"Come here! I need you!": Having been followed to the alley where he uses a telephone booth to transform into a random super-hero, Nelson Jent looks on in horror as the thugs led by Vernon Boyne shoot up his phone booth, damaging the [
- But that's not all, Nelson. I've used my dial for years. Always looking for another. But now there's something else on the line. Every time I dial, it feels me. Comes closer. Trying to find me. Trying to find us.
- — Manteau
Appearing in "Come here! I need you!"
- Nelson Jent
- Team House
- Boy Chimney (Flashback only)
- Eavesdropper (Flashback only)
- Open-Window Man (Flashback only)
- Spiralstair (Flashback only)
- Door-Pilot (Flashback only)
- Baroness Resin
- Team House
- Mr. King
Synopsis for "Come here! I need you!"
Having been followed to the alley where he uses a telephone booth to transform into a random super-hero, Nelson Jent looks on in horror as the thugs led by Vernon Boyne shoot up his phone booth, damaging the H-Dial he has been using.
Nelson struggles to dial the numbers he needs, but to no avail. His mysterious guide, a cloaked woman wearing a silver mask, orders him to rip the dial from the phone. They cannot afford to let Boyne and his men get their hands on the dial. She uses her power to turn her arms into fire-hoses to knock back the thugs and give Nelson the time he needs to tug the dial free of its housing. Then, she wraps him in one of the hoses and launches them both into the air using the water pressure from the other hose to keep them aloft.
Watching the pair escape, Boyne reports back to Ex Nihilo. She demands to know where Jent was, and demands that he get the dial from the phone booth he mentions, at the Squid's suggestion. Unfortunately, Nelson escaped with the dial. Ex Nihilo turns to the Squid wondering why the dial is important, and though he doesn't know why, he is certain that it is.
Ex Nihilo wonders whether the hooded woman - Manteau - and Nelson are after the same thing she is. Squid responds that they are probably not. At most, they are coming at the same thing from different angles. Ex Nihilo seeks something from nothing - to harness the power that comes from emptiness. All Squid wants to do is go home, and she can facilitate that. But in order to get power from emptiness, the emptiness will require something in return.
As they fly over Littleville, Nelson correctly guesses that the unusual fire hose abilities that his saviour have are the result of using the dial. She admits it, asking him to collect the key to her house from under the mat, given her lack of hands at the moment. Inside, she introduces herself as Manteau - an identity she has given herself as a means of avoiding becoming lost in the multiple personalities of the heroes she becomes. She explains that he will have to remember that, too. If he fails to recognize that he is still Nelson Jent underneath each hero he becomes, he will be lost as well.
Manteau suddenly becomes another hero, revealing that she has her own dial. Though Nelson can't use hers while she's using it, she may be able to fix his. She asks him whether he can name who invented the telephone. He supposes that it was Alexander Graham Bell, but Manteau points out that several people are credited with the invention, but that each one had secretly met with someone referred to only as "O." This "O" had been integral to the development of each inventor's innovation, but Manteau suspects that his motivations were something other than that for which the telephone is currently used. The entire history of telephony is a byproduct of this "O"'s research into something else altogether.
Nelson begs to be told everything she knows, and she promises that she will tell him what she can after he answers a question: what was his biggest ever fight? Nelson's memory shifts to a battle with the Rake Dragon that was fought by the Boy Chimney and the rest of the House Team. These memories are not Nelson's, they are the memories of the heroes themselves. Confused, Nelson regains consciousness as Manteau explains that the cloak and mask she wears are not just a disguise. They keep her able to identify as herself no matter what the memories in her head tell her. She is Manteau, no matter which hero she becomes.
Ex Nihilo has prepared for years, working incessantly. Every evil thing she has done has been to one end, and now that the moment has come to bring that end about, it still takes her by surprise. She and the Squid begin seeking out a specific man. Since the Squid came to earth, she has been seeking out witnesses to his appearance. Each one that she finds, she has filled with a black, oily substance called Void. The void is the residue left behind by Squid's companion when he arrived. Each person who witnessed the arrival is particularly susceptible to Ex Nihilo's control, thanks to the void.
The witness they seek now is a Mr. King. Ex Nihilo knocks on his door and forces her way in, admitting that she contacted him under false pretenses. She had lured him to Littleville because he his brother had told him about a robbery he had seen years ago. Because the brother was close to the incident, and King was close to his brother, it makes him a conduit. King, though is expected to be particularly effective in drawing out the one who left the residue. Pinning him to a bed, she has her goons fill him with void.
It's been a few days since Nelson was taken to Manteau's real address. He had dutifully avoided looking up her real identity, agreeing to let her reveal it to him in her own time. While working out at the gym - still no closer to being in shape - he gets a call from her, and hopes that this means she's fixed his dial.
When he arrives at her home, he finds that she has grown giant due to her most recent dial. She shows him a list of names and events that she has linked with dial stories. As a telephone engineer, she has an ear to the ground when it comes to dial-related phenomena. She is tracking these dial-events on a map, which indicates that the vast majority of them are occurring in Littleville. Something about the southern Midwest town is important.
Manteau zeroes in on a Mr. King, who was in Fairfax during the last cluster of dial-events which happened there. He is now in Littleville staying at a hotel. She calls up the recording of his last phone call, and they overhear Ex Nihilo's invasion of his home. Nelson is sure that the Squid is involved, and that they are needed to help, but without his dial, he is useless. Manteau has tried to fix the dial, with little success. Nelson tries it out, but the effect of his call is not permanent. His transformation lasts only moments. However, Manteau draws his attention to the fact that while they were on the line, there was a shadowy figure there too. Someone else is hiding within the line that the dial connects to.
Manteau urges him to try the dial again, and he becomes Baroness Resin - Nelson's first female hero. He reacts with surprise and horror, but Manteau sternly warns him to accept that this is the nature of the dial. The dials were not designed to turn up random heroes - they are, and have always been, broken. He should be glad he didn't come out as a giant metal spring.
Together the heroes burst into Mr. King's room, colliding with Squid and Ex Nihilo. However, they are too late. What - or who - ever Ex Nihilo has been trying to call on is coming. Within moments, they all stand in awe of the arrival of Abyss.
- This book was first published on July 4, 2012.
- The map shows that Littleville is located somewhere between Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas.
- Manteau is another word for a woman's cloak or coat. It comes from the French.
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