Chapter 25 – Freedom Squad Nanowrimo

Sorry about the delay in posting. I’m getting myself back together after Nano. More on that in an upcoming post.

Chapter 25

“Got him,” she said.

Rigel stood up and went over to the Freedom Squad computer. She closed her eyes, feeling the location and its surroundings. She opened a map site and moved the maps until she was sure that she had the right place.

“He’s there, just outside of town, at that mall,” she said. She that knew he had to know that she had detected him. It all somehow seemed too easy. She didn’t like it.

“That’s the new Appleton Mall,” said Nightstar. “How ironic. We were just there.”

“To be exact,” said Ion, “it’s a coffee shop at the new Appleton Mall. I should have known the Ace needed to stay highly caffeinated.”

“I’ll get him before he knows what’s happening,” said Velocity.

“NO!” almost everyone in the room shouted at once.

“Sorry,” offered Velocity in a quiet voice.

Rigel spoke. “There are too many people around him, and no telling what he’s set up. I’m going to go and face him. Everyone else, stay ready. Nightstar, you’re in charge.”

“Wait, why you? You’re the leader. You shouldn’t go face him alone. Send me,” said Defiance.

“No,” said Rigel, shaking her head.“I’m going because I have mental powers. I can protect myself from his telepathic attacks. We don’t know what the Ace might do. He could send messages to unleash other villains or manipulate computer networks to cause catastrophes. I also can’t risk all of the people in that mall, and if we wait, he’ll be gone. If it’s just me who comes to face him, well, he’s a bit arrogant.”

“Cori, you really shouldn’t do this alone,” said Ion. “Seriously, a plan based on a villain’s arrogance?”

“She won’t do this alone,” said Protector. “I’ll be there. I don’t have any powers. As far as he’s concerned, I’m just a normal person.”

“Um,” said Ion, “won’t he notice the shield?”

Protector handed Ion the Shield of Justice. “Good point. Hold on to it for me.”

Everyone started talking at once. Ion gave the shield back, while Protector tried to get him to keep it. Solaria tried to get between them and Snowfall tried to get her out. Rockslide rumbled and Starlight said something about the needs of the many.

“Quiet!” said Rigel. “I’m going. Alex will be inside the Appleton Mall in case I’m in trouble. Everyone else will be in the parking lot in two separate Freedom Vans, ready for anything. If I feel we can make an assault, we will. Understood?”

The team remained silent.

“Excellent. Let’s make sure that everyone who can pull it off has some street clothes to fling over their costumes, and then we are off to see the Ace.”

It didn’t take long until the Freedom Vans pulled into opposite ends of the mall parking lots. Cori did a quick telepathic check. The Ace of Spades was still inside. She could feel him.

“I’ll be in touch. Stay alert,” she said to Ion, who sat in the driver’s seat. He was in full costume, but the tinted windows prevented anyone from seeing inside. “Make sure that the other van is okay.”

“Will do,” said Ion, “and don’t be too heroic. You look a little tired.”

“Thanks,” she said, as she started walking to the mall entrance. She said to herself, “I’m sure I’m doing just fine. The healing tube refreshed me.”

She tightened the belt on the overcoat she was wearing over her costume, wished that she had her psychoactive uniform. Butterflies floated about in her stomach.

Mentally, she reviewed the plan, such as it was. Alex would be entering near a food court and make his way to the coffee shop. He’d watch from a distance and react if he was needed. Velocity was in one of the vans, and he could reach them in the blink of any eye. Although Ion didn’t consider himself a true speedster, it wouldn’t take him long to reach her and Nightstar might even be able to teleport the team inside. A few glass skylights could be used for the flying members of the team to enter the mall.

She had lots of backup in case things went wrong.

She reached the coffee shop. Throngs of people stood in line. There was a young couple chatting, while an older woman with too much makeup and extremely high heels impatiently kept craning her neck to watch the baristas. A man in a tired-looking sweatshirt and a half-beard sat staring at a laptop perched on one of the tables.

Rigel wondered if that man might be the Ace of Spades, but he seemed to be far too out of shape. The Ace had been a superhero, and everyone who had to wear skintight outfits in public worked out. Besides, this man was sitting near the front, and she thought that the Ace would be near the back, probably close to an employee exit.

“Actually, Cori, I like to be close to the restroom. It’s more convenient that way,” came the Ace’s thoughts.

She saw him sitting in the back. He had dark hair with a few strands of silver that was a just little too long for corporate America. He was a thin, but athletic looking man who somehow had a hint of academia about him. He wore a white shirt and jeans as well as a set of wire glasses. A laptop was open on the table in front of him with a coffee sitting next to it.

He gave her a friendly smile. Her first thought was that he looked like a nice man, someone’s favorite teacher. She walked over.

“Look at you,” he said aloud, taking off his glasses. “Has anyone told you that you are a gorgeous young lady? Join me.”

His eyes were brown, intelligent and kind. She shuddered at how good he was at hiding his nature.

She sat down. Rigel wasn’t exactly sure what to do as a woman in a bright top and leggings brushed past her on the way to the restroom. Someone in the background asked if the shop served bagels.

“So, Cori, what are we going to do?” he asked, taking off his glasses. “Would you like me to treat you to a cup of flavored coffee? They have seasonal flavors. “

“Why didn’t you run?” she asked, half to herself. She studied him. Psychic energy surrounded him, almost like a beacon. He was certainly powerful.

“Why would I? What can you do to me? I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Cori’s cheeks burned. “You nearly killed everyone in this city,” she said. She tried to think of things that made her upset and angry, like the time Nightstar had been captured and tortured or what the Ace had done to Protector. She needed the Ace to think she was struggling with her emotions, which truthfully she was.

“Prove it. Prove anything. Where’s the evidence?” he asked, spreading his hands.

She noticed something. There was a strand of power leading to the Ace, something almost imperceptible, something he didn’t want her to see.

“How about that computer?” she said, sounding like she was reaching for something to call evidence when in fact, she was stalling for time. It felt to her like power was flowing into the Ace instead of going out from him…

He spoke again. “Take it. Check it. If you have computer people who find anything, I’ll just confess that I bought it second-hand at a used computer shop. Gosh, I have no idea how anything bad would have gotten on it.” He smiled.
“Sorry, Cori. Try again.”

“You’re a telepath,” she said as she reviewed all the information that she had gathered from Agent King. Stacy suspected that the Ace was involved in the construction of Megalopolis from the beginning. Fusion’s sudden appearance at the university indicated that he had been planted there, possibly buried when the university was built. The Ace had controlled the mayor, so he probably had manipulated the creation of Freedom Squad. He would have had access to all computer records on the team and their recruits.

He leaned back in his chair. “Since when was being a telepath against the law? You see, Cori, let’s say, hypothetically, that I was a super-villain with mental abilities like telepathy. How could you prove that I’m responsible for anything in a court of law? You couldn’t. You’d be stuck. Imagine that happening, four, five, a dozen times, where you knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that someone was guilty and you couldn’t prove a thing. Wouldn’t that drive you a bit mad after a while? Could you live with yourself if you did nothing while murderers walked free?”

Cori knew what was happening.

“I’d keep trying,” she said to the Ace.

She sent a telepathic message to Nightstar. “Have Solaria get one of the trenchcoats and get her mask off. Let Velocity run her inside and have her set off the Mall’s sprinkler systems. We need to clear this place now, but we need to make it appear relatively normal.”

“A fire is normal?” asked Nightstar.

“It’s more normal than a team of superheroes charging inside, and most people will run to the exits instead of trying to get pictures of a superhero battle on their smartphones,” she thought back.

“Do you have the Ace?” thought Nightstar.

“No…” she thought, “but he thinks I do. Just be ready.”

The Ace of Spades chuckled. “You are deluding yourself. So, is the reason that you haven’t used your telekinesis to slam me into a wall yet because you are uncertain if you can prove anything or because you don’t have the courage to do what you need to do?”

“And what exactly do I need to do?”

“Kill me. You need to kill me if you are going to stop me,” he said. “It’s the only way. In other words, to beat me, you need to become me. Can you do that?”

Cori swallowed hard and looked down. “I don’t think so.”

Elsewhere in the mall, Solaria caught her breath as Velocity dropped her and raced away. She adjusted her trenchcoat. “That man is fast,” she said.

A good-looking guy with an employee name tag on his shirt walked by her. “Nice red boots,” he said.

“Thanks. They were on sale,” she replied.

She was in one of the hallways between shops that she always had thought looked so mysterious in malls. It led to several ‘employee only’ doors, but there was a sprinkler. She concentrated and the sprinkler went white-hot.

Back in the coffee shop, the Ace continued talking to Rigel. A young woman had stopped to stare, but the Ace didn’t acknowledge her. “What do you mean? You think I’m the Ace of Spades, a murderer, a terrorist, a man who mentally enslaves others. You can’t prove that I’ve done anything wrong. If you don’t do something, I’m going to escape.”

An ear-splitting alarm sounded. Red lights flashed and sprinklers started spraying in the mall. “Attention, mall patrons, please exit in an orderly fashion at the marked exits.”

Cori reacted before the Ace did. “What are you doing?” she said. “Are you trying to kill all of these people if I don’t kill you?”

“No,” he said. “I didn’t do this.”

In that instant of confusion, Cori struck. Her eyes flashed white as she launched a full mental assault targeting that one invisible strand, and she confirmed her suspicions. Someone under the mall was in telepathic contact with the man in front of her.

“What are you trying to do?”

“I’m sorry,” she said, pulling her mask out of her coat and putting it on, “but you aren’t running your criminal empire on a laptop. You need servers. Furthermore, you aren’t exactly the Ace of Spades, but it was a really good try.”

Without any further hesitation, Rigel flung the man into the back wall with her telekinesis. He shifted into Chameleon, the woman who had been one of Freedom Squad’s recruits only a few days before. She was even wearing the green costume that the team had given her. She slumped to the floor unconscious. “Nice performance, even if you weren’t pulling the strings.”

She announced over her communicator, “Team, the Ace of Spades has a base under the mall. There’s an entrance in the back of the coffee shop and undoubtedly several others, including at least one at a loading dock. Our first priority is to get people to safety, but this will be our best chance to capture the Ace.”

Before she could say anything else, pain raced down her spine. She muscles felt as though they were on fire. She tried to flinch, but her body was held in a rock-hard and agonizing paralysis.

“I’m not going to give you a chance to get down here and use your telekinesis on me. Time for the endgame, Cori.”

Images of playing cards flashed in her head.

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Posted on December 4, 2013, in Freedom Squad, HeroNet Files, NaNoWriMo and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

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