Mostly Professional Heroics
“Hi, Professor Martinez!” Overton’s Subtlety Instructor started slightly at the unexpected voice in her head, but calmed quickly as it continued. “So, I was hoping you might be able to help me get a message to the Dean?”
“What’s your message, Ms Blake.” Elena found herself smirking at how natural it felt to address her question to the empty monitoring room.
“Well, there’s this thing I sort of did… See I contacted Ben Pelley during winter break to see if I could bypass memory blocks and it turns out I can so I ended up recruiting him to help us maybe find some information about the badguys that the bigger Heroes might miss or not have access to because they don’t all operate on the little levels anymore and he somehow FOUND some of the badguys and ended up recruited with a couple other SFC guys for a bogus fight and now he’s on a bus with a bunch of Super gang-bangers on their way to Overton and he needs help!”
Elena took a deep breath near the beginning of the high-speed telepathic recitation and didn’t manage to let it out until a few seconds after the girl was finished. “Forward me those texts please, Ms Blake.”
A few seconds later the Subtlety Instructor heard her phone beep, accompanied by a, “Done!” in her head.
“Thank you for the information, Ms Blake. I’m sure it will be good for the active Heroes working in Overton today to know that there are a few neutral parties mixed in with that group of hostiles. Good luck on your final.” Elena vanished from the monitoring room as soon as she finished speaking, reappearing in a sparsely furnished room in her own home that didn’t appear to have any doors, windows, or other means of entering or exiting.
I really hope this is out of that girl’s range. “Dispatch, this is Vanishing Act with an update on the festivities in Overton today.”
“Dispatch receives loud and clear, Vanishing Act.”
“Apparently one of our former students managed to get entangled in some ‘amateur detective work’ regarding today’s aggressors and has found himself and two other civilian Supers on a bus full of criminals that are on their way to join in the attack. Please advise whichever of Mayhem’s groups are responsible for the inbound bus on highway 135 that there are non-hostiles mixed in with their group, and that they probably need assistance sooner rather than later.”
The voice at the other end of Elena’s earpiece was silent for several long seconds, and when it returned the words it spoke caused the color to drain out of the hispanic woman’s face. “Vanishing Act, we have no previous reports of any hostile Supers entering Overton by bus today. There are no groups in the vicinity of the 135 at this time.”
“Son of a bitch.” Elena’s curse came out as barely a whisper. “How the hell did we miss a BUS full of Supers?”
“Sending alerts now. Nearby teams are being instructed to wrap up their current problems quickly and move to assist.”
“Vanishing Act is going live. I need a more exact location for the cellphone that sent the original texts currently on MY phone.”
“Phone is no longer active. Last location was approximately two miles outside of Overton on the 135. Vanishing Act is confirmed as active for this incident, backup will be arriving as they become available. First ETAs are estimated at five minutes. Good luck.”
The fact that the mysterious voice had pulled the information off her cell almost before she finished speaking didn’t surprise Elena in the slightest. The final two words, delivered in a far more earnest tone than the normal detached politeness of Dispatch nearly caused her to trip as she struggled into her uniform.
“Vanishing Act ETA at the scene is one minute.” The Hero managed to pull herself together enough to provide her own estimate. I really hope that idiot kid can keep himself in one piece for another sixty seconds.
Two groups of five men walked across the parking lot, approaching what appeared to be a warehouse built quite firmly in the middle of nowhere. It took all the iron self-control that came with over a decade of intense training and field experience for the Hero observing their approach not to break out laughing and give away the ambush. The two groups had arrived in cars, driving all the way up to the parking area in front of the Lone Star Rangers headquarters, and were strolling up to the building as casually as if they were going to the grocery store.
“Maybe these aren’t them?” The whispered question from Desert Mirage, the team’s illusionist, almost drew that laughter out again.
“They definitely dressed the part. But maybe they-…” Walker, current leader of the Rangers, was cut off as one of the men shouted a curse at the building and then attempted to blast through one of the entry doors with a bolt of crackling green energy. “Hmmm, nope. Definitely here for a fight.”
The last sentence was said at a normal volume, as the attacking group was unlikely to hear anything over the sudden, loud, appearance of the armored buildings automated defense turrets. Walker shook his head as two of the men were felled by the first volley of riot rounds that the automated system unleashed. “Alright, time for us to step in I think.”
A few brief flashes made their way around the parking lot, as Mirage sent the signal that the team’s concealment was about to drop. A second later, Walker stepped forward and shouted at the group that was starting to rally and counter-attack the turrets.
“ATTENTION! You men are surrounded! Lay face down on the pavement and place your hands on your heads, and you will be taken into custody without further harm.” Off on the other side of the parking lot he saw Lariat tensing her ropes with an eager smile, and Dust Devil was already blowing up a cyclone around himself for effect. “Any resistance will be met with overwhelming force.”
There was only a brief silence as the eight men still standing looked at each other, then the Hero’s answer came in the form of another bolt of crackling green energy. Unfortunately for the blaster, Walker was no longer where he’d been a moment ago, and the trigger-happy Super never saw the Hero again before his jaw was shattered by a vicious, blindside roundhouse.
“The rest of you can still surrender.” The seven remaining men stared in shock for a moment as the Hero tipped back the cowboy hat to make sure they could all see the serious look in his eyes through the mask.
“KILL THEM!” The order was roared by the largest man in the group, who immediately lunged towards Walker with obvious intent to follow his own suggestion.
Unfortunately for the large man, Walker was gone again long before he covered even half of the distance between them, and he found himself suddenly snared by dozens of unnaturally strong lengths of stiffened rope.
“Sorry big fella, but I don’t dance with your type.” Walker appeared in the midst of the group again in time to smile as the Strongman was lifted into the air and slammed into the parking lot with pavement shattering force. “Especially since Lariat gets mad if I don’t leave anyone for her.”
The remaining half-dozen criminal Supers attempted to pile on the Rangers’ leader, and the tightly packed pile were blasted across the parking lot, and into the side of the heavily reinforced warehouse, by a massive gust of air a moment later as the Hero was gone almost before they could move.
“I gotta be honest, boss.” Dust Devil smirked as he approached and pounded a few of the more resilient Supers back into the wall with a little more force. “I’m a little disappointed.”
“Yeah, well let’s hope all the other groups are equally disappointed in the quality of their opponents.” Walker reappeared again next to his teammates, and raised a hand to touch his ear. “Dispatch, the Rangers have neutralized ten hostile Supers. Let us know if you need anything else from us today.” The last was said with more than a hint of smugness, which vanished immediately at the response from the faintly accented voice in his ear.
“Walker, we have a previously unidentified hostile group coming in on the 135. Last known position was two miles outside of Overton. Vanishing Act is en route, estimate of eight hostile Supers and three civilians in the engagement area.”
“Dispatch, Walker is en route. ETA is three minutes.” The team leader tipped his hat up as he surveyed his team. “Keep your guard up in case any of these idiots is playing possum, I’m off to save even more of the day.”
“Wait, WHAT?” Mayhem stared blankly forward as she listened to Dispatch describe the addition to the days’ situation, completely ignoring the somewhat nervous gathering of over a dozen assorted criminal Supers in front of her for a moment.
“I said you can’t stop ALL of-…”
“Shut the fuck up!” Mayhem cut off the group’s de facto leader with enough venom in her tone that the man actually followed the instruction. “We seem to have a new situation, gentlemen, and that means the rules of this engagement have just changed.” The brown and scarlet leather clad Hero wore a wide, predatory smile as she surveyed the eighteen men facing off with her group of six Street Level Heroes. “So this is now your one and only chance: you will surrender immediately or you will be taken down HARD. No second chances, and your survival is fifty-fifty at best. You have ten seconds to make up your minds.” Mayhem held up her hands with all fingers spread, and began closing them one by one.
The group’s spokesman, a lanky man with a lightning bolt shaped mohawk of blue hair, spit on the ground in response, produced a wickedly curved knife, and lunged at the Hero with inhuman speed. Mayhem didn’t respond at all other than to keep the count going, not flinching when the knife came within inches of her face, and not blinking when her attacker was suddenly wrenched sideways along the street and dragged screaming by an invisible force until he collided with a building with a wet *crunch.* Brain’d dropped her hand back to her side where she stood slightly behind Street Level’s leader, and waited for the count to finish.
“Times up.” Mayhem was pleased to note that three of the men, and the only woman in the group, had dropped to lie face down on the ground as soon as they saw their leader experiencing a ‘hard’ takedown.
The rest of the group scattered.
Mayhem walked straight into the cluster of three that had opted to charge the Heroes’ leader, her expression more analytic than anything else as she assessed her current opponents. Two physical types, one unknown. The Hero lunged the last few feet to meet her attackers, catching them by surprise as she accelerated herself in the unexpected lunge. Each fist hammered into a separate chest simultaneously, and both criminal Supers dropped. The one on her left hit the ground limply, the other dropped to his knees and coughed up a large gout of blood to show the internal damage she had done with the single blow. Another lunge brought the Hero to the now backpedaling third man, and she punched forward with the same efficient movement that had dropped the first two.
Mayhem gritted her teeth against the wave of agony as her fist was intercepted by a glowing field a few inches from the man’s skin, pulling back the cauterized stump of her wrist as her skinny, bald opponent switched his expression from the fear she’d seen a moment ago to a confident grin. “Can’t touch me, bitch. Always knew you Heroes were no big thing.”
Mayhem stood her ground as the man reached forward, the field now visibly shimmering around his hand as he attempted to finish the job. She matched his smile with one of her own when he found himself suddenly unable to move further forward. “Who the fuck said I needed to touch you?” The question was punctuated by a loud scream as she reached her power into the man’s limbs and twisted, tearing at the ligaments that allowed him the use of his arms and legs.
The wounded Hero carefully stepped back from where her last opponent had collapsed, and looked around to survey the results of the brief battle. Brain’d had dropped four more men that had attempted to stand their ground and fight, with only one of them looking like he might have survived the experience. The rest of her team were making their way back down the street, having chased down the fleeing Supers. A quick count drew some muttered profanity from Street Level’s leader.
“I only count seventeen.”
“One of the runners was a Speedster. Accelerator type. I couldn’t keep up with him.” Mayhem glared at Air Raid, but the flying Hero simply matched her glare with his own calm expression. “And you need to go see a healer, your hand is GONE.”
“It’s cauterized, it’ll keep.” Mayhem attempted to wave the suggestion off, and had to fight back a wave of agony induced nausea as she tried to make the gesture with her missing hand. “You need to get your ass over to the 135. The rest of us would take too damned long to get there, so we’ll hunt for our straggler and any of those diversionary groups.”
“WE’LL handle the diversion groups, and the straggler if he stays anywhere near the city.” Brain’d stepped up as Air Raid flew off to the northeast. “YOU will get the hell out of the field and get your hand fixed. We’ve got it covered, boss.”
“If we had it covered, we would have known about that damned bus.”
“Go. To. The. HEALERS.” The shorter Hero’s emphatic reiteration was joined with supporting sounds from the other members of Street Level still present. “Even the bus is covered, multiple Heroes already there or en route, remember?”
The tall woman muttered angrily under her breath, but bowed her head slightly in concession of the point.
“God DAMMIT I know crime isn’t exactly the domain of the ultra-intellectual, but how hard is this? I’M Apache, the TEAM is the Braves. How the fuck are all the bad guys getting this backwards CONSTANTLY?” The group of a dozen Supers shrank back from the unexpected tirade from the bronze-skinned, bare-chested Hero as the two groups stared at each other from across the small field outside the Braves’ base.
“We gotta make this quick, Apache.” The team leader grunted in acknowledgement of the whisper in his head, having caught most of Dispatch’s update during his shouted speech at their opponents.
“Um…” The three Heroes exchanged a quick, startled, glance as the other group’s apparent leader stepped forward and actually raised his hand before speaking. “So, do you guys want us to reset and we start again, or is the shot still good?”
“What?” Apache stared blankly in response to the question.
“Oh. My. God.” The mental whisper this time sounded like it was shaking with laughter, and the female member of the Braves stepped up past her leader to address the group. “Gentlemen, may I ask you to explain what, exactly, brings you out here today?”
There was a great deal of nervous ‘uhhming’ from the group before a few of them pushed their spokesman forward again. “Well, you see, we’re here for the trailer shoot? Guerrilla marketing campaign for a big summer Hero movie?”
Apache stared at the man, then turned his questioning look towards his team’s Advanced Mind. SERIOUSLY?
“Seriously. You two should head towards that bus, I think the situation here is taken care of.” Whisper stepped forward again, making a shooing motion behind her back at her two teammates. “Gentlemen, I’m afraid you have ALL been misled. If you’ll all wait patiently with me, there will be some men from the DVA here to explain everything in just a few minutes.”
Apache didn’t wait to hear any of the rest, as he turned to sprint and leap as fast as his enhanced physique could carry him towards his new destination. He had to grin when he caught the stifled laughter over the sudden roar of flame as Brushfire soared past him overhead. Actors. They hired ACTORS to come after us. The grin vanished as he heard some injury updates from around the city. If we didn’t have the advance warning and all the extra help, this group would have kept us from responding to the bigger group in time to do anything but help pick up the pieces. That grim mental image kept the Hero pushing even harder to get to the next site faster. Hopefully fast enough to do more than pick up the pieces.
The white-haired youth in his practically unadorned white bodysuit leaned casually against a street post and waited for his mentor to finish this version of her ‘surrender or be destroyed!’ speech. I can’t believe a Subtlety Hero goes in for this kind of over-the-top drama.
“…so lay down your arms NOW, and BEG for forgiveness or face your doom at the hands of myself and my sidekick!”
Daniel Heyes, aka the interning Hero Nihility, sighed audibly at being referred to as a sidekick. Again.
“You think we’re gonna run scared from some kid and a bitch with rabbit ears? Scamper on home, ‘Hero,’ and maybe you’ll live to get laughed at some more another day.” The mocking refusal came from the enormously overweight man apparently leading this trio as they faced off against the two Heroes.
“Is that your final answer?”
Daniel sighed again at Hare’s tone; sweetly mocking in a way that practically guaranteed what came next.
“Get ready to die, bitch!” The fat man stomped into the sidewalk beneath him, his entire body suddenly becoming grey and stony while his two comrades backed away from the Shifter.
“Nye, if you please!”
“Nihility.” He corrected his mentor automatically, and pointed a hand towards the now charging stone-man. “It means ‘Nothingness.'” The last was added for the benefit of the two men that had not yet joined the fight, as the young Hero snapped his fingers and watched his target collapse to the ground, screaming.
Everything below the shifted man’s knees was gone, as well as a section of the pavement underneath him, annihilated in less than the blink of an eye. “Would the two of you like to surrender?”
One of the men immediately dropped to his knees, eyes squeezed tightly shut and hands clasped to the back of his head so hard it must have hurt. The other man turned and sprinted for an alleyway, but the rabbit-themed Hero was suddenly past him, and bouncing back off the wall with a powerful kick that left him groaning softly in counterpoint to the ragged screams of the first man.
“You know, maybe you should let ME give the ‘surrender’ speech. It might actually convince at least ONE of these groups to, you know, surrender.”
“And that’s why you’re the sidekick, and I’m the mentor.” The female Hero strode over to the only non-disabled member of the trio and slapped a pair of reinforced handcuffs on him as she pushed him to lie on his stomach. “Guys dumb enough to take money for something like this? At least one in every group is going to try something. This way, we build up your rep so that the ones in the future WILL surrender!”
“Rep?” Daniel’s tone was confused as he joined his mentor in restraining the wounded men, and making sure they weren’t in life threatening condition.
“Ask any veteran Hero. The thing that actually gets the bad guys to think twice and give up? It’s the stories on the street about what will happen if they don’t. Think of today as an investment in advertising for the future, and all on your very first day!”
“Oh man, everything hurts…” Alonzo Pittman shook his head to clear it, and found the motion stymied by the presence of something heavy on top of him. A hard shove saw the SFC fighter unpinned from what turned out to be about half of a large engine block. Right, the bus. The fight!
The muscular fighter scrambled to his feet, looking frantically around for another opponent or an escape route. What he saw left him staring in slack-jawed amazement. The man in the luchador costume was the only one other than himself still standing. Bloody, bruised, and with most of his outfit torn and shredded away, but smiling hugely as he stood triumphant in the middle of a ring of unconscious and quietly groaning bodies.
Holy Christ, he fought ALL OF THEM? Alonzo searched his foggy memory for the first few seconds of the fight. The luchador …something Cielo… El Santo Cielo! he had sent a text, and all the other men on the bus had suddenly turned even more violent looking than at the beginning. And he said something about us running for it, but then the bus flipped, and those two guys were coming at Gabe and me… and we took the first one down, but then I think was when I got hit with the engine, and… Another frantic search took Alonzo to a section of the ripped up bus frame which revealed his battered friend.
“Gabe, you okay?”
The dazed man on the ground glanced around in response to the question, and had to work his mouth a few times before he could respond. “Did… did we get hit by a bus?”
“No man, we got in a fight on the bus, remember?”
“No… maybe? Last time I sign on with a guy I don’t recognize.”
“Amen to tha-…” Alonzo’s agreement was interrupted when a woman in an all black, very tactical looking, outfit appeared less than twenty feet away. Holy crap, that’s a Hero. A real Hero, it’s gotta be.
The two fighter’s wore even more shocked expressions when the female Hero glanced around at the scene and then glared at the still smiling El Santo Cielo. Then she turned a pleasantly polite expression towards Alonzo and Gabe and approached to stand directly in front of them.
“Gentlemen, I must apologize for not being able to respond fast enough to get you out of a dangerous situation. You have my deep thanks for your assistance in this matter. Do either of you need immediate medical attention?”
Alonzo blushed at the earnest attention the Hero was offering them, but managed to shake his head in response.
“I think we’re good, ma’am. Me and ‘Lonzo are pretty tough guys. SFC veterans!” Alonzo barely resisted the urge to slap his friend silent at the unexpected boast.
“Glad to hear it. I’m hoping you gentlemen can wait here for the DVA teams to arrive? They’ll interview you and arrange for medical treatment after. Just be as honest as you can, and I promise it’ll be quick and painless.” The Hero waited long enough for both men to nod before turning and striding towards the still triumphant looking luchador with a much angrier stance.
Alonzo winced as the Hero grabbed the taller man’s mask and yanked his head down closer to her, and began to whisper VERY angrily at him. The SFC fighter couldn’t make out any of the words, but the tone sounded like ‘Cielo was in some serious trouble.
“Holy shit man, he’s a Hero too!” Alonzo looked down in shock at the quiet exclamation from his friend.
“You need to lie down, Gabe. Took some hard shots to the head.”
“No, man, think about it. He was on that bus with us, but he wore a mask all the time. He didn’t back down from all eight of those dudes, and instead of asking us for help he told us we should run for it. He’s gotta be a Hero! And now he’s getting chewed out by the lady Hero because he fucked up his job!”
Alonzo started to shake his head again, but couldn’t muster much conviction for the refusal. Then he froze as another person appeared out of nowhere, a few feet in front of him. The new arrival wore a long duster, an immaculate stetson, and a tiny ‘lone-ranger’ style mask over his eyes.
“Huh. You gentlemen must be some of the civilians that were unfortunately wrapped up in this mess? Has my colleague spoken with you already?”
Both men nodded dumbly in response, and the Hero smiled warmly and turned to walk over to where the whispered conference was still ongoing. He was only part of the exchange briefly, then the woman and luchador both vanished.
“Is ‘Cielo in trouble?”
The cowboy themed Hero turned a surprised look in response to the question, and seemed to be thinking hard for a moment before realization flared in his expression. “Ah, your luchador friend is Cielo? Don’t worry about him, he’s just being taken for a more complete debrief since he was apparently more involved in the conflict than the two of you. He’ll be perfectly all right.” The Hero paused to see if any more questions were coming, then began to move amongst the downed gang-members and started applying restraints; some kind of dull-metallic thumbcuffs.
“See man? Told you. He was like, undercover or something.”
Alonzo could only nod in amazed agreement this time. “Holy shit man, I actually fought that dude once.”
“Me too. Kicked your ass right away, didn’t he?”
“Fuckin’ Heroes.” Alonzo tried to put a little bit of venom into the statement, but after having seen the man in question stand boldly between eight violent criminal Supers and himself just a few minutes ago, his heart wasn’t really in it.