Part 5

38. Leandra Moon

Last night convinced me that I’m going to need to bring out my inner super or else live in fear for the rest of my life. Now comes the hard part: what to wear. Luckily it’s Saturday so I can spend the day haunting the malls. I wish Sandy were here but she has “extra study” today, which means Hawk. This is not something I could do with my non-super friends and I sure as hell won’t ask Jake. He’d probably want me in string bikini.

My first decision is that I’m NOT going to dress like my biological mother. If I wanted to do that I could buy everything I need at Sleaze ‘R Us. I want something that reflects my tastes, but it still has to be super.

I start with a pair of hunter green jeans tight enough that my legs are no secret and with no designer logos on my butt. No need to advertise somebody’s clothing line. On top I have loose-fitting bright emerald green tee; it’s not tucked in, but the important bits are held in place by a hunter green sports bra worn over top of the tee. Mom said heroes should stick to one or two primary colours; I choose green because it’s a nice contrast to my auburn hair and the tee is a pretty good match to my eyes. I choose off-the-rack stuff because it’s easy to replace if it gets torn or damaged. If Mom’s old super suits are any indication, that’s going to happen a lot.

For accessories I add a belt of gold fish scale with a mock emerald buckle and a gold hair comb with more mock emeralds. Mock emerald earrings with gold frames complete the look; they’re clip-ons, which is something I learned from Mom in my self-defence classes. After studying my look in the mirror I decide to only wear the left one; not only does the asymmetric look nicer, but it’ll be cheaper once things start getting knocked around. I finish the effect with emerald lipstick and eye shadow.

Even the costume shop doesn’t have any decent masks; I’ll have to talk to Mom when I get home. But I put the rest together in the change room at the gym (good thing I have a membership) and I look great! Just weird enough that people know it’s not purely a fashion statement, but not so weird that they think the circus is in town. As for a name, I’ve already got that. My power affects emotions, so I’m going with Emo.

Time to show off my costume; I walk out of the gym and straight into Jake. Literally. I bounce off his chest and he catches me.

“Leandra! You look great! Where’s the party, and can I come too?”

I tap him on the chest with my forefinger. “Who’s Leandra? I’m Emo, the newest super hero in town.”

“You know, if you’re going to have a secret identity it might not hurt to do something to conceal what you look like. This outfit kind of does the opposite.”

“Hmph! Some help you are. You haven’t even got a super suit yet.”

“Yes I do; I just need a mask. You know, to hide my identity.”

I hit him even though I know he doesn’t really feel it. “Jake, you’re ruining my moment.”

“Leandra … Emo, in just a few seconds you’re going to stop kissing me and I’ll stand out of the way and you will have the greatest moment of your life. And I’ll be right behind you admiring.”

“Oh, all right.” I realize I agreed before my brain finished processing the statement. I find myself wrapped up in his big strong arms and he’s got me in a firm lip lock. Butterflies fill my stomach and my mind heads off to another planet while every other piece of my body tries desperately to get closer to him than it already is. I could really really get used to this.

After only a few seconds he lets me go and waits while I catch my breath.

“You ready?”

I nod and he stands aside. The kiss caught the attention of nearby shoppers, and now all that attention is directed at me. A part of me wants to crawl into a hole and scream, but it’s overruled by stage presence. I had thought I would be here in front of a rock band, but instead I’m on my own as a super hero. I raise my arms and wave.

“Hey everybody! I’m Emo, the newest super hero in town!”

The applause starts low, then builds. Soon the cheering starts, and then the questions.

“Where are you from?”

“What are your powers?”

“Can I have your autograph?”

“Can I get a date?”

I wave them to stop and they actually do. I launch into one of the oldies that Miss Jamieson has had me practicing a cappella to build my singing voice. I’m going to have to contact the copyright holder later and find out what I owe them for the public performance, but the crowd is eating it up. When the cheering dies down I announce that I have to go.

“Crime doesn’t wait for music. Wish me luck, people!”

Despite the cheering, all I hear is the one voice behind me. “Good luck, Leandra.” I glance back and mouth a thanks to him, then head off. I’m a star!

39. Tyler Morrison

Saturday afternoon Mom takes Sister Callisto and me to the mall so we can get her some proper clothes. I’m along because I’m Callisto’s apprentice; that means I get to carry the parcels. We stop by the mature fashion stores and Mom buys her a couple of power suits and some accessories. She looks like she’s sixteen going on forty; I make the mistake of saying so.

“Well what do you think Sister Callisto should wear then, Mr. Armani?”

“Mom! It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the suits, it’s just that Callisto’s a sixteen year old girl now, and at least some of her clothes should reflect that.”

“She is not a sixteen year old girl; she’s over fifty. That’s time to be dignified.”

Callisto finally interrupts. “Heather, I think Tyler has a point. I should at least be able to look like I’m sixteen. I assume fashions these days aren’t too deplorable.”

This may be a hard sell. But we go to something a little less classy and a little more trendy.

40. Hawk

Peregrine is giving me that glare again. The one I wish she’d turn on the villains. It’s not fury, it’s a determined hatred. The kind of hatred that makes you focus, makes you try to get inside your opponent’s head, makes you find their greatest weakness so you can use it against them.

I put salve on her wounds, especially the ones from the whip. I’ve been sloppy and let my concern over her so-called friendship with Mistress O’Payne get to me. I hit her too hard a few times, and instead of just raising welts I’ve drawn blood. But that’s Peregrine’s fault. The past few times she hasn’t been whimpering or screaming like she’s supposed to.

I zap her a few times with the prod to see if there’s anything wrong with her nerves. According to the monitor she’s still feeling the same amount of pain, she’s just not showing it. Not even when I shock the sensitive areas. Good girl. It’s less enjoyable this way but it means she’s learning.

I shoot the regen serum into her thigh vein while she’s hanging. It works best when the patient is in an upright position. The stuff hurts like hell when it works anyway, but when it first gets to the nerves their sensitivity increases dramatically. That gets a scream out of her; it always does. Music to my ears.

When I let her down she collapses in a sweaty heap. I throw a towel on her.

“Dry off and suit up, girl. Sparring practice begins in ninety seconds.” Pain or no pain, humiliation or no humiliation, she has to be ready to fight anytime.

Ninety-four seconds later I look into the armoury. She’s hiding somewhere; that’s the only reason she’d be late. I scan the room and identify at least five likely places. I pull out some Talons. As soon as I see her she’s going to be filled with the little darts.

There’s a faint creak from behind me. I look back just in time to see a pair of heeled boots coming for my face. She hits me; at that distance there’s not even time for reflexes. I stumble backwards into the armoury and trip over the gauntlet she left on the floor. She’s using the environment to her advantage, just like I taught her.

She’s immediately on me, aiming a good solid kick to my temple. I grab her foot and twist, but it turns out that’s what she wanted. Peregrine falls hard, landing elbow-first on my sternum. She’s definitely getting good at this; only my armour keeps the wind from being knocked out of me.

She caught me by surprise and landed two good blows, but that’s all I’m allowing. Time to show this little bitch that the Hawk doesn’t lose, not even in practice. She lingered too long on that elbow; I grab her opposite shoulder and knock her over, grabbing her throat as she lands beside me. My other hand does the Hat Trick: punch the sternum, the kidney and then the groin. Anyone else would be incapacitated for at least a few seconds, but not her. She does a backward somersault and comes up out of my grasp.

We stare at each other across a short space. “Not in the Armoury, Peregrine.”

“You came in first, Old Man.” She stands up and smiles. “But I’ll go with that.”

She laughs and skitters out the door. I go after her but the door slams in my face and I hear the lock engaging. Another smart move. That gives her about eleven seconds to prepare a trap on the other side of the door.

Eleven seconds later I’ve got it unlocked and opened and dash in, acrobatically dodging all the traps she … hasn’t laid? She’s standing in the Punishment Area, right under the shackles. Looking quite at ease and not moving.

“What’s the matter, Old Man, not used to prey that doesn’t fight back?”

“You’re fighting back, girl, I just haven’t worked out your plan yet.”

“Oh, you’re going to love it. I learned it from a friend.”

She strikes a pose, legs spread and fist raised, and 150 decibels of power chord come out of the base’s speaker system. My audio enhancers blow instantly. Even when it cuts down to a more normal volume I’m still half-deaf. Nothing but the damned music. And I know the song; Smoke on the Water. It was playing on the radio when I took my first girl.

She’s still holding that stupid pose. Amateurish. I charge her, fist ready to deliver a crippling punch. If she needs regen serum again that’s her problem. I start my punch and she vaults straight up. I’ve seen that one before and adjust my swing to take her at the top of her arc. Just too late I realize that was her plan.

The heavy shackle closes around my wrist and crunches. It’s set for her arm size, not mine. I feel the bones in my wrist dislocate and watch the shackle’s remote splinter. I grab for but she’s already flipped out of reach.

“You…!”

“Temper temper, Hawk. So do I win the sparring match? I outthought you and used the environment to my advantage. Oh, and I’ve disabled the shackle’s deactivation switch on the main control panel so you can’t throw a talon and set yourself free.”

“At my best it takes me fourteen minutes to break out of those shackles. You should be able to do it in half that; after all, you’ve got one hand free and nobody is torturing or raping you. Now I’m going to take the afternoon off and go meet my friend Leandra at the mall. I think I earned it with this performance. See you tomorrow!”

With that she walks out, swaying her hips provocatively as she goes. Now the hatred is burning in me, but I force it down. She actually beat me. She used dirty tricks and psychological warfare to do it, just like I taught her. I’m actually proud of the way she’s turned out. It’s too bad she’s going to have to die.

41. Sister Callisto

As usual, adolescents today have no taste. These blue jean pants feel a bit too tight, but the salesgirl assures me they’re supposed to. If I perspire at all this workman’s undershirt is going to cling like paint and permit everyone to see my body. And the foolish cat picture? That must be Tyler’s idea of a joke. At least I also found a couple of nice dresses that actually cover my knees and flow properly. I cannot wait to change into one of those, or even into that school uniform. It’s starting to grow on me: figuratively, at least.

The mall’s vapid music stops, but I can still hear singing. The voice sounds familiar but wrong; it’s too high pitched and a bit immature. It’s also the last voice I heard before spending almost two decades as a cat.

“That voice!”

Heather is listening, too. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

“It’s Mistress O’Payne! What’s she doing here? We’ll have to evacuate the building!”

Tyler looks over from the mall entrance. “I don’t think so, Callisto. It’s just one of the girls from my school singing. She’s giving an impromptu concert and the people are definitely liking it.”

“I know her voice, boy. That’s Mistress O’Payne, the most sadistic super villain I ever encountered. If she’s here it has to be part of some larger plot. Prepare for chaos, Tyler. You can put your magical skills to work.”

“Callisto, you’re nowhere near back up to strength. And my sorcery is no match for a real super villain. How about we don’t confront her, but help people once the plan takes effect.”

He shows restraint, and an ability to grasp when it is unsafe to act. I may have chosen my apprentice wisely. “Very well. Keep an eye on her and report back.”

“What if she does her whammy on me?”

“Then I’ll learn a great deal as I strip the enchantments away from your brain. And if she physically takes you, well I understand boys your age appreciate that sort of thing.”

“Sister! Tyler’s not that kind of boy!”

Yes he is. I can tell from his aura. If his mother chooses to blind herself, that’s her business. Now, where is that blasted salesgirl?

42. Tyler Morrison

“Hey, she’s pretty good.” The girl standing next to me is on tiptoe, trying to see over where the singer is. She’s oriental, with black shoulder-length hair and deep brown eyes.

“Yeah, she is. I just wish we could see her better.”

“Too many people in the way. Do you promise not to look up my skirt if I climb onto the planter?”

“Yeah. Better yet, I’ll climb up with you. How’s that?”

“Okay.”

As I help her up I read her nametag. It says ‘Hi, My Name is Andrea’. Once I climb up on the planter with her I hold onto her to steady her. She doesn’t push me away, which is kind of a miracle. After the song people are chanting “Emo!” for some reason, so Andrea and I join in. It seems like the thing to do. Finally Andrea turns to me.

“Well, I’d better get back in and help that stuck-up girl. But I do have a question for you.”

“What is it?”

“Are you really a sorceror, or is that some kind of a joke?”

I’m about to deny everything, but I realize she’s probably heard enough to see through the lie. “Sort of. I know a bit of sorcery, but not much. It’s mostly good for fairly simple effects.”

“Can you make my breasts firmer?”

Okay, that’s a weird question, but she’s the first girl who ever said ‘breasts’ to me without ‘stop looking at my’ in front of it. “I can try.” I wave my hands over the, uh, affected area. “Strefem risbar.” I carefully keep the power low so I can control the effect better.

“It tingles. You didn’t say it would tingle.”

“I didn’t know it would tingle, I’ve never done it before. I hope it’s not uncomfortable. The effect should last a couple of hours or so.”

“Can you make it last longer?”

“Yeah, but the more power I use the more likely it goes out of control. You don’t want sorcery going out of control.” This I know from bitter experience.

“Okay, come back in a couple of hours and I’ll let you know if you’re still my boyfriend.”

“But I’m not …” The little voice in my head says ‘stop talking now’ and for once I listen to it. Andrea runs back into the store to help Mom and Sister Callisto.

43. Derek Charles

I’m tinkering in the lab when Kate rushes in with Kelly in tow. They look like they’ve been running.

“Kate, I’ve just …”

“She’s here, Derek!”

I stop in mid-sentence. If Kate is interrupting me, something major has happened. “What’s wrong, Beloved?”

“She’s here! We saw her today!”

“Saw who, dear?”

“Your mother!”

I hope my mouth hasn’t dropped too far open. “You did? Where? Did you talk to her?”

Kelly tells the story in one breath. “We were at the mall and I was talking with Andrea she works in Chic Magnetyk the clothing store and Andrea said some boy had touched her tits during the free concert and I said what free concert and she showed us this video on her phone of Leandra Moon only she was calling herself Emo and singing some old pop song and when Kate saw her she said it’s her and just about freaked so we ran back here to tell you.”

I take a moment to digest all this. “So you didn’t see her, just a recording of her?”

Kate answers. “Right, dear.”

“But you know her new name?”

“Right, dear.”

“And her address?”

“No, dear. But we do know where she goes to school.”

“She goes to school?”

“That’s what Kelly told me. This ‘Leandra Moon’ is a student at her high school. She came out today as a super heroine named Emo.”

“Emo? Like the depressing music?”

“Yeah. Anyway, Kelly says she should be able to connect us to her on Monday once they’re back in class. What do you think, dear?”

I take a moment to think it through. “That’s a good idea; at least we should talk to her and know where she stands. We should do it in costume, though. Have you broken the speech barrier yet, Kate?”

“I think so. It’s all about controlling how the vocal cords transform. I was able to say a few understandable words in tiger form this morning. I’m not sure if it’ll have any side effects, though.”

“Keep working on it over the weekend. It’d be so nice if you can talk fluently to your mother-in-law on Monday. First impressions are always important.”

44. Sandy Falcone

Leandra and I are giggling when we get to my place. We’re both back in our civilian ID’s again, though in her case that’s not much of a change. I guess any crook that came after her family would be in for a big surprise. This has easily been the most awesome afternoon of my life.

The junkie was totally surprised when not one but two costumed super heroes came into the store he was robbing. It was over in seconds. I disarmed him and Emo knocked him out with a touch. The store owner was so happy with us that he refused to let us pay for the sports drinks we’d originally gone in to buy.

Simon Strong was another matter. He’s normally one of Guardsman’s nuisance villains, and this time he was trying to steal a truckload of electronics. Holding the truck over his head made him an easy target, but we had to be careful because neither Emo nor I could take it if we knocked him down and he dropped the truck on us. Our only ranged weapon, my Hawk Talons, bounced off his skin harmlessly.

Emo came up with the idea to hurl insults at him until he got pissed off enough to set the truck down and charge us. We got on either side of him and taunted him to run back and forth between us. Having a bit less than half a bottle of brain cells he did. He telegraphed his attacks so loudly I felt sorry for him, but not sorry enough to let him hit me. He was pretty tired when Emo hit him with the super nausea.

The fight with Simon was my Rubicon. Hawk had always fought crime from the shadows, and he wanted me to do the same. This time Emo and I were in the middle of a busy street and by the time we were done there were two TV stations covering the fight. Afterwards we both took time to say a couple of words to the press. Melanie Chambers seemed a bit put out that it wasn’t her squeeze toy Guardsman doing the work, but she was nice enough otherwise.

That, plus a bit of sightseeing slash patrolling, was our afternoon. I knew Hawk was going to be totally pissed at me for being on the news, and I doubt Lightning Lady and the Phantasm would be too happy about Emo coming out without a mask. Masks are part of the game now, and have been for a while.

As soon as I open the front door I know something’s wrong. The TV’s on; it’s never on at this time of day. Hawk always told me that the main purpose of the media is to prevent you from seeing or hearing what’s important. Now it’s doing just that.

“Leandra, run. Something’s wrong.”

I hear her turn, then the click of a taser trigger. As I turn around she’s dropping and holding her leg. I cartwheel and yank the wires out as I go by, ending with a boot to my father’s chest. He’ knocked back a foot and makes a grab, but my leg is already underneath me again.

My adoptive mother is coming out of the house with a dart gun. At least they’re using nonlethals. I hope. Leandra kicks her in the shin and she shrieks.

I have to concentrate on my father. He’s nowhere near me in skill, but he is a trained combatant. He’s dropped the taser but he has a crowbar. His first few test swipes are slow and easy to dodge, but then he starts in earnest. I find myself jumping up, back, around. Any direction to dodge the almost random swipes. But there is a pattern. He’s pushing me away from Leandra.

One of Hawk’s rules of combat is that you have to remain aware of the battlefield at all times. I swing my leg up clumsily so he strikes it a glancing blow with the bar. That’s going to bruise, but it allows me to get my leg between his. A quick sweep kick staggers him backwards and my follow-up slap to his chest knocks him totally off balance. I take the opportunity to grab the crowbar from his hand and throw it onto the garage roof. I slip past him and grab his arm. By shouldering into him I manage a flip that lands him face-first in the garden. I step on his back and kick off toward Leandra.

Leandra’s doing an acceptable job of staying out of mother’s line of fire. She’s a total amateur though, and mother also has some combat training. It’s just a matter of time. When Leandra sees me moving toward her she lets her guard down. Mother fires.

I throw my arm up to deflect the dart and mostly succeed. The dart flies off but a portion of its payload goes into my hand. I feel the characteristic disorientation and sensory enhancement that tells me it’s LSD. Even the small amount I got is going to make me combat useless in no more than a minute. I have to end this fast.

Suddenly everything goes into slow motion. I feel a clarity that I’ve only experienced a couple of times before in my life. Leandra has just let go of my shoulder. Mother’s got her gun up again and father is rising to his feet. The grass is going prismatic and the flowers are starting to pulse.

Mother fires three times. My hand deflects the first dart and the second goes into my leg. I completely miss the third because it starts laughing maniacally. It slaps Leandra’s shoulder and she steps back. My momentum carries me into mother and I rip the gun from her hand. Her knuckle makes a sound like a popcorn kernel popping. Gun in hand I put a shot into her and one into the troll that’s taken the place of my father.

I leap into the wall, expecting it to shatter like glass. Instead it grows arms and pushes me back. The flowers grab at me as I run, desperate to get free of the planet that’s holding me down. A unicorn appears in front of me with a princess lying across the saddle. I jump on and spur it and everything goes dark.

45. Sister Callisto

I reach the place just in time to see a girl fall into the arms of an older, slightly heavyset man. He’s already got O’Payne over his shoulder. The three of them vanish as though they’d never been there. But I know him; he is Douglas, the human flunky of the Cosmic Ego. All that’s left are two people lying on the front walk twitching. I examine their auras to see their parts in this.

The man is motivated by gratitude to someone who saved him. Commendable enough, but he is rough and still prone to criminal behaviour. Also, he has a powerful hatred of Mistress O’Payne. That is commendable too. But it blinds him to his true potential. He is living in the past, many years in the past. Pitiful.

The woman is more complex. She is driven by love and fear, and by conditioning to obey the man called Hawk. She actually cares for the girl after her fashion, though not enough to set her free. I examine her devotion to Hawk; it is very deep, dating far back to when she was a child. I am sickened to realize that she was one of his early victims; does he maintain a hold over everyone he preys upon?

I enter the dwelling; perhaps a search will reveal some clue about the location of his latest Aerie. The first assault on my senses comes from the television. Even after almost all these years it retains its ability to provide mindless distraction. I call up the tiniest amount of power and the device explodes; arguably the most intelligent sound it has ever produced.

The living area contains nothing of a particularly unusual aura, nor do the food preparation and eating spaces. I move to the second floor and the sleeping quarters. The parents’ room provides no clues, but the girl’s room is much more productive. I actually have to sort things into several distinct categories.

I ignore the trace from the school outfits, as that will undoubtedly point to the school. The hidden closet with the leather costumes is a much more likely source. That has a number of small traces and one particularly powerful one. The most powerful trace is definitely some sort of hideout.

I lack the energy to teleport so I am going to have to impose on Heather for transportation. And I wonder what I will do when I get to the lair; I currently lack the strength to defeat Hawk on my own. I may have to bring Tyler with me.

46. Paragon

From fifteen storeys up the city is peaceful. You can’t see the litter on the streets, the posters wrapped around the light posts, the graffiti drawn on the walls. The people scurry around, each about their own business while the cars haltingly progress from traffic light to traffic light. You can’t smell the garbage in the alleys or the exhaust fumes. Even the natural noises are distant and muted. I’m living the human dream, flying like a bird and looking down on creation.

“Hey! You!”

The voice jars me out of my thoughts. Someone on a nearby apartment rooftop is calling to me. She’s holding a towel over her chest and doesn’t seem to be wearing a stitch otherwise. I swoop down to her.

“What are you doing up there, pervert? Were you staring at me?”

“Wha… No! I was just enjoying the view!”

“That’s what I thought! I’m going down to my apartment and call the cops! You got no right flying around up here staring at girls as they try to sunbathe! That’s invasion of privacy! They’ll toss you in jail like that Watcher guy!”

The Watcher is a super hooligan of the worst sort. Like me, he can fly. Unlike me, he uses that power to fly around and spy on girls on the upper floors of apartment buildings. He’s actually been caught staring into tenth floor bedrooms while playing with himself. Sick.

“Hey, lady, I’m nothing like that! I’m just out taking in the fresh air and watching for crime and stuff!”

“Yeah, my stuff!”

“No! I didn’t even see you until you called out to me! Look, I’ll go away and fly somewhere else, okay?”

“Well, all right. But I want you to come down and apologize to my face first.”

Sigh. Such is the life of a super hero. Everybody who can see you thinks you’re watching them. But Dad always said a kind word to a civilian can save a lot of harsh words to a judge. I float majestically over to apologize; maybe the heroic look will help calm her down.

I just reach conversation distance when a rooftop gust catches the towel and sucks it out of her hand.

“Wow.” She’s about twenty pounds overweight and no more than thirty years old. Her body fulfills the promises made by the bodies of girls my age. It’s an awesome show and I’m seeing it from front row center.

I dash into action before my eyes get me into even more trouble. At top speed I’m able to catch the towel just as it goes over the edge of the roof. In a little over a second I’m back and holding the towel in front of her while she grabs it.

“Look, ma’am, I’m sorry I was staring at your breasts. I mean I’m sorry I thought I was staring at your breasts. I mean you thought. I didn’t even notice you until you had the towel off – up! Not that I didn’t want to look at you. I mean I didn’t want to because I didn’t know you were there but if I had known I would have looked…”

She points. “Go. Before you get that foot in any deeper.”

I do as I’m told. From now on I’m going to pay attention to people nearby on rooftops and such. Misunderstandings like that are a bit hard on the nerves. But she did have a really nice body.

My phone chirps.

“Hello?”

“Jake, get your ass to 87 Evergreen Drive pronto. Looks like your so-called ‘girlfriend’ is showing her true colours.”

“Dad? What’s going on? Do you mean Leandra?”

“Well it ain’t the Easter Bunny or the Playboy Bunny! She attacked a family and kidnapped their daughter. Now get down here. And while we’re in costume you call me Guardsman! Secret identities exist for a reason! I don’t hear wind rushing past your phone yet, Paragon! Move it!”

His words still echo in my ears as I kill the connection and set out full tilt for Evergreen Drive. The address sounds vaguely familiar. I’m sure if Leandra attacked people they did something to deserve it. I need to get there fast.

Downtown gives way to the suburbs in no time flat. In a couple of minutes I’m homing in on Evergreen Drive. It’s pretty easy to spot the house; Guardsman, Lightning Lady and the Phantasm are standing in front of it. Paramedics are on the front lawn checking out two unconscious people.

“What’s going on here?”

Lady Lightning answers me. “One of the neighbours heard a shot. As soon as he saw what was going on he started taking video. Here, it speaks for itself.”

Leandra and Sandy are on the front lawn being menaced by a forty-ish couple. The woman has a gun. Leandra touches Sandy on the back and Sandy takes off at kung fu movie speed. She snatches the gun from the woman’s hand and puts a round each into the woman and the man. Then she tosses the gun and staggers off to where she left Leandra. The video ends at that point.

“What happened next?”

“The neighbour said something prevented him from seeing any more. Our current guess is that young miss O’Payne used some kind of mental power on him.”

Dad speaks up. “We’re going to be putting out an APB on Mistress O’Payne, or ‘Emo’ as she’s now calling herself, with a note that she has a hostage.”

“Guardsman, can we talk inside for a minute?” I don’t wait for him, but storm into the house. He and the other two follow.

Once in the kitchen I stop and turn on them. “What the hell are you doing? An APB? You have nothing to go on but five seconds of video and your own prejudices!”

“So what do you think, son? What’s your better explanation?”

“Well, Dad, first you know as well as I do that Leandra isn’t Mistress O’Payne, she’s Lightning Lady and Phantasm’s daughter. Second, the girl with her is Peregrine. If they’re villains then so am I.”

“Congratulations, Jake, you can pick up your ‘stupid’ badge at the door. Leandra IS Mistress O’Payne; it’s some kind of dumb-ass plan by that idiot Cosmic Ego to try and redeem her by turning her back to a baby. Her powers are coming out; she’s taking slaves and she’s got you wrapped around her little finger. If you’re going to side with her I’m taking you in for your own good.”

“Then you better take me in, Dad. I don’t give up on friends.”

He cold cocks me. The blow puts me through the kitchen wall, the front wall of the house and out nearly to the street. There’s a ‘boom’ beside me and Lightning Lady is there. Right, she teleports. Every muscle in my body stiffens as she hits me with a lightning bolt. They’re not pulling punches.

Dad and Phantasm are coming out through the hole in the front of the house. There’s no way I can take the three of them. I don’t even want to. I have to get away from here. Luckily Phantasm’s the only one that can fly, and his speed caps out at a fast walk.

I leap upward to get a launch boost and fly straight up five thousand feet. After that I pour on the speed; I can fly at over half the speed of sound, and I use that power to get the hell out of there. My only problem is that I have no idea where to go.

47. Doug

The two girls are restrained and Rhonda is watching over them. They’ve both been hit with a strong psychedelic combined with the toxin that fear gas is based on. It’s going to be the ultimate bad trip and they have no choice but to ride it out. I feel for them, but this kind of crap is par for the course in our business.

Now, who do I contact? I’ve been monitoring the internet feeds, and it’s pretty clear these two are on the way to becoming persona non grata in the civilized world. The Justice Sentinels have declared an APB to bring them in as “people of concern”. That means if they are brought in it had better be very public or they’ll go to Protocol.

There’s only one contact common to both address lists who isn’t in the Sentinels. Jake Howe. Guardsman’s son. Looks like he’s on the run too. Surveillance is easy when everybody’s armed with camera phones. I dial his number from one of my disposable lines.

He picks up on the third ring. “Hello?”

“Jake Howe. This is – was – the Cosmic Ego. I think we should talk in person. Can you sneak back into Capital City and meet me at 122 Riverside?”

“I’m kind of busy right now.”

“Yes, hiding from the Justice Sentinels. I’ve been watching the news feeds. I have the girls right now, they’re receiving medical attention. It’s in your best interests to meet with me.”

“How do I know this isn’t a trick?”

“You don’t. I’m asking you to trust me because you’re the only one who can help Miss Moon and Miss Falcone. At least the only one who knows them by those names and wouldn’t as soon see them dead.”

“Okay, I’ll meet you. When?”

“Twelve minutes.” It’ll take him eleven to get there at top speed. If anyone else is listening in, it should take them even longer.

Contents - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - [ Part 5 ] - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9

(c) 2013, Tim Smith. All rights reserved.