Test Tube Babies
Diane Castle / Ayla / Test Tube Babies
Test Tube Babies
A Whateley vignette
By Diane Castle (with help from all the adults)
‘tube’: n., slang term for television or video-related imagery
‘babies’: n., colloquially, neophytes or tyros
Thursday, February 22, 2007
<(Lancer) Everyone. Comm and gear check. Sound off.>
<(Chaka) Okay here. Got all my holdouts, including my bow and my throwing toys.>
<(Tennyo) Haven’t had a chance to check but I don’t think they put a power limiter on me.>
<(Fey) Malachim’s Feather looks good.>
<(Phase) Utility belt and the headmask seem to be working. So far, anyway.>
<(Chaka) Pessimist much?>
<(Bladedancer) Destiny’s Wave feels right, and my throwing weapons are in place.
<(Generator) Got Spinner, Shielder, Kitty Compact, the arm bracers, dunno if the barrettes work this time, but they ought to.>
<(Shroud) I’m all here too.>
<(Lancer) Okay, I’m signaling the sim jockeys.> “Lancer to Control. Lancer to Control. We are ready for red-team test. Repeat: we are ready for test.”
Team Kimba suddenly found themselves ‘teleported’ to the flat gravel roof of a skyscraper, among dozens of air conditioning units and elevator housings.
Gunny Bardue walked out from behind a massive air-conditioning system. He was carrying a large metal briefcase. He wore a tight blue jumpsuit with a gold Sam Browne belt. He had a cigar hanging out of his mouth and an eyepatch over one eye.
The entire team stared at him.
He glared back through one eye. “What? I can’t play Nick Fury in my own simulations? It’s not like Marvel knows about it.”
Someone cleared their throat uncomfortably.
Lancer stepped forward. “Sir, as of ten seconds ago, the primary stockholder in Marvel Entertainment does know.”
Bardue growled something under his breath that just might have been “fucking Goodkinds”. Phase chose to pretend it was something else. Maybe ‘luck in good finds’.
Bardue cleared his throat. He set his case down on the gravel rooftop, flipped it open, and flipped a switch. A hologram of a tall building appeared to hover over the projector.
“Team Kimba, this is your mission, should you choose to accept it. This is the Weatherbee building, just across the street there.” He pointed due north, off to his left. “Twenty-six stories, and as of right now, no way in, no way out. The Weatherbee building is now a hostage crisis. There may be as many as 500 hostages throughout the building. There are no underground entrances or exits. As far as we know. The basement does have a sidewalk elevator, but it’s closed and apparently locked from the inside. It’s also directly under the view of several building windows, so we can’t get a team over to check it without risking a lot of hostages. The building is currently surrounded by police, fire department, SWAT teams, two FBI vans, and three MCO cars. Plus about fifty reporters and maybe three hundred civilians back behind the police barriers. The perps aren’t getting out that way. But they may not need to. There’s a large heliport on the roof, with armed henchmen guarding it right now. We don’t know how many perps are in the building. We don’t know how many of them are powered. We don’t know what powers any mutants or Empowered might have. And it’s worse than that.”
Lancer simply said, “Go on, sir.”
“Here’s the first big problem,” Bardue announced.
He pressed a key on the panel, and the hologram changed to a steamy brunette with a killer bod, clad from her neck to her toes in a black leather bodysuit that would have made a dominatrix envious. That went with her black leather high-heeled boots, the whip on her utility belt, the handgun in its leather holster under her left arm, and the black half-mask over her upper face. The only parts of the woman that were visible were her hair, her mouth and jaw, and the angry brown eyes glaring out from behind the mask. The sultry mouth was covered in bright red lipstick, while her sleek, thick hair curled down her back to her shoulderblades.
Bardue continued, “We know who’s behind this raid. It’s Lady Hydra.”
Phase interrupted, “Umm, wasn’t Lady Hydra a European threat? During the Cold War?”
<(Chaka) Knock it off, Phase.>
Bardue cleared his throat loudly. “Phase! This is a simulation, remember? And anyways, Lady Hydra didn’t restrict herself to Europe. She was a major player in Asia and Africa too.”
Phase said out loud, “Man! Drop the mask and give her a pair of round glasses, and you’ve got yourself a cease and desist order.”
Bardue looked up at the sky and gritted his teeth. Then he glared at Phase, “Yeah, the creators of that comic ripped off Lady Hydra’s look. She was retired by then, so she didn’t kill ‘em or anything. She didn’t get after Jim Steranko for his Madam Hydra character either, because all he used was part of her name. Now can we get back to the mission!”
Lancer got things back on track. “Got it. Lady Hydra. In her prime.”
<(Fey) Phase, don’t say it.>
Bardue nodded. “We don’t know why she’s operating here. We only know that she’s after a heavily fortified information center on floor 17. And we don’t know what went wrong. But Lady Hydra has the building locked down. If you bust in, they’ll start killing hostages. The last time a group of supers did that on one of her ops, she had devisors ready with a teleportation devise. She and her top men ‘ported out, and they blew the entire building. Killed every single hostage, and most of the supers too, not to mention killing five dozen people in the streets outside the building and injuring another ten dozen. Mostly police and fire department, but plenty of reporters and bystanders too. Your mission is to get in there, find out what she’s got, disarm the bombs she’s bound to have, rescue the hostages, and stop her from looting the information center data. Expect she’ll use any dirty trick you can think of. She’s that kind a’ threat.”
“So this is like ‘Die Hard’, but in a skyscraper?” piped up one voice.
“Die Hard WAS in a skyscraper,” complained Phase.
Chaka ignored the byplay and asked Bardue, “We saw her image. Okay, so she’s inta that whole ‘kiss my feet you lowly worm’ thing. What are her powers?”
Bardue grimaced, “Exemplar-4 or so. We think. But we don’t really know. She’s more a behind-the-scenes evil supervillain type than an in-your-face fighter. That’s why she was never caught. She hired the fighters and stayed in the background whenever she could. And she played it smart. Be ready for anything. This is pretty small potatoes for her, so there may be something major in addition to the data center in there. We don’t know what.”
Lancer said, “Yes sir.” Then he turned to the rest of the team. “First order of business: we need to acquire intel before we do anything that’s going to threaten the hostages. That means Fey, Phase, and the J-Team.”
Everyone had been through this before enough times that they all knew what their tasks would be. Phase would go light, go down through the building and under the street, and then start in the basement to work upward. Jade would cast into a few Spyspecks and send them off to see what she could find out. She'd start one Spyspeck at the roof to work downward, while the other ones would try to get in on the ground floor and around the sides of the building. Fey would scry for whatever she could, and use her empathic abilities to try to locate good guys and bad guys. They would all report back, and then let Hank design the battle plan.
Chaka muttered, “I don’t like gettin’ left out.”
“Me neither,” growled Tennyo.
Lancer nodded, “I don’t like it either. But we can’t go in without decent intel, or we’ll end up killing a ton of hostages. Now Chaka, if you and Bladedancer can do that Ki stuff and turn invisible, I’ll let you collect intel too. Otherwise, you get to wait. Just like me.”
Phase went light and dove down through the skyscraper, all the way down to the basement level. Then he took a breath and flew under the street into the target basement. He wasn’t comfortable doing this, even in a simulation. It was so different doing this than what he had done in real life. In real life, he had jumped into emergency situations because he felt that he had no choice. Here, things were so much more cold-blooded. He had to wonder if he was the right guy for the job. If there weren’t better people out there.
He phased into the basement area and stopped. He floated above the floor, just listening, for long seconds. There were faint noises coming from his right. It sounded like sobs and whispers. Then he heard the sounds of boots walking his way. He floated up into the overhead pipes and then phased back into the wall so that only half his face was still sticking out.
A two-man team was making rounds. They were in high-grade body armor, with sub-machine guns and flashlights. Both had helmets with short, side-mounted antennas for communications.
One man said into his comm system, “Team 7, inspecting south basement corridor.”
The other agreed, “Confirm. Team 7, south basement hallway. Still inspecting.”
Phase ducked back into the wall as the henchmen efficiently scanned the ceiling along with everything else. He frowned to himself, ‘This is bad. Efficient henchmen? Who know how to perform a real search? Crap. Why couldn't we get the henchmen who don't know to check the ceilings and can't shoot straight?’
Fey went to work on her ‘inspection’ spell. Phase had been as anal-retentive as ever, and had put together a kit for her, with just this spell in mind. It looked like a plastic tray with forty small compartments and a clear lid that snapped in place over the top, keeping everything in its place. It would be ridiculous to carry around in normal circumstances, but Generator was carrying it for her in that purse from Thuban, so it had hardly any bulk for her to deal with. Each compartment had a different kind of building material, from glass and steel to concrete and even adobe. She wasn’t sure what kind of evil lair Phase thought was going to be made of adobe brick, but she wasn’t going to bug Phase about it when she was obsessing this much for her.
She figured it was only a matter of time before she had to decline a ‘utility belt’ from Phase that had a pouch that held a hundred-compartment spell-working kit. Okay, a fully-loaded spell-working kit with a hundred compartments would be awesome. She really could’ve used one at Christmas. Or in Boston. But there was no way she could accept something like that from Phase, when Möbius had told her he was raising the prices on his utility belts again, and a ‘large’ would be somewhere around seventy-five thousand bucks. She knew that was pocket change for Phase, but it was too much as a gift. One of the Fae couldn’t accept a gift of that magnitude without appropriate recompense.
Goddess, no one should be accepting gifts that expensive when they couldn’t offer something in return. Phase still hadn’t faced the uncomfortable fact that one big reason why the Kimbas were her friends was because they were never going to be the kind of people who leeched off some rich kid; they were never going to be comfortable accepting the kinds of gifts Phase oh-so-casually handed out. She had just about had a cow when she took her gift certificate in to Cecilia and found out just how much Phase had authorized Cecilia to charge.
She carefully selected from the compartments that held steel and safety glass and concrete. Then she held the materials in her palm until the spell turned them into a glittering powder that poured between her fingers and formed into a shimmering translucent image. The ‘building’ that formed in mid-air was the best replica of the Weatherbee building she could invoke.
“Damn.” She added several more cursewords in long-dead languages even Phase wouldn’t know. “Lancer? You need to look at this.”
He immediately floated over. Chaka and Bladedancer slid over, while Tennyo and Generator and Shroud floated toward her and hovered behind the others.
She pointed to some of the glowing pinpoints around the base of the building. “See these? These are badguys outside the building. They’re probably hiding among the police or firemen.”
Chaka muttered, “Or they’re the MCO.”
“Well, they could be anyone inside that police cordon. Even reporters who got permission to slip inside. But this means anything visible is going to be spotted and relayed to the forces inside. This is not good.”
Lancer nodded. “What about that spell you cast on the ‘terrorists’ in the neighboring buildings back in our first pop quiz?”
Fey said, “That’s a maybe. If I can identify our spies, I can perform an illusion spell on all of them, so we can hit the building without Lady Hydra getting a play-by-play on our movements.”
Chaka slipped into a bad imitation of a baseball announcer. “And the first attacker up charges into three henchmen, and… it’s an out! She’s down and the referee is ruling it a technical knockout!” She looked around at the glares she was getting. “What? We’re not in combat yet. We can still snark!”
Lancer manfully ignored her and said to Fey, “What else?”
“I can tell you we’ve got hostiles on the heliport. It looks like about a dozen, and there’s some sort of charm in place so I can’t tell how many are powered. Which means Lady Hydra’s more competent than I like. We’ve also got hostages in the basement with a few guards, a ton of hostages on the ground floor, all guarded, a bunch here in some sort of room right under the information center, and some more hostages here on the seventeenth floor near this window and there, in what I assume is the information center. This is really blurry around here, but any topnotch information center has to have pretty heavy wards up, just to keep wizards and psychics and espers from stealing every bit of intel they’ve got. So I can’t tell you what we’ll face in there ahead of time.”
She shook her head. “No. Wish I could tell you more, but…”
“It’s pretty darn good, if you ask me,” grinned Chaka.
Lancer said, “Just the fact that they’re using charms to mask some of their tactics tells us a lot about ‘em.”
Bladedancer pointed out, “And it is not as if magic is our only resource.”
“Yeah. We’ve also got Captain Curmudgeon checking out the basement,” Toni helpfully pointed out.
“Don’t forget about me!” Generator insisted.
“Us!” replied Shroud.
“That’s what I said,” Generator frowned.
Lancer muttered, “You ought to ask Phase to pay someone to invent new pronouns for you guys.”
Jamie flew through the sky toward the skyscraper. Since she was the first spyspeck, she got to be Jamie. That was the deal. First spyspeck was Jamie, second was Jayna, third was Jaycie, fourth was… Well, they had names all picked out no matter how many spyspecks Jade made, since they knew she’d pass out way before she got to Jazz and Jacqui.
Jamie was off to check out the roof and the upper floors. Jayna was going to check the middle floors. Jaycie had the ground floor, especially the windows and doors.
Anyway, it was totally not fair that Ayla could go so darn fast when she wanted to. Jamie had tried and tried, and the best she could do – the best any of them could do – was if Hank or Billie threw them really hard, and then they tried to keep up the speed. They should’ve asked for that. She’d already be snooping around the roof by now.
She came up from just below the lower level of the roof, slipping in between the gigantic air conditioning towers. Uh-oh. If the air conditioning systems weren’t making any noise at all, then they were off. So it might be really hard, if not actually impossible, to get into the building that way. How was she supposed to play John McClain if she couldn’t fly through the air ducts? Yippie-kai-yay, and all that.
And there were cameras at each corner of the roof. Given how cruddy the mountings looked, she was figuring Lady Hydra’s badguys had slapped ‘em in place and were looking at their video feeds right this second. Too bad for them she was the size of a pea. A baby pea. Maybe even a dried pea. But not too tiny. Ayla got Jade a whole handful of ‘specks’ that were small enough not to get noticed, but big enough that she could see while she was flying around. Okay, she wasn’t seeing like a hawk, or even like Jade did normally, or even as good as Shroud’s normal vision, but she was seeing way better than with some of the really teensy things Jade had animated.
She flew upward a dozen feet and peeked over the edge of the heliport level.
She flew all around the edge of the heliport and counted. Nine… ten… eleven… Crud! There were twelve bad guys up here! And there was some kind of magic in the little box in the middle of the heliport, and she had no idea what that was. Ever since the ‘fountain of doom’ in that sim earlier in the term, she’d been kind of skittish about surprise magic thingies. Eight… no, nine of ‘em were holding weapons. Five with regular guns – one with an Eldritch-like M203, one with a big M-16 she was pretty sure, and three with submachine guns. Two others had big plasma rifles, and the other two had energy weapons she didn’t recognize. So far, so bad.
Then there were the three who weren’t carrying weapons at all. All three of ‘em probably had mutant powers, which was really not good. The woman in the minidress and boots had the ultraviolet around her head, so she was probably a Psi or Esper or Wizard. The big, muscular guy in the supersuit and stupid-looking helmet had it around his hands, so probably a big brick with Energizer blaster powers. And then there was the catgirl. It didn’t look like she was wearing anything except a belt with a big buckle that said ‘DK’ on it.
How were they supposed to save all those hostages all over the building if they needed the whole team just to clean off the heliport?
Jayna headed for the windows at the seventeenth floor. She wished she could’ve been Jamie. Jamie Bond was just a better name than Jayna. Well, she thought so. But no, she had to end up being the second Spyspeck, which was… Well, it wasn’t unfair, because someone had to be second and third, but it wasn’t okay either. Maybe they should have names like Jamie Ann, Jamie Beth, Jamie Cate, Jamie Dee… Like that. Then they could all be Jamie. What was so wrong about that?
It was a good thing she had something to aim at, because from far off she couldn’t tell which floor was the seventeenth, and close up every window looked the same. But the seventeenth floor had five satellite dishes and two things that looked like the receivers on cell towers, and a microwave transmission dish, and a couple things she didn’t know what they were. That data center had a lot of external connections. She couldn’t figure out why Lady Hydra hadn’t just hijacked one of them and robbed the data center electronically. It’s what she would have done. Ayla probably would have just paid some guy who worked there a gazillion dollars, and the guy would have copied it all down and sent it to Ayla, and the whole thing would be done with. But that was Ayla. Supervillains fought their whole lives to get as much money as Ayla probably blew on that birthday party.
She peeked as much as she could, even though she couldn’t see through most kinds of glass. The important parts of the data center were all interior rooms with no windows at all, so nobody would have been able to see in there. She tried each of the vents she found, but the whole building seemed to be sealed off. That was probably bad.
The floor below was pretty much the same, except the one big room with the five vibrating windows. She couldn’t see in, but she was probably the only one on the team – not counting Jinn – who would’ve seen the vibrations. She pressed up against one of the windows and was able to hear what was going on in the room. It was a bunch of scared people all yelling at each other about what they ought to do, since they were all trapped in there and their cell phones weren’t working anymore, and they couldn’t escape from a sixteenth floor window, and the bad guys in the hallway all had machine guns. And one guy was saying it was too crowded in the room, and one lady kept asking when she would get to go to the ladies’ room, and one loud guy kept yelling at everyone to shut up. That guy needed a really big wedgie. She was sure she had her wedgie-caterpillar in her bag. And if not, maybe Chaka would give the guy one of her super-duper Ki-powered super-wedgies!
Jaycie aimed for the front doors. She wished she could’ve been Jamie. Jamie Bond was just a better name than Jaycie. Well, she thought so. And she thought Jayna was a better name than Jaycie, too. But no, she had to end up being the third Spyspeck, which was… Well, it wasn’t unfair, because someone had to be second and third, but it wasn’t okay either. Maybe they should have names like Jamie Alana, Jamie Bethany, Jamie Catherine, Jamie Deanna, Jamie something-good-that-started-with-E-that she couldn’t think-of-right-then, and… Well, a lot like that. Then they could all be Jamie. What was so wrong about that? She needed to talk to Jayna about it, if she had a chance.
Okay, she had a way better assignment than Jayna. Front doors and back doors! Windows at the middle of the building? Bleh. The best Jayna would get was a trip through some dusty air ducts. Jamie might get to look over some bad guys staked out around the heliport, but so what? She was going to get to sneak in, and check on hostages and bad guys, and maybe help with the rescue! Yes!
No one noticed a tiny round speck doing a victory dance in mid-air, somewhere over the crowd of people behind the police barriers.
Jaycie flew up to about the fourth floor to zip over to the building. Then she slipped down the side of the building so she wouldn’t be noticed, even by someone looking for a tiny speck of trouble. She snuck over to the bottom of the front doors and started looking around. There was stuff like a brush to give the doors a decent protection against drafts, so she had to poke around a bit to find a weak spot she could push through without busting anything. The cracks between two doors was perfect. There was a little split right where the two doors met the floor.
Then she was in a little entry area with another set of doors on the other side. And there was a big canister of some kind of gas on the floor. She zoomed over and checked. She wouldn’t have been able to read the words on the cylinder, but they were painted on so she could make out the difference between the paint and the bare metal. Well, maybe it was bare metal. The tank said ‘ZV-4’ and had warnings on the other side. Things like ‘POISON GAS’ and ‘DO NOT RELEASE’ and other really worrying things.
The doors on the other side were all sealed. Someone had squirted some kind of caulk or paste along all the cracks, probably so none of the poison gas could get into the building. So she didn’t force her way through the caulk and maybe let poison gas leak into the building where all the hostages were.
She was really getting pretty ticked off at these guys. Boy, when she told Billie about the poison gas and the hostages, those guys would be sorry.
She flew back out and headed for some other door into the building.
She flew around the corner and found two plain doors with no outside handles. Both of them had lots of weatherstripping, so she had to push to get inside. And both doors were blocked. Not with a chair, or a file cabinet, or something like that, but with a whole hall full of heavy stuff. She could get through, and Phase could, but even Lancer might have a hard time budging this much junk. And there was no way he could do it without making so much noise that everyone on the whole floor would be alerted. She flew back out and went around to the back side of the building.
There was a big loading dock there, with a huge metal door that rolled up like a garage door and was maybe twenty feet across. Now this was more like it!
She couldn’t get under the door without making a noise, because it was sitting on some rubber weatherstripping, and she sure didn’t want anyone inside thinking goodguys were trying to break in. No, she was going to make sure the hostages were safe. She managed to squeeze past some brush-like weatherstripping on one side and get inside.
Uh-oh. There was a big bomb set right against the bottom of the garage door, with little clips going to the tiny crack between the floor and the lip of the door. If that door slid up even a fraction of an inch, then BOOM! And that would be really bad, because there were like fifty hostages sitting on the concrete floor there, with the bad guys out of sight so they wouldn’t get blown up if someone opened the door. And the hostages couldn’t move, because there was a huge pin sunk in the floor, with chains running off from it in every direction. It looked like everyone was handcuffed to one of the chains, so they were stuck staring at a bomb. Boy, these badguys were really creeps.
She flew through the hallway, past elevators and desks, to the front area. She could see maybe another hundred people crowded together in front of the front doors. If anyone tried to break in that way, all those people would get poisoned by the gas, assuming the armed bad guys behind them who were wearing gasmasks didn’t manage to shoot all of them first.
She checked out the other side of the building, and the two doors on that side were blocked off just like with the other side doors. She let go of the spyspeck and returned to Jade. She sure hoped Ayla was having better luck.
Phase flew into one of the two main basement areas. The elevators and some surrounding cinderblock walls made the middle part of the building look like hallways and rooms. But on either side was a massive, open area with only a dozen thick columns sticking up like stalagmites from what appeared to be fifty years of storage boxes and outdated furniture. And, on each of the dozen columns in each large room, was a massive collar of plastic explosives surmounted by an electronic detonation system.
There was no way to disarm all twenty-four bombs without the two two-man guard teams finding him, or coming across the remains of some disassembled bombs. Phase was certainly not going to use his Phase-disruption trick on the electronics, since he had learned enough about bombs and detonators to know that the electrical side-effects from his disruption were more than enough to risk setting off a detonator cap, which could then trigger a blast that could – in a worst case scenario – drop at least part of the building. No one but he and Tennyo were likely to survive something like that.
And, just to make things worse, there were dozens of hostages down here, all handcuffed to long chains that led to big metal pins sunk in one of the walls. The chains were long enough that the hostages could move around a little, but not so long that any of them could reach a bomb and attempt to disarm it.
He flew through the concrete floor to a far corner and came up behind the column that was most shrouded in darkness. Then he carefully looked over the entire explosive detonation system, including pulling a couple detonators out of the plastic explosive to make sure he knew exactly what was being used. He gingerly tucked the detonators back into the fictile material and moved on to his next inspection.
As he moved to check out the utility elevator that opened up on the sidewalk on the south side of the building, he stewed about the columns. He wasn’t an expert, but it looked professionally done to him. They could drop the whole building, killing everyone. With all these people chained in place, no one would have a prayer. And most of the people inside the police barricades would end up under a hundred tons of rubble, even if the building didn’t wreck any other structures. This was bad.
There was a massive sliding door covering the entrance to the sidewalk utility elevator, but it had several electronic sensors that had no business on a low-tech sliding metal door. He went light and stuck his head through the door to see what awaited some intrepid crimefighter.
Crap. Phase didn’t need to be Eldritch or Lancer to know what a claymore mine looked like. He had seen enough movies. And this wasn’t a claymore mine. It was an entire mattress of them, aimed at the heavily booby-trapped cover over the elevator. If one claymore could take out an Exemplar-5, what could forty of them do? And the elevator was wired so that no one could get in or out without a lot of ‘bomb squad’ work first.
Competent supervillains. Man, did he hate competent supervillains.
It was looking more and more like this was a job for all of Team Kimba, plus a couple Knights of Purity power armor teams, plus thirty or forty SWAT officers and an MCO armed copter, all in a massive coordinated assault. It was a good thing Everheart had spent all that time on Cordon and Search ops.
He took a deep breath and flew down into the concrete floor again. He came up by one of the concrete block walls around the elevator area, and phased through the wall into an empty room that was obviously used by the maintenance people. Mops, buckets, tools… There was pretty much everything a repair crew would need to fix an office chair or an office partition or a wall. He peeked through the wall and found the hallway with access to the main elevators. He flew across the hallway and found another two-man team checking the area. Great. Two two-man teams. They would have to take both out simultaneously, or take them silently and quickly enough that one team wouldn’t stumble over the bodies of the other team. He watched their movements as they walked on down the hall.
He flew up through the elevator shaft. All five elevators appeared to be stopped up on… floor seventeen. How interesting. He flew across the hall into the other elevator bank and found all but one of them way up on floor seventeen. So there was only one elevator accessible by the ground floor people, and it looked like no one was going to be using the elevators without Team Evildoer knowing about it. Great.
He flew up to the second floor and then phased through the floor into the drop ceiling over the first floor. There certainly wasn’t room for Spiderman to maneuver in there, but there was for someone who could physically co-locate with all the pipes and ductwork.
He peeked through a ceiling tile and looked over the main lobby area. Rats. Some kind of gas in a large tank in the lobby area between the inner and outer doors. Five henchmen in body armor, visored helmet, and integrated gasmask were standing guard behind dozens of hostages who were handcuffed in chairs that were set in front of the lobby doors. Each henchman had an Uzi, or something very similar in make. Each hostage very definitely did not have a gasmask. Okay, he had to assume the tank of gas was highly toxic but not an aerosol suspension or a nerve gas that could be absorbed through the skin. For either of those cases, the henchmen would be wearing better protective gear.
Or else Lady Hydra had decided to sacrifice these five goons when it was time for the big police intervention, and the gasmasks were there to make the minions believe otherwise.
Phase lifted his face back up into the drop ceiling and decided that he needed a better espionage system than ‘stick your face through the wall.’ Maybe Bunny would have an idea or seven. At worst, it had to be feasible to mount some sort of camera system on a fingertip so he could stick a finger through the wall and watch the output on the lenses of his facemask. That had to be less conspicuous than shoving his entire head through a barrier.
He checked around the main floor areas, and didn’t find any other people except at the loading dock area. Two minions with Uzis stood on either side of the hall that opened onto the area before the large rolling door to the loading dock. Well, he would be standing there as well, given the amount of explosive wired to the base of the dock door. The hostages chained in place looked pretty wretched, but no one was having a screaming fit. Yet.
He dove down through the elevator shaft into the basement, so he could fly through the ground over to the next building and make his way back up to the Team Kimba base on the roof. He wasn’t surprised that he was the last person to report in. Fey didn’t have to move, and the J-Team only had to ‘let go’ of their physical bodies in order to report back instantly to Generator. Toni was performing no-hands frontflips and backflips to burn off energy while she waited. Chou and Hank were watching her, while Billie chatted with Jade about what the J-Team had already found.
“About time,” Chaka muttered.
Phase said, “So sorry about the delay, but the traffic at this time of day is simply dreadful.”
Lancer sternly said, “When you’re done with the comedy routines, we can get all our intel reports.”
Ten minutes later, Lancer was scratching his chin and thinking over his options.
Phase said, “I suppose we can’t just make Lady Hydra’s minions inside the police cordon just keel over unconscious, so we can integrate with SWAT and the MCO?”
Chaka frowned, “Why would we want to work with the MCO? And can you not say ‘integrate’ in the same sentence with ‘em?”
Phase said, “We need two dozen policemen simultaneously handling all those bombs downstairs, so we don’t risk losing the whole building once they see us coming.”
Fey said, “Well, I can’t magically disarm twenty-four bombs without something to work with.”
Jade piped up, “How about detonators and C-4 and whatever so you can do a spell?”
Phase blushed inside his mask. “Sorry. I didn’t think to steal some of the bomb makings while I was down there. If you had a couple detonators or some of the plastic explosive, you could do a Law of Similarity spell, right?”
Fey nodded calmly.
Jade said, “Hey! No problemo. I got some of that stuff right here.” She stuck her hand into her bag and pulled out three clear plastic containers much like the compartmented container Fey had used to perform her ‘inspection’ spell. She handed them to Fey one after the other. “Here ya go. Detonators and such… Wires, electronics, and sensors… And this one’s got as many kinds of plastic explosive and high explosive as I could get samples for.”
Lancer whispered, “Holy shit.” Tennyo slapped her own forehead with enough force to knock over a horse.
Chaka did a double take. “Wait a minute, short stuff. You’re jus’ carryin’ explosives and detonators together around in that bag? What if a detonator goes off? That whole bag could erupt!”
Phase complained, “And do you have a license for any of those explosives?”
Generator fussed, “Hey, I got it covered! I got plenty of gear in between the detonators and the high explosives. And I keep the detonator box in a standard Workshop Faraday cage to cut down the risk of radio waves accidentally setting one off.” She glared at Phase. “AND I got a standard Workshop experimentation license, so I can carry ‘em around campus. So there.” She demonstrated her superior position by sticking her tongue out at Ayla.
Shroud added, “Nyah.”
Lancer asked, “Do we know which detonators or explosives are in use?”
Phase leaned over the box and pointed to a pair of Class B blasting caps. “These. About twenty per column.”
Fey grinned ferally. “Okay. We can knock out their detonators, and they’ll never know what hit ‘em. As long as we’re sure this is exactly what they’re using, and nothing else…”
Phase winced. “Sorry. I couldn’t pull a dozen bombs apart and inspect everything. They have guards walking the place.”
“Boy, these supervillains today. They’re so untrusting,” sniped Chaka.
Generator put her gear away in her purse of holding, while Fey focused on the detonator in her hands. She whispered words of power that made the air over her hands shimmer oddly, and then the shimmer seemed to fade out in the direction of the Weatherbee building.
The team waited for about twenty seconds, and Fey finally leaned back a bit. “Ahh. Got ‘em. Okay, building bombs out of commission. Next?”
Lancer said, “We need that masking spell you did when we had that ‘rescue the hostages from the terrorists’ scenario.”
Fey frowned. “That time, I only had to hide the building from three people, and we already knew where they were. This is a lot harder.”
Chaka said, “Well, give it your best shot, ‘cause if we can’t hide our attacks, this is gonna be pretty grim for a lotta hostages.”
Tennyo added, “And if you can keep those bozos on the roof from seeing us ‘til we get close enough to smash ‘em, that would help a ton.”
Phase said, “And we need to map out a strategy for the roof-ees.”
“Rufies. That’s a good one,” snorted Chaka.
“As I was saying, a strategy, because the J-Team gave us some real detail. Good job.”
Three voices simultaneously said, “Thanks!”
Phase looked around and realized that Generator and Shroud were now standing on either side of Spinner. He managed not to wince much at the thought of Spinner chewing through hordes of Lady Hydra’s mooks. He said, “If we have a woman who can use Psi or magic, that may knock out anyone except Tennyo and Fey. The blaster could be a problem for most of us. And I think I know who the catgirl with the belt is.”
“Da-yum! Do you just sit around and memorize MIDs or sumthin’?”
Phase went on as if Chaka hadn’t said a thing. “She wasn’t a were-cat, or a Miyet-type catgirl, right? She was more like an actress made up to look like a cat?”
Generator and Spinner both nodded. Generator said, “Yeah. She looked like she was going to go sing in ‘Cats’ or something.”
Phase sighed. “I was pretty sure as soon as you mentioned the ‘DK’ on her belt. I think she’s Duplikat. European supervillainess. She’s a power mimic.”
“I hate power mimics,” Lancer griped.
“Me too,” Tennyo frowned.
“Me three!” Generator chimed in.
Lancer said, “Okay, how big? Are we talking Duplex level, or Counterpoint level, or Mimeo?”
“Please don’t say Mimeo,” Fey whispered.
Phase shrugged. “No idea. I’m guessing Counterpoint, because she was pretty tough to stop. But all I know is what I read in the after-action report from the time when she and some partners hit Goodkind Europe’s HQ in Brussels. When she mimics, she gets pretty much a full copy of your powers, and she shifts into your shape.”
“So if we threw Igneous at her, she’d morph into a big rock guy?”
“Yeah,” Phase agreed. “And we don’t know how many people she can mimic at one time, but it looks like it’s only one person at a time.”
“Well, at least we get some good news outta this,” Chaka interjected.
“Yeah!” agreed Generator. “We just throw Fubar at her, and then she can’t breathe!”
Phase shook his head no at Chaka’s words. “Maybe, maybe not. That’s the best guess from some Goodkind Security analysts who looked at footage of the attack. It could be wrong.”
Lancer said, “Or out of date. We do know some people whose powers aren’t what they were six months ago.”
Chaka said, “Or…” She looked at Phase and stopped. “Never mind.” Oddly enough, Phase appeared to let it drop.
Lancer asked, “Okay Fey, can we pinpoint the rogue elements and cordon them off well enough to get police and MCO teams working with us?”
“That would be a big no,” Fey insisted.
“Shit,” the boy muttered. “Okay, we have multiple simultaneous objectives, and no backup. And there’s only eight of us.” Generator put her hand up, and Lancer corrected himself. “Maybe ten or eleven. That’s still not enough. So here’s what I’m proposing…”
<(Lancer) Everyone in position?>
<(Fey) Masking spell’s working, and it should handle the roof cameras too. If not, we’ll know pretty soon.>
<(Phase) In position.>
<(Generator) Jamie and Jayna oughta be through and in place by now.>
<(Lancer) Okay, remember. The building’s not gonna drop, so hostage rescue first, data center second. Air drop contact in five… four… three… two…>
Phase moved behind the first pair of minions and went disruption light. A wave of his hand through their heads, and they collapsed. He went heavy in time to catch both before they hit they concrete floor with a crash. Then he Phase-leapt through the block walls to surprise the other pair of minions.
Once he dropped those two yahoos, he Phase-leapt over to the hostages chained to the bombs. A fast light-heavy-light-heavy flicker through each chain, and the hostages would be free.
<(Fey) I think I’ve got the Badguy Minion Network on the comms. Hang on…>
Whaddaya mean radar says something’s coming straight down at the middle of the roof at 150 miles an hour? Are they dropping a bomb on us?
I see it. It’s a HER! And… holy shit!
When Lancer said an airdrop, he got an air drop. Tennyo aimed at the center of the heliport and went head-first at her top speed. Straight down.
She saw the minions scatter. She wanted one particular minion, and then anyone else would be gravy. The badguys were all figuring that she would hit head-first and crash. Or explode. They had no idea who they were dealing with. She had a funny thought of Ayla regally insisting, ‘you have no idea with whom you deal!’
When she was ten feet off the deck, she moved sideways. For most people, that would have meant crashing into the heliport deck at full speed with a little sideways motion added. Not her.
She moved sideways in an inertia-ignoring movement that had no vertical motion at all. She went straight sideways at full speed at the blaster and hit his chin hard enough that his feet left the ground and his body went horizontal. She hauled him with her and used his limp body to knock out two of the baseline minions on her way to the edge of the roof.
Then she went straight down at a hundred fifty miles an hour to the ground.
Fey was as close behind Tennyo as she could manage, but there was no way she could control her momentum like that. She veered in a steep curve, cutting it so close that she accidentally scraped along part of the heliport deck before she managed to gain a couple feet of altitude again. She flew past the Psi-Wizard-whatever and hit her with a sleep spell that dropped her face-first to the deck. The spell also caught three baseline minions who were unfortunate enough to be in the path of the spell.
Fey flew onward, diving over the edge of the roof and straight down toward the windows far below.
Chaka had to bite the inside of her mouth to keep from making a crack about the bald spots right below her and Bladedancer. They had a few seconds of visual screening, thanks to Fey’s spell, but that didn’t cover sound. The two of them were lightfooting it over the policemen. She saw a guy in an MCO windbreaker and suddenly had a terrific temptation to give the guy a quick, Ki-powered wedgie. But she didn’t want to get another five-minute lecture from Ayla on why the MCO are heroes and we shouldn’t set fire to their underwear and stuff like that. It would probably include several hundred four- and five-syllable words.
They couldn’t go through the airlock of the front doors because of that tank of poison gas. So Chou was making a beeline for a window just around the corner from the hostages and minions. Out came Destiny’s Wave, and with one quick sweep of the arm, there was a four-foot hole in the window.
Chaka had lobbied pretty hard for her being allowed to try a Ki-powered window fracture, but Hank had insisted on going with Destiny’s Wave. Something about it being quieter.
Bladedancer dove through the opening, and rolled to the side to get out of Chaka’s way. The two of them sprinted around the corner.
Jamie and Jayna had already split up, with Jamie headed for the loading dock at the rear of the building and Jayna hovering behind the five badguys with submachine guns guarding the hostages who were stuck by the front doors. Jayna really hoped no one busted the glass on the doors. It would be easier to kill everyone in the room by shooting out the glass than by making sure they shot each of the hostages.
Come to think of it, they could do both.
Jayna watched. As soon as one of the badguys yelled something about some motion outside, she moved.
She might be a little speck, but she still could move with over two hundred pounds of force. She came straight down on the leftmost bad guy, hitting his helmet so hard it rang. The guy’s knees buckled and he dropped to the floor.
All the other bad guys wheeled to see what the heck just happened, which wasn’t so great an idea. Especially when it meant they were looking away from Toni when she leapt out from the corner and yelled, “Chaka Chaka Bang Bang!” Unfortunately, Jayna was in the way of Toni’s Ki blast, and-
Jade was flying with Jinn holding her up. She twitched as Jayna flashed back into her head. Okay, at least the downstairs front hostages were safe. And she knew what the plan was if she got one of her selves back in the middle of the fight, so she did her job.
She was right behind Lancer and Shroud, which meant she got to see the fun as Tennyo and Fey clobbered those jerks. Even if she wasn’t supposed to cheer for Tennyo out loud.
She watched as Shroud landed right on top of a minion, hammering the guy into the deck. Lancer swept through two more minions, hitting them so hard they went flying off the heliport onto the lower parts of the roof. Ouch.
Shroud dove for Duplikat, while Jade pulled out her Cobra and blasted two more minions before cutting over the edge of the roof to dive down at the middle floors after Fey. They figured Duplikat wouldn’t get any powers off Shroud.
Duplikat dodged Shroud and leapt onto Lancer’s back.
Tennyo reached the ground in a little over a second, and she dropped the superpowered badguy in her hand right into a big dumpster. Actually, she didn’t know how long it would take her to fly at top speed from the roof to the loading dock, but Ayla figured it out while Lancer was making the suggestion.
One of these days, she was going to come up with something that stumped Ayla.
She wasn’t about to lift the door up or punch through it. Not with that big bomb stuck to the bottom edge. But she didn’t need to do anything like that.
She pulled her hands apart, and her sword was there. One big sweep with the tip, and a seven-foot circle of steel door fell to the ground. She flew in, just in time to see one minion flying across the hall, yelling in pain and apparently propelled like something small had him by the crotch and was using him as a jet-propelled anti-minion weapon.
The crash on the other side of the hall told her she was right. She hadn’t been Bill Wilson for a while, but the thought of having two hundred some pounds of force ramming right into your balls and not letting go, then driving you forty feet through the air into some other guy? Jeez. Her knees wanted to bend in and touch each other.
She started ripping chains loose and urging hostages to run out through the big hole.
A little ‘speck’ smaller than a pea flew into her ear and yelled, “Wow, that was so funny! You shoulda seen that guy’s face!”
Lancer and Duplikat crashed to the heliport deck, leaving a dent that would have held a full-sized bed.
Shroud flew over to the last two minions and dispatched them with two fast punches for each. She snatched up one of the massive anti-mutant weapons and whirled about.
There were two Lancers trading punches and smashing the heliport to shreds with every blow.
“Uh-oh.” <(Shroud) We have a glitch.>
Generator reached the seventeenth floor and found a huge hole in one window. There was another hole right below that. She knew Fey had blasted both openings and was on the sixteenth floor magicking badguys into sushi. She dove through the upper hole and headed for the minions guarding the data center.
Ayla led the first of the hostages up the stairs and to the loading dock exit. Once he was sure they were streaming out of the building, he went light and flew into the elevator shaft. As he flew up through a rising elevator, he saw that Bladedancer was in it and going up to the seventeenth floor.
“Stairs.” Bladedancer rolled her eyes.
“Should have known.” Phase flew up through the roof of the elevator toward his target.
Shroud saw that one of the minions wasn’t out cold, and was scrambling for a big weapon twenty feet away. She blasted him with her new toy and watched as he went sailing off the heliport deck. “Wow!”
She wheeled to face the two Lancers, who were wrestling a dozen feet above the wreckage of the heliport deck.
One Lancer hastily yelled at her, “Shoot both of us! It’s the only way to be sure!”
She immediately blasted the snot out of that one.
That Lancer was out cold before he hit the deck. ‘He’ started changing back to Duplikat instantly.
The real Lancer looked down at the unconscious power mimic. He said, “You know, that’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. Even James T. Kirk knew it.”
Shroud just said, “You would’ve used your Spot. That dodo didn’t even know we had ‘em.”
<(Lancer) Roof cleared. On our way down.>
Generator flew past the three unconscious minions into the data center. You’d think bad guys would figure out a little girl might be a threat when she was carrying a Cobra linear induction pistol and flying down the hallway.
Dummies. She had hit them with the light attack of her barrettes, and shot two of them with Taser shots before the third one even finished throwing up. And by then, Phase was flying through the wall, and the guy might as well have gotten Tasered, what with that disruptor-light trick Phase used.
Well, Phase hated using it on Exemplars, and Jade couldn’t blame him after what happened to Fireball. But Phase got to go wild with it in the holo sims, when she couldn’t really hurt anyone. So Generator didn’t even have to use her big surprise.
They sped into the data center, Phase cutting through the wall in case some bad guys were lurking in there to blast anyone sticking their noses through the main door.
Generator paused… “One Mississippi…” She flew through the door and found Phase hovering over two unconscious minions. One had an anti-tank rocket, and one had a combat laser. Boy, it was a good thing Generator had waited a second.
Then she looked at who was tied in the chairs, and she blinked in surprise.
<(Phase) Data center clear, but hostages are a bit of a shock. No Lady Hydra, of course.>
Fey flew into the data center, feeling the surprise ahead of her.
Goddess! No wonder. Phase and Generator were there looking at the ‘hostages’. Mrs. Bohn from Powers Theory lab, Mrs. Ryan from Costume Workshop, and Mrs. Hawkins from Admin were all tied in heavy wooden chairs. Mrs. Bohn and Mrs. Hawkins were still unconscious, but Mrs. Ryan was awake and alert.
Mrs. Ryan looked at them and said, “Oh my, I’m so glad it’s you. Where are the others?” As she said that, Bladedancer and Chou and Lancer and Shroud came barreling in.
<(Phase) All at target except Tennyo. Any problems?>
<(Tennyo) Flying up an elevator shaft right now. Be there in a few seconds.>
Lancer interrupted the little old lady. “Where’s Lady Hydra?”
Phase sank his hand through the knots of heavy rope and disintegrated the knots, freeing each of the old ladies. Lancer and Shroud helped the two unconscious ones to the floor.
Tennyo zoomed in just as Mrs. Ryan said, “She already got all the data downloaded.” Mrs. Ryan looked around at the team and smiled, “I’m so glad you’re all here.”
Fey noticed a little too late that she wasn’t getting any sort of emotional reading off the old lady. Nothing at all. Mrs. Ryan turned over her hand, revealing a small plastic remote control, as she pressed a button.
The defenses of the info center activated.
Energy traps activated, pinning Tennyo and Lancer and Phase and Shroud inside teardrop shapes of blue energy. Everyone else was blasted by energy beams, and dropped to the floor unconscious.
Lancer punched the energy walls of his prison, only to see the other teardrops flex. Phase screamed in pain, and Shroud crumpled. Oh crap. If his best shot would only kill his teammates, he had to find some other way out!
Tennyo felt the shocking impact, and hit back with a plasma-covered fist. She stared in horror as the energy was transferred to the other energy prisons. Phase screamed again and passed out. Shroud collapsed into a pile of parts inside a limp costume. Lancer was knocked to his knees. “Oh God, I’m sorry!”
Mrs. Ryan gracefully stood up. She dropped the floor-length granny dress to reveal a surprisingly-taut body dressed in a black domina-wear leather bodysuit and leather boots. A black leather belt that sat diagonally at her hips held a whip and several ammo clips. A pistol sat in a holster under her left armpit. She peeled the fake skin off her black leather gloves, and then she stepped out of the frumpy covers over the feet of her black boots.
She slid a half-mask over her face and pulled half a dozen pins out of her bun. Her no-longer-brunette hair fell down her back into the same hairstyle Lady Hydra had always worn. She smiled ruthlessly, her hard brown eyes glaring out through the eyeholes of the mask.
Suddenly the sweet American old lady voice was gone, replaced with a ruthless Eastern European purr. “You can always count on a hero to act heroic, if you give him the chance. You never stopped to ask why I would go to all this trouble, with dozens of henchmen and a hostage crisis, just for a data center that I could obtain with a simple bribe to some lowly tech. I was after the oh-so-powerful Team Kimba. And you thoughtfully brought all of it to me. Now I’ll take the Sidhe, and the Handmaiden, and the Ki Battery, and the Goodkind, and the anti-matter girl. They’ll fetch phenomenal prices on the black market. Especially the Goodkind, with her knowledge of family business enterprises. The rest of you? After I teleport away, I could send you a tactical nuke. But frankly you’re really not worth the expense.”
With a flash, Lady Hydra and five of the Kimbas vanished. A tank of poison gas fell to the floor and began leaking out green fumes.
Lancer held his breath and pounded furiously on the energy trap holding him, knowing he only had seconds before the gas killed Jade, and only minutes before it killed him. And if he didn’t escape, no one would know that the rest of TK needed to be rescued!
It didn’t matter how much energy got transmitted to the other energy traps now. No one was in them. He pulled out his paper swords. One hard jab up into the ‘teardrop’ tip of the energy bubble with a PK sword, and the whole energy trap shimmered. One of the other energy traps blew, flinging what looked like plasma across the room, disintegrating a bunch of computer boxes in the rack on the far wall.
But his trap was as strong as ever. Maybe stronger. Shit. At this rate, the gas would kill everyone in the room before he got close to escaping. He jabbed upward again into the tip of the energy bubble. Another trap exploded, setting fire to equipment behind it.
Spinner came rushing into the room. He was damn glad he’d asked Generator to start it up if any of her other ‘selves’ got totaled, and then hold it in reserve in case they got bushwhacked. It stopped in mid-air and looked around as if confused.
He yelled, “Get the projector over my head!”
It whirred up to speed and then dove into the ceiling. There was a crash and an electronic sizzle, and Spinner came flying back out, looking the worse for wear. It spun back up and dove back into the ceiling. There was a small explosion, and pieces of Spinner whirred through the air to embed themselves in the walls.
This time, when he jabbed with both swords, the trap erupted all around him. If he hadn’t been a PK brick, he probably would have been fried. As it was, the damn thing hurt like hell.
He ignored the pain and dove down to the floor. He scooped up Generator and the other two hostage victims. Then he flew out of the room and away from the gas. He just hoped he had gotten to the hostages soon enough. He was pretty sure Generator’s Regen would save her.
But he had to get help, and fast… As he flew down the hall, he pulled the miniature radio out of his pocket and began broadcasting on the police and FBI bands about everything. The hostage sitch, and the poison gas, and the kidnappings.
He figured he had a matter of minutes before Lady Hydra’s minions out there in the crowd tipped her off that he and Generator weren’t quite dead. So he needed to-
“Good afternoon, Lancer. The time is 2:15 pm on Thursday, February 22, 2007. Your team did not beat the scenario, but it has not been judged as a loss either.”
Hank snapped open the helmet, his frustration making it hard not to accidentally bust the thing. He was already out of the chair and halfway to the cubicle door when Bardue’s voice came blaring over the loudspeakers. “Team Kimba! Room 2 for debriefing! ON THE DOUBLE!!”
He flew into the hallway to find the rest of the Kimbas already there. Jade popped out of her cubicle and flew over to give him a hug. “Thanks for rescuing me!”
He grinned at her. “Sure. It’s not like I was gonna leave you in there.”
She said, “Yeah, but how often to I get hunky guys scooping me up and flying me off to safety? I mean Billie’s great, but she’s not all manly and muscle-y.”
They took off toward Room 2, Chaka leading the way and Phase moping along on their six.
As Hank expected, Bardue hardly let them sit before he was chewing them out for a host of failings. Splitting the team. Not checking every one of the hostages. The screw-up on the heliport. Not trying to set up a coordinated C & S with the police forces. The whole deal.
Gunny finally took a breath and asked, “Any comments, people?”
Hank stood up and said, “Yes sir. We did consider an integrated C & S process with the available forces. We concluded that wasn’t possible, once we learned that the enemy had spies in the ground forces. That meant we had to split the team into sub-groups in order to rescue all the hostages. We knew it was a risk, but we felt we had the personnel and the comms to make it work and to back up anyone who ran into trouble. And we had a couple of Generator’s… devises infiltrating already, to make it work. We had a glitch on the heliport, but a minor one. By not splitting up until we hit the heliport, we were able to take down the entire force up there without abandoning our other objectives.”
Phase said, “It’s completely my fault that I missed the fake skin on Mrs. Ryan’s hands.”
Chaka said, “No way, dude. Fey didn’t spot she was blocking emotions. Neither did Shroud or Generator. I didn’t spot that she was blocking everything else. I mean, I should’ve been able to see her Ki was all freak.”
Fey said, “She could have pressed that button even if we had spotted that something was up. And I looked at her boots. They did look a little odd. But there was no way we would’ve spotted those weren’t some plastic-looking granny shoes.”
Phase just frowned, “If I cost the team an ‘A’…”
“Jeez, obsess much?”
Generator said, “Oh! And we had Spinner as our super-secret emergency backup in case of a trap or an emergency, and it did a great job.” When Bardue nodded at her to keep going, she added, “And you said we couldn’t do the radioactive condor girl thing again…” She shrugged, while Chaka snickered and Tennyo buried her face in her hands.
Mrs. Ryan walked in, wearing one of her usual granny dresses, with a knit shawl over her shoulders. She smiled sweetly, “Really. Even if I wasn’t the Big Bad of the scenario in a disguise, I could have been a rival player, or mind-controlled, or an android, or a hologram, or a number of other things. Your empaths definitely let you down there.” She smiled mischievously at Bardue, “At least this is the first group that didn’t lose the entire building and all the hostages.”
Ayla and Jade and Jinn exchanged glances. After a term of costume class for Ayla and Jinn, none of them really thought Mrs. Ryan was just some helpless little old lady. But the real Lady Hydra? No way. That one was too far out there, even for Whateley.
Bardue smiled evilly as the Kimbas trudged out of the room, and he waited patiently until he was sure none of them could be near enough to eavesdrop.
He glanced over at the little old lady who had once terrorized three continents. "Well Mrs. R, up for another sim? We've got S.T.A.R. League Junior coming in next."
The sweet voice vanished, and an accented voice - a voice that was still intimidating decades after Lady Hydra had ‘retired’ - malevolently purred, "But of course, Herr Bardue. In the last sim, I didn't even haff time to give zem my evil laugh.” She clenched her fists and looked at the ceiling. “BWA-HA-HA-HAH!"