“Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, friends and family of the deceased, and to the citizens all over these great United States…welcome. We stand here today to honor a fallen Hero. Mr. Morningstar was a man who embodied truth, justice, duty, honor, and self-sacrifice for the good of the many. He gave his life defending us, and for that we are forever grateful.” The mayor bowed his head for a moment of silence.
“Mr. Morningstar was not the strongest Hero. He was no Titan or Iron Giant. He couldn’t wield the elements, he couldn’t run faster than a speeding bullet, or fly. He was a man with the gift for making people see the light, to submit rather than fight. Mr. Morningstar’s ability stopped battles before they began, and it spared our great city many times from incidents of untold mayhem and destruction. Even though he wasn’t a flashy Hero, Mr. Morningstar worked hard to become leader of the Protectorate. He guided the team in the defense of this city for nearly two decades. The average citizen will never know all that he did for this community, but a few of them have chosen to step forward and speak to us about how Mr. Morningstar touched their lives for the better.”
“Blah…blah…blah…” Lilly sat on a rooftop over half a mile away listening to the speech on the radio. She could see the Mayor if she peeked over the lip of the roof, but it was safer to stay seated.
Nightingale and Stal were busy lounging behind an industrial-sized air conditioner. Between them were the tools of the trade: guns, knives, IED’s, grenades, even a baseball bat. It was all spread out and meticulously memorized by Lilly, so she could call upon it at a moment’s notice.
“Why we wait?” Stal wasn’t a person comfortable with inaction at times like these, and it was fraying at the strongwoman’s nerves.
“Soon,” Lilly replied casually. “Once I get the call we’ll get started.” She looked down at her phone hoping the text message was there, but the screen was still black.
“This plan is foolhardy.” Nightingale replied, but didn’t make any attempts to get up.
“We get to kill two birds with one stone. That’s not foolhardy, that’s fucking brilliance. If we pull this off we’ll be legends.”
“Dead is still dead.” Stal responded, but didn’t seem to believe her own warning. Being a top-tier strongwoman tended to have that effect on a woman’s sense of vulnerability.
The mayor continued to babble on, and Lilly split her attention between the radio and her tablet. Nano was pumping in data and footage of the event. A split screen showed the approximate position of the Heroes based on what he could make out in the footage. Lilly didn’t see Reaper, but the armored Seraphim was on a rooftop adjacent to the stage, and Hunter was only a few steps away from the mayor. He was the emergency evac guy, she was sure of it.
<Let’s see if you can dodge this.> She smiled behind her grinning volto mask.
As if the universe was giving her the go ahead her phone vibrated in her palm. She looked down and saw the two most beautiful letters GO.
“Let’s do this.” Lilly took a deep breath and became Wraith.
What came next was going to be tough. It would push her teleportation abilities to the limit.
It was easy for her teleport herself, something, or even a group of people from one place to another. It was simple and second nature. Today required her to teleport multiple things to multiple locations simultaneously. They needed a good distraction because a good distraction would cause a good panic, and a good panic would get them what they wanted.
<Reaper.> That was the end game. Ge the bitch who’d made her Dad a human vegetable.
It wasn’t going to be nearly as easy as it looked, or they’d planned for, especially considering her self-imposed constraints. The best distraction was death and destruction, but she wasn’t going to do that. She’d made Seth a promise and that was being put to the test today. She’d already failed once before and she was not going to do it again.
<Speed and focus…speed and focus…concentrate.> she took several deep breaths and looked at her portable armory.
Six grenades were laid out separately from everything else. She focused on those six metal cylinders and etched them into her mind. Once she was confident she had them all, she peeked over the lip of the roof and down the street. They had a pretty straight shot to the where the mayor was ushering people up to speak, and that helped a little. She found the six predetermined locations that she’d scoped out during the recon for this mission and tried to lock those locations into a corresponding grenade.
She felt the migraine start immediately. It was like trying to sit in on half a dozen Ph.D. level classes at once, take notes, and remember everything. Lilly liked to think that it was her skill and power that allowed her to do it, but it was probably her sheer stubbornness that ended up getting the job done. She felt the teleportations lock into place like tumblers on a safe.
“Now,” she grunted, and Stal and Nightingale rushed forward to pull the pins.
They’d rigged the grenades for a delayed reaction so they didn’t go off in their faces, but it was still going to be close. Nightingale pulled the sixth pin, and with a near-debilitating jolt of effort six puffs of darkness spirited the first step of their plan away.
Lilly’s vision wavered and she had to brace herself against the roof’s tiny wall, but it cleared quickly. She turned her attention to the tablet just in time to see the cameras pan up and the first grenade to go off.
Flash bangs were a hell of a tool for SWAT teams making entry into hostile territory, so Nightingale decided not to try and reinvent the wheel, but to use it on a larger scale. The grenades appeared around the stage and down the crowded street filled with easily-panicked people.
<Boom goes the dynamite.>
The first grenade detonated. Light and sound assaulted the people below it. The mayor grabbed his ears, shut his eyes, and then tackled the young woman currently standing at the podium talking about how Mr. Morningstar had gotten her off drugs or some other pointless shit. Lilly didn’t care. She was too busy watching the progression of the grenades. Number two went off about twenty five meters from where number one exploded, but immediately came up against a barrier. The light and sound ended up assaulting it instead of the people below it. The force field flashed violently, but it was short-lived before the grenade’s energy dissipated.
Grenades three through six met the same resistance.
“What the hell, Nano. You didn’t tell me they had a force field manipulator present.” That would have changed their entire game plan.
“I didn’t know,” he shot back clearly stressed. “I still don’t see any recognizable Hero doing the manipulating. They’ve got to have someone undercover or in plain clothes. They’re prepared for you, Wraith. They know your tactics.”
<Fuck.> Lilly cursed.
She’d become predictable. This tactic wasn’t too different from what she’d used when robbing that armored car in Nevada. A grenade dropped from above followed by a frontal attack to get the target.
“What now?” Lilly posed the question to the team.
“We’re prepared for this.” Nightingale replied casually as she pulled something from her pocket.
“What…we are?” Lilly didn’t remember this part of the plan.
“We knew when you started talking about stun grenade that you’d gone soft.” Stal stood up and cracked her neck. “We let you go through with your little plan while making ours.”
“Your purpose is now transportation, Wraith. Can you do that?” Nightingale asked calmly as she watched the crowd below.
The thousands of people had naturally panicked. The force fields were up and protecting them, and the cops were telling people to stay calm, but human beings didn’t stay calm when shit was exploding everywhere. They took the path of least resistance and got the hell out of there. The grin on Nightingale’s face said that was exactly what she wanted to happen.
“I was the distraction to the distraction.” Lilly figured it out slower than she was comfortable with.
“A two pronged attack,” Nightingale stated as she raised a shiny, metal device in her hand. “Get the sheep running and instill a false sense of security in the shepherd. Then…” she pressed the button and a hideous ripping sound rocked the city.
Lilly looked down and saw smoking and screams rising up from the east. The alley had been away from the main procession, so security was light, and never accounted for hundreds of people using it as a quick exit.
The dumpster where Nightingale and Stal had placed the bomb turned into an improvised claymore where the power of the explosion ripped off chunks and propelled them into the tightly packed crowd. The explosion rose up, hit the force field overhead, and ricocheted back down into the crowd.
Wraith was shocked. <How’d they play me like this,> was her primary concern. Her secondary worry was what Seth was going to think about this, and the people actually in the explosion were a distant third.
Lilly felt anger rise in her chest at being manipulated, but that was quickly wiped away by a second explosion. Another dumpster in another alley that people had rushed into became a death-dealing device.
There was complete and utter pandemonium on the streets below them, and that was exactly what they needed to get their mission done. Lilly held her temper in check as she grabbed the two other villains and they vanished off the rooftop in a blast of darkness.
The Detective was walking across the open vestibule with his hands full. He had a cup of coffee in one hand, a donut in the other, and a file held securely between his chin and chest. He knew it was stereotypical for a cop to be having donuts, but it was impossible to get anything else right now. The whole city was shut down for the funeral, traffic was backed up everywhere, and the only good place to get a snack was a bakery around the corner. Because of all the madness, they were struggling to keep up with the demand, and apparently the easiest things for them to make was donuts.
<I’m not waiting an hour for a turkey and ham sandwich.> He would have shaken his head, but then the file would have spilled all over the place.
It was a rape case, and he was on his way to interview a suspect. His eyes were trained on the locked doors across the vestibule that would take him down to the cells, but a peculiar sound pulled his attention to the left.
Standing in the middle of the vestibule looking confused and scared was a teenage girl…and she was crying. As a father, the Detective immediately detoured over to the woman in distress.
“It’s ok,” he quickly approached her and had to figure out the best thing to do with his full hands. Carefully, he grabbed the file with his donut-hand and moved it under his armpit. “What’s wrong? What can I do to help?”
“I…I…need to report a crime.” The girl sniffled.
“Ok, everything’s going to be just fine. You’re safe here, no one is going to hurt you, and we’re going to help.” The girl responded positively to his words with a small smile. “Officer!” he called to a passing patrolman. “Please escort her to my desk.” He turned back to the girl. “I’ll be right back to take your information and find a solution to your problem. Just wait their patiently and I’ll be back soon.”
“Ok,” she wiped her nose with another sniffle.
Morina watched the Detective give the Patrolman some instructions. <Hehehe,> she mentally giggled. She was in the center of the city’s law enforcement apparatus and they had no idea what was about to happen.
“Come with me.” The Patrolman didn’t look as concerned as the Detective, but as long as he did what he was ordered to do there wouldn’t be any problems.
He led her away from the Detective and toward a security station. She emptied her pockets and walked through a scanning device. She didn’t have anything but some keys, her wallet with fake ID, and a cell phone. She passed without incident, and after a quick look through her purse all of her belongings were returned to her. On the lower levels of the police HQ, they were more worried about someone bringing a gun or knife onto the premises, not a Super. Morina was the weapon.
After the scan she was given a visitor’s lanyard and escorted into a metropolis of cubicles. Judging by the sea of gray cubes, she bet it was usually pretty crowded in here. Today, there weren’t more than a handful of people at work. It was all hands on deck for the funeral.
<Exactly as we suspected.> She took a seat at the Detective’s desk and waited.
A couple of other detectives registered her presence, but the quickly went back to their work. A colleague taking victim statements was a routine part of their job.
She waited ten minutes before she got back to her feet and walked toward the door.
“Excuse me.” A hawk-eyed woman stepped into the path before she was halfway across the room. “Can I help you?”
To Morina’s ears it sounded more like, “What are you doing?”
“Um…bathroom.” Her eyes darted back and forth to convey fear…and the woman bought it.
“You need an escort.” She looked around for someone, but it was so empty there wasn’t anyone else. “Ok, follow me.”
The woman led the way through another door and into a long hallway that seemed to run the width of the building. Morina noticed more offices, the signs for the bathrooms, and a stairwell at the far end.
The other woman veered right at the sign for the ladies restroom and pushed open the door. It seemed like she was being very serious about being an escort. She leaned up against the row of sinks and crossed her arms. Morina quickly averted her eyes submissively and entered one of the stalls.
She needed to think quickly. Unfortunately, she wasn’t Wraith, Stal, or Nightingale. She wasn’t some super-secret agent type. If she ran into problems she just killed them dead and hoped that was the right call.
The itch that was gradually eating its way through her self-control suddenly became overwhelming. Before she knew what she was doing, she pulled a bobby pin from her hair and stabbed it deep into her forearm. A small squeak escaped her throat as red sprouted from the wound and started to dribble onto the floor.
“Are you ok in there?” The female detective asked.
Morina saw her feet move closer underneath the stall door.
<More,> she breathed heavily and pulled the pin up her forearm. The dribbling became a stream.
“Jesus Christ!” The Detective must have peaked in and saw Morina mutilating herself because she threw her shoulder into the door and the fragile lock popped right off.
The detective quickly moved forward while one hand darted to the toilet paper and hurriedly started to unravel a big wad. “Hold on!” Her other hand grabbed Morina’s wrist and stopped her from doing any more harm.
The Detective’s eyes were filled with worry as she put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. Her full concentration was on Morina’s arm, so she missed the blood on the floor collecting and rising into the air behind her.
“You’re…” the detective looked Morina right in the eyes, and she could tell by her reaction that the Detective knew something was off.
Instinct took over. She kept one hand on the blood-soaked toilet paper while the other went to her gun. She turned around to scan for threats and that’s when a few ounces of blood smashed into her face and worked its way down into her throat.
She backed up in surprise, and Morina sprang on her. The blood flowing from her arm stopped on command, and she hit the woman in the chest with her shoulder. They both went tumbling to the ground. Both of the Detective’s hands went to her throat as the blood blocked her windpipe and started to suffocate her.
Morina took the opportunity to go for the woman’s gun that was in her now-unstrapped holster. Through her panic, the Detective quickly put two and two together. She went for the gun too, and it became a struggle for the L-shaped hunk of metal. Morina needed to keep the Detective from getting a round off and alerting the station to the infiltration. The Detective wanted to get a round off to bring help, or more ideally, shoot Morina dead and stop the blood from choking her. Time would be the deciding factor.
The Detective was stronger than Morina, but Morina had moved first. Both of her hands were already on the weapon. Instead of trying to pull it out and risk accidentally firing the weapon, she threw her weight into forcing it farther down. The Detective threw her elbows into Morina’s neck and back trying to knock her off. It knocked her to her knees, but she didn’t let go, and it pulled the other woman down with her.
<Hold on.> she repeated the words spoken to her only seconds ago when the situation was wildly different.
After thirty seconds, the Detective’s strikes started to weaken. Morina was huddled successfully in the fetal position around the weapon. After a minute it was basically over. The Detective could hardly lift her arms. The fight had deprived her of oxygen more quickly, but Morina still held on for another minute to be certain. When she finally dared to look, the Detective’s eyes were glazed over in death.
Morina’s whole back hurt from the pounding she’d taken, and she’d bashed her knee when they fell. It was hard to get up, and her initial movements were jerky, but she eventually shook off the brunt of the pain. She undid the holster from the corpse. She didn’t have the slightest idea how to use a gun, but she clipped it to her hip like she’d seen in the movies. Then she grabbed the body under the armpits and dragged it into the farthest stall from the door. She hoped no one would notice the dead woman until her job here was done. Next, she grabbed the Detective’s blazer, badge, and ID card. The blazer made her look like she belonged a little more, as did the badge, and the ID was going to get her where she needed to go.
Lastly, she found a pocket knife the dead women kept on her, and opened up her victim’s veins. Blood didn’t gush out of her without a beating heart, so it didn’t go everywhere and turn the bathroom into a bloody Jackson Pollack painting. Morina pulled it out of the Detective and guided it up to her. It filtered up under her clothes and clung to her body like liquid, red armor. She used her ability to coagulate it into a semi-solid instead of pure liquid, so she didn’t look like she was bleeding out from every area of her body. She pulled out all five-plus liters from the corpse and coated the concealed parts of her body in a thin layer of blood that looked a lot like dark cherry Jell-O. The sensation of it against her flesh was ten times better than sex, so it took her a moment to get a hold of herself.
Slowly at first, but then more quickly she moved to the door and peeked her head out into the hallway. It was empty, so she retreated back in and took out her phone. She quickly typed GO, and then exited the bathroom and headed toward the stairs. The pad lit up green when she scanned the Detective’s ID, and she rushed upstairs to the top floor.
I saw Justice League this weekend…I don’t know what’s got the critics’ panties up in a bunch. The movie was fine. It was good, not great, but I liked it. The writing was rough at times, but there were several genuine laughable moments. You got to learn enough about the characters to become invested, but there’s a lot of room for their solo movies. Overall 3.5 out of 5 stars. I haven’t started The Punisher yet, but i will tomorrow 🙂
If you want to read about some different superheroes then make sure to pick up my book The Harbinger Tales or read the first of my military sci-fi series Two Worlds: Rags & Riches . You can even get The Harbinger Tales for free on Kindle Unlimited. Please leave a short review when you’re done to help promote the book. Each on is greatly appreciated.
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