by Madam Marvelous
Chapter One - "Frankie and the Upgrades"
"OK, cadets, good job," Chained Angel said as the doors to the R.A.I.D. (Regulated Augmented Instructional Department) simulator closed. "We still have some work to do, but you are coming along well in your training."
I couldn't help but smile at her praise. Getting some positive coaching after combat training felt good, and fighting in a holographic environment against a computer generated foe was much less painful than my league war training sessions with my mentor, Midgardsormr. His technique was brutally straightforward. Learn to fight by surviving someone trying to literally kill you. Effective, but if it weren't for the medical staff aboard the BADGE Stellar Arena, I don't know if I'd still be alive today.
"Thanks for getting us scheduled," Prysmatica said as she wiped her face with towel. The session had been grueling, several hours long. Many other leagues completed it faster than we did on average, which was slightly embarrassing but we were slowly improving. "Do you have the time for our next go set up?"
"Actually, I do. There was an opening tomorrow at 8a.m.," Chained Angel said. "As it is Saturday, I figured we could squeeze it in to get ready for the new event Director Nova has for us next week."
I think our explosive groans and eye-rolls might have offset the station's rotational balance a bit. Training is all well and good, but so were days off.
"What have you been smoking?" Wyldfyre said sharply. "We've been going non-stop since Agent Justin came up with the idea. I need some me time. Me time that includes none of you all being around."
Chained Angel shoved her palm outward between them and turned her head away, the universal gesture for 3THCTFDC (Talk to the hand cause the face don't care). "We've only been able to attempt the first of the simulations. There is a whole other program for advanced fighting, but if you're to weak to face it..."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah." Wyldfyre crafted a dog-sized dragon out of a fire he generated with the wave of a hand. It walked over to the simulator doors as a new team of 5th Precinct leaguemembers walked through and the construct proceeded raise its leg and urinate flame at their feet. "I'll be there, just to show the rest of you losers how to get it done."
"I'll be there," I said as I ignored Wyldfyre's latest antics. As I caught a reflection of myself in my Madam Marvelous persona in a window to the outside of the space station, I reveled in the view beyond the enhanced transparent aluminum pane of glass. The darkness of space never ceased to amaze me when I looked into it. As a shapeshifter, I could turn into diminutive insects, but no matter how tiny I could become, looking out at the endless void of the universe made me feel so much smaller. "I've got to get going, though. Anyone else want to head to New Amsterdam with me on the shuttle?"
"I can take you," Catalyst said. "I'm heading to our HQ."
"Can I join?" Prysmatica asked. "I have to meet Chaz in a few hours for a dat--"
A collective "OOOHHHHH" resounded from our group, one I participated in, and one that brought a rosy blush to Prysmatica's cheeks. "Come on. What are you guys, in high school still?"
I restrained from raising my hand despite her being correct. Yes, I was in tenth grade, but that secret didn't need to be shared. As superheroes, or capes as most called us, a degree of secrecy to our private identities was shared by each member of our group. "I don't mind."
"Let's go, then," Calalyst said. He, Prysmatica, Infinite Tempest, and I all departed the waiting area to the simulator and headed to the docking bay on our way back home.
A wall of electronic equipment hummed with the buzz of thousands of bees within its components. The notorious villain known as Gamer G plugged wires into various outlets, each time the noise shifting in frequency, escalating in pitch in a climbing musical disharmony. Red wire to black port. Blue wire to yellow. He pulled and switched connections like a conductor creating a maddening symphony while he himself chuckled maniacally alongside the cacophony.
Flipping a switch, Gamer G stepped back as the sounds rose to a frequency the human ear could not detect, blanketing the room in silence. "Achievement unlocked. You've officially leveled up. Can you feel it?"
On the other side of the room, a dark figure laid upon a metal table. Several cables from the wall of electronics ran into its neck, chest, and head. It sat up and light gleamed from bare panels of metal visible beneath patches of dark brown fur. "...yesss...Master... I am ready to serve you. I obey."
"With the addition of these Xandraxi parts I was able to smuggle out of Free Detroit, you are deadlier than ever, Frankie," Gamer G said gleefully as he rubbed his hands together with exuberance. "I've even managed to replace your arm that those zero heroes stole from you. Feel free to DIS-arm any who get in your way on your mission with the same Dis-regard, my prec... my creation of deadly death. You will be such a surprise for them, I almost want to save you to give them for Christmas, but I need that reporter out of my hair. He's trying to open up an investigation into my rebranding of Super Duper Games."
"What is my mission?" Frankie asked.
"Why, kill Chaz Hamilton, of course."
to be continued...
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
“We will be in New Amsterdam airspace in 3 minutes,” Catalyst said as he piloted the Star Force Cruiser down from the orbital space station. The dashboard was far more elaborate than Eggie’s Volkswagon, full of switches, dials, levers, and liquid-crystal display panels. He removed a soft cloth and wiped lovingly wiped clean a smudge from one of the displays as he flew.
“Thanks for the update, Alan,” Prysmatica said. “I could have gone photon-form but I brought some things with me to the station I couldn’t leave behind.”
Prysmatica’s ability to become pure light was a shapeshifting feat I hadn’t mastered yet. When I became elemental fire, I still had a molten core mass I maintained. Light managed to elude me for some reason, but I knew one day I could master it as Madam Marvelous. A year ago, I couldn’t become anything smaller than a mouse. Today I could shift into a mosquito, which is likely the most dangerous form I could become. Not dangerous to others. Dangerous to me. Nobody likes mosquitoes.
“It’s fine,” Catalyst said. “You’re good company. At least that’s how Chaz describes you.”
Infinite Tempest chuckled from his seat beside me. “His heartrate increases whenever he says your name, I’ve sensed it. I thought he was having a heart attack the first time he spoke of dating you. Before you marry, you might want to have him see a cardiologist to make sure he can survive you merging.”
“Stop it,” Prysmatica’s eyes flared pink as her cheeks flushed. “We’re not getting married. He doesn’t even know I hero yet, so knock it off. We’re only going to dinner.”
“Where are you going? We need to eat too, right Cat?” Tempest said. He pointed his strong chin at the back of Catalyst’s pilot chair, then looked at me. “How about you Mad Marv? How about making it a party.”
Chaz Hamilton, official BADGE correspondent and investigative journalist, waited outside the Sentinel’s Editor-in-Chief’s office tapping his foot impatiently as he stood outside their door. “When is he going to be done? I’ve got plans tonight and need to get this story to bed before I can get out of here.”
Rebel Norita sat at her desk outside the office, ignored looking at Chaz as she responded to e-mails. “I’m not psychic like your hero buddies. Ask them.”
“You really have a beef with them, don’t you?” Chaz said as he turned to face her. “What did they do to you?”
She continued to type. “I didn’t give you permission for an interview, Mr. Hamilton. Try another source.”
Chaz shrugged, then fought to remain standing as the building violently shook. “What was that?”
Her swivel chair rocked like a weeble-wobble as she grabbed her purse from beneath her desk and headed for the stairwell. “You find out if you want. I’ll catch the story at 11 from home.”
“What?” Chaz darted around her desk and switched to the Sentinel’s external security cameras. “Password. What’s the password?”
The building shook again, harder and longer this time. Dust and tiny bits of the ceiling fell all around Chaz, some bouncing as they littered Rebel’s abandoned desk.
“I hope the buildings been tested for asbestos,” Chas muttered as he typed in his guesses to the security departments password. “Oh, that’s it. The world’s best deputy.”
The computer screen filled with several images throughout the building. Chaz selected exterior view. The cameras switched to various options around the building, each with a different perspective of the entrances. “What’s going on out front.”
Outside the main doors a group of people stood on the opposite side of the main street through New Amsterdam, Shapiro Drive. The crowd gazed up at the sky and pointed.
“What are they looking at?” Chaz mused as he switched to a sky-view camera. Down the nearby hallways, people yelled and shouted in panic as they gathered at the elevator doors. Chaz glanced up at them. “Don’t take the elevators. Get to the stairwells for safety.”
An explosion rocked the building, far stronger than any prior. The doors to the Editor-in-Chief’s office blew out, revealing a decimated interior and shattered shatterproof windows. The noise was deafening as Chaz ducked beneath the desk to avoid being impaled by fragments of the shattered wood.
“Looks like you’re going to see your boyfriend sooner than expected, Prysm,” Catalyst said as the Star Force cruiser swerved at a right angle to its previous course. “The Sentinel office is under attack.”
“WHAT?” Prysmatica, Infinite Tempest, and I blurted in unison as the force of the rapid change in direction tousled us about in our seats. Who would attack the New Amsterdam most trusted news source?
A screen flipped down from the ceiling and an image of an enormous half robot/half stuffed dog riding atop an inflated Thanksgiving balloon in the shape of an ostrich floated between downtown buildings. A smoky message drifted in the sky behind it. SURRENDER CHAZ.
“Is that Gamer G’s construct, Frankie?” I asked. It looked similar, but not identical to the last encounter I had with the notorious gamesmith.
“If it is, it’s had work done,” Catalyst said. “It’s been upgraded. And better armed.”
I thought at first Catalyst spoke about the strange yet somehow familiar technology that had been used to build an arm, but I quickly realized the comment addressed the rocket launcher firing projectiles at the Sentinel building braced on Frankie’s shoulder.
“Hmmm,” Infinite Tempest said as he studied the screen. “I didn’t think ostriches could fly? Why make a balloon of it?”
“That’s your question?” Prysmatica shouted. Her flesh began to glow with a bright orange sheen. “I’ll meet you there. Don’t take all day.”
With that, her street clothes fell into her seat as she went photon and at the speed of light, flew through the windshield heading toward downtown.
I pulled out my phone and called home. It rang once. “Hey, Dad. Can you tell Mom I might be late for dinner?”
Outside the Sentinel News, the enormous, floating flightless bird hovered before the opening made into the Editor-in-Chief’s office. Ten stories below, several crowds of people gathered at the intersections around the building. Flashes of light flickered from some bystander’s camera phones while others kept their hands held high as they tried to capture video of the event.
“Give us Chaz Hamilton and we will leave the building and its occupants unharmed,” Frankie broadcast loudly from a speaker inside his unmoving mouth. “I have been instructed to continue my attack until he has been delivered.”
“The Sentinel doesn’t hand people over,” Editor-in-Chief J.T. shouted from behind the door to his private washroom. “BADGE is on its way, so get ready to be tonight’s top story, poochie.”
A fresh explosion threw J.T. to the floor as a rocket detonated a large section of interior wall.
Prysmatica’s photonic form flared in the decimated office as she took on her human form. Her superhero costume, adaptive Morphonic reactive nano-mesh designed by Krystal Fae, disguised Prysmatica’s secret identity as former Sentinel intern, Romana Delvalutra. “Bad dog.”
She fired a beam of compressed photons at Frankie’s chest, attempting to knock it from the balloon.
A glowing barrier surrounding Frankie became visible as some type of force field deflected her beam skyward. “69 percent prediction of your arrival first on scene confirmed. Deploying countermeasure.”
Crashing windows echoed up from the street below. Shattered glass littered the sidewalk as dozens of stuffed dogs the size of German Shepherds poured out. They ran with an animated gait, imitating a dog’s movement but not capturing the animal’s grace. Together they charged into the crown of terrified onlookers trying now to escape and one by one and selected a target to either knock to the ground or pin against a wall. They then mounted their prey’s leg, wrapping their forepaws around the human’s leg and clung tightly to them. A metal click repeated as metal bands erupted from the robotic dogs and shackled their bodies against the grappled limbs.
“Should I be deactivated before Chaz Hamilton is brought to me, the constructs below will detonate, taking their new owner with them. Cease your efforts.”
Prysmatica stared at Frankie, uncertain if she should press her attack. A noise from the opening into the hallway behind her caught her attention. She bent the light around her, allowing her to see what the source was without taking her eyes off Frankie.
At the receptionist desk outside the Editor-in-Chief’s office, Chaz crouched down behind a computer monitor, mouthing to her ‘don’t tell it I’m here’.
Prysmatica’s heart skipped a beat as Frankie’s head swiveled slightly in the same direction. “Chaz Hamilton is here. Engage program 2-B. Destroy Chaz Hamilton.”
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