“Are you sure you want to do this? You are hurt“, Amy said.
Basil just nodded and stared at his mobile phone – tracking the movements of the so-called Switchbitch.
Amy’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. “The Hemogoblins…”
“…are a C-to-B-Class gang, mainly due to their leadership consisting entirely of metahumans, with their actual leader being a B-Class Contriver”, continued Basil. “Their metapowered members are…”
“Alright, alright, so you’ve done some research on them”, Amy cut him off before he could launch into an exposition-rant (not that she didn’t like to do that once in a while. Just not as much as he did). “Still, do you think you can do this? You. Are. Hurt. And your teammates are certainly not up to this – leave it to the heroes! That’s what they’re for!”
He shook his head and started typing something on his phone. Judging by what she could see on the screen, he was sending his ravenbots after the tracer to scout out the location.
She grunted in frustration. “Listen, from what I understand, Prisca is probably dead already”, she said. Something broke and she used her ESP to see that he had crushed his phone in his hand. “You once told me that she could only survive for minutes without all the equipment keeping her alive. Not to speak of everything that could have happened to her when those imbeciles blew through the wall!”
Basil grit his teeth. “They came to kidnap her, explicitly. They were briefed on how she looks and on her fragile constitution. It is not a far shot to assume that they have something prepared to keep her alive – the only reason to kidnap her would be for blackmailing her family. They can not do that with a corpse.” He carefully put his crushed mobile phone into a small plastic bag he pulled out of one of the many hidden pockets in his jacket.
And you’re not going to accept the possibility that she might be dead, are you?
And then it dawned on her – this might be a chance to push him closer to her side. If he lost his temper with the Hemogoblins, if he killed one or two of them – preferably because the Scarecrow had not survived – he might be more open to joining her!
“Alright, Basil. I’ll let you do this – but you have to promise me something”, she said, intent to grab this opportunity.
“What would that be?”, he asked.
“You go in, no holds barred. The Hemogoblins are a whole gang. They’ve survived for nearly a decade, here, in New Lennston. Metahuman Central. You take all your weapons, you take your teammates, you do this all-out”, she explained.
“Good.” More of a chance that you’ll have some less safe weaponry with you.
They reached the warehouse and he left the car. Amy came out as well.
“Are you going to come in?”, he asked her.
I’d like to know why he doesn’t want me to meet his teammates in person… Oh well, there are more important things to do. “No, don’t worry. But Basil…”
She caught him in a careful hug. “Be careful. If things turn South, please, take care of yourself first.”
He hugged her back, but didn’t reply. She knew he was just the kind of guy to go on even if the decks were stacked against him.
So she was going to stay close and intervene, even if he didn’t want it.
* * *
“Basil?! What happened?”, asked Vasiliki. She was not alone in her agitation, as both Dalia and Stephie hovered right behind her. Basil did not even care that he was blowing his cover in regards to Stephie knowing his face and name. He still looked her over once, trying to get a sense of how safe a secret keeper she could be. Short, Mediterranean, long dark brown hair and brown eyes with fashionable spectacles. She was one of those girls that would have been above-average in looks, if it was not for all the Adonis-types skewing the average. Dressed very comfortably, but not sloppy, in jeans and a pullover.
“Suit up. We are going to attack the Hemogoblins once I am done with some preparations”, he said. Before they could say anything, he moved past them and down into his workshop.
There, he took a moment to compose himself.
Alright, first things first. I need to fix my shoulder and my rib. No time for a thorough work, just something to hold me over.
The blade to his shoulder had missed all crucial parts and if he did not have to go out and fight right now, he probably would have just applied some lotions to prevent scarring and speed up the healing process. But he needed to be combat ready, now.
So he took off the bandages and gathered all the operating tools and the medicine he was going to need, then he went about the task of reopening the wound and then working to close it so it would not tear open in the middle of battle – after he applied a localized anaesthetic.
Using various cameras, he was able to work one-handed on his own shoulder until he could finally stitch the skin up. There, it certainly did not look good, but it would hold. Next came his rib.
I so need to work on some enhancements to my body. Maybe some subdermal mesh for protection, more mesh around critical organs, replacing the bones for artificial equivalents…
But the new bones at least would have to wait until he had finished growing. Which would take a while.
Should at least work on some artificial blood.
He was just done redoing the bandages around his chest when the three girls came down. Vasiliki and Dalia had changed into their costumes, except for their masks. All of them were taken aback by the sight of him – bloody tools in front of him, fresh bandages.
“Dude, what the fuck happened?”, asked Dalia.
“The attack on the hospital. Have you heard about it?”, he asked.
“Yeah, a few people were hurt and that sick rich girl was kidnapped”, replied Stephie.
“I was in there. One of the two supervillains responsible, Switchbitch, stabbed me in the shoulder when I placed a tracer on her. Though she did not notice the tracer itself”, he explained.
“Wow, talk about coi- hey, why were you there to begin with?”, replied Dalia.
Vasiliki slapped her head. “Well, duh, I guess we now know who his mysterious girlfriend is, don’t we?”, she said.
“What do y- Ooh!”
“Alright, could we get back on topic?”, he said. “I am going to go after them. Are you in?”
The two heroines looked at each other. Then they looked back at him. “Sure.” “Let’s pound them into the pavement.”
Stephie spoke up. “Can I help?”, she asked, sounding very much intimidated.
Basil thought it over while he cleaned up. “You can man the console above. I will give you access to the database on metahumans. Pull out everything I have on the Hemogoblins and brief us on their equipment, their numbers and, most importantly, on their metahuman muscle”, he told her, typing several commands into one of the many computers spread across the workshop. She nodded and ran off towards the stairs.
He suited up and loaded himself with everything he could take along – his sword, his stun gun, the batons, various grenades. I focused too much on defense. I need more equipment for dealing with metahuman enemies without killing them, he thought as he checked his sword over.
All the while, the girls finished putting on their masks and limbering up a bit.
It took him nearly ten minutes before he was ready, which was way too long. Add an automated rack for putting on the armor to my list.
After they were done, he checked up on the ravens. They had followed the Hemogoblins to an old factory in the woods to the northwest of the city. There were twelve people outside standing watch and more still on the inside.
“We will have to run quite a ways”, he explained as he walked towards the tunnel entrance that would lead to the woods in that direction. “Let’s get going.”
* * *
Melody was taken aback when Irene suddenly stormed out of the studio just as the news of the attack on the hospital hit the screens.
She had been sitting in the room Irene had been given at the TV studio to get ready for her appearance on the show. Not that she had needed it much – Melody had watched her become even more attractive right before her eyes. In fact, within seconds she had changed to look unnaturally beautiful. Suddenly, Melody understood why she did not have a separate Adonis-rating.
Still, she had asked and Irene had explained that normally she just looked stunning, as in most situations, looking so beautiful that it was clearly supernatural was not very helpful. But on TV, people actually expected things to look better than in real life, so her power adapted.
After that, Melody had just helped her a bit with some subtle make-up. It didn’t really make her look better – that was barely possible at this point – but it did make her look just a little bit more normal.
Though she wasn’t really interested in watching the special – she knew everything that was going to be discussed and she found modern television programming quite aggravating – she watched just out of a sense of solidarity with Irene. Which was the reason why she had come along in the first place (and the fact that Mr. Widard had locked her out of her workshop, telling her to ‘go out and be a teenager for once’).
The special was barely two minutes in when the hospital attack took place and she was already so bored she was kind of glad that there was some kind of distraction.
Still, hospital attack. Not a good thing, ever.
Before she could do anything, Irene stormed into the room and said: “We’re needed. Ready to go out?”
<I need my gear first, but otherwise->, she began to reply, only to be cut off when Irene grabbed her and, with a nauseating feeling as if something was grabbing her all over the body and pulling, the vanished and reappeared in her workshop.
“Dress, fast”, Irene said just as her dress disappeared only to be replaced by her costume.
Melody ran over to her power armor, just when her mobile went off. She looked at the screen – it was Sarah Hua, her handler. She put her on speakerphone while she slipped out of her casual clothes and into her pink undergarment for the armor.
<Sarah, what can you tell us about the attack?>, she asked.
<The Hemogoblins – a local gang that has been operating for a little more than a decade – have attacked the Petal Memorial Hospital and kidnapped Prisca Gwen Fion, a long-term patient and heiress to the Fion fortune>, replied the older woman.
<What kind of idiot attacks the Petal Memorial? Every superhero worth the title is going to be all over this!>, replied Melody.
<We don’t know what is going on – the Hemogoblins have never performed on this scale. There were simultaneous attacks all over the city, some by other members of their gang, some done by independent villains and some by the Panther Patrol, implying an alarming level of cooperation. There are five more hostage situations, three of them by metahumans, but Ms Fion’s kidnapping seems to be the main operation, as she is the only victim of exceptional worth to a kidnapper.>
<How are we reacting to that?>
<We are going all-out. The Junior heroes will be split up to deal with three of the hostage situations, Amazon is taking care of the fourth and the police, SWAT and every reserve hero are being mobilized.> She lowered her voice and whispered: <Mr. Widard is all but breathing fire right now. He is also calling in every independent hero and every vigilante we can contact.>
<Why is Mr. Widard so upset?>, asked Melody while putting on her armor.
Irene answered: “He was Petal’s handler and he was one of the minds behind building a whole hospital as a memorial instead of just a statue.”
<Oh>, she replied as she finished adjusting the armor and started connecting it to the robotic limbs.
<How quick before the two of you can be at the headquarters and suit up?> asked Sarah.
“Already done, Madam”, replied Irene.
<Oh, great. Listen, we have one major problem. Ms Fion was in long-term intensive care after being one of the few survivors of the Hawaii attack by Dusu. She needs severe mechanical assistance just to stay alive – she can’t survive for more than a few minutes without her machines and her heart is so frail it could stop due to a simple scare.>
<Holy shit>, was all that Melody could say to comment on that.
<We hope that the Hemogoblins are prepared to provide the necessary medical care to keep her alive, but we’re not going to take any chances. Since Outstep flew over to California this noon – and he can’t come back in time – the two of you are the ones best suited to get her out of there safely.>
“Any idea where they took her?”, asked Irene.
<They were reported to be moving North to North West. We don’t know any more, they actually managed to hide their trail very well>, replied Sarah.
<So, we have to find them first, then get past them to the girl – who might be dead or dying – get her out of there – even though that might be enough to kill her – and back to the hospital. And, if things go South, we’ll need to fight a whole gang with at least one B+ metahuman, if I remember their file correctly, right?>, she summed them up.
<Quite so>, answered Sarah.
“I ought to be able to track them if we start at the hospital”, replied Irene.
<Then fly out>, said Sarah.
* * *
Why don’t you just teleport us over there?, asked Polymnia over their telepathic link as they flew towards the hospital.
“Because I’m not getting any teleportation right now”, replied Gloom Glimmer. She sounded annoyed. “This is another one of those cases where my power is being less than helpful.”
Hmm, a shame. On a separate thought, I ought to invent some kind of flight system. Somehow, being carried around all the time, even telekinetically, is a bit… aggravating.
“I don’t mind.”
But I do. Besides, I’ve always wanted to fly by myself.
They reached the hospital in short order and flew towards the hole in the wall where they were awaited by a police officer.
The man was stunned to see the two of them flying in – Gloom Glimmer looked, well, like Gloom Glimmer and Polymnia’s transparent armor didn’t exactly hide her body – but caught himself with a shake of his head.
When they touched down, Gloom Glimmer immediately walked towards the wreckage that had once been the girl’s bed and medical equipment.
Polymnia looked around – there was a bit of blood around a hole in the wall, as if someone had been stabbed and pinned to it. Other than that, she noticed that the walls – those parts that were not destroyed – were painted to resemble various outdoor scenes.
<Sir, what can you tell us about what happened?>, she asked the police officer, who had been watching as Gloom Glimmer inspected the remains of the bed.
He turned to face her. “Well, from what we could gather, Ms Fion was in bed – not that she could be anywhere else – and watching TV together with her boyfriend when Redder and Switchbitch, two known metahuman gang members, blew through the wall, injured the boy and a security guard, and took off together with the girl. According to the boy’s testimony, they had a picture of her and were briefed on her condition”, he told her.
Behind him, Polymnia could see Gloom Glimmer inspect the hole in the wall and shudder.
Where is the boy? Maybe he can tell us something more?>, she continued while Gloom Glimmer went over the rest of the room.
“The doctor wrote him off as not in danger and he was picked up by a family member”, answered the police officer.
“Not a problem”, replied Gloom Glimmer. “I think I can track at least their general route. Let’s go, there is no time to waste”, she explained and took off towards the hole in the wall.
An invisible force picked Polymnia up and she was pulled out of the room, nodding at the officer.
* * *
What did you pick up?, asked Polymnia as they flew towards the woods in the North East.
“Pretty much what the policeman said. Boy and girl are together, get attacked by supervillains, the villains injure the boy and flee with the girl”, replied Gloom Glimmer.
No, not that. When you inspected the hole in the wall. You shuddered. Why?
“For a moment, it felt like I could feel it, you know. The blade in my shoulder. The boy left quite the emotional… fingerprint? Residue? I don’t know. I hate it when that happens.”
Does it happen often?
“Whenever someone feels extremely intense emotions, they leave behind residue. Like some kind of radiation.”
Can’t be comfortable for empaths.
“Not all empaths can detect that kind of background emotion – most are limited to… hey, look down there!”
She pointed at a small road that lead through the woods – three figures were visible from their position. Zooming in closer, Polymnia was startled to recognize Brennus and his girls, running in the same direction as they did. And she also noticed several ravens that were apparently keeping an eye on the two of them, so Brennus at least had already noticed them.
I vote for another team-up, said Polymnia.
“I agree. Though usually this kind of team-up doesn’t happen within the same weekend”, replied Gloom Glimmer as she flew towards the running teenagers.
* * *
“…nd I can’t believe we are going to another factory – last time went so well, you know”, said Tyche.
Brennus snapped out of… of what? Where were… they were running through the woods and the sun was slowly descending towards the horizon, bathing the scenery in soft, orange light. When had that happened?
“Hey, B-man! Did you even listen to me?”, asked Tyche as she made a cartwheel in mid-run.
“Sorry, no. I am kind of preoccupied with the actual problems ahead of us”, he replied. The lie came off a bit too easily he thought, but he could not afford to create doubts right now.
Tyche opened her mouth to reply when Stephie suddenly spoke up over their communcations link.
<Alright, I worked myself through Brennus’ files. Good God, how much info do you stockpile?>
Tyche snorted. “He is obsessive about exposition and you need a lot of info for that.”
Brennus pointedly ignored both her comment and the giggles it elicited from Hecate, who was running along them.
“What can you tell us about them?”, he asked – he only remembered pieces of info about them.
<Old gang, founded more than a decade ago by the ‘Crimson Goblin’, a level 6 Contriver rated as a B+ metahuman threat. He specializes in creating near-human bio-weapons that he calls his ‘Goblins’, which tend to express peak-human physical capabilities, but little mental skill. He used to have trouble with them going out of control all the time.>
“Great, a fuckin’ mad scientist who played too much D&D”, said Tyche.
“There is no such thing as too much D&D”, replied Brennus and Hecate in unison.
“Nerds. What else, Steph?”
<At least thirty baseline members and three other known metahuman members. Redder, a chimaera 6, blaster 4. B-. Looks like a big, red goblin, was initially believed to be just another of the Crimson Goblins’ experiments. Bullet-proof, superstrength, creates a kind of explosion made of invisible razorblades with enough strength to cut up a policeman in body armor – or break through a wall. But he has to wait twenty to twenty-five seconds between blasts and it only extends about three meters around his body. Multiple murderer and rapist with a side order of vandalism.
Switchbitch, the newest member. Adonis 3, Manipulation 4, has a stick that can transform into various weapons. Multiple murder, including two policemen, and a real hate-on for being touched by men, apparently. Rated as a C.>
“Already had the joy of experiencing her power”, commented Brennus.
<Yeah, well, the next one is a real problem. The Goblin Queen – Marvel hates her – is an Adonis 2 and a Siren 6. Mind control on people who are sexually attracted to her. To fully control someone, she needs to have sex with them, but she can at least influence anyone who is attracted to her, provided they can both see her and hear her voice. She’s the reason why the Crimson Goblin doesn’t have to deal with out-of-control Goblins anymore. Which is just squicky.>
“Yeah, gross”, agreed Hecate.
“So, we need to keep Brennus and me away from her, huh?”, asked Tyche.
“She’s not an issue for me”, replied Brennus, annoyed. “I can block my hearing or switch my sight to sonar or something else that does not give me a clear enough picture of her body to be aroused – and I am quite resistant to that kind of stuff to begin with.”
“Your call, big man. Any other plans?”, continued Tyche.
“I think we need to take care of the metahumans first – the normal members and most of the Goblins should not pose much of a threat to any of us”, answered Hecate.
“I am listening in on the police bands right now”, said Brennus. “It seems that there are simultaneous hostage takings all over the city – and a lot of goblins have been sighted there, as well. As well as the Goblin Queen. So we only need to worry about the Crimson Goblin, Redder and Switchbitch, as well as the few minions they still have around – and my ravens are only picking up twelve baseline sentries around the factory and about as many warm bodies inside – at least one of whom has to be Prisca.”
“Assuming she isn’t de-“
“She. Is. Not.”
Neither of the girls replied anything.
They ran along the road (really, it was more of a path), while Brennus was trying to figure out his latest lapse in memory.
What could have triggered it? And what did I do… what did I think about in that time? The girls did not notice anything strange about me, so what was going on in my head?
Add to that the fact that he was still all but shaking with rage, and it did not do any good to his concentration.
He was so deep in thought that he almost missed the flying forms of Gloom Glimmer and Polymnia coming closer. Thankfully, he had set the programs of the ravenbots to alert him in case they detected possible metahumans. And he might have still missed them, because Gloom Glimmer was doing something that was making them nearly completely invisible from the front and below.
Switching to internal speaker, he contacted the girls over their commlink. <Heads up, Gloom Glimmer and Polymnia are approaching.>
Hecate actualy squeed. Again.