Nanowrimo – FS Vigilance Chapter 3
Once Rigel and Protector returned to Freedom Squad Headquarters, Cori wanted to do all she could to try and forget the press conference. As they walked in through the roof entrance, they found Solaria, arms folded across the yellow sun symbol on her chest.
“Rigel, you may be the boss, but you two were slow.”
“Maybe a little,” Cori agreed.
Solaria unfolded her arms and walked over. “Hey, Cori, I’m still sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it. I understand why my powers might bother people.”
“Yeah,” said Solaria, “but I can set the whole city on fire if my powers go wrong.”
“More importantly,” said Protector, “it’s time for you to head down to the pool. Our enemies will certainly try to douse you and drown you at some point, so we need to work on your swimming. I’ll meet you down there.”
As Alex took the stairs down to the lower levels of Freedom Squad Headquarters, Solaria looked over at Rigel. “Who put him in charge of our training?”
“I did, actually. It was one of my better ideas, I must say.”
“I see.” Solaria turned to the stairs and started walking down. “I just wish he’d let me wear a bathing suit.”
“He just knows that you’ll be in costume when it happens. It’s better to be prepared. And actually, as I think about it, a swim might do me some good too.”
“Yeah, that wasn’t the best press conference.”
“Believe me, I know.”
Rigel’s communicator beeped.
“Greetings, Rigel. This is Starlight. We have been contacted by Freedom Squad’s attorney. A number of lawsuits seem to be in the process of being filed against you for violations of privacy. I have identified this as anomalous. As per the superhero television programs that Ion has used to educate me about Terra, I believe that such actions can only be the nefarious work of an arch-villain or criminal mastermind. Shall I dispatch small groups of team members to investigate these lawyers and determine who is behind this?”
“No, Starlight. It’s just America. Land of the Free, Home of the Lawsuit.” She sighed and gestured to Solaria to keep going. “I guess that I’ll deal with it. See you in a minute.”
As Cori changed course to head to the monitor room, she silently chastised herself. What had she been thinking? She’d riled everyone up about her telepathy, and now she was going to have to live with people being paranoid around her. So much for the clapping happy citizens from earlier.
She nearly ran into Rockslide in the hall. The massive mountainous elemental clutched a book in one hand and seemed to be headed toward the library. There was a reinforced chair in that room built to hold him.
The elemental hero turned his head to regard her with jeweled eyes. Since he could barely talk, Rockslide preferred for Cori to use her telepathy.
You seem upset, Cori. Can I help?
I’m in trouble. People are worried that I’m abusing my mental powers. They are concerned that I’m invading people’s privacy and someone even suggested that I might be mind controlling my team members. I’m even getting sued.
The large rock creature shuddered and made a terrible grinding noise. At first, Rigel was worried that something terrible was happening. Then, it dawned on her.
Rockslide was laughing.
“What?” asked Cori, opening her mind to receive his thoughts.
You worry too much. I think it’s funny that you might try and mind control us. If you had that power, you would have used it the time that we had the food fight in the cafeteria. And you certainly would have used it on the Mayor.
No, I wouldn’t!
Okay, you wouldn’t. But I still find it amusing. Don’t worry, Cori. Those suits will be thrown out. It’s all frivolous stuff. It’ll go away in a hurry. Go talk to Nightstar. I’m sure he’s dealt with this sort of thing before. He’ll make you feel better. If you need me, I’ll be in the library reading. I ordered a book with thick pages. I think this will work.
You know, you could read eBooks. They might be easier for you.
I do read eBooks, but I want to try paper.
Rigel patted him on the arm.
He tilted his head and then rumbled off in the direction of the library.
Rockslide was right. Nightstar would have answers. Normally, she would have reached her mind out to find him, but she didn’t feel like it right now. Besides, she knew where he would probably be, where he loved spending his free time… in the garage.
Walking through the base, she felt better. The halls were lined with framed magazine covers and newspaper articles celebrating Freedom Squad’s achievements. There weren’t as many as teams like Vanguard and the Guardmen certainly had, but Freedom Squad was a new team. They had been around for only a little more than a year.
Rigel found herself reminiscing about that first day when she had shown up to meet the Mayor. Protector, Rockslide, and a malfunctioning alien android, Star Sentinel, had been the members of the team. And then, she had been appointed team leader. It had seemed like a disaster ready to happen, but fortunately, they had rescued Nightstar, former leader of New Citadel. After he joined them, it made a tremendous difference.
She opened the doors to the underground garage. The cool air of the garage struck her, along with the smell of grease and a faint tang of ionization. The Freedom Vans appeared to be in good shape, both with their holographic paint showing the team’s ‘FS’ symbol on the sides.
Her eyes lingered briefly on the Freedom Sportscar, a convertible capable of acceleration which was only street legal due to a special permit. Cori loved that car. The team had already started joking that it was hers. She wasn’t sure that she minded.
Two Freedom Cycles and a third motorcycle were parked past the car. The final one was the subject of Nightstar’s attention, which at this point appeared to be something requiring an electrical-looking tool which was the source of the ionization. Unlike the blue and white colors of the other vehicles, this one was black with bright yellow patterns. Although Rigel had teased Nightstar before about it looking like a bumblebee, it actually managed to avoid that look, instead resembling something shifting between this world and the next.
Which was exactly what the Night Cycle did.
“Hi Cori,” said Nightstar, without looking up.
Long dark hair fell in slight curls onto the muscled shoulders beneath his black bodysuit as he knelt next to the bike. He wore his signature shades, as he always did to protect his eyes from the light. His body and soul served as a prison for the destructive power called the Eternal Darkness and one of the side effects was a vulnerability to bright lights. As he had explained it once, the darkness suffered from exposure to light and took it out on him. He wasn’t even from earth, but another place, a mystic dimension, parallel and maybe diagonal.
Based on the music he preferred from the early 70’s, she wondered if it was the Fifth Dimension.
She tried to resist running a gloved hand through those curls as she walked over to stand beside him. “What are you doing?”
He pulled the electric tool away from the pulsing inner workings of the Night Cycle. Cori wanted to say he was working on an engine, but she wasn’t completely sure that was correct. Nightstar had a gift for channeling psychic energy (or maybe it was mystical… was there a difference?) and the technology that he used was probably best described as magical. There were some laws of reality that her university professors simply didn’t know.
Nightstar adjusted his shades. “Would you believe calibrating the energy matrix so that the quantum harmonics are more reliable?”
Cori laughed. “No.”
He smiled and stood up. “Okay, I was tinkering and trying to put in a radio.”
“I was just thinking about your taste in music. I doubt you could find anything on the radio you’d like unless you can tune it to the year 1976 or earlier.”
Cori shook her head, and then slipped into his arms. “I’ve had a terrible morning. Alex suggested that I talk to you. I was getting torn apart at the press conference. The Mayor wanted me to explain what I was doing. All I really did was make people paranoid that I was invading their thoughts. How do I explain that I’m much more of a telekinetic than a telepath, and that I don’t have any desire to go poking around in other people’s heads?”
Nightstar held her. “I’m not sure what I can tell you that you don’t already know. It’s not like you haven’t dealt with this before. Sometimes, being a superhero is tough. You risk your life and rescue four people from an inferno, and you get made fun of because you left the building holding a cat.”
Rigel pulled back in surprise. “They made fun of you for saving the cat?”
He shrugged and gave her a mischievous smile. “No, actually I’m getting praise from all over. There’s this website about cats and cheeseburgers that’s featuring me today. Oh, and animal rescue groups want to put me on their calendars or have me do commercials for them. You should see the images on the website though. There are some great ones. I can pull it up on my communicator.”
“It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but okay. I could use a laugh.” She thought about Rockslide’s rumbling.
The two of them sat down on the floor of the garage, scrolled through images of Nightstar and cats with captions that made fun of people, cats, Nightstar’s shades and a dozen other things. Despite how the morning had gone, Cori found herself laughing.
And she didn’t mind leaning against Nightstar as she did so.
“Okay, that’s all the good ones. Still, it was worthwhile.”
“I needed that.”
“Glad to be of service.”
Rigel sighed. “I wish I could just stay here all day.”
“I think my arm would fall asleep.”
She shook her head. “I’m sure you’d survive. However, it’s time for me to go to the monitor room and find out if there’s anything we need to deal with in the city. I haven’t eaten anything today either. I need to do something about that.”
“I’ll come with you if you are heading to the cafeteria first.”
“What about the Night Cycle?”
“It’ll be here when I get back. Besides, it’s just the radio. And I’m not sure that I’ve eaten today either. I can’t remember.”
“Let’s hope the cafeteria is well stocked.”
“Why do we call it a cafeteria if we do all of the cooking?”
“I’m not sure. Probably because it’s too big to be a kitchen or a dining room.”
Before either of them could say anything else, the base’s alerts blared. Starlight’s voice came over Freedom Squad Headquarters’ communications systems.
“Greetings. According to Terran authorities a group of unauthorized battlesuits have attacked a Diamond Exchange. I have confirmation of at least twelve. All on duty members not currently on patrol, report to the Freedom Flyer. I will remain on monitor duty and protect the base. This is not a drill.”
Nightstar ignited his psychic sword and slashed a hole in the air. A black void opened. He grabbed Rigel by the wrist, and the two of them stepped through the rent into the cockpit of a Freedom Flyer.
Nightstar deactivated the sword. “Looks like today won’t be boring.”