Milo fingered the the small trinket he had brought to life: a small, funneled hole isolated in a scratched piece of black plastic, leading directly to a platform with a risen, rusted steel rod that carried a corrugated paper wheel. A mess of wires was connected to the end of the rod, which led to a circuit box hoisted on another rod. This was the generator, and out of its back end was a series of small holes with distinctly colored wires protruding out of each one to a platform of respectively colored LEDs. He merely blew a weak breath into the mentioned hole, and the lights went off in rapid succession in a dazzling array of eye candy — or at least to the best abilities of LEDs.
He sucked in the amount of air sufficient enough to blow into the spot he knew would create the most friction. The LED lights went off for the 176th time this evening — it was a result of the many sighs he’d blown throughout the course of the day, locked in his basement bedroom, trying to make his parents think he was still stewing about what had gone on in the kitchen earlier. He was biding his time until dusk, trying to keep his mind focused and clear, yet nagging thoughts still clouded the corners of his mind. They were all jammed up by the very thing that instinctively wanted to liberate them: his mouth. He channeled his words through his inventions, letting them speak for themselves. But this was important. He could not let any other event distract him from his precisely planned schedule.
With that in mind, he instinctively glanced at the timer at the foot of his pullout mattress, noticing a reminder of reality — one minute and 24 seconds had immediately a burned a hole in his mind, and through there he could clearly see written: You are an entire six seconds off schedule. You were already supposed to have escaped through the back window into the streets, and begun to bolt at a pace of approximately 12 miles per hour towards the hyper-generator. A brilliant failure.
As his thoughts chastised each other, his body was trying to give them direction. He did distinctly what they were telling him to put into action, except the whole escapade was completely offset. He still found himself sprinting for his last clinging hopes, knowing that there was a way the contraption could hold out for a few more seconds — unless it overheated. It came into view shortly as he bolted towards the first story of the tallest apartment building his neighborhood knew. Milo’s soles slapped the slick blacktop, barely gripping the surface. He reached the first step of the steel fire escape in exactly 58 seconds. Maybe there was a chance.
Milo flew up the grated metal platforms, exasperated by its design that prevented him from taking a direct path to his only objective in thought. He normally would’ve taken caution about the gaps between the steel bars, but his foot glided mindlessly across the surface, unheeding the fact that it could easily trip him and create more of an obstacle than there needed to be. Ironically, Milo almost did fall face-flat to the ground if it had not been for one more inch of blessed air. He caught himself, sputtering with sudden bewilderment, and made no hesitation to get up to his feet without learning his lesson whatsoever.
And then he was simply there — he almost stopped for a harsh intake of oxygen at the sight of the city skyline that was somewhat refreshingly beautiful in its own way. Almost. But his lungs would still burn and know no relief until that very machine was up and running on terms he could be satisfied with. He made haste in throwing the protective plastic cover that was draped over the mechanism, immediately connecting the AC power supply to the main body, and watched with immeasurable satisfaction the whirring lights, signals, and wheezes emitted from it as it managed to start up experimentally with some mechanical miscalculations somewhere in the process.
Just as it seemed as if everything was coming perfectly into place, with an entire four seconds left on the timer located on his wristwatch, Milo observed a shadowy figure with rather large pants in what seemed to be a uniform-esque, collared shirt strutting along the unmistakably same rooftop as himself, not fifteen yards away from where he was positioned in a crouch. He muttered a string of unintelligible half-swears under a cloud of chilled breath, as every sinew and muscle of his body strained to put itself into a temporarily permanent position. The figure absently grunted, scratched something indiscernible on his roughly six-foot blob of a body, and seemed to question what the suspicious darkness behind him held. He stared in raw stupidity — at least it seemed so when you were looking at him from the perspective of Milo — at the multi-shaped object looking as if it were going to collapse at any moment. He made the decision to advance towards it, and Milo would’ve half-sweared many more times, except the man would hear it and the whole plan would teeter past the brink of destruction. It looked as if the whole scenario would be ruined as the man advanced, each step marking an interval at which Milo gradually grew increasingly insane. He dared not to make a move, but the man made every one he could. He lumbered with a flat-footed swagger over to the hulk in the night, and then the figure seemed to clarify its purpose.
“Alrighty, whos’ere?” Milo kept still. Accent lumbered closer and placed a hand upon the intricate pipes and gears, interconnecting with each other to create a productive whole. Milo cringed, not three feet away from him and barely managing to conceal his own teenage figure. “S’rsly, mistah o’ missas, ya’lls bettah reveal yo’self o’ else I’s gonna start t’ invest’gate.”
Mistah was torn. He could conjure a not half-bad lie if he were to reveal himself, and Accent didn’t exactly seem to be the brightest person to set foot on his grounds. Then again, there was everything about the situation to be suspicious of, and it wouldn’t be the most difficult option to simply steal off into the inky darkness, leave this all behind, and start anew. Mistah also did not have very much time to process his options in the first place.
“Okays, here’s I’m comin’, ‘n don’ say I did’n’ warn ya.”
Milo chose the more physical situation to play out and broke out of a Usain Bolt-esque mold towards the rooftop’s hazy edge. He was inhumanly determined, straining his eyebrows together like he never knew he could, and doing his best to ignore the barking cries chasing his heels. He was praying, just praying, for some sort of fire escape in the direction he was going — and then he tripped.
It was a nondescript, capped pipe heavily thickened with paint, a subtle stalagmite, and it had rendered his entire conquest utterly unsuccessful. Milo sputtered in disbelief. His abdomen slapped the rooftop, and the other way around, causing him to hurt all over. He gritted his teeth. He should be concerned about his personal safety, but all that engulfed his mind was the looming fear of the generator completely failing without him to man its many operations. Accent swaggered over to Milo’s failure of an escape, cocked his brows and brought them together simultaneously to create an expression of complete misunderstanding. It didn’t look like Milo was ever touching the control panels of his creation with a build like Accent’s never budging from its standpoint.
“So, mistah… ya’lls wan’ t’ tell me what youse is bein’ up here f’r?” Accent questioned with an undertone of accusation.
Milo reluctantly turned his face to the man and just stared in utter confusion. He squinted in the dark of the night. What he saw was not a face that you passed by on your way to the usual bus stop, but a cobweb of skin that stretched from his left ear to rightmost side of his lip. So, that was where that ever-so distinct drawl came from…
He stared. He knew he shouldn’t, but something in his mind just wouldn’t allow him to pull his field of vision away from this exotic character who still seemed somewhat approachable. This attitude swept over both of the rooftop members at the moment, and neither one nor the other dared to speak a word for a very long few seconds.
And then Accent penetrated the thick silence with his rowdy dialect. “Look, kid. I knows youse ain’ g’ne t’ b’lieve me, but… heres we go. T’is warse all just an act- ‘n y’r g’ne t’ have t’ come with me t’ somewheres ya’lls has nev’r b’n t’ b’fore. Youse is g’ne t’ have t’ leave all dis b’hind- ‘n n’vr come back. ‘N-”
Milo’s voice found its home in the pitch-black air and broke through. “I… I don’t think you understand… sir. The machine behind you is highly unstable and is bound to go into its automated meltdown phase any second now, soon in milliseconds. So either we make a bolt for it, or you let me man my own invention — and your future doesn’t look so bright if you don’t make a decision in about 13 seconds.”
Milo drew a sharp sigh, and made one for himself, not caring to brush his sooty experience off as he returned to the structure from which he had came from, now using it for its intended purpose — an escape. He heard the rumble, deep like a vintage car engine starting up for the first time in many years, then the wheezing pops (imagine an amplified version of the pressure applied upon your ears at high altitudes), and the clanks and clatters, the most disappointing sound of all.
On the fifth floor’s platform, he suddenly halted.
He thought about how he no longer had to run, how the destructive shame was over, and that he should be worrying about the poor man with the deformed face who he had left to burn in an explosion that would have never happened if he had never listened to his stupid aspirations that were never going to make a difference at all in his tiny, little town on the edge of nowhere, and how he must help the man the best he could…
He turned on the ball of his foot, preparing to ascend the stairs once again.
Out of all the possibilities, Milo was staring directly into the same chest he had faced just a few moments earlier, and he began to reel back in utter horror. The man should be dead (and Milo didn’t want him to be), yet here, in the living flesh, he stood. He acted like it was normal too. Milo swallowed the saliva down a throat that burned as if he had swallowed a spark from one of Pa’s summer weldings.
“Heh… kids.” And that was all Accent contributed to the situation in his gruff undertone prior to dragging Milo towards the palm of his hand, which let out an insignia of pure energy, drawing every neuron in his mind towards that one location rooted in a place where Time and Space fell easily at the hands of Mentality and Power… And then they vanished with an adrenaline-fueled sweep of sound. Without a doubt, he must join Them.
Keep in mind that this was all before the Collector.