1.1. Scene 21

Scene 21 – October 15th
Exterior City, Night
Abraham Armstrong

It wasn’t too long before the two metahumans reached the dock where the sale was meant to be going down, and I took a moment to brief Newton on the situation. After a moment of levity that I had to struggle not to laugh at – I was a jokester too, yes, but I knew when to be serious, and briefings were one of those times – Newton asked good questions and, in my opinion, continued to show themself to be insightful and a prime prospect for heroism.

As they waited and I continued to share information with the kid, I kept an eye on the street below. It was dark, sure – all the streetlights in this area of the docks were “mysteriously” dark – but my mask included night vision. It was a necessity for anyone who wanted to leap between buildings at night, as streetlights didn’t send much light in that direction – I idly wondered whether Newton’s suit included night vision, or if their ESP was serving that role. Either way, it clearly worked.

Eventually the buyers arrived, and I sent Newton to flank them – it would serve the dual purpose of keeping the kid out of the fight initially and making people think twice about running away. Personally, I simply flipped over the edge of the building and, with a simple twist of kinetic force, landed softly on my feet.

“Bit late for a walk, isn’t it?” I asked, calling everyone’s attention to him while Newton propelled themself over the oblivious gangsters’ heads. As I approached the mob, I casually rested my hands on my belt – it had been designed by Starling, the New Champions’ resident gadgeteer, and the expanded space within its hidden pockets contained a wide variety of tricks that I wanted close at hand, depending on how the BB responded.

“Canaveral,” the apparent leader of the Buff Boys said in a tone that sounded halfway between anger and exhaustion. “You’ll forget what you saw here if you know what’s good for you.”

“I’m afraid that reliable sources tell me I don’t know what’s good for me!” I said, quoting Miriam. Regulations said to keep off the comm line during combat situations, but I knew she would be gritting her teeth. I grinned at the thought.

“You really don’t know what you’re stepping into the middle of here,” said the lead buyer, a 30-something woman in a tailored suit. I glanced at her, making sure to hold my gaze long enough that Anima would be able to snag an image of the woman from the camera feed in the fin atop my head. “Walk away.”

I sighed. “You criminal types never come up with anything new,” I commented, palming a handful of ball bearings from my belt in preparation. “It’s always either ‘leave if you know what’s good for you,’ ‘you don’t understand the full picture’, ‘I’ll give you a cut if you keep your mouth shut,’ or ‘hey, it’s that hero guy! Get him!’ Just once, once, I’d like it if you did something new. I don’t really care what.” I was stalling, making sure that Newton was ready for what was about to happen, which, from what I could see through the crowd of angry thugs, they seemed to be. It was hard to tell, though – sure, I was probably an inch or two taller than most of the the thugs, but the kid was almost half a foot shorter then any of them. “I guess I’ll keep up my end of the script,” I continued. “You’re all under arrest.”

“Get him!” roared the same Buff Boy who had spoken earlier, and most of the thugs rushed me. The rest, Canaveral was glad to note, weren’t going for Newton, who remained unnoticed – rather, they were simply hanging back so as not to get in each other’s way. With the exception of the leader of the buyers, at least – she was hanging back, but clearly wasn’t looking to join in the melee, simply observing.

A flick of the wrist and a mental twist, and the ball bearings I had palmed accelerated to several hundred miles per hour, cracking into gangsters’ shins, knees, and stomachs. All of the ones who had rushed me were sent to their knees, whether by the force or the pain – I had gotten quite good at that trick, and it was really amazing that so many thugs still fell for it every time.

With so many of them on the ground I now had a better view of Newton, who hadn’t moved yet – combat could be startling if you’d never been in it before, I admitted to myself. “Oh, and just so you know, it’s ‘bring your sidekick to work day’ today!” I called, trying to jolt them out of their paralyzed state before they were noticed and attacked. “Feel free to join in any time, Newton!”

They started moving at that, and with a flick of their fingers and a momentary stumble to the side, knocked the leader of the buyers off of her feet. “Your sidekick? Doesn’t that imply a preexisting relationship? We met barely three hours ago!”

“Well, I’m taking it on myself to mentor you,” I pointed out, “at least for tonight. You’re not experienced enough to qualify as a partner. You’re not a civilian. If the shoe fits, wear it.” As I spoke, I knelt and began cuffing groaning thugs – it would be a few seconds before those that were still up to a fight would be able to catch their breath and stand, and those who hadn’t rushed him were running – again, minus the leader of the buyers – so I had a moment. Over my earpiece he heard Anima calmly warning the police forces who had the area surrounded about the runners – typically they would have handled the bust too, but with the BB there was always the possibility of metahumans and power drugs being used, so the MLED had been called in and Canaveral sent in to handle the situation.

I had to stop subduing downed thugs when two of them managed to simultaneously get to their feet and produce vials of brawn. “I’ve got this, Newton,” I warned, producing a length of chain from another expanded pocket in his belt and advancing on the thugs. “Make sure none of the others get up.” Their telekinesis should be able to handle that without any trouble.

I twisted the kinetic force within the chain as I struck out at one of the thugs, causing it to shift at the last moment to wrap around the man’s feeble attempt at a guard. His mistake – the touch-range of my kinetic manipulation abilities extended partially through connected objects, and the wrapped chain counted enough that it took only a tug and a slight magnifying twist of energies to send the thug to his knees despite his currently-enhanced strength.

I didn’t have time to gloat though, as the other was boosted too, and the speed-boosting effect of brawn was already allowing them to respond to the swift takedown. It wasn’t a complicated response, just a quick punch, but the Buff Boys weren’t exactly known for their creativity. On the other hand, it would be too strong to block or even parry safely. Simple wasn’t bad, necessarily.

A twist of power and the chain unwrapped from around the first thug’s arms as I dodged to the side, instead looping around the second gangster’s waist. I then twisted once more, shifting the man’s kinetic energy so that the punch overextended and he had to step forward to avoid falling.

In the moment before the thug’s foot landed, I tugged on the chain, another twist causing none of the energy to transfer to the thug but all to me, pulling myself off my feet and towards the man at high speed. I body-slammed the boosted gangster with the force of a car, knocking him to the ground just like the other. I myself rolled over the gangster and landed on my feet.

Both thugs were now on the ground, but even now the first was beginning to rise – it was tough to put down someone on brawn, at least for more than a moment. The combination of toughness from mond and speed from axel was dangerous.

I released my chain with a flick of my wrist, twisting its energy as I did so to cause it to wrap around my target’s legs and arms as well as his waist. I then kicked the fallen thug, launching him a few feet into the legs of the rising one to knock him over once more.

It was at that moment that I heard the sharp sound of glass breaking. I turned to see the buyer lying on her back with one hand in the air, an iridescent rainbow cloud of mist hovering around that hand. She grinned from where she lay, and the mist swiftly expanded across the street until all that could be seen of it was a faint tinge to the air – an extra rainbow reflection to the world.

“Fuck,” I swore, my eyes flicking to Newton, unsure how she – they – would be affected. “Where did you get equality, lady?” Equality was one of the oldest, rarest, and most dangerous power drugs. It could be absorbed through the skin, penetrated through cloth, and took effect almost immediately. Anyone with a metahuman power that had any basis in their own biology would be unable to use it for as long as the drug lasted, their nervous system no longer able to handle nonstandard signals. Those whose powers were based in magic, such as mine were, would be unaffected, and so were some of those whose powers were cosmic, but not all.

“I told you you don’t know what you’re stepping into,” the buyer sneered as she rose, brushing shards of glass that must have come from the shattered vial of equality off of her gloves. She then produced a sizable handgun and pointed it at Newton. “Leave, Canaveral. Or I’ll have to do something to your sidekick that I’d rather not.”

Both Newton and I raised our hands, and I began moving towards the kid. My kinetic power could let me deflect bullets that struck him, if I was ready for it, and if she didn’t know that my power was still available then she might allow me to step in front – a gun like that gun would easily punch through me and into Newton, if not for my power. “Let’s not be hasty,” I said, trying to stall until I could get in front of the kid.

“Ah ah ah! Stay away from the boy,” she warned.

“They’re nonbinary, actually,” I started.

“Whatever. Stay away from them. I know that your powers are magical and equality doesn’t do shit to you – you’re not stepping in front of this gun.”

“…how the hell did you know that.” Only one group knew that my powers were magical, as far as I knew.

“The same way I got a vial of equality,” she teased. “Now then. You’re going to turn around and leave. These boys and I are going to go our separate ways. And your new friend is going to live. Sound good?”

That was a very bad sign, I thought, as unfortunately her claim added up. The Ambrosia Company was definitely able to procure equality.

“Do it,” Anima hissed in my ear. “The police can pick them up as they try to leave. Do not endanger that kid’s life any more than you already have!” I had to concur – it pained me to let someone like this woman walk even for a moment, but I had no choice.

Newton tilted their head towards me. “What were you saying about how it would be perfectly safe for me to join you?”

“I don’t think I ever put it in quite those words,” I protested. “I think I said something along the lines of ‘experience is the best teacher’.”

“And what am I supposed to be learning from having a gun pointed at my head?”

I shrugged. “What’s it’s like to have a gun pointed at your head, I guess.”

“It won’t be the last time, if you continue on this path,” the buyer commented. “So, heroes? What will it be?”

1 thought on “1.1. Scene 21”

  1. We do skip over the drug discussion from Canaveral’s end – it would be boring to go over it all again when his perspective wouldn’t actually be all that different. Instead we get to see his side of the fight, and why he made the decisions he did.
    Along with that comes foreshadowing. I may not be all that subtle about it, but I think it’s better to foreshadow heavily than not enough. If a discerning reader is surprised by what happens, it probably wasn’t built up properly.
    No, that’s not a dig at any recent long-running series, why do you ask?

    Liked by 1 person

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