This is a short story that I couldn't get out of my head so I started putting it into writing. Then it exploded into something much longer despite my mediocre writing skills. Christopher gets that. The little writing project expanding not the mediocre writing..... anyway, I'm already working on "Issue 2" of the story & the way it's going it looks like it's gonna be about 3 episodes. Maybe 4, we'll see. TOGETHER, It's like an adventure
It had been quiet all day, which made my shoulder blades twitch. It was never quiet it Rook city, which I probably why I enjoyed living here so much. I turned the corner and checked the streets behind me. As much as I knew I wasn’t being followed I wanted to make sure. Pete’s apartment was destroyed frequently enough just by belonging to him. After double-checking I made my way down the alley to the fire escape, hopping from the rusted green dumpster up to the hanging ladder I hauled myself up without much difficulty. It’s nice to know my shoulder was healing up well, maybe now Pete would stop apologizing. I started up the last couple flights for stairs while keeping my head on a swivel. It wasn’t my eye that caught something off first but my nose.
I smelled Baking.
That was probably not a good sign, if Pete had been baking and I didn’t smell anything burning it probably meant the entire kitchen was covered in flour or something. Adorable as he was, cooking with Setback was not something any one came away from clean. Although, I could use something to eat, after that big scuffle with the Organization a couple weeks ago it seemed things had been going worse than usual, particularly that fight with Desert Eagle.
When I hauled myself through the window I tried to relax, until I saw the big red boots by the Door. Pete doesn’t own any red boots. And certainly none of that size, which meant someone else was in his apartment. Well, they’re going to get a stern talking to, as soon as the shock rounds wear off and they stop twitching. I advanced quietly up to the frame then rounded the door in a rush. The usual dining room/living room combo found in most apartments was unoccupied, with Pete’s pseudo organization in full swing. After sweeping the Living room I checked the kitchen and finally managed to relax. After I had gotten to know him, the Maori man almost scraping the kitchen ceiling with his head had that effect.
“Good Moring Amanda,” he greeted me, turning away from the sink to give me a wide smile. “I didn’t hear you come in; Pete was kind enough to lend me his kitchen.”
“Hey there, Aata,” I replied, holstering the pistols that had either gone unnoticed or been ignored. They wouldn’t have done much to the large warrior anyway.
“I didn’t know that Pete was going anywhere. Usually on weekends we eat breakfast before our patrol.” It almost never happened that way though, routine was not a thing that happened around Setback unless I put a LOT of effort into it. Aata continued his scrubbing, cleaning off the last few dishes with seemingly all of Pete’s pans sitting on the opposite side of the sink, the island covered in tiny cooling pies.
“He mentioned something vague about Slim’s garage and left in a hurry.” Aata replied over his shoulder. “Could you do me a favor, those two should be about ready if you could grab an oven mitt.” Almost on queue Pete’s egg timer went off where it was sitting on the stove. The little egg tittering loudly, I still don’t get why Pete is so pleased that his egg timer is egg shaped. I grabbed the Kiss the Cook mitt from the hook on the wall and pulled out two sheets each covered in pies about 4 inches across and one that was almost twice that size with the name Jasmine somehow cooked into the crust.
“That is a lot of pies,” I observed flaccidly. I had already not been in the greatest of moods, I didn’t expect to have to be sociable this early.
“Well, a few, I tend to get carried away when I cook. Are you doing alright, you seem a bit on edge Amanda.” He set the last bowl aside and turned back towards me, pulling a towel from his shoulder to dry his hands.
“So small talk isn’t one of my strongest skills, don’t judge me!” I snapped. Maybe a little more forcefully than I might have otherwise, however Aata’s smile never wavered.
“No judgment from me. I’ve heard your story. You have had a difficult life, but it will only get darker if you push people away.” He said, the smile leaving his mouth, but not his eyes. His expression reminded me of Slim. The same gentle smile that rests more in the eyes than anywhere else in his face.
I watched as Haka arranged the pies onto the cookie sheets that Pete’s mother had gotten him last Christmas. He set the pies down then used a combination of twine and cups to tie the next sheet in place above the first one; a clever way to hold multiple pies without damaging any of the delicate crusts. He took a great deal of care with each which was impressive in a man of Haka’s size.
“I’m sorry, Aata. I didn’t mean to snap. It hasn’t… uh” I hesitated, He was obviously busy. I didn’t want to unload all this on him. I’d actually I had been planning on talking to Pete about things.
“I am always willing to listen. However, I have a plan for these pies and I wouldn’t want to disappoint, if you wouldn’t mind helping me carry these pies down to the hospital I promise I will listen while we walk.”
“Sure,” I took a deep breath, and steadied my nerves; “Actually, yeah. I would appreciate that.”
“I don’t know.” I said into the phone, standing in the phone booth across from Diamond Investigations. Faye hadn’t been home, with no local help I called back to Freedom Five headquarters. I didn’t want to tell Amanda that the people we snagged last week had gotten out of custody. She was stressed enough
“She still blames herself. She’s on edge and she’s not sleeping. I want to help but I don’t know how. Normally I would go to Slim, but he hasn’t been himself since we brought him back. And since then the bird guy managed to get out, no one knows where he is.”
“Look Pete. I know that you’re worried, and I know that you want to help her, but she needs to figure these things out for herself. You did too.” The man on the other end of the line said. Paul had been the one that set me on the path. Legacy and the rest of the freedom five had helped figure out that I was stronger than other people. They had given me some training to help me fight crime and had even put up with me hanging around the tower for a while.
“I know that, but there was kind of an emergency that put that in the way. And that Janitor of yours, what was his name? Uh… Don? Dan? David? Darryl?
“You mean, Larry? He’s retiring after spring break next year. We were going to have a cookout for him. Look everyone has someone who kind of puts them back on their path when things get rough, I had one, you had one, so will Amanda.”
“I guess you’re right, Paul.” I sighed, “Oh well, I guess I should get back, Aata might need help washing the dishes and Amanda doesn’t like small talk.” It was, Amanda had taken a train with him at one point when he went to visit his family. She had sat glaring at the people across from them the whole time.
“Wait Pete. Haka is in town?” Paul said, a note of surprise creeping into his voice.
“Uh, yeah, but that’s him right? A real ‘Not all who wander are lost’ kind o’ guy.” I said, not really seeing what the big deal was. “I ran into him outside when I left, the phone at my house hasn’t been working the last couple days, he said he needed to borrow my kitchen.”
“Alright Pete let me tell you a secret. You came to me when the hero life was wearing you down, now you’re worried about Amanda. I’ve had those feelings, and when I get them, I go talk to Haka. I think she’ll be fine. Try and find some info on Desert Eagle and I’ll *chizz* if she *HZZZEZZZTZZZZZZ* probably *BZZZWHEENNNWHNNN* by *CZZCIZZZZ* Pete? Are *ZZccZZZccZZZEEEEEEEEEEEBEEPBEEPBEEP*”
I sighed and hung up the phone, with this pay phone out I would have to walk another couple blocks to find a new one. Why can’t phones just work, oh well it’s a nice day and the phone outside the Hospital is closer to his house anyway.
I watched Setback leave the phone booth. Who even uses phone booths anymore? He didn’t notice me up on the roof of the warehouse, but there might be other heroes with him. That is what got me caught the first time, but he seemed to be walking back towards down town. He probably lived in that direction anyway. I leapt into the air to see if I could spot my prey, Montgomery Industries was going to be transferring some tech later today and my handlers at RevoCorp wanted me to hit the truck and get out with one of their experimental power supplies.
The ‘hero’ turned the corner and broke my laser lock, it wasn’t important though. I leapt off the wall and spread the wings of my suit. Flying over the roofs to head in toward the Rook City train depot down town. All I had to do was collect my backup and be ready for the pesky heroes that had jumped us in the Montgomery warehouse a couple weeks ago. Expatriette and Setback had worked like hunting dogs, trying to circle me and cut me off from any windows I could’ve used to get out. It wasn’t until I got close to the street that they hesitated. I set off a couple of propane tanks near the wall, I was lucky that girl was there as a distraction or they might have gotten me right away. If not for that I would’ve been stuck in that cell a lot longer. My radio ear bud beeped at me.
“We need more info, can you do Recon till I get there? I shouldn’t be too far. Hopefully you took Expatriette down with the explosion. If she’s down we might be able to Nab the generator and that Setback idiot all in one go. Particularly if I can get the rest of the six to show.”
“Yeah, I got ya Revolt. I’ll fly over and scout the tracks. It should stop for about an hour to load up then it’ll head out, if we hit them while they’re stopped we should be able to get in and out before that Setback kid can call for backup. What could go wrong?”
“So then the blast goes off, Setback jumps in front of the little girl, but she’s still in the hospital. I should have caught it, I should’ve seen what Desert Eagle had set up and I didn’t and that little girl and Pete got hurt cause I screwed up.” I sighed, the walk wasn’t terribly long but telling Aata about the botched fight last week was a whole different kind of stressful.
“So, as I understand it, you and Pete worked well together and saved a little girls life and you are upset because of it?” Aata asked, the stack of small pies balanced on his palm like a waitress would carry a much smaller bundle, the whole thing coved by a clean white sheet.
“What, No. Well, I guess. Sort of, but that’s not the point. That little girl is in the hospital of us, because I wasn’t fast enough to stop that idiot in the bird costume.” I frowned at the pies I was carrying. I was carrying the one sheet with the large pie for Jasmine in the center. Aata said it wouldn’t sit well with the others because of the way they were arranged. I looked up and realized we had arrived, Aata holding open the old glass doors. It was frustrating, despite the number of people who got hurt Overbrook Memorial could hardly keep themselves running let alone upgrade such low priority areas like the doors. You’d think the organization bastards would put some money into fixing up the hospitals. God knows I send enough of their goons here.
“That is one way to look at it. That she is in the hospital because of you.” he said as he let the door fall closed behind us. “However, as I see it, that is a young girl with a life ahead of her. A girl who’s family will not have to mourn one so young, because of your intervention.”
I mulled that over, following the large man who seemed to know his way around far too well for this to have been spontaneous.
“How often have you been here, Aata?” I asked, trying to divert the conversation away from myself.
“I come whenever I pass through Rook City, today I was lucky enough to be able to bring pies.” He answered happily as he turned to an elderly woman working behind the admittance desk. “Good morning Ginger, I’m here to visit the pediatric ward, would you buzz us through?” She looked up at the pair of us and smiled as she recognized Aata.
“Sure thing Hun, but she can’t carry those guns in here, Police only according to the regs. What do I smell there under that sheet?” She said eyeing me with caution and Aata’s bundle with the look of someone who’s been on shift for too long without a meal.
“Oh these? Just something for the kids, and do you really trust the police more than my friend here?” He replied, his tone light and Jovial.
“Well I suppose, but don’t let any of the guards spot her,” hissed the woman,
“Of course. Just as much of a trouble maker as when we first met, huh Ginger.” Aata said reaching up under the sheet and removing two small pies one at a time “Strawberry Rhubarb for you and Cherry for Joe.”
“You little devil,” exclaimed the aging nurse practically snatching the pie, “I’ll see ya on your way out Aata.” She finished more subdued hitting a small button under the desk to open the security door leading to the stairs. I continued following Aata silently as he lead us through emergency services and to a large elevator, seemingly as at home here as on any battlefield I’d seen. It wasn’t until we had closed ourselves into the elevator to the fourth floor that he turned back to me.
“Now Amanda, I've lived long enough to know when someone is trying to steer a conversation, Normally i would follow your lead. But I can also see that you are hurting, and I think I know just what you need.” He took the tray from me, set it atop the others then returned the double sized pie to my hand, where it sat radiating a gentle warmth.
“And what do I need?” I said, almost sheepishly, no one had used that type of fatherly tone with me since before Slim had died. He had been resurrected by Zhu Long, but he wasn’t the same man.
“What every hero needs now and then. To see the results of their good work first hand.” He said.
I finally heard it, something had bothered me after I got off the phone, but I ignored it. Ex was always scolding me to be more observant but I was never very good at it. I tried to remember if there was anything I could remember that might have sparked it but I couldn’t. I knew there was a bunch of stuff going on today. There was some new thing being unveiled by Maia’s company in megalopolis in a couple days but that wasn’t it. There had been a bunch of activity at the rail station too.
“That’s IT!” I shouted, drawing looks from several people around me
I took off down the alley way at a run, hoping to jump up to the fire escape the way I’d seen Amanda do so many times and climb onto the roof of the building next to me. I jumped to grab the bottom rung of the ladder. Then my head hit the bottom of the third floor of the steel scaffolding leaving a small dent before crashing down onto the second floor escape.
“Guess I misjudged the height.” I said aloud. Scrambling up the stairs as I rubbed my head to get rid of the twinge where I’d hit the metal. I scanned the skies to see if that I could see the large shadow, or get sense for where it might strike. I didn’t see my bird guy, but I did spot a couple trains behind Overbook Memorial, one was a usual box train and the other was covered in big steel plates that looked much heavier than a normal train. Maybe that was what they were after, what looked like an armored train certainly wasn’t normal. I took off at a run trying to follow the team’s example and jump from building to building. That worked for the first three then, after I got out of the dumpster I’d landed in, I jogged the rest of the way in the alleys. Hopefully there wasn’t anything that would be dangerous so close to the hospital.
I crunched into the gravel parking lot and pulled the big military jeep to a halt. We all piled out into the sunshine, I realized just in time that my ‘Ambuscade’ was actually standing a couple inches above the gravel and corrected it. Just in time for Ray to walk around from the passenger side of our transport.
“Why did you stop so far out of the city?” He complained, pushing his glasses back up his nose.
“Because he said to you lump.” I said, deliberately picking a fight with Ray. He was sensitive about his weight and I could use it to further ‘Ambuscade’s leadership and their loyalty. Plus the pudgy little scientist was annoying.
“Hey, don’t you make fun of me, you haven’t even contributed to the last couple missions and I…”
“Enough, both of you.” My image interrupted before Ray could really get going. “I stopped here so I could set things up before we are noticed. Re-Volt and Desert Eagle are already in position.”
“But Why couldn’t we bring Mag-Man, I’d think we could use the muscle.” Ray whined while I made the effort to keep my eyes from rolling out of my skull.
“Because even I can’t hide an 11 foot tall creature made of molten lava in downtown rook city!”
“I said enough” this time my Ambuscade interrupted me, creating a symmetry, hopefully ray would pick up on that and be appreciative. God but it was hard keeping this group of neurosis pointed in a profitable direction.
“RayManta you will suit up and meet us, take up position on one of the buildings down from the station. I will set up something on the ground level at the rail station and if everyone pulls their weight we will not even need to engage the heroes.” Ambuscade drawled,
“I thought you loved fighting heroes? Why do you want to avoid them so much now?” Ray asked
“When you are good at something Ray, never do it for free. I do enjoy a battle royale with the heroes now and then, but today our profit is in getting away with the goods. Let’s get to work.” I let the image shimmer and fade, luckily the original Ambuscade’s invisibility tech looked very similar to the way my illusions fade.
“Why can’t you be that cool?” Ray asked, apparently braver now after ‘Ambuscade’s’ show of support. If only the little pig knew the truth. He might actually be angry enough scrape together something resembling a backbone. I let a heavy sigh escape my mask before I rendered myself invisible as well and started moving downtown to set up my and ‘Ambuscades’ parts at the rail station. It all had to go just right.
As the elevator slowed to a stop and opened up facing an almost cloyingly cheerfully decorated hospital ward. Aata ducked the stack of pies through the door and walked up to the desk. This nurse, a young blonde man stood up as soon as he caught sight of the large Maori over his computer screen.
“Aata! It’s good to see you again!” he crowed cheerfully, completely forgetting the ‘silent hospitals help healing’ signs all over the walls.
“Jerry! You finished your RN program?” Haka asked, his face swelled.
“Yep, I’m a full-fledged Nurse, just like you said I could be. Are you bringing pies in for the kids again?” He asked still sporting a smile that threatened to take his ears. Obviously someone else who had known Haka a while like the nurse on the first floor.
“That’s right, which room is Jasmine in?” He inquired conspiratorially as he set the tray of pies down on the counter.
“Uh, 414. It’s the 13th door on the left, it can be a little confusing since the hospital skips room 13 on every floor for some reason.” I turned to head down the left, carrying the pie with the girl’s name on it.
“Oh hey, she’ll probably want your help,” called Jerry, he grabbed a roll of masking tape and tossed it at me, forcing me to juggle Jasmine’s pie so I could catch it. “I would swear she’s trying to wallpaper the entire room in her drawings”
“Sure thing,” I walked down to the room labeled 410 and started counting, 411, 412. On the outside fo the door hung two signs, one labeling it room 414 and underneath it a handmade sign that read ‘Jasmine!’ in crayon, all caps, and a number of wildly clashing colors.
I undid my harness and belt and set them into a recliner just inside the door. Across the room with her back to me was the girl I remembered from the fight last week. I could see the bandages wrapped crossways around her head, holding her dark curly hair matted to her head. She seemed to be drawing; her bare feet kicking up and down in time with a tune only she could hear. I took a moment to scan the drawings taped up at random intervals all over the walls, above her bed, on the bathroom door, underneath the small wall mounted TV, hanging from several of the medical machines. Some of them were typical kid’s landscapes, with houses and families and lots of bright sunshine and primary colors. Sprinkled among them were drawings of me. Sometimes with guns in my hands sometimes holding hands with a dark skinned little girl I guessed was Jasmine. Then something caught my eye. I noticed in every picture I was smiling; I hadn’t smiled since the fight that injured her, maybe because of the guilt I wouldn’t admit I had felt. But if she could forgive me completely enough to draw me with a smile, maybe I should think about forgiving myself…
“OH MY GOSH YOU’RE HERE!” Jasmine yelled, having turned around while I was lost in thought. She bounced out of her chair and ran around the bed to wrap me in the type of tight honest hug that few people ever really appreciated.
“Thank you SOO much for saving me! It was so cool seeing a girl fight back against bad guys; I’ve been drawing pictures of you; Do you like em? Is that a Pie? Can I have some?!” She spouted along with a flood of youthful energy and excitement.
“Sure kid, let’s have some pie,” I spotted a tray on the bed table, and a couple of left over sporks wrapped up with salt and napkins.
“Did you make me this Pie?” She asked practically bouncing just behind me.
“No, Jasmine, a friend of mine baked the pie and I carried it up here for you.” I told her, Pulling over a folding metal chair to sit opposite her. She sat down on the bed and ate a couple sporkfulls of her pie then pushed it towards me.
“Du Yuu Anf Fumm?” she said, with her mouth full of Pie, unashamedly spitting crumbs across the small desk.
I chuckled, I couldn’t help myself. Her attitude was infectious, she was so happy just to be sitting here sharing a simple desert with someone she viewed as a hero. I smiled to myself, if this is how even the people who got hurt saw me, then maybe I am making a difference in this city.
I emerged from the alley ways and check down both directions before hurrying across the street. I don’t think anyone’s ever been hit by cars as often as I am. Made a person remember to look. After starting across the street I turned back to the sky, trying to catch sight of,
“What’s his name again, Bird… something, Birdbrain, that doesn’t sound right. Bird som OOOFF.”
My train of thought breaking off as I ran almost literally headfirst into Haka’s elbow, knocking the things he was carrying aside. I looked over as the bundle he’d been carrying slid through a storm drain and into the sewer, I looked up at him
“Sorry, about your… whatever that was, but boy am I glad I ran into you.” I smiled as he helped me back to my feet,
“Those were your cookie sheets, I just dropped off the pies at the hospital. What is going on?”
“I think there’s something going on with the Montgomery Industries shipment, they had a big armored train stopped there & I thought I saw, uh, Birdbrain flying that direction.”
“Birdbrain? Heh, I assume you mean Desert Eagle.”
“THAT’S IT, Thank you. But yeah, I was looking for Exxes but I haven’t seen her.”
“She’s talking to a fan, but I’m sure the two of us can handle it, no need to cause a panic in the hospital by running up five flights to get her.”
“Alright, let’s go catch some bad guys!”
I started off at a jog, crossing the parking lot next to the Hospital and heading for the back wall of the train yard. Keeping my eyes open and doing my best to scan for exits or hiding spots the way that Amanda taught me. I wasn’t as good as her, but I did spot a couple places an ambush could be lurking. Some open train cars, a couple secluded corners, the fence itself, I was tall enough to see over it but anyone just on the other side would be hidden from view.
I took a quick three step approach I learned in freshman gymnastics and tried to vault the fence without using my hands to be ready for anything on the other side.
And my foot caught the top of the fence, sending me tumbling face first into the muddy train yard, though I did manage to roll and land on my back instead of my head. Mud spattering me and everything nearby as I sprawled to the ground. Haka followed, managing to easily duplicate what I had been trying to do. Even managing to put himself farther into the yard to avoid landing on me, placing himself between any danger and me while I extracted myself from the mud.
“You ready Setback?”
“Yep, just a bit of mud, Should we split up and search the cars or do we think they’re going for the armored Montgomery train over there?” I inquired, I was pretty okay at this Hero thing, but Haka was great.
“I’m pretty sure you’re correct about their target, but I think we’d better search car by car to avoid an ambush. Take the left? Make sure to call out if you find anyone.”
“Yep, I’ll head left, just come running at any girly yelp of surprise.” I replied, drawing a rumbling chuckle from the larger man.
I followed the long train down towards the engines, checking in each empty box car, the Graffiti showing off the colors and talents of various gang members from around Rook City, probably a local train waiting for Pike Industries to fill it up. I circled back and passed a couple shorter lengths of empty train before meeting back up with Haka.
“Find anything Setback?”
“I Ain’t Found Ship. Heh.”
“Focus, we can quote Mel’s movies later,”
“Gotcha, since we haven’t found anything I can guess they didn’t bring MagMan, but the rest of the Six are pretty good at hiding so, they could be,”
I could hear the sentence despite the small invisibility field Glamor had put up, it had been a near thing when the Super Screw-up had almost bumped into me, but now not only did I have the drop on one of RevoCorp’s most wanted, but they’d also set up my entrance perfectly, I couldn’t resist.
“Revolt! I told you to maintain position!” Ambuscade’s voice rang through my radio,
“They were lookin’ for us man, Get the stuff, I want my payday.” I yelled back as I threw another bolt of electricity towards the two men, their hair standing on end as I attacked.
“I’ve got this one, you head towards the train,” Setback yelled, Perfect, I could deal with him, Haka was another story. Even with all of glamor’s Helpful tech.
“You’ve got many things, a stench, and a head full of mud. I am not one of them! Hahaha!” *BZZZZTTT* I threw another burst of electricity through him, his legs spasming as Haka turned and casually vaulted the last cargo train between them and our Objective. Perfect.
“Eagle, Ray, tag the big guy while the others get what we came for. I’ll handle this one.” I backed off a few feet as Setback struggled with his own muscles to try and reach me. The telltale Whoosh of Desert Eagle signaled his engagement, any second now I’d hear
Ray fire the lazer from his costume’s ridiculous tail.
“You can’t touch me Hero! You can’t even stand right while I shock you!” I taunted, He turned his eyes back towards me, his eyes focusing, and I could almost see him somehow gather himself to charge even though I kept arcing volts through him. Setback leapt, some determination or anger letting overcome the pain that had to be wracking his body.
Setback jumped towards me
“Hahaha! Gotta thank Glamor for that.” His shoulder struck the thick metal light post glamor had camouflaged throwing him back with a grunt to sprawl into the mud again, throwing it around and splattering me and the post with more mud.
"We've prepared for you people, We've got you all Right were we want you!"
*02/01/2018 Edit* Added Issue 3, Anyone reading this Save your work regularly! That's why it took so long ot get this one out, but i think that it wound up better than before. Hopefully everyone likes it. I plan to have the exciting conclusion out in a much shorter time frame.
*12/12/2017 Edit* Added issue 2, Also to those who noticed, because I'm sure someone will, Yes i changed the little girls name. As for why it was changed well.... Spoilers. sort of. So that's why that's weird. Also thanks for the support, I'm glad people like the story as much as i do.
*12/12/2017 Edit 2* found a spelling error... that is all.