Chapter 23 – Freedom Squad Nanowrimo

Chapter 23

Time.

Cori felt as if she were running out of time.

She tried to tell herself that the mayor was the Ace of Spades, and that he had been hiding in front of her eyes. She tried to believe that the Ace felt that by being close to Freedom Squad that they would never suspect him. She tried to believe that it was possible that the Ace hadn’t considered the physical danger posed by walking around next to superheroes.

All she did believe was that somewhere, the Ace of Spades was escaping.

Her communicator buzzed. A text message came from Starlight. “I will be delayed in my return. What is the situation?”

Rigel used her telekinesis to text back. “Fusion defeated. Return to Headquarters when possible.”

She had let her team head back to base. Everyone was hurt, and they needed treatment. Jake Lord had returned to Freedom Squad Headquarters and was ready to help. The Homeland Security Ultra Task Force had people in radiation suits sweeping the area with Geiger counters. Rigel wanted to leave, but someone from Freedom Squad should be present. She was team leader, so she was the choice.

Nightstar pulled up in the Night Cycle. “Are you ready to head back to base?” he asked.

“Not yet. I could fly, you know,” she said.

“Sure, and I could leave you here alone to deal with the authorities and possibly the press. There are lots of questions in the media right now about our earlier stunt.”

Cori looked over to a police barrier. It was pretty far off, but the amount of news media was amazing. There were camera crews atop vans, reporters shouting to police officers, along with a throng of people with their smartphones. Rigel thought she’d rather face Fusion again.

“Riding on the Night Cycle sounds great right now, but I don’t think I can leave yet. Any word on how the team’s doing?” she asked.

“Jake’s taken over. Everyone was told to remove their clothes and go through some decontamination. In other words, shower with some foam stuff. Afterwards, they were all ordered to head to the healing tubes.”

“Where’s the mayor?” she asked.

“He’s in the Monitor Room. I told the press in front of HQ that he would be making a statement later. With all the excitement here, I think they’ve forgotten about him. He’s just a mayor. This is nuclear incident.”

Stacy King made her way over to Rigel.

“My people are detecting hardly any background radiation, except on you and in the immediate vicinity of Fusion. It’s even less than normal levels. What did you do?”

“It was Starlight,” Rigel said. “My resident alien can absorb radiation. Looks like he did a good job. Is Fusion secure?”

“Yes. We’ve got him in a suspension unit under deep freeze that would make your teammate Snowfall cold. Just to be secure, it’s sealed in a lead and concrete vault inside a truck. I think we’re okay. Do you want to address the press?”

“Do I have to?”

Stacy shook her head. “No. Before you go, how’s Bill?”

“He should be fine,” Rigel said, and then she hesitated before continuing, “You really should talk to him. He’s better now, and he thinks very highly of you.”

Agent King nodded. “I definitely will.”

Rigel turned to Nightstar. “Shall we?”

“Sure, just remind me to decontaminate the Night Cycle afterward.”

It didn’t take long to get back to Freedom Squad Headquarters.  Rigel followed protocols and took her decontamination shower, complete with foam and changed costumes. The new one wasn’t psychically reactive, but it would do until she got her good costume completely radiation-free.

Allthough she needed to go to the medlab to check on her team, Protector was guarding the mayor. She needed to know if she was wrong, if the mayor was the Ace of Spades. She hoped that he was, but as she walked to the Monitor Room, she still felt as if she were losing time.

“Stop it, Cori,” she said to herself. “You need to have a full team before you try to find him. You’ve been over this with yourself.”

It felt like an eternity before she arrived in the Monitor Room. Alex was there in his Protector uniform, holding his golden shield and not looking at all like he had spent the last day in bed. The mayor was sitting in a chair, bound and unconscious. She almost thought it looked like Protector had kidnapped him.

“He’s still unconscious,” said Protector, stating the obvious.

“How are you doing?” asked Rigel, managing a smile. It was good to see Alex standing. For her part, the shower had been nice, but after the last several days, she really wanted to follow it up with some quality sleep.

Protector said, “As far as I know, I’m fine. If anything, I feel more resolved than before.”

“That’s a little frightening, Alex,” she said. “You are rather intense at times.”

“I’m the Protector.”

“I know,” said Cori, smiling more brightly. She barely resisted the urge to hug him. He was the Protector. She turned her attention to the mayor.

She tapped her chin with a finger. “So, do you think that he’s…?” she started to ask.

“No,” said Protector. “He’s not the Ace of Spades. I’m sure that the Ace was using him, manipulating him, but he’s not the Ace.”

“That’s my thought too,” agreed Rigel reluctantly. She had already decided that the mayor wasn’t the Ace of Spades, but if Protector had provided hard evidence that the mayor was the Ace, she wouldn’t have been disappointed. “I need to find him before he disappears. I shouldn’t have taken that shower.”

“Are you going to fix the mayor?” Protector asked.

“Yes, I will,” she said reluctantly. “I just feel like I’ve been doing too much of this.”

“Too much of what?” asked Protector. “Giving people their own thoughts back? Putting them back in charge of their lives?”

“What if I became like him, Alex? What if I started altering people’s thoughts, manipulating their memories, controlling their actions?” she asked.

“If that ever happened, I’d stop you, Cori.” The resolve in his tone was absolute.

She stood up and hugged him, much to his surprise. “Thank you, Alex, I needed that.”

“Okay,” he said while not sounding sure what to say.

She let him go. “Okay, I’m going to take care of the mayor first. He should be fine to go once I’m done.”

She removed her gloves and pressed her hands against his cheeks. She concentrated and entered the mayor’s mind. Flying playing cards and dark fortresses with black and white flags tried to block her efforts. She deconstructed them with a blazing white light, liberating the mayor’s mind. She showed him images of the Megalopolis of his dreams, a true city of tomorrow, an icon to America.

“Keep believing in Freedom Squad, Phillip,” she whispered in his mind, using his first name, “and remember the best Freedom Squad is yet to come. The Ace of Spades cannot be allowed to corrupt your vision, destroy your political career or defeat the superhero team that you created.”

The mayor’s willpower was strong. Rigel knew it had to be to survive as a politician and former CEO. Once she had turned it against the Ace of Spades, the mayor’s mind was liberating itself, chasing the remnants of the Ace’s control from the far corners of his mind.

She pulled her hands away.

“He’s going to be fine. Now, I need to go downstairs to the medlab. When he wakes up, Alex, let him go. Tell him that we’ll talk later.”

“Will do,” he said, “Oh, but Cori, can I make a request?”

“Sure, Alex. What?”

“When you locate the Ace of Spades and Freedom Squad goes after him, I want to come.”

“I promise,” she said.

The medlab was full. Dr. Lord had Solaria in one healing tube, and Snowfall in the other. Ion was lying on a table, out of costume, with a blanket over him. Defiance was also out of costume, sitting on a chair, and she recognized him from the burns on his skin. He looked as strong stripped down to his underwear as he did in his white and red uniform, though he was a little less impressive without the cape, she mused to herself. Rockslide was lying on a large table just past Defiance, looking like some broken statue. He turned his head and smiled at Rigel.

And of course, Nightstar was in uniform, leaning against a wall of the medlab, casually watching everything. She felt a sense of relief. As much as she cared about the members of the team, she and Nightstar had become close. She made a note to herself that when all of this was over, they were going to spend more time together.

“G’Day, how’s everyone doing, Dr. Lord?”

“Everyone’s fine. Although I’m understanding why Starlight warned me that normal humans might not survive the tubes, they work wonders for the augmented physiologies of this team. The new member, Velocity, finished first, and after him, I got Rockslide and Ion into the tubes. Solaria and Snowfall should be out momentarily. Nightstar doesn’t seem to have suffered any damage. I made him take a shower, but he’s fine. So when Snowfall and Solaria are done, it’s time for you and Defiance.”

“Why didn’t Defiance go in first?” she asked, indicating his injuries.

“He refused,” said Dr. Lord. “Bill’s a touch stubborn, hence the name Defiance.”

I wanted to make sure that Hurricane,” said Defiance, referring to Dr. Lord by the name he had once used as a hero, “took care all of the heroes are fine first. I’ve been hurt worse. Besides, I’m a criminal, remember.”

“I see,” said Rigel, rolling her eyes. “And you feel that trumps the fact that you were hurt the worst.”

The tubes drained. Doors opened in the cylinders and Snowfall and Solaria climbed out. Dr. Lord handed each of them a large towel.

“Yuck,” said Solaria, throwing the towel over her body. “That stuff feels like maple syrup or something. The things we do to keep our hair from falling out. I guess I’m taking a second shower.”

“Whatever it takes, not dying of radiation poisoning is a good thing,” said Snowfall as he wrapped the towel around his shoulders.

Rigel walked over to Defiance. “I’m sorry, Bill, Defiance, whatever you want to be called. If you are going to work with my team and with the lawyers I’m planning to have review your case, then you aren’t going to wallow in self-pity. Agent King wouldn’t approve either. In the meantime, the Ace of Spades has done enough to you and to untold others. I need you to get yourself healed so we can bring the Ace, or if you prefer, the man formerly known as Psionicist, to justice. Do we understand each other?”

Defiance raised his eyes to meet hers. He shook his head. “You barely even know me.”

She folded her arms and tapped her foot.

Defiance held up his hands in surrender. “Fine,” he said, “I see why you are in charge.”

“You will really see why when we catch the Ace. After you and I are done with the healing tubes, we’re going to locate him.”

Defiance walked over and quietly stepped into the healing tube. Dr. Lord activated the tube and it filled with liquid.

Rigel glanced over to Nightstar. “Are you sure that you don’t need to be treated?” she thought to him.

“I’m fine,” he thought back. “And if you hadn’t come down here, I was going to find you and drag you down here.”

“No, you wouldn’t have,” she thought. “You would’ve teleported me with that sword of yours.”

He smiled. “That’s probably more accurate. Now hurry up and get healed. We need to find the Ace of Spades.”

“Believe me, I know,” she thought. “He’ll probably know when I find him. I suspect he’ll feel my thoughts, so I’ve been waiting to make sure that we are at full strength. It hasn’t been easy to wait.”

“But it sounds like you are being smart. I checked on Alex. He’s okay.”

“I did too,” she thought.

“Cori,” said Dr. Lord, interrupting, “if you and Nightstar are done staring at each other or having a private telepathy session, it’s time to get you in the tube.”

“Yes, sir, Dr. Lord,” she said.

Cori took off the replacement costume, going down to her undergarments. She thought that the neospandex material was stronger than any swimsuit she could buy, and climbed inside the tube. She relaxed and put on the breathing mask as the alien liquid poured over her. It was warm and soothing, and once again, she wished she could fall asleep.

“After we catch the Ace…,” she promised herself.

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Posted on November 30, 2013, in Freedom Squad, HeroNet Files, NaNoWriMo and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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