Stella’s first call after she was considered fully trained was in New Jersey. Miriam was out of the office; so it was just Stella, Tiffany, and Gerald to deal with a case of a child’s powers erupting in a fifth grade class, and injuring several other students. There were no fatalities, but the child in question had run off, and no one knew where he was.
They materialized outside Watson Elementary, and proceeded immediately to the school office to find the place in chaos. There were police, firefighters, EMTs, and school officials all working at cross purposes. Out in the hall down a ways from the office were several young children on stretchers. All of them with what looked like cuts and bruises on their bodies. Gerald was head of the team without Miriam there, and had custody of the Dispatch headset in Miriam’s absence.
“Dispatch, we need a healer at our location as soon as one can be found. We have several children with potentially permanent damage from outburst injuries, so one that can fix scarring would be preferred.”
“Yes, our teleporter can do that. Give me a location and we’ll get them there.”
“No. The child has run off, so we are still doing an assessment of abilities. Don’t send heroes.” Gerald looked over at Stella and said, “I can’t detect any heat or electrical powers anywhere near here. Go talk to the staff and students while Tiffany gets the kids to a healer, and see if you can find the kid. I’m going to document the scene and deal with the police.”
Stella went back into the school office, waded forcefully through the mass of people, and got the attention of one of the secretaries. She was one of the few people present who wasn’t having a complete meltdown, though she was clearly rattled.
Stella tucked her badge into the breast pocket of her blazer, so the DVA logo was visible, and cornered the woman. “Can you tell me what happened?”
“It was Danny Smith,” the woman sniffled on the verge of tears, and Stella handed her a tissue from her shoulder bag. The woman gratefully accepted and continued. “One of our more troubled kids. He was a little slow, and had some behavior issues. Mostly lashing back out at kids that made fun of him. Only this time…”
Now the tears came in force, and it took Stella some time to calm the woman down enough to get contact information on Danny Smith’s mother and stepfather. A few quick calls to the Mom’s workplace turned up that the mother had already been approached by the police, and had no idea where her son would be other than at school, at home, or at a favorite park.
A call to the stepfather’s workplace resulted in only a busy signal. Stella grabbed a cop to get an update on that, and found that the cruiser dispatched to Atlas Welding and Electroplating had not reported in.
The officer looked worried, “Should we send more units ma’am?”
It took a moment for Stella to get used to being called ma’am, but she did outrank all the local authorities. “No, not until I’ve had a look and done an assessment. How far away is that place?”
“Several blocks, not too far at all.”
“Right,” Stella interrupted her team teleporter when she returned to ferry more kids to whatever healer Dispatch had lined up. Tiff can you ferry me several blocks uh…”
“North,” said the officer.
And no sooner was it said than Tiffany and Stella appeared half a block from an ongoing disaster. Tiffany, recognizing that she wouldn’t be able to help with the funnel cloud that was destroying a small industrial park immediately teleported out. There was a police cruiser knocked onto its side, and the officer was hunkered down behind a traffic barrier curled up tight in order to avoid being struck in the head or torso by flying debris. The noise from the wind explained why the officer had been unable to call in about her situation.
Stella deployed one of her new tricks. She turned into gold, it slowed her way down, but she felt confident that the mini-whirlwind chipping away at the building wouldn’t be able to shift her when she massed in at nearly two tons. If she had to get moving faster she had other options, and for whatever reason young kids were absolutely captivated by a woman made of gold.
“Danny!” Stella shouted. “Danny! We need to talk! Everything’s going to be OK, but you’ve got to stop the wind!”
Instead of stopping the funnel cloud narrowed and moved in on Stella. Crap, she thought. This is going to hurt. Then the funnel cloud passed over her, and Stella hunkered down and let thousands of pounds of weight do the work of resisting the wind. The eye of the storm passed over, though even her specially reinforced work clothes were a bit shredded by the time she passed into the eye, and saw the kid.
Danny Smith was clearly from a bad situation. His clothes were ragged second-hand stuff, and his shoes should have been replaced a year ago. He was dirty, unkempt, bruised, and clearly pissed off.
“Leave me alone! He’s got to pay! He hurts Mom, and I’m gonna stop him!”
Stella cursed to herself. This was a worst case scenario, a kid with incredibly potent abilities from an abusive household. If Stella and her team couldn’t deescalate the situation, a hero team would be called in. As part of her research Stella was expected to keep up to date on the active hero teams, and the one in this part of Jersey, Just Cause, was well known for being unusually brutal in dealing with rogue metahumans. Stella did not want to see a team like Just Cause unleashed on an angry eleven year old with this much power.
“Danny! We need to talk! Can you turn down your wind!?”
The kid screwed up his face in concentration, and the wind around them narrowed and solidified, but the eye where they stood went silent. Stella vowed that she was going to have that school investigated, because if they thought this boy was slow, they didn’t know their jobs for shit. He was exhibiting more power and control than any child his age new to his abilities should have, which meant that the clueless morons had missed both the fact that the kid had had these powers long enough to practice with them, AND was a potential victim of abuse.
“That’s amazing,” Stella complimented the boy, but he looked skeptical. She understood the mindset. He’d been beaten down and humiliated so much, every compliment in his life was backhanded, or a thinly veiled insult. “No really! I only just learned how to change into anything other than steel, and most kids your age don’t have your control. You’re going to grow up to be one of the most powerful elementalists on the planet, do you know that?”
The kid’s face screwed up in anger and frustration, “Can’t knock down stupid Ross’s stupid building!”
Stella peered through the vortex of wind at the building. Under the facade that the winds had torn away it was a concrete monstrosity that looked more like a bunker than a place of business. Even so, the walls were badly damaged, and if the kid ever worked out that he could fling solid objects with his winds the place was doomed.
“Is that your stepfather in there then? You called him Ross. Is it ONLY Ross in there?”
“Danny, is there anyone else in that building? Anyone nice?”
A look of horror fell over the boy’s face, and the winds died away. “Oh no! Miss Mitchell!”
Stella was too slow to stop the kid when she was gold, and shifted to titanium too slowly to catch him before he ran to the building and started pounding on the door screaming to ‘Miss Mitchell’ that he was sorry, and didn’t mean to hurt anyone other than ‘stupid Ross’.
The door flew open knocking the kid back on his butt to reveal a man who looked like the very stereotype of a wife beater; right down to the sleeveless white shirt with flannel over it, steel toed boots, beer gut, bloodshot eyes, and shotgun.
The man raised the shotgun at the kid, and sure enough a flannel sleeve pulled back to reveal a Humanity First symbol tattooed on the man’s forearm. Stella leaped between Danny and the man just in time to intercept the shotgun blast. Then grabbed the barrel of the weapon and bore down until the barrel crumpled and tore apart.
To give Ross a small amount of credit, he was no coward. He dropped the shotgun and pulled a ludicrously huge pistol from behind his back. He unloaded three rounds into Stella’s chest before she could even react. The reports from the weapon were shockingly loud, and Stella felt the bullets go some of the way in despite her body being heavily laced with one of the strongest metal alloys she had access to.
Stella slapped the gun aside before Ross could put any more bullets into her, and sent the man spinning to the ground with a shattered arm.
“Ahgh! You bitch! You broke my fucking arm!”
“You shot me in the chest!”
Stella briskly handcuffed Ross’s good arm to the doorknob, and put the pistol safely out of his reach. She then did a quick self-examination and and found that the bullets were wedged into her chest pretty solidly, and although she was bleeding slowly, she was going to need the services of a healer sooner than later. She also felt the wind start to pick up. Stella looked back at Danny to see a vortex starting to form around him again.
“Danny!” Stella took a breath and tried again in calmer tones while also turning back into gold. “Danny please. Everything is going to be fine, but only if you stop making wind.”
The wind started to pick up more, so Stella got in close to him as she dared without looking like too much of a threat; she knelt down in front of the boy. “Danny please. Ross isn’t going to hurt anyone, and will be going to prison for shooting at us. But if you kill him with your powers it’ll be bad for everyone. This is all accidents, and someone scared and hurt fighting back.”
“He shot you! You’re bleeding!”
“And he’s going to go away for a long time for that. Can you stop? Please?”
Even in her metal form, Stella was starting to hurt. Titanium was tough stuff, and the shotgun pellets had mostly just bounced off, but the handgun had been some sort of high caliber monster of a thing. Stella didn’t suffer blood loss or shock as much when laced with metal, but she did bleed, and ribs did crack or bend. If Danny’s stepfather, Ross, had been a smaller man, the weapon might have broken his arm before Stella had.
Stella tried to convey as little confrontation or fear as possible. Everything stood on a knife’s edge. If Danny went berserk the heroes would be called in, and Danny would go to a super containment facility. His life would be ruined, and if the heroes overreacted, the kid might even end up maimed or dead.
Finally, Danny started to lose control and cry in earnest. Without the young super’s anger to keep him going, his powers died off quickly. He broke down completely, and before he could run off Stella caught him in a hug, careful not to squeeze too hard, and comforted him as best she could.
Eventually, Tiffany, Gerald, a few heroes from Just Cause, Danny’s mother, and what seemed like all the police and rescue workers in the county showed up. Danny was teleported to a low security containment facility, and yet again Stella Hawkins lapsed into unconsciousness while on the job.
She awoke in yet another medical clinic with one of her fellow VCS agents, the healer from Frank’s team, at her side, along with a number of other people from the department, both in and out of the intervention teams. When she sat up, all Stella could hear was cheering and applause.
Danny had been assessed as at least a Demolition level, and possibly even a Manhattan level threat, and had the situation spiraled out of control, it certainly would have resulted in Just Cause unleashing everything they had on the kid, but only after he’d killed or maimed a lot of people and caused untold amounts of property damage.
The school was being investigated, and it turned out that the school administration and staff were infested with Humanity First activists. This alone wasn’t necessarily a problem. Americans had a right to their opinions, even if they were close-minded bigots that didn’t comprehend the possible long term consequences of their actions.
However, an investigation revealed that they suspected Danny had powers, but trusted Danny’s stepfather Ross as one of their own. They expected that the problem would ‘sort itself out’ if they made sure the state and federal government didn’t get involved. This broke a large number of laws intended to protect children, and prevent another case like the incident in Kansas that caused the VCS department to be formed in the first place.