“Here’s how we got to this point,” the story started.
The heroes had arrived in town with every intention of passing through the outskirts, except the outskirts weren’t mapped on any of their GPS devices. That tidbit got a snort of what I assumed to be derision from locals over the fact that many of those roads were small country roads, some of which were still dirt. The type of road where, even if the GPS did send you down it, you would still likely get lost. I’ve been down a few of those myself, and the Master Academics didn’t trust their own senses. They had no locals, with most of the full-fledged heroes having come from the West Coast.
They arrived in the day, so they figured they’d just head through town and hope nobody spied on them. That plan stopped suddenly when someone rushed out onto the street suddenly. The driver got out to investigate, leaving behind her quad-barrel laser shotgun in her haste and worry. She rushed out to find a red-winged young girl, apparently a superhuman. As she checked the girl’s vitals,the girl said something. The driver bent her ear closer to hear what it was. The girl’s mouth opened wide and she sunk her fangs…
It was at that point in the telling when a nearby group of eavesdropping children said, “Oh no!”
Venus glanced over at them. “We don’t need to go more into that.”
I turned to look at the kids. “And then the hero went to live on a farm upstate, where she can run and play with lots of other heroes all day long.”
“What an ass,” someone else said, obviously still mistaking me for someone who owned a donkey.
“You think that’s bad, you should see the hole,” I said. Yeah, that’ll get ’em. That burn’s so bad, they’ll have to give up freebasing now.
That was the first ambush, which drew more and more of the locals and the strixes into the fighting as things went on. Some locals tried to flee. Others were killed on the spot. However, the vampires usually tried to incapacitate civilians and heroes, then carry them off, presumably back to Angerhorn Manor. A few of the heroes pulled their punches early on, before they knew what they were facing, and that didn’t do them any favors.
With communications still down, Master Academy had to regroup, try and protect everyone, and see what they could do to get a message out. Venus and another super had snuck out so he could make a run with a cell phone to call Mendor for more help. Maybe gather some old Shieldwall buddies, or some of the newly paroled former villains.
“It was the protecting everyone part where you screwed up. That and stopping after hitting someone. Honestly, what good comes from stopping at that point?” No one around seemed to share the sentiment. “Oh, like any of you would really want to stop and let yourself get arrested after a hit and run, right? Same way you walk right up to a cop and report every other time you break the law?”
Venus pushed her visor up to give me a look, so I added, in my corny do-gooder voice, “Let that be a lesson to all you children about following the law. Either it’s all important, and should all be respected, or you might as well drive around running people over and getting run over in turn.” I gave Venus a thumbs-up and winked at her. She facepalmed.
“I have a plan for the short term, and you gave me even better ideas,” Venus said.
Minotaur spoke up, “Who had the idea?”
“You did,” Venus said. “Wouldn’t want to deny credit when lives are at stake!”
“Hopefully a lot more at stake now, though these appear to be the type subject to,” I looked around at our audience before continuing, “getting sent to a farm upstate if hurt enough in the really important areas.”
“I have a very important job for your squad,” Venus said, looking over me as well as the nearby teens who’d accompanied me. It’s not running away if I have a chaperone or three. Leah even sat right next to me. “You are going to be the meat squad.”
“Sounds right up my alley,” I said.
“You don’t even know what meat squad does,” she said.
“If it’s called meat squad, it doesn’t matter what it does. I’m going to be great at it,” I responded.
And that’s how I got tasked with going around, gathering up more pork, and tossing it around town for any hungry strixes to eat while combat groups prepared and restocked in relative safety. We would also focus strix attention on the town itself while others took a shortcut through the woods to Angerhorn. It gave me time to wander, at least, though the voluntary nature of the assignment for any assistants meant Leah was my only company. At least that meant no one would mind if I deviated just slightly from the plan and went around to check on phone lines and towers.
“What are you looking for?” asked Leah. With a wave of her hand, she graffitied a wall next to us with “Psycho Gecko Was Here”.
“Something that might indicate we’re not dealing with Spinetingler’s ability to disable communications, which is a standard horror thing. Are you sure you guys tracked him here?”
She reached into the cart, grabbed a ham hock, and tossed it at the base of a wall upon which sat a pair of strixes that had been eyeing us. One of them dropped down. The other kept looking back and forth between us and the meat.
“He was a guy in a dark cloak who ran around turning people into monsters. We never got a good look at his face, but I hear he does that. You think it could be someone else?”
I scanned the wires. Nothing looked out of place and wrecked, especially nothing that’d suddenly mess with the whole town without being so obviously wrong that someone got out to fix it. Someone tried anyway. I found the bodies of a couple of wire guys hanging out the cab of their truck, torn apart from a hole where the head used to be. Leah found her lunch. I held her hair while she puked. “There there. That orange juice seems like a bad idea now, doesn’t it? You should try milk on a hot day with lots of physical activity. Could be a good surprise backup weapon if you have good timing.”
When she stopped her temporary bout of teenage anorexia, we stopped by an abandoned gas station to grab some water. The power was still on, but no one was home. She grabbed some water, I robbed the register, and then I slapped down a dollar for drink. “I owe you two quid!” I called back over the empty counter.
Leah looked at me a moment. “That’s a long way to go for a Shaun of the Dead joke.”
I pointed at her tight hero-grade top. “You’ve got orange on you.”
She couldn’t help but look for just a second, then stuck her tongue out at me.
I decided to pick up the conversation again. “Now that you’ve stopped purging, let’s binge on some knowledge. I have a suspicion that I got into my head, and maybe I’m wrong. I know, I know. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. You don’t have to say anything; you’re right, you don’t need to be bored with my talking about all the times I’ve been wrong. Or any of the times. Let’s just preserve the mystique.”
“Stay on target, gold leader! Lock s-foils into attack position,” responded Leah.
“Right. Wouldn’t want someone to come up my behind because I’m distracted. I just know of an object that possesses powers that could, in theory, have produced these same effects so far that I know about. I really just meant to find it all as an excuse to come with you, but it is sufficiently similar to be useful knowledge. So, this person making monsters, have you seen if they had a book around when they did stuff?” I looked at a downed electrical pole and had myself a little idea.
“Maybe one time, but that place was some private bookstore. You know, occult items. I don’t know for sure. Why are you grinning? Got a fun idea?” Leah stepped around in front of me. “Go on, spill.”
“Dear sweet little Leah, I think it’s time we had a barbecue for our fine, feathered friends, eh?”
Leah had to run it by Venus as her idea, both because she actually has some loyalty to them, and because I couldn’t figure out a way to pull it off myself. Consciously thinking of how to do so would defeat it, after all.
Didn’t stop me from helping to mix up a helpful cocktail while Leah, Venus, and the senior heroes talked it over. Pigtailed girl, the same one I’d accidentally gotten punched, stopped by, curious. “What’s all that for?”
“Oh, just cooking up some homemade napalm,” I answered, casually getting back to my mixing.
She squinted. “I don’t think you can really use orange juice for that. I heard a movie said you could do it with gas and orange juice, but that was so no one would get hurt.”
“Gasoline and orange juice?,” I turned to look at her and rolled my eyes. “Ridiculous. It’d never work. Now hand me those Lucky Charms over there. The hearts, stars, and mushrooms, clovers, and blue moons give it some good zing, but the real power comes from the pots of gold and rainbows, and especially the red balloons.”
Now, that’s not all the ingredients, but it occurred to me that Optimal Outer Control could get in trouble posting Psycho Gecko’s Lucky Napalm Recipe.
Instead, take a stick of butter, a cup and a half of heavy whipping cream, eight ounces of solid Parmesan cheese, and a pound of fettucini noodles. Forget that powdery Kraft stuff. Stick the butter and cream in a pot to melt and get all mixed together while you shred the cheese to make about two cups, if you don’t count the hard, tasteless rind it gets on the edge. Also, put on some water and get it boiling for those noodles, which you can then toss in to cook. You also might consider throwing in a little garlic salt or garlic powder with the noodle water for flavor, but that’s up to you. Once your butter and cream mixes together, toss the cheese in and mix it in real well so it gets all nice and melty, adding salt and pepper to taste. Once the cheese is more of a liquid and the noodles are done and strained, toss them both int he same pot, and enjoy.
Simple, safe, and the only harm that can come to you is an explosion of deliciousness. And, due to simplicity, it has room for all sorts of modifications.
“Dinner and dynamite’s done!” I called out, having cooked both the explosives and a huge batch of fetuccini alfredo at the same time.
We saved the meat for a nice big mile in the middle of town. Meat squad, all of us, had to unload all of it we could find from any of the remaining stores. Red-winged strixes blotted out the sun overhead as we did. I had to pull pigtails out of the way to avoid getting landed on by one of them. I’m hoping that was my own reaction.
Once we got this huge pile of dozes of strixes, Minotaur and a cape wearing safety goggles and a uniform with sun symbols on the chest, back, and shoulders pulled up in a firetruck. They had a couple of local firefighters with them, too.
Minotaur held the hose while the firefighters turned on the pressure so the new payload of their truck could get nice and ready. With a blast, pinkish-orangish liquid sprayed over the strix. But not for very much longer. Solar Flare stepped up toward the end of the hose and held his hands out. What looked like hot plasma arced out from his palms and intersected the spray, lighting it on fire. The fire truck now took its name literally as it ignited the bird-like vampires.
There was cheering at first, which died down as people saw what they’d actually planned and done. The things looked humanoid. For all I know, they were just as sentient as anyone else, but with a few murderous compulsions. I can relate the most to them. But I’m also, well, me. And the sound of nothing but crackling fire was broken by Venus asking, “Really?” as they caught me roasting a marshmallow on a stick.
“You think any of them was our people?” asked someone randomly to someone else. I don’t know, I just overheard it.
“Nah,” I shook my head as I stood up and brought out the graham crackers and peanut butter cups or my smore. “Pretty sure these are the ones that don’t turn people into them. I think they’re the types, like strigoi, where the only way a human can become one is if they were a really nasty, evil person in life. So they are punished, somehow, with being a bloodthirsty, flesh-hungry creature of the night. Anyone else want a smore? Or just a marshmallow?” So pretty much the only one around here likely to be made into one of those things is me. I held out out the bag and my stick in one hand while I enjoyed my smore, smiling. And trying to ignore Psychsaur’s probing presence in my head.
I grinned and thought to myself, focusing on a different British politician as I worked on getting her out of my head. For some reason, that made it funnier as I muttered, “Boris Johnson molesting a pig. Boris Johnson molesting a pig.”