Nanowrimo – FS Vigilance Chapter 6

As I struggle at 37,000 words to reach 50,000 by Sunday night, I thought I’d post Chapter 6 for anyone who wants to do some long weekend reading. Look for a few more posts in the next couple of days, especially since Happily Never After has been released (written with my co-author John Peck under the penname Jack Heckel). Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the U.S.!

Chapter 6

Less than an hour later, Rigel was in the monitor room, scanning through images of women that fit the mental picture she had obtained from Snowfall, when Nightstar arrived with Protector.

“Since it was the woman who spoke to you and Snowfall, Protector, can you help with the identification?”

“Sure,” he said. His tone made Rigel stop her scan.

“It wasn’t your fault.”

“She wanted me to go with her. I should have stayed with him at least.”

“He’s a member of this team. There’s no reason to think that he couldn’t have handled himself.”

Protector sighed. “You’re right.”

He proceeded to give a description of the woman, pale skin, tall, athletic, dark hair, willowy with a dancer’s walk. It corroborated the images from Snowfall.

“Okay, I’m going to keep scanning and see if I can get a match. I’ve sent over all of the information to the police as well. Nightstar, were there any leads at the scene?”

Nightstar adjusted his shades. “Not much. The battlesuits were slaved, but we still need to find out who was controlling them. As for Snowfall’s attacker, there’s not much to go on. It looks like she simply vanished into thin air, along with the syringe used to inject him. If she’s a teleporter, she could be an opportunist. If not, this entire thing was probably a setup.”

Protector stood up and turned to leave.

Alex, please stay. You were her target. We need to talk.

Protector paused. “You two both know that she was after me. I should have realized that something was wrong. I was careless, and Snowfall could have died. I need to be better than that if I’m going to wear this costume and carry this shield. I…” His voice trailed off.

Rigel stood and put her hand on his forearm. “You what?”

“I’m not sure whether I’m the same since the Ace of Spades attacked me. Just looking around this room, he’s all I can think about. Even what happened today – the innocent people inside the battlesuits, the would-be assassin posing as victim – and coincidentally, she makes her move when you’ve flown away and Ion’s fried our communicators.”

Ion glanced over from the monitors. “It was a good idea.”

“It was,” replied Protector, “but the timing all feels to me like we are being manipulated. All I can think of is the Ace of Spades. He psychically attacked me and got into my mind. He tried to tear me apart and control me. However, I feel like I know something about him. Even the press conference feels like him.”

Rigel stared at Protector. “I thought you were saying that you weren’t sure you were the same hero since the Ace of Spades attacked you.”

“I’m not the same hero,” said Protector. “I’m stronger than I used to be.” Resolve burned in his eyes.

“Ion, check the status of the Ace of Spades.”

“Right-o, boss lady, I was actually doing that.”

Rigel put her hands on her hips.

“Okay, never saying boss lady again. I’ve been a little stressed. Here it is…Ace of Spades, formerly the hero known as Psionicist, decided to go outside the law and manipulate crime, yadda yadda yadda, captured by us, us being Freedom Squad, held in an ultra-top secret supervillain containment facility known as the Nexus. No idea where it is, but that’s what I’ve got. He was there as of yesterday.”

“Can we check on that?” asked Protector.

An icy chill ran down Rigel’s back. Could the Ace of Spades have escaped? More frighteningly, could he have escaped and found someone to take his place in the Nexus?

“I’ll talk to the Mayor and Stacy King, our contact with the federal government. In the meantime, Nightstar, you see what we can find out about those battlesuits and whoever might have taken them. Protector, can you check these criminal records to find our mystery lady while I’m chatting with our political leader and friendly federal agent?”

“We’ve got an alert!” said Ion. “Bank robbery. Low-level tech villain called the Gauntlet at the scene. Seems he knows we had a rough morning and is trying to take advantage.”

Rigel sighed. “Unfortunately, he’s right, it was a rough morning. Solaria, Snowfall and Starlight are out of the picture.”

“Is that everyone on the team who starts with ‘S’?” asked Ion.

“Seriously?” asked Rigel.

“I joke when I’m stressed, but it is, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” said Rigel, smiling despite herself. “Protector, I’d like you to stay here and check those records. How’s Rockslide?”

“He’s recovering right now. He took several shots earlier,” said Nightstar.

“Okay, Ion, head out there. Nightstar and I will join you as soon as we can. Don’t engage until we get there unless you have to. Protector, monitor us in case it’s a trap.”

“On my way…” said Ion, vanishing in an electrical streak.

“How’s the Night Cycle?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” said Nightstar, slicing a portal to the garage.

Rigel and Nightstar put on their helmets and then took the south city tunnel. The underground garage had several tunnels with exits that came out a few blocks away in different directions. One exit even opened into the subway system. Rigel wasn’t sure how smart it was to have so many different ways in and out of the garage, but like most of Freedom Squad Headquarters, it had been designed before she arrived by the Mayor and his committees.

“We’re close enough that I’m going to use the light and the siren instead of going extradimensional,” said Nightstar through the helmet com.

Rigel kept her arms around his midsection. “I’m okay with that. I still worry that something will go wrong each time you do it.”

“What could go wrong? It’s me. I’m Nightstar, remember?”

“Exactly,” she replied with a chuckle.

Cori tried to enjoy the moment, riding on a motorcycle with Nightstar. The day had been crazy. She was really looking forward to dealing with Gauntlet and a bank robbery.

As Nightstar wove through traffic, Rigel said, “I’ve read Gauntlet’s file. He has an experimental high-tech glove, hence the name, which can fire lasers and generate a defensive energy field. He’s a trained mercenary and wears an armored uniform, similar to our costumes, capable of handling most small arms fire. He usually has a team of thugs with him, no one special forces level, but a group capable of handling themselves. His main motivation is money, and he makes a point of not killing cops although he’s put his share into hospitals.”

“And a point about not killing superheroes,” added Nightstar.

Rigel sighed. “Yes. But you didn’t have to bring that up.”

“This should be fairly easy. Here’s the bank.”

They pulled up in front of the bank’s front steps in the armored car parking and removed the helmets. Alarms blared from the bank. With a blue flash, Ion ran over.

“The baddies are still inside. They have a few hostages, but the situation’s not too bad. From what I could see, they were still looting the vaults. Guys, do we have a plan?”

Nightstar said, “I say we try to talk while Rigel scans for hostages and relays their locations to me. If I can teleport them out, we can engage. On the other hand, if she can locate Gauntlet that would help too.”

“I’m good with that,” said Rigel, “but in addition to the scans, I’ll start with a telekinetic force field to help protect us in case someone starts shooting.”

“I like the last part,” said Ion. “I mean, the force field part, not the shooting part.”

The double doors to the bank burst open. Ion zapped the first man out with an electrical bolt, but Rigel was caught off-guard. She had started scanning minds, but before she could telekinetically slam the doors on Gauntlet’s men, a blast of sound slashed through her concentration.

The pain in Cori’s ears was sudden and overwhelming. She couldn’t focus. She pressed her hands against her ears, but it wasn’t helping. Her knees gave out.

Beside her, she was aware of Nightstar clutching his head and writhing on the bank steps. Ion had collapsed on her other side. She gritted her teeth and tried to manage a mental bolt. She was dimly aware of a man with a red glove standing over her. There were other men as well.

Someone struck her hard. She removed a hand from her ear and saw blood on her white glove, when she was hit hard in the face. There were a flurry of blows and some kicks, but nothing compared to the pain in her ears.

Thankfully, she passed out.

Cori wasn’t sure how much time had passed when she felt someone helping her to sit up. She opened her eyes and saw the white featureless faceplate of Starlight. He tilted his head back and forth.

She realized that the world was oddly silent.

Starlight? She tried to reach out telepathically, but it was difficult with Starlight. He was a yellow-skinned alien lifeform, possibly composed of energy within an artificial shell, possibly a super-intelligent A.I. with quantum technology on a level that humanity wasn’t anywhere near. None of that was important right now.

Sound suddenly poured in through her ears. She heard shouting and sirens and footsteps. She closed her eyes. It was all too much, like waking up in the morning staring at a open window with the sun streaming in. Fortunately, it was only uncomfortable and not excruciating.

“Rigel? Please respond,” said Starlight. Although his tone was flat, she felt his hands tighten on her shoulders. “I am concerned for your well-being.”

“It’s okay, Starlight,” she said, thinking as she spoke that she sounded dazed. “What about Nightstar and Ion?”

“They have been injured by the nefarious arch-criminal Gauntlet. The terms ‘rendered unconscious’ and ‘knocked out’ could be used interchangeably to describe their conditions as well as your own when I arrived. However, Terran medical personnel are reviving them.”

“What about Gauntlet?”

“He attempted to use a high frequency sonic attack against me. I temporarily deactivated my auditory senses and proceeded to demonstrate the effectiveness of cosmic energy against his minions. I restricted myself to intense magnetics, as I did not wish to cause any long-term damage. Once they began fleeing, I had to decide whether to attend to you, Nightstar and Ion or pursue them. Fortunately, Ion has shown me that heroes always help the injured rather than pursue the villains in the movies and television shows that he has used to familiarize me with Terran culture.”

“Okay…” Cori was suddenly aware that there were people all around her.

“There is a matter that requires your immediate attention. Are you able to sit without my supporting your shoulders?”

“Yes.”

“The Terran media wishes to capture images of you and ask questions.”

Starlight stood and stepped away with a swish of his dark cape. Cori found herself staring at a dozen reporters and camera crews.

Bloody hell, she thought. I definitely should have stayed in bed.

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Posted on November 27, 2014, in Freedom Squad, NaNoWriMo and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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