Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, New York was used mostly for scientific research, particularly the research of the North and South Poles. It was also here that Ryan Bennings developed the Dragonfly armor. Due to the surge in superhuman threats, particularly around the New York area, the National Guard saw fit to develop an armored flight harness that would be used to protect US civilians. Ryan was commissioned to build this suit of armor and while he did initially balk at the idea of building a weapon for the US government, he decided to build one suit for the “Weekend Warriors” but under the provision it could only be used on American soil in order to limit its usage in wars.
The suit was mostly black with reinforced green-painted sections along the chest, joints, and head. There were four articulated wings on the back which resembled a dragonfly and like its namesake, had the ability to hover and accelerate in any direction. To fit the motif, the helmet was also green with large, round yellow lenses that resembled an insect. It was piloted by a National Guard airman by the name of Terry Stern who, like most people who met Ryan, didn’t like him very much.
“I thought we weren’t scheduled for a maintenance check for another three months,” Stern told Ryan as they met inside a hangar that housed a fighter jet.
“Busy schedule,” Ryan was looking at his phone and not at Stern, “Doing a few routine checkups this early should suffice,” he looked up at Stern, “Or, if your commanding officers like, we can see each other nine months from now instead and in the meantime, hope the armor doesn’t fail in ways I could have easily spotted months earlier if -“
“Yeah, I get it,” Stern rolled his eyes and placed the helmet on his head, locking mechanisms along the neck sliding into place, “You want the standard exercises?”
“Sure. Whenever you’re ready,” Ryan went back to his phone and walked away.
“Jackass,” Stern muttered under his breath and activated his suit’s systems.
The Dragonfly’s wings spread out from his back, the small thrusters igniting and lifting him in the air. Ryan, meanwhile, sat next to Labrat on top of a few crates. Labrat wore a US Marines t-shirt since Ryan knew it would annoy the National Guard personnel on the base (additionally, he had a t-shirt for every branch of the US military for Labrat to wear that would be swapped out depending on what base he visited and always for the purpose of annoyance). “Have you found Cady, yet?,” Labrat asked. Ryan checked the satellite imaging on his phone, bringing up a bird’s eye view of the base, “Not yet,… but I do see a car parked on the side of the road leading up to the base,” Ryan began zooming in, “He can’t get too close due to clearance but I’m hoping he’ll end up trying something.” Above, Dragonfly’s wings rotated, turned on their side and moved closer to each other, allowing him to glide effortlessly in all directions, including hanging upside down in mid-air. He noticed Ryan looking at his phone while performing the exercises and used his com-system to call out to him, “Am I boring you?”.
“I’m just checking uh,… satellite imaging,” Ryan called out, “… Um, to see if you’re still invisible to electronic detection,” Ryan zoomed in on the car , noticing the blurred image of a man’s face. He quickly ran a facial recognition program.
“Shouldn’t we be outside for that?”
“Oh, yeah,” Ryan shoved the phone in his pocket, “Let’s go outside.”
“Jackass,” Stern muttered once more as he flew out of the hangar.
Ryan asked Stern if they could go across the airfield to the outer reaches of the base, near a chain-link fence with barbed wire. “Why don’t you do a few aerial maneuvers and fire up the weapons’ systems,” Ryan told him, “Let’s see if you get picked up on satellite.”
Dragonfly did several aerial acrobatics, flipping and looping around. Ryan checked his phone once again. The facial recognition program had found a match, instantly bringing up the mugshot of a man with a beard and long hair tied in a ponytail. It matched the man standing nearby with the exception of a bit more grey in the beard and hair “Still rocking that pony tail,” Ryan said to himself. Small missiles on Dragonfly’s wings shot out into the air. Next, he raised both fists, releasing plasma beams that blasted the missiles, creating large explosions above their heads, “How’s that?”
“Great test,” Ryan called out, “Bring her down.”
Dragonfly landed in front of Ryan and his wings folded down the length of his back. Puffs of air were released around his neck, unlocking the helmet and allowing him to take it off. “Is that it?,” Stern was annoyed, “We usually do this longer.”
“I’ve seen enough,” Ryan checked his phone again, “Everything appears to be operational,” Ryan was also annoyed but for different reasons.
“Listen, it’s bad enough you act like a douche every time you come here,” Stern growled angrily, “But now you’re wasting all our -,” Stern stopped, his expression going blank, just like the bar patrons days earlier.
“Here we go,” Ryan tapped a button on his belt buckle.
Stern raised a metal fist and brought it down, stopping a few inches from Ryan’s head as a yellow, luminescent globe appeared briefly which was pushed into the ground, creating a round crater in the pavement. “Forcefield,” Ryan explained, “But thanks for playing your hand, Professor. I was wondering if you were gonna act.”
Stern said nothing but instead, threw his helmet which bounced off the forcefield, making it briefly visible once again. Then, he brought both fists down on the forcefield, creating an even larger crater under Ryan and releasing a mild tremor. Ryan folded his hands behind him, “The Dragonfly armor can inflict several dozen tons of force but I’m afraid this forcefield is stronger. You are currently inside Airman Stern’s head. I’m sure you can figure out other things the armor can do besides punching.”
Stern paused for a second, his wings once again unfolding and rotating 180 degrees, which allowed him to fly in reverse before the wings turned upward, lifting him into the sky. “A little awkward but it’s good to know you finally mastered the ability to read minds. Controlling a guy who’s controlling a suit of armor can’t be easy,” Ryan announced, “Have you found the controls for the plasma beams, yet?”
Stern raised his fists which lit up, releasing beams of energy that landed on either side of Ryan, creating deep trenches in the ground that stretched to a nearby landing strip. “By the way, if you hadn’t thrown your helmet, there’d be some nice targeting systems for you,” Ryan said with a knowing smile. Stern landed near Ryan, raised a fist and fired a close blast which exploded against the forcefield, sending several chunks of debris into the air. “I mean, my forcefield can still take the blast but I’m just trying to help,” Ryan raised his hand to his chin and began speaking into his watch, “Access Protocol DF 278209. Shut-Down.” The lights on the Dragonfly armor died down and Stern’s arms dropped, his head bobbing back and forth as if trying to escape a straight jacket. “The suit’s been shut off,” Ryan told him while in the distance, military police rushed to the area, “I’m positive you’re going to hightail it out of here in a second, but is there anything you’d like to say first? It’s been so long.”
“You’re a destroyer of lives, Bennings,” Stern said, his voice altered slightly as Cady spoke through him, “You pretend to be a hero but we both know you’re just a narcissist who will never have enough.” Stern blinked and began looking around in a confused state, “The hell was that?”. Ryan said nothing as Stern’s words resonated in his mind more than he expected. “Destroyer of lives,” he repeated.
Ryan explained Cady to Stern and the military police but did not admit he expected the attack. They began sweeping the area for Cady but he was sure he had escaped before they ever began searching. Soon, after, he and Labrat left the base.
“How did you shut down the armor?,” Labrat asked as they got in their car.
Ryan waited until the car doors closed themselves and they began driving down the road before he answered, “Any tech I give the US government has a protocol in case they use it against me… or, as was the case today, some bad guy wants to take control of it somehow,” he then added, “By the way, if anyone asks, I took down the suit with an EMP weapon. They don’t need to know I can take my toys away at any moment.”
“Okay. So did you find out everything you needed to find out?”
“Of course. I learned Cady can read minds in addition to controlling them and I learned he has a physical limit. He didn’t have clearance to get on base, obviously, so he had to take control from a distance. I purposefully had Stern fly out to the edge of the air field to test this theory. Turns out, Cady’s control has a distance of about 30 yards. I know I’ll have to lure him in somewhat close if I’m going to bring an end to this.”
“Cool,” Labrat paused for a moment, “But what if someone got hurt during the fight?”
Ryan laughed, “Oh, that would never happen,” Cady’s words once again entering his mind: Destroyer of Lives. “I always make sure no one gets hurt,” he once again assured Labrat and as he did so, a memory came flooding back. A memory concerning a publicity stunt that he would privately refer to as an assassination years later. It would likely need to be discussed with Dr. Ansari.