Stella’s phone rang early in the day on Sunday, and it was the ringtone of the emergency line from DVA headquarters. It was a call that Stella was absolutely not allowed to ignore, so she frantically thrashed around to disengage herself from both the sheets and her bed partner to land on the floor amid a pile of clothing.
After several more seconds of frantically searching through the pile Stella pulled out the phone, but was in no mood to be either polite or coherent in answering.
“Mngh…What? Better be good.”
“Agent Hawkins,” said the calm and professional voice from the phone. “There is an emergency requiring yourself and all HCP trained intervention team members. A teleporter is being dispatched to your location, and will arrive in fifteen minutes.”
“Buh,” said Stella, but was given nothing in answer but a dial tone. Then the message sank in, and she realized that in a very short time a teleporter would be appearing in David’s apartment, and both she and David were naked.
Stella whipped the sheets over the huge man, and frantically began throwing her clothes on, then ran into the bathroom to at least straighten her messed up hair, wishing for the moment that she’d kept the tight braids from her college days, and clean off the makeup that was smeared across her face.
It had been a good night, and Gods damn the DVA!
Then the content of the message she’d received sank in. What kind of emergency required all HCP trained intervention team members? Something tickled at the back of her brain, but was lost amidst multiple days, and hundreds of pages, of training material.
One of the Intervention team teleporters popped into existence next to Stella as she exited the bathroom. It was the one from Linda’s team, Miles Andreasson, an out of shape but well tanned man in his thirties who, if not for the frequent drug screens, Stella would swear was continually stoned.
“Hey Stella,” Miles said. “Oh hey, David! Dude!”
Then Miles did a double-take, looking back and forth between a mussed up and angry Stella, and a clearly naked albino giant of a powered lying in bed.
Miles grinned so broadly it looked like the top of his head might flip backwards off his neck.
“One word,” said Stella. “Just one wrong word, and I will make you regret it Miles.”
“Sure,” said the teleporter. “No problem. David dude, can you turn off the dimension lock thing you just pulled off me? We gotta go. There’s a code. All hands on deck.”
Stella’s heart lurched. Now she remembered why all HCP trained intervention team members would be called in. The DVA, and possibly some hero teams, were going to be involved in a major raid that might involve multiple children and adults with abilities. The last time it happened, it involved a child slavery ring being run by a particularly vile gang of supers.
David gave the pair of DVA agents a solemn nod, and in an instant they appeared in one of the DVA’s larger lecture theaters with dozens of agents. Among them were all ten of the other VCS agents who’d been through HCP training, which meant all of the guardians and controllers, and also Miriam and one other healer. Also present was the teleporter from Jaime’s team, though not Jaime himself.
Stella settled in between Monique and Gerald as quietly as she could, but at least half of her fellow intervention team members gave her unusually long stares, and some grins, which she could only assume meant that they knew where Miles had picked her up from. Stella felt herself flush in embarrassment, and tried to shrink into her seat, which only made some of the grins go wider.
Before Stella’s humiliation could grow worse, a costumed hero took the lectern at the head of the room. Stella noted that there were several licensed heroes, though no one famous enough to be instantly recognizable.
“Good morning everyone,” said the costumed hero. “My name is Abstract, and I and my colleagues here are mostly what you would call subtlety heroes. For those of you who don’t know us, we’re more heavily involved in the DVA than most heroes, and in particular with the Variant Child Services department.
“Three days ago, several different agencies received an anonymous tip about a compound run by Humanity First activists; zealots really. Normally, we leave such people alone, and simply monitor their movements and associations. However, this particular group seems to have gotten their hands on at least one child with abilities; one with prodigious invention capabilities.
“Our intent is to get in and rescue the child, destroy or capture his inventions, and then get out as quickly as possible. There’s also another asset there named Vincent Yeager, an adult super that I have a personal history with, and whom I’d like to debrief.
“Vincent Yeager’s involvement, and apparent disappearance after submitting these tips, is a serious cause for concern. I don’t want to get into too much detail, but he was a very capable and skilled man, and the idea of a group like this killing or capturing him marks them as exceptionally dangerous.
“We will go in first alongside human law enforcement, arriving in small groups by teleporter, and once we scout and secure the area, we’ll signal back to dispatch for the VCS intervention teams to arrive. You’ll find maps of this group’s compound as well as a best guess for an assessment of their capabilities. We’ve only done brief scouting forays and monitoring from a distance, but we think they’re aware of us.
“Please break up into your assigned teams, and read your briefing materials. We’ll be here to answer questions, and one of us will be assigned to each of the follow up teams once the intrusion teams have cleared the area.”
Stella found herself partnered with Monique, Miriam, and Gerald; as well as a taciturn woman in a dark grey and green costume who introduced herself as Influx. She explained that she and two other heroes would be assigned to the VCS teams. Since Jaimie was not present for the raid, his team members were split up among the other teams.
The heroes teleported out, and everyone else waited. And waited…
Finally the teleporters reappeared, most of them not heroes, but instead HCP staff members hired for that particular talent. It was Miles who grabbed Stella, Miram, Gerald, Monique, and Influx. They appeared in a lightly forested area from which they could see the Humanity First compound, and the smoke in the distance. There was a siren, and under it Stella thought she heard the screams of either pain or outrage.
Influx immediately demonstrated her power by duplicating herself until there were about a dozen of her. She and her duplicates moved with remarkable grace and coordination; escorting Stella and the others through the compound. Stella had been in the HCP with a duplicator named Julia who didn’t make much of an impression with her fighting skills; her team had just used her as a means of instantly communicating across distances. Influx showed just how wrong Stella’s impression of that power was, and how Julia had under utilized it, when two beefy men holding weird looking rifles charged at them.
Several of Influx’s duplicates attacked the Humanity First members while the other half of her shepherded the VCS team back from the fight. The fight was brief and intimidating. The copies of Influx acted more like a single organism than a group of individuals, and worked in perfect coordination with each other. The men never stood a chance.
Stella knew supers that would have had a hard time winning against Influx.
Noticing that the rifles were some sort of tech genius weapons, Stella transformed her skin into silver, and most of the rest of her body into titanium or gold. She’d be immune to most forms of energy and blunt trauma in that form.
Towards the center of the compound there was the sound of engines, like three or four big trucks, and a strange glow lit up the entire area all at once, as if the light were traveling through the walls, buildings, and piles of debris. Stella felt the energy roll over her, it felt greasy and uncomfortable, but seemed to roll off her body.
Then Influx screamed, and when Stella turned to look at her saw her body swell with faces and limbs pushing up under her skin as her costume ripped apart. Then she exploded in a shower of gore. Gerald was on the ground twitching in what looked like a seizure as bruises started appearing all over his body, as if he were being pummeled by invisible hands. Monique was pressing her fists over her eyes and groaning in pain, and Miriam was unconscious next to Gerald with blood coming from her ears and nose.
Stella rushed over to see what she could do for her coworkers, but only got halfway through helping Gerald when the sound of diesel motors faded, and the greasy electricity in the air faded away. There were fires, screaming, and gunshots coming from all around. Influx was dead, and her DVA coworkers were maimed and unconscious.
Whatever did this was some sort of radiation, and Stella’s metal infused body had turned it aside. Stella slung both Miriam and Gerald over her shoulders, and grabbed Monique by the arm to drag her back to where the group teleported in.
“Put em down freak!” A group of three men emerged from one of the ramshackle buildings holding more of the strange weapons.
Stella’s HCP training, VCS training, and inclination to charge in warred in her head even as she was still getting over the shock and horror of what had happened. She stared in blank incomprehension at the three rednecks; the strange appearance of their weapons adding to her confusion.
One of the men, impatient to use his weapon fired what looked like a massive shoulder mounted cannon made from old appliances at Stella. There was a horrific noise, and she was thrown back a dozen feet and fell to the ground. Worse, all three of her coworkers were torn from her grasp and flung even further away.
Monique slammed into a pile of debris behind them with a sickening crunch, and fell limply to the ground. Miriam and Gerald were only better off because Stella’s body absorbed some of what hit them. A cold fury settled over Stella Hawkin’s mind as she dragged herself back to her feet, and turned her body to a titanium alloy.
All three of the men turned their strange weapons on Stella, but she was already moving. Charging at the one with the big cannon she tore the weapon from his grasp, lifted it by the barrel, and slammed it down on his head with all the strength she could muster.
Another of the men got his weapon turned on her and unleashed a blast of fire that washed over her. Stella whipped the remains of the cannon she’d grabbed at him, caving in his chest, and shattering what remained of the weapon she’d used as a crude bludgeon.
The last of them was little more than a teenager, and pointed what looked like a double barrelled shotgun made out of scrap electronics at Stella. His voice and weapon shook in fear. “You ain’t supposed to be alive! You ain’t supposed to fight neither!”
“Self defense you little shit!”
Stella snatched the weapon from the boy, and slammed the butt of the weapon into his guts just hard enough to knock the wind from him. Then she zip tied him to a rusted out car while she tried to work out what to do next.
Influx was very dead. Somehow, her power had erupted from inside her. Gerald was burned and battered, as if the small reserve of energy he could store had turned on him, and Miriam was covered in wounds similar to Gerald’s.
Monique was alive, but clearly in bad shape. Stella didn’t dare move her, for fear of doing even more damage, but she had to get her out of there. Stella pulled out her phone and tried calling back to the DVA, but the device was dead. A quick look through the bodies around her revealed no other working communications devices either. Either the strange energy had destroyed the delicate electronics in the phones, or some other weapon had been turned on them at the same time.
In the distance Stella could hear the loud crack of gunfire. Then a pause of several seconds. Then more gunfire. Then again the same thing. She imagined small groups of men going through the compound dispatching the supers who’d managed to survive their anti-super weapon.
Thinking as quick as she could, Stella moved Miriam and Gerald next to Monique, and then shifted some of the garbage around to create a shelter that would conceal them from searches by anyone who couldn’t pick up automobiles. She hoped the people who populated this trash heap wouldn’t notice if a couple of rusted out hulks and large chunks of debris had moved around a bit. The two men she’d killed she was less gentle about concealing.
Stella grabbed the boy she’d spared, and dragged him off. She had questions that needed answering.