Crystal Hall, Friday afternoon, Nov 16th, 2007
“So, what are you working on this time?” Alyss asked.
Amy Maguire took a bite from her dinner, then glanced over at the notebook beside her. She’d been doodling a little while she ate, which she frequently did when she had ideas she was working on.
“I was just thinking about different ways to weaponize my spheres,” Amy answered once she’d finished swallowing. “It’s been three weeks since Exquisite and her friends pulled anything serious, and I want to be ready for them the next time they do.”
“Are you sure they’re going to cause more problems?” Sapphire asked, giving Amy a curious look.
Amy considered this for a moment. Of course, she had no doubt that the other students would target them again. On Halloween, their two groups had come to some serious blows, and she’d been certain ever since that this was going to happen again.
Before Amy could answer, Alyss snorted. “They’re some nasty little fucks…pardon my French. We embarrassed them, so you can bet you’re a…butt that they’re going to want payback. The only question is, why they haven’t come after us again since then?”
“They’ve been recruiting,” Amy reminded her friends, gesturing in the direction of the table where Exquisite was sitting her growing clique.
“That is true,” Sapphire admitted, absently pulling her blue scaled cloak a little tighter around herself. “They have two more members…”
“I’m not surprised that Drama Queen hooked up with Exquisite and Starbright,” Alyss grumbled. Her eyes narrowed. “She’s so full of herself that she fits right in with those two.”
“She can be rather frustrating,” Sapphire commented, though her eyes narrowed a little.
“She’s a pain in my patootie,” Alyss nearly growled. “But the one I’m worried about is that new kid, Kraken. I heard he’s pretty powerful.”
“Yeah,” Amy agreed with a wry smile. “He has a pretty good reputation for someone who hasn’t even been here for two weeks.”
Sapphire nodded. “It is unfortunate that he barely arrived on campus when Exquisite recruited him.”
“We don’t know enough about him to take him into account yet,” Amy grudgingly admitted, tapping her notebook. “So, I’m trying to figure out some options…”
“We never really retaliated after what they did on Halloween,” Sapphire pointed out with a scowl. “Now they must think they can attack us without consequences…”
Amy scowled at that, knowing that her blue-haired friend had a good point. After Halloween, the three of them had wanted to retaliate against Exquisite and her friends, but there hadn’t been much opportunity. Or more accurately, there hadn’t been much opportunity for anything other than an attack of their own, and they were trying to avoid anything that could get them suspended or expelled. So far, all they’d been able to do was perform a few ‘practical jokes’. She glanced to Alyss, smiling faintly as she did so.
“You could always put them all in diapers and pajamas,” Amy told Alyss. “Or make them all dress like Jericho…”
“That might be going a little too far,” Alyss responded with a chuckle. She absently formed a length of ribbon between her fingers and began playing with it as she talked. “But I’ve got the feeling that they’re going to try something again soon…unless we do something to make them think twice.”
“Yeah,” Amy agreed. “For now, we keep our eyes open and watch out for any ambushes. And if we find an opportunity to mess up whatever they have planned…”She paused at that and tapped her notebook. “And like I said, I’m working on a few things that should be useful.”
The Quad, Friday afternoon, Nov 16th, 2007
It was Friday afternoon and classes were over for the week. Melissa Chambers sat at a table in the quad, having already changed out of her uniform and into her normal clothes. Several other students gathered nearby, eager to participate in the business she was conducting.
“Mischief,” one boy called out.
Melissa looked up and saw Orc, a large and particularly ugly boy. He had a somewhat piggish nose, fanged teeth, and really bad skin. Overall, he looked like an Orc from one of those Lord of the Rings movies, hence his name, but he was actually really nice.
“Hey, Jean,” Melissa greeted him with a grin.
“I was told that you’re the one to talk to about…”He paused at that and looked around self-consciously.
“You mean, this?” Melissa asked, reaching into a pocket in her jacket and pulling out two small plastic bags, then placing both of them and their contents onto the table in front of him.
“Yes,” Orc agreed a little nervously.
“Mischief,” a girl suddenly exclaimed as she rushed up to the table.
Melissa looked up and saw Megaera, one of the older girls with GSD. Megaera had a pair of large wings, which resembled bat wings that were half-covered with feathers, though in a mottled and patchy way. Her skin matched the almost mangey appearance of her wings, in that it looked like she was badly sunburned and peeling.
“I need you to hook me up,” Megaera exclaimed. “Give me another one…”
“What happened to the one I gave you?” Melissa asked, though she was already reaching into her pocket.
“Mister Williams saw it in class and got pissed,” she hissed. “He stole it…”
“I think that technically, they call it confiscating,” Alecto pointed out.
“Whatever,” Megaera snapped.
“Here you go,” Melissa said, handing the plastic baggie to the older girl. Then she turned her attention back to Orc. “So, which one do you want?”
The first plastic baggie contained a pin, which looked like a black circle with black devil horns and a squiggly devil tail. The other baggie contained an almost identical pin, with the only difference being that there was a smiley face in the middle of the circle.
“Would it be possible to get both?” Orc asked hopefully.
Melissa gently pushed both pins towards the boy, along with a business card. “This is our website…Just sign up and you’ll be a member of the Imp Fan Club.”She puffed up a little and bragged, “I’m the president.”
“Merci beaucoup,” Orc said with a polite smile.
Stryff, the blue skinned girl with four arms, announced, “Mister Williams totally freaks out whenever he sees someone wearing one of these pins…He really hates Ms. Imp.”
Melissa began to giggle at that, then abruptly gave a handful of pins to Stryff. “Then you should give these to everyone in your history class…And make sure they wear them during class…”
“Great idea,” Trixie said with a giggle of her own. “Now I kinda wish I had Mister Williams…”
“No, you don’t,” someone else offered.
Melissa reached into her pockets, then frowned as she realized that she just gave away all the remaining pins. “I guess I’m out,” she said with a disappointed sigh. “Now I’ve gotta get more…”
“So, you want to see my new joy buzzer?” Trixie abruptly asked. She grinned evilly. “Guaranteed to zap high level exemplars.”
“That would be awesome,” Melissa exclaimed with a grin. Then she paused for a moment. “Oh yeah, I’ve got something else I was gonna do…”
“Your loss,” Trixie told her with a shrug before wandering off.
Melissa turned her attention to Crystal Hall, and to watching those who came to eat. She was looking for one specific person. Rapier.
“Where is he?” Melissa asked impatiently. She nearly bounced where she stood, “Come on, come on, come on…”
Melissa blushed as she thought of Rapier, and her heart even began racing. She’d been crushing on him so hard for the last couple weeks, and she’d finally gotten her nerve up. Today was the day where she was going to eat dinner with him…whether he knew it or not.
“And I’m gonna ask him out,” she told herself with a giggle. She could just imagine him saying yes and kissing her, which made her blush brighter and giggle even more. “This is gonna be so totally awesome…”
Then Melissa saw Rapier and she let out a ‘squee’ of excitement. She started walking towards Rapier, but when she was halfway there, another girl suddenly rushed over to him and began talking.
“Erin,” Melissa said, recognizing Cauldron.
She paused for a moment, annoyed with Erin for delaying her plan. However, she knew that she only had to wait a minute at most, because as soon as Erin was gone, she’d go talk to Rapier herself. He’d never paid much attention to her before, but that was about to finally change.
Melissa giggled. “I’m finally gonna do it…”
But just then, Rapier leaned forward and kissed Erin. Melissa felt a cold weight sink into her guts as she watched the two of them kiss, followed by a cold dread through her entire being as they went into Crystal Hall, hand in hand.
“No…,” Melissa whispered as tears began to well up.
Rapier didn’t want her…he wanted Erin. At that moment, Melissa suddenly felt as though her heart had shattered in her chest. Without saying a word, she turned invisible and ran away as fast as she could.
Emerson, Saturday late morning, Nov 17th, 2007
“Focus,” Chris Matthews told himself. “Hold it right there…”
A golden aura burned around Chris, the visible manifestation of his PK shell. Whenever he exerted his powers, his shell tended to become visible, which was extremely useful at the moment since it let him see what he was doing, rather than just feeling it.
At the moment, Chris’ had dulled over most of his body, but burned more than twice as bright around his hands. He concentrated as hard as he could on his hands, on pushing even more of his PK power there. However, he couldn’t hold it any longer and his shell snapped back to normal, with the golden color once again being even around his entire body.
“Not good enough,” Chris stated. “Not yet…”
Chris let out a sigh and relaxed, letting his PK shell fade back to its normal invisible state. Then he wiped the sweat from his forehead, deciding that he was done with training…at least for the moment. He’d practice again that night, before bed.
“I am getting better though,” Chris mused as he looked around his bedroom.
When the Imp had first started to teach Chris these exercises, he’d thought that they would be a waste of his time. After all, meditation was for wimps and people who liked yoga, not for people like him, who preferred action. However, he couldn’t argue with success. He’d only been taking lessons from her for a couple weeks, but he could already control his PK shell much better than he’d ever been able to before.
Chris was still suspicious of the Imp though, and he had good reason to be. After all, she was a supervillain and even bragged about it, while he was going to become a hero. However, in spite of all that, she was still helping him.
His thoughts turned to the previous weekend, when he’d been in Boston and had run into a real supervillain. Of course, Chris tried to stop the villain since that was what heroes did, but the Imp had interfered. Chris didn’t know where she’d come from, but she’d helped the villain get away, which was all the proof he needed that she was still a villain.
But after that, she’d actually given him a lecture on how he was putting innocent bystanders in danger, and how he was only making things worse. Chris wanted to argue with her, but the more he thought about it over the last week, the more he’d realized that she made sense.
“Then that hero showed up,” Chris said bitterly.
Chris had tried to stop that villain, but when Lamplighter showed up, he’d immediately accused Chris of being the villain. Lamplighter had even attacked without giving Chris a chance to explain what was going on. Then, to his surprise, his teacher, the Imp, had come to his rescue. His supervillain teacher had actually saved him from the hero. The whole situation had left Chris shaken and confused, and even now, a week later, he still wasn’t sure of what to think.
After dwelling on these thoughts for several minutes, Chris shook his head and tried to clear it. Heroes needed to be clear-headed and decisive. They couldn’t afford to waste time thinking about things that didn’t matter. However, a voice in the back of his head reminded him that this is exactly what Lamplighter had done. Was that really the kind of hero he wanted to be?
Chris left his room a few seconds later, momentarily thinking about finding his best friend Jon, so they could go to lunch, until he remembered that Jon was busy. In fact, Jon was going to spend the entire weekend working on some project for his magic class, which meant that Chris was on his own.
He was about halfway down the hallway when he saw another boy coming out of his own room. Devon Roth, AKA Iron, noticed Chris and gave him a cold look. In spite of the fact that they had nearly identical powers, both being PK 3s, they did not get along in the least.
“So, who are you going to get humiliated by today?” Devon asked with a sneer.
Chris narrowed his eyes at that, biting back the surge of anger. “At least I didn’t get my ass kicked by an art teacher….”
This time, it was Devon’s eyes that narrowed in anger. The two boys just stood there, glaring at each other in silence before Devon made a show of dismissing Chris and walked away. Once he was gone, Chris let out a sigh.
“What an ass,” Chris muttered bitterly.
As far as Chris was concerned, Devon was an arrogant prick. The other boy liked to brag about how his father was some kind of rich and influential lawyer, and he resented the fact that he was in Emerson rather than Melville. Admittedly, Devon was usually all talk, and rarely did anything physical unless he was off his meds. Fortunately, he seemed to be on them at the moment, or that brief confrontation would have gone quite differently.
Chris glared in the direction that Devon had gone, then shrugged and continued on his way. He paused to stick his head in the common room. Collin and Fixx were the only ones currently present, and the two of them seemed to be deep in conversation about their upcoming arena match.
He’d heard about this upcoming match and was a little uncomfortable with the fact that Collin and Fixx were fighting to protect the honor of a known MCO spy. However, they were both nice guys, and he’d never had any problems with either of them, so he was happy to wish them luck. Besides, if both of them thought that Absinthe was worth defending, maybe she wasn’t as bad as everyone said.
“Hey,” Chris called out, just loud enough to get their attention. Once he had it, he said, “Good luck on your match tomorrow.”
“Thanks,” Collin said, giving a nod of acknowledgement while Fixx responded with a casual salute.
Chris left Emerson and made his way to the Crystal Hall. After grabbing his lunch, he looked around for a place to sit, though he quickly heard someone calling his name.
“Aegis,” a girl called out. “Over here…”
He looked to the source of the voice and immediately saw Melissa, a cute blonde girl. Melissa was another one of Imp’s personal students, which seemed a little ironic considering that her dad was apparently some kind of superhero. Chris had learned that last week in Boston, though admittedly, he didn’t know which superhero her dad was.
“Hey,” Chris greeted Melissa, who flashed him a broad grin. That was one thing he liked about Melissa. She always seemed to be in a good mood…even if she was a bit hyper.
“Come sit with us,” Melissa exclaimed, gesturing to an empty seat at their table.
Chris quickly glanced at Melissa’s companions. He wasn’t the least bit surprised to see her sitting with Monkeywrench, since the furry GSD boy seemed to be her best friend. However, he was just a little surprised to see her second companion, Darqueheart, who was a bit evil looking and generally unsocial.
Darqueheart had pure black skin, black horns that curved back, and a devil’s tail. She resembled the Imp…but just a little more extreme and devilish. Chris tensed up a little at the sight of her because she looked dangerous. However, she just gave him a dismissive look and went back to her food.
“Thank you,” Chris said as he took his seat.
“So,” Monkeywrench asked Melissa, “How did last night go?”
Melissa froze, and in an instant, her expression changed from excited to sad. She almost looked like she was about to start crying, though she quickly covered it up and began smiling.
“It went…great,” she said, though her tone said otherwise.
Chris knew that he wasn’t the most observant person, but even he noticed that there was something wrong with Melissa. “Are you okay?” he asked awkwardly.
“I’m…fine,” she said, unable to hold the tears back.
“Wow,” Monkeywrench said sympathetically. “That bad?”
Melissa nodded and then wiped the tears away. “I don’t wanna talk about it…”
Chris noticed Monkeywrench and Darqueheart share a worried look. He could understand why, because this was pretty unusual for Melissa.
“Maybe you should spend the day with Ms. Imp,” Monkeywrench suggested. “She’s great at cheering people up.”
“She isn’t here today,” Melissa said with another forced smile. “She’s off campus…doing art stuff.”
Chris chuckled faintly at that. “Do you mean forging a painting, or stealing one?”
“Would you believe neither?” Melissa asked.
After a moment of consideration, Chris shook his head. “Not really.”
“Well, we’ll find something to cheer you up,” Monkeywrench promised Melissa. “Maybe we can prank Geist. That’s always fun.”
Melissa smiled at that, and it actually seemed like a real smile. “Maybe…”
Chris had no idea what had put Melissa into a bad mood, but he helpfully offered, “Maybe a shopping trip?My mom always feels better after she goes shopping…”
“That is so sexist,” Monkeywrench exclaimed in mock offense.
“Yes,” Darqueheart agreed, giving Chris a wry look. “But he does have a point.”
Melissa’s eyes lit up at that and a familiar grin once again spread across her face. “We can go on a shopping trip,” she exclaimed with a squeal of delight, throwing herself at Darqueheart and giving her a hug.
“But I can’t go…,” Darqueheart protested.
“Why not?” Melissa asked. “Are you busy tomorrow?”Then before Darqueheart could answer, Melissa announced, “This is gonna be awesome…”
“Aw, a girl’s outing,” Monkeywrench said with a grin of his own. “After what happened the last time you were in Berlin, I almost want to see this…”
“Good,” Melissa responded. “Because you’re coming with us tomorrow. Both of you are…”
“I was planning on watching an arena match,” Chris started to say.
Darqueheart glared at him. “This was your idea, so you can suffer along with me and the hairball.”
“Hey,” Monkeywrench protested with a smirk. “I resemble that remark.”
Melissa jumped up out of her seat, nearly bouncing with her usual excitement, her bad mood forgotten for the moment. “This is going to be so much fun…”
Hawthorne, Saturday late morning, Nov 17th, 2007
Alyss Morgan was sitting on a stool in the Hawthorne kitchen. Her legs hung over the side of the stool, dangling above the ground. It was annoying, but she was used to it. Ever since she’d been given her second chance at life, nearly everything seemed to be too large for her.
“Damn good sandwich,” Alyss commented, taking another bite.
“Thanks,” Amy responded.
“Yes,” Sapphire agreed. “This is very good.”
Amy just smiled at that. “It’s a shrimp po’ boy. My old neighbor, Mrs. Lawrence, taught me to make them. The remoulade sauce is her recipe.”
“Well, you can give her my compliments,” Alyss said.
“And mine as well,” Sapphire agreed.
Alyss shifted positions in her seat, absently adjusted her dress, when went in for another bite of her sandwich. This was much better than the old peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that Megan used to make for her and the kids, though admittedly, Alyss would have given nearly anything to have one of Megan’s cheap sandwiches again.
Just then, several boys came charging into the kitchen. Alyss had spent enough time in Hawthorne, hanging out with Amy and Sapphire, that she was pretty familiar with most of the Thornies. She immediately recognized Achoo, Derp, and Dust.
“We heard you were making lunch,” Achoo announced, his eyes sweeping over the food that was set out.
“They’re po’ boys,” Amy explained again.
She turned away from her own lunch and went to the tray containing several dozen sandwiches already made up. The newcomers could have easily grabbed their own, but Amy still plated their food up for them.
“Thanks, Amy,” Derp said with a somewhat goofy grin.
“Yeah, thanks,” Achoo agreed, taking a big bite of his sandwich and nodding approvingly.
The three boys hurried out the door after this, giving Amy the opportunity to go back to her own lunch. Alyss just watched her in amusement. It seemed that Amy was always trying to take care of other people, even going so far as to cook meals and snacks for everyone in Hawthorne. In fact, Amy was often so motherly, that it was easy to forget that she’d been born a guy, just like Alyss herself had been.
“Do either of you have any plans for tomorrow?” Amy asked.
“No,” Sapphire answered with a curious expression. “Why?”
Alyss considered this for a moment before admitting, “You know I’ve got that new project car, and I was planning on working on it.”
“Oh,” Amy responded, looking a little disappointed.
“Why?” Alyss asked. “What do you have in mind?”
“I was thinking about heading into town,” Amy admitted. “I wanted to get off campus for a bit…and pick up a few things for the kitchen.”
“Did your anonymous benefactor forget to stock the kitchen?” Alyss asked with a chuckle.
About every week or two, someone kept filling the fridge and cupboards with food, and so far, nobody had come forward to claim credit. Of course, Alyss had her own suspicions about who this person was, and her number one suspect was a certain rich foodie in her own cottage. The question was, how the hell was the food being brought in without anyone seeing it?Unless of course, someone like Fubar or Mrs. Cantrell was covering for them, which was something that Alyss wouldn’t put past either of them.
“Oh no,” Amy responded with an amused look. “The food arrived as usual, but there’s a dish I wanted to try later this week, and I don’t have all the ingredients…”
Alyss nodded in understanding. “Well, I wouldn’t mind getting off campus myself for awhile. Besides, I need a new pair of work boots…”
“Can’t you just make your own?” Sapphire asked, giving Alyss a curious look.
“Naw,” Alyss responded with a shrug. She held her hand out and made a cloth square appear. “I can only make fabric…not leather, rubber soles, or steel toes…”Then she used the newly made napkin to wipe off her mouth.
“I imagine good work boots would be hard to find in your size,” Amy pointed out.
Alyss nodded agreement. “Yeah. They probably won’t have them in town, and I’ll just end up custom ordering them from online anyway. But if nothing else, I can check out the auto parts shop and see what they have.”
“And the library,” Sapphire pointed out with a look of amusement. “I’ve seen the way you go through books…”
“When you get to be my age,” Alyss commented wryly, “you learn to appreciate the value of a good book.”
Sapphire burst out laughing at that, which was understandable since Alyss looked like she was only ten years old. Amy just gave Alyss an amused look, since she actually knew how old Alyss really was.
“Then, I guess we have our plans for tomorrow,” Amy said with a smile. “Now, are either of you interested in dessert?I made some peach cobbler…”
Whateley Academy, Saturday afternoon, Nov 17th, 2007
Naomi Pryce, the young woman better known as Exquisite, leaned back into her couch and slowly looked around the room. It was a large room and fairly luxurious, even with the complete lack of windows.
This room had once been the clubhouse of some now defunct club, the last member of which had graduated the previous spring. Naomi had paid a fixer for the location and access codes, which had been expensive, but well worth it for the privacy alone.
Naomi’s ‘friends’ were gathered there at her request. She had claimed the most comfortable couch for herself while Iron and Gravmax shared the other one, with each of them sitting on opposite ends. Starbright had claimed one of the comfortable recliners while Drama, one of their new members, had the other.
And then there was the last member of their clique, the most recent to join. Kraken. He was six and a half feet tall, heavily muscled, and had long dark hair, almost giving the impression that he could have been some kind of barbarian warrior in times past.
Kraken was a respectable exemplar five, though it was his other ability that made him so useful. Naomi smiled faintly, thankful that she’d found him when she had, before anyone else had been able to take him under their wing. After all, every powerful clique needed an enforcer, and Kraken was going to be hers.
“I think it is time,” Naomi announced, “for us to finish what we began on Halloween.”
“A little too late, if you ask me,” Gravmax commented. “We should have dealt with those girls several weeks ago…”
“But you know why we waited,” Iron pointed out. “We had to make sure that security wasn’t watching us.”
Starbright nodded with both of their comments. “The question is, how do we deal with them without security coming after us. I mean, we won’t be able to get away with the masks like on Halloween…”
“I’m a little confused,” Drama said, looking around the group. “I have no problem with going after that little brat, Ribbon…but I don’t see why everyone is so focused on those girls…”
Naomi smiled faintly at that. “We formed our little group because we each have ambitions, and in order to achieve our goals, we need to be seen as powerful…as a group that people do not want to cross. Individually, these girls have been annoyances to several of us…but on Halloween, they fought back and weren’t defeated as thoroughly as we’d hoped. Now, we need to crush them…to make an example of them.”
“Well, you know I’m in,” Drama said with a smirk. “I can’t wait to make Ribbon cry like the baby she is.”
“Glad we can agree on that,” Starbright added with a smirk of her own.
Naomi slowly stood up and walked over to the chair where Kraken was sitting and gently put a hand on his shoulder. The large boy hadn’t said a word during this, nor had she really expected him to since he was intentionally trying to build a reputation as the strong silent type.
Of course, Naomi knew that the truth was, before Kraken had manifested, Phillip Lowry had been short, fat, and the victim of nearly every bully in his old school. Now, Kraken hungered for everything that had been missing from his old life. He wanted respect and power…and she had promised him those things and more. Between her words and a few gentle nudges from Drama’s empathy, it had been easy to recruit this powerful young mutant. Now, she just had to make use of him.
“There are only three of them,” Naomi pointed out with a faint smirk, “so even if we have to deal with all of them at once, it won’t be a problem. We outnumber them two to one, and Kraken alone would be able to defeat all three by himself. Now, we just need to decide when and where.”
Vermont, Saturday late afternoon, Nov 17th, 2007
A small convoy of vehicles, which included three semi-trucks, pulled into the roadside rest area. Once all of the vehicles had been parked, the passengers began climbing out.
The leader of this convoy was a short and stocky man, with naturally tanned skin and a no-nonsense demeanor. He looked around at his vehicles and men, making sure that the guards were taking their positions.
“Colonel Estevez,” one of his men called for his attention, while coming towards him.
“Barker,” Estevez greeted the other man. Then he glanced to the two other men who’d come right behind Barker, and who were carrying a grey metallic box the size of a small footlocker. “Right here will do.”They set the box down right where he’d indicated, then began to open it.
Estevez looked over these three men, none of whom was wearing any form of rank or insignia, though neither was he. In fact, he was the only one that even had an official rank, and that was only because he was the one in charge of this particular cell. The only thing that any of them wore to mark them as soldiers, was the blue triangle pin that each wore. This marked them all as members of the Triangle.
Less than a year ago, Estevez had been a proud member of Humanity First. But then, his own daughter had manifested as a mutant. Of course, there was no place for her in that organization, and according to many of his old friends, no place for her in this world. That was why he’d joined the Triangle and brought his daughter with him, to make sure that there was a place for her in this world.
“We’re ready,” Barker stated, indicating the box that was now open.
The box was full of high tech equipment, most of which made little sense to Estevez. However, right in the center, there was a large monitor with what looked like a radar image.
“We’re still picking up a lot of signal from New York,” Barker explained, “but that isn’t any surprise. There are a lot of known mutants in New York.”
“And a lot of heroes,” Estevez stated with a scowl. “New York is far too high profile for us to go recruiting there. We need to find a better location to recruit mutants for our cause.”
One of the other men, a recent recruit named Stauffer, pointed to the radar picture. “We’re picking up some strong signals from the East, probably from New Hampshire.”
“How strong?” Estevez demanded.
There was a moment of consideration as Stauffer and Barker both looked over the information. “Pretty strong,” Barker said with an excited grin. “We’re either picking up a lot of mutant clustered together, or just a couple really powerful ones.”
Estevez glared at him. “Be more specific. Those details are important.”
“Sorry, sir,” Barker apologized, “but this isn’t an exact science.”
“It isn’t science at all,” the third man muttered. “It’s devisor tech…”
Barker nodded emphatically. “The devisor who made this mutant detector didn’t provide an instruction book. And unfortunately, I heard that she died during that raid in Providence last week.”
Estevez scowled at that reminder. Last week, the entire Rhode Island cell of the Triangle had been wiped out by the local hero group. Not only had a lot of good people been captured, but they’d also lost three valuable mutant assets. Fortunately, the Triangle was cautious enough to avoid keeping all their mutant assets in one place, and he was comforted by the fact that his own daughter was safe and secure in Pittsburgh.
“Very well,” Estevez said, grudgingly admitting that Barker was right. Devisor tech wasn’t always reliable, but it was powerful, and in this case, that would have to do. “When we’re done here, we head East. Hopefully, we’ll find some new mutant resources to replace the ones we lost in Providence.”
Whateley Academy, Sunday morning, Nov 18th, 2007
“Welcome to the Berlin tour,” a girl announced from the front of the bus. “My name is Foxfire…or Bekky Corbin, for those who insist on Muggle names, and I will be your tour guide today.”
“This is gonna be fun,” Melissa announced, looking around the small bus and grinning at her friends.
Monkeywrench grinned back, looking almost as excited about their shopping trip as she was. Darqueheart was sitting there with her arms crossed, not looking happy about it, though Melissa appreciated the fact that she’d agreed to come anyway. And then there was Aegis, who seemed more resigned than anything.
“It will be nice getting off campus for a bit,” Aegis admitted. “If you remember right, my trip to Boston last weekend got cut short.”
Melissa giggled at that. “You were the one who tried fighting a supervillain…”
“Just like you did the last time you were in Berlin,” Monkeywrench reminded Melissa.
“Oh yeah,” she responded with a giggle. “That was kind of fun. I wonder if we’ll see Redcoat again…”
Then she paused, suddenly remembering that fight. Rapier had been there too, and it had been during that fight that she’d first started to crush on him. Now that she was reminded of him, tears once again threatened to form, though she desperately tried to fight them.
“There does seem to be a tradition of Whateley students getting in trouble whenever they go into Berlin or Boston,” Bekky said, giving Melissa a pointed look. “Hopefully, we can avoid that kind of trouble this time.”
“Good luck with that,” Darqueheart muttered with a snort.
“That reminds me,” Bekky said a few seconds later. She glanced between Monkeywrench and Darqueheart. “Once we get to Berlin, I’ll cast a masking spell on you two, so nobody notices your…unique looks. Hopefully, this should help cut off any potential problems.”
Melissa stared at Bekky for a moment, suddenly thinking about the Imp. “I wonder if that’s how she does it…”
“What was that?” Aegis asked.
“Nothing,” Melissa responded with her best innocent look. It didn’t work all that well on her dad, but Aegis seemed to buy it.
Just then, three more students climbed onto the bus and Melissa grinned as she recognized more of her friends. Amy, Alyss, and Sapphire.
“Hey,” Melissa exclaimed, waving to her friends.
“Hey,” Amy responded with a smile. “I didn’t know you were going to town too…”
“I think she’s planning to rob an art gallery or something,” Monkeywrench said with a grin. “To earn brownie points with the Imp…”
“Hey,” Melissa protested. “I only did that once…”
It wasn’t like she robbed art galleries all the time, or like she was planning to do it on this trip. She’d promised Imp that she wouldn’t do that kind of thing again until she turned eighteen.
“WHAT?” Amy and Aegis both exclaimed at the same time.
“And Imp’s brownie points are awesome,” Melissa added, licking her lips.
“I just hope you don’t get us in trouble,” Sapphire pointed out wryly.
Melissa rolled her eyes. “Why does everyone think that I’m going to get us in trouble?”
“Um…it’s in your name,” Aegis pointed out with a faint smirk. “Mischief.”Melissa responded by sticking out her tongue.
Once everyone was seated, Bekky told the bus driver that they were ready to go. A few seconds later and they were on their way off campus. Melissa stared out the windows until they passed the gargoyles at the campus entrance, then turned to the others and the conversations that were already starting.
“Did you bring any snacks?” Melissa asked Amy.
“Why ask me?” Amy responded.
“Because you make the best cookies,” Melissa told her with a smirk, before leaning forward and adding, “Did you bring any devisor brownies?”
“NO!” several of the other passengers exclaimed at once.
“No caffeine for you,” Monkeywrench stated in a ‘soup man’ accent, which earned several chuckles, even getting a smile from Darqueheart.
When they arrived in Berlin, Bekky stood up and looked around at the other students, then began to cast her spells on Darqueheart and Monkeywrench. When she was done, she seemed satisfied, though Melissa didn’t see anything different.
“This spell just makes it so people don’t register that there’s anything unusual,” Bekky explained. “So, nobody should freak out over your…unique looks.”
“Aw, but it’s so fun when they freak out,” Monkeywrench said with a broad grin.
“Speak for yourself,” Darqueheart hissed at him.
“You’ll have to stay fairly close to me, so I can maintain the spell,” Bekky continued. “Maybe, no more than fifty yards away.”
Darqueheart scowled for a moment, admitting, “I don’t like being tethered to you like that, but if this works, it will be worth it…”
Bekky looked at Amy and Sapphire. “Fortunately for you two, so many people dye their hair…However,” she fixed her gaze on Amy, “purple eyes…”
Amy casually slipped on a pair of sun glasses and announced, “Problem solved, and I didn’t even need to waste any essence.”
“Just promise me that there won’t be any shenanigans,” Bekky announced to the group. “I really don’t feel like talking to Mrs. Carson today.”
“I promise,” Melissa said, crossing her fingers with a smirk.
Several of the others gave her skeptical looks, but it was Aegis who asked, “Why do I have a bad feeling about this?”
“Because you aren’t as dumb as you look?” Darqueheart asked.
“All right then,” Melissa exclaimed as she jumped to her feet. “Now, let’s go SHOPPING!”
Berlin NH, Sunday late morning, Nov 18th, 2007
“Well?” Colonel Estevez demanded. “Why haven’t you done as ordered?”
“Sorry, sir,” Barker apologized as he bent over the mutant detector. Several lights were blinking, but the radar screen was still unlit and blank. “The devise is being a little glitchy and taking awhile to warm up…”
“What else can you expect from devisor tech?” Amanda Harris asked. The petite brunette was leaning over the device, nearly pressed up against Barker. “We’re lucky this thing works at all…”
Suddenly, the radar image came to life and filled with several glowing hits. Barker stared at this for a moment with a smile slowly forming.
“According to the detector,” Barker announced, “there are mutants nearby…”
“How many?” Estevez asked, suddenly giving the devise his full attention. “And how close?”
“I can’t be exact,” Estevez admitted, “but from these signals, I’m guessing at least half a dozen. As for distance, this has to be within a mile at most…”
Estevez allowed himself to smile at that news. “Good.”
It looked like their recruiting mission wasn’t going to be a bust after all. Once they acquired these mutants and put them through the proper reeducation, they might very well have some useful new resources to help the Triangle…and humanity itself. He only hoped that these mutants were worth all this trouble, but they’d find out soon enough.
“Everyone, mount up and get ready,” Estevez yelled out to his soldiers. “We found our targets. And remember, we want them alive.”
Berlin NH, Sunday afternoon, Nov 18th, 2007
“Do you need to read every book in this place?” Amy asked Alyss with a wry smile.
Alyss carefully set down the book that she’d just flipped through and glanced around the book store. “Not every book.”
Amy just rolled her eyes at that. Alyss was a speed reader, one of the benefits from being a high-level exemplar, and she went through books like potato chips. They’d only been in that shop for fifteen minutes, and her former roommate had already gone through a dozen books. If they weren’t careful, the woman at the register might get suspicious about the way Alyss was flipping through each of these books. Hopefully, the woman wouldn’t see the little loligoth and think ‘mutant’.
“Are you going to actually buy anything?” Amy asked her friend, more curious than anything else.
“No point,” Alyss admitted with a shrug. “I read it once, and it sticks…”She tapped her temple, a reminder that she also had a photographic memory.
“Good point,” Amy admitted, holding up the books she’d found. “I’m getting these.”
“A cookbook,” Alyss said with a chuckle. “Why am I not surprised?And Percy Jackson.”
Amy just shrugged at that. “So, I like cooking. You seem to enjoy eating what I make.”
“True,” Alyss agreed. “Go ahead and cook all you want. I’m happy to help test it.”
“And so is half of Hawthorne,” Sapphire added as she came up.
Amy glanced to the book in Sapphire’s hands. It was a book on snakes, which was no surprise. Sapphire had a natural interest in snakes since most of her family was part snake. In fact, she herself had been born part snake, even if she no longer really looked like it.
A few seconds later, Amy glanced around the store, wondering what books the others were looking for. Bekky was checking on the selection of gaming books, while Darqueheart was currently in the romance aise. Aegis couldn’t seem to make up his mind, because he kept wandering back and forth, glancing at the covers but rarely looking at anything. Amy suspected that he was killing time more than anything.
For a moment, Amy wondered about Melissa and Monkeywrench. Neither of them had come into the book store, and she was a little worried about what kind of trouble those two might end up in on their own. However, she glanced over to where Bekky was, reminding herself that she wasn’t responsible for those two. Bekky was.
“Not my circus,” Amy muttered to herself. “Not my monkeys.”
With that, Amy went to the counter and paid for her books. Once she’d done this, she removed the backpack she’d brought with and stuffed the books in there. Her mom had sent her the backpack a couple weeks earlier, and of course, it was purple. Because of her hair and eye color, everyone seemed to assume that purple and violet were now HER colors, and that everything she owned had to be within that color range. Amy snorted at that, though she had to admit, the backpack was a good match for her hair.
“At least I didn’t end up with pink hair,” she reminded herself. That would have been even worse.
Once everyone else was finished in the bookstore, they gathered again in front. Only Melissa and Monkeywrench were missing, and Amy saw them coming out of a shop on the other side of the street.
“I hope the monkey doesn’t stray any further,” Bekky commented. “I think he’s on the edge of my range for maintaining that spell…”
“Could you teach me that spell?” Amy asked the older girl. “That kind of thing could be really useful…”
“Sure,” Bekky responded with a smile. “We can talk about it later.”
“THERE THEY ARE,” a voice suddenly yelled. “THE DETECTOR CONFIRMS IT.”
Amy snapped around and let out a gasp of surprise. The man who’d yelled was standing in the middle of the street, in front of an open foot locker, and he was pointing right at their group. However, what surprised her more was the fact that there were at least a dozen people, mostly men though there were a few women, standing near him. Nearly all of them were armed with weapons that looked like they’d come from her mom’s workshop, or from the devisor labs at school.
“You’ve gotta be shitting me,” Alyss exclaimed from beside her.
It was only then that Amy allowed her eyes to go back even further, to where she saw half a dozen power frames and suits of power armor, which were blocking the street. Most of them were of different designs than each other, and a few looked like they’d been heavily repaired at one point or another, largely because some parts and colors on them didn’t match with the rest.
Amy’s heart jumped up into her throat at the sight of all this firepower, or at least, she felt like it had. She quickly bit back on her fear, reminding herself that she’d seen worse. Or at least, she tried to convince herself that she had. This was way more than ‘Doctor Smith’ and his people had ever brought against her, and this time, she was pretty sure that Beth and her mom weren’t going to show up for some last-minute rescue.
“I am Colonel Estevez,” one man announced as he stepped forward. From this, Amy guessed that he had to be the leader. “You have been positively identified as mutants. Come with us peacefully and you will not be harmed. We are here on a recruiting mission and merely wish to discuss the possibility of you joining our organization.”
“Recruiting us at gunpoint,” Amy commented wryly. “Does that sound bad for us to anyone else?”
“I’m not going anywhere with these jokers,” Aegis responded, stepping forward as if ready to fight the whole group by himself.
Amy gave Aegis a nervous look, worried that he was about to do something stupid and get them all killed. He had a reputation for being a reckless hero wannabe, and one that he’d earned.
“Who are you?” Amy asked loudly, desperately trying to buy some time. “And what do you want with us?”
“We’re called the Triangle,” Estevez responded. “Our organization is dedicated to a future where humans and mutants work together for the betterment of both. Now, I need to insist that you all come with us for the time being.”
“SHE’S TRYING SOMETHING,” one of the men yelled, drawing Amy’s attention to Bekky, who was muttering under her breath and making a few subtle gestures with her hands. She was casting a spell.
A moment later, several of the Triangle soldiers opened fire. Aegis’s golden aura suddenly flared to life. Amy dropped to the ground, though she felt something pass by her shoulder, almost close enough to touch. At the same time, Alyss staggered.
“Damn, that stings,” Alyss exclaimed.
Amy stared at her small friend, seeing two darts sticking out of her, one in her shoulder and another in her stomach. Alyss tore both of them out with a grimace, then seemed to shake off the effect, either due to her regeneration or her exemplar constitution.
“They shot me,” Aegis exclaimed, staring down at the three darts which had bounced off his PK shell and were now on the ground in front of him.
“Not good,” Amy gasped.
She hadn’t been hit, but it had been close. She quickly scanned the others, seeing that Darqueheart and Sapphire seemed to be fine, mostly because Alyss and Aegis had been in front of them. Then she noticed Bekky, who’d dropped to her knees with a dart sticking out of her thigh.
“Of course,” Bekky slurred. “Always take out the mage first. Then cleric, and then the paladin…”Then she collapsed completely.
“What’s she talking about?” Sapphire asked.
“RUN!” Amy yelled.
To Amy’s relief, Sapphire grabbed Bekky’s unmoving body, and tossed her over her shoulder. Amy felt a momentary stirring of jealousy at her friend’s exemplar strength, but quickly shut that down. She already had more powers than she could deal with, including being an exemplar herself…part time.
“HURRY!” Amy exclaimed, scrambling back to her feet.
Aegis and Alyss remained where they were for several seconds, trying to use their bodies as shields so the rest could get away. Then a wall of shadows appeared in front of them, making it impossible to see the Triangle anymore. Darqueheart was making a few gestures while reciting her spell.
“Good thinking, Darque,” Amy said as they all began running.
“AFTER THEM,” Estevez shouted to his people. “And remember, we need them alive.”
With those words, the Triangle charged forward. Amy couldn’t see them through Darqueheart’s shadow wall, but she could hear them coming, and she could feel the shaking of the ground as the power frames began moving.
Darts smashed into the side of a parked car beside Amy, making her jump. Before she could think of anything, Alyss, who was much smaller than her, grabbed her and picked her up with ease. “I’ve got you,” Alyss exclaimed as she took a leap, carrying both of them out of immediate danger.
Once Alyss came to a stop and set Amy back down, Amy said, “Thanks…”
Amy stood up, feeling a bit wobbly and shaky from that crazy run. Then she looked around and realized that during their escape, the two of them had lost the rest of the group.
Berlin NH, Sunday afternoon, Nov 18th, 2007
Melissa gasped in shock and horror as she watched the armed men open fire on her friends.
Just a minute earlier, she and her buddy Monkeywrench had been in that candy store, where they’d bought a whole bunch of awesome candy. She couldn’t wait to eat all these gummy worms, maybe while pretending to be a bird.
But then, almost as soon as she stepped out of the store, she saw all those guys show up with weapons. Before she knew it, they were shooting at her friends on the other side of the street.
“RUN!” Amy yelled.
For a brief moment, Melissa was frozen, trying to decide if she should run, or if she should try to help the others. Then, she remembered the lessons from her survival classes and realized that this was a real-life example.
“RUN!” Melissa told Monkeywrench as she turned and ran.
“LOOK!” one of the soldiers yelled out. “There’s a furry kid over there…”
“Oh no,” Melissa gasped, realizing that Bekky’s spell must have worn off.
Melissa glanced back and saw that several of the soldiers were now chasing after them, including one in the big power frame. She gulped at the sight of that thing and the big guns.
“Run faster,” Melissa told Monkeywrench.
Though Melissa had absolutely no doubt that she could get away from those guys, she wasn’t quite as confident about her furry friend. After all, Monkeywrench didn’t have her awesome powers.
“I’m built for climbing,” Monkeywrench grumbled, “not running.”
“Then climb,” Melissa ordered, pointing to the nearest wall. Monkeywrench was really good at climbing. Not as good as the Imp, but still way better than she was.
Monkeywrench flashed her a grin. “Not a bad idea…”
With that, Monkeywrench began scrambling up the wall, grabbing any hand or foothold he could. Melissa didn’t bother trying to follow him since she could just teleport instead, though the top of that particular building was just a little bit out of her range.
“I feel bad for not fighting,” Monkeywrench admitted, though he didn’t stop climbing.
“Those who mock and run away, live to mock another day,” Melissa announced, repeating one of the Imp’s favorite sayings.
“STOP WHERE YOU ARE,” the power frame demanded in a booming voice. “THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING!”
“I don’t think so,” Monkeywrench called back as he scrambled up the wall even faster.
The power frame suddenly opened fire, sending a blast of energy from the turret into the wall right above Monkeywrench. Monkeywrench yelled as he was blown back off the wall and continue screaming until he slammed into the ground.
“MONKEY!” Melissa cried out in horror.
For a moment, she just stared at her unmoving friend with tears forming in her eyes, then she snapped around to glare at the power armor, rage bubbling up inside. With a primal scream, Melissa teleported herself to the power frame and began pounding on the metal shell with her bare fists.
“You JERKFACE!” Melissa screamed, realizing that she wasn’t doing any damage at all. She was hurting her hands far more than she was hurting the power frame.
“Get a load of that brat,” one of the two other men exclaimed, laughing at Melissa.
“I’ve got her,” the last said, aiming his weapon right at Melissa.
Melissa was so caught up in her anger that she almost missed the fact that she was being attacked, though she finally noticed it at the last moment. As several darts were fired at her, she turned intangible and let them pass through and hit the armor instead. They bounced off without doing any damage, but that snapped her out of her anger and let her think.
“You…you…you can’t hurt me,” Melissa exclaimed, being too shaken to think of a good taunt.
She desperately tried to think of what she could do to these guys for hurting Monkeywrench, but she knew she wasn’t a fighter. She was good at running and hiding, not hurting people. In fact, the bag of tricks that she had stuffed into the various pockets of her jacket only consisted of things for practical jokes.
“I…I need a holdout,” Melissa gasped in realization.
However, it was too late for that now. She could only use what she had available, which was almost nothing…Then, she realized that she did have ONE thing she could use.
“I missed,” the gunman exclaimed.
“You didn’t miss,” the other responded. “Your shots went through her. We can definitely use someone with that power…”
“Go ahead and try it,” Melissa said, flipping them off and then teleporting away right as the power frame tried to slap her. “You’re too slow and stupid…”
With that, Melissa reached into her pocket and pulled out a small canister. Then she took a deep breath and teleported again, this time appearing right on top of the power frame’s back. She immediately turned intangible and put her hand right through the metal frame and dropped the canister into the cockpit inside.
“Take that, you jerk,” Melissa exclaimed, jumping back and teleporting away before anyone could shoot at her again.
A couple seconds later, the power frame suddenly began flailing around and then toppled over. It continued twitching and jerking as if it was having a seizure.
“GET ME OUT!” the power frame screamed, though the voice was gagging and coughing.
A hatch on the back of the frame suddenly popped open and man crawled out, though he immediately flopped onto the ground and began puking. The other men rushed to his aid, then began gagging and coughing too.
“Trixie makes the best stink bombs,” Melissa said with an evil grin.
Then while the men were distracted, she turned invisible and ran right up to them, kicking one of them between the legs as hard as she could. He collapsed to his knees with a wheezing gasp, dropping his gun as he did so.
While still invisible, Melissa snatched up the gun and began shooting at all three of the soldiers. She couldn’t aim it very well so darts flew everywhere. Still, she continued pulling the trigger until all she heard was ‘click click click’.
Melissa dropped the gun and stared at the three soldiers with tears running down her cheeks. It took her several seconds to realize that each of them had at least one dart sticking out of them, and they were all collapsed and no longer moving.
“MONKEY!” she cried out, turning and teleporting back to Monkeywrench’s side.
To Melissa’s relief, Monkeywrench was breathing, and he even began to move a little. He was alive. He was still alive. Her tears of grief turned to ones of joy. Her best friend besides Imp was still alive.
Monkeywrench opened his eyes and started to whisper something, though Melissa couldn’t make out what it was. “What?” she asked, leaning over to hear what he was saying.
“Banana,” Monkeywrench whispered into her ear.
“What?” Melissa gasped, staring down at him in confusion until he grinned and began to chuckle.
“You JERK,” Melissa exclaimed, giving him a swat on the head. “You had me worried, Monkeybutt…”
“I think I bruised my bruises,” Monkeywrench said as he slowly sat up, grimacing as he did so. “Oouch. My tail is never going to be the same…”
Melissa helped him back to his feet and was relieved to find that he didn’t seem to have any broken bones. He was moving slowly, but that was a LOT better than he’d been doing a couple minutes ago.
“Come on,” Melissa told him. “We’ve got to hide…”
“Yeah,” Monkeywrench agreed. “But where?”
Melissa hesitated a moment, feeling a little guilty as she pointed up. “Imp always says that the best place to hide from most people is usually on the roof, because they never think of looking up…”
Monkeywrench groaned at that, then asked, “This time, can I take the elevator?”
Berlin NH, Sunday afternoon, Nov 18th, 2007
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Alyss exclaimed in frustration.
She clenched her fists and stared back the way she and Amy had just come from and saw that there were two of those power frames running towards them. Of course, there were also several other armed people, but their sci-fi ray guns weren’t nearly as threatening as those walking tanks.
One of the power frames shoved a car out of the way, sending it over the sidewalk and into the wall of a building. People who’d just been standing there and staring at the soldiers, abruptly turned and began running. Many of them were screaming in the process.
“We need help,” Amy said, pulling out her cell phone. After a few seconds, she announced, “No signal at all. I think they’re jamming us.”
“Time to haul ass then,” Alyss said with a scowl.
Alyss didn’t like the idea of running from a fight, but she knew that if they didn’t, then there was a good chance that Amy would be hurt…or worse. After all, she was a high-level exemplar and Amy wasn’t. In fact, Amy’s powers were pretty useless at the moment.
The two of them turned and started running down the side street, which was narrower and less occupied. Unfortunately, the power frames followed and were quickly catching up. Alyss realized that running wasn’t going to do any good, especially when one of the power frames opened fire, shooting blasts of energy into the road ahead of them and creating several small craters.
“It looks like we don’t have a choice anymore,” Alyss said with a snarl. “Good. I hate running.”
Amy ran to a nearby parked car and took cover behind it. While she was doing so, Alyss saw that she’d also removed her backpack and was digging through it.
Since Amy had taken cover, Alyss turned her full attention to her opponents. She clenched her fists as the anger bubbled up inside her, an old and familiar anger that she’d dealt with for most of her life, and which she’d been working hard to control over the last couple months.
“You bastards attacked my friends,” Alyss exclaimed. “You jumped a bunch of kids…”
Alyss thought about the other kids, the ones that she and Amy had gotten separated from. She thought of Bekky, who could very well be dead at that moment. In fact, all of them could be dead or captured for all she knew. And the more she thought about this, the more determined she was to make these assholes pay.
Without another word of warning, Alyss abruptly charged forward, running straight to the nearest power frame and punching it as hard as she could. The thing was thrown back several feet and now had a dent in the metal where her fist had connected. Her fist hurt from the blow, but the pain quickly receded.
“Holy shit,” one of the men exclaimed. “She’s strong…”
One of the soldiers was a woman, who opened fire. Several darts hit Alyss’ body, causing her to stagger for a couple seconds as she knocked them off. Fortunately, the effects weren’t as strong as the last time, which meant that she was probably building up an immunity.
“And tough,” the woman added in a worried tone.
The power frame snapped around and backhanded Alyss, sending her flying back. She hit the ground and tumbled before coming back to her feet. One of the two power frames opened fire, sending a blast of energy right at her. Alyss had no idea of whether she’d survive that or not, but wasn’t about to take any chances and dove to the side. A moment later, she charged at the power frame, grabbed hold of it, and slammed it into the other one.
“GET HER,” the female soldier yelled, though she made no effort to shoot at Alyss herself.
One of the men took aim and opened fire, shooting a blast of energy that hit Alyss in the shoulder. It burned through her dress and stung badly, but wasn’t enough to take her down.
Alyss didn’t want to turn her back on the power frames, but she couldn’t ignore those other soldiers either. That last attack had stung, and she no idea of what else they might have for her. But then she saw Amy creeping out from where she’d taken cover, and she was holding something in her hand. Alyss smiled as she recognized Amy’s needle gun.
“I don’t know who you assholes think you are,” Alyss exclaimed, “but you sure as hell picked the wrong kids to fuck with…”She glanced to Amy and added, “Pardon my French.”
“You’re pardoned,” Amy responded as she opened fire with her needle gun, shooting the soldiers from behind. The needles had limited range and penetration, but each one was coated with some of Sapphires venom. In moments, all of the soldiers started collapsing to the ground.
With those soldiers dealt with, Alyss turned her full attention back to the two power frames. She leapt at one and grabbed the arm, then gave it a twist with all her strength. The arm tore loose, though she kept hold of it and used it as a weapon, smacking the armor with its own arm.
“Mischief would probably say something like, stop hitting yourself,” Amy called out with a chuckle.
“Probably,” Alyss agreed. “But I prefer to let my a…butt kickings speak for themselves.”
While Alyss continued dealing with the power frames, Amy looked over the weapons that the paralyzed solders had dropped. “Dart gun.”She said, picking up one of the rifles and then dropping it back down. “Dart gun,” she announced, kicking the second aside. Then she reached the third weapon and picked it up with a faint smile. “Plasma rifle.”
Amy ran back to the car where she’d previously taken cover, then used it as cover again while opening fire on one the power frame that Alyss wasn’t fighting. The blast caused the metal to melt in a several inch circle, but didn’t penetrate very deeply. Still, Amy continued shooting at the power frame until the battery ran out, then she tossed the weapon aside.
Alyss finished tearing apart the power frame that she’d been fighting, then leapt on the other one. It tried shooting her with its energy blasts, but she ducked under the blast and slid beneath the armored mech. A moment later, she grunted and picked up the power frame, then bodyslammed it into the ground. As soon as it was down, she went to work smashing it the same way she had the other one.
Once both of the power frames were down, Alyss saw that the hatch for one of them had been dented and warped. It would take a cutting torch to get the pilot out of that one. However, the other pilot was in the process of crawling out of the incapacitated machine, apparently thinking he could make a run for it. Amy shot him with her needle gun.
“Not bad,” Alyss said, glancing to the incapacitated soldiers. “But you should have thrown a fireball at them or something.”
Amy snorted at that. “You know I don’t have any flashy spells like that. Besides, those things burn up a lot of essence, and I don’t have enough to waste it just to show off.”
Alyss nodded at that, then looked down at herself. Her dress was burned and tattered from the fight. And though it would have been a simple matter of replacing it with a new one, she didn’t want to waste the effort if she was about to go right back into another fight.
“The other kids are still out there,” Alyss pointed out with an angry scowl.
“I know,” Amy responded, taking off her backpack and looking through it again. A moment later, she pulled her golden metal sphere. “I’ve upgraded this thing with a camera, so I should be able to look for the others from above…”
“Good idea,” Alyss said with a faint smile.
However, after half a minute, Amy shook her head with a disappointed expression. “Whatever they’re using to jam my phone, is also jamming this thing. I can’t communicate with it, which means that this thing is currently just a paperweight…”With that, Amy dropped the sphere back into her backpack.
“Damn,” Alyss exclaimed. “We need to find those kids…”
“I know,” Amy agreed.
Amy reached into her backpack again and pulled out a couple more items. The first was another golden sphere, though it wasn’t the same one that she’d had out a minute earlier. However, it was the second item that made Alyss gasp. It was a golden metal wrist bracer with a few high-tech controls on it.
“You brought THAT thing?” Alyss demanded. “The last time you tried that, you went into burnout…”
Amy let out a sigh. “I know, it’s risky, but I’ve modified it since then…and put a spell on it.”
“A spell?” Alyss asked skeptically.
“It’s a luck spell,” Amy explained wryly. “It’s not very powerful, but it increases the chance of this thing working by a good amount.”Then she let out a sigh and admitted, “Unfortunately, the spell burns out all at once, so I’ll have to cast it again after I use this thing…but it should help.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Alyss grumbled. “That thing could kill you.”
“I could die every single night,” Amy reminded her with a grim expression. “Every time my powers shift.”Then she let out a sigh. “I won’t use this unless I have to, but I want it ready, just in case.”
Alyss just stared at the wrist bracer, still feeling a little worried as Amy snapped it around her wrist. She’d been there when Amy first tested it, and she’d been forced to watch her friend go through a burnout as a result. Alyss didn’t want to see that again, but she had to admit that this was a serious situation, which meant that they had to keep all options on the table…including that.
“Fine,” Alyss relented. “Now let’s go find the others.”
Berlin NH, Sunday afternoon, Nov 18th, 2007
Chris looked around the nearly empty street, relieved to see that he’d lost those Triangle guys. However, he immediately realized that he’d also lost everyone else. Or at least, almost everyone else.
“Great,” Darqueheart said with a sneer. “The one person I didn’t lose is YOU.”
“It could be worse,” Chris responded. “You could be stuck with your pleasant company.”
“Bite me, pretty boy,” Darqueheart snapped.
Chris rolled his eyes at that but didn’t take the bait. Instead, he scowled and announced, “I can’t believe I ran away like some kind of chicken…”
Darqueheart snorted at that. “Did you see that firepower?If you’d pulled your usual stunt, they would have killed you.”
Chris nodded at that. He knew she was right, which was why he’d run in the first place, but he still didn’t like it. He didn’t like backing away from a fight with anybody, especially not people who’d attacked him without reason.
A moment later, Chris noticed Darqueheart digging through her pockets. “What are you doing?”
“Calling security,” she responded, holding up her cell phone. However, after she tried calling several times, she spat out, “I can’t get through…”
“Maybe…,” Chris started, looking around and trying to think of a solution. “Maybe a landline…”
“Does anyone even have those anymore?” Darqueheart asked skeptically.
“I don’t know,” he admitted with a shrug. “But it wouldn’t hurt to check one of these stores…”
Chris looked around, then saw a woman standing on the sidewalk, staring at them…at Darqueheart with a look of terror. The woman crossed herself, then turned and ran, screaming something about demons and monsters. Darqueheart winced at that and her scowl became even deeper.
“Foxfire’s spell wore off,” Darqueheart announced in a bitter tone. “Figures.”
“Maybe you can learn how to cast that one yourself,” Chris suggested, realizing that for someone like Darqueheart, that kind of spell would be extremely useful.
“Maybe,” she grudgingly agreed, though she looked a little skeptical of the idea.
Suddenly, Darqueheart froze with her head tilted as though listening to something. A moment later, Chris heard it too. Heavy stomping on the ground. He turned and stared at one of those Triangle power frames came around the corner and into view.
This power frame was smaller than the other ones he’d seen, sleeker and more streamlined. It was only about eight feet tall at most, and was painted a dark gray, all except for the blue triangle that was painted on the chest.
“FUCK!” Darqueheart exclaimed as she turned and began running again.
The power frame held out its arm, which had weaponry built right into it which greatly resembled some kind of gatling gun. The gun opened fire and Chris’ PK shell came to life, burning with a golden aura as half a dozen darts bounced right off him. However, he heard a yelp from behind him and snapped around, only to see Darqueheart on the ground with one of those darts in her leg.
“SHIT!” Darqueheart snarled. “That fucking stings…”She tore the dart out and tried to get up, though she was unable to do so. “My damn leg is numb…Damn…It’s spreading…”
“I’ll have to carry you,” Chris said, starting towards Darqueheart.
However, there was a sudden burst of pain in his back and he was thrown forward, landing flat on his face. He cursed, realizing that he’d just been shot from behind…and not by one of those darts either. With a grimace of pain, he turned over and got back to his feet, though it wasn’t easy. It felt like he had a severe sunburn all over his back.
“So, you want to fight,” Chris announced, positioning himself between Darqueheart and the power frame. “Fine with me.”
“Run, you fucking idiot,” Darqueheart yelled at him.
“I’m not leaving you here,” Chris stated as though it was a simple fact.
He stared at the approaching power frame, terrified because he knew this thing was more powerful than he was. Unlike the bullies at school, this person would kill him…or worse. However, there was absolutely no way that he was going to abandon Darqueheart. He took a deep breath, silently promising himself that they would not touch her…no matter the cost.
The power frame opened fire again, sending a blast of energy right into Chris’ chest, throwing him back with a painful burning on his skin and an ache in his ribs that made him wonder if he might have cracked something. He got back to his feet as quickly as he could, wincing at the pain. However, he’d felt worse on numerous occasions.
“Aegis,” Darqueheart cried out in warning.
He saw the power frame charging straight at him, and before he could react, the armored figure backhanded him, sending him flying back again with another burst of pain. Once again, he hit the ground and quickly scrambled to his feet.
“It takes more than that to keep me down,” Chris said, wiping the blood from his lip. He suspected that he’d probably broken his nose with that one.
“RUN YOU IDIOT!” Darqueheart yelled.
“I need to fight harder,” Chris muttered, though he could already see this fight was going the same way that all his other fights went.
The, he could almost hear the Imp’s voice saying, “Fight smarter, not harder.”She’d told him that several times, almost as if it was some kind of mantra she wanted him to learn. And though she’d never actually said it, he could also imagine her saying, “Use your brain, Luke.”
“YOU’RE STILL YOUNG,” the power frame announced. “YOU’LL RECOVER, AND ONCE YOU’RE PROPERLY EDUCATED, YOU’LL BE A USEFUL ADDITION.”
Chris didn’t respond to that comment. And when the power frame raised its arm again, he didn’t run or dodge. Instead, he focused on what the Imp had taught him during their training and focused on his PK shell, trying to concentrate as much energy it as he could.
The energy blast hit Chris right in the chest, but this time, there was no pain and he wasn’t flung back. Instead, there was just a tingle. His eyes widened at that.
“It worked,” he whispered, though he realized he could probably fight smarter than that. He had to if he wanted any chance of winning.
The power frame came at him again, this time charging forward with a swinging fist. This time, Chris shifted his body to the side, using his arm to deflect the punch the way Sensei Ito had taught him. A moment later, he focused the energy of his shell again, pushing as much as he could into his fist until his hand burned with a golden energy.
“I’M NOT GOING DOWN!” Chris yelled at the power frame. “NOT TODAY!”
With that, Chris punched the side of the power frame as hard as he could. The armor shattered where he punched. With a grimace of fierce determination, he kept focusing his shell and punched the armor several more times, smashing it in. But it wasn’t enough.
“SURRENDER OR YOUR COMPANION DIES,” the power frame demanded, aiming its hand weapon at Darqueheart.
“NO!” Chris yelled.
Chris held his hands flat and focused on reshaping his shell…forming it into sharp blades along both of his hands, creating small PK swords the way his mentor had taught him. He was already lunging forward before the blades finished taking shape.
“YOU WON’T TOUCH HER!” Chris yelled, slicing his blade down through the weapon and into the arm beneath.
The force knocked the arm aside, so even if the pilot fired, they wouldn’t hit Darqueheart, not that Chris was going to give them that opportunity. He struck with his other hand, slicing into the armor beneath the arm, before snapping around and attacking with both blades at once.
Chris couldn’t keep the blades formed for very long, but that didn’t seem to matter. When the power frame swung at him, he ducked down and dodged, then concentrated his shell to punch it again. A couple seconds later, he was able to reform his blades and finish the job.
The power frame collapsed to the ground, too badly damaged to continue. One arm had been completely removed while much of the torso had been torn to shreds. Sparks kept popping out of the now exposed innards.
“I…I won,” Chris gasped, feeling a little stunned by that. He hadn’t won a single fight since coming to Whateley…until now.
He stared at the ruined power frame, thinking about tearing the pilot out of it and giving him a few direct hits. However, he’d made his point and didn’t want to waste time beating on someone who was already down.
“Darqueheart,” he called out, rushing back over to her side. “Are you okay?”
Darqueheart was sitting up and massaging her leg. She stared up at him for several seconds with a strange expression.
“I’m fine,” she snapped a couple seconds later. “I can feel my legs again, though they’re still a little numb…”
Chris held out his hand and helped Darqueheart back to her feet. She gave him a suspicious look but accepted the help, though she lost her balance and nearly fell over until he caught her.
“Foxfire was totally out when they hit her with a dart,” Chris pointed out, wondering how Darqueheart had shrugged it off so quickly.
“My body isn’t exactly normal,” she responded bitterly. “And I seriously doubt their darts were designed for someone like me.”
Chris nodded at that, not sure what he could say. He glanced back over at the destroyed power armor and smiled a little, feeling sore but giddy at the same time.
“Come on,” Darqueheart said, already walking away from Chris, though she staggered a little with each step. “Let’s go find everyone else, then get the hell out of here…”
Berlin NH, Sunday afternoon, Nov 18th, 2007
Colonel Estevez scowled as he impatiently waited for his men to return. He’d sent most of his people to chase after those mutant kids, but so far, none of them had returned.
For a moment, Estevez considered turning off the OJD…Omni Jammer Divise, that was blocking all communications, just so he could call his people for an update. However, he quickly discounted that idea because he couldn’t risk any calls getting out. The last thing he wanted to deal with was some group of superheroes showing up to interfere, like what had happened to the Providence cell.
“Maybe we should recruit a couple of those heroes,” Estevez mused, though he knew that the Triangle leadership wouldn’t go for that.
Heroes would likely be a lot more trouble than they were worth, which was why they were trying to recruit young mutants, and ones who were isolated and wouldn’t be missed. Those kinds of recruits were much easier to train and condition. Once the Triangle became strong enough, then they’d turn their attention to heroes and villains, who were harder to control but usually much more powerful.
As it was, Estevez was pleased with the knowledge that they were about to acquire more than half a dozen new recruits. If even only one of these kids had a useful ability, then this whole recruiting trip will have been worth it. Sure, they might be unwilling at first, but it wouldn’t take much to convince them of how important the Triangle’s mission was. And for those who refused to cooperate willingly, there were other ways to ensure that they fulfilled their responsibilities to humanity and the world.
“Barker,” Estevez said. “Status.”
“Sir,” Barker responded from where he was looking over the mutant detector. “The mutants seem to be converging again, but none of them are coming back in our direction. That suggests that our people haven’t managed to contain them yet.”
Estevez was careful not to show his displeasure at this news. It wouldn’t do to let his men see any signs of weakness or loss of control. Instead, he took several seconds to compose himself and control his emotions.
“Deploy the backup,” Estevez ordered in an even tone. “And remember, you can be rough with the targets if necessary, but we want them alive. These kids are future Triangle assets.”
Berlin NH, Sunday afternoon, Nov 18th, 2007
“Did you see that?” Melissa exclaimed.
She was on top of a three-story building, leaning over the edge so that she could get a better look at the streets below. At the moment, she was invisible, but she couldn’t maintain that for very long.
“Yeah,” Monkeywrench responded from where he was crouched down beside her. “Aegis totally kicked that robot’s butt…I didn’t think he had it in him…”
Melissa grinned at that, though without the enthusiasm she usually had. Just a short time ago, she’d nearly lost one of her closest friends in the world, and for a couple minutes, she’d been sure she had. Thankfully, Monkeywrench was still alive, but seeing him fall like that had shaken her, and she hadn’t fully recovered yet.
“Good job, Aegis,” Melissa said, though she kept her voice low so that nobody would hear her except for Monkeywrench. After all, the whole purpose of being on the roof was to stay hidden, and she couldn’t do that if she was yelling, even if she did keep forgetting that.
Melissa continued watching as Aegis and Darqueheart slowly walked away from the wrecked power frame. She and Monkeywrench had only arrived in time to watch the end of the fight, and the two of them had been too far away to help. Melissa could have teleported there, but it would have taken a whole series of teleports since she couldn’t go very far, and that would have worn her out by the time she actually got there. She was just glad that Aegis and Darqueheart hadn’t needed her help.
“Come on,” Melissa told Monkeywrench with a grin. “Let’s go down and meet up with them…”
“That sounds good to me,” Monkeywrench agreed. “But I really hope we don’t run into any more of those goons. I mean, I’m a lover, not a fighter.”
“Yeah,” Melissa agreed with a giggle. “And you love bananas…”
“I’m bananas about them,” he joked back.
Melissa went to the far side of the roof before teleporting to the next one over, which brought her a little closer to her friends. Monkeywrench followed by leaping from one roof to another, though he didn’t seem very thrilled by this.
“I’m supposed to be going from tree to tree,” he joked, “Not from roof to roof like I’m Batman…”Then he paused with a mischievious grin before announcing in a gravelly tone, “I’m Bat Chimp.”
“Come on, Bat Chimp,” Melissa responded with a giggle. “They’re getting away.”
Once they reached the other side of the roof, Melissa teleported to the ground while Monkeywrench came down the fire escape. As soon as he was beside her again, the two of them ran towards Aegis and Darqueheart.
“Hey, guys,” Melissa called out, waving her arms excitedly. “We found you…”
“Melissa,” Aegis said, looking relieved. “Monkey.”He nodded to the furry boy. “I’m glad you two are all right. Have you seen anyone else?”
“Nope,” Melissa answered.
“Awesome fight,” Monkeywrench told him.
“You saw that?” Aegis asked in surprise.
“We were too far to come help,” Melissa explained excitedly. “We were way up there on that roof, and were watching you, but were too far away to help…”
Darqueheart rolled her eyes. “Please tell me you didn’t stop for espresso.”
“Why would you ask that?” Melissa asked blankly.
“We should probably get going,” Monkeywrench pointed out. “I mean, it might be fun getting some popcorn and watching those guys tromp around in their big power frames, but I don’t really wanna be here when they show up again…”
“Good point,” Aegis admitted. “We were just trying to find everyone.”
“But we found you first,” Melissa bragged with a grin. Finding two more of her friends lifted some of the weight from her heart, letting her forget how close Monkeywrench had come to being killed. “Yay us.”
“I just wish I knew who those guys were,” Aegis muttered with a look of anger on his face.
“Imp warned me about the Triangle the other day,” Melissa admitted, only to suddenly have three pairs of eyes staring at her. “Um, she said that they used to be part of Humanity First, and that they say they want to be friends with mutants, but what they really want to do is kidnap us and make us work for them…”
“That certainly matches with what they’ve been saying,” Darqueheart said with an angry sneer.
After this, they slowly started walking down the sidewalk together, staying close to some of the parked cars so that they could duck down for cover if they needed to. Melissa saw several people peeking at them through the windows, mostly with expressions of shock or fear before they ducked out of sight. Somehow, Melissa didn’t think that they’d get a very good welcome if they tried hiding inside.
“Are you okay?” Darqueheart asked Monkeywrench, giving him an odd look. “You’re limping…”
“You are too,” he responded a little defensively.
Melissa smirked. “He fell on his hairy butt…”
“I sprained my tail,” he responded dramatically. He reached back for his tail and gently held it in his hand as he explained, “And I have a very sensitive tail, I’ll have you know.”
“You poor poor baby,” Melissa teased him.
Suddenly, Darqueheart hissed, “There are more of them…”
She pointed down the street, and Melissa quickly saw what she meant. There was a group of five Triangle soldiers on the other side of the road, and all of them were armed with big guns. Fortunately, she didn’t see any of those power frames around.
Melissa immediately turned invisible with the others ducked down behind a parked car. The soldiers hadn’t seen them yet, which was a good thing.
“What do we do?” Melissa whispered to her friends as she ducked down to join them. “We gonna go beat them up?”
“That sounds good to me,” Aegis said with a look of determination.
Darqueheart snorted. “It would.”
“Why fight when they don’t even know we’re here?” Monkeywrench asked. “Lets just stay here until they go past, then sneak away…”
Melissa hesitated a moment, knowing that he was right. That was exactly what the Imp would have done, even if it was totally boring. However, one glance at her furry friend, and a quick reminder of what had happened earlier, she decided that maybe she could deal with boring for once.
While they tried to decide what to do, the soldiers kept coming closer. Then, they abruptly stopped and looked around.
“It’s starting to rain,” one soldier commented, which surprised Melissa because the sky was a little cloudy, but it definitely wasn’t raining.
“I can’t feel my hand,” one of the other soldiers suddenly exclaimed, which was quickly followed by a third one gasping, “My face is going numb…”
“Look,” Monkeywrench said, pointing upwards.
Sapphire stood on top of the two-story building beside the soldiers, and she was spitting out a spray of liquid that rained down on them. She closed her mouth, then just stared down at the soldiers for several long seconds.
“Ohmygod,” Melissa blurted out with a giggle. “She just loogied all over them…”
A moment later, Sapphire leapt off the building, right into the middle of the soldiers, who were staggering around as though their bodies no longer worked right. She moved with the speed and strength of an exemplar, punching, kicking, and throwing all five of the soldiers until they were all down in mere seconds.
“That was fast,” Aegis said in surprise.
“And totally gross,” Melissa added.
With that, they all came out from behind the car and waved for Sapphire’s attention. She nodded to them, not surprised by their presence. Melissa realized that Sapphire must have seen them when she was up on the roof.
“I’m glad I found you all,” Sapphire greeted them with a faint smile. “But where are Alyss and Amy?”
“We lost them,” Aegis admitted.
“We were just trying to put the band back together,” Monkeywrench added. “But I guess we still need the drummer and the triangle player…”
“I don’t know,” Melissa added with a grin. “I think Sapphire just beat the Triangle like a drum.”
Darqueheart glared at Sapphire and muttered something that sounded like, “Damn pretty…”However, in a louder voice, she asked, “Didn’t you have Foxfire?”
“Yes,” Sapphire agreed before turning and running down an alley. She came back half a minute later with Bekky slung over her shoulder. “She’s still unconscious, so I had to hide her…”
“Great,” Darqueheart grumbled. “Our escort is dead weight. We might as well have brought Fixx for all the good she’ll do us…”
“Hey,” Monkeywrench exclaimed. “Fix is a great devisor…You should see what he can do with duct tape.”
“Yeah,” Aegis added with a faint chuckle. “Don’t knock the guy.”
Melissa ‘coughed’ to get their attention, then announced, “I hate to be the voice of reason here, but shouldn’t we find Amy and Alyss, then haul tail out of here?”
“Who are you and what did you do to Melissa?” Monkeywrench demanded with a look of mock surprise.
“Good point,” Aegis said, “though I never thought I’d say that about someone called Mischief.”
“And I never thought you’d win a fight,” Melissa responded, sticking her tongue out at him.
Sapphire looked surprise. “Aegis won a fight?”
“Surprisingly, yes,” Darqueheart answered wryly. “Now, can we get the fuck out of here?I don’t feel like waiting around until they shoot another dart into my ass.”
Berlin NH, Sunday afternoon, Nov 18th, 2007
“This doesn’t look good,” Amy mused.
“That’s an understatement if I’ve ever heard one,” Alyss said from beside her. “Pardon my French, but this is a total cluster fuck.”
At the moment, they were crouched down behind a car, watching as the Triangle marched down the street. Estevez was in front, leading a group of a dozen soldiers, each of which was wearing lightweight armor, similar to SWAT gear. At the end of that formation, two of those men carried a footlocker.
Amy’s eyes went down to her needle gun, then back to the soldiers. Her needles would never be able to penetrate their protection, which meant that her only real weapon had just been rendered useless. Then, she looked at the seven power frames that marched to the side of those men.
“Yeah,” she mused to herself, taking another glance at her needle gun. “That isn’t going to do much good.”If there had ever been a time for one of mom’s singularity bombs, this was probably it.
Since her needle gun was useless at the moment, Amy holstered it and pulled out her lone remaining weapon, a gold metal sphere. It was no singularity bomb, but it would have to do. However, she hoped it wouldn’t come to that since her goal was to remain hidden and out of sight until the Triangle passed them.
Suddenly, one of the soldiers pointed to the car they were hiding behind and yelled, “Over there!I can see their reflections in the store window…”
Amy snapped around to look at the store front behind her, and sure enough, there was a bit of a reflection in the window. “Damn,” Alyss exclaimed from beside her.
As the soldiers and power frames turned towards them, Amy pressed the safety lock on her sphere, turned the whole thing at the hemisphere to five clicks, then threw it as hard as she could. The sphere hit one of the power frames, then bounced off with even more force, flying back until it hit the wall of a nearby building. The sphere bounced again, picking up even more speed as it shot off and smacked into the side of a car on the other side of the street.
“Come on,” Amy demanded, taking advantage of the distraction to run down the sidewalk.
“What the hell was that?” Alyss demanded. “I thought those things were only supposed to float…”
“It’s a ricochet grenade,” Amy explained. “Based a little off my floating orbs, but…”
Just then, the sphere hit the ground near one of the power frames and bounced for the fifth time…and immediately exploded. The armor was knocked back and charred a little, but not seriously damaged. However, the explosion kept the Triangle too distracted to follow after them…at least for a few more seconds.
“Impressive,” Alyss said with a chuckle.
Suddenly, the air was filled with darts and energy blasts as the soldiers recovered faster than expected. Amy dove for cover while Alyss turned to glare at her attackers.
“It looks like running ain’t gonna work,” Alyss announced, making a show of cracking her knuckles. “Well, I’ve never been much for running away…”
“Please don’t pull an Aegis on me,” Amy begged her.
“I’ll keep them busy,” Alyss said, “while you run.”
“I’m not just leaving you here by yourself,” Amy argued, even though she knew it was the smart thing to do.
“HEY JERKFACE!” a new voice yelled out.
Amy snapped around and was surprised to see Melissa standing in the middle of the street, blowing a raspberry at Estevez. Then she flipped him off with both hands before suddenly vanishing.
A second later, the other students rushed in. Monkeywrench leapt on top of a car, holding a banana in each hand. He threw them both at the soldiers, though they hit the ground and exploded, leaving a spray of liquid that came down and covered the ground. At first, Amy thought that he’d missed, until the soldiers who stepped there began to slip and fall.
“Banana peel grenades for the win,” Monkeywrench exclaimed before leaping off the car and running for cover.
Sapphire and Aegis both rushed in. She went straight for a group of soldiers, spraying them with her venom before going in with a barrage of high speed punches. She grabbed one soldier and threw him nearly fifteen yards, so that he slammed into some of the other soldiers.
“Wow,” Melissa exclaimed from beside Amy, nearly making Amy jump. “It’s like she’s bowling with people…”
Aegis went straight for one of the power frames, his aura blazing gold around him. He slammed into one of the power frames, leading with a powerful punch that knocked the thing back and cracked the armor. It swung a fist at him, but he stepped to the side and avoided it, then followed up with a series of punches to the side, right beneath the armor. A moment later, he did something that surprised Amy even more. He formed energy blades along his hands, like a pair of short swords, and he began tearing into the power frame.
“What’s he doing?” Amy asked in surprise. She’d never seen him flight like this. It was almost like she was watching a whole new Aegis.
“I know, right?” Melissa responded with a broad grin. “Imp has been teaching him how to fight. . .”
At this point, Alyss announced, “Time to get serious…”
Alyss removed her bracelets and formed a couple ribbons, a couple feet in length, which tied around each bracelet. She held one end of each ribbon, while the other ends were tied to the bracelets, then she swung these makeshift weapons around experimentally before charging into the fight.
Amy watched Alyss for a couple seconds, then swept her attention over the area. Her friends and classmates were doing all right at the moment, but they were scattered around and badly outnumbered. She doubted that it would be long before the Triangle regrouped and got their act together.
“Melissa,” Amy said to the girl beside her. “We need to keep distracting these guys. Can you do that?”
Melissa just grinned and proudly announced, “Distraction is my middle name.”
“I thought it was trouble,” Monkeywrench said as he pulled two more ‘bananas’ from his belt.
Melissa blew Monkeywrench a raspberry, then teleported away. She appeared in front of a soldier, kicked him between the legs, then turned intangible and ran right through him to distract the soldier behind him.
Monkeywrench threw his bananas, this time at two of the power frames. One exploded into a liquid puddle, just like his last ones hand, while the other exploded and caused a little char on the power frame’s armor. The power frame stepped forward, hit the puddle, and then slipped and fell on the ground. Monkeywrench burst out laughing.
“Darqueheart,” Amy said, noticing the other girl a short distance away. Instead of joining in the fight, Darqueheart was taking cover, just like she was. “Do you think you could blind some of those soldiers and power frames…especially the ones that don’t have anyone to keep them busy?”
She hesitated for a moment before nodding, “Yeah, I can do that…”
With that, Darqueheart got up and moved, positioning herself closer to her targets. That just left Amy as the only one who wasn’t involved in the actual fight, much to her annoyance.
“I wish I had more firepower,” she muttered to herself.
This would have been the perfect time for her rail gun, because she would have been able to shoot right through the power frame armor. Unfortunately, that weapon was still back in her room since it was too big and bulky to carry around Berlin, especially when she was trying to avoid attention.
Of course, she was in her mage mode at the moment, but she didn’t have any offensive spells she could use. All of her spells were support type spells, and they each took a couple minutes to really cast. That kind of thing didn’t work well in a fight.
With that, her eyes turned to the gold bracer that was on her around her wrist. “It looks like it’s time to spin the wheel…”Amy hesitated a moment, then reached down to activate the devise. A moment later, a surge of pain rushed through her entire body.
Three weeks ago, on Halloween, Exquisite had zapped Amy with one of her pain blasts, causing a surge of intense agony. However, there had been an unintended side-effect from that attack as well. The pain blast had somehow caused Amy to switch power modes, and was the very first time she’d every changed powers like that without either sleeping or going through a burnout. Afterwards, Amy had realized that if an electrical charge could make her change powers once, then it could do so again.
Amy was proud of the devise she’d made, which was designed to deliver a very specific type of shock, one that could make her shift powers whenever she wanted. Unfortunately, as with her powers themselves, the devise wasn’t fully reliable and was just as likely to send her into a burnout as it was to change her powers. However, that was where her luck spell came in. That spell drastically increased the chances of the devise working the way it was supposed to, though even with the extra luck, there was still a risk.
Seconds later, the pain vanished and Amy let out a sigh of relief. It worked. There hadn’t been a burnout. And after she took a moment to mentally inventory her body and powers, a smile began to form.
“I got even luckier than I’d hoped,” Amy announced.
Amy held her arms out and reached for all the ambient electro-magnetic energy nearby. The air around her crackled with sparks as she drew the energy closer, then began to concentrate it. She moved her hands closer together as she focused the energy, creating a glowing blue ball of pure electro-magnetic energy, which was contained between her hands.
“No way,” Monkeywrench exclaimed in surprise. “Amy’s doing a kamehameha.”
Amy smiled at that since she knew the anime he was referring to, and she’d heard that comparison before. However, unlike Goku, she couldn’t fire the energy as a blast. And as soon as she tried to throw it, the whole thing would simply disperse and vanish. That meant, the only way for her to currently use this energy was up close and personal.
Pulling one hand away, Amy maintained the glowing ball of energy, held firmly in a single palm. Then she abruptly ran into the fight, going straight for one of the power frames that was positioning itself to fire at Alyss.
“Tag,” Amy announced as she reached the power frame and slammed the energy sphere into it. There was a burst of sparks as the power frame was hit with the equivalent of a very focused and concentrated EMP, and suddenly froze in place. “You’re it.”Then she smirked, adding, “The perfect power to deal with power armor.”
“I take it back,” Monkeywrench exclaimed. “That’s a rasengan.”
Amy took a moment to look around the fight so she could determine her next target. Everyone was busy, though still doing their own thing. The only reason that they were still doing so well was because Melissa was keeping the soldiers distracted, while a black cloud, courtesy of Darqueheart, blinded several of the soldiers while keeping others from being able to make out the other side of the battlefield
Aegis had just finished tearing apart one power frame and was turning his attention to the next. Sapphire was still leaping between soldiers, spraying them with venom and then attacking. However, because of their SWAT type armor, Amy wasn’t sure if any of the venom was actually getting on their skin.
While that was going on, Monkeywrech seemed to have run out of bananas to throw, so was keeping back. However, he ran forward, grabbed one of the dart rifles that had been dropped by an incapacitated soldier, and began opening fire on the other soldiers, or at least trying to. His aim was horrible.
Alyss was swinging her weapons, slamming the ribbon tied bracelets into one of the power frames and causing serious damage. From her expression, she was pretty pissed and was taking the opportunity to finally cut loose.
“If you think I’m gonna let you lay another finger on these kids,” she exclaimed, “you’ve got another thing coming. I’m gonna put my boots so far up your ass that I kick out your teeth…”
“Wow,” Monkeywrench said. “Alyss almost sounds like my dad…”Amy smirked at that.
“Careful, Alyss,” Amy called out, feeling a little worried. “You don’t want to kill them.”She had no doubt that her friend would never forgive herself if she killed someone while in a rage.
Amy began gathering more energy, forming a second ball. One of the power frames turned its attention on her, but Alyss suddenly leapt at that one and knocked it aside. Seconds later, Amy ran forward and drove her energy sphere into the large mech, neutralizing it the same way she had the previous one.
“Nice,” Alyss said, giving her a look of approval. “And that is why good old mechanical engines are always better than these high-tech computerized monstrosities they build nowadays.”
“I don’t think they build purely mechanical power frames,” Amy pointed out. “Well, there may be a devisor or two, but not many.”
A couple seconds later, Amy started to gather more energy for another attack. While she was doing this, she saw Aegis going at another of the power frames, punching, slashing and dodging in a way that was quite unlike his old fighting style. She couldn’t help but noticing that the golden aura around his hands was much brighter than normal, though the rest of his aura was only about half as bright.
Then Amy suddenly noticed the two soldiers who were taking aim with their plasma rifles, about to shoot Aegis in the back. “LOOK OUT!” Amy yelled a warning.
Suddenly, a pair of black tentacles shot out of the dark cloud and wrapped around the ankles of the two soldiers. Their legs were yanked out from beneath them, causing them to fall flat on their faces. They screamed as they were drug back into the dark cloud, and once they vanished inside, their screaming increased in volume and intensity before abruptly ending.
Aegis snapped around in time to see the soldiers vanish, and his eyes went wide in surprise. Seconds later, the dark cloud faded away, revealing a feminine figure standing in the middle. Darqueheart looked intense, almost terrifying. The two soldiers were on the ground in front of her, curled up in the fetal position and cowering.
“Now we’re even,” Darqueheart called out to Aegis.
“Um…yeah,” he agreed, nodding his head. “Definitely.”
“Fall back,” Estevez yelled to his people. “Abort the mission.”
The remaining soldiers and power frame started to back away, though they continued shooting as they did so. Estevez fired at Sapphire, hitting her in the thigh with a blast of energy.
Sapphire howled in pain, then leapt at Estevez. She snarled, opening her mouth wide and revealing her fangs which made her resemble a vampire. That impression was only furthered when she grabbed Esteves, forced his head to the side to expose his neck, and then bit down. A moment later, Estevez collapsed to the ground, no longer moving.
“They got the colonel,” one of the soldiers yelled. He was the one guarding that footlocker. In fact, Amy realized, he’d been guarding it during the entire fight. For some reason, that thing was important. “Grab the colonel and the mutant detector. We need to get both to safety…”
“Mutant detector?” Amy asked with sudden interest. “That’s how they found us…”
“We won,” Melissa exclaimed, jumping up and down excitedly. “They’re running away…”
“Yeah,” Amy responded, “but if they have some kind of mutant detector, they’ll be able to chase us down again…”
“Not if I can help it,” Alyss stated.
“Open a path to that box,” Amy said, pointing the power frame between her and the foot locker. “Darque, keep them from escaping…”
Darqueheart nodded and cast her spell, muttering some words while gesturing with her hands. A new cloud of darkness formed in front of her and spread out, blocking the soldier with the box. He stopped, unwilling to step into the darkness after seeing what had happened to his two companions.
“Coming through,” Alyss exclaimed, throwing both of her bracelets at the nearest power armor with all her strength. Two massive dents formed in the surface as the mech was thrown back. “The way is clear.”She followed that up by charging at the power frame and slamming into it, making sure that it couldn’t recover and become a threat again.
Amy silently thanked Alyss as she took advantage of the opportunity to run forward. She held the electro-magnetic sphere firmly in her hand. As she ran past the power frame, she knew that she could take the thing down with one hit. However, she left it to Alyss since she had another target for her power.
The soldier took aim at Amy, but Melissa suddenly appeared beside him and yelled, “BOO!”He jumped in surprise, giving her the opportunity to kick him between the legs. Amy barely noticed as he dropped to his knees.
“Thanks,” Amy said, right before driving her energy sphere into the foot locker. She heard the snapping and popping of the electronics within and knew that even if that thing had been shielded from normal EMPs, it wouldn’t be able to do much against one this focused and powerful.
“Is that it?” Melissa asked. “Are we done?”
“Yeah,” Amy responded, looking around the field before calling out, “Come on. Let’s get out of here…”
She could hear the police sirens, and they were a lot closer than she was comfortable with. At that moment, she had absolutely no desire to deal with the cops. This whole thing was already a huge mess as it was, and she was pretty sure that the cops would only make things worse.
“But what about these guys?” Aegis asked, standing over the ruins of a power frame. “We need to detain the rest and turn them over to the police…”
“We aren’t heroes or law enforcement,” Amy reminded them. “The only thing we’re responsible for, is keeping ourselves alive.”
With that, Amy started to run, but the others didn’t follow behind her immediately. Sapphire was limping due to her injured leg, Alyss ran over to help her. Amy felt guilty about forgetting that…and about their escort.
“Yo, Aegis,” Monkeywrench called out, gesturing to a side alley. “I need help with Bekky…”
“Sure,” Aegis responded, running down the alley. He came back half a minute later with Bekky slung over his shoulder. “Okay, we’re ready to go.”
A moment later, they all hurried down a side alley, making sure to get out of there before the police arrived.
Berlin NH, Sunday afternoon, Nov 18th, 2007
Chris looked around the group, feeling a little worried about some of the others. They’d all just run away from the Triangle, after beating them, and had finally stopped at a seemingly safe spot behind a gas station. Some of them were breathing harder than others.
“Are you okay?” Chris asked Amy.
Amy was a nice girl, but kind of fragile. Her own powers kept making her go through burnouts and could kill her at any time. However, he never would have guessed that from the way she’d handled herself during that fight, or the way she was more concerned about everyone else than she was about herself.
“I’m fine,” Amy responded, only to immediately ask, “Is Bekky okay?”
Chris looked to where he’d just set Bekky down and nodded. “Yeah. She’s starting to come out of whatever they did to her.”As if to prove his point, she moved and turned her head.
“How about you?” Amy asked, Sapphire.
“My leg hurts,” Sapphire admitted as she touched her leg where she’d been hit by an energy blast. Her pants were burned off in the spot, revealing blistered skin beneath it. “I bet this wouldn’t be so bad if I still had my scales…”
“What?” Darqueheart asked in surprise.
“And I REALLY miss my tail,” Sapphire continued with a long sigh.
Chris stared at Sapphire for a moment, but before he could ask what she was talking about, Darqueheart offered, “I have a healing spell…It isn’t very powerful, but it should help until you can get to Doyle…”
“Thank you,” Sapphire said.
Darqueheart nodded and went to work, bending down for a better look at Sapphire’s leg, and then she began reciting some strange words while waving her hands around. Chris didn’t understand magic, but whatever she was doing, it seemed to be working.
“Thank you,” Sapphire repeated, this time with a smile. “That feels a lot better…”
Darqueheart grunted at that, then abruptly asked, “What did you mean about scales and a tail?”She stared at Sapphire suspiciously.
Sapphire hesitated a moment, looking self-conscious as she admitted, “I used to have a tail…and these pretty scales…”
With that, Sapphire moved as though she was going to pull her cloak tightly around her, the way she frequently did. However, at the moment, she was without her usual cloak, having left it behind since it would have drawn a lot of attention. Most people didn’t wear blue scaly cloaks around in public.
“Sapphire was born with GSD,” Amy explained to Darqueheart.
“Really?” Chris asked in surprise. He stared at Sapphire, who was a gorgeous exemplar. The only sign of GSD that he could see, was her long blue hair.
“Mama has severe GSD,” Sapphire added a little self-consciously, “and I inherited it from her. I only changed to look like this after I manifested…”She gestured down at herself with a look of unhappiness. “I really miss my tail.”
“Her mom looks a lot like Diamondback,” Amy offered, giving Sapphire a gentle smile. “She seemed really nice when she showed up on parents day.”
Darqueheart just stared at Sapphire with a look of surprise and confusion, before she abruptly turned her attention away. To Chris’ surprise, she stared at him for several seconds with an odd expression, before she made a show of checking their surroundings for any sign of danger.
Chris continued to stare at Darqueheart for several more seconds, thinking about the way she’d saved his life a short time ago. With most of his PK shell being focused into his offense, it wouldn’t have been strong enough to protect him from that attack. She’d saved him, though she’d had been a bit scary when she’d done so.
“Thanks for saving me,” Chris told Darqueheart.
Normally, he hated when other people had to come to his rescue, but this time, it felt different. This time, his pride hadn’t been hurt like it usually was.
Darqueheart gave him a look of surprise, as though she hadn’t been expecting that. However, she quickly covered it up. “I was just returning the favor,” she responded, almost defensively.
“Well, I still appreciate it,” Chris told her.
Then he looked at Alyss, who looked pretty rough with her dress being burned and torn the way it was. However, the little girl didn’t seem the least bit bothered by that. Then again, why should she be?She could make a dress without any real effort at all.
Chris was confused by Alyss, who looked like a cute little goth girl, but who acted almost like his neighbor from back home, a gruff old truck driver. She didn’t look very dangerous, but with the way she’d been going in that fight…Chris shuddered, realizing that he’d underestimated her badly. Just how strong was she?
His eyes went to Melissa, who was sitting off to the side with Monkeywrench. The two of them were talking amongst themselves and giggling, which really made him wonder what they were saying.
“My phone is working again,” Amy abruptly announced, sounding relieved. Everyone stared at her hopefully. She made a call. “Whateley security…This is Roulette…in Berlin. We’ve got a problem…”
While Amy called campus security, Chris looked over the others again and noticed that Bekky had opened her eyes and was starting to sit up.
“What happened?” Bekky demanded, looking around with a worried expression.
“Those Triangle guys shot you with a knockout dart,” Melissa exclaimed, teleporting to Bekky’s side. “Then they chased us, and we ran and hid, and then we had to fight them. It was really scary, but kind of exciting too…”
“How are you feeling?” Monkeywrench asked Bekky, holding out his hand to help her to her feet.
“Thanks, Monkeybars,” she said.
Melissa giggled. “Monkeybars.”
“Shut up, Missy,” he told Melissa. “You’re driving me bananas…”She blew him a raspberry and giggled again. Chris just shook his head, wondering about these kids.
“I had this great idea,” Bekky muttered to herself as she shook her head in annoyance. “If I could only remember what I was thinking…”
“Okay,” Amy announced, hanging up her phone. “Security is on the way.”
“About damn time,” Alyss grumbled. Her eyes went to Melissa, and she added, “Pardon my French.”
Schuster Hall, Sunday evening, Nov 18th, 2007
Alyss sat in Elizabeth Carson’s office, staring across the desk at the headmistress herself. Carson was pissed, though Alyss would have been surprised if she hadn’t been. Fortunately, that anger wasn’t directed at her.
It had been two hours since security had arrived in Berlin to escort them back to Whateley. In that time, Alyss had gone to Doyle for a checkup, along with her friends, had made a report to security, and had even gone back to Poe to shower and change.
Now, she had been called to talk with Carson, with only the two of them present. As far as Alyss knew, Carson hadn’t talked to any of her friends yet.
“What happened in Berlin?” Carson asked in a carefully controlled voice. Before Alyss could answer, Carson continued, “I want to hear what happened from an adult perspective.”
“I see,” Alyss responded, wishing that she had something strong to drink, or at least a cigar she could light up. However, she knew it would be a bad idea to settle her nerves with either of those things while she was in Carson’s office. Still, that didn’t keep her from wishing. “That explains why I’m the only one you’ve called in so far.”
“Security has already given me their initial report,” Carson said, perhaps to let Alyss know that she already knew most of what had occurred.
Alyss just nodded at that. “We were out on the sidewalk, minding our own business…Yes, even Mischief and Monkeywrench were behaving.”Carson almost smiled at that. Almost. “Then these Triangle guys show up, with a lot of firepower and some power frames…and they demanded we go with them. When we said no, they opened fire with a bunch of darts. Bekky got hit and went down. The darts bounced off Aegis, Melissa turned intangible so they went through her, and I just shrugged them off. Nobody else got hit. After this, Darqueheart threw up some kind of dark cloud, and we all ran as fast as we could…but accidentally got separated in the process.”
“What happened next?” Carson asked.
Alyss frowned as she remembered the events of a few hours earlier. “Amy tried calling campus security but couldn’t get through. It turns out these guys were jamming the phones. And later on, we found out that they had some kind of mutant detection devise they were using to track us.”
Carson gave a small look of surprise, perhaps not having heard that from security yet. However, she just gave Alyss a silent indication to continue.
“Amy and I ended up together,” Alyss continued, “and some of these Triangle guys found us again, so we had to take them down. After that, we tried to find the others, so we could all haul our asses out of there…Pardon my French.”
Alyss continued, describing how she and Amy had hooked up with the others, and how they’d all fought the Triangle. She was embarrassed to admit that she’d lost her temper and might have accidentally killed someone if Amy hadn’t reminder her that she was going too far.
“Aegis was pretty damn good,” Alyss said, wanting to give props to the other kids and let Carson know how well they’d done. “I don’t know where the kid suddenly learned to fight like that, but he was tearing those power frames to pieces…”
“I see,” Carson said with a raised eyebrow. Alyss couldn’t quite read her expression, but she almost seemed amused.
“Amy really kept a level head,” Alyss added a few seconds later. “While everyone else was running around, she actually figured out how we could help each other. And when the Triangle started to retreat, she was the one who took out that mutant detector they had, so they couldn’t follow us again…”
Once Alyss was done, Carson asked a number of questions, which Alyss answered the best she could. Fortunately, with her exemplar memory, she was able to easily recall any of the details that Carson wanted to know.
“You and the other students responded in a surprisingly responsible fashion,” Carson admitted when they were finished. She looked a little relieved, but not much. “Your first reactions were to run and try calling for help. Unfortunately, when that didn’t work, you ended up in a very public fight, with a lot of potential witnesses.”
“We didn’t exactly have a lot of choice,” Alyss pointed out with a scowl.
“I know,” Carson admitted. “But that was still extremely dangerous for the school…The absolute last thing we want is for the public to start wondering where a group of teenage mutants was learning to fight.”
Alyss raised an eyebrow of her own and absently smoothed out her dress. “I woulda thought that the last thing you’d want, was for students to get killed because they didn’t fight back.”
Carson fixed Alyss with a flat look, though Alyss just met her eyes without flinching. In spite of how she looked, she wasn’t some inexperienced kid who’d cower under the disapproval of a powerful authority figure. She wasn’t going to give anyone that satisfaction, no matter who they were.
Finally, Carson nodded, “You are correct, of course. I am very grateful that you and your friends were able to survive that encounter with only minor injuries. However, this incident has created a number of problems for the school, which I have to deal with before they put ALL of you at greater risk.”
Alyss nodded. “Yeah, I can see that. But what about these Triangle goons? What’s gonna happen with them?”
Carson’s expression turned grim. “Most have been taken into police custody, though some managed to escape…for now.”Her eyes narrowed at that, and Alyss suddenly had a feeling that the Triangle members in custody might end up being the lucky ones.
A minute later, Carson excused Alyss, who let out a sigh as she left the office. She shook her head, then started back towards Poe, deciding that she needed a nice stiff drink before bed. Fortunately for her, she still had a bottle of Shine’s finest hidden in the back of her closet.
Whateley Academy, Sunday evening, Nov 18th, 2007
“How’s your tail?” Melissa asked Monkeywrench.
“A lot better,” he admitted, swishing his long furry tail around in demonstration. “Those guys in Doyle really fixed it up…and my poor tender backside too.”
“That’s good,” Melissa said in relief. After the way he’d fallen, she’d been worried that the injuries would be a lot more serious than they were.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “What really hurts was the butt chewing Carson gave us all for showing our powers off like that in public…I mean, my butt just barely got healed, and she chewed it all raw again…”
Melissa giggled at that mental image, though her enthusiasm quickly dimmed. It had been a rough day, and she was glad it was almost over.
“You know what really sucks?” Melissa asked.
“Starbright on the weekend?” Monkeywrench responded with a smirk.
“Maybe,” Melissa responded with a giggle. “But no. I just found out that Imp did a sim match with one of the other teachers, and I missed it…”
“Really?” Monkeywrench asked in surprised. “Who won?”
“I don’t know,” she responded with a bit of a pout. “None of the students got to watch, only the teachers…”
“That’s no fun,” Monkeywrench grumbled. “I mean, if they would have announced it ahead of time, everyone would have been there. Heck, I would have bet a hundred bananas in the Imp.”
“But we don’t even know who she went up against,” Melissa pointed out.
Monkeywrench just shrugged. “Does it matter?”
“Nope,” Melissa responded with a broad grin of her own. Then she told him, “I’ve gotta get back to Whitman. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Later, gator,” Monkeywrench told her.
“Stay funky, Monkey,” she responded as they went their separate ways.
Melissa started walking towards her dorm, when a dark figure suddenly leapt out, exclaiming “BOO!”
Melissa shrieked and immediately teleported away, only to pause and look back to where she’d been standing. The Imp was still there, smirking.
“You scared me,” Melissa exclaimed.
“Sorry,” the Imp told her, not looking sorry at all. “I couldn’t resist. Just think of it as payback from that stink bomb in my classroom.”
For a moment, Melissa glared at the Imp, then grinned and teleported over to her. Without even thinking about it, Melissa threw her arms around the Imp in a tight hug.
“Are you okay?” Imp asked gently, hugging Melissa back. “I heard about Berlin…”
“It was scary,” Melissa admitted with tears starting to form. “I thought they killed Monkeywrench…”
“Real fights can be scary,” Imp admitted. “But you came through it and so did all your friends.”
“Yeah,” Melissa agreed, though she pouted a little. “But I didn’t do very good.”
“You survived,” Imp reminded her. “And that is the most important part. Now, you know what you need to do if you want to do better next time.”
“Can you teach me how to fight?” Melissa abruptly asked, stepping back and looking serious.
Imp blinked. “I’m not exactly a great fighter but…”She paused for a moment. “My fighting style is more hit and run than anything else, but that would be perfect for you…”
Melissa’s eyes lit up. “You’ll teach me how to fight?”
Imp looked pained for a moment before responding, “Sure. I’ll start adding that in with your other lessons.”She gave Melissa another hug. “For now, let’s get you back to your dorm. We can talk about your training later.”
“Okay,” Melissa responded, though a minute later, she cautiously asked, “What do you think about holdouts?”
Whateley Academy, Monday afternoon, Nov 19th, 2007
Classes were over for the day, or at least the regular ones were, for which Chris was thankful. He only had one more class remaining, but it was an unofficial one. There were no grades, and he wouldn’t get in trouble for skipping it. However, after the previous day, he now realized that this was probably the most valuable class in his entire schedule.
Chris stepped into the Imp’s underground classroom, the one where she taught people to pick locks and do other criminal things. It was also the place where she usually taught him how to use his powers.
“Hey, Bart,” the Imp called to him from her desk.
Chris scowled a little at that nickname. She called him Bart because his spikey bleach-blonde hair reminded her of Bart Simpson. And though he didn’t like that nickname, he was careful not to show it since that would only encourage his teacher to use it even more.
“I heard about what happened in Berlin yesterday,” the Imp said, getting up from her desk and coming towards him.
“Um…yeah,” Chris responded awkwardly. “Mrs. Carson already chewed me out for it…”
“She’s the boss,” the Imp responded with a shrug. “Chewing kids out is part of her job. But from what I heard, it was a pretty half-ass butt chewing…”
“Half-ass?” Chris blurted out skeptically.
The Imp chuckled at that. “From what I heard, you all ran when confronted, tried calling for help, and only fought once you were cornered. You kids did about the best anyone could have expected, considering your training and level of experience.”
“Then why did we get in trouble, just for defending ourselves?” Chris demanded.
“Because you fought in public, and could have drawn attention to the school,” the Imp pointed out wryly. “You may not have had much choice, but you still caused problems for Carson. But honestly, the biggest reason was, she probably wanted to make an example of you, so other students don’t think it’s okay to get into public fights whenever they go off campus.”
Chris frowned at that as he considered her words. “I don’t know…”
“When I was in your age,” the Imp said with an amused look, “I spent a lot of time in the principal’s office. Trust me on this.”
“Okay,” he responded, realizing that she was probably right. Mrs. Carson’s lecture wasn’t meant to be personal, which made him feel a little better.
“What I really want to talk about,” the Imp said, giving Chris a thoughtful look, “was how you did. I’ve talked to Melissa and Darqueheart, and even got to see a little video footage, which a certain hacker acquired before deleting the original copy.”
Chris was a little surprised at that. “I…I tried to use what you taught me…”
“And from what I’ve both seen and heard, you did pretty good with it,” the Imp said, much to Chris’ surprise. “You didn’t just stand there and get hit. You used your brain and the tools you had available…”
“The tools you gave me,” he said a little self-consciously.
“Maybe,” the Imp responded with a shrug, though she continued watching Chris with an intensity that made him want to squirm. Her yellow eyes were a little intimidating. “But I also heard about what you did for Darqueheart.”
“I know,” Chris said with a sigh. “You said that I shouldn’t play hero, and that it’s stupid to keep jumping in like that…”Then he stood up straighter and defiantly said, “But I couldn’t just let him kill her…”
“Of course not,” the Imp said almost dismissively, though she did smile. “You jumped into a dangerous situation, without any thought for yourself. Pretty reckless. But in this case, probably necessary. Darqueheart would either have been killed or captured if you hadn’t been there. You saved her…and just as important…you did so competently.”
“Really,” Chris asked, a little surprised since he’d been expecting another lecture on everything he'd done wrong.
“Good job,” his eccentric teacher said, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder and giving him a smile. “You just might make a decent hero after all.”
Chris just stood there frozen with his mouth dropping open. He’d never expected any words of praise from a supervillain, even a retired one. And especially not from one who’d mocked and humiliated him so thoroughly in the arena. And to his even greater surprise, those words filled him with a strange pride. For some reason, this teacher’s praise meant more to him than he would have imagined.
It took Chris several seconds to shake himself out of this. Then he stared at the Imp for a couple seconds, reminding himself that the only reason he’d been able to save Darqueheart…the only reason he’d been able to win against those power frames, was because of the things that the Imp taught him.
“So,” he finally said, eager to learn even more, “What are we going do today?
Crystal Hall, Monday late afternoon, Nov 19th, 2007
Dinner. It had been a long day, especially after how rough the previous day had been, and Amy was looking forward to a good meal, then getting back to Hawthorne and relaxing.
“Apparently, yesterday was pretty busy,” Alyss commented as they stood in line for food.
“Really?” Amy asked wryly. “You don’t say?”
Alyss chuckled at that. “I mean, we weren’t the only ones mixing it up. Gwen and Dana had a match with Centurion and his posse yesterday, and apparently, they kicked his butt good. And even better, Gwen got him to confess about how he was the one who jumped her and put her into Doyle…”
Amy blinked at that. “That’s good at least.”
“I just wish I’d been there to watch it,” Alyss admitted. “I mean, half of Poe was there cheering them on.”
Amy smiled at that, knowing that she would have been there cheering Gwen and Dana on as well. Both of them had moved into Poe long after she’d moved out, so she didn’t know them as well as she did most of the other freshmen. However, they were both changelings, so she felt a little kinship with them just for that alone.
Just then, Grit bumped into Alyss, obviously by accident since Grit was one of the least aggressive kids on campus. Suddenly, Alyss snapped around and glared at him with a pissed off expression.
“Watch it!” Alyss snarled, clenching her fists and looking like she was about to hit the boy.
“Alyss,” Amy gasped, stunned by her friend’s reaction to such a small thing.
“Do you really want to start something with me?” Alyss demanded of Grit.
Then Amy suddenly felt it with her esper sense, and she knew exactly what was going on. She snapped around and glared at Drama, who’d been standing back and watching them with a smirk. Drama was a projective empath and was messing with Alyss’ emotions.
“Control yourself,” Amy warned her friend, though she was starting to get angry herself. “Drama Queen is messing with you.”
As soon as Drama realized that she’d been caught, she abruptly stopped her empathic attack, then turned and hurried away. Amy watched her go, thankful that she was in psychic mode or she might have missed what was going on.
“Damn, that girl is getting on my last nerve,” Alyss muttered, before turning to the confused Grit. “Sorry about that.”
“Yeah,” Grit responded awkwardly. “I heard her mention Drama Queen…”Then he turned and hurried away.
“I almost hurt that kid,” Alyss snarled, still angry, but not at Grit.
“I think that was the point,” Amy pointed out grimly. “If you hurt him, you would have been the one in trouble…”
A minute later, the two of them had their food and were heading to their usual table. To Amy’s surprise, Darqueheart and Sapphire were already there, and they seemed deep on conversation.
“And this is a picture of my mama,” Sapphire told Darqueheart as she handed over a photograph.
“Wow,” Darqueheart responded, staring at the picture. “She does look a lot like Diamondback. . . but snakier. And this blue snake girl is you?”
“yes,” Sapphire admitted sadly. “I really miss my tail.”
Darqueheart stared at Sapphire for several seconds before shaking her head. “Honestly, I don’t know whether I should feel jealous of you…or feel sorry.”
“I would prefer neither,” Sapphire admitted, though she pulled her scaled cloak more tightly around her. Amy knew that her cloak was made of her old scales, and she used it almost like a security blanket at times.
“Hey,” Amy greeted the two girls as she and Alyss joined them.
“It looks like Exquisite’s crew are up to their old tricks again,” Alyss grumbled to Sapphire. “But this time, they’ve got Drama Queen pushing buttons.”
“We knew it was only a matter of time,” Sapphire said with a scowl.
“What’s going on?” Darqueheart asked.
“Yeah,” Monkeywrench added as he and Melissa plopped down into a pair of empty seats. “What did we miss?”
“Exquisite and her crew of thugs,” Amy explained with a scowl of annoyance. “They caused us a lot of trouble last month, and straight out attacked us on Halloween.”She shrugged at that. “Apparently, they’ve decided to start up again.”
“That stinks,” Monkeywrench responded. “Like week old fish.”
“Like monkey poo,” Melissa added with a smirk.
It was at this point that Aegis came over and paused to look them over. “I’m not sure this is a conversation I want in on…”
“Sit down and pull up a seat,” Alyss said, gesturing to one of the empty seats.
Amy noticed that Darqueheart was watching him carefully, and that her tail was swishing back and forth. Amy was a little startled by this and wondered if Darqueheart was interested in Aegis. Of course, she could use her telepathy to find out for sure, but she wasn’t going to violate Darqueheart’s privacy like that, especially not to merely satisfy her own curiosity.
“Did you hear about what happened in fifth period history?” Aegis asked as he sat down.
“No,” Amy answered, giving Aegis a curious look. Melissa just began to snicker, so Amy guessed that she already knew what had happened.
“Apparently, half the class showed up with Imp fan club pins,” Aegis explained. “Mr. Williams completely freaked out about this, and security actually had to come…”
Melissa burst out laughing. “Wow, who knew a few pins would do that…?”
“How many of those pins did you give out?” Monkeywrench asked her.
Melissa grinned. “Lots…”
“Do…you have any left?” Darqueheart asked hopefully.
“Sure,” Melissa responded, handing over a pin and a card with a web address on it. Then she looked around the table and handed out several more pins, grinning excitedly as she did so.
Amy took one of the pins, thinking that Melissa definitely lived up to her codename. The only question was, was that bit of mischief in history class intentional, or an accidental byproduct of something else?With Melissa, it could be hard to tell.
A couple minutes later, Alyss told Amy, “Remember what we were talking about at lunch?”
Sapphire looked up at that. “Yes. Now would be a good time to discuss it.”She looked around at the others.
“I don’t know,” Amy said. “With what Drama Queen just tried to do.”
“What are you talking about?” Aegis asked.
“Yeah,” Melissa added with a smirk. “Inquiring minds want to know?”
Amy gave Alyss a flat look, not happy to have this brought up at the moment, not when Exquisite’s crew was moving against them again. However, she nodded.
“At lunch,” Amy said, “we were talking about yesterday and how well we all worked together.”
“We kicked butt,” Melissa exclaimed, nearly bouncing in her seat.
“We were awesome,” Monkeywrench added with a broad grin of his own.
“Yes, we were,” Alyss agreed with a chuckle.
“Anyway,” Amy continued. “We thought it might be a good idea to make it into a permanent thing. You know…become a training team.”
“A training team?” Darqueheart asked in surprise. “Us?”
“I’m in,” Melissa immediately said. “It’ll be great…”
“But there is one problem,” Amy said with a scowl. “We…”She gestured to herself, Alyss, and Sapphire. “We have a feud going on with some other students…”
Aegis interjected, “Exquisite, Starbright, Gravmax, and Iron. Trust me, I remember what they did on Halloween.”
“Yeah,” Amy agreed.
“They just started coming after us again,” Alyss added. “And they’ve got a couple new members, Drama and Kraken. So, if we became a training team, they might target you guys too…”
“Fuck Drama,” Darqueheart spat out. “And Starbright. If I can piss off those stuck-up bitches, I’ll be happy to join.”
“Me too,” Sapphire said, though she’d already agreed to the idea earlier, just as Alyss had.
“I’m still in,” Melissa said.
“Me too,” Monkeywrench added, looking serious. “I stick with my friends.”
Melissa grinned. “Like super-duper glue.”
Aegis hesitated a moment, then quickly glanced at Darqueheart stating, “I’m in.”He looked at Amy and then the others, adding, “I’ll be damned if I let some bullies scare me away from standing by my friends.”
“Are you sure?” Amy asked, looking around.
Everyone nodded agreement, though Alyss said, “Hell yeah.”
“Then I believe we will need a team name,” Sapphire pointed out.
“Team Awesome,” Melissa exclaimed.
Amy chuckled and pointed out, “There’s already a Team Awesome.”
“Team Amazing?” Monkeywrench offered.
“Too derivative,” Alyss pointed out.
“The Banana Boys,” Monkeywrench added.
Darqueheart snorted at that. “One problem with that…”
“More than one,” Sapphire agreed. “I have no interest in bananas…”
“And girls outnumber the boys,” Darqueheart finished.
Just then, Amy noticed a familiar figure walking towards them. Bekky had completely recovered from the Triangle’s dart, and almost looked amused as she looked over the table.
“Hey,” Bekky greeted them, making no move to sit down. “I would have figured you all would have had enough of each other yesterday.”
“Kind of the opposite, actually,” Alyss responded with a chuckle.
Bekky nodded at that, then asked, “So, what shenanigans are you all up to today?”
“Shenanigans!” Melissa exclaimed, jumping up. “We’re Team Shenanigans…”
“I second it,” Monkeywrench quickly added.
Aegis rolled his eyes. “At least that’s better than Team Banana.”
“Then Shenanigans it is,” Alyss said with a chuckle.
Amy just looked around at her friends, then at the slightly confused looking Bekky, who must think that they were all insane. She shook her head, suspecting that it would be more trouble than it was worth to argue now.
“Fine,” Amy said with a sigh, feeling almost like she was babysitting a bunch of kids. “Shenanigans it is.”
Whateley Academy, Monday evening, Nov 19th, 2007
Naomi stretched out on her couch, trying to look calm, confident, and in control. She didn’t want any of her ‘friends’ to see how frustrated she was over the sudden change in situation.
“I can’t believe you blew it,” Starbright said, giving Drama a cold glare. “All you had to do was make Ribbon angry, so she’d attack someone…”
“Yes, it would have been nice had our plan worked,” Naomi pointed out. “Ribbon would have been given detention, and a few careful words would have given her the reputation of an unstable rager…”
“We know,” Gravmax said with a dismissive gesture. “We would have driven a wedge between our targets and kept them too occupied to do anything.”
“We can still continue with the plan,” Iron pointed out.
“No, we can’t,” Naomi responded. “Not as it was in any case…”
Naomi turned her attention to Drama, who was clearly angry that her attempt to manipulate Ribbon had failed. If she’d gone slower…been subtler…And if she hadn’t let her personal feelings and impatience get in the way…then there was a good chance that she could have maneuvered Ribbon into attacking one of her own friends, which would have suited their purposes perfectly. Unfortunately, Drama hadn’t, and she’d given away their element of surprise because of this.
For a moment, Naomi considered rebuking Drama for her mistake, though she decided against it. Drama was too useful, with the kind of power that could be used for subtle manipulation. Everyone else in their group had powers that were a little more…aggressive in nature.
“I’m sure that next time, Drama will be a little more subtle with her manipulation,” Naomi said in a gentle tone. “But what’s done is done. Now, we have to focus on a new challenge. Our targets have found friends, so they won’t be as easy to deal with as we’d assumed.”
“And what does that mean?” Starbright demanded.
Naomi slowly got to her feet, smiling as she did so. She went to the chair where Kraken was sitting and put a hand on his shoulder. A moment later, she gave him a brief surge of her power, a weak pain blast. The large exemplar tensed up for a moment, then smiled in satisfaction. Kraken, to her amusement, was a bit of a masochist. He actually enjoyed her pain blasts, or at least, the adrenaline and endorphins that were released in the aftermath.
“We regroup,” Naomi explained. “We plan for how to deal with a greater number of targets. And then…”She gave a dramatic pause.
“And then, what?” Drama asked a little impatiently.
“And then,” Naomi answered with a smirk, “we unleash the Kraken.”
Berlin NH, Monday evening, Nov 19th, 2007
Colonel Estevez sat on the edge of his hotel room bed, rubbing his hands together. He could still feel a faint tingling in his fingers and toes, almost like pins and needles. After that mutant girl bit him, he’d spent several hours completely paralyzed, but even after it wore off, there were still a few echoes.
That vampire girl had an interesting power, and Estevez could think of several ways she could benefit the Triangle. In fact, all of those kids had powers that could be useful for the cause.
Estevez scowled as he remembered that fight…and the aftermath. Even though he’d been completely paralyzed, he’d still managed to escape the police, thanks to Barker dragging him away in time. In fact, he was fortunate that half his men had managed to escape. Since none of them were wearing any uniforms, it had been easy to blend in among the civilians and vanish. However, he was also unfortunate that so many of his men had either been trapped in their power frames or partially paralyzed, and were unable to escape the police in time.
Just then, there was a knock on the door. Estevez grabbed his gun but didn’t say anything.
“Sir, it’s me,” Barker called through the door.
Estevez stood up, adjusted his clothes, and then opened the door. He kept his firearm in hand though, just in case.
“What do you have for me?” Estevez asked.
Barker stood up straight and reported. “We lost the mutant detector and all the power frames but one.”
Estevez winced at that. Since they’d failed to either capture or recruit a single mutant, this entire operation had been a major loss. The higher ups would NOT be happy with him for this.
“What about the men?” Estevez asked. “Have our lawyers gotten them released yet.”
“No sir,” Barker reluctantly said. “Not a single one received bail. It seems that someone with a lot of influence is making sure our men stay where they are.”
“They know the drill then,” Estevez said. “They’re random civilians who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As long as they stick to that story, the lawyers will have an easier time.”
“Yes sir,” Barker agreed. However, a couple seconds later, he asked, “What do we do now, sir?”
Estevez considered that for a moment. “We withdraw, regroup, and rearm. I don’t know why there are so many young mutants in Berlin, but I intend to find out…and recruit them.”
Barker smiled at that. “Then I assume we’re coming back again when we’re ready.”
“Definitely,” Estevez responded in a cold tone. “But next time, we’re bringing everything we have…including our own mutant assets.”