broke him and his wife apart.
She nodded. “I understand.” A blast shot straight into Min, but bounced off her invisible shield without effect. “Come on, we have to get out of here.”
With that, she pushed off from the ground, pulsating waves blasting them into the air. From the edge of Min’s gentle hand, Greg watched the island fall into disarray as robots battled heroes, and then it disappeared beneath the blue Pacific sky.
They flew for a while in silence. Min or whatever her heroine name was in her current form extended her protective shield so Greg was not shredded by speeds that exceeded the sonic barrier. After a while, she asked him, “You still really care about her, don’t you?”
Torn, Greg couldn’t tell her what he really felt: dismay at losing his love, but also a strange sense of freedom. Regardless of what happened from here on, he would always love Cynthia. Nonetheless, he had to figure out his own way, his own sense of what was right. So, he simply shrugged his still-tiny shoulders. “What can I say? Maybe I’m a henchman at heart.”
Copyright © 2010 by Faith Van Horne