Chapter 16 – Freedom Squad Nanowrimo
Ion had led Solaria and Snowfall on a tour of Freedom Squad Headquarters, assigned them both rooms at the base, introduced them to Starlight (who was in the Monitor Room) and Rockslide (who was working out with the mega-weight machine in the gym), made up something about Daniel Hunter being a technical advisor and had let them know about Protector.
It was the last part that had Snowfall upset.
“This is terrible. There’s got to something that someone can do to wake him up,” said Snowfall. “He took on Defiance by himself. He’s the Protector.”
“I know,” said Ion, as he finished updating the communicators that had been assigned to the two new members. “But, we’re up against some dangerous people. Dr. Lord is one of the best doctors that I’ve seen. The important thing for both of you to remember is that you don’t tell anyone unless Rigel says it’s okay. “
“I’m sure he’ll recover,” said Solaria.
“Yep,” said Ion, sounding much more confident about it than he felt.
Snowfall put his hands on his hips and lowered his head. “Protector was my hero growing up. When he died…”
“… you almost went crazy and decided that you were going to use all those ice and snow powers that you still can’t control and hunt down every super-villain in the country,” said Solaria, finishing Snowfall’s sentence.
“Yes, well, and then the current Protector took up the shield and joined Freedom Squad. I was skeptical at first, but he made me believe.”
“Was it the time he stopped Laserfist and his gang from robbing the Megalopolis National Bank?”
“No,” said Snowfall, “It was when the Dark Gladiator was fighting Freedom Squad. He was on one of the buildings and knocked over the water tower. Protector was on the ground and thousands of gallons of water poured down. A family had run out of the building, and Protector made it over to them and somehow, his shield…”
“His shield deflected the water, which shouldn’t have been possible,” said Solaria.
“Were you there?” asked Ion.
“No,” they both said together. Snowfall finished this time, “I saw it on the news. There was something about the way he made sure those people were okay after he saved them, even though the battle was still going on. It made an impact on me.”
“Yeah, well Protector can do that,” said Ion. “He’s my friend.” Ion glanced in the general direction of Protector’s room. “He’ll recover.” This time he was trying to convince himself.
Everyone was quiet as Ion finished entering codes on the communicators.
When he had finished, he handed them to Solaria and Snowfall. “Okay, these are individually issued, so don’t mix them up. They do everything that the best smartphone you can think of can do, but be careful about downloading game apps. Cori, I mean Rigel, frowns on that. As long as we are talking here in the base, my name’s JR, though for some reason, everyone seems to call me Ion even when I’m out of costume.”
“I’m Kerenza,” said Solaria, “and this is Kyle.”
Ion smiled. “I knew that.”
“Oh, right, dossiers and background checks,” said Solaria.
“No problem, Kerenza,” said Ion.
“Thanks, Ion,” she said, teasingly.
“So, JR, anything else we should know about these things?” asked Snowfall.
“They monitor your vital signs and send out an alert when things go badly. I’m not exactly sure how that is determined, but it works for electrically-charged me and the materials hold up to vast quantities of voltage. Rigel set these up before the tryouts, so Solaria, yours should be okay unless you generate temperatures around surface of the Sun-land, and Snowfall, your communicator should function inside a glacier. Now, for a quick demonstration,” said Ion, holding up his communicator.
“That’s timing,” said Snowfall.
“No,” said Ion, suspiciously eyeing his communicator, “it wasn’t.” He breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s Starlight from the Monitor Room. Okay, we may need to go.”
Ion answered. “Hi Starlight.”
“Ten four, Ion,” said Starlight. “I have a phone call that I have logically determined you should take.”
“It’s the mayor. He wanted to speak with Rigel, then Nightstar and finally asked for Protector. Rigel sent a text that she needed to clear her head and was unable to be contacted except in case of emergency. She informed me that Nightstar would be with her and also out of reach. I am under orders not to reveal Protector’s condition. Therefore, you would be in charge.”
“Impeccable logic, Starlight.” Ion felt sick. “Put him through,” he said weakly.
“Protector?” said the mayor.
“Sorry, sir, it’s Ion.”
“Ion? What are you doing on the phone? Where is Rigel? What’s going on? Why isn’t Protector around?”
“Just a moment, sir,” said Ion, covering the communicator with his hand. He whispered to Snowfall and Solaria, “You two should go. Find your quarters, get used to them. Read the handbook again. Rigel likes to give quizzes.”
The two new recruits didn’t need much encouragement. They went down the hall, talking about the communicators and what part of the base they wanted to spend more time exploring.
“Ion!” said the mayor. “What is going on? Why am I talking to you instead of Rigel, Nightstar or Protector?”
“Uh…” said Ion.
“Where are they, Ion? What’s going on? Have they caught Defiance?”
“No Defiance. Negative on that. Rigel and Nightstar are on a mission, and Protector’s unavailable.”
“What do you mean unavailable?”
“Um,” said Ion, unsure of what to say, “We’ve had a slight um… weapons malfunction.”
“Where? In the gym? Did anyone get hurt?” asked the mayor.
“No, we’re all fine here.”
“Do you need me to send a team out there?”
“No, uh, there’s a radiation leak and we’ll need time…” said Ion.
“Are you quoting Star Wars to me?”
“It does sound a lot like that, Mr. Mayor, now that you mention it,” said Ion. “But, I have to go now. Sorry, sir. I’ll have one of them get back touch.”
Ion clicked off the communicator. “Boring conversation anyway,” he muttered with a slight smile. “Okay, I’m going to be in so much trouble.”
“Blue Alert,” blared across the base.
Snowfall and Solaria ran down the hall toward him. “What’s a blue alert?” asked Snowfall.
“No villains, but someone’s in trouble. Starlight, give me the situation and avoid the cultural vernacular.”
“There is an overturned vehicle on the interstate south of the city, blocking multiple lanes. A number of other vehicles have crashed. I recommend that we fly to the location as the Freedom Flyer is undergoing repairs and the roads are blocked.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Solaria. “We’ll all fly there, although Snowfall’s still working on his control.”
“There’s one problem with that. I can’t fly,” said Ion. “And neither can Rockslide, but he should stay here to guard the base. I don’t want Protector to be alone.”
“Oh, right, we sure can’t carry Rockslide,” said Solaria to Ion, “I don’t even think I can carry you. I get a bit warm when I’m in flight.”
Snowfall activated his communicator. “I know someone who can carry Ion. Starlight, can you wait for Ion? He needs you to carry him.”
“Of course,” said Starlight.
“Thanks, Kyle, but I could have asked,” said Ion.
“Right, sorry, boss,” said Snowfall.
“No wo… problem,” said Ion. “Rockslide, guard the base. Make sure Protector’s safe.”
They reached the roof, and soon, they were flying across the city. Ion didn’t enjoy being carried, but Starlight certainly had the strength to hold him. Still, as he looked down, he realized that he really didn’t want to be dropped. He also felt strange about Snowfall calling him boss. Of course, he was the most senior member of Freedom Squad present. How in the world had this happened?
Solaria was a blazing comet streaking through the night sky. She seemed graceful and completely at home in flight.
Snowfall, on the other hand, flew through the air as a lopsided cloud, weaving from side to side and seeming as if he was going to fall at any moment. Ion could see Kyle waving his hands back and forth in front of him.
“There is the accident,” stated Starlight. For a split second, Ion wondered if Starlight was referring to Snowfall.
Below them, a large tractor trailer lay jackknifed across the road, blocking two and a half lanes of traffic. At least ten other vehicles, a mix of cars and SUVs were piled up behind the truck. There was a police car on the scene, flashing blue lights, but Ion could see where an ambulance and fire truck were both stuck behind traffic and unable to reach the scene.
“Starlight, put me down near the cars. Snowfall and Solaria, head down as well, but Solaria, keep your flames away from the vehicles.”
They landed near the pileup, off to the side of the road. “Okay,” said Ion, “Starlight, can you carry an ambulance?”
“There’s an ambulance stuck back there. See if you can fly over and pick it up and gently and safely get it here. There’s a fire truck too, if you can handle that.”
Starlight paused. “Unfortunately, I believe that would be beyond my capabilities.”
“Understood. Just thought I’d check. Get back here as soon as you can.”
Solaria and Snowfall had already gone toward the wreckage, and they were helping people out of vehicles.
“Wait!” said Ion. “We need to have the EMTs here so we don’t injure anyone.”
“We are EMTs,” they said together.
“Seriously?” said Ion.
Solaria went over to him and spoke quietly, “I thought you read our files.”
“I read enough to know your names and your powers,” he said.
Solaria sighed. “That’s how we met. We blundered into each other using our powers to help put out a fire. It didn’t work so well, so, have you had paramedic training?”
“No, I’m more of an electrical and mechanical engineer type.”
Solaria smiled at him. “Okay, boss, do exactly what we say. Start by checking with the police to see if you can help direct traffic.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied.
The officers were happy to let Ion help direct traffic around the accident. A few people were holding up cell phones and taking his picture as they drove past. A truck stopped and the driver stared up past Ion into the sky.
An ambulance complete with flashing lights was coming in for a Starlight-powered landing. A bright golden glow surrounded the faceless alien and the star pattern on his chest seemed to glow. Starlight gently alighted and placed the ambulance on the ground.
“Next time I become a superhero, I think I’ll get cosmic power instead of electricity,” said Ion.
“Starlight!” shouted Solaria.
Ion watched Solaria direct Starlight to carefully lift a car. As he turned back to deal with the traffic, he caught a glimpse of a caped figure floating in the air watching the scene.
It was Defiance.
Cars were moving past Ion, and Defiance was still there, watching, perhaps a hundred yards away and maybe forty feet in the air. Ion’s blood ran cold. What was he supposed to do? If he started a fight, people who needed help could die. Besides, Defiance could knock Starlight through twenty cars without even trying. Throwing bolts of lighting, balls of fire or chunks of ice through the air would endanger everyone around.
“I’m going to act like I haven’t seen anything and direct traffic casually,” Ion said to himself. “This is me, Ion, casually directing traffic.” He waved a few SUVs past.
An officer came over to him. “Okay, Ion, we’ve got this. Snowfall wants you to use your super-strength to help him with a car door.”
“Sure,” said Ion, giving Defiance a last look.
The super-villain was gone.
JR wanted to go hide somewhere. He raced over to Snowfall, who was tending to a heavy-set older woman who had some kind of white powder on her and looked as if she had been burned. “Hi, Snowfall. I need to tell you that in addition to not being able to fly, I don’t really classify myself as having super-strength. “
“I know,” whispered Snowfall, “that was an excuse. Listen, I saw Defiance. I swear. I saw him. He’s here.”
“Yeah, there’s that. Listen, we don’t do anything right now,” said Ion, kneeling down beside him. “By the way, what happened to her?”
“Are you sure we shouldn’t do anything?”
“Positive,” said Ion in a tone so authoritative that he couldn’t believe it had come out of his mouth. “Now, what happened to her?”
“This is mostly from the air bag, but she’s unconscious and that’s not good. I’ve checked her vitals and she has no obvious signs of injury other than burns from the air bag. Watch her until the EMTs get over here, but don’t move her. I’m going to do my part to cool down anything in danger of catching fire. I may need you to short out a few batteries.”
“Sure, whatever I can do,” said Ion. He gazed up at the sky, but he saw no sign of Defiance. He checked the lady again. She reminded him of someone’s grandmother. “Hi there,” he said, “I’m Ion. I can fire electrical bolts, generate some pretty incredible electrical fields and run pretty fast. I’m great with gadgets and most criminals raise their hands in the air when they see me coming. Unfortunately, I’m lousy at this stuff, so please be okay. And let’s hope Defiance doesn’t decide to attack.”
“Defiance?” she said almost imperceptibly. She turned her head slightly.
“Don’t worry,” said a woman in white. “I’ve got her. What do you know about her injuries?” She started checking the vitals of the lady on the ground.
“Not much, Snowfall said that he had checked her vitals and saw no injuries other than the air bag burns and stuff. Oh, and she’s unconscious or was, well, she started talking.”
The EMT put a blanket on the woman. “Okay, I’ve got to check on some others. Make sure that someone is watching her. Ask her what her name is if she wakes up some more. Watch her breathing. Yell if things change.”
Solaria flew up into the night sky and suddenly blazed brightly before diving back down to the scene.
Ion’s communicator beeped. “Ion, do you need help?” asked Rigel.
“Rigel!” said Ion. “Are you close? We’re at the interstate south of the city, northbound side. You can’t miss this. We’ve got a truck that needs to be moved, injured people everywhere,” he lowered his voice, “and I saw Defiance.”
“We’re on the way. We’ve got the Night Cycle.”
“It’ll be tricky, unless Nightstar uses the displacement button. Did he show you?”
“Yes, he did. Very nice. We will be there. Who is at Freedom Squad Headquarters?”
“Okay, I need to alert him about something. Nightstar and I will be there as fast as we can. Rigel out.”
Another EMT ran over to Ion. “Solaria needs you. I’ll watch her. Go!”
Ion got up and raced over to where he saw Solaria and another EMT kneeling over a bloody man lying on the shoulder of the road, close to a crumpled ruin of a car. A few regular looking people were watching.
“Stay back,” said Solaria to the onlookers.
“What can I do?” asked Ion. The EMT held a defibrillator.
“I can’t get enough charge,” said the EMT. “Its batteries are shot.”
“This I can do,” said Ion. He willed electricity from his hands into the device. “Try it now,” said Ion.
“Clear!” said the EMT. He placed the paddles on the man’s skin, one below and to the left side of the heart and the other above and to the right. Unlike most television shows and movies that Ion had seen, not much seemed to happen.
“Check him,” said the EMT.
Solaria put a stethoscope on his heart. “Much better. He should be okay. I’m going to have to do another burn though.”
“Why did you do that bright burn thing before?” asked Ion.
“It’s a quick way to get the blood off and sterilize myself. Nothing like a thousand degrees to remove germs,” she said with a smile. Her smile quickly faded as she watched people being put in the ambulance.
Starlight stood beside the vehicle. The driver spoke to him and Starlight nodded. After the driver got inside, Starlight carefully lifted the ambulance, balancing it with remarkable precision. He flew off into the sky as the Night Cycle materialized.
“Rigel!” said Ion.
Rigel flew off the Night-Cycle and hovered in the air. She turned from side to side. Ion heard her thoughts in his head. “Where is Defiance?”
“I haven’t seen him in the last several minutes.” Ion both said and thought the words.
“Right,” thought Rigel. She took her communicator and broadcast to all nearby devices, “This is Rigel. Is everyone clear of the truck?”
Several positive answers were shouted back.
“Pause the traffic for a minute. I don’t want anyone crashing because someone stopped for the view.”
Once the police held the traffic, Rigel reached out her hand to lift the tractor trailer. She spread her telekinesis over the entire vehicle, lifting the entire weight all at once. While she didn’t have to reach her hand out, it helped her concentration. The truck floated through the air. Rigel rotated it and landed it safely on the shoulder in an upright position. The police were almost immediately able to open an extra lane.
She flew down to Ion. “Are you okay? You look tired.”
“I’ve been feeling kind of helpless, but I did help save someone’s life.”
“Let’s see if we can save a few more,” she said.
For the next half hour, Solaria and Snowfall were the ones giving the orders. Rigel moved wreckage and Ion and Nightstar directed traffic and provided any other assistance as needed. Starlight flew back from the hospital with another ambulance and a medical helicopter landed. Fire trucks were now on the scene as well. Ion kept checking for Defiance, but there was no sign of him.
In the end, many more lives were saved.
Once it all seemed to be over, Ion felt exhausted. A police officer walked by him, “Thanks, Freedom Squad.”
“Thank you,” said Ion, “for doing this sort of thing every day.”