The drive to that Exemplar base from Radium is quite the distance. The agents hauled ass, though. They rented a car, so they didn’t have special lights or law enforcement plates. The only thing that kept us from being pulled over is the lack of anyone giving a crap. They didn’t need me to point the way. They weren’t supposed to know where the raid was taking place, and they originally didn’t want to get anywhere near that mess.
Speaking of messes, only two of them came with me. Ohanian wanted to bring Mazur along, but then Mazur tried to stand. He sent us along, said he’d get treated, then work on smoothing over things in Radium. That left me to arrange for a babysitter for Qiang, and reassurances that I would be back. She wasn’t happy and yelled at me to stay back.
She had a point.
With Mazur and my daughter seen to, I took up the backseat of the rental car while Daniels drove and Ohanian used his phone to try and keep up on what was happening.
I spent most of the trip working on my gizmos. More than one. It wasn’t ideal working conditions and I didn’t have time for everything. The phones were essential; they helped me turn a pair of sunglasses into a new set of eyes for me. I also put together a few flashbangs with some real kick to them.
“What are you doing?” Daniels asked at one point after I got the sunglasses put together and was doing some funny stuff with cell phone batteries and wires. “Try not to mess up this car.”
“Don’t bother. The shit hit the fan,” Ohanian added. “It’s turned into a siege and got out into the news.”
I chuckled. “So, here’s a question worth asking. Did Medusa get back into the base before the reporters got there, or was she still on her way by that time.”
Daniels looked to Ohanian, who shrugged and said, “It’s not out yet. They don’t realize it’s even a possibility at the Bureau.” Ohanian looked at Daniels, who glanced over to him in between keeping his eye on the road. “We have to,” Ohanian told him.
Daniels shook his head. “I know you’re sick of what they’re doing.”
“We took an oath!” Ohanian said.
“This is fulfilling that oath. I know you and Mazur don’t have the clout for this,” Daniels said. “I’ll take responsibility when they ask why we didn’t tell them.”
“Or you can just blame it on me,” I said. “I get blamed plenty. It’s usually true, though.”
Ohanian glanced back at me, then to Daniels, and shrugged. We all drifted into silence for awhile until, with Ohanian refreshing and texting for updates. Finally, he broke the silence by saying, “This is fucking stupid. Everything’s happening there and we’re stuck here!”
“Let’s try the radio then,” I said, reaching up between them to push it on the more conventional way. An ad was just going off the air, followed by a long silence, then the DJ.
“Uh, hey folks. I found the button to come back from break. Like I, like I said, it’s my first day here after the previous DJ was killed deader than disco in that suicide drone bombing. You know what isn’t dead like disco? Country music!”
Off it went.
We had to stop for gas along the way, and it was that rest stop where Ohanian rushed out of the bathroom faster than he rushed into it. “What happened?” I asked as he hopped into the passenger seat after saying something to Daniels “Literal shit hit a fan?”
Ding! I got news alerts. Medusa and some Exemplars had made contact with reporters outside the base and had allegedly provided them with documentation of a scandal that could bring down the President. And then… nothing. All live feeds and streams of the siege failed. And then I got no connection whatsoever.
Ohanian growled in frustration at his phone. “Stupid thing.” Despite the risk of contamination by Country music, he tried the radio. Nothing but static.
“Bad news,” I said. “They must have someone or something who can block all of those signals. Just all of them. Nothing in or out. Good news, though, we’re close enough to be blocked, too.”
It wasn’t ten minutes later we saw a commotion ahead of us on the road. A searing yellow burst of light shot out from something flying in the air and the road ahead of us started to smoke. Ohanian busted out the minibinoculars and took a closer look. When he dropped back down, he told us, “It’s the Legion. He just fried that news van. The people inside have to be dead.”
“Do you think their news org will be as passive as they usually are about that?” I mused. “Like ‘Reporter Dead In Connection With Villain, Legion Standoff?’”
“This isn’t a joke,” Daniels said as we got closer.
I tried to roll my eyes and ended up missing them when I failed. “As often as it happens, it’s more of a running gag.”
“How can you see that any-whoa!” Daniels said, putting on the brakes. It wasn’t one of those super-dangerous situations like on TV where someone slams on them with lots of squealing. The Freedom Legionnaire had landed far enough away that we could stop without dying. It looked feminine this time, and held a hand up as we slowed and stopped.
“Turn back! This is a dangerous situation,” the Legionnaire yelled.
Daniels stuck his head out of the window. “Hey, what’s going on up there?” He motioned to the van stopped, darkened from heat, having skidded to a stop on the shoulder of the oncoming lane. “Those people are waving for help! Why aren’t you saving them?”
The Legionnaire turned and fired another blast at the van. Daniels, acting fast, gunned it as soon as the Legionnaire turned. When it turned back to us, the ballsy agent put on his lights and high beams. The Legionnaire flew upward while shooting a beam at us. We all bent away from the middle of the car instinctively as it sent the top flying off. Ohanian turned his head to watch the roof fly off, and then me as I jumped. I didn’t have the same reach as with my armor, so I looked out like a poor, pathetic failure as the Legionnaire flew even higher than I could jump. But would a pathetic, lonely, self-doubting husk of a human being- no time, I threw one of my spicy flashbangs.
It exploded with a bright flash, an annoying high-pitched squeal, and a brief fireball that covered everything with copper dust from wiring. I don’t recommend trying to recreate it at home, or in a car when you don’t have eyes.
Now, thanks to some physics nonsense that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, I landed back in the car, to the astonishment of a watching Ohanian. “How’d you know to duck? And jump? And throw that thing? What was that thing? You had a bomb in the car with us?!”
“Relax, it probably wouldn’t have killed you. It didn’t even kill that person back there. How good are y’all at defensive driving?”
Daniels kept speeding past the news van, and headed onward. Past that one, we could get a good look at more wreckage along the way, but also some people running alongside the road. Another Legionnaire was running, not with superspeed, just faster than humans do. As he closed in one of the people, big thorns popped out of his costume. He swiped at one person with an arm thorn, knocking them to the ground. A few more stabs and he was satisfied.
Behind us, the Legionnaire I’d left back there had oriented herself and flew back at us. This time, she got close overhead of and held out both hands. I punched her in the crotch hard enough to have technically cheated on Medusa. She kinda flailed a bit and peeled off at that. Then the flashbang I’d stuck in there went off and she collapsed onto the road, rolling end over and looking like she was pretty much out of condition. I don’t know if it’s a fatal blow, but it’s probably unpleasant enough to put her out of commission.
Daniels stuck a pair of powered ear plugs in his ears and pulled his gun free of his holster. “We have to save them.”
Ohanian nodded, put in his own plugs, and brought out his sidearm. He set it on top of the windshield, on a remaining section of the plastic up there. Supported, aiming with one hand, and bringing the binoculars to his eyes with the other, he aimed at the distant thorny Legionnaire. “Cover your ears,” he called back to me. I didn’t bother since my ears can adjust to that. Instead, I watched as he shot and managed to hit the Legionnaire, causing it stop in its pursuit of its next victim and look around. The woman in a red skirt and jacket that was next on the menu.
It didn’t penetrate. “Don’t you have more firepower?” I asked.
Ohanian called back to me. “They have armor! You’re lucky I can hit one at this distance.”
He used his shots to stagger the thorn guy, but that Legionnaire figured out what was going on, and Ohanian’s magazine ran dry. He swapped in a new one and the thorny bastard continued its chase of the woman in red. Daniels adjusted his course to come up beside her. She reached out in anticipation, though we were still a ways away. Then she began to fall, a thorn sticking through her belly. The Legionnaire was right behind her, pulling its thorn free. Daniels swerved and hit him. The Legionnaire bounced off the front of the car and along the ground, where he was run over by Daniels. The agent then skidded to a halt and backed over him. Then he got out and gave the limp form a couple shots to the chest just to make sure it wasn’t reacting.
Another man ran up to us, much less professionally-dressed, lugging a camera on his back. “You gotta help me! You gotta get me out of here! They’re killing everyone!”
Daniels put his hand on the man’s shoulder and tugged out his ear plug, the better to help him hear the distant sounds of gunfire and conflict. “Who is killing everyone?”
The man pointed down at the Legionnaire, then held up a file folder. “The Exemplars got copies of this to us. They took it from a lab. These things are prisoners and dead bodies. They cut out parts of the brain and replace them with computer chips, then bring them back to life under their control.”
Dead superheroes brought back to life? This has no place in my world.
Daniels took the file from the guy and glanced at it. He looked at the guy, then at Ohanian. Then he slipped the file into his jacket. “If you’ll come with me, I believe my superiors would like to debrief you in private.”
“What?” asked the man.
Ohanian rose in his seat, also looking a bit shocked. Daniels kept his gaze focused on the guy who gave us the file. “This is potentially explosive, stolen information that needs to be vetted for national security reasons. I work for the FBI and we can determine if this is even true, then pressure the President to do something.”
The man swung his arms back the way he ran from, the direction of the gunfire. “The President did this shit, man! If it was fucking fake, why are the fucking killing us?!”
Daniels reached for the man’s arm. “Please come with me, sir.” The man tore away and began running, now trying to escape us.
Daniels looked to Ohanian, who put his gun away and said, “I’m not going to shoot him to keep this quiet.”
“We took an oath,” Daniels said.
“That isn’t the oath we took,” Ohanian said.
They didn’t get much of a chance to argue about it because the guy who ran from us got splattered by a speedster Legionnaire who looked deathly thin. Might have even starved to death for all I know. Daniels rushed to the car, went to sit in, and a blur ran past that tore his head off. Ohanian brought his gun around to track the speedster as it turned. It straightened up, though, and he didn’t even get a shot off before he was suddenly flung through the air with a hole in his chest where the heart would be.
I hopped out and pulled out a pair of my flashbangs. I went ahead and activated them while the Legionnaire made the turn. Then I was crumpled on the ground, no longer next to the car. The air had been knocked out of me. I forced myself to at least sit up and saw the Legionnaire stalled in one place, his upper body swaying faster than I could really pick out. I hopped up and ran for him, aiming a kickoff kick right for his balls. He wasn’t there all of a sudden and I had to hop to keep from ending up like Charlie Brown.
Next thing I knew, I was embedded in the car door. And then I was being yanked out of there, getting the ultimate in whiplash as I flew across the landscape, pulled along by something gripping my neck. I reached back and grabbed what felt like a wrist, but then I heard a loud honking noise and got knocked the fuck out.
I woke up without my glasses. My GPS put me in Washington D.C. I could see anything, but when I tried to feel around, I found my arms and legs were strapped and clamped down hard enough to keep me down.
“The new super is awake,” I heard.
“She can wait. We need another disruptor,” someone else said. “The last one was blown up into too many pieces to sew back together.”
“Where am I? What’s going on?” I asked. While I did that, I realized I could access the internet. Sure, I didn’t have the password for their wifi, but I didn’t need that when I could go ahead and upload my own video to the internet, which I aimed to do no matter what Daniels and Ohanian decided to do with the file they got. I also fired off a text to Medusa with the details I did have of my location.
“You are going to make a contribution to the security of this great nation,” a cheery voice said. “You honor us with your sacrifice.”
“I’d rather not,” I said.
“Does the Technolutionary know she’ll need to be processed and given eyes?” someone asked.
Brief silence, then the response, “He’ll be by later to exam her himself and see what he needs to get through the skull.”
I smiled. “You are all so dead.”
“Shut up,” one of them said. I felt something slip onto my face, some funny smelling gas, and then I got real sleepy.