Steel City

Hell Is War

Present

  • Hadley “Volt” Ramirez
  • Izzy “Canadian Lass” Traynor
  • NFN “99 Per Cent” NLN
  • Vieno “Huitzil” Lipponen
  • Dragoneye

Hadley “Volt” Ramirez (who I guess owns property?) gets an interesting phone call from Tony, one of his property managers; apparently a previously vacant lot Hadley owns now has a Yuan Dynasty era court building on it and Tony isn’t 100% sure how to proceed. Complicating matters is the fact the building is definitely occupied and the inhabitants – at least one ox-headed man and at least one horse-headed man – have taken prisoners for no reason they care to explain.

Because that’s not odd enough, an old lady approaches Tony with a letter addressed to Volt. The envelop looks almost as old as Volt. The letter was given to a lawyer to hold for Volt long enough ago that he has died of old age; the old lady is his daughter.

For some reason the crowd around the court house starts shouting about “penguin”. Why they would do this is not immediately clear to Tony.

In what turns out not to be a coincidence, the court house is in Steel City’s Chinatown, traditionally Dragoneye’s purview, and it does not take long for him to hear about what is going on. Because Dragoneye took time to get a sticky bun (you don’t want to be fighting on an empty stomach), Hadley is already on site when Dragoneye gets to the courthouse. When he shows up, he realizes that he is looking at the court house of the Yama King Peng Deng, who deals with crimes like murder and treason (and the crimes other courts cannot be bothered with).

The old lady also puts in a call to the Sentries. Izzy is busy checking on the mental state of her roommate (who isn’t going to starve to death as long as other people bring her food, so yay?) and Huitzil is busy doing the paperwork for the Future Foundation so it’s 99 Per Cent who gets the call. She gives the cops a call; the cops’ reaction is to explain they leave Chinatown stuff to Dragoneye.

Dragoneye drops out of sky to interrogate Hadley because Hadley is a white guy in Chinatown and therefore suspicious, particularly under the current circumstances. Hadley knows who Dragoneye is, a mage who inherited his title and powers from the previous Dragoneye, but while the previous guy was a prominent crook, the new Dragoneye seems OK.

Hadley is aware that the vacant lot has a troubled history. The local did not want the lot on built because the building that was there was the home of the Jade Lotus, a hero way back in the 1950s. They couldn’t keep the building from being torn down but the locals have managed to block any attempt to put up something new.

Hadley convinces Tony that maybe hanging around a magical courthouse is a bad idea. Once Tony is gone, Hadley can change to Volt.

99 Per Cent and Huitzil show up as an older man in robes walks up street with eight thugs in modern clothes chiving him along. The goons are from the previous Dragoneye’s gang. I don’t seem to have kept useful notes on the old fellow, except that he is old enough to have seen the courthouse from the last time it manifested, back in 1952. Jade Lotus seems to have driven it away (?) but when it left, Jade Lotus was still inside and he has not been seen since.

Because the gangsters are sure the new Dragoneye is going to turn out to be like his uncle, they follow his orders when he orders them to secure the perimeter. One of them gets too close to the front door and is dragged inside; what the characters with special perception powers can tell is that the goon is converted into a demon within moments of getting inside.

The other thing 99 Per Cent, Canadian Lass and Dragoneye can tell is that the courthouse is much, much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Of course.

Jade Lotus is still inside, looking more revenanty than he used to.

The letter (from Peng Deng to Volt, I think) explains what is going on: Back in 1945, a British sorcerer named Magister Angle found a Yama King and on the assumption anyone Asian had to be a Jap, Angle killed the Yama King. This has not gone over well with Peng Deng and he wants Angle to hand himself over for justice.

There is a small complication in that Angle seems to have been killed by a German superhuman named Hexenwolf soon after killing the Yama King.

Rather than allow Peng Deng to exit his courthouse and spread havoc, Jade Lotus used his control of time to punt the courthouse into the future to buy time. He had to go along for the ride and the process killed him. Mostly.

There is a current Magister Angle, a woman who has provided a number of somewhat contradictory origin stories; best guess is she found some artifacts and assumed the name of her more famous predecessor. Izzy gets Angle’s mobile number from UNTIL and calls her (at work in a chippie, as it turns out): Angle seems a bit clueless but she does share what little she knows about the previous Angle.

It turns out there are at least four explanations for why Angle vanished and not much in the way of actual evidence for which one is correct. Maybe Hexenwulf killed Angle. Maybe he didn’t.

(I don’t think anyone thought to see if Hexenwulf is still alive)

Interestingly, there’s an indirect connection between Hexenwulf and the Yama Kings, via a tome the Library, the group Hexenwulf belonged to, had access to.

With Dragoneye in the lead, the group ventures inside. It turns out the demons are very bureaucratic but because they are generally recruited from the duller sort of criminal, not that bright and so the group is able to double-talk their way past them.

After a long, long journey through the courthouse, the group reaches Peng Deng in his court. Jade Lotus looks at them, says “At last” and dies.

It turns out Peng Deng admits to no limits on his authority and insists that everyone with a soul who dies will come to his court to be judged, unless some previous court judges them first. It has not escaped his attention that most people do not show up in his court, for which he has a perfectly valid explanation: most people must either lack souls or be immortal.

In the case of Angle, he is convinced that Angle must have a soul but probably hid it in a duck’s egg, inside a hare, inside a chest buried under the roots of a mighty oak tree, on an island in the middle of the ocean because sorcerers are always pulling that kind of crap. He orders the group to bring him the duck egg he is sure exists.

There is a certain amount of heated discussion at this point. Huitzil does not want to give in the Yama King’s delusion that his law trumps American law, while Volt is more interested in finding ways to monetize the situation.

Dragoneye notices that while Jade Lotus himself is dead, his rings are glowing brightly and Dragoneye knows enough to know one of them does time manipulation. A new plan presents itself: use the rings to travel back to 1945 to grab Angle, frame Hexenwolf, and deliver Angle to Peng Deng. What could possibly go wrong?

Aside from noticing just moments after appearing in WWII England that a surprising number of weapons are pointed at the group, I mean.

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Draft Dodging

I missed thWith the help of Dragoneye, latest in a line of Chinese sorcerers, the team managed to defeat the alien who was planning on converting humans into an army of super-humans to throw at the Devourer. Earth is saved! Some other places are doomed! Messiahs or what?

For some reason Dragoneye was not offered membership in the Sentries. Or in the Future Foundation, for that matter.

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The Death of Empire

I missed one episode: all I know is someone shut down Huitzil’s abilities and then hit them hard enough that they were out of it for the whole session.

When Huitzil regains consciousness, they and the rest of the groud are in an unfamiliar city populated by brightly coloured humanoids. The sky has two moons and no zeppelins, so this is an alien world and not alternate history.

Unlike a lot of interplanetary transportation systems, whatever brought the group to this world didn’t include a free translator. With no idea what the people around the group are sayin 99 Per Cent tries to read the minds of the locals. Unfortunately, this is interpreted as an attack and the group is immediately swarmed by armed people in uniform. Soldiers? Cops?

Huitzil uses their comparatively small size to hide in plain site behind the guy in charge of the folks with the blasters. Volt goes intangible. The party’s hosts are not keen on this and open fire on 99 Per Cent. Izzy steps in the way and to her surprise is actually mildly bruised: the blasters these guys have – “delameters” – pack a punch.

Happily a green skinned woman intercedes before things go completely pear-shaped. She speaks English – did we ever find out why? Don’t think so – and she can act as our translator.

The world the party has been transported to is Talusia, capital of the Talusian Empire. The Empire is one front in a grand war against the malevolent Boskonians (who themselves seem to catspaws of some other forces). The party’s appearance was interpreted as a possible Boskonian incursion.

[Because back in the 1980s, one of the characters in the Concord was the Lensman, whose impressive powers were handicapped by the player’s cursed dice]

Right now the main worry is a Boskonian weapon called “the Devourer of Worlds”, a living singularity that is totally not Galactus. The Devourer is preceded by a “Bronze Harbinger” and somewhat worryingly, the Bronze Harbinger’s flying saucer is in orbit over this planet.

Happily, a Grue – alien shapeshifters working for Boskone – decides to stage an assassination attempt and even better, Huitzil spots this in time to interpose themselves between the assassin and its target (which thanks to a crappy roll on my part got Huiztil blown out of their sneakers). Volt tazer snares the Grue and when it starts muttering something like “I am a ten second bomb”, Izzy flies it up high enough that the only damage is to Izzy’s costume when she gets alien goo all over it. Even happier, the locals take all this at face value and not a set up.

The green lady explains that the group is not really on are not on Talusia; instead the group’s forms on this world are hard light projections, with feed back to the characters’ true bodies. Damage to the projections cannot kill the originals; at worst, if knocked out the characters will wake on Earth.

Having read some comics as a kid, Huitzil tosses out some bad ideas to deal with the Devourer. It turns out Jack Kirby may not be the best guide to how deal with world eating monsters.

Suddenly the Bronze Harbinger manifests to tell everyone at great length that the planet is doooomed, doooooooomed. This goes on for some time and hoping for a break in the monologue, Volts nails the Harbinger with a bolt of lightning.

Which has no effect, not even rating a pause in the rant.

What follows is an amazing series of “Lensman rolls”, with fumbled feints, move-throughs that are just move-passeds, brain-crushes that slide off the Harbinger’s well-focused mind and so. The Harbinger does not pause his rant until Huitzil thumbs his eyes out (at the cost of their thumbs) and even then it seems to be more of a momentary pause.

One by one the party is struck down. When all seems lost, the green skinned woman sends us all back to Earth. The fate of Talusia seems likely to be unpleasant.

Back on Earth, Izzy wakes to find Hightower and Brutinax (the alien from out in the lake). Hightower has agreed to built the alien an amplifier of some kind but this is clearly some kind of con Hightower is running to buy time. Hightower claims he needs Volt to help him finish the amplifier. Volt is, of course, the one who knows how to jam the mind control back door on the nanites.

Brutinax, it seems, is making superhumans to fight the Devourer and the fact that the Devourer will just … devour everything thrown at it does not seem to deter Brutinax in the least.

As the characters return their bodies on Earth, Thornbird shows up, extremely pleased that her claim that that aliens were plotting to take over the world was totally correct and in no way ha ha ha mad. She’s brought her kids with her and she has a plan to handle Brutinax and his giant robot: she is depending on the Sentries to pull something out of a hat at the last minute.

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Tonight's adventure

Takes place (in part) in The Packard Plant

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Episode 9: It's a Trap

The Trap Is Sprung

En route to the warehouse, Ninety-nine Percent scouted ahead using her remote viewing: An empty warehouse with a truck parked outside. The roof supported a closet-sized exit and a variety of vents and pipes. Inside, it was mostly one room, scattered through with bins of oily dark water and piles of sand and sawdust, with sewer vents through the floor and a set of oddly high-tech cameras scattered throughout to provide surveillance. There was also a tree there.

“Crap,” said Ninety-Nine Percent. She was thinking a word somewhat stronger than “crap.”
“What?” asked Izzy.

“Eden. That tree-woman we told you about. So one of the piles of sand is probably Jet, and the water one…Hydrowoman? No, Gulfstream…is in one of the bins there. There should be an air one, his name is Gust, and a fiery speedster, Zippo.”

“No sweat if it’s a trap,” said Huitzil. “Even with Eden, even match.”

Above the cooling equipment was the “second floor”—a small office with two rooms. Hightower was shackled to a table saw with some kind of death ray apparatus above him. The Big Brain floated there, possibly questioning him, but that must have been mental: it wasn’t audible. Ninety-Nine told the others.

“Well, now we’re definitely outnumbered,” said Volt. “And one of them is, you’ll pardon me for saying this, one of the most powerful telepaths on the planet.”

“Oh, right now,” said Ninety-Nine. “I’ve had my powers less than a week. Remind me why we are doing this again.”

“Because you made an inspiring speech about how Hightower was a person and the others were just things,” said Izzy.

“Right,” said Ninety-Nine. “I forgot.”

“Also, Hightower is bankrolling us,” said Huitzil.

“So we avoid the trap,” Ninety-Nine said. “Why not quick and dirty? What if Izzy and Volt rip a hole in the roof, Huitzil jumps in and grabs Hightower, then jumps out, we leave? We avoid fighting, and we get a moral victory.”
“Fine with me,” said Izzy.

“Big Brain will probably not get involved; he likes to lead from behind. He’s a psychic projection or something.”

“You can’t hit him?” asked Huitzil.

“You can, but if you hit him hard enough, he just disappears. Goes back to his body.”

“How do you know all this stuff?” asked Volt.

“I read the Internet.”

Volt said, “I always get the stuff about using this one weird trick….”

%Mental contact on,% said Ninety-Nine. %I don’t see Zippo.%

%If he’s fast enough, he could be out of sight and still get here,% Izzy replied. %We have a plan. Let’s go.%

Volt and Ninety-Nine Percent stayed on the hoverbikes. Izzy and Huitzil took off.

On Volt’s %Mark!% both Izzy and Volt concentrated on a section of roof, and tore it away. Huitzil jumped down and said, %First problem. I can’t break these shackles.%

%I thought you could!% said Ninety-Nine.

%I couldn’t even get my mother out of wood!% Huitzil said. %Izzy, can you lift the whole thing? Don’t whack Hightower on the edge of the hole.%

%Easily.%

To avoid wasting the opportunity, Huitzil turned and thumped the Big Brain solidly.
%I said don’t get him involved!% said Ninety-Nine.

%Too late. And it’s not like I even managed to hurt him,% replied Huitzil.

Ninety-Nine sighed loudly up on her hoverbike and pre-emptively tried to crush the Big Brain’s mind, but his mental defenses were too strong. Her “grip” slipped right off.

Izzy flew into the hole to grab the table but a tendril of sand flowed under the door and onto her leg. “What the hell—?” she said aloud. While she was distracted, Hightower disappeared from the table, leaving only open shackles and the smell of burning hair.

The gusts of wind in the room blew open the door and forced Huitzil to the ground; the wings were useless in near-hurricane winds. Gust was visible as a cloudy patch in the air, hovering on the edge of definition.
Up on the roof, a flaming man appeared. Both of the Sentries there were on hoverbikes and he couldn’t touch them. Volt blasted at him, but missed.

Ninety-Nine tried again to hit the Big Brain and this time she thought she had found a weak spot—but to no good. She decided that she could at least enrage Eden. “Huitzil! Just stay there in the office. We know you’re vulnerable to wood!”

The flaming man pointed up at Volt’s hoverbike and started rotating his hand in a tight circle. There was a muffled pop and his hoverbike started to sink slowly. The man grinned, though it was hard to tell with the flames. “Batteries,” he said. “They give out at the most inconvenient times.”

The hoverbike was sinking slowly (Safeties! thought Volt). Volt took a careful shot at Zippo and hit, but didn’t seem to hurt him.

That was when the wind blew Ninety-Nine high into the air to a dizzying height—or what would have been a dizzying height if Ninety-Nine Percent couldn’t hover. Rather than show off, she decided to wait and see. Best to keep that in reserve.

The Big Brain refocused his psychic protection on the main floor, with relative safety.

Pulling harder this time, Izzy took off, straight up, through the roof, while focusing her heat vision at Jet’s grip on her ankle. He didn’t let go.

Instead, the rest of him as sand swarmed up Izzy’s body until she was encased in it, blind and unable to breathe. That didn’t bother her yet, but she noted that Jet-as-sand had a peculiar musky odor and she wondered if men made of sand had to shower. She hoped they didn’t, or if they did, that at least he had.
Since he was encasing her, he’d take the damage from flying through the roof, she figured, and she went straight up, through the roof, a few hundred feet into the air. Then she carefully exhaled, hoping to blow him off her face, anyway.

Volt took a shot at him as Izzy zipped by, but to no avail. Volt looked at his hand. “Maybe I should get this thing replaced.”

Huitzil heard a familiar wet schlurping sound that meant that Eden was growing a new body nearby.
%Thanks for alerting her,% Huitzil said mentally.

%You’re welcome,% said Ninety-Nine.

%It was sarcasm.% Huitzil aimed at the switch for the death ray; the first shot missed, due to the buffeting winds that Gust was maintaining. Huitzil had a plan.

Because she knew she was safe either way, Ninety-Nine kept assaulting the Big Brain mentally, hoping to keep him too busy to try anything.

%Kinda busy,% said Izzy. %Go ahead without me.% Jet’s attempts to squeeze her into unconsciousness were laughable; she could hold her breath for a long, long time. She blew with super-breath to clear her face, and looked down at her leg. Her heat vision might have hurt Jet, but it had also fused his “hand” into a ring of glass wrapped around her leg, so he couldn’t let go even if he wanted to.

Volt helped by shooting Jet.

Animate wooden arms encircled Huitzil. %I nominate Eden,% said Huitzil, and took a second shot at the switch for the death ray. This time it flicked on, and a lance of sickly green light stretched down to the table, making the metal start to glow with heat.

Volt shot Eden and connected. %Let me get this straight,% he said, % ‘everyone’ is me and Huitzil?%

“So you need this many people to help you?” Huitzil said to Eden, and twisted her into the path of the death ray. Eden screamed, and the smell of smoky green wood was suddenly everywhere. Eden rolled, pushing Huitzil toward the beam, but Huitzil dodged and managed to avoid the beam entirely.

Volt and the hoverbike settled on the roof with a loud thud. Zippo was right beside him and touched his shoulder. He supposed that pain would blossom through her arm if he had managed to touch, but Volt was intangible by then.

%Dropping the link for a moment to see where Hightower is,% Ninety-Nine said before she scanned the main floor. Ah: Hightower was between the Big Brain and Gulf, lying limp and nearly unconscious.

That was the moment that the Big Brain needed to reach Izzy’s mind. Izzy realized with sickening clarity that Ninety-Nine Percent was trying to kill them all. Izzy went further with the thought than the Big Brain had expected, though: Since that homicidal urge seemed uncharacteristic, Ninety-Nine must have been taken over by another telepath, and one of the strongest ones in the world was right there. “The Brain!” she shouted. “He’s taken over Ninety-Nine.” She dove down through the roof again. Hey, she thought, if Jet’s gonna hold onto me like ablative armor, let him ablate.

“I’m not—” started Ninety-Nine.

Zippo was gone in a moment; through her remote view, Ninety-Nine saw him arrive to protect the Big Brain.
That was when the door burst in with a tidal wave of water. For a moment, no one could see anything and then the seething pond sank a bit. Gust shot upward, carrying Ninety-Nine to a dizzying height…or what would have been a dizzying height if Ninety-Nine knew that she could hover.

Volt sighed in disgust. “A pickup basketball game has better teams.” Without Gust, he was sure that Zippo would be extinguished…but of her teammates, only Eden was still in the office. “Water should conduct electricity well,” he said, and fired at Gust, who took it all and collapsed in human form.

“Since you’re here,” murmured Ninety-Nine to Gust high in the sky, “that pain you feel is me crushing your head.”

Izzy’s first shot at the Big Brain was intercepted by Zippo. “Enough,” said the Big Brain. “We can destroy you at any time. And we have footage that will show we soundly trounced you. Time for all of us to go.”

And he winked out of existence.

Zippo was gone next; he was seen collecting Gulf. Gust was nowhere to be found, and Izzy collected Ninety-Nine Percent before she hit the ground. “I’m fine now,” said Izzy. “You’re not trying to kill us.”
“When he went away, the conviction did too?”

Izzy nodded. Jet breathed loudly or made a sound; she took a moment to hit him again.

They descended into the office. Huitzil and Volt were both fighting Eden, but every once in a while she’d teleport into a new body and be partially refreshed. Izzy looked at Ninety-Nine. “Be my guest,” said Ninety-Nine.

In three punches, Izzy knocked out Eden.

Volt looked at the two unconscious villains. “We’ve got two of them, but you know that the Brain’s going to edit that footage to make us look bad.”

“Got it covered,” said Ninety-Nine. “An acquaintance has been sitting on a ‘FOE: What Secret Plan Are They Hatching?’ article for a few days now, and will release it for me.” Actually, she hadn’t written it yet, but it seemed like a good idea to put some opposite spin on it. “So: How do we deal with these two? You know they’re just going to escape. Kill them?” She saw the shocked looks from everyone else, and added lightly, as though it were a joke, “Painlessly, of course.”

There was silence for a moment. Then Izzy chuckled. “‘Painlessly, of course.’ You’re a card.”

“I think the Confederacy of Justice owes us for attacking last week,” said Huitzil. “And they have working power dampers. When these two escape, it’s the CoJ’s fault, not ours.”

“I’ll call them,” said Ninety-Nine.

Huitzil said, “I will. They might not understand your sense of humor.”

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Episode 10: A Richness of Embarrassments

The All-Talking Episode.

Grad Student Residence, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

“How is she?” asked Kirby, one of the other grad students.

“Watch.” Izzy opened the door to her shared room and raised her voice. “Gillian? I’m going out for lunch. You want some?” Izzy watched Gillian type. It looked like she was actually typing words related to her thesis—no “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” stuff.

“Hmm? No, I’m good. I ate just after I swam at the pool. I think I can get ten more pages done before I break for dinner.”

Izzy closed the door and turned to Kirby. “See?”

“Is it true, what Tom said? Did someone mess with her mind to make her that…that focused?”

“Yeah,” Izzy said. “Someone I know across the river.”

“I wonder if that would work for me.” Kirby had slightly less urgent deadline issues; he alternated worrying about his thesis with fixating on the latest diet so he could lose a hundred pounds.

“Don’t even think it. I don’t know if it’s safe. I don’t know what will happen to her when she’s done her thesis.” Izzy resolved not to say Ninety-Nine Percent’s name.

“I just… I could use that kind of willpower.”

“It’s not worth the risks. It might not be worth letting the person into your head.”

“Look at me. Look at me,” Kirby said. “I’m going to be a threat to somebody? If I roll on them, maybe.”

“You’ll do okay. You’ll finish your thesis under your own power and you’ll find someone.” She reached forward and gave him a hug.

His hand moved to her butt. She pushed him away, a bit too hard: he slammed into the opposite side of the corridor. “See?” he said. “I can’t even resist doing something like that.”

“Good-bye, Kirby.”

Steel City Sentries Headquarters

“Okay,” said Featherstone-Haugh to the heroes gathered at the headquarters. “I have to wait for parts to get shipped in from Japan to fix the hoverbikes. I know a specialty manufacturing shop there. They have to make the equipment to make them, so it’ll be about a week. I’ll see you then.”

“But the computer’s up?” Huitzil asked.

“Sure. You’re all listed in the security profiles. You have to turn on security yourself, but it’s voice controlled. You have my number if there’s a problem.” She smiled. “Nice working with all of you, and I’ll see you soon.” She picked up her cases and walked out, passing two teenagers who were coming out of the elevator.

“We need an office manager,” said Ninety-Nine Percent to the other two.

Volt added, “Or an office manager and a receptionist.”

The teenagers reached the front desk.

“Hello,” said Huitzil. “You I remember,” said Huitzil to the boy. He was fifteen or sixteen and still had on the Black Hole t-shirt. “You I don’t,” she said to the black-clad goth teenager.

“What would you like?” asked Ninety-Nine Percent.

“I—we—want to join the Freedom Foundation you were talking about. We’ll pay,” said the boy, Kid Singularity. Huitzil touched a button on the reception desk and brought up his application where the minors couldn’t see it. Josh Landsdowne, age fifteen.

“Of course,” said Ninety-Nine promptly.

“You can call me Ghostlight,” said the goth girl. Huitzil went to shake her hand but went right through it. “Oops,” said the girl, and solidified so that Huitzil could shake her hand.

“We haven’t really set it up yet,” said Huitzil. “Even the name waffles. Future Foundation, Freedom Foundation.”

“But we’d love feedback on our current plans,” said Ninety-Nine. “How much have you brought for membership?”

“Well, I got my grandpa to sign over part of my trust fund for this. So I have a bearer bond here for a hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”

“Security system on,” said Volt. A computer voice confirmed this.

“I brought my babysitting money,” said Ghostlight. “A hundred and eleven dollars.”

“You should really have an investor. Volt, you know about this stuff.”

“Conflict of interest,” he said. “I can give you some names, though.”

“But I want to join.

“The foundation isn’t even set up yet,” said Huitzil.

“But we’ll save you a spot,” said Ninety-Nine. “Both of you.” To Ghostlight, she said, “We’re thinking of adding a monthly option. Would that work better for you?”

“You should put this into a bank,” said Volt.

“How much you want to be it will get robbed while we’re there?” said Huitzil.

“Don’t be silly,” said Ninety-Nine. “Banks are mostly closed by now—it’s after five. I could put it in the vault.”

“We’re still liable then,” said Volt. “I saw an ad for TD. They’re still open, and there’s a branch not far from here.”

“We escort him?” asked Huitzil.

“Escort them,” said Ghostlight.

“Seems the only safe way,” agreed Volt.

“Fine,” said Ninety-Nine.

“We walk?” said Huitzil. “I can’t fly them. If Canadian Lass were here—”

“We walk. It’s two blocks, and there’s no place to park the hoverbikes legally.”

Huitzil and Volt flanked Kid Singularity, and Ninety-Nine Percent walked with Ghostlight from a bit behind them.

“Could I have an autograph?” asked a gentleman in a dark pinstripe suit.

A woman held up her smartphone. “May I pose with you for a picture?”

“We’re not even to the end of the block yet,” said Volt sotto voce.

“Hold on,” said Huitzil, posing for a photo. “Folks, I appreciate you all, but we have to get these two safely to the bank. Do you mind walking with us?”

“How late is this bank open?” asked Ninety-Nine.

“Late enough,” said Huitzil. Slowly they made their way to the bank, and got Kid Singularity inside.

“See?” said Volt. “No robbers.”

“I’ll wait outside,” said Ninety-Nine. “Ghostlight?”

“Sure. I don’t really have much to deposit anyway.”

“I’m going to go invisible,” said Ninety-Nine. “Attract less attention. Don’t worry; I haven’t gone away.”

“Great. I’ll be talking to myself. Ah, they already think I’m crazy.” Ghostlight sat on the window ledge of the bank.

“Who?”

“Everybody. People at school. The company I blog for.”

“You blog?”

“I get paid, too. Alternative life teenage stuff.”

“I know a blogger or two. Maybe I can introduce you.”

“Really?”

“Really. They’ve gone to set up the account, so we’ll be a bit longer.”

Ghostlight stuck out her tongue at a passerby who gave her a disapproving look.

“So,” asked Ninety-Nine. “Powers?”

“Ghost things,” said Ghostlight. “Evil eye, death touch. Intangible unless I think really hard.”

“Sounds useful.”

“Sure. If I were older.” Ghostlight sighed.

“And?”

“How do I know I’m not dead?”

“Pardon?”

“Maybe the whole Silver Storm thing killed me and nobody’s telling me.”

“I have a stethoscope. I could check.”

“You have a stethoscope? Get real.”

“I was checking the tumblers on the vault when you guys came in. I just shoved it in the utility belt.”

“You have a utility belt?”

“Sure. It’s a perk.” Ninety-Nine thought a moment and crafted an illusion of a stethoscope: something recognizable as a stethoscope but futuristic. “Here. Listen to your heart. You’ll have to go solid.”

Ghostlight reached for it, then waved it off. “’S fine. I know you have it. I can ask any time I get worried, right?”

“Of course.”

They sat in companionable silence for a moment. Ninety-Nine saw someone she knew go in, but since he wasn’t in costume he was almost certainly just casing the bank. She put her finger against her nose in recognition, but since she was invisible, he never noticed.

The Traynor House, Windsor

“Hey, dad,” Izzy said and gave her father a hug. “Not on the afternoon shift?”

“Command shift,” he said, and grinned. “Commanders gotta command.”

“Where’s mom?”

“Vancouver. Family.”

“She’s never talked about family in Vancouver before.”

“She went there once before, when you were a baby. If you want dinner, it’ll be takeout. I don’t feel like cooking tonight.”

“Takeout’s fine. It’s kinda creepy being around the room with Gilly being so…focused. You mind if I use the central database? Something came up across the river and I want to see if we have anything on it.”

“Knock yourself out,” said her father. “That Thai place fine with you?”

“Sure. Call me when you’re back.” Izzy headed downstairs to the secure hole.

The redacted report on Thornbird was mostly blacked out. Izzy found clear text mentioning her mother, and a mad scientist named Doctor Prometheus. She went to pull up the report on Doctor Prometheus, and was denied access.

She flexed her fingers, ready to start hacking, when she heard, “I’m back!”

La Vida Latte

The next morning, Hadley dropped by La Vida Latte for coffee. Sonia served him is long flat, and said, “Can I talk to you?” Hadley nodded. “Chris? I’m on break.”

She pulled him to the back, into the storeroom. Surrounded by milk containers and coffee bags, she said, “Do you have powers?”

Hadley said, “No.”

“Because I do. Everyone who was struck by lightning during the Silver Storm either got killed or got powers. You got struck by lightning and are not dead. QED.”

“Killed?”

“Thirty-five people died, a hundred and fifty got powers, and seventy-five are still in cocoons, but presumably will have powers.”

“Well, I guess I’m the exception. Because there’s nothing unusual about me.”

She sighed. “Look, Hadley, maybe my powers aren’t great, but I got them after I touched you when you were hit by lightning.”

“I haven’t seen anything,” repeated Hadley. “I’m not unusual.”

“Here’s the thing,” said Sonia. “Doesn’t matter if you are. Allie’s missing.”

“Allie…the other barista?” Hadley as Volt had seen her apply to the Sentries. She was calling herself Chains then.

“Right. She’s missing. Maybe someone’s collecting Stormers. Maybe they think you’re a Stormer.”

“Don’t be silly. I’m sure there’s another reason.”

“Right. Her medication might have failed. But we don’t know.”

“Her medication?”

“She takes drugs for her anger issues, but her new metabolism burns through them too fast. So I found a source of dog pills—”

“Excuse me?”

“Dogs have the same issue, and you can get them without a prescription. Don’t try it with antibiotics.”

“I wouldn’t try it at all.”

“That’s good. I used to be in med school—”

“So you’ve been getting this woman illegal prescription drugs—”

“Just until she could see a doctor! Between her powers and her rage, there could be a terrible problem!”

“This sounds totally dangerous, Sonia.”

“So is heroing, Hadley. Heroing is not being able to stand by and do nothing.”

“No, heroing is helping people.”

A knock came at the door. “Sonia? Can you stop having sex in there? Your break is over and I need more skim.”

“I’m not having sex! You can come in, Chris!” She turned to Hadley and said earnestly, “Be careful.”

“You too.”

As soon as he got to the office, Hadley called the Sentries call line and warned them. They’d never heard Hadley as anything other than Volt, so he wasn’t concerned about being identified.

Steel City Sentries Headquarters

Lunchtime. Mrs. Lipponen showed up to see Huitzil…or Vieno, as Mrs. Lipponen said.

“Vieno, I was thinking, we bonded so well during that whole attempted maiming-reunion thing, we should hang out more. Mother-child stuff.”

“I’m not sure that’s really—” said Huitzil.

“So I was thinking dinner and the museum. Tomorrow. They’ve got a whole exhibit on the rise of Hightower.”

“I, uh… I can’t guarantee it. Rampaging supervillains can happen at any time.”

“I see,” said Mrs. Lipponen, and she looked at the floor. There was silence.

Uncomfortable silence.

Finally, Huitzil said, “Yes. Okay. I’ll go. If there’s no rampaging supervillain.”

“Great! I’ll pick you up here at half-past five?”

Huitzil forced a smile and nodded. Please let there be a rampaging supervillain.

Browder Stone Arms

“This is not a high-class building,” said Huitzil, stepping over an empty bottle.

“She’s a barista. What do you expect?” said Ninety-Nine. “I’ll check her apartment with remote senses.”

“That might violate her right to privacy.”

“Fine,” said Ninety-Nine. Without inflection, she said, “Oh, listen, my super senses have picked up a cry for help. I think it is coming from inside the apartment. Let me check.”

It was a small apartment. The bedroom was astonishingly tidy; the kitchen was not, although all the dishes were washed and stacked beside the sink. Not put away, though. Ninety-Nine counted three cats; the food bowl and the water dish were set up with multiple days’ worth of food and water.

“Looks like she expected to be away. Extra food for the cats.”

Huitzil knocked on the neighbor’s door. A plump old woman answered the door. “Aren’t you cute? Which superhero are you supposed to be?” She pinched Huitzil’s cheek and called, “Morrie, you got to see this.”

“I’m busy. I’m in the bathroom!” came a male voice from deep in the apartment.

“We’re actually superheroes, ma’am,” said Huitzil.

“I’ll bet. Is this some holiday, like that Mexican one in May?”

“No, ma’am. We’d like to talk to you about your neighbor, Allie.”

“Nice girl. I like her friend, too, the one that went to med school. No parties, no men. Very quiet. Sometimes the friend comes over. I’d volunteer to look after her cats but Morrie’s allergic.”

“I told you, I’m busy,” came at the mention of his name.

“If I even go near one, he starts wheezing, but we’ve been here for thirty years so why move?” She smiled. “We retired here. Had a dressmaking business in Queens, land is cheaper here and our son was here.”

“Don’t mention his name!”

“He married a goyim. So the grandchildren are not in the faith.”

“He’s dead to me!”

“So I guess Allie’s a Stormer now,” she said. “I saw some people talking to her, an alligator man and mound of tar. They were in the building. Mrs. Bosch, she’s a Stormer too.”

“Mrs. Bosch?”

“Fourth floor. I know they talked to her because they referred to her when they were talking to Allie.”

“Do you know what apartment she’s in?” asked Ninety-Nine Percent.

Internet Café, Windsor[/h3]

Izzy didn’t want to be at home or her parents’ home while hacking airline databases. She paid for a large decaffeinated coffee and began to search. She had to be careful, but the protections weren’t anything unusual.

Her mother had bought an airline ticket for Vancouver but it was a connecting flight, Windsor to Toronto to Vancouver. At Pearson, she had switched planes to Ottawa.

From the report, Izzy knew that Thornbird was based in Ottawa. Innnnteresting, she thought. She called Sentries headquarters and explained that she had a family emergency to take care of. She wouldn’t be in the next day. From the tests, Izzy knew she could fly faster than a hundred miles an hour; a straight line flight to Ottawa was four hours. That would put her there by midnight.

Her coffee had gone cold. She dumped it, checked that she had her purse, and took off.

Browder Stone Arms

“Go away, I’m not interested.”

“We’re superheroes, Mrs. Bosch. We’re from the Steel City Sentries. Please open the door,” said Huitzil.

The door opened a crack. “Come in quickly.”

They stepped in. The room stank of cat litter, sour air, and something acrid-sweet. Mrs. Bosch stood there in a shredded nightgown: oily-tipped spines stuck out from her elbows, knees, wrists, shoulders, ribs, and thighs. She was perhaps seventy, all dried leather and spines. “The park,” said Huitzil. “You were there, with a stun gun. I remember.”

“Yeah. Great. That’s when all my troubles started.” She led them around the small half-wall to the living area. Huitzil noticed that she even had spines along her backbone. All the furniture was shredded. “I hoped you were the grocery delivery people. I can’t go out any more.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Have you seen these men?” Ninety-Nine briefly sketched a description of Gator and Tar Baby.

“Yeah. They wanted to talk to me. Had a list of Stormers. They were talking to all of’em. I didn’t want to talk to’em.”

“Good choice,” said Huitzil.

“Choice?” said Mrs. Bosch. “What choice? You’re the first people I let in since I came home from the hospital, and that’s only because you’re both women.”

Huitzil did not think it was the time to discuss gender binary norms.

“I got no clothes. You don’t have a spare keyboard? I broke mine. Mine got a spine through it. And during the war I was a typist! I can’t type F, G, and H any more. I can’t— Ah, hell.” In the dimness, Huitzil could see that Mrs. Bosch’s eyes had filled with water.

“I’m sorry about your cat,” said Ninety-Nine Percent. Mentally, she said to Huitzil, %Cat food and litter in the spare room.%

“Stupid cat,” said Mrs. Bosch. “She was fifteen, you know? Only friend I had since Klaus passed on. Couldn’t smell too good no more. Bad kidneys. And I drip. These things. They drip.” She paused for a long time, and then her breaths came fast and deep. “And he saw a puddle of this stuff after I showered and she, she, she licked it.”

“I’m sorry,” said Huitzil, feeling stupid.

“I didn’t know what to do with her. I got her in the freezer. Nobody got curing powers. Nobody can cure a damn dead stupid cat. All I can think of to do is stuff her. To keep her near.” She hit her hand on the end of the sofa, and broke it. Mrs. Bosch looked at it and started to snuffle.

“I can find you a taxidermist,” said Huitzil quickly.

“And we can get you some Uberwear,” said Ninety-Nine. “It won’t shred.”

“I’m still gonna look like this.”

“I’m sorry,” said Huitzil again. A deep breath later, Huitzil said, “We’re setting up a foundation to help people learn to manage their powers.”

“That’s right,” said Ninety-Nine. “Those who could afford it would pay but for you, free.”

%I have to know,% said Huitzil mentally. %Did that hurt?%

%Shut up.%

Steel City Sentries Headquarters

“We need an office manager,” said Huitzil as they huddled around the terminal in the kitchen.

“Hey,” said Ninety-Nine Percent. “I got it to print off a calendar of appointments.”

“Wait,” said Volt. “We have appointments?

“Apparently so. Some of them are city officials but most are interviews with reporters. And bloggers,” she said, scribbling a name into an empty spot.

Volt read down the automated agenda. “Wait—we have interviews?

Huitzil looked over his shoulder. “Remember? We had to leave the press conference so the mayor’s office planned interviews for us. One on one interviews, apparently.”

Volt sank into a chair. “We need a media liaison. Someone to do these interviews for us and be our face.”

“And handle our social media accounts. We can’t rely on the Vieno Lipponen Facebook statuses,” said Ninety-Nine. “Did you really tell people we were going out to catch bad guys?”

“I didn’t say where,” said Huitzil.

“We need to get someone yesterday,” said Volt.

“I know who to call,” said Huitzil.

“Oh, God, not the city,” said Volt. “They’ll send an intern.”

“Hightower’s people.” Huitzil held up the cell phone. “I have Bruno’s number.”

“Remind me who Bruno is.”

“Intern-looking assistant.”

“Right. Wormtongue to Hightower’s Saruman.”

Rather than ask, Huitzil wandered into another room for privacy while calling.

“Wormtongue didn’t work for Saruman,” said Ninety-Nine.

“The point is valid,” said Volt just as the visitor light went on.

In the foyer were three Stormers. One man looked like some sort of ideal; the other was skinny and pocked by acne. The dark-haired woman carried an air of youth but she looked to be in her mid-twenties. All of them were carrying application forms.

“Hi,” said Volt, who spoke quickly to forestall mention of the Freedom Foundation. “You’re applicants?”

“Yeah,” said the skinny man. “The application said you want code name suggestions, too, so I’m Pufferfish!” He stuck out his chest proudly. “I can blow up into almost a ball, and bounce.”

“Uh-huh,” said Volt.

“And spit poison!”

“Lethal poison?”

“No, just paralyzing. I think it only happens when I’m inflated, though. I tried spitting in the bathroom and just got spit.” He shuffled between feet. “Pufferfish is good, though, right? I tried Bouncing Guy and Beachball and they just didn’t sound right. They didn’t have the, uh—”

“Gravitas?” suggested Ninety-Nine.

“Right.”

“Thank you.” Huitzil took the application from him. “And you’re his…friend?”

“We met in the elevator,” she said. She was wearing a Hello Kitty blouse and a pair of very short shorts. “Toxic Kitty,” she said. “I can paralyze people, or make them sick, or make them weak.”

“So you secrete poison, too?”

“No, I turn their sweat into poison. It’s kind of embarrassing how I found out. You want to know?” Toxic Kitty giggled.

“Oh, please, tell us,” said Ninety-Nine.

“Oh, please, don’t,” said Volt.

“All right, I will. But you gotta swear that it doesn’t go beyond this building.”

Huitzil looked at her. “The building?”

“Well, I already told the lady downstairs. Anyway, I was, like, having sex, and my boyfriend did something really good that I think he read about in one of those magazines he reads, and I didn’t want him to move from there, and boom, like, he was paralyzed.”

“I didn’t want to know,” said Volt.

“That must be embarrassing, discovering your powers during sex,” said Huitzil.

“It’s relatively common,” said Ninety-Nine Percent. “Sixteen percent of stormers. More common than school bullying.”

“How do you know this stuff?” asked Volt.

“I know bloggers.” She smiled at the two. “Are your email addresses on these? Good. We have something coming up—I shan’t mention it again.” She looked at the other man and her smile went from sixty watts to a hundred and twenty.

Huitzil walked out. “I got a couple of names from Bruno for both office manager…and I notice I missed some people.”

“Not important,” said Ninety-Nine Per Cent. “They were just leaving. And you, sir?”

“Hi,” he said. He waved to the other two as they left. “I call myself Tenfold, because I’m roughly ten times more at everything than the average man.”

“Everything?” asked Ninety-Nine, taking an obvious look at his crotch.

“I hope so. Ten times stronger, ten times faster, and…so on.”

“Do you want to test him?” Ninety-Nine Percent asked Huitzil, who looked horrified. “Not that way. I mean, spar with him. I’ll watch.”

“Since we have a combat room….”

The room on the third level had a hand-made sign on it that said “Scrap Yard”. Huitzil took it easy on him at first, but Tenfold seemed up to match her. “Healing abilities?” asked Huitzil between combinations.

“Not that I know of.” He didn’t sound winded. “Of course, I haven’t tested that.”

“You know what’s a good test?” Huitzil launched a flurry of feints and hits, most of which Tenfold blocked or avoided. “Falling a mile. That’s a good test.” Tenfold looked shocked and stepped back. “Not that I’d do it to you. Kind of hard on you if you don’t have healing facilities.”

“How’d he do?” asked Ninety-Nine over the speaker.

“Pretty good.”

“Looked good from here.”

“Do you have a harassment policy?” asked Tenfold, grinning.

“Not yet,” said Huitzil, “but I can see that we need one.”

“Anyway,” said Tenfold, “let me show you this.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a card with a smear of tar on it. It was an invitation to an event at the Packard Automotive Factory, building 3. “That’s the abandoned assembly building.”

“Forty acres,” said Ninety-Nine. “Apparently the fire department won’t even go into it any more. They’ve declared it unsafe.”

Ottawa

Izzy tracked down the hotel that her mother was in and sat in the bathroom. She hacked into the hotel wi-fi to see what her mother was looking at online, if anything. It quickly became obvious that whatever her mother was doing, it was eating most of the bandwidth in the hotel.

A box appeared on her screen:

“Go home. This is Level 9 information and you are Level 5.”

Izzy left the hotel and found an all-night café with wi-fi. Her mother might have followed the correct protocols, but UNTIL was a big place, and some agents hadn’t. She started at the top, and after seventeen, she found someone who had used a guessable password. From there, she couldn’t get into reports, but she could get into emails.

UNTIL was indeed going after Thornbird. Her mother was going as the specialist on Professor Prometheus. The accessible files were heavily redacted but Izzy could read that Professor Prometheus he was a person of special interest to UNTIL because he might have evaporated/transformed six UNTIL agents. Thornbird became a Person of Interest when it became obvious she was using his technology. The current working theory was that Thornbird was Professor Prometheus’ daughter.

She got the time and place for the assault.

Packard Automative Plant

“There’s some kind of electrical power being used,” Volt said. “I can feel it.”

“Now we’re in my range.” Ninety-Nine tried to ignore Tenfold on the back of her hoverbike and cast her senses inside.

An abandoned factory. Posts. Lots of posts. The interior had been cleaned up. Dirt floor, though. Someone had stolen a lot of city benches and set them up around a ring. The ring was like a boxing ring, though it stretched in a square around eight of the posts and left the ninth in the center.

The area over the benches had been reinforced somehow. Perhaps so if Stormers broke the building, the audience wouldn’t be crushed?

Once side was walled with three rooms. She peeked inside. People were waiting in each of them. One of them was Allie—Chains.

Kanata

The house looked harmless, but given that there were thirty UNTIL agents ready to raid it, Izzy doubted that was the case. She stared and stared at the wall, willing herself to have X-ray vision.

The wall melted away. Izzy saw…her mother. Packing. Except not packing clothes, packing electronic equipment into a large satchel.

She looked over to the command base, two blocks from the house, swarming with agents. Her mother was there.

With another woman who looked exactly like her mother.

View
Episode 8: Everybody Flee! The Homecoming Queen is a Tree!
A Flashback

Well, at the last minute, two of the four players couldn’t make it but the other two were already at my place. Instead of the big set piece I had in mind, we did a flashback. There were only three previous days of superhero experience to choose from, so we invented this sequence from Saturday…

Episode 8: Everybody, Flee! The Homecoming Queen is a Tree!

(Apologies to Julie Brown)

Ninety-Nine used her remote senses to examine the hole. The hole was rough and unfinished, and headed all the way down to the sewer system. “Gotta be a big person to carry off an engine block like that.” Whoever it was had made sure that the car looked okay.

“This is going to make me miss the reunion,” said Vieno’s mother. She stamped her foot. “Dammit. Tommy Moynaghan said he’d be there.” To Ninety-Nine Percent, she said, “I dated Tommy, all through senior year. He was on the football team.”

“But who?” said Vieno, ignoring the comment. “They could have just taken the CD player and probably got more money.”

“I’ll look.” Ninety-Nine searched the area, walking back and forth to extend her range by a little bit. “A walking tree. Out of range, now. Booking it, while carrying an engine block.”

“A walking tree in the sewers?”

“I know what I saw.”

“But the reunion—” said Vieno’s mother.

“We’ll fly you,” said Ninety-Nine Percent.

“We will?” asked Vieno.

“Someone’s trying to keep her from the reunion. An engine block is not a casual theft. Even if we could get a cab to come here, because you choose to live in the abandoned warehouse district, what are the odds it would be attacked before she got there?” said Ninety-Nine Percent. “Silver Storm. Superpowers for several hundred people who didn’t have them before. And in a small percentage of cases, getting powers makes you nutso for a little while.”

“Really?” asked Vieno.

“Really?” asked Vieno’s mother.

“I can cite you references,” said Ninety-Nine.

“Sure,” said Vieno. “Mother, would you like to stay for dinner? I’ve already ordered a few things.”

∗ ∗ ∗

They sat around Vieno’s dinner table, Korean food for six set in front of them.

“So you think the little black one?” said Ms. Lipponen asked Ninety-Nine.

“With the jade. For your eyes.

“Tommy will love that look. He always liked my eyes.”

Vieno said grumpily, “Isn’t Dad…worried?”

“About what?” Then the penny dropped, and Vieno’s mother looked aghast. “I’m not like that. Good Lord, have you no faith in me? I’m not some swinger, like Strom Thurmond. God, if we’d only known that in the eighties, along with the daughter… No, your father doesn’t want to go because he only knew them for the one year. When he was an exchange student.”

“And you fell in love then?” asked Ninety-Nine.

She snorted. “Not at all. I was dating Tommy. When Vieno’s father decided to immigrate to the US, he looked us up. I was just graduated from university and single, so I agreed to squire him around, and, well…” She smiled.

“I don’t want to hear this,” chanted Vieno in a sing-song voice.

“Yes, child. You’re so sensitive.” Ms. Lipponen rolled her eyes.

“You’re my mother. And ancient.”

“Not even fifty! And I can tell you every person in my graduating class.” She started to list names.

“It’s okay,” interrupted Vieno. “We’ve heard. They’re all you’ve been talking about for three hours. It’s like a soap opera.”

“You have to know the background,” said Ninety-Nine. “Now, Karen was the one who had the affair on Mark with Peter?”

“Yes! So Mark decided to date—”

“Oh, God,” said Vieno, and put another helping of galbi on the plate in front of her.

“Vieno!”

“I’m very hungry now, mother. I just keep eating. Fighting supervillains will do that to you.” The galbi smelled delicious.

“Ninety-Nine fights supervillains and she doesn’t eat like that.”

Vieno looked daggers at Ninety-Nine, who smiled angelically. Vieno attacked her third helping of food viciously.

“Time to wash your hands and get your face on,” said Ninety-Nine. “You don’t want to be late.”

“What about the car?” said Vieno.

“Insurance will cover the damage. They said so,” said Ms. Lipponen.

“You leave it in my parking lot until the adjustor comes on Monday, and it’s going to be stripped.”

“Is the roof strong enough? I can put it on the roof,” said Ninety-Nine.

“Perfect!” said Ms. Lipponen.

∗ ∗ ∗

The reunion was at the school, on an estate by the edge of town. The school was private, and had a large walled estate surrounding it, with trees around the school itself. The other two buildings were off in corners, and the gates were open to allow cars. None of the trees near the school looked ambulatory or familiar.

Besides protecting Ms. Lipponen from the wind, Ninety-Nine decided to use her untested illusions skill to make everyone look just a bit better. She spruced them up and then set the hoverbike down on the grass median separating the two halves of the parking lot. Some attendees shrieked and many ran up to meet them.

“Boopsie!” A big man in a tan blazer met them. He helped Ms. Lipponen off the hoverbike and gave her a big hug. Then he and Ms. Lipponen looked at each other, smiling.

Vieno coughed.

“Right,” said Ms. Lipponen. “Ladies, this is Tommy Moynaghan. Tommy, this is Vieno, my—” Vieno looked at her. “—and her friend, who goes by Ninety-Nine Percent.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Ninety-Nine.

Tommy looked her up and down and then focused on Vieno. “So this is the famous Vieno. You’ve been on the news.”

Vieno shrugged. Then: “Why is there an engine block behind that car?”

Everyone looked. Tommy Moynaghan swore. “Now I can’t get out.”

“I’ll move it,” said Ninety-Nine. The engine block floated onto the grassy median.

“What kind of car is that from?” asked Vieno, dreading the answer.

One of the men said, “Mercedes,” and named the model of Ms. Lipponen’s car.

Ninety-Nine said mentally, %I’m going to scout the grounds. You escort your mother inside. I’ll keep the link open so you can tell me if there’s a problem.%

%Don’t worry.% Vieno looked again at Tommy Moynaghan, who had taken “Boopsie’s” arm. %I’ll keep her safe.%

∗ ∗ ∗

There were two other buildings on the property: a headmaster’s house and a groundskeeper shed. Neither of them looked suspicious. Ninety-Nine made another pass over the school’s roof. Roofing material was scattered there: a pile of sand, two buckets of tar, and three broad brushes. Ninety-Nine looked at it, found a dry patch, and landed. Next she’d check the inside of the school, starting with the top floor. Assuming the door to the roof was unlocked—

A thread of sand snaked out along the roof and tried to close on her ankle. She floated back up until she thought she might be out of range.

%Animate sand on the roof,% she said mentally. %Might be trouble. I’ll let you know.%

“Hey,” said Ninety-Nine. “You want to talk?”

“Hey,” said the sand, and reformed into a humanoid shape, dark as obsidian. Ninety-Nine recognized him now: Jet, one of a group of five who styled themselves after the five Chinese elements. It tilted its head and looked closely. “There’s what, two of you? Yeah, we’ll talk. Why don’t you both come up here? So we can talk.”

%Stay with your mother!% Ninety-Nine said to Vieno.

Jet said, “Do I know you?”

“I thought the compact was there so that people wouldn’t, you know, shit where they eat?”

He shook his head. “Personal. Eden’s got this hate on for some woman. Only chance to do something about it and show some guy from high school….yadda yadda yadda. I agreed to help, but I didn’t agree to listen.” He shrugged. “With the Silver Storm, the compact will probably end anyway.”

“You think so?” said Ninety-Nine. “Why not do the job after the compact collapses?” To Vieno, she said, %Ask your mother if there was anyone named ‘Eden’ in her class.%

“Promised. We got a job after that. Busy time of year.”

Ninety-Nine sighed. “You do your thing and I’ll try and stop you.”

“That’s life,” agreed the man. “I promise we’ll try not to hurt anyone else. Probably won’t even kill this other woman, just rip off a limb.”

“Dude. It’s my teammate’s mother.

“Dude,” said Jet, “it’s my teammate’s obsession.

“Couldn’t she just, you know, show up with a fancy car and a boob job?”

“Kinda hard when you’re a tree,” he said.

%Turns out there was,% said Vieno, %and she was, I quote, ‘Kind of a loser.’%

“Nothing personal,” said Jet as he grabbed for Ninety-Nine. He missed, but she made a note that he could reach much farther than she had thought. She dropped over the side of the school, heading for the front door.

∗ ∗ ∗

%Gah. She doesn’t want to leave the conga line!% Vieno looked around. The gym was decorated in faux Amazon jungle style, with green crepe “vines” tree half-pipes decorated with papier mache. A couple of real-looking vines stood out from the obvious fakes. Vieno spotted the real ones starting to reach down to Vieno’s mother.

Vieno dove forward, knocking Ms. Lipponen out of the conga line. “Vines…after you!”

From behind, Vieno heard, “My wrist! I think you broke my wrist!”

“I’m a doctor!” came a bass voice.

“Get outside!” shouted Vieno. Uh, out in nature, with a plant controller. Not a great idea, thought Vieno, but it was too late to unsay it. Fortunately, Ms. Lipponen didn’t weigh much, and Vieno started sprinting while carrying her. “Middle of the parking lot!” That was as far from plants as possible.

Ninety-Nine floated into the gymnasium in time to see the balls that were probably supposed to release confetti opening early. Seeds started to fall and she quickly threw up a telekinetic wall that held them against the ceiling. “Everybody get outside!” she said, her face contorted with the effort of keeping all of them up. Were some of them sprouting?

“There’s a sandstorm in the hall,” said someone.

One of the papier mache trees crashed to the floor and the bigger tree hidden behind it shuffled out. She (it?) ignored Ninety-Nine and the door that was now blooming a sandstorm, and instead walked out through the wall, going out of its way to cuff an ash-blonde woman in an expensive dress. The sudden wind whipped up the dust and grit from the broken wall.

“Can’t get out!” someone shouted over the wind and sand.

Jet had found her, and the sandstorm flowed into the gymnasium.

Ninety-Nine kept holding the telekinetic wall against the seeds. Instead of sending people through the sandstorm that was Jet, she created the image of blinking lights and arrows that pointed to the hole in the wall. THIS WAY OUT and EXIT read the signs.

“This woman is hurt!” came the doctor’s voice.

“Get! Out!” screamed Ninety-Nine. If Eden was gone, maybe she could dump the seeds at one end of the gym, on the proscenium stage—

∗ ∗ ∗

Vieno ran into the foyer wall instead of the crash door, making her mother shriek. Vieno tried to remember what the foyer looked like, then found the door. Plants were already waving out there, grasping. The air outside was hazy with pollen.

The middle of the parking lot, away from the grassy median. Thank goodness it had been re-paved recently! “Stay here, and call 911!”

“With what? My purse is inside!”

Vieno thrust forward a phone as the wall burst open, revealing a walking tree. Fragments of brick fell to each side and dust coated the tree.

“You made me hurt,” growled the tree. At Vieno, or Vieno’s mother?

Vieno spread the wings and launched at the tree…to no effect. The blows bounced off it like dandelion seeds blown by the wind.

Branches from other trees flexed and tried to grab Vieno, who easily dodged them all.

∗ ∗ ∗

Having dumped the seeds on the stage, Ninety-Nine took a moment to go invisible. If she was right, if the invisibility was in onlookers’ minds instead of elsewhere, Jet wouldn’t notice a Ninety-Nine-shaped gap in the sand flowing around her. She put her back to a wall—she had lost direction—and looked at the sandstorm. She couldn’t see the opposite side of the room.

If she couldn’t get the crowd away from the sandstorm, she’d have to get the sandstorm away from the crowd. Outside would be best, but any door would do. She groped for an exit, and slipped out.

∗ ∗ ∗

A wooden fist crashed against Vieno’s body, and Vieno lost breath for a moment. Over in the parking lot, Vieno’s mother was trying to figure out how to use the BlackBerry instead of her iPhone. Vieno made a feint—

—and the plants in the lawn sprouted and grew tall…maybe ten feet tall. The grass was more like bamboo now and hit Eden from sight. The smell was cloyingly sweet.

A chance to recover. Good, thought Vieno dimly.

∗ ∗ ∗

Ninety-Nine was in a change room. Showers and toilets over there, door to hallway there. No urinals, so girls’ change room. No windows. Sand started flowing under the door.

All right, Jet, I am crushing your head. Wherever it is.

“Ow!” said Jet. “All right, you know how this works, right? I go back out there and start hurting people one by one until you give yourself up. Just so you know it’s your fault.”

What? For making myself hard to hit? He was going to see the door open, but that might get him into the hallway—

She slipped out the door and stood on the other side of the doorway, shielding herself with the door.

The sand flowed under the door again and reformed faster than it had before. “Two choices, one at a time,” said Jet. One hand expanded and became a slab as big as the hallway. His arm extended and the slab-hand shot down to the other wall, where there was a T-intersection. His slab smashed against the lockers there. “Not on that side.”

I’m crushing your head. He was unprepared or stretching his hand like that had done something, because his slab suddenly turned into a hand again and he clutched his head, as he fell to his knees.

She pulled out her phone. “Mom? Someone make sure that Eden takes her meds again…” Then she kicked him again, mentally, while he was down.

“Nothing personal,” she told him.

∗ ∗ ∗

There! Vieno launched a furious attack at the motionless Eden; the final blow split Eden in two, and Vieno looked on, horrified. The look of horror was interrupted by a scream from Ms. Lipponen.

Vieno looked over. She had been grabbed by Eden-the-tree. Who could duplicate, or teleport, or something.

Vieno headed over and hit the tree-person as hard as possible, not caring if she got hit back.

The tree-person looked at her. “You. Just like your mother. I don’t like you, either.” The light in the eyes dimmed.

“Nobody home,” called Ninety-Nine from the front steps. “No brain there. She’s left. You don’t have to hit again.”

“I do if I want to get my mother free,” said Vieno. It was the work of a dozen hard hits, and Ms. Lipponen tumbled to the ground.

“Thank you,” she said to Vieno.

Several other classmates rushed to help her, and the woman in the expensive dress leaned and spoke in her ear. Vieno’s mother laughed.

“Can you give me a lift home?” she asked Vieno.

Vieno looked at Ninety-Nine, who nodded. “We can. What was that about?”

“They’re grateful, but you’re not invited to future reunions.”

View
Episode 7: Call-Backs
Auditions 3

Episode 7: Auditions 3: Call-backs

The four of them arrived at the SAT building at the same time, by virtue of the fact that Izzy towed them; the two hoverbikes had convenient handles welded to the front, almost as though someone had faced this problem before.

They saw a figure hovering over the SAT building, but the SAT building was only two storeys tall, and a block wide; there was a taller building behind one end; Izzy carefully set the two hoverbikes there. Police had already cordoned off an area half a block wide around the office building, but that didn’t mean the

%Hey, Dreadnought,% said Ninety-Nine Percent privately over a mental link. %Whatcha doin’?%

%Chiclet,% he said. %You finally got powers. Not like your folks, though, huh? Last job to free people, and then the Compact is dissolved. We go our separate ways.%

%Why not call it done and go home? Big escape rocks the boat. Let straights believe there’s peace and unity and we can all work easier.%

%Silver Storm and the death of Golden Dragon together pretty much nixed that. If you’re not going to go home, have to take you down. Big Brain says so.%

Volt got off the hoverbike. He could tell that something was happening…Dreadnought had rotated to face them.

Huitzil and Izzy—sorry, Canadian Lass—were already in the air halfway to him. He opened up with a barrage of machine gun fire at Izzy. It didn’t hurt her, but it rattled her enough that she just missed him.

%Sorry, kid. Just a job. Your mom still available to do repairs after this dust-up?%

Huitzil easily hit him, and it was like a child rattling a stick off a fencepost.

Dreadnought then sent a carpet of missiles to the roof of the taller building where Ninety-Nine and Volt stood. Ninety-Nine got out of the way, and Volt didn’t, but he was mostly protected by the hoverbikes.

“Aw, man,” Volt said. “Those were mint. Well, one of them.” To Dreadnought, he said, “You, I don’t like,” and he went intangible.

Ninety-Nine cut the mental connection and opened the mental link to her teammates. %Open gang warfare soon. They’re cooperating to get these guys out of jail.%

%I think he needs a bit of juice,% said Volt, and aimed a bolt of electricity at Dreadnought. It apparently had no effect.

No, two figures: Death Magnetic was there, too, but closer to the small treed park at the other end of the block. Now her armour looked intentional and complete.

Izzy—Canadian Lass—took another swipe at Dreadnought but bending the cannon while he had no resistance was a surprise: he just rotated in the air. If I were designing that suit, gyros would hold him steady, she thought. The cannon was electrified, she realized as she grabbed it, but neither of them were grounded, so it didn’t matter.

Rather than risk harming Izzy, Huitzil covered the distance to Death Magnetic. “Hey, Fridge Magnet! I’ve got a score to settle! You broke my phone!” Huitzil punctuated the comment with a powerful blow that connected with the armour. Death Magnetic didn’t move, held up by a web of magnetic force.

Death Magnetic smiled, flicked her hand, and a car flew up from the street below, heading for Huitzil. It missed and from arc, it was now ballistic and falling free, toward the spectators who had gathered halfway up the next block.

%Crap,% said Huitzil. %Can someone get that?%

%On it,% said Ninety-Nine. The spectators were scrambling now. A bolt of lambent red energy shot from Ninety-Nine’s hands and encased the falling car. Not wanting to waste the vehicle, she slammed it into Dreadnought’s back, sending both Dreadnought and Izzy flying forward. Izzy didn’t lose her grip.

Volt didn’t want to hurt Canadian Lass with his taser snare, so he blasted at Death Magnetic. She was wearing metal, after all. The distance was too great, though. %Wait,% he said, %there are others?%

%Inside,% said Ninety-Nine. She couldn’t take a peek and maintain the mental link, but if someone went inside—

%Okay,% said Volt. Intangibly, he started dropping through the tower. Unfortunately, he was above the women’s restrooms, and he gave at least one woman a start as he fell. Fortunately, he was facing the wrong way to see anything.

Huitzil tried another shot. This one connected, too, but squarely on the armour. Death Magnetic flicked her other hand, and the working hoverbike flew from the tower and into Huitzil’s back. “I have another, dear. Maybe that will break more than your phone.” The hoverbike tumbled down through the roof of the SAT building.

Over on Dreadnought, Canadian Lass shifted positions. “This was a prototype, wasn’t it? I see things that would be fixed in production.” She levered herself against the body of the armour and twisted the cannon barrel into a U-shape. “I think Mythbusters showed that would still fire, but your aim will be terrible.”

%Almost there,% said Volt. Volt came through in an office. He kept walking once he heard, “Dad? Why won’t you help?” from the ghost, Immaterial Girl.

“Because it’s not Dad. It’s his brother, Uncle Takeshi,” said Hellteen. Volt peeked through the doorway.

Hellteen was pressed against his bars, watching. Immaterial Girl followed as the dark-clad ninja guided escaped supers to another room. Volt recognized Cannon, Gargantua, the two who had pretended to be SAT agents, “Lord Etheric,” and the squid-like one from the park.

“But he could help!

The line-up of supers headed into another room. Immaterial Girl flitted back, and started pacing between her cell—the door was still locked—and Hellteen’s. Clearly she could have escaped at any time.

Hellteen wasn’t going anywhere, and Immaterial Girl didn’t seem like she was going to abandon him; Volt pressed on to find where the escapees were going.

Up over the building, Huitzil finally hit an unarmoured spot: Death Magnetic’s face. Death Magnetic looked blankly for a second and then started falling. Huitzil let her, and hung there in the sky, panting, wings beating hard to stay in place.

Dreadnought broke free and dove for Death Magnetic. He caught her in mid-air, and protected her as he crashed through the roof of the SAT building.

%Well,% said Ninety-Nine. %Now we’ve got two to choose from.% She jumped off the tower, floating to the roof of the SAT building, and looked through the hole Dreadnought had made.

“You don’t leave that easily,” said Izzy out loud, and she dove for the hole as well.

Huitzil had flown down too, but the hole wasn’t large enough for the wings; instead, Huitzil had to stop and figure the best way to parkour down to the inside of the building.

All of them saw it: Below and slightly to one side of Dreadnought’s hole there were a series of holes, as if the earth had erupted through the foundation, making an enormous straw that connected the SAT building to…somewhere underground.

“Through and down,” said a man standing at the edge of the hole. He had wild brown hair and loose purple robe-like pyjamas, liberally fastened with clasps of precious gems. Escaped supers began to jump and slide down the hole. The man glanced up, saw Canadian Lass approaching, and then his skin and hair changed colour, from the colour of loam to the colour of granite.

She paid no attention to him; she grabbed Dreadnought firmly: “How about if I peel you out of that can?” Dreadnought swung one metal fist against her head and her vision clouded for a second but she didn’t let go; instead, she scrabbled for a grasp on the rocket launchers, hoping to tear them off.

The rock-hard fist that hit her was totally unexpected. Pain blossomed along her back and she collapsed into Dreadnought’s body. “Why waste your time with imposters, when Lord Quake is here to deal with you?”

%Lord Quake?% said Canadian Lass over the mental link.

%Out of towner,% replied Ninety-Nine Percent. %Claims he’s last of the stonekin.% Out loud, she said, “Hey, Quakey. I’m crushing your head.” But his mind was too alien, or she didn’t have a good enough grasp, because it didn’t seem to hurt him. I have troubles with other species, she thought.

Canadian Lass tried to use Dreadnought as a bludgeon to hit Lord Quake, but she missed because Dreadnought was struggling too much, firing his propulsion systems and whatever else he could manage.

Lord Quake made a swooping gesture with his hands, and the earth swallowed her up to the neck, encasing everything but the arm holding Dreadnought and her head. “Let the substrata embrace you.”

Huitzil was down, now, and thumped the apparently-unconscious Death Magnetic. “I think you’re faking. Stay down.”

Canadian Lass tried to use Dreadnought to break the stone, but only succeeded in pummelling him to unconsciousness. Or so she figured, from the sudden cessation of movement.

Volt managed to encase Lord Quake in electricity; he shrugged once, and the bands of force were gone. “Au revoir,” said Lord Quake, and he jumped down the hole, which sealed after him. They had two unconscious villains to show for it.

Ninety-Nine Percent turned off the mental link and switched to remote viewing. The gang of escapees headed for the sewer system.

Huitzil studied the rock for a moment, found a weak spot that Canadian Lass couldn’t reach, and applied force. The rock cracked, and Canadian Lass could get the rest off.

“Canadian Lass, fly me. I can track them, but I’ve only got a range of about a third of a mile,” said Ninety-Nine. “You others, find the staff. They have to be here somewhere.”

∗ ∗ ∗

The escapees came up in a warehouse on the east side of town. Representatives of the different groups were there, for the stormers to choose their allegiances. With the exception of Lord Quake and Uncle Takeshi, all were local. She noticed that the Big Brain was there.

“Take them?” asked Canadian Lass.

Ninety-Nine shook her head. “Too many. We know where their headquarters is, now. They’ll be gone by the time we get back with the others. Pick them up and we’ll go back to our headquarters.”

∗ ∗ ∗

Volt found the SAT teams bound and gagged in an office room, not far from where the hoverbike had landed. Only Gonzales was unconscious; he’d clearly been beaten, probably after managing to radio the heroes. They got Gonzales medical help, and then headed back to the headquarters with the other two heroes.

∗ ∗ ∗

Coming in from the hangar, they heard sounds. Following them, they found that the foyer was packed with people in homemade costumes, all clutching sheets of paper. Featherstone-Haugh was sitting at reception. “Oh, there you are!” she said brightly. “Someone had to act as reception. I’ll bill you less for this time.”

“Thanks?” said Izzy.

“What is this?” asked Volt. Then he spotted Sonia, the young lady he had been with in the park on Friday. He stepped behind Ninety-Nine, the tallest of the three women, and resolved not to speak again. Sonia had touched him while he was getting his powers; it stood to reason that she had gotten powers too.

Sonia stood next to a punk woman with tattoos of chains on her, behind them stood another fellow was wearing a domino mask, torn jeans and a singlet that showed his knife tattoos. There was a teenager wearing a Black Hole tee-shirt. A young man was holding a drink in a glass and making the fluid surge up out of the glass and back down, so he clearly had fluid control powers of some kind. Next was a teenage girl in a sort of gypsy frock. The next guy in the line was alternating between taking the appearance of the teenage girl ahead of him and the person behind him, a humanoid canid. Behind them stood two older gentlemen, probably not together.

“Applications,” said Featherstone-Haugh. “City put applications up on the web site.”

Huitzil checked on her phone. There they were. “Forms. Job application forms.” The first couple of people in line held up their papers.

“Do we get hazard pay?” asked Izzy.

“Well, you don’t even get pay,” said Huitzil. “You haven’t got a green card.”

One of the older men in a suit held up his hand. “You would be Isabelle Traynor? I’m Aldo Mizzuccelli, from INS. We figured you probably didn’t have time to come to the office.”

“I am,” said Izzy. “Sorry it’s a little…haphazard. We’ve got a meeting room somewhere back here.”

“We’ll handle this,” said Ninety-Nine. Volt nodded, wondering if maybe he was needed elsewhere. Izzy and Mr. Mizzuccelli went back to the meeting room.

Sonia said, “The problem has to be serious if you got called away during your own press conference. So you need help.”

“Right,” said Huitzil.

“Of course,” said Ninety-Nine, sensing an opportunity. “We’ll be sorting through the applications for our, uh, Future Heroes Foundation, and training you all&mdashfor a fee.”

“The website says it’s free,” said the young man with the daggers.

Huitzil checked. “Yes, it does.”

“Of course, the initial consultation is free,” said Ninety-Nine smoothly. “But this is a dangerous business. You might have noticed that Canadian Lass’ city costume has already had to be replaced—”

“This is crap,” said the drink guy, and left.

“Sorry you feel that way,” called Ninety-Nine after him. “We’ll still protect you. If we can.”

Huitzil asked the punk woman, “Powers?”

“I got these chains.” Her tattoos unravelled off her body and stretched out to touch the far wall. “They do what I ask.” She looked hopeful. Izzy noticed she was careful to keep the other woman between her and the man behind them.

“The Future Foundation will train you—” said Ninety-Nine.

“Cool it,” said Volt.

Huitzil added, “Says here the mayor also has a say in our membership. ‘Anyone approved by the mayor’s office or the existing team.’ That’s going to cause problems.”

“Do you think I’m not good enough?” asked the punk woman.

“Hey, Ally, calm down,” said Sonia. “She just needs some meds. You took your meds today, right?”

“Of course I took them! They just—they don’t last now!”

“That’s okay, we’ll just get—”

“Maybe I don’t need them now! Maybe it’s all your fault. Everyone’s.” She turned and walked out.

“Well, that was helpful,” said Featherstone-Haugh.

“Sorry,” said Sonia. She handed her application sheet over.

“You bring origami to life?”

“Stuff I’ve folded,” said Sonia. She reached into her purse and pulled out a small folded bird. It took off from her palm and flew around the room. “Does whatever I tell it to.”

“Okay,” nodded Huitzil, and asked the singlet-wearing young man, “And your tattoos? They come to life?” Really, he might have been a gang member in another context.

The man swore, and added, “No. They generate knives. I can control’em and cut through damn near anything with’em, too.”

“Could have used them today,” said Huitzil. “Great. I have to ask: are any of you minors?”

The two obvious teenagers stuck up their hands. “For insurance reasons, we can’t hire you. When you’re of age, though, come back.”

“The Future Foundation will train you, though, and accepts monthly payments,” added Ninety-Nine.

“Hey,” said Huitzil. “Read my mind.” Looking in, Ninety-Nine heard, %Quit it with the Future Foundation. We have no paperwork. Don’t make promises we can’t keep.%

Ninety-Nine replied, %What’d LBJ say? Better to have them inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in. This way we keep track of them, and pay our expenses for doing so.%

%We don’t have paperwork yet. No promises. They have email addresses on the forms, if we set up a Future Foundation, we can email them.%

%Fine.% Ninety-Nine broke the mental link and thought of the things she could do with a list of civically-minded sheep. Her thoughts were cut short by the buzzing of her phone. “Excuse me.” She stepped into the other room and made herself invisible. She trusted that her mother would erase any recordings from the system.

Huitzil took all the forms and shooed people out, promising to contact them by the end of the week.

Somewhere, a toilet flushed. “What is that?” asked Volt.

The remaining gentleman said “Alarm” as Featherstone-Haugh said, “Troubalert.” She looked sheepish. “You can set the sound, so I’ve been playing with it.”

“Change it back,” ordered Volt. “I didn’t get your name, sir.”

“Roy Elson. Formerly Blue Dynamo. Grace said I should look you up, and I didn’t have any meetings this afternoon, so I figured no time like the present.”

“You,” said Volt. “We should hire you. Consultant.”

“No,” said Elson. “My ex-wife gets half of anything I do connected with superheroing or the Sentries. I don’t want her to get a penny.”

“Really?” asked Huitzil. “That’s why you gave up superheroing?”

“And the team folded, but that was the main reason.”

“What if we used your company exclusively when we need a taxi?” asked Volt. “You know stuff we can use.”

“Like accessing the pocket dimension in the vault,” said Huitzil.

“There’s a button, near the top. Placed where you can’t hit it by accident. I’ll show you later. No, not even that arrangement. She has sharp lawyers, and they might be able to make something of that. Now I’m just a businessman.”

“Replay what was on the alarm,” said Huitzil. Elson reached forward and fiddled with a few controls. On the screen on the back wall, they saw Hightower leaving the hospital…and saw the giant brain floating nearby, and Hightower kidnapped before their eyes.

In the other room: “Hey, Chiclet,” said her editor at io9. “So why are we being scooped on superhero news in Steel City? I thought you were on it.”

“I am. I’ve got, uh, personal interviews set up with them, and real in-depth stuff—”

“So why don’t you have anything on the Big Brain taking Hightower? The Gray Ghost already has it.”

“I’ll have something for you by the end of the day. I promise.”

“I have to protect you against the higher-ups, you know—”

“Gotta go—by the end of the day.” She dashed back into the foyer.

“Three crimes,” said Huitzil. “Hightower kidnapped, Lord Quake in the diamond district, and the ninja guy at the art museum. Do we split up?”

“Don’t be stupid,” said Ninety-Nine. “One’s a person; the other two are just things. We get Hightower.”

“Where’s Izzy?”

Izzy appeared, a foot off the ground. “Come on….we know where the Big Brain has his hideout.”

“Your green card?”

“Set for a bit…same deal as for co-op students. Let’s go!”

View
Episode 7: Have a plan instead

I haven’t had time to write it up, because of the election and the World Cup. But until I do, here’s the graphic that I use to run an adventure, because I find it more compact than having lots of words to remind me. Much of this has been updated to reflect what happened in the session; we ended before they went to the warehouse to rescue Hightower, ignoring the other two crimes because, hey, people are more important than things.

image.jpg

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