A Whateley Academy Vignette
by Kristin Darken
Fort Myers, Florida
October 10, 2004
The super-group Baker’s Dozen were not particularly welcome in Fort Myers but were being tolerated. They were famous, infamous really, for their vigilante activities in Tampa but few of the non-powered locals really agreed with their methods. In reality, these self-proclaimed heroes were little more than villains who took out their own kind. Still, they were helping out with the post-hurricane devastation and that was an effort that was more suited to super-humans than regular rescue workers. There’s only so much a man with a chainsaw can do to prevent further damage on the street level and to neighboring buildings from multi-story buildings with damaged facing, windows and worse. A few fliers and telekinetics made a world of difference.
The average citizen was going about his daily routine, though there was an unpleasant hush to the streets that spoke volumes about the emotional impact from the storm. It would take a long time before anyone would forget the sound of the howling wind and the violence it perpetrated. In its own way, the hurricane had proven nature itself to be as much a terrorist as those who had destroyed the Trade Center in New York.
Baker had brought his team in to help out in the hopes that it would earn them a little credit with the locals; which they needed desperately after the little fiasco with the popular cheerleader at FSU. Even after she’d been revealed as a super-villain who’d knocked over several jewelry stores in Atlanta, the Tampa locals had tried to get them locked up for putting her in the hospital. He’d tried to take her in peacefully… but she’d resisted. She’d resisted a whole lot.
The Feds had convinced them to drop the charges after Baker had one of his teammates pull some strings. After all, the girl was a criminal. Her college girl popularity shouldn’t give her the right to steal without paying the price for it. Especially since most of that popularity was probably earned by sleeping with the football team.
Public relations were typically Kimmy’s problem but she’d suggested that they come down here and help out, so here they were. Even her powers, mundane and supernatural, couldn’t convince people to like the Dozen if there wasn’t some kernel of feeling there to start with. At least they weren’t doing this instead of something else; the villain community seemed as staggered by the power of the hurricanes as everyone else.
Jacob Baker was doing his thing down by the waterfront. His thing was projecting cube shaped fields of energy that kinetically accelerated matter inside them, increasing heat and pressure during the time they were enclosed. His ovens, as he called them, weren’t quite the same as pyrokinesis but they worked a lot more effectively for contained situations than the typical fire-bug. At the moment, he was cooking down raw materials into easily moveable sections that could be cleared by one of the brick twins, Rocky and Bullwinkle.
“Hey Baker,” a woman’s voice spoke in his earpiece. The ID chirp before and after the signal told him, even if he didn’t recognize the voice, that it was Handler. He looked up to where she’d last been working as she continued. “I’ve got this next section freed up, where you want it?”
He looked around. There were a couple ovens still burning but the twins had cleared a good-sized section of the high-temp bins near the entrance to the parking lot. He started toward it.
“Over here should be good,” he told her, pointing at the spot he was considering. As he did, several of her mechanical creatures clamped to the large piece of concrete and steel floated toward the spot. While Handler had a moderately good telekinetic ability, certainly strong enough to cut and shape pieces of debris like this, her true genius lie in gadgets like the one that let her fly and these ones that she controlled with a devise that she claimed was part telekinesis and part radio. It was science that would tie knots in the brain of even the best technical experts… only another deviser would bother trying to duplicate the effort.
As soon as the piece hit the bottom of the bin, the gadgets released it and flew back towards their mistress. He pictured the cube around the junk and manifested the oven. In a few minutes, the concrete would have cooked off it and the metal would be ready to cool into a block shape defined by the bin it was in. Once it cooled enough to solidify, it would be ready for the guys to move it.
“This place reeks,” commented a voice from the street behind him.
“Tough,” he replied, turning to see who the voice belonged to. It wasn’t one of his team members.
“Couldn’t you clear it out of town before melting it down?” The voice belonged to some kid, a scrawny geek probably barely into high school.
“Too much work kid. They won’t reuse most of it, just the metals, this little bit of smell is the price for saving thousands of dollars in work crews and trucks to get it all out of here.” He wasn’t sure why he was talking with the kid anyway. Besides, civilians weren't supposed to be in the area for safety reasons. “You aren’t supposed to be close enough to smell it anyway, do I need to get someone to escort you out of here?”
“It’s Jack… not kid. You can smell it all over town,” the kid complained. Baker took a step toward him, looking menacing. The boy backed off and held his hands up as the scowl crossed the older man’s face. “Fine… I’m gone… just taking a short cut home from work anyway.” The boy pointed up the street at the Gamers’ Emporium, some sort of local video game place Baker had noticed earlier. As he turned back, the kid was already heading away.
Baker watched the kid trudge away, almost sorry for him for some reason. There were plenty of times when he wondered what might have happened to him if he hadn’t gained the ability to form ovens. He’d had every inclination that he’d be like that kid, small and weak and without many prospects, but then he’d started changing. He’d started bulking up and he’d have been a potential athlete in any school but Whateley, assuming the school was too backwards to do testing for mutations or didn’t restrict them from playing.
He tapped his communicator key. It chirped.
“Vulture.” The system chirped again as it directed his call. “Hey Jill, got a kid wandering through the parking lot. I’m pretty sure he’s what he said he is, but let’s make sure, eh?”
“Check boss. I see him.”
“He’s heading home from work at the game shop down the street.”
“Ok.” The system chirped a release signal.
He glanced up, but as usual the girl was far out of his sight circling over the area watching for signs of trouble. The doctors claimed it wasn’t normal sight, even like the birds she’d taken her name from, because if she had line of sight she could see it. She was nearly the perfect recon agent but her flight and vision were the extent of her powers. So, she couldn’t do anything but report on it. She was the main reason the team had looked into a top-notch communications system. What was the point in having the ideal field data but having it jammed or out of reach when you needed it?
“Another piece Jacob.”
“Put it right next to the last one.”
He was starting to wonder where the twins had gotten off to when the younger one waddled his way across the street and into the parking lot. For twins, the two were about as dissimilar as was possible. Rocky was a short stocky guy with chiseled features and built like the brick he was. His younger brother was tall, thin, and awkward looking and just as strong and even more invulnerable. He made up for the advantage by being a lot less bright than his older brother.
“Hey Bullwinkle, how’s the truck looking.”
“It’s Moose, Baker.”
“How’s the truck look?” Baker asked again. The brick corrected everyone each time they called him Bullwinkle but no one ever called him Moose. He was slowly working his way through the description of how many more cubes of metal the truck would hold when their communicators chirped.
“Got a flier inbound from the direction of Tampa, wake of rainbow refracted light behind him and a bright object held out in front of him. Looks like our old buddy,’ came the warning from Vulture.
“Scramble everyone. How long we have before he’s here?”
“Less than two minutes.” The comms chirped and Vulture repeated her message on the all-call.
They weren’t ready when their opponent pulled his right angle turn about thirty feet above their formation in the parking lot. The sonic boom and wind impact hit a moment later, scattering the non-bricks. Rocky and Bullwinkle tossed large cubes of metal at the retreating shape. Fortunately, they were flying in the direction of the Gulf and weren’t likely to hit anything that the locals wanted left intact.
“Coming back at you,” came their report.
They’d been fighting this guy, Beam or something like that, on and off for months in Tampa. He considered them villains and was determined to make them pay for what they’d done. Baker had about had it with him.
“Vulture, give me a 200 yards warning. Fliers to ground level.” He’d given this guy too much leeway; it was time he paid.
“3… 2… 1… Mark!”
Baker manifested an oven that was nearly as large as their formation just above where Handler had been hovering with her creations. Then, he poured everything he had into it, pushing the air inside into inferno status almost instantly.
“Holy shit!” came a shout as someone recognized the blurred walls of the cube. His team scattered, having seen what this sort of thing did when he released the boundary. The superheated air would erupt in a fireball, roasting anything nearby.
Baker didn’t have time to release the walls before their attacker punched into the side of it. The gas erupted from the hole, creating a fountain of flames nearly a hundred yards back toward the water. The flier twisted and came out the side, looking burned but not crisped or dead, but at his speed was unable to avoid the building the team had been working on. The second spout of flame followed him into it. A moment later, the force of the impact and superheated air blasted a large section of the building into pieces. The rest collapsed in on the hole.
The team watched, expectantly, until after the rumbling subsided. The sound of sirens was building nearby. They exchanged looks before looking to Baker for direction. He released the remains of the oven, the pressure already drained out the two holes punched in it.
“Back to work kids, we got some free help on demolitions but we’ve got plenty more to do today.”
They sighed and headed back to their assignments. Whatever happened, they knew Baker would take care of them. He always did. The team leader waited until everyone had gone before tapping his communicator again.
“Kimmy.” The device chirped. It was followed by a long pause before a second chirp signaled that she’d connected.
“It’s Baker. We’ve got a bit of something for you to handle.”
“What? Aren’t you still in Fort Myers?”
“Yeah… look, that Beam character just attacked us while we were working down here.”
“So? Isn’t that place already slated for demolition anyway?”
“Uh… true… but he might be dead somewhere in the rubble. I don’t know what the locals saw, but I thought you’d better know. I think the police are on their way.”
“Oh, Baker.” There was a long moment of silence. “I’m on my way.”
The line disconnected. He sighed and went back to work. There was a lot left to do and they needed the help for their reputation.