Chapter 19 – Freedom Squad Nanowrimo
“Defiance!” shouted Rigel.
She was inside a burned-out building, picking her way around fallen walls and broken columns. Bare wires sparked from wall outlets and water sprayed from shattered faucets. The floor was covered with playing cards, each one of them showing the Ace of Spades.
“Bill!” she yelled.
She came to a window and saw a single building standing across the street. It was a single family ranch-style home, beige with brown trim, fairly non-descript, other than it was in perfect shape including a manicured lawn. Oh, and it was located in a ruined city between collapsing skyscrapers. An American flag hung off the porch.
“Well, at least it doesn’t appear too hard to figure out what’s important in his mind,” she said.
The Ace of Spades opened the door and stepped out onto the porch. “Hello, Rigel.”
“G’Day, Ace. Or perhaps I should call you Psionicist.”
“Clever girl,” he said, walking along the porch as she approached. He swept his black-gloved hand along the porch rail. “Of course, I could call you Cori, and you still don’t know my real name.”
Cori walked up the driveway and stepped on the flagstones as she made her way to the porch, careful not to disturb the grass.
“Being respectful, I see,” said the Ace.
“I do what I can,” she replied as she marched onto the porch. “It’s not my yard or my mind. It belongs to Defiance.”
The Ace of Spades laughed. “That’s questionable. However, if you are here to see him, he’s inside. The last vestige of his sanity, or perhaps it’s his insanity, is standing guard over one of the rooms. He won’t let anyone in. I’d be careful. He gets very violent.”
“It’s really you, isn’t it?” Cori said.
“For a genius, you are a little slow. I called you Cori, didn’t I?”
“What if I defeated you here?”
“I’d leave. Besides, Cori, we shouldn’t fight. I mean, we could, but I’ve chosen you for much more important things.”
Cori folded her arms across her chest. “Oh? What exactly?”
The Ace gave her a lazy smile. He wore a black mask which reminded Rigel of something that Zorro might have worn beneath his hat. She reminded herself that in the realms of the mind, he could look like anyone or anything.
“Team leader of Freedom Squad for one thing. Not everyone could hold together a group of young heroes as they struggle to find their identity. If your team is ever going to be important and eclipse groups like New Citadel, Vanguard or the Wardens in the public mind, it’s going to take a lot of effort. A good legacy doesn’t hurt. Your father was an impressive hero in his day, wasn’t he? Orion the Hunter, from whom no evildoer can escape. “
“Oh, so you want me to believe that you are the mayor?” she said.
“Believe what you want. The important thing is that I put all the events that created Freedom Squad in motion. I manipulated you into joining, and I chose all the members of your team.”
“Hardly,” she said. “I seriously doubt that even with all of your planning and manipulation that a member of an intergalactic civilization was at your beck and call.”
The Ace of Spades raised his hands in mock surrender. “All right, you got me. I had nothing to do with Starlight.
And well, Ion’s got more of a mouth than I expected.”
“So, since you control everything, why did you set Defiance free?” Cori asked.
“It was hard to reach him in jail, even for me. He was healing and remembering things that I don’t want him to remember. He was also becoming dangerous. It was time for us to become reacquainted. I need to recondition him. Unfortunately, he’s very strong-willed and difficult to handle. Also, prone to violence. He’s still trying to hunt me down, and personally, I’m not interested in experiencing the physical damage he can do with his fists. Why don’t you go inside and talk to him yourself?”
“I think I will,” she said, heading inside.
The Ace of Spades followed her. The inside of the house was a mess. Broken toys, sports equipment, electronics and magazines littered the place. The furniture however, seemed to be in good condition and structurally, everything seemed to be okay. “They should really stage this place better,” said Cori.
She saw Defiance standing in front of a door in the hall. He was in full costume, red gloves, boots, belt, cape and mask with a fractured red diamond symbol in his chest and a white bodysuit. His muscles rippled beneath his costume, and he glowered at the intruders.
“G’Day,” said Cori, feeling terribly like a deer in the gun sight of a hunter.
“Go away. You won’t defeat me. I’m not going to give up. No matter what you do, I’m not letting you pass,” he said.
“See?” said the Ace of Spades. “He’s not really all there.”
“Oh, I think he’s still there,” said Rigel. “And you want to find out what’s behind that door, but if you try and
force the issue, you’ll probably end up killing him. Am I right?”
“What do you think, Cori?” asked the Ace.
Rigel felt a burning fury build up inside her. She turned on the Ace of Spades. “I think you aren’t nearly as smart as you think you are. Unlike you, I know exactly what’s behind that door.”
The Ace of Spades seemed mystified. “You think you are telling the truth. How can you know?”
“I think it’s time for you to leave. One other thing…”
Unshed hot tears of anger started to form in Cori’s eyes. “How dare you attack Protector!” A storm of psychic power exploded out of Rigel. The front of the house disintegrated and the Ace went flying backward into the street. “Don’t you ever touch a member of my team again. What you’ve done to Defiance is obscene. What you’ve done with your gift is obscene. It ends today.”
She flew out of the ruined house and landed in the street in front of the Ace.
“Stupid child,” he said, “this is the realm of the mind, my realm. I’ve been developing my telepathic abilities since before you were born. I’ve been in Defiance’s mind for years. You can’t defeat me here, and if you stop and think about it, you wouldn’t even want to defeat me.”
He launched a burst of power at her, which in her perception seemed to be a cloud of flying playing cards. She willed a shield of bright white light to appear in front of her, blocking the attack. The world around them, the city was crumbling.
“I can play mental make-believe with the best of them,” Rigel said. “Do you know what a mob is where I grew up?”
“No,” said the Ace.
“Let me show you,” said Cori, willing the largest group of kangaroos she had ever seen from her childhood to go bounding at the Ace of Spades. “That’s a mob.”
As she was engaging in psychic battle, she reached out to Defiance. She was glad that texting and talking had taught her to mentally multi-task as a teenager, though she could hear her father telling her never to text and drive. She focused back on the contact with Defiance. “I know what you are doing. I need you to help me. I need you to be a superhero, Bill. I know who you are protecting, but the only way to keep her safe is to stop the Ace of Spades. Help me kick him out of your head, forever.”
Rigel was a knight in glowing white armor, with a shield in one hand and a morning star in the other. The Ace wore black platemail and slashed out with a sword. They clashed, sending sparks flying. “I like this one,” said Rigel, even as the Ace’s sword scraped against her armor.
She decided that she had to be careful with the multi-tasking.
“You know what I have that you don’t,” she said to the Ace, as he knocked her down to her knees with a powerful blow.
“My team,” she stated.
Protector was there, and he grabbed the Ace’s shoulder. The images of the armor and shields vanished, as Protector turned the Ace around and punched him in the face. Protector grabbed him and slammed the Ace into his shield.
“My, my,” said Rigel in slight surprise, “you didn’t have an easy time with him at all, did you? Just the thought of Protector has you rattled.”
“I’m not letting your mental projection of Protector stop me. I’m the master here,” said the Ace.
“I’m the Protector,” said the image of Alex, knocking the Ace to the ground again. At some point, the scene had shifted to a darkened alley littered with comic books.
“I know that,” the Ace said as he flung a swirling mass of power at Protector.
The Protector knocked the power aside with the Shield of Justice.
Rigel chuckled. “I think I found a fear of yours or touched some deeply hidden conflict in your subconscious. Do you find it difficult to face a hero with a pure heart? Does it make you see what you’ve become, Psionicist?”
“Oh, Rigel, pure hearts get you nowhere. As I said before, you should be working with me, helping me. We have the power to know the truth. We can uncover every crime that anyone can conceive, because we know what they conceive. I’ve brought an end to more criminal enterprises than you or Protector can imagine. I don’t need lawyers and trials. I can tell who is guilty and who is innocent by going into their minds.”
The Ace of Spades kept conjuring walls of dark energy, but Protector simply shattered them with his gleaming shield
as he advanced. Rigel launched a few blasts of her own as she continued to perform her multi-tasking.
Rigel asked, “But how does anyone know if you are telling the truth? How can you be sure that you aren’t making a mistake? Everyone has dark thoughts from time to time. That doesn’t make them all criminals. Besides, you’ve already shown that you are ready to sacrifice whatever morals or ethics you might have to punish those you feel are guilty. It seems that human rights don’t mean much to you and if someone gets in your way, you’ll sacrifice them by putting them in a coma or taking over their mind.”
“I’ll do what I must,” said the Ace, opening a hole beneath Protector which swallowed the hero. “And I may have some conflicts, but they are nothing that I can’t overcome, Cori.”
A chess board appeared between Rigel and the Ace of Spades. Cori immediately recognized the pieces. It was her team.
“Let’s see how you do with your fears,” threatened the Ace.
Protector lay beside them in a widening pool of blood. Nightstar was on his knees beside Alex screaming and clutching at his eyes. Broken mirrorshades were on the ground beside him. Rockslide crawled toward her, and she
could hear his thoughts. “I’m becoming stone on the inside. I can’t think anymore. Help!”
“There’s more,” said the Ace, making a sweeping gesture to the other side of the table.
Rigel looked over into a bright blue sky filled with puffy white clouds. She could see Starlight, Snowfall, Solaria and Ion flying toward them.
“Freedom Squad to the rescue,” said the Ace.
Suddenly, bright red energy beams fired from below, striking each one in turn and burning through their bodies. The heroes flailed out and fell from the air. It was all vibrantly real.
Cori began to giggle.
The Ace was thoroughly confused.
Cori tried to stop, but she kept giggling. “Oh… I’m sorry, but that was fantastic.”
“What!? You just watched your team die!” said the Ace.
“I know, but for that sort of mental game to work, I have to believe it,” she said. “And you need to get out more.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, you see,” said Cori, “when I was playing with our security on the computers a while back, before my latest security attempt, Ion and I were joking around. He thought I should put some misinformation in the system, so in the list of his powers, I wrote that he could fly. I think you’ve been getting most of your information from my computers.”
The Ace of Spades was silent.
Rigel’s tone became deadly serious. “Ion doesn’t fly, but since we’ve been talking, I want to introduce you to someone who does. His name is Defiance.”
There was a sonic boom and a red and white figure smashed into the Ace of Spades. The world broke and cracked. Cori could hear the Ace yelling out in pain.
“Oh,” said Cori to herself, “I think he’s a little upset about what happened to his mind.”
Posted on November 27, 2013, in Freedom Squad, HeroNet Files, NaNoWriMo and tagged Defiance, Freedom Squad, Harry Heckel, HeroNet, HeroNet Files, Nanowrimo, Nanowrimo Novel, Protector, Rigel, Superhero Nanowrimo. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.