Vignette inspired by: When Presidents Are Accused of Crimes, The Daily Beast, April 11, 2017
People look up at them and see gods, miracles, and impossibilities entwined with flesh and blood. I look at them and see vulnerabilities, anomalies, and genetic glitches programmed to persist and resist the only way they know how: by existing. But I guess some people would say the same thing about me and my…addiction to information.
It was raining the day I was riding the light rail D line to met The Wife of Wrath, leader of The Suspense. The passenger car cleared out before she stepped in, people streaming out the doors around her as the pleasantly computerized voice announced we had reached Hemingway Station. When you’ve spent years watching anorexically thin men and women lift 747s over their heads, mind control is about as mind-boggling as a baby’s first steps.
She wore her black hair caught up in an elaborate bun, pale skin molded from luminescent moonlight with a glaze of cream. Gray eyes, pink lips, long neck with the rest of her body wrapped underneath a long-sleeved dress that almost brushed the floor. Her attire might have been an attempt to hide what was underneath. Or maybe it proclaimed everything you needed to know about her. She eased down in the seat across from me, edges of her mouth pulling in a genuine imitation of a smile.
The doors are now closing
The doors slid shut and the light rail resumed its path along the tracks.
“Good evening, Eva.”
I glanced down at the onyx triple lightning bolt pendant around her neck. I made a mental note to research it later. Might need to use the information against her in case she truly lived up to her name and tried to turned her wrath on me. Speaking of which… “Should I call you The Wife of Wrath, or just Wrath?”
She swayed a bit with the motion of the light rail as it churned forward. “Wra is fine.” She folded a leg over a knee and rested her hands in her lap. “I’ve got another engagement tonight, so I’ll be succinct: I’d like for you to start chipping away at the foundation of The Foundation.”
Darkness swallowed the world outside whole as we flashed through a tunnel. I nodded. “Anything in particular you’d like for me to do?”
Insouciant shrug. “Nothing too…combustible; the folding of the team should look like it was the result of natural causes. I would do it myself, but I’m heavy-handed where you’re delicate, feverish where you keep a cool head.” She looked out the window at the city as the passenger car was pulled from the stretch of black. “No one in my organization has the patience to sow the seeds of discord and wait for the poisoned fruit to mature.” She swiveled her attention back to me. “I heard about the job you did for Mr. Mutiny. Every member of HEX was arrested, killed by the public, quit the team, or committed suicide.” Her genuine imitation of a smile blossomed into something a degree more sincere. “Your work is absolutely exquisite.”
Now approaching Driver Station
I stood. “Thank you. I’ll keep you updated on my progress.”
“You don’t know how to reach me.”
The doors peeled open. “Eventually, I find out how to reach everyone.”
The doors are now closing
Like 911, there are specific situations The Foundation will respond to. A guy I know named Range specializes in putting together teams for odd jobs. And by “odd jobs” I mean robberies, assassinations, kidnappings, attacks, and the like. I had him arrange an attack on the Triermain Medical Center. The Foundation can’t pass up the opportunity to stop a group of superpowered radicals intent on freeing one of their own who had been injured during a recent “demonstration” and was under police watch while recovering.
They showed up in a black delivery van with out-of-state plates that rocketed through the parking lot, curved out a hard turn, and screeched to a halt with the back doors facing the building. The seven of them flooded out in ski masks and fatigues, traditionalists in radical militant fashion. One crouched down and interlaced thick fingers down near equally thick ankles, making a foothold. Another took a running leap forward and planted a boot sole on gloved fingers, propelled upward by thrusting arms that flung him/her clear up to the fourth floor at an angle. The radical drew an arm back while flying through the air, fist consumed by burning red fumes. Fist and fumes flew forward at a glass window. Instead of shattering, the window instead disintegrated into a storm of glittering pixels that floated through the air. The masked figure latched onto the edge of where the window used to be and crawled inside.
From my SUV, I watched as the strongarm of the group hoisted the others upward. I pulled out my directional microphone, camera, and pneumatic air rifle. People scattered from inside the medical center, employees, visitors, and able-bodied patients alike. I glanced at my watch. Three minutes and twenty-three seconds had passed since the beginning of the operation. After I set up my camera on the dash, I made a note of the time in one of my reporter notebooks.
A minute later a streak of dark blue blasted across the parking lot, stopped, and resolved into a woman dressed in an navy power suit, pixie-length blonde hair slicked back on her head. The Suit. I set the camera to record the action and aimed the microphone at her as she put a finger to her ear.
“–ere. Looks like they arrived in a van on the–” She glanced up at the sky. “–south side of the building.” I listened as she listened. “I can streak up and see how many of them there are at least.” More listening. She nodded and blasted up the side of the building in a blur. I wondered if she suffered from eye irritation moving at such great speeds without eye protection. Might have been invisible.
Seconds later, the remaining four members of The Foundation showed up riding one of The Givetaker’s repelling waves that buoyed the rest of them twenty feet in the air, air rippling around them in concentric waves. I traded the mic for the camera and snapped off a series of images as they were lowered to the pavement, dropping the last five feet.
I reached for the air rifle and shuffled through my options. The Void’s powers would likely disrupt the tracker signal, same with The Vibe. Fencer and Suit were inside. Leaving me with… I rested the rifle on the edge of the door, squinted one eye closed and sighted through the scope at The Givetaker. Just needed to find out where their base of operations was located; shoe would probably work best. I lowered the barrel, aimed where she was going to be rather than where she was, and squeezed the trigger. The small tracker was pumped from the barrel with a tiny hiss of air. I withdrew the rifle and looked down at the small device on the dash. The screen blipped once, a clear signal pinging out.
The Fencer, a man with a sheathed katana in a half-gloved hand, lifted his head to the disintegrated window. “Suit, how we doin’ in there?”
She responded by tossing out one of the radicals from the building, the strongarm. The body twisted in the air as it plummeted, slamming into the newly repaved parking lot and sending out a spiderweb of cracks where it landed. The mask had slid up during the fray and fall, revealing a woman’s face before she yanked the fabric down. The Fencer sprinted toward the woman. She threw out a jab that he easily juked around and continued forward.
“Boost me up, GT!” He lifted a knee high and his next step sent out a surge that furrowed the air and launched him skyward. As he rose, another extremist came tumbling out the medical center, this one with his mask ripped from his face and a silver shotgun in hand. He aimed the gun at The Fencer as he fell. The swordsman drew his blade free of its sheath and slashed at the air in the same silken motion, sending out a crescent of neon blue energy that sliced clean through the silver shotgun and reduced it to a burst of ivory light. The Fencer landed inside the hospital in an easy crouch. Was it magic or advanced technology that powered his sword? Something else entirely maybe.
Strongarm caught her falling comrade in her arms, spun on a foot shoed in leather, and hunched over him, shielding them both from The Vibe’s blast of sonic vibrations that rattled the air in a high-pitched punctuation of sound.
The next few minutes played out like a typical superpowered clash: The Void conjured up various forms of energy from his pocket dimension, blasting bodies back and turning fired bullets into liquid. The Suit slide teleported from inside the medical center in time to catch the radical with the glowing hands and deck him in the mouth, snapping his head around and his mask askew. The Givetaker yanked one arm back and drew two bodies toward her before directing them through the open doors of the delivery van with a shove at the air. She lifted her other hand and repelled the van upward from the pavement. The Fencer flicked his wrist, whirling his sword in circles to create an iridescent corona of blue light that deflected bullets chugging from silver handguns.
I changed the cartridge in the air rifle from tracker to listening device, firing one off at the bottom of The Fencer’s sheath. Missed. My eyelids batted out a series of blinks to clear the smudges from my vision (too much time spent staring at a computer screen) and tried again. Success.
Two minutes and twelve seconds later, all seven opponents had been taken care of. Wra’s technological seeds of discord had been planted.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART TWO