Apparently taking in refugees causes something of a shitstorm. Mender was not happy to see all these kids running around on his lawn. I offered to program his computer with the cranky old man voice so he could yell at them to get off, but he turned me down. He almost blasted me with his cannon when I counter offered with Gran Torino Clint Eastwood instead. He made sure to call me into his office, where he locked it down and secured it from his chair. He then proceeded to attempt to ream me for bringing them in.
I say attempted because I didn’t care. I say ream because that’s another term for someone plowing the backfield. There’s a popular meme that the Inuits have a bunch of different words for snow, as opposed to those sensible English people who only have a bunch of other words for snow. Flurries and powder aside, English has a lot of different ways to describe attempted verbal sodomy. I suspect it’s the Germanic roots of the language. German sounds like the kind of language that would do that.
So now that we know the English have seventy different words for tearing someone a new asshole, I’d like to reiterate that they work best when someone gives a shit. Damn, there really is a lot of ass-related stuff on the English tongue.
Getting off analinguistics, I think my meeting went pretty well. Mender didn’t send me back down to the cells underneath the school, probably because he’s so worried about drawing attention to them at all. His idea to keep my stuff in the library under better lock and key isn’t so bad. Plus, have y’all ever heard Stephen Hawking try to yell at someone?
Note to self: still gotta work on my moves. I’ve got a list of grudges to settle now, and I shall be avenged for my dance-off loss!
Sadly, that must wait. Always with the waiting. Because now we’ve got soldiers in the city. I hear the governor’s losing his shit over it, because he never asked them here. There haven’t been any additional bombings so far. The National Guard would probably be fine for him. He’s asked for them, but these guys are actual Army. So, in addition to displaced citizens camped out on campus and the hunt for whoever pulled off this bombing, there are protests over the illegal use of the military on U.S. Soil.
In the middle of all that, as Mender very much reminded me, is me trying to avoid anyone knowing I’m alive. And Vicky’s very much considering that the costs of having me around are outweighing the benefits.
I suggested that perhaps a group of superheroes hiding their illegal detainment of prisoners shouldn’t act so much like a group with something to hide, but I left that office with the idea in my head that I might better do something to get in his good graces. And, as I told him, the students themselves could use something humanitarian to take their minds away from worrying.
Oh, and Venus complimented me on opening up the school and finding a way to take kids. Awful lot of crap I’m catching just for wanting to buck up some teens hiding in a library.
I relocated my machines behind a few bookcases, then took a walk well away from campus. It was easy to use a hologram to sneak past the campers. It’s not like we have the whole city there. Once past them, I just reverted to looking like myself. My current armor is different enough from my older models that no one recognizes me based on it. Well, almost no one.
I made a tour of the blast sites. They’d gotten everyone out by now, emergency workers and supers working tirelessly around the clock in the days following the attack. I was trying to figure out some crap, but almost everyone else had an advantage over me in the investigation anyway.
Post office, hospital, police station, firehouse, an apartment building, and a satellite FBI office. It’s an odd list of targets in my eyes, and the places themselves looked weird to me. The apartment building, for one thing. Low-income housing, with lots of colorful graffiti. Specifically, the colors of red, green, and a mix of yellow and purple.
For those who don’t remember, which includes me half the time, the Reds, the Greens, and the Yurples are local Empyreal City street gangs. I have, from time to time, gotten mixed up with them. This looked like they’d all been marking their territory here, fighting over it. Could just be a piece of territory. Could be something more. Won’t know that until I chase down someone.
The police station’s a normal target. Everyone wants to blow up a cop coop. Go out there and knock on any random person’s door, they’ve almost certainly thought of it. I bet a kind, old granny would even have it mapped out and a batch of ingredients in the pantry. She’s got nothing to lose at that age. Granny don’t give a fuck.
The same could be said of the FBI office. So much crap around Empyreal City that could fall under Federal jurisdiction. Then factor in the anti-gang stuff: task forces and specific anti-gang intelligence gathering. Oh, and the anti-super task forces. Can never rule that out.
The fourth one I stopped at was the one at Crater Probably Memorial Hospital. That just seems suspicious because of the militia guy being there. And how there was no warning or evacuation. Everything would be wrapped up in a nice little bow except that he’s not among the victims. He was warned, so his little group had some foreknowledge of the attacks. Which means they let them happen. It’d be great to use against them, too.
And that, finally, is where someone showed up who did know me for a bad guy. I don’t know when the person spotted me the first time. I tended to travel by jumping, albeit carefully enough not to break my legs, and this guy was stuck on land. I just don’t know which guy it was because more than one showed up.
I was checking out the wreckage when a larger truck rolled up. They hadn’t lifted it up and stuck it on giant tires, but it had armor plates on the front and doors, with one of those chrome things just behind the cab that had lights mounted on it and a person standing and holding onto it. The driver and passenger doors opened, and three individuals hopped down onto the street near the hospital. The driver had this helmet on, thick metal with large, dark holes where the eyes would be. It encased his entire face, stopping at the chin but probably making it very difficult to talk.
The one from the rear had hands encased in thick metal with large bolts at the knuckles and thinner bands that stretched up to his elbows. From seeing him in action before, those bolts could extend on the edge of pistons. The one who stepped around from the passenger’s side had his left arm encased in a pair of cylinders joined by thick hoses attached to tanks on the upper arm portion, the lower arm portion ending past where a hand would in a nozzle with a pilot light flickering to life on it at that moment.
In other words, more of these newbie militia heroes had arrived on the scene, all together, while I was examining the hospital one of them was kept at. Fun times.
“I recognize you. Boy, you’re in a whole heap’a trouble now,” said the one with the piston fists.
I cocked my head to the side. “You sound pissed-off, but you look pist-on.” That got a groan from the one with the flamethrower. “See? You friend over there’s flaming and he knows what I’m talking about. Blow that light out and it doubles as a glory hole.”
“I’ll glory your hole!” He said. He almost rushed forward, but the one with the helmet and presumably laser eyes stopped him.
“Like you’d even fit!” I yelled back, then laughed.
The one in the voice tried to say something, but his voice came out like some sort of Mrs. Doubtfire wannabe. Like his helmet was stuck on Bane from Dark Knight Rises, except the accent was Midwest. When settlers settled the Great Plains, they didn’t have room in the wagons for soft As. “Hit-Man,” he nodded back toward the one with the piston fists, “He says you were the one who attacked the camp. You are not going to come quietly.”
I shrugged. “You got me, I’m a screamer. Oh, wait, you meant bringing me in. Eh, I could do that, but then there’d be all this evidence the cops got their hands on. Stuff like the camp and the weapons and the prisoner in it. Ooh, and quite possibly that bit where you guys knew about the explosion here and dragged your friend out. But if you’d like to risk that getting out to the police and the news, be my guest.”
They all chuckled. This Hit-Man fellow, with his exceedingly insulting name, said, “Nobody believes the lamestream media anymore. This is our country now. America’s for real, native Americans!”
I cracked my knuckles. I mean, I’d kill a regular person off the street just for using that stupid term, let alone people I already disliked, like these guys. “So, you wanna be Native Americans, do you? Better get ready for a history lesson.”
A thingy shot up from his back over his head and erupted in bright light. So not a flashbang after all. Just a flash. Still, this is not the first time in my life I’ve been flashed by three guys by a destroyed hospital. I’ve been to New Orleans during Mardis Gras, after all.
Figuring on laser eye starting something off, I raised one arm and cranked up my gauntlets with my free hand, then brought it up. The energy sheaths are pretty good at deflecting laser blasts of all sort. The modifications I’ve made haven’t changed that, though they’d be useless against a laser even when complete. They’re not done yet, but I hope to allow them to do things in reverse a bit and draw energy from certain attacks into the batteries.
Between the time it took for me to crank it up and the different ideas these assholes had, flames roared and the temperature soared. My sight cleared to get a glimpse of the flames, which blinded me up until they stopped. Except, just behind the flames, a giant piston fist came my way and pounded me in the chest, the pistons shooting out at the moment of impact to add to the blow and knock me back into a broken wall. It broke as my hands pounded against it with the stored power from the energy sheath. I thought the standing upper portion over my head would fall on me, the whole mess was so flimsy. Then I took a laser to the helmet. I quickly charged my gauntlets and smashed them back again, knocking the upper portion down in front of myself and giving me some momentary concealment.
Good thing, too, because I got wonky diagnostics from my battery. Of all the things, at all the time. Could have been the impact or the heat, but something went screwy and that was a bad place to fix it. I thought to check over my holo discs as well. It didn’t look too good at first, what with all the soot and fire… except I still had one on under my cape on the rear of my suit. I swapped it out for the front one and had it project my surroundings as best I could so that when I shuffled back away from the approaching trio, they didn’t notice anything suspicious. Well, not until they all jumped around in a pincer attack that caught a poor, headless chicken just trying to cross the road.
The explosion knocked all three back and left them vulnerable. I stepped forward, drawing the newest iteration of my trusty laser potato peeler. All the deadliness of a potato peeler, coupled with the unbridled kitchen handiness of a laser in one package.
Right about then is when a quartet of fucking APCs rolled up along the street and knocked the heroes’ truck out of the way. The gunners trained some really big rifles on the three heroes while the vehicles themselves began disgorging heavily-armored soldiers, many packing the kind of guns they use to snipe tanks. They came deployed to deal with supers, and increased toughness is pretty common among supers.
I didn’t know how many of those things it would have taken to turn me into Swiss Cheese Man, but I knew how many they’d use. And I still would have been willing to take them on if I’d had a reliable power source. Unfortunately, my battery was fucking up and this armor isn’t something you want to walk around in without powered assistance.
Instead, I figured we’d just have to call this one a tie. I backed away until I got to a safe distance, leaving the three heroes to explain the fight and explosion. I’ve been here at the library ever since, cleaning, repairing, and upgrading my armor. Extra holodiscs behind the cape for repairs and other tricks. Reinforced battery to keep my power supply secure. And I’ll have these gauntlets done in no time.
Then, just like Stephen Hawking, I’ll kick their heads open and dance all over their beautiful minds so hard, they’ll never walk again.