THE CHOPPER BUCKS as we fly through the turbulent night sky. My grip on the safety bar tightens until I can feel my fingers embedded in the steel. Whoops. “Everything alright up there, pilot?” I yell over the roar of the wind.
From her seat in the pilot’s chair, Surgemeister turns around and gives me two thumbs up. “Bit of a rough patch, but we’re good!” she shouts with a grin I can see through her helmet. She turns around and goes back to steering the chopper, her hands outstretched but never touching the instruments. The joystick moves, seemingly all by itself.
Showoff, I think to myself. Surgemeister is a technopath, meaning she can control technology with her mind, which makes her an incredible pilot. At least I hope it does. Her technopathic abilities have only recently manifested, a little over three months ago. Before that, her primary power had been electricity manipulation. Hence the name, Surgemeister.
Despite all that, it makes me uncomfortable watching her pilot our chopper without actually touch anything, so I turn my attention back to the open hatch beside me. The view…isn’t exactly comforting. We’re 25,000 feet in the air, soaring over the choppy black waves of the Atlantic Ocean, en route to an island research facility that is currently under attack. It’s stupid of me to be worried about crashing; it’s not like any crash would kill or even harm me. One of the perks of being nearly indestructible. But it would be a long fall if we did go down, and that’s the part that has me freaking out. Just a little bit.
Still, I readjust my mask and force myself to stare down at the icy water. I’m Miss Might, one of—oh, who am I kidding—the most powerful superhero in the world right now. I’m not supposed to be freaked out. I can’t afford to be.
I can hardly feel the harsh wind, partly because of my own super tough skin, partly because of the hyper durable material my costume is made of. The guys and gals at HQ cooked it up just for me. It’s form-fitting, much more comfortable than my last few costumes, and—even though it looks like it—is definitely not spandex, because gross. Spandex is for ballerinas and gymnasts, of which I am neither. My cape flaps behind me, and my hair whips around freely, making me wish I’d taken the few seconds to tie it back into its usual ponytail before heading out tonight. Two things baddies always try to make a grab for, my hair or my cape. Well, they used to. After I made an example of the last mook to try that—shattering all the bones in his right arm, mostly unintentionally of course—they tend to steer clear of that little stunt these days. Besides, the cape is detachable, because of course it is.
I sense a sudden warmth behind me and turn around to find Firebrand buckled into his seat, shielding a small flame in the palm of his hand. “Are you trying to burn down this entire helicopter? Put that out,” I shout at him.
“It’s cold,” he says in a flat tone, though he does extinguish the flame with a flick of his wrist. “Not everyone is as durable as you are.”
“Aw, does the baby need a warm blanket?” I tease, offering him my cape. He snorts, but the edges of his mouth turn up, the closest thing to a smile I’ve seen on his face in weeks. Firebrand and I have been field partners for six months, and we work well enough together. He’s a decent guy, although I can’t for the life of me figure out why he’s been so moody lately. As a pyrokinetic, he can create and manipulate heat and flame, a surprisingly useful power as it turns out.
“You look a little green,” he says. “Maybe you ought to sit down before you barf.”
A frown forms involuntarily on my face. Firebrand is the only person who might suspect anything about my little…aversion. It isn’t something I broadcast, especially as the face and spokeswoman of the Posthuman Corps. I’ve got an image to uphold, after all. Thankfully, if he does suspect anything, he hasn’t outright told anyone, for which, I suppose, I’m grateful. “Bad tofu last night,” I lie.
He chuckles. “Super digestion isn’t a part of your power set? I’m actually surprised.”
“Do you eat anything that isn’t barbequed?” I retort.
I laugh, and Load appears from the co-pilot’s chair. “Lock says he’s got some intel for you.”
About time, I think to myself as I reach over and touch Load’s shoulder, joining the telepathic link he shares with his twin, who’s back at HQ right now. M-and-M, so glad you could join us, Lock’s voice says in my head. I roll my eyes and glare at Load, who’s trying and failing to hide his giggling. They know how much I hate that stupid nickname. Lock and Load aren’t ordinary twins. They share a psychic and metaphysical bond that grows stronger the farther apart they are, meaning they can not only communicate with one another through thought, but it has the odd side effect of transferable immunity, meaning that as long as they’re apart and one of them is alive, the other can’t die. Supposedly. It’s why they rarely go on missions together. Right now I’m wondering if Lock would feel it if I smacked Load across the head.
It looks like there are three hostiles in total, says Lock. Ammo, Megamoth, and an as yet unidentified third posthuman. They haven’t yet breached the lab; Blockade’s got a force-field surrounding the grounds, but he can’t maintain it for much longer.
“Understood. Surgemeister, what’s our ETA?”
“Ten minutes,” she shouts back.
“You’ve got five. Firebrand, think you can get there before we do, try to hold them off for a bit?”
He’s already unstrapping from his seat. “I thought you’d never ask. I’ll try not to beat up all the baddies before you get there.”
I roll my eyes, and he winks at me before leaping out of the hatch. His whole body lights up, and in a flash he’s rocketing away, leaving a bright trail in the darkness. “Keep trying to ID that third hostile, Lock. I don’t like going in blind.”
Of course, he says. I let go of Load, severing the link. I can see the island looming ahead of us now, jutting up like a jagged tooth in the water. The entire island is owned by Iota Labs, an advanced defense technology development outfit. A fact that makes me more than a little uneasy.
I use the computer embedded in the wrist of my glove to call up the files we have on Ammo and Megamoth. I’ve battled both before, and neither could exactly be considered bright. Ammo has a vocabulary consisting almost entirely of the words, “you’ll see no mercy from me,” or, “prepare to meet your maker,” while Megamoth…well, he makes rocks look intelligent. What could either of them want with anything they’d find in a lab? What’s more, what would make these two dimwits work together? Someone else must be pulling the strings, but who?
Four minutes and thirty-five seconds later, Surgemeister is setting the chopper down in a clearing on the edge of the island. I’m not sure whether to be grateful she got us here so quickly or irritated that she so thoroughly flipped my stomach doing it. My equilibrium’s fine now, anyways, so I’ll figure it out later. Now it’s time to do what I do best.
The island is dense with trees, but I see signs of recent destruction. A trail of broken branches and crushed underbrush leads deeper into the interior, toward the lab, no doubt. “Alert the cleanup team and have HQ send a triple-enforced prisoner transport,” I tell Load as I pull up a schematic of the lab on my computer and send it to the display on the lens of my mask. “And tell Surgemeister to keep the engines going. This won’t take long.”
Without waiting for Load’s confirmation I charge into the forest, following the trail that will in all likelihood lead me right to where I need to be.
The island itself is small, only twenty-six miles in circumference, with the lab situated nearly at its center. It takes me thirty seconds to reach its outer wall, which at the moment is surrounded by a translucent blue force field, compliments of Blockade. The hostiles are waiting for me. Specifically Ammo. With a wild sneer she launches a white hot energy projectile at me. I jerk left, and it just misses me, whizzing past my shoulder with a low hum and blowing up a stand of trees behind me.
She quickly fires two more my way. I duck and leap high into the air, but the second projectile manages to graze my leg. Fiddlesticks! Her projectiles aren’t enough to kill me or do any lasting damage, but they sure do sting.
“Your aim’s better,” I tell her as I rush her, moving to tackle her to the ground. If I can immobilize them one at a time I can end this quicker. Taking them on at once might make me break a sweat.
Ammo swings. Her fist connects with my jaw with surprising force, knocking me to the dirt. I climb to my feet, more surprised than hurt. “You’re stronger, too. What gives?”
“You’ll see no mercy from me!” she shouts.
That makes me laugh. “I believe we’ve gone over this bit before.”
This time she’s the one to rush me. I consider my options. Ammo’s powers stem from her body essentially being a power plant, generating huge amounts of kinetic energy that she can expel at will. As a side effect, she’s stronger and more durable than the average human, and can go for much longer periods of time without fatigue. She also has heals much quicker. Defeating her can take hours.
Where the heck is Firebrand?
As if in answer to my question he appears, soaring through the air and swooping down to barge into Ammo, swiping her off her feet and slamming her into the trees. He lands, breathing heavily. He isn’t running as hot as he usually is, and he seems a little pale. “What happened?” I demand. “I thought you were joking when you said you’d save me some baddies.”
“I…there’s a problem…” he says between gulps of air.
That isn’t good. “Which is?”
A huge thud erupts from the other side of the field wall. The whole island seems to shudder. “I take it that’s Megamoth?”
Firebrand nods. “He’s beating through the force field.”
“I guessed as much.”
From the trees I hear a growl. Ammo’s back up. Fiddlesticks. “Any info on that third hostile?” I ask Firebrand as I prepare to defend against her next attack.
He nods quickly. “That’s the problem I was talking about. He’s—”
Something whips past me, snatching Firebrand off his feet and into the trees. For a second I think its Ammo, but it couldn’t have been. It came from the opposite direction. I rush after him, but the real Ammo charges me, catching me with a right hook that knocks me off my feet and right on my butt.
Okay. Now I’m getting angry.
Ammo stands over me, laughing as she readies another energy projectile. I jump to my feet and bring my fist straight up into her jaw. I feel bone break as she shoots right up into the air. I leap after her, meeting her at the apex of her ascent, and give her the hardest, strongest haymaker I can manage. My fist cracks across her face, and she goes ricocheting straight into the ground, putting a decent sized crater in the dirt. I hover a few feet in the air, studying my handiwork for a few seconds. She lies motionless, breathing but definitely unconscious. It’ll take at least a few minutes for her to wake up from that. Good riddance. Now, on to more important things.
Another thud shakes the island. I feel the force field weaken. “Hold tight, Blockade,” I yell. I’m not sure where he is, but I hope he hears me. I float to the ground and crouch, building up energy. Flying is not nearly as easy as it seems, at least for me, which is why I tend not to. But now, I haven’t got a choice. I close my eyes and take a deep, calming breath. I don’t need to go that high, I think to myself. The thought is mildly comforting. I brace myself, preparing to surge into the air.
Something grabs me from behind, and I topple forward.
Almost at once I feel cold, like someone just dunked me in freezing water. My arms and legs feel weak and wobbly, but still I manage to shake my attacker off, heaving him up and over my back. He hits the ground in front of me and stands, laughing. Why are bad guys always laughing? Is being evil that funny? “It’s lights out for you, Miss Might,” says my attacker, a small, squat man with a high, keening voice that I immediately hate.
“Who the heck are you?” I sputter, trying to shake some strength back into my arms. I’ve never seen this guy before, but I take it he’s the third hostile. He doesn’t look like much, kind of like that one creepy neighbor you like to pretend doesn’t exist when you see him. Still, I stay on high alert. He’s clearly got powers, but until I know what they are I can’t be too cautious.
He slicks his red hair back across his wide brow. “I am…Vinnie the Vampire!”
I scoff, shaking my head. “Seriously? That’s your moniker?”
His expression sours. “You got anything better?”
“Yeah, how about, anything but that. I mean really, now I know your real name and your power.”
He looks genuinely flustered. “But…you…you’re bluffing!”
I rest my arms on my hips. “Energy absorption, right? You drain the life-force out of other beings. Not their powers, though, or else you would have tried to set me on fire, seeing as you just fought a pyrokinetic. And won, I might add, meaning you’ve got at least mid-level abilities.”
The flustered look on his face gets even more pronounced and more…fluster-y. “You…you’ll pay!”
He launches himself at me. I don’t bother trying to get out of his way. I wait until he’s almost on me, than reach for the broken tree trunk on the ground next to me. I swing it like a baseball bat and knock Vinnie the Vampire clear to the other side of the island.
“Amateurs,” I mutter as I toss the trunk aside. I want to find Firebrand and make sure he’s alright, but another loud thud pulses through the island, and I have no choice but to deal with the immediate problem first. I crouch again, calling all my strength into my core. The sphere of earth around me begins to tremble, little flecks of dirt and rocks dance around me. As soon as I reach critical mass, I tear into the sky. Up and up…and up. Above the highest trees, above the hills, above it all. I keep my eyes closed until I’m as high as I’m willing to go, only about a hundred feet up. I don’t want to look down, but I have to in order to see where I’m going. Almost immediately the panic sets in, tightening my chest and nearly making me fall right out of the sky. But I hold myself aloft, and scout out Megamoth’s position. I find him north of the lab, his hulking nine foot frame clear as day. He’s raising his hands over his head, balling his fists, preparing to deliver another blow to the wall. I see Blockade standing on one of the buildings within the lab. I can tell he’s about to give out. One more blow will be it for him.
I don’t intend to let that happen. I orient myself laterally, ball my fists and stretch my arms out straight in front of me, like I’m about to dive. I’m now the world’s most powerful torpedo, and I launch myself down, straight at Megamoth. The island rushes up to meet me. I push myself faster and faster. Ninety miles per hour…a hundred and fifty…two hundred…
Impact happens in seconds. I’m moving so fast that Megamoth doesn’t see me until I slam into him. A sonic boom explodes from our collision, leveling trees and gouging out huge chunks of the ground. Blockade’s force field shatters, as do the outer walls of the lab.
Debris falls for a full minute. I haul myself to my feet at the bottom of a fifty foot crater. Megamoth lies flat on his back underneath me, groaning, his massive form covered in bruises. It takes both my hands to get a good grip around his wrist, but I lift him up and over my head and toss him out of the crater, hopping out after him. I pull a pair of neutralizer restraints from my belt and flip him onto his back, then tie his arms together. “As you probably guessed, you’re under arrest,” I mutter, still catching my breath. “I suggest you don’t struggle, or I’ll have to beat you up some more.”
As dull as he is, Megamoth knows enough not to try anything this time. Lucky for the both of us.
When I’m sure he won’t get up I jog back to the other side of the island to where I left Ammo. To my surprise I see Firebrand already has her subdued. He looks terrible. His costume is torn, his hair is a mess, and his lip is busted. I forget that what he said is true. He isn’t as durable as I am. Few people are. Still, he manages a little grin. “Told you I’d save you some baddies.”
I nod toward Ammo, who is sitting on the ground glaring at me. She’s encased in what looks like a square force field that’s emitting from a tiny remote on the ground next to her. “You’ve been aching to try that thing out, haven’t you?”
“The techs at HQ asked me to test it, I was happy to oblige.”
The G-Box, HQ’s latest toy, is a gravity altering field that was developed to help contain our stronger opponents. Inside the field, gravity is increased, making it impossible for even the strongest posthuman to move a muscle. Right now he’s got it set to 2G’s, twice earth’s real gravity, and obviously enough to keep Ammo grounded.
“Looks like it works,” I note, ignoring the daggers she’s staring at me.
“You alright?” Firebrand asks.
“Of course.” I’m sure I look worse than I feel. “Get her to the chopper. Her ride out of here should be arriving any minute now. We need to get Blockade a medic. I’ll fetch him, then go find your buddy Vinnie the Vampire.” I can’t help laughing when I say his name. It is really a dumb name, even by superhero moniker standards. “He’ll probably need a medic, too.”