So. It’s all the fault of Gary Olson.
Gary, for those of you who don’t know the name, is perhaps the best of the old Superguy writers. His series were well done, with the appropriate blend of humor and pathos. And he managed to actually finish them. He finished Rad. He finished CalForce. He finished Radian and Shadebeam.
We all hated Gary.
Well, fourteen months ago, out of nowhere, Gary posted a new episode of Rad to Superguy. It was… well, all the years later that it’s actually been. Rad, a hero of the eighties — since that’s when Gary wrote Rad — returned to Earth to find things were different. He was older. Mighty Guy and Meltdown had had a kid.
At the time, I was tempted to do the same with my own series… though unlike Gary, I hadn’t finished my own series, Adjusted League Unimpeachable.
(It’s worth noting, at the time I wrote ALU, there hadn’t been any "Justice League" comic or cartoon that ended in ‘Unlimited.’ I don’t know if that ruins the already lame joke in the name, or if it actually makes it suck less. Either way, it hardly matters at this point.)
Now, I have a good writing life now. I have superhero stuff I can do. If I ever really, really have the urge to revisit the old Superguy stuff, I could post it in Mythic Heroes, right? I have Justice Wing beyond that. And plenty of non superhero things I really need to be writing.
And then, for the first time in fourteen months, Gary posted another Rad episode to Superguy.
God damn Gary Olson.
So now I had to write a Superguy post. Which I’ve done. And that ate into my time for writing something for today, so guess what you get?
This is a first episode post, so it’s possible you’ll be able to follow along. It’s also possible none of this will make any sense to you. That’s okay too.
Just understand. Superguy is, at its heart, a satire. As is this. A satire of superheroes, and of popular culture. And in this case, of a video game.
I’ll try to get a ‘notes’ comment in, though I drive to Ottawa tomorrow, so maybe not.
Regardless, please enjoy.
June 19, 2000
It was a good dinner, all told. A good dinner that became a good party that went on all night. Old friends had visited. Dignitaries had sent their regards, and Kent gave a speech that knocked down the Prudential building. In the wee hours of the morning Trudy could already see Intercontinental Salvage putting it back up.
Dianna stepped up behind her. "Kind of crazy to think about, isn’t it?"
"I think you’ve used that one before."
"After all this time? Me repeating a nickname’s the least of my troubles." Trudy looked at the woman — one of her oldest friends. "Are you absolutely sure you’re doing the right thing?"
Dianna chuckled. "I’m sure. A chance to see the universe? To use the Power where it was meant to be used?"
"Seems to me by definition it was ‘meant’ to be used wherever you used it."
Dianna shrugged. "Yeah, I’m sure. Without the gang around, I don’t think I want to be hanging out here. This way, three of us will pal around."
"Yeah, but you’ll have to take orders from Mike. I mean, Jesus."
Dianna half-smiled. "I got used to taking orders from you, didn’t I?"
"Well, sure. But I’m awesome." Trudy looked back out the window. "Am I crazy–"
"Shut up. Whore. Anyway, am I crazy or are they already done rebuilding the Pru?"
"They’re done. They knew Kent was coming to the dinner, so they had Boston reclassified as an Omega-3 level reconstruction zone."
"So, we’re a fatty acid?"
Trudy nodded. "I believe it." She looked back at the table. Kent had stepped to the side, talking with Healer. Doctor Tirkoff, Trudy reminded herself. With the Chick-Mouse being renamed and getting out of the superhero business, Elizabeth had decided it was time to stop using the codename. Kirby was squirming in her arms as it was, but was weirdly unafraid of the Megapolis Moron. With the other guests mingling, that left the primary team sitting at the head table. Mike. Jane. Dani. Mandy. Laura. Maria.
The Masked Bruce. The Dash. Dangerousgirl. Mastermind. Frigid Girl. Reflection. And Unorthodoxy and Exemplar, of course. The Adjusted League Unimpeachable. For another few minutes anyway.
"So, how are you and Jane… I mean, how are you three going to–"
"I have no idea," Dianna said, smiling slightly. I’m just going to get used to wearing a skimpy lame outfit and draping around one of Mike’s leg’s. Isn’t that what space opera heroines do?"
"Don’t look at me. I had enough trouble working out what super heroines were supposed to do." Trudy smiled a bit. "We should join them. We’re coming up on the end."
"Right." Dianna paused. "Hey Trudy?"
"Where’s the trash can lid?"
A hair under seven hours before, Unorthodoxy had been her office wrapping up the last bits of paperwork. Her last few minutes on the clock. Her last few minutes of leading what had once been seen as the most professional force for justice on the planet.
He had come in. She hadn’t seen him coming.
"You know why I’m here," he’d said.
Wordlessly, she’d handed the trash can lid to him. And then he was gone, and she wasn’t Unorthodoxy any more. She was just Trudy.
And he was gone.
"Where it should be."
"Enigma is overrated."
"So am I." She slid in her seat. "Hey, Action teens. What’s the plan?"
"We were supposed to have a plan?" Mike asked. "God damn it. No one said there was homework."
"Says the man who hasn’t even packed yet," Jane said with a grin. She was pretty well focused, which was unusual but still.
Mandy snorted. "You people have a plan. Me? I’m getting up at the same time tomorrow, taking a shower, heading to B Tower and going to work. Retirement’s going to look exactly the same as fighting crime."
Dani rolled her eyes. "Rub it in, Harken. I had to get an apartment. Do you have any idea how hard it is to rig up a shower that will collect radioactives instead of washing them down the drain to poison the alligators?"
"I designed that shower, Dani. I think I know exactly how hard it is to rig up."
"Oh, whatever." She smirked.
"You’re going off and getting married," Laura said. "I’ve got a service sector job. Mike, Dianna and Jane are flying off in a Xolchipalian ship. Mandy’s taking over the new Rogers Institute. Maria’s living an accidental heiress’s lifestyle." Laura half-smiled. "No one’s said what you’re doing now, Trudy. Where do you from here."
Trudy shrugged. "I dunno," she said. She pointed. "That way."
"Actually, you’re pointing towards the Atlantic Ocean," Mandy said.
Trudy snorted. "So much for my sense of direction." Or misdirection, she didn’t add.
Laura nodded. "Makes sense." She looked around. "Anyone see my brother? Or Trans or Mem?"
"Not for a few," Mike said. "I feel badly for Mem. He wanted to be in the A.L.U. so badly. He’s finally primed to graduate and there’s not going to be one any more."
"He’ll land on his feet," Trudy said. "It’s what he does."
"Yeah," Dianna said. She snickered. "Maybe he’ll end up teaching at the Acadely. Wouldn’t that be irony?"
"It won’t happen," Maria said softly.
There was a ping. The all-call ping. Every person at the head table tensed –in the past, that ping meant the difference between life and death.
«Hey gang,» MIKE, the Xolchipalian artificial intelligence, said with his perfectly modulated, easygoing voice. «It’s time.»
"Right," Trudy said. She took a deep breath. "Okay everyone. You know what to do."
Mike nodded, taking his Xolchacomm off and setting it in the center of the table. "So long," he murmured.
Jane took her Xolchacomm off. It seemed to appear next to Mike’s. "Thank you," she said, simply.
Mandy took hers off, and put it next to Jane’s. It was the Xolchacomm Kid Solipsism had worn, once upon a time. "I’ll never forget," she said softly.
Maria took her Xolchacomm off, putting it next to Mandy’s. "In Trashman’s name," she said.
Dani took her Xolchacomm off, flicking it so it skidded next to Maria’s. "Dude," she said. Everyone agreed.
Dianna took her Xolchacomm off, and gently put it down next to Dani’s. "You know, if you ever need us…" she trailed off. She realized she didn’t know who she was saying it to.
Laura took her Xolchacomm off, and dropped it next to Dani’s. "Unto the next generation," she said.
Trudy paused. She thought about the day that Trashman gave her the emergency beacon. And then the later day, when Mike gave her the brand new Xolchacomm. They’d upgraded to the more powerful, more integrated communications system after Trudy had been kidnapped by the Mega Intelligence Bureau. In a way, the Xolchacomm had been a victory in her life.
She took it off, and set it down. "Good night, sleep tight, and pleasant dreeeeams to you," she sang, softly.
MIKE’s voice echoed from all eight Xolchacomms, in a weird octophonic sound. «Thanks, guys. It’s been amazing.»
There were a series of pops, and the Xolchacomms deformed, the cases melting from the destruction charges within them, reducing the Xolchipalian technology that drove them into so much junk.
"That’s that," Mandy said. "Final paychecks will be direct deposited, for those of you who care about Earth money."
All eight paused, feeling that weird combination of uncomfortable, elated and depressed you get when the most important thing in your life has ended.
"Okay, I need another drink," Dianna said. "None of us are role models any more. Who wants to get plowed?"
The party went on for a long time. There was word from Jenny and Joel, and all the heroes you’d expect to show up or send word did. There were tears of sadness and tears of joy, and at one point there was a cool dance number. No one attacked or threatened undying revenge.
And then Trudy slipped out of the room, and went away before anyone noticed. She didn’t do goodbyes. She got to where she’d cached her things, and took off the party dress. Instead she wore a tee shirt with a flannel over it and a worn pair of jeans. And she walked through the streets of Boston, pointed more or less East.
The sky was getting lighter when she reached the docks. She made her way to where the private boats were moored — far from the commercial shipping lanes or slips — and down to where she’d had the sloop tied off. She hadn’t told the others about this. She wanted just to fade away, see what happened next.
He was waiting on the dock, next to the boat. His face was scarred. His body clearly twisted even in the wheelchair.
Four times he had clearly died now. The last time by Trudy’s own hand. And yet there he was, wearing a trenchcoat and a small smile. And Trudy found herself smiling back.
They nodded to each other. They didn’t speak. They didn’t need to.
Trudy cast off as he watched. She motored out into the bay, knowing he was watching as the sloop putted out.
Trashgirl was written across the boat’s aft. Boston, MA.
Once clear of the harbormaster’s domain, Trudy hoisted the sail and set the jenny. She killed the diesel and let the weird quiet take over. She pointed due East, where golden light was meeting her. A girl once known as Trudy Galloway, then Trudy Unorthodox, then Trudy Galloway once more… Unorthodox Girl, Unorthodox Lass, Unorthodoxy… a woman given command of one of the most powerful teams ever known on this world, a girl who’d known love and loss, pain and pride, the best of man and the worst, sailed straight down the throat of a new day, and didn’t look behind her as she went.
Eric A. Burns
Who swears to Christ this is all Gary’s fault.
The Scions of the Phoot owned Boston’s North End, at least if you asked them. Whether it was the presence of all the Italian restaurants and pizzarias or just because they didn’t want to fight the roving Crew Sculler gangs along the Charles River wasn’t easy to say.
Still, the Scions of the Phoot used their ancient techniques and powerful bad pizza magic to terrorize their neighborhoods and bend the people to their will. Or that was the plan. Sadly for the gang, it never quite worked out that way.
"Shiny!" Hazard shouted, wheeling and firing an explosive charge in between three Scions. The explosion threw them every which way. "Heads up!"
"I see them," Reflects said, coolly, kicking off a wall and going down to a three point stance. Where her hand and feet touched the ground a small trail of silver glistened, as bright as the mirror force over her skin and hair, and she slid towards the knot of gangers almost frictionlessly, bowling them over as she slid past as if she were the world’s prettiest bowling ball. "Where’s the ringleader?"
Reflects kicked up into a forward roll, catching her feet and skidding to a stop as she restored friction to her feet. She looked up and across the street, where she saw the Scion in Lieutenant’s color’s hanging from a flagpole, fifty feet off the ground and clearly terrified.
"I guess Trans got him first, Shiny," Hazard said, landing next to the mirrored maiden.
"She does that, sometimes." Reflects said, grinning. "What now, Boomer?"
"Not sure. I think the rest cleared off." Hazard pulled her L-Phone out. She got online, scrolling through the information Ops sent, scanning for trouble spots… "crap. Pawn shop fifteen blocks over just got hit. The Scions are going for broke today."
There was a siren. "Hazard!" one of the shopkeepers shouted. "The cops are coming!"
"Thanks, Mister Bertelli!" Hazard shouted back. "You make sure you give them a statement!"
"Will do! God bless you! You and your whole League!"
Hazard grinned. "You too! But we–"
"Yes yes! Go! Go!"
Four police cars skidded to a stop nearby, and police swarmed out. "Hazard!" one of them shouted. "On the ground with your hands over your head!"
"Why do they always address you," Reflects asked. "I’m standing right here."
"I guess I stand out in a crowd better."
"I’m polished silver."
"And yet, you manage to be so unnoticeable. I’m jealous, really."
"I mean it!" the officer said, gun drawn. "You know I don’t want to hurt either of you–"
"You hurt my feelings," Reflects said, pouting. "You should feel bad!"
The police officer blinked. "I… uh–"
There was a ripple, and the sound of imploding air, and the two heroines vanished in a ripple of Cerenkov radiation.
The officer and his partner blinked. They both half-smiled as they stood up and holstered their weapons. "I guess they got away again," the first officer said.
"Yeah. Damn shame, huh. Start arresting the Scions?"
"Sounds like a plan."
The other side of the transgates opened on a rooftop overlooking the pawn shop in question. Ordinal was sitting lotus, floating in the air, purple and blue light playing over her skin. "You two need to stop teasing the police," she said. "They work awfully hard."
"Sorry, Trans," Reflects said. "Did Ops give you the lowdown?"
"Ops is offline. The call triggered an automated alert. I sense fourteen distinct energy sources inside, all with the distortion qualities of the Scions of the Phoot."
"Fourteen? Where do they come up with all these gang members," Hazard asked. "I swear. We arrest hundreds a week, and they never seem to run out."
"I don’t think we’re supposed to call attention to the logical fallacies," Reflects said.
"Do you two want more than support?" Ordinal asked. "I’ve got Iceweaver and Parvenu engaging the Scullers on the Charles, and there’s rumors of the Ensemble massing in force in the Back Bay and Capacitor isn’t answering his L-Phone."
"What else is new. Nah, get out of here. You need backup with the Ensemble?"
Ordinal snickered. "They’re a criminal marching band. I think I can probably take them."
"Cool beans," Reflects said. "What’s Incandescence doing?"
"Fighting Lickmi in the Somerville War Commercial District."
"Wait, that sounds like more fun than fighting Scions. Can’t I go join her instead?"
"Screw you, Boomer," Reflects said. "We have an assignment."
"Awwww. Sparky gets all the fun." Hazard grinned. "Before you motor, can we get a dramatic entrance?"
Ordinal smiled a bit. "Got one cued up and everything. You ready?"
Hazard grinned. "Like canned ham."
"What does that even mean?" Reflects asked. But by then the gates were encompassing them.
* * * * * *
Elizabeth Tirkoff stepped off the elevator. She wore a blood red coat and skirt and cream blouse. Another year, another crop of students. Another series of crushes. One of the downsides of telepathy was knowing exactly when a fourteen year old fell in love with you. While her shields were impeccable, it was hard to screen out ‘Doctor T looks amazing‘ when it was thought right at her.
Though more and more, that was followed by ‘for a woman her age.’
"Afternoon, Liz," Mandy said, stepping out of her office and moving into step with her."
"Don’t call me Liz," Elizabeth said, almost by rote. "Do I really need to be at this meeting?"
"You’re on the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Yeah, you have to be there."
"It’s just — the sixth grade is going on a field trip to the Museum of Science, and–"
"You can play with the giant Van der Graff generator another time."
"They make lightning with it," Elizabeth said, grinning. "It’s so cool."
"Elizabeth, you’ve been to the Ottsamattawidu homeworld. You remade the universe itself once. You’re good friends with sentient machinery."
"Yeah, but do any of those things shoot homemade lightning?"
"Half the planet Hottentot shoots homemade lightning!"
The Board of Trustees, largely made up of wealthy people and appropriate financial and community leaders, paused at this outburst as the Chair and one of the Senior Trustees was walking in.
"Yes, they do," Andy Awesome said, smiling slightly. "But I’m sure we have other business at hand. Unless the Rogers Memorial Academy for Preternaturally Gifted Students has a new Hottentot student I’m not aware of."
"We don’t tend to get Ottsamattawidu aliens," Elizabeth said, walking over to Andy and kissing his cheeks. "You look wonderful, Andy. But then you always do."
"I try to keep trim," he said, awesomely modestly.
"Trim or fat, there’s too much to be done to waste time," Mandy said, settling in her seat. "Plenty of it’s important, most of it’s boring, and the opening’s gonna thrill everyone."
"Let me guess," Nouveaux Skunk said, thumbing through the most recent prospectus. "The League."
"Sadly so," Mandy said, taking some sheets out. "There’s significant State, Local and even Federal pressure to get some kind of control over them."
"Forgive me for asking the obvious," Elizabeth said, "but what business is it of ours? They’re not the Adjusted League. There hasn’t been an Adjusted League for more than seven years."
"Everyone assumes they’re backed by the Rogers Institute," Professor Burns said. The professor looked amused. And rumpled. "They know that most of the League went to school at the Academy. Parvenu, Reflects and Incandescence were all in the Mob together, and they were affiliated with the A.L.U. Hazard and Iceweaver were in the A.L.U. The only two A.L.U. heroes still known to be active, I would add."
"We don’t have positive confirmation on any of their identities," Elizabeth said. "They seem like our associates–"
Mandy snorted. "Come on, Tirkoff. A woman who’s constantly on fire, a woman who looks like a silver statue, a drop dead gorgeous Spandex Babe double who explodes–"
"All that could be handwaved away," Nouveaux Skunk said. "The problem is Trashman. When he’s sighted fighting alongside them.–"
Elizabeth frowned. "Trashman’s dead," she said. "Everyone in this room knows that."
"Good for people inside this room." Mandy closed the portfolio. "It doesn’t matter. So long as people look at this ‘League’ and think ‘Adjusted League,’ it’s going to reflect on us. And that makes it our problem. They’re not sanctioned, and this is still a war zone."
"The Lickmi invasion is four years old," Andy said. "And it’s been confined to a couple of neighborhoods in this one city. And this city’s been largely sealed off anyway. I don’t think anyone still considers this a ‘war zone.’ There’s just a… continuing active negotiation with the Lickmi."
"One involving shotguns, missiles and the occasional dark spell of containment," Professor Burns said, smirking.
"These days, that’s just considered life in Boston," Andy said, leaning back. "But given the rampant crime, the potential destruction… why aren’t we simply lending our official, tangible support to the League? After all, we still train superheroes here."
"We train paranormals here," Mandy said. "We don’t need a superhero school any more. We’re out of that line of work." She leaned forward. "I’m not asking for your permission to deal with this knockoff League. I’m telling you we’re going to deal with it. If you don’t like it, find someone else to run this popsicle stand."
Nouveau Skunk arched an eyebrow. "One would think you take all this personally, Miss Harken."
"That’s because I do. I was a member of the Adjusted League Unimpeachable. No one else here can claim that. They’re screwing with the A.L.U.’s legacy and its place in history. And I’m going to stop it."
"Okay, let’s calm down," Andy said. "Of course we’ll approve any actions you feel are appropriate. Now, shall we get on to more mundane matters?"
Elizabeth was frowning as they left the meeting, a couple of hours later.
"You seem pensive, Elizabeth."
"I’m just thinking about the League," she said. "Thinking about where we’ve gone." She shook her head. "I keep thinking back to CalForce. Everything we talked about in there
"We were somewhere between a party and anarchy. And we just assumed the world would be behind us. And we were right."
"You don’t think the League’s like that?"
"That’s not what I mean," Elizabeth said. "I think they are. I don’t think they’re worried about what the Rogers Institute does, or the police does, or the Feds do or say. They just assume that the people will back them."
"Love some. I’m dying here."
They walked for the executive break room on the same level. Just another change in a building once organized more for defense than even not for profit business. "You understand that the League’s right," Mandy said as they walked.
"The people will back them. The people do back them." Mandy looked at Elizabeth. "The city and the state say to arrest them, but the police don’t exactly bend over backwards to do it. And if they managed to do it, the city’s populace would have a fit." Mandy held the door for Elizabeth. "There are too many factions in too many parts of the city. The Scullers here in Kenmore. The Scions of the Phoot in Central. The Ensemble in Beacon Hill. The Trudis in Jamaica Plain–"
"They don’t back ‘the League,’" Elizabeth said, somewhat annoyed. "They back the Adjusted League. They think that’s who they are."
Mandy shrugged. "Maybe they’re right about that, too. Dani, Maria, Laura — not to mention Kid-E, Trans–"
"They’re not the Adjusted League. And I don’t care who says it — we both know there’s no Trashman. Not any more."
"So, you’re not advising me to leave the League alone?" Mandy’s voice was soft.
Elizabeth looked at her for a long moment. "No," she said. "I want them taken out. However we have to do it. If they want to come in — make a case for the Board, we can discuss reopening that door. They don’t get to just declare it. And that’s assuming the city or the state goes for it. And that’s not even touching on the Federal government. We’re not Canada."
Mandy half-smiled. "Too true," she said. "But–"
There was a rush of wind and a green blur shot through, skidding to a perfect stop six feet from the pair, even as it seemed to grow a wriggling appendage. Alice, still in the green and yellow costume with the lightning bolts on it, was holding a young blond boy in a grey training outfit by the scruff of the neck. "There you are," the speedster snapped.
The nine year old struggled, his arms and legs still hazy and indistinct. "Let me go!"
"Kirby," Elizabeth snapped. "I’ve told you not to go snooping!"
"I’m not snooping," the boy groused.
"You certainly weren’t invited to this meeting today. That’s snooping enough for my purposes. Alice–"
"Hey, sorry. He’s gotten better at this."
"Not better enough. You found me."
"That’s because I’m good. You’re just better than you were." And that’s too good, the former Momentum sent telepathically to Mandy and Elizabeth. He goes psi-null when he goes stealthy. I’ve had to track him down by figuring out psychic dead spots.
Greeeeeat, Elizabeth sent back. My son the sponge. "I’m not going to have this conversation with you again, young man," she was saying verbally. "If you’re going to be a student at this Academy you’re going to have to do things properly."
"This isn’t fair," the boy snapped. "This is the Rogers Institute. I’m the only person with the last name of Rogers here! By rights you all work for me!"
"Well, when you turn eighteen you can fire me," Mandy said. "But right now, I’ve still got the job and you’ve got a trust fund and a bunch of stock your mother votes for you."
"And you can’t fire me, eighteen or eighty," Elizabeth said. "I’m always going to be your mother."
"I don’t know why you care anyway," Kirby said, kicking the ground now that Alice had set him down. "You just talked about money and boring things at your dumb meeting. That and the League."
"The League?" Alice asked, eyebrow arched.
"They’re gonna throw them in jail." Kirby said. "They’re all pissed off because Trashman sided with them instead–"
"Kirby!" Elizabeth had gotten good with the full Mom voice over the past nine years. She didn’t break it out more than she had to, but when she did….
Kirby flinched. "Sorry," he said.
"We don’t use that language. We find better ways to express ourselves. And that’s not Trashman."
"You just don’t want it to be Trashman," Kirby said. "If it’s Trashman, then he didn’t die, he just left you!"
The silence was palpable.
Kirby looked down. "I’m sorry, Mom," he half-whispered.
"We made a choice when we decided to tell you about your father," Elizabeth said quietly. "We decided you were old enough to know the truth. That’s a trust, Kirby. You need to keep it. Now go on. Ms. Mercury will take you back to the Academy wing. We’ll talk about this later."
Alice’s lips were pursed. "Sure thing, Lil. C’mon, kid."
"Sure," she said. "See you, Alice. Later, squirt."
"See you. Love you, Mom."
"Love you, Kirby." Elizabeth watched Alice escort her son out of the room. She turned to Mandy. "Yeah," she said. "I’m all for taking the League down."
* * * * * *
Different packs of Ensemble wore different colors. This was one of the Chuffington High sets. Their uniforms were maroon, with white overlays and their dumbass hats were smooth and had visors. But they were all the same when you were facing them down. This group was drilling right in the middle of Charles street. The oboes were a hair out of tune. And the Cornet players were blowing up cars and bus stops, but what do you expect?
They were in formation when the burst of blue light released in the middle of them. A shockwave of pebbles, each going about thirty miles an hour spreading outward, dispersed that quickly enough.
"What the Hell?" one of the bandleaders shouted.
"It’s Ordinal!" a bassonist shouted, bringing his instrument up and firing a plume of fire at the woman in blue.
Ordinal threw herself backwards as the flame shot out, pushing through a transgate that opened on the other side of the group. She jumped into a tornado kick, still thirty feet from the dark band members. A burst of Cherenkov radiation flared from both her foot and the side of the bassonist’s head at the apex of the kick, slamming him down to the side.
The Ensemble caught on quickly. "Get the trombonists!" someone shouted!
"Rush her!" someone else shouted. "She’s just one girl — and I heard she needs to concentrate to use her powers!"
Ordinal smiled, leaning back on one leg, moving her hands into a smooth kata. "You could just surrender," she said. "My brother taught me to fight, and he never much went for fighting fair."
Six of the Ensemble screamed and charged. So predictable.
Ordinal fluidly moved into the second form of the Kata, arclights flaring around her. They snapped and twisted around the Ensemble in echo, and suddenly Ordinal seemed to almost blur, she was moving so fast. She began to blur into attacks, spin-kicking and slapping with her hand, each strike meeting a small burst gate that transferred her attacks across the ten foot distance to her enemies. A blur of strikes, turns and blows turned into concussions after concussions striking down her opposition.
Ordinal smiled, letting the continuum shift drop. She enjoyed shifting frames of reference to make it appear she moved faster or them slower, but it took a lot of concentration and strength. She turned to face the remainder–
Trombonists! Their trombones held like rocket launchers and they fired–
Ordinal threw all her strength and focus into the moment, the dizzying array of pure mathematics flowing through her exceptional mind as she worked her fingers and space/time. It was as though the whole world slowed, the fifty caliber shells slowing in the air, surrounded by the burning powder that fired them from the brass bells. Too many for anything too subtle — she worked a broad transgate in front of her, the entry point shielding her from the weapons, the exit point straight down at the macadam of the street fifteen feet behind her. She could feel the strain of the reference manipulation, and let it drop. She heard the shells tear the pavement behind her, throwing herself forward into a roll and focusing perceptions, opening a small entrypoint gate near the trombonists, the endpoint over twelve miles straight up–
The pressure differential cracked in the middle of them with a boom that rattled them to their boots and knocking some of their silly hats off. Having throw them off balance, Ordinal opened a gate underneath them, and they plunged down. The exit point was five feet behind them, pointed down, but with a shift in reference that caused them to smack into the pavement with a jarring impact. Ordinal grinned, rising–
"Kettle drums!" the bandleader cried from the heap of fallen Ensemble minions. "Get her!"
There was the sound of metal on metal, and a packet truck opened its back end, letting out two giant armored bodies. They were brass and canvas — heavily armed and armored, jets of steam releasing from their joints as they moved forward with ‘thrum’ sounds.
"Oh you have got to be kidding," Ordinal said, taking a step back. They had to be several tons each–
Far from kidding, the pair began to shoot, rotating miniguns firing with plumes of steam. Ordinal vanished in an implosion of blue/purple light, reappearing on the far side, emptying a pouch she carried of ball bearings. As they began the slow turn to face her, she threw, the ball bearings vanishing with a dozen cracks of blue light, crackling around the two armored thugs and hitting with the speed of high powered rifle shots.
The two Kettle Drum warriors got scuffed and dented but not seriously hurt. "Let’s cut her down to size!" one shouted, a missile tube sliding out and positioning.
"Yeah — better pop away, little girl!" the other one shouted. "You don’t have the mass to hurt us!"
Ordinal frowned. "That’s your truck, huh?"
"What, why do you–"
There was a fwhump as a transgate opened over the pair. To their credit, they both managed dizzying profanities as the white packet truck slammed on them, falling from twenty feet above them.
Ordinal slowly smiled.
And lost that smile as the truck exploded, the two finding their feet. "You’re dead!" one shouted–
With a clang, a shining silver disk arced out, slamming into one’s helmet, reflecting off and striking the other’s before boucing off, hitting the first’s armored body and flying back into the hand of a man in grey coveralls, already in a twisting turn.
"Hol– it’s Trashman!" one of the Kettle Drum warriors shouted.
"That’s impossible — he’s dead!" the other said.
"He’s gonna be dead!" And the first began firing the minigun at the man. He rolled forward, swinging around to bring the trash can lid to bear, bullets reflecting harmlessly off even as he hurled a paint can at the second, a viscous fluid spreading over the criminal’s visor. The second began firing. Trashman ducked and rolled to the side, leading the gunman — getting him to follow and focus–
With a hideous screech, the second Kettle Drum’s minigun bullets tore into the armor of the first, having focused on Trashman to the point of losing track of his location. With a cry, he ceased fire even as the first armored villain went down, steam and hydraulic fluid spraying everywhere even as the first villain popped the rescue lever and cracked the armor to escape–
Trashman threw himself out, twisting in air to land next to Ordinal.
"You’re late," she said
"You ever try quickly getting a garbage packer through traffic without attracting attention?" he said, pushing the girl down behind a car as the still-active Kettle drum began tracking them again.
"I can’t say I have. Did Ops send you?"
"I don’t work for Ops." He judged. "Eighteen feet up."
"Gate him eighteen feet in the air. His joints aren’t solid enough to handle that fall but it shouldn’t materially hurt the man inside."
Ordinal nodded curtly, moving forward and working hands and body in a fluid movement — almost a dance. The Kettle drum saw her, tracking with the minigun, only to fall through a gate at his feet, blue/violet light searing around him. It opened eighteen feet above, precise to the micron, and the armored man fell. There were hideous cracks and hisses as the armor landed, the impact deforming the metal.
Ordinal half-smiled. "You were right again," she said, turning.
But he was gone. As always.
The teleporter heard cheering. She looked around to see a crowd had formed — far enough back not to be in great danger, but close enough to watch the heroine fight. In the distance, she heard sirens.
Ordinal waved, a small smile on her face. And with an implosion of air and a burst of particle energy, she was gone.
* * * * * *
It was late in the day. Mandy walked into the elevator. "MIKE, you awake?" she asked as she stepped inside. «As always,» the AI said, his voice perky as always. «What’s your pleasure?»
"It’s been a long day. I’m heading home. Load pan bay please, and don’t spare the horses."
«All horse sparing protocols have been disabled!» The elevator dropped. «We’re going to need to have another conversation with the Xolchipalian embassy, you know.»
Mandy sighed. "I thought everything was fine so long as your core systems were in the embassy. Not counting the walls of the building and very minor pickups, this building’s terrestrial."
«Yeah, well… I think we can hold them off. But you guys are going to have to pay me more.»
"What do you even spend money on?"
«Look, I happen to enjoy Audible.com.» The elevator stopped in the Load Pan Bay. «And here we are.»
"Thank you kindly," she said, though instead of walking out, she took a small rod out of pocket and stuck it in the elevator. She removed it and a trap door opened under her, causing her to fall. MIKE, in the meantime, clearly showed her walking out into the Load Pan Bay, getting into her car, and driving out. The car actually went, a remote of Mandy’s own design letting the alien AI control the vehicle. There would even be a record of their continued conversation.
Mandy had to come up with new cover conversations, though. At the rate they were having ‘strained negotiations with the embassy,’ MIKE was going to end up making seven figures by the end of the fiscal year. For now, however, she slid down a long slide down into a subbasement. A subbasement that appeared on no plans — it was a fallback shelter and escape route Trashman had added after the building had been commandeered by the Unimaginable League Amoral and the Awe-Inspiring Force in 1996. She landed smoothly and stepped through the cramped hallways. MIKE had no pickups down here — while the A.I. gladly helped where he could, they couldn’t afford to have transmissions be picked up down here. Not when there were so many smart people in the building above.
She walked into the computer room.
Darrin Bates was asleep in one of the chairs.
Mandy rolled her eyes and pushed the chair over. He cried out, electricity sparking around him. "What–"
"You were sleeping."
"Hey! I had a long day! Some of us need to have day jobs, you know! I don’t get paid for this."
"None of us get paid for this, and I work longer hours than you do. Hang on, I need to double check the Psi shield." She began working computer controls.
"The Psi shield? I thought you were going to recruit Doctor T."
"No go. I sounded her out at the meeting. She’s completely against the idea of the League."
Darrin frowned. "Damn," he said. "That could be trouble."
"Oh yeah." She swore under her breath. "You know, there’s six messages on here for you. From when you were sleeping. Calling for backup. Hell, Trashman had to step in because you weren’t around for Trans."
Darrin chuckled. "Against who?"
He laughed full out. "I bet they crapped their fruity little pants."
"We’ll discuss this later. When I can get my Unbreakable Brip out of storage and beat the snot out of you." She punched a button. "Good evening," she said on broadcast. "This is Ops, online. Nice work tonight, League. Come on in. Capacitor’s going out and picking up pizza."
"I am?" Capacitor said. "Hey, I’m a little light in the wallet–"
Mandy killed the mic. "Well, if you’d rather I tell Trans, Maria and Dani you fell asleep while on backup–"
"Right. Everyone eats meat, right?"
"Last time I checked." Mandy slowly smiled, and began tracking the movements in the city neighborhoods. It was going to be a good night.
IS IT GOING TO BE A GOOD NIGHT?
WHAT MAKES A GOOD NIGHT?
ARE YOU HAVING A GOOD NIGHT?
IS TRASHMAN SOME KIND OF UNDEAD ZOMBIE CREATURE?
DID TRUDY REALLY SAIL STRAIGHT INTO THE SUN?
WHO NAMES THEIR SON KIRBY?
All these questions and many more will be answered — here on "The League," only on SUPERGUY!
Er, and the places I crosspost it.
Don’t judge me.