Manhattan NY, Saturday morning, Nov 23rd, 2007
“This looks awesome,” Melissa exclaimed as she looked over the breakfast table and all the food that was set out on it.
There were crepes with strawberries and whipped cream, which Melissa absolutely loved. Of course, there was also scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage, not to mention the sliced cantaloupe or the blueberries. Of course, there was way more food than she could ever eat, but that wasn’t the point. Melissa was home for the Thanksgiving weekend, and her dad was taking advantage of the opportunity to show off a little.
“It looks good, Ryan,” Aunt Brandy said from the side.
Melissa looked to her aunt, who was dressed all casually. She was wearing a T shirt with Nirvana written across the front. Melissa knew that this was one of those super old bands, like Mozart or the Beetles, which were around way before she was born.
“Is Imp gonna have breakfast with us?” Melissa asked, looking towards the door expectantly.
Melissa’s aunt suddenly had a sour expression at that, though her dad shook his head. “Not today.”
Aunt Brandy relaxed a little, which made Melissa smirk. Aunt Brandy didn’t like the Imp, and Melissa thought that was a real shame. Of course, Melissa could understand why. Aunt Brandy was a hero, while the Imp … wasn’t.
“I’m still not comfortable with Melissa hanging around with a supervillain,” Aunt Brandy said. “Even a retired one. Melissa is … high-energy … and doesn’t need someone like the Imp to encourage her…”
To Melissa’s surprise, her dad just chuckled. “Or perhaps, Melissa needs someone in her life who understands being so high-energy.”
“Yeah,” Melissa exclaimed, before suddenly realizing that it might have been a better idea to stay quiet and just let her dad and aunt argue it out between themselves. If nothing else, that might have been pretty fun to watch.
After this, the conversation turned to the breakfast, which was boring to listen to. However, the food was good, so Melissa was happy to eat in relative silence, until Aunt Brandy brought up the Imp again.
“The Imp is NOT a good role-model,” Aunt Brandy insisted, giving Melissa’s dad a flat look.
Melissa watched her dad carefully, noticing when his relaxed expression became serious. “I spent nearly a decade trying to catch the Imp,” he finally said, his eyes locked on Aunt Brandy. “And during that time, I would have agreed with you completely. But then, I learned that I didn’t know anything about her at all. When Melissa was kidnapped, the Imp … Christine offered to help … and she paid a high price to do so. She helped save Melissa, even knowing that it meant she wouldn’t be able to continue in her … career.”
“Career?” Aunt Brandy asked with a raised eyebrow. “Is that what you call being a villain?”
Melissa’s dad didn’t respond to that. Instead, he continued. “I got to see the woman behind the cartoon character, and I liked what I saw. She’s smart, funny, and has a bigger heart than I ever would have imagined.” He paused at that and shook his head. “You have no idea how shocked I was to realize that I was falling for her, but I have. I’ve gotten to know her, and can say without hesitation, that I trust Christine with my life. Maybe not my wallet…” He gave a wry smile. “But I trust her with my life, and I trust her with Melissa.”
Aunt Brandy looked annoyed at that, and it was all Melissa could do to not blow a raspberry at her. Her aunt glanced at her, and Melissa just sat there, trying to look innocent.
When they’d finished eating, Melissa began to clear the table. She rather would have found something fun to do, but helping with the dishes was a small price to pay for such a good breakfast.
“My friends and I started our own training team,” Melissa bragged as she worked.
“Oh, really?” Aunt Brandy asked as she began to help with the dishes. “Do you have a team name yet?”
“Shenanigans,” Melissa responded with a grin.
“That figures,” her dad said with a chuckle of his own. “Did Christine come up with that name?”
Melissa shook her head. “No, I did, because it’s a really fun name, and lots better than some of the other training team names around school. I mean, what does Kimba mean anyway?”
“So, I was thinking,” Aunt Brandy said. “How would you like to go shopping with me today. We can have a little girl time, without your dad…”
Melissa’s eyes lit up at that, more for the idea of spending some ‘girl time’ with her aunt than for the actual shopping. However, she remembered her last shopping trip the previous weekend, and how it had gone horribly wrong.
“I don’t know if shopping is a good idea,” Melissa reluctantly admitted.
“Nonsense,” Aunt Brandy responded. “I think that a little shopping trip is just what we need.”
“Okay,” Melissa responded with an eager grin. “I bet it’s gonna be awesome…”
Melissa’s dad smiled at that. “Then, I hope you two have fun. And please, try to stay out of trouble.”
“We won’t get into any trouble,” Melissa promised, keeping her fingers crossed behind her back.
Her dad just gave her a skeptical look and mused, “Why do I suddenly feel worried?”
Manhattan NY, Saturday afternoon, Nov 23rd, 2007
“Ooooh, look at this one,” Melissa exclaimed, nearly bouncing in place as she pointed through the storefront window.
“I don’t think you need a three thousand dollar necklace,” Aunt Brandy said from beside her. “Especially not at your age…”
“But it looks AWESOME!” Melissa protested. “Can I get that for Christmas?”
Her aunt nearly choked at that, which made Melissa burst into giggles. The necklace was impressive, but way too big and flashy for her. That wasn’t Melissa’s kind of thing at all. However, that wasn’t the point. The point was to have fun messing with her aunt.
“I wonder if the Imp would get it for me,” Melissa teased, only to see a look of horror on Aunt Brandy’s face. Maybe she was pushing it a little too much. Maybe.
“Only if you want me to arrest her,” Aunt Brandy pointed out. Then, in an obvious attempt to change the topic, she asked, “So, do you have a boyfriend yet?”
Melissa’s eyes widened a little before she shook her head sadly. “No…”
“So, is there someone you like?” her aunt asked, giving Melissa a curious look.
Melissa hesitated a couple seconds before admitting, “Yeah, but he doesn’t like me … He likes someone else…”
She let out a long sigh. It had been more than a week since she found out that Rapier liked Erin, and Melissa still felt sad about that. However, she was trying really hard not to think about Rapier or Erin, because she didn’t like feeling like this.
“This is WAY better than my last shopping trip,” Melissa suddenly exclaimed as she changed the topic. “I mean, we got attacked by a bunch of guys with guns and power armor, and Monkeywrench got hurt, and…”
“WAIT!” Aunt Brandy exclaimed, giving Melissa a look of surprise. “You were attacked?”
“Last weekend,” Melissa responded with a shrug. “When we were in Berlin…These Triangle guys tried to kidnap me and my friends, but we got away, then they followed us, and we had to fight them, and…”
“WAIT!” Aunt Brandy repeated, suddenly looking pale. “The Triangle came after you?”
Melissa rolled her eyes, a little annoyed at being interrupted. “Yeah. They were real jerks…”
“When I get my hands on them,” Aunt Brandy said with an angry look.
“Imp said the same thing,” Melissa pointed out. “She was REALLY mad when she found out too…” Then Melissa straightened up a little and bragged, “But my friends and I took care of them all by ourselves, and afterwards, we decided to become a training team…”
Aunt Brandy gave Melissa an odd look. “And what happened to these people?”
Melissa shrugged at that. “Mrs. Carson said that the police arrested a bunch of them, but that some got away first…”
“It looks like I’m going to have to look into the Triangle a little more thoroughly,” Aunt Brandy muttered to herself. “And if I find they have a cell in New Jersey…”
“Yeah,” Melissa said, nodding in enthusiastic agreement. “And if you need help fighting them, I know how to take down their power frames…”
She gave her aunt a smug look as she remembered the previous weekend. It had been really funny when she dropped a stink bomb right inside the power frame, and then the pilot had come out all choking and puking. And best of all, that had been a LOT easier than punching the armor the way Alyss or Aegis did.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Aunt Brandy responded with a look of amusement.
Since Melissa was thinking of the Triangle and what had happened the previous weekend, she began looking around at her surroundings. Both the Imp and Mr. Anderson had told her that she should always pay attention to her surroundings, and that she should keep an eye out for any signs of trouble, as well as possible escape routes. That was usually way too much work, or she simply didn’t even think about doing it, but this seemed like a good time to practice.
“Um … Aunt Brandy,” Melissa said a minute later. “I think someone might be following us…”
Instead of laughing that off as being Melissa’s overactive imagination, Aunt Brandy suddenly became more serious. “Where?”
“There’s a guy in a blue hat,” Melissa said.
Mr. Anderson had spent a whole week in class, talking about how they could tell when someone was following them. This guy was doing everything that Mr. Anderson said to look out for.
They continued walking for another minute, even turning around the corner. When the guy in the blue hat appeared again, Aunt Brandy scowled. “I think you’re right. Good eyes.”
“Thanks,” Melissa responded, grinning proudly at the compliment.
“Now then,” Aunt Brandy asked, “Do you know how to lose a tail?”
Melissa smirked. “Get it caught in the door?”
A moment later, Melissa rolled her eyes at what was a totally stupid question. Of course she knew how to lose someone. Mr. Anderson and the Imp had both taught her how to do that, not that she actually needed lessons since she could turn invisible.
“When we turn the corner again,” Aunt Brandy said, “and are out of his sight, we’ll split up and lose him. We’ll meet back together at that café where we had lunch.”
Melissa nodded but didn’t say anything. They continued walking down the sidewalk at the same pace that they had been so the guy in the blue hat didn’t get suspicious. The corner was just ahead and Melissa was excited about how they were going to lose this guy. It was almost like some kind of game, though the memory of the previous weekend kept her from getting too excited.
There was a big white van parked alongside the road, and just as they were walking past, the side door slid open and three men jumped out. It only took Melissa a moment to register that all three were wearing white uniforms of some kind, and that they were also armed. But before she could react, there was a bright flash of light that blinded her for a moment.
“REMEDY!” Aunt Brandy exclaimed.
Melissa immediately tried to teleport away, but nothing happened. A moment later, one of the men grabbed hold of her while the other two went for her aunt. Melissa shrieked and tried to turn intangible, but that didn’t work either.
“Stop squirming kid,” the man exclaimed, pointing a gun in her face and making her freeze in fear. Melissa couldn’t turn intangible or teleport. In desperation, she tried turning invisible, but that didn’t work any better than her teleportation or intangibility. “Come here…” With that, he clamped his hand over her mouth and yanked her back and into the van.
A couple seconds later, Melissa was in the van with a gun pointed in her face to keep her from struggling. She stared at it in fear, unable to use her powers to escape. And as she watched, Aunt Brandy was pulled into the van and thrown into the van floor as well. The door slid shut and locked with an ominous click.
Melissa frantically looked around the inside of the van, seeing the three men, and another person whom she’d missed earlier. It was a woman in a white uniform that was similar to what the men wore. She had brown skin and long dark hair that was pulled back into a braid.
Melissa thought this woman was probably an Indian. Not the kind that lived in teepees, but the kind from India. For a moment, Melissa wondered why there were two completely different kinds of Indians, until she remembered that they were in serious danger.
“Remedy,” Aunt Brandy said, glaring at the woman.
“Brandywine,” the woman responded in a confident tone. “It seems that this time, I am the one holding you prisoner.”
“I preferred it when you were my prisoner,” Aunt Brandy responded grimly.
“Of course you would,” the woman … Remedy replied. “But fortunately for me, my people were able to secure my release.”
“A pity,” Aunt Brandy said.
Remedy just stared at Aunt Brandy before saying, “Don’t resist, or my men will shoot you. Don’t worry, they won’t shoot to kill, since my client hired me to recover you alive. However, I’m sure that a bullet wound in your leg … or in the girl … will be quite unpleasant.”
“You leave her alone,” Melissa exclaimed, only to have the gun move up to between her eyes. Staring at the barrel made her eyes start to cross a little.
One of the men continued pointing his gun at Aunt Brandy, while the other one reached for her belt and took it off. The belt had a bunch of Aunt Brandy’s weapons and equipment on it, so he’d just disarmed her. And as if that wasn’t quite enough, he searched her for any other weapons, removing a flashlight looking thing from her ankle.
“Nice and unarmed,” Remedy said. “Just the way I like my prisoners. Of course, I prefer them to be restrained as well…”
With that, the guy who was pointing a gun at Melissa, pulled out a pair of handcuffs and slapped them onto her wrists. One of the other guys put a pair on Aunt Brandy, who didn’t resist. Instead, she gave Melissa a worried look, then glared at Remedy.
“Let the girl go,” Aunt Brandy said. “You’ve already got me, and I doubt your client hired you to take her too…”
“No,” Remedy admitted. “I was not hired to take the girl. However, it seems that she will be a useful piece of leverage to guarantee your cooperation while you remain in my custody.”
“You’re gonna be in big trouble for this,” Melissa exclaimed, remembering the previous times she’d been kidnapped. Imp and her dad would both come rescue her, and Melissa had no doubt that they’d be pissed. She wouldn’t want to be in Remedy’s shoes when that happened. “You are in SOOOOO much trouble…”
“You know,” Aunt Brandy announced. “The rest of the Shielders will come for me.”
Remedy gave a dismissive gesture. “Why do you think I waited until you were far away from your team?By the time they learn of this, if they ever do, you will already be long gone.”
Melissa gulped at that and gave her aunt a worried look. However, Aunt Brandy didn’t seem too worried, which was definitely comforting.
A moment later, Melissa looked to the closed door, wondering what the chances were of getting it open. The van was moving, so it might not be a good idea to jump out. Then again, her powers weren’t working, which made escaping a bit of a problem, especially with three armed men pointing guns at her and her aunt.
“Not good,” Melissa whispered to herself, knowing that she couldn’t do anything at the moment and HATING that.
After taking a deep breath and trying to calm herself down, Melissa reminded herself of something that Imp told her. The patient mouse gets the cheese, but the impatient one gets the trap. As hard as it was, she’d have to be patient.
“The patient Melissa gets the cookie,” she quietly reminded herself.
It was hard for Melissa to remain both still and silent, but somehow, she managed to do so for the rest of the ride. Every time she was about to open her mouth, one glance at the gun pointed at her made her think twice about it.
They drove for about twenty minutes in near silence, before the van finally stopped. When the side door was opened, Melissa saw that they were in some kind of large garage. She tried using her powers to see if she could teleport away, but she couldn’t. Her powers still weren’t working, and that worried her a lot. She really liked her powers and didn’t know what she’d do if they were gone for good.
“Come this way,” Remedy said, gesturing down a hallway. “If either of you refuses, or even worse, tries to run for it, my men will shoot your legs and then drag you to where we are going anyway.”
“Well, since you put it like that,” Aunt Brandy said.
“Wow, is this your supervillain lair?” Melissa blurted out, unable to keep silent any longer. “It doesn’t look like much. I’ve seen WAY better…”
“Melissa,” Aunt Brandy snapped, giving her a firm look which clearly said ‘shut up’. “Don’t taunt the supervillain.”
“Very wise words,” Remedy said. “Though admittedly, I think of myself more as a professional problem solver than a supervillain.”
“And I think of myself as the Queen of America,” Aunt Brandy said with a snort. “That doesn’t mean people bow to me.”
“Perhaps you should heed your own advice,” Remedy pointed out.
A couple seconds later, they stopped in front of a metal door with an electronic lock built in. Melissa watched carefully as one of the men waved a badge in front of the scanner. There was a click as the door unlocked.
“You will remain here until I can arrange a handoff with my client,” Remedy stated, gesturing for Melissa and her aunt to enter.
Melissa looked around, but didn’t see any chance of escaping, not when she still didn’t have her powers. With a grimace of annoyance, she went inside, and immediately decided that Paradigm had locked her into a much better prison cell than this.
“This place is lame,” Melissa complained as she looked over the plain and empty room with its concrete walls. “Can we get a TV? Or maybe a computer? Do you guys have wifi?”
“I’m afraid that you’ll have to do without,” Remedy said in a wry tone.
“This is totally boring,” Melissa told her. She gave Remedy a skeptical look. “Are you sure you’ve kidnapped people before?”
Once Melissa and her aunt were inside, Remedy held out her hand and there was a sudden flash of light from it. Melissa rubbed her eyes, and while she was doing this, her kidnappers left the room, locking the door behind them.
“I’m sorry you got caught up in this,” Aunt Brandy said, putting her hand on Melissa’s shoulder, which wasn’t too easy since her hands were still cuffed together.
“Who is that lady anyway?” Melissa asked.
She looked around the room again. There was no window, so she couldn’t get out that way. When she looked at the door, it looked pretty solid. If her powers were working, it wouldn’t be any problem to walk through though.
“She calls herself Remedy,” Aunt Brandy answered, slowly sitting down on the floor and leaning up against the wall. Melissa went over and sat down beside her. “As you’ve probably guessed, she’s a mercenary and supervillain…”
“Yeah,” Melissa responded. “I kinda guessed. She seems kinda nice though, in spite of the kidnapping, and handcuffs, and stuff…”
Her aunt let out an exasperated sigh, asking, “What is it with you and supervillains?”
“Some of them are really nice,” Melissa said a bit defensively. “I met Blue Diamond once, and she was really nice, and…”
“Not right now,” Aunt Brandy said. “In fact, I’m not sure I even want to know.”
Melissa pouted a little at that, because that was a great story. However, her aunt was right. This wasn’t the time for that story, because once they were out of here, she’d have a whole new story to tell. She couldn’t wait to tell Monkeywrench about this. He’d be so jealous.
“What did she do to my powers?” Melissa asked. She stared at her aunt, pretty sure that her powers weren’t working right either, otherwise she would have beat up Remedy and those guys.
“Remedy is a nullifier,” Aunt Brandy answered with a deep scowl. “She can shut down most powers … at least for awhile.”
“Most powers?” Melissa asked curiously.
Her aunt hesitated a moment before answering. “It doesn’t work on physically based powers like exemplars, and it can’t stop someone from using a devise or casting a spell.”
Melissa scowled in annoyance. “I can’t teleport…”
“I know,” her aunt said with a shake of her head. “Unfortunately, Remedy’s powers work especially well against warpers and psis.”
“Like us,” Melissa said in realization.
“I’m afraid so,” Aunt Brandy admitted grimly. “My powers aren’t working at all, and she took all my holdouts…”
“That’s too bad,” Melissa said in disappointment.
It would have been really cool if her aunt could have pulled out one of her awesome inventions, or just used her telekinesis to tear the door open. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to happen
“I’m bored,” Melissa abruptly said. She jumped to her feet and absently tossed her handcuffs to the other side of the room.
“WHAT?” Aunt Brandy exclaimed, jumping to her own feet. “Your powers are working again…”
Melissa looked over at the handcuffs then grinned at her aunt. “Nope.” She held up the lock pick she’d just used to unlock the cuffs. “Imp says I should always have my lockpicks with me … just in case.”
Aunt Brandy’s eyes went wide. “I hate to say this, but the Imp was right…”
Melissa giggled at that, then went to work unlocking her aunt’s handcuffs. It didn’t take long before her cuffs had joined Melissa’s on the floor.
“Thank you,” Aunt Brandy said, staring at Melissa with an odd expression. “But I don’t suppose the Imp taught you how to pick an electronic lock?” She gestured to the door. “I don’t have any of my tools with me.”
“Nope,” Melissa responded with an even bigger grin. “But she did teach me how to pick pockets…” With that, she held out the badge that she’d swiped from one of the three men.
Her aunt’s eyes widened again. “You’re just full of surprises today.”
Melissa was so excited that she practically bounced in place. It wasn’t often that she could impress her aunt like this, and she was eager to show off a little more, if she could.
“This is gonna be just like one of those prison escape movies,” Melissa exclaimed excitedly.
“Hold your horses,” her aunt warned her with a wry look. “This isn’t going to be easy, especially without our powers…”
“I know,” Melissa grumbled. She wasn’t stupid, in spite of what everyone seemed to think.
“I didn’t see any cameras when we came in,” Aunt Brandy said, carefully looking around the room. “Good. No cameras mean we get the element of surprise…”
“Surprise is good,” Melissa agreed with a nervous grin.
“It also means that Remedy probably doesn’t intend to keep us here for very long,” Aunt Brandy continued. “Especially since she’d have to keep coming in to null our powers. That means, this was intended as a short term holding cell for me.” She gave Melissa a faintly amused look. “And I’m pretty sure that she has absolutely no idea of what you can do.”
“Yeah,” Melissa agreed, before pointing out, “But that doesn’t do much good when I don’t have my powers.”
Aunt Brandy chuckled at that. “Maybe not, but you’ve already done a lot.” She gestured to the handcuffs on the floor, and then the badge that Melissa was still holding.
“Larceny class for the win,” Melissa said with a giggle.
Her aunt rolled her eyes, then went over and pressed her ear to the door. Aunt Brandy listened for half a minute before nodding.
“I don’t hear anything from the other side,” she quietly told Melissa. “But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any guards. Since we’re unarmed, we’ll have to be careful about this. When I say go, unlock the door.”
A few seconds later, Melissa ran the badge over the electronic lock and it clicked open. Aunt Brandy pulled the door open, revealing that there was only one guard on the other side, one of the uniformed men. Without any hesitation, Aunt Brandy punched him several times, hitting him in the throat and the side of his head until he went down.
“That was easy,” Aunt Brandy said, taking his gun.
“That was awesome,” Melissa said with a grin.
Her aunt nodded at that, then pulled the guard into the cell and handcuffed him. As soon as that was done, they left the cell and carefully started down the hallway.
“Now,” Aunt Brandy said, “we need to get out of here without being seen…”
Melissa’s grin widened at that. “This is just like survival class in school … especially when we do the escape and evasion stuff.”
“They actually teach this kind of thing at your school?” Aunt Brandy asked in surprise.
Melissa nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah … Mr. Anderson teaches our class, but sometimes he has Imp teach the escape and evasion stuff cuz she’s really really good at it…”
Aunt Brandy paused for a moment to shake her head in disbelief. “The Imp as a teacher … I still can’t believe it.”
“You should,” Melissa protested. “She teaches the best art class ever … Oh, and she teaches these larceny classes, or at least she calls them larceny classes, but they’re really just the same kind of stuff we learn in survival…”
Just then, Melissa heard someone coming down the hallway. She immediately grabbed her aunt and pulled her through an open door and out of sight, then silently gave the ‘shush’ gesture. A moment later, the people came closer, and Melissa let out a silent sigh of relief since they’d gotten out of the hallway just in time.
“I just got off the phone with Mister Mayhem,” Remedy told her guards. “He’ll be here tonight to pick up Brandywine.”
“And the girl?” one of the guards asked.
“He only paid for Brandywine,” Remedy answered. “However, we’ll keep the girl for now and see if he wants to purchase the additional leverage. If not, we’ll just dump her off on the way out of town.”
Melissa listened carefully, biting her lip to keep from saying anything. When she glanced at Aunt Brandy, she saw that her aunt looked like she was ready to burst into the hallway and start shooting. Melissa gulped at that, having the feeling that this would be pretty bad when neither of them had their powers. After a few seconds, her aunt relaxed a little, apparently realizing the same thing.
Once Remedy and her guards were gone, Melissa quietly asked, “Who’s Mister Mayhem?”
“A villain I stopped a couple months ago,” her aunt answered with a scowl. “And a few months before that. Apparently, he took it personally enough to hire Remedy.”
“That’s kind of lazy,” Melissa said with a shake of her head. “I mean, if he’s a villain, shouldn’t he come after you himself instead of hiring other people to do it?”
“You’d think,” Aunt Brandy responded wryly. “But Mister Mayhem is in it for the chaos and destruction. He tends to delegate anything related to organization or planning. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if his chief henchman hired Remedy in his name.”
Melissa gave her a skeptical look. “You can delegate revenge?”
“Apparently,” her aunt said. “Now, let’s get out of here.”
They hurried down the hallway back in the direction they’d come from, back to the garage and the van. As soon as Melissa saw the van, she grinned, thinking that it would only be fair to leave the same way they’d come…or at least, leave in the same vehicle.
“Did the Imp teach you how to hotwire a car?” Aunt Brandy asked, giving Melissa an odd look.
Melissa shook her head. “No…”
“Then it’s a good thing I know how,” her aunt responded with a faint smile. When Melissa gave her a look of surprise, she shrugged, “I’m a gadgeteer…and the principle is pretty simple…”
Seconds later, a voice yelled, “DON’T MOVE!”
Melissa snapped around, squealing in surprise as she saw the man who’d been following them earlier. Though he no longer had the blue hat, he was now wearing one of the white uniforms that all of Remedy’s people had.
“Damn,” Aunt Brandy exclaimed, opening fire with her stolen gun while Melissa dove for cover.
“Now would be a REALLY good time for my powers to come back,” Melissa said, desperately wishing she could turn intangible. Unfortunately, she still couldn’t.
“That would be nice,” Aunt Brandy said, dropping down and taking cover beside Melissa. She fired several shots, then dropped down again, right before the man shot back.
“THE PRISONERS ARE TRYING TO ESCAPE!” he yelled out, firing several more shots at them.
Melissa wondered how they were going to get to the van now, only to notice that during all the shooting, several bullets had hit the side of the van. That wouldn’t have been a problem, except that it looked like both tires on that side had been hit and were now flat.
“That stinks,” Melissa grumbled. Then her eyes lit up and an evil grin began to form. “I’ve got an idea…”
When Remedy caught them, her men had searched Aunt Brandy and had taken all of her holdouts … but none of them thought to search Melissa. She reached into one of her pockets, thankful that her bag of tricks was still safe.
“What’s that?” Aunt Brandy demanded, staring at the small canister in Melissa’s hand.
Melissa just grinned and threw it towards the gunman. The canister hit the ground near him and exploded into a thick cloud. Almost immediately, the gunman dropped his gun and began to cough and gag.
“Ugh…,” Aunt Brandy exclaimed, grabbing her nose with her free hand. “That stench…”
“Trixie makes the BEST stink bombs,” Melissa exclaimed gleefully.
At the same time, Melissa was already taking advantage of the distraction, just the way Mr. Anderson and the Imp had taught her. She pulled Aunt Brandy’s arm and ran for the other side of the garage. Remedy and some of her other men came into the garage at that point and were immediately caught in the stink bomb cloud, though that didn’t keep them from shooting.
“This way,” Aunt Brandy said as she reached the door on the other side of the garage. She fired several shots at Remedy until the gun went empty. “Hurry…”
Melissa ran out the door and was happy to find herself outside the building, though that was followed by a moment of frustration as she realized that she had absolutely no idea where she was. They hadn’t driven for too long, so she was sure that they were still in New York, even if it wasn’t Manhattan.
“Get Brandywine,” Remedy yelled from back inside the garage. “We need her alive. Mister Mayhem will pay for damaged goods, but not for dead merchandise.”
“Wow,” Melissa announced. “This is just like last Sunday all over again…”
Of course, this time she couldn’t use her powers, but then again, these guys didn’t have power frames either. As far as Melissa was concerned, that kind of balanced out a bit.
“Come on,” Melissa exclaimed, quickly looking around. “We’ve got to go…
Melissa knew that at the moment, she and Aunt Brandy had a great opportunity. Remedy and her people weren’t watching them, and there were lots of places they could run and hide. When it came to escaping, this was perfect.
Keeping down low, Melissa ran behind a row of parked cars. If they could get far enough away before Remedy got out of the building, and could stay hidden, then their chances of escaping would only get better and better.
Seconds later, Remedy came bursting out the door along with four of her men. One of them immediately pointed in Melissa’s direction, yelling, “THERE!”
“What…?” Melissa gasped, then looked up at her Aunt Brandy…who was standing up straight and in full view. With a grimace of frustration, Melissa demanded, “Have you ever played hide and seek before? We were supposed to HIDE.” How her aunt had survived this long as a superhero, Melissa didn’t know.
“I HATE running,” Aunt Brandy complained as they ran. “If I still had my weapons…”
“If wishes were horses, we’d all be wearing hip waders,” Melissa responded with a grin. In spite of how dangerous the situation was, she was actually having fun. At her aunt’s look of surprise, she said, “My friend Alyss likes to say that…”
“It sounds like you’ve got some interesting friends,” her aunt responded.
Melissa laughed. “Yeah. And they’re really fun too, especially Monkeywrench…”
Just then, Melissa heard a gunshot, right as something hit her in the back. She was thrown forward and landed face first on the sidewalk.
“You’ve been shot,” Aunt Brandy exclaimed, immediately bending over to look at Melissa’s back. “Thank goodness you’re wearing the kevra jacket I gave you…”
“This thing is awesome,” Melissa exclaimed.
“The jacket stopped the bullet, but you’ll probably have a good bruise,” Aunt Brandy continued. “Now come on…”
When they both scrambled back to their feet, Melissa saw that Remedy and her people had caught up to them. She looked around almost desperately, then reached into her pocket for one of the smoke bombs that Imp had given her.
“Bye bye,” Melissa announced as she threw the smoke bomb at the ground.
As soon as the cloud of smoke covered them, Melissa whispered, “Come on,” and pulled on her aunt’s arm, leading her through the neighboring doorway and into the shop.
“Where the hell did they go?” one of the men yelled.
Melissa just crouched down low, and this time, she’d pulled her aunt down as well. She watched out the store window, while remaining down and out of sight. To her relief, Aunt Brandy didn’t do anything to draw attention.
A couple seconds later, Remedy and her men ran down the sidewalk and out of sight. Once they were gone, Melissa let out a sigh of relief.
“Good thinking,” Aunt Brandy said with a nod of approval. “But why in the world were you carrying something like that around?”
“In case someone chased me again,” Melissa pointed out with a broad and rather smug grin.
Aunt Brandy rolled her eyes and admitted, “I can’t argue with that.”
“I’ve got lots of cool stuff,” Melissa bragged excitedly. “Smoke bombs, and stink bombs, and super-duper glue, and lock picks…”
“I get the idea,” her aunt said with a chuckle.
However, Melissa gave her a pleading look, using her best ‘puppy dog’ eyes. “Can you make me some holdouts? Please? Please, please, please…”
“This isn’t a good time,” her aunt reminded her with an impatient look. “We can talk about that later.”
“Okay,” Melissa responded with a grin. She made a mental note to beg her aunt some more later on.
“It looks like we lost them for now,” Aunt Brandy said. “So, let’s get you somewhere safe. Once my powers return, I’ll come back and deal with Remedy. And with Mister Mayhem.”
They waited in the shop for another minute before leaving. There was no sign of Remedy or her people, but Melissa didn’t want to take that for granted so kept looking, just in case they came back. It was fortunate that she did, because it didn’t take long before she saw one of the guys in a white uniform.
“This is getting old real fast,” Aunt Brandy snarled angrily.
“It would be a LOT funner if I had my powers,” Melissa agreed.
“Funner isn’t a word,” her aunt responded, which made Melissa snicker.
Melissa looked back and saw the man calling someone on his radio, which she knew was bad news. And as she expected, Remedy and her other people showed up again almost immediately. Then one man leapt out of a doorway and tackled Aunt Brandy.
“RUN!” Aunt Brandy ordered Melissa, even as she struggled against the man. However, that struggle stopped the moment he had his gun pointed at her face.
Melissa wanted to stay and help her aunt, but she knew that she couldn’t do anything at the moment. As hard as it was, she ran away as fast as she could, leaving her aunt behind.
“I’ll tell Dad,” Melissa promised herself. “And Imp…They’ll help Aunt Brandy…”
But then Melissa noticed another one of Remedy’s men, standing ahead of her with a gun in his hand. She gulped at that and tried to teleport, and to her surprise, she was able to do so. A moment later, she was right in front of him, and before he could do anything but yelp in surprise, she kneed him between the legs.
“THE GIRL HAS POWERS,” one of the other men yelled.
“Then she might be even more useful,” Remedy announced. “Bring her to me…”
“I don’t think so,” Melissa responded, blowing the villain a raspberry. Now that her powers were back, she felt a lot more confident.
Remedy started towards Melissa, drawing a weapon that looked like some kind of ray gun. Melissa had seen similar weapons at school and knew that this could be anything from a fancy label maker to a disintegrator, even if the first wasn’t very likely.
Suddenly, a man screamed in fear as he went flying through the air, only to slam into one of the other gunmen. Melissa looked over and saw Aunt Brandy getting back to her feet, looking quite pleased with herself. It took Melissa a moment to realize that her aunt’s powers were back too.
“You came after me on my day off,” Aunt Brandy demanded of Remedy. “While I’m in my civilian identity. Isn’t there some kind of professional rule against that kind of thing?”
“I am a professional,” Remedy responded, turning to fire her weapon at Aunt Brandy. “I was paid to do a job…and I did it. End of story.”
Remedy opened fire on Aunt Brandy, and a beam of green energy shot through the air and hit the wall of the building. There was a zapping sound, but the building didn’t look like it was damaged at all. A moment later, the gun suddenly flew right out of Remedy’s hand … and into Aunt Brandy’s.
“Now,” Aunt Brandy announced, “I think it’s time to put you back in MY custody…”
“Go get her,” Melissa cheered out excitedly. “Zap her in the butt…”
“Well, this is a stunner,” Aunt Brandy announced, suddenly turning to shoot two of the armed gunmen who’d been positioning themselves to shoot her. Then she turned and fired at Remedy, though the villain now had a glowing bubble around her, which stopped the green ray. “A personal force field…”
“The solution to many problems,” Remedy commented with narrowed eyes. “And this is another…” She raised her hands and Melissa realized that she was going to use her power on them again.
“Watch out,” Melissa exclaimed, teleporting further away, just so she’d be less likely to lose her powers.
“Look up,” Aunt Brandy ordered Remedy.
Melissa’s eyes went up to where a large metal dumpster was floating in the air about ten feet over Remedy’s head. A full dumpster at that. The look on Remedy’s face when she noticed it, was enough to make Melissa giggle.
“My powers are the only thing holding that up,” Aunt Brandy stated. “If I lose my powers…”
“I see,” Remedy responded in a calm tone.
“And don’t think your force field will do much good,” Aunt Brandy continued. She gestured, and suddenly a small devise on Remedy’s belt tore loose and flew away. “Now then, I think it’s time you surrendered…”
Remedy glared at Aunt Brandy for several seconds before nodding reluctantly. “Very well. It seems I have no choice.”
Aunt Brandy smiled at that before musing, “Now, if I only had something to tie her hands…”
Melissa grinned at that, then reached into her pocket and pulled out the bottle of super-duper glue. “Will this do?”
For a moment, Aunt Brandy just stared at Melissa in surprise, and then she began to grin back. “I think it just might.”
“You must be kidding,” Remedy said with a worried look.
“She never kids,” Melissa pointed out with her best innocent expression. “She’s WAY too serious for that.”
Then, as Aunt Brandy glued Remedy’s hands together behind her back, she said, “You know, you should thank me for stopping you when I did. You see, if you’d hurt even one hair on her head…” She gestured to Melissa. “Then you have no idea the hell you would have brought down on yourself.”
Melissa just stood there, smiling innocently.
Manhattan NY, Saturday evening, Nov 23rd, 2007
“Bwa ha ha ha,” the Imp laughed maniacally. “My Evil Minions will destroy your Feeble Defenders, and soon, I will be the undisputed Impress of the world…”
With that, the Imp moved one of the cards in front of her forward. It contained a picture of a bunch of zombies, with the words ‘Evil Minions’ written on top. Melissa glared at the Imp’s card, then she looked at the cards in front of her. Her ‘Feeble Defenders’ card was her best defense, but the Imp was right. Her Feeble Defenders couldn’t withstand those Evil Minions.
“You’ll NEVER defeat me,” Melissa exclaimed, pulling one card from her hand and slapping it down on the table. “BAM! Dirt Nap sends any level three monster back to the graveyard. Say bye bye to your Evil Minions…”
“NOOOO!” Imp cried out in horror, which made Melissa burst into giggles.
“Aren’t you two being a little overdramatic?” Aunt Brandy asked from the other side of the room.
“NEVER!” Melissa and the Imp both exclaimed at the same time, right before they both started laughing.
“Xombie Horde, is AWESOME!,” Melissa said. “You should play with us…”
Aunt Brandy just snorted. “I fight enough monsters during my day job.”
“You should try teaching them sometime,” Imp responded with a smirk.
Aunt Brandy gave the Imp an odd look before wryly commenting, “Those poor poor monsters.”
Imp gave a look of mock offense. “I’ll have you know that I am the world’s greatest teacher. I even have a coffee mug that says so.”
“Did you buy it yourself?” Aunt Brandy asked.
“Maybe,” Imp responded with an ‘innocent’ look that made Melissa giggle.
“I believe it’s my turn now,” Melissa’s dad said. Unlike her aunt, he’d been happy to join in on a game of Xombie Horde. “I summon an Undead Monstrosity, which makes me discard one of my creature cards. I’ll get rid of the Zombie Stripper, then sacrifice my Ghoulish Gravedigger in order to summon her into play…”
“Good move, Dad,” Melissa said excitedly. “But not good enough. I activate my trap card, and all zombies that were summoned this turn, get sent back to the graveyard…”
“Ouch,” Imp said with a grin.
Melissa grinned as well, deciding that this was a LOT more fun than running away from Remedy had been. Sure, that had been exciting, but it had also been pretty scary, especially since she hadn’t had her powers. But at least, Remedy was in jail now.
It was hard to believe how nice and normal everything was now, when just a few hours earlier, she’d been kidnapped … again. Then again, she’d been kidnapped a few times before and wondered if that was going to be normal for her. That and getting chased by people like Ultramax or the Triangle. In fact, it seemed like people were always after her.
But right now, Melissa was back home with her family. Her dad had cooked a nice dinner, and Imp had come over to eat with them, and now, they were all sitting around and playing games. Well, at least most of them were. Aunt Brandy didn’t want to play Xombie Horde, which was too bad, because Melissa was sure that her aunt would have fun if she tried it too.
“I’m attacking with my Gruesome Grizzly,” Imp abruptly announced, moving one of her cards forward. “And I’m going for your Terrifying Toddler…”
“Aren’t all toddlers terrifying?” Melissa’s dad asked as he moved his card to the graveyard.
“I wouldn’t know,” Imp answered with an odd expression, before abruptly saying, “I’m feeding a brain to my Gruesome Grizzly, so he’ll be able to defend on the next turn.”
“That reminds me,” Aunt Brandy said, getting up and coming over to the table. She stared at Imp for a moment before asking, “Why did you go after Polarstorm like you did?”
The table suddenly went quiet at that, and Melissa wasn’t surprised. Her dad and aunt were both superheroes, while the Imp had been a villain. They usually didn’t talk a lot about hero and villain stuff because it could get a little weird, which was what was happening now.
Melissa saw the look on her teacher’s face and knew that the Imp was trying to decide whether to be a smartass or be serious. She kind of hoped for the first, because the Imp was hilarious when she was joking around.
After a couple seconds, Imp answered, “Because he pulled my tail.”
“I know you said that before,” Aunt Brandy responded. “But your reaction was a bit … extreme.”
The Imp picked up her glass of wine and took a sip. Once she set it down, she explained, “My tail is part of my spine. When he yanked it, he tore most of the muscles in my tail and lower back, dislocated a lot of the vertebrae, and damaged my spinal cord.” Her expression was grim and serious, which was an expression that Melissa didn’t see from the Imp very often. “It was … excruciating, and if I didn’t have regen, I would have been crippled for life.”
“I see,” Aunt Brandy carefully responded.
“After Fuzzy Wuzzy did that to me … he laughed about it,” the Imp continued. Aunt Brandy actually winced. “And even more importantly, I don’t want people to think I have an Achilles tail that they can take advantage of, so I do everything I can to discourage that kind of thinking.”
Aunt Brandy scowled for a moment before admitting. “I can understand that. Now, the important question is, are you going to come after him again?”
Imp gave a dismissive wave with hand. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re even. If he leaves me alone, I’ll leave him alone. But if he EVER pulls my tail again, then all bets are off…” She grinned evilly.
“I’ll make sure he knows,” Aunt Brandy said, seeming satisfied.
“My turn,” Melissa exclaimed, jumping to her feet and slapping two cards down on the table. “Overfull Graveyard and Rabid Undead. All creatures in all graveyards come into play on my side for one turn, and all undead creatures can attack immediately…” She grinned evilly before smugly announcing, “I attack both of you and win.”
“Ya got me,” the Imp exclaimed as she began to dramatically act out a death scene. “The walls are closing in. I see a light in the distance…”
Melissa’s dad burst out laughing as he watched the Imp, while Aunt Brandy watched him with an odd expression. She shook her head, then stared at the Imp with a look that was hard to read.
“You guys wanna play Lollypop Bazooka next?” Melissa asked eagerly. “It’s sorta like Xombie Horde, but it’s got Neon Unicorn, and Cutie Kitty Calamity, and a really super awesome card called Super Faerie Sparkle Bomb…”
“No thanks,” her dad quickly responded.
“How about something classic?” Imp suggested with a broad grin and a wink at Melissa’s dad. “Like Twister … Or maybe we should have dessert first. I brought cake.”
“Cake?” Melissa asked excitedly. “What kind?”
Imp grinned at that. “Devil’s food, of course.”
“Yay,” Melissa exclaimed, teleporting over to Imp and giving her a hug. “Can I get a big slice?”
“We’ll see,” Imp said as she made her way into the kitchen.
Melissa went towards the kitchen, stopping close enough that she could watch Imp cutting the cake, though she was still in the living room enough to hear Aunt Brandy and her dad talking.
“You seem happy,” Aunt Brandy said, almost grudgingly. “Happier than you’ve been for a long time.”
Melissa’s dad nodded at that. “I am. And honestly, I never really expected to feel this way again. After Vivian died…” He paused at that and shook his head. Melissa listened in carefully since he’d just mentioned her mom.
“And SHE makes you happy?” Aunt Brandy asked, gesturing towards the kitchen.
Melissa remained where she was, not looking at them. She carefully pretended that she couldn’t hear what they were saying, because if they realized they could, then they wouldn’t be talking about this stuff.
“Yes,” Melissa’s dad answered. “It surprised me too. Then again, Christine is constantly surprising me…and always has.”
Aunt Brandy nodded at that. Then after a couple seconds, she admitted, “Today, Melissa surprised me. A lot. Honestly, I don’t think either of us would have made it out of there if it hadn’t been for her.”
“She’s been learning a lot at that school,” her dad proudly replied.
“And not just from the school,” Aunt Brandy pointed out with a faint scowl. “Her … mentor … has been teaching her things. Things that saved both our lives today.”
Melissa’s dad chuckled. “There’s a reason I agreed to let Christine teach her, though admittedly, I don’t think either really cared about my permission.” His expression turned serious. “Melissa has a tendency to get into trouble, and can you think of anyone more qualified to teach her how to get out of it alive?”
Aunt Brandy hesitated a moment before grudgingly admitting, “No, I can’t. I suppose she could have worse role models…” She shook her head at that and let out a loud sigh. “I’m starting to think that maybe … just maybe … your new girlfriend isn’t so bad after all.” However, she quickly added, “But if you ever tell her I said so, I’ll deny it completely…”
“Of course,” Melissa’s dad said with a chuckle.
Melissa just turned away so they couldn’t see the broad grin that had formed on her face. She really liked Imp, and had even been her biggest fan, long before she’d met the woman in person. However, now that she knew the Imp as well as she did, she was happy that the former villain was even nicer, cleverer, and funnier than she’d ever expected.
With that, Melissa looked into the kitchen again, watching as the Imp put several slices of cake onto plates. Her smile widened at the sight. Not of the cake, though that looked really really good, but at the Imp herself.
Melissa had been overjoyed to learn that her dad and Imp were dating, and she was even more delighted by the fact that they made each other so happy. Melissa loved seeing her dad happy, because for a long time, he’d been sad and grumpy. Even if Melissa had no other reasons to like the Imp, she would have loved her just for bringing back her dad.
The only thing that could have spoiled this was Aunt Brandy, because she didn’t like the Imp. But now, Aunt Brandy was coming around too, which made Melissa want to squeal in glee. The only reason she didn’t, was that she didn’t want them to realize that she’d been listening in.
With that, Melissa went into the kitchen to grab her cake. However, her attention was really on her teacher, best friend, and hopefully one day … her new mom.