wonder_city: (Default)
Resolving Powers

The wind was screaming. Simon leapt between Sator and Brainchild, teeth flashing. The Equestrian and Maelstrom banished the spell that entrapped them.

For one hollow second, the right side of Sator's face darkened and his eyes opened wide, mouth frozen mid-incantation. A pink mist coalesced in the air to the right of Sator. Then Sator dropped to the floor, his flesh crumbling stickily around his bones. The mist rained down and was lost in the general oversupply of gore.

The wind blew itself apart and the gears stopped cold.

There was silence.

"Well," said the Equestrian, staring at the remains of Sator. "That's a thing."

Holy shit, Simon said. Did she...?

My god, Ira said, she killed him. Took all the water... or blood... or something right out of his body.

It was the only thing to do, Suzanne said firmly, but I could feel her reeling with nausea.

We'll deal with that later, Watson said grimly. Start cleaning up, we're on our way.

Be careful, Maelstrom said. Magicians generally leave nasty surprises for posthumous applications.

So a few minutes later, a handful of Gold Stars bounced through the portal and found the Equestrian exclaiming, "I found your hand, Wire. I... think it got in the way when Nereid did her thing, though." She looked up from the object on the floor and said to Sekhmet, "Oh, hello. About bloody time you got here."

"My gods!" Sekhmet said, staring around the blood-spattered room in horror. "Who...? How...?"

The Equestrian snapped, "Later. Look, we've got a massive injury over there--" pointing to Wire "--and another couple of people down. Could you, perhaps, lend a hand?" She looked back at the floor. "I mean, help out?"

Simon was gently nudging Nereid with his cold nose, and Nereid was waking up slowly. I noticed he wasn't trying to, say, lick her face. She was blood, head to toe. (Of course, so was everyone else.)

Sekhmet and her compatriots (I recognized the Blue Eagle costume, but knew it had to be a new one -- or maybe not, if he'd somehow come back to life, which wasn't unusual for the spandex teams -- and the Green Hood) spread out, inspecting Megan and Nereid and Wire from a distance and looking up at the ceiling, where the hole was slowly closing up.

Watson and G went through the portal together and straight to Megan, who was still out cold (because I do my work right). They struggled a little -- she's a big girl -- but between them (and their minor superstrength) they backboarded her (why wasn't I surprised that Watson knew how to do that correctly?) and got her onto the giant-sized stretcher they'd brought.

Professor Fortune, in his cape and with his wacky Einstein hair looking especially Einsteinian, strode into the room like he owned it. "Ah, Molly," he said, smiling benignly at the Equestrian. He looked around quickly, and his gaze lingered on the funnel. "Oh, good," he said softly. "Nice to see the thing with the machine worked out."

Watson and G were slowly walking Megan out, and paused at the door while Watson gave the professor a strange, unreadable look. Her mind was shuttered completely from me. G shook her head at the solicitous Eagle and Hood, and gestured to Watson with her chin. Watson nodded and moved forward; they carried Megan out into Sator's shop, and the Eagle and the Hood followed them.

Sekhmet knelt next to Wire, producing a thick band of leather from some part of her costume to tourniquet the girl's arm.

"Bugger off, you useless toad," the Equestrian said to Professor Fortune. "This is my gig, not yours."

"Molly, my dear," Professor Fortune said, beaming at her, "I'm just here to help out with an analysis of the situation. The Gold Stars called me in."

"Analyze this, Harvey," the Equestrian said, flipping the bird at him (she did it both ways, in case he was too dim to figure out the British way). "Get out of here before Her Nibs notices that the self-styled Grand High Poobah of Earth is standing on her turf, from which, I note, he has been banned for more than four decades. I won't be responsible if she shows up."

The pool of blood on the floor rose up and coalesced gracefully into a replica of Nereid. It wasn't an exact twin: the replica was wearing a long gown streaked with all the shades of red and brown found in blood. Her face kept shifting and it took me a moment to figure out why: I was seeing her through the eyes of several people, and I guessed that her face altered according to the viewer's ideals of beauty. It was like looking at a very peculiar animation, especially since it was still recognizably Nereid's face.

I didn't even try to get near that mind. I'm stupid, not suicidal.

She turned and stared at Professor Fortune with the mad, cold expression of a bird of prey. He tried to smile urbanely and failed. She said in a voice that resonated in several registers, "You know the penalty, of course. I need not insult you by repeating it."

The Equestrian radiated an unholy glee as Professor Fortune backpedaled toward the door. I felt unadulterated terror from Tam Lane, who was trying to shrink behind a bit of debris.

"No offense meant, of course, Your Majesty," he said, pausing at the threshold and producing a handkerchief to mop his suddenly gleaming brow. "We had no idea that the door led to..."

The woman stared at him, motionless. Her dress rippled toward him liquidly where it met the floor.

He caught his cloak in both hands and bounded hastily through the door.

The Equestrian and Maelstrom both executed handsome bows to the creature that had manifested from the blood. "Your Majesty," the Equestrian said. "My apologies for not detecting this mess sooner."

She lifted a hand and gazed incuriously around the room. "You have stopped it, according to your bargain."

"I think we've a good bit more to do," Maelstrom muttered ruefully. The Queen ignored him as she swept into a walk so inhumanly graceful that it reminded me of a jellyfish.

Tam actually ducked his head beneath his arms as she glanced in his direction; I wasn't sure, but I thought I caught the traces of a smile on her face through the Equestrian's eyes.

The Queen paused and looked down at Nereid. Simon, who had turned human in order to lift Nereid's face out of a puddle of blood, looked nervously up at the Queen and I could sense from him that she didn't smell right -- not like blood, not like anything he'd ever smelled. "It is impolite to tamper with the lifeblood of another's realm, yet sufficient unto the day is the repayment thereof." She turned her head towards the Equestrian. "I forget the words," she said sweetly, with an undertone of malice so clear it was like metal. "How is it I should curse her?"

Nereid, who only just recovered real consciousness, looked up into that face and began leaking blood incontinently: I could see it dripping from her fingertips and it streaked her face like tears. I could feel her sheer, bone-draining terror: the closest I can describe it is that of an acrophobic being pressed to the edge of a sheer precipice.

The Equestrian blinked. Then her expression hardened, and she answered, "Your Majesty, I believe it is him you usually threaten, at least in the songs I am familiar with."

Tam came out from under his arms for long enough to shoot the Equestrian a hateful look.

The Queen raised a hand with impossibly graceful fingers -- and possibly too many of them -- to her lips. "Ah, now I remember. I cannot call shame upon her face, because after all, I am using it. Such shame as her ill-favored face may have is only that which she herself shall bring upon it. Let it be so."

She smiled at the Equestrian, as though she had just won a round of a game, and said, "Be off with you all, I want no more of you." With that, the figure collapsed to the floor in a viscous splash, the blood spreading once more into a shining pool.

"Can we get out of here now?" Simon asked the Equestrian. "Before someone changes her mind?"

Maelstrom strode over, nudged Sekhmet aside, and, with an interesting impulse of protectiveness I didn't poke at, picked up Wire, who looked grey and chalky. "Let's."

Sekhmet acquiesced to Maelstrom's preference and walked over to Simon. "May I? At least if I carry her, I can feel like I did something here."

"Please," Simon said. "Feels like she's broken her right arm and maybe some other things." He turned wolf again.

Sekhmet moved around to Nereid's left and carefully picked her up. Nereid's eyes closed.

Tam looked cautiously out from his hiding place, then rushed out to Nereid's side. He reached out for her hand, paused and grimaced. It was coated and shining with blood. Overcoming his squeamishness, he gripped her hand and looked into her face, murmuring, "Ah, my dear, my dearest." He trotted alongside as Sekhmet carried her out.

"Don't move her arm, you git," the Equestrian called after them. "It's broken!"

Nereid's eyelashes didn't so much as flutter. I couldn't parse the terror and anxiety I could sense from Tam, so I didn't try. Then they were through the door to Earth.

You look a mess, Suzanne said as she envisioned throwing her arms around Simon gratefully, and I let that go through, just to Simon.

He gave a wolfish grin and bounded out through the door.

The Equestrian took a last look around after the others had left. This is going to be a long night, she said.

Surely you're done? I said.

Not a chance, the Equestrian said, and let me have a little of her Faerie sight. I could see gaping holes ground into the dimensional wall as far as I could see. This is all over the realm. All over the Earth. We've got to gather up the escapees.

"Speaking of escapees," she added aloud, spinning one of her green balls of fire into a net. Her gaze moved to Brainchild, whose spirit was standing, looking around her with a horrified expression, in the corner of the room furthest from where the machine used to be.

Damn, girl, you have a rough job, I said.

"Yep," she said, flicking the net over Brainchild, who shrank down inside it into a green ball of light. The Equestrian strode over to pick her up, absently tucking Wire's mummified hand into her belt as she bent to receive the ball of light with both hands. She sighed.

Beer first, she said to me. Then onward. She strode through the door.


Note from the Author:

Okay! The cliffhangers are over, and the denouement has begun. What loose ends are you most looking forward to seeing tied up?

(Also, much gratitude to Akycha for helping me with the Queen's characterization.)

Remember to vote for WCS!

wonder_city: (Default)
L’appel du vide

"Now you," Sator said, glancing over his shoulder. "Megan Amazon, shatter yourself." I had to drop filters in place as Megan took a magical blast that went straight through her invulnerability, ran up every nerve ending, and back down, spasming all the muscles in her arms and legs. Meteor got an accidental punch to the nose from Megan, one that knocked her backward to sprawl on the floor.

On another "channel," I apologized quickly to the Wonderful House kids and dropped them out of the link entirely: Tom was in the ambulance with Brandon on the way to the hospital, Jeshri and Lizzie and Eartha were talking to the police and the Gold Stars.

Block her motor nerves, Watson said tightly. Do it now!

She was right, the spell wasn't stopping, and Megan was apparently strong enough to overcome her own invulnerability, judging from some of the pain I was reading. I stopped everything anomalous that was happening in her motor cortex and knocked her out. She dropped limply to the floor.

Meanwhile, Simon's shape swarmed up to human form (naked) and lunged for Brainchild. His hands couldn't touch her, but he managed to catch the glass fragment -- presumably magical -- that her spirit was standing on. There was a stab of pain as the razor edges of the glass sliced into his hands. Brainchild was stable for just a second, then her spirit turned and tried to grab onto the glass, as if she was being sucked into the funnel by some secret wind.

"Oh, let her fall, child," Sator laughed. "Let her fall and see my century-old plan come to fruition at last!"

Nereid hit him with a firehose blast... of blood. While he sputtered at the mouthful he'd got, she stared at her hands, and I could feel the hysteria welling up amidst her panic.

It's not permanent! the Equestrian snapped at her. It's just this place doing it to you. Do it again!

I can't help her! Simon exclaimed, gripping the glass that was slippery with his own blood and trying to pull it away from the machine without losing Brainchild. She's going to fall!

Meteor! Ira snapped. You're a spirit when you're not in that girl's body. Do something.

The Equestrian and Maelstrom were attacking Sator again to distract him. Nereid, to give the girl credit, pulled her shit together and added her geysers of blood.

Meteor hesitated. I'm not sure I can, she said. Can't Renata help her?

I can't reach her mind, I said. I've tried. And I'm not spiritually telekinetic anyway.

Meteor, you have to save her! Suzanne nigh-shouted. You're her only hope!

Feeling Meteor peel out of the body she was possessing was like nothing I'd ever felt: like someone burning their skin off, and then being totally without pain because there were no nerves any more. Her spirit leapt out of the woman -- G, Watson told me -- and threw herself across the mouth of the black abyss just as Brainchild slipped off the glass. Brainchild hit the "surface" that was Meteor and bounced off her onto the floor.

Meteor said to me, I only ever wanted to be a hero, before her grip slipped and she was sucked into the void, her mind sliding too far away for me to reach.

G staggered backward and fell over Megan. I apologetically seized control of her motor functions, got her ass up, and walked her out the door.

One less potential victim in that room. Go me.


Note from the Author:

Because I'm mean, here's a new challenge for Team Commentariat: 15 commenters get you a third new episode on Saturday!

And remember to vote for WCS!

wonder_city: (Default)
This story arc has been published as a novel!

Buy in print at Createspace or Amazon!
Buy the ebook at Kindle | Kobo | Apple Store | Scribd | Inktera


Of Blessed Memory

Suzanne stood between Andrea and Ira, looking down at the plain wooden coffin with its Guardians flag drape. Ira held her hand tightly, his fingers cold in the frigid air. The forest green pavilion was all that stood between them and the sleet that was resolutely and appropriately falling on the company.

Attendees were a little sparse for the death of a superhero, even if he had turned villain in the end. The full set of Guardians, even the Golden Guardian, who was almost never seen any more, stood in the precipitation, tiny, sharp ice droplets hissing off their armor, black bands with a bronze metal stripe conspicuously present on everyone's arm (though there was no clarification as to which Bronze Guardian it applied). A smattering of Gold Stars -- Midnight Mask, the Ultimate, and Sekhmet -- stood in a cluster near them; the Ultimate and Sekhmet were out of costume in black suits and long black wool coats, but Mask was in his dark blue (and hopefully insulated) spandex. Behind Suzanne and the rest of the family, huddled under the inadequate roof, were some of Ira's friends from the old days: Lady Justice, Carolus Lew, Harry Dash, Atomica, and a wizened, bent old man with a walker that she suspected might be Nox the Night-stalker. Madame Destiny stood to the side of Ira, resplendently plump in a long black gown that had a rather daring neckline for a woman of her years, arrayed in her best mystical jewelry, including a vast gold pendant set with a dozen or more different cabochon stones that reclined luxuriously against her cleavage. Mother Necessity's three granddaughters stood near Andrea, who had been a good friend of their mother's, as well as being their honorary aunt.

From the corner of her good eye, she noticed Simon, sharply dressed in a tailored black suit but still on crutches, accompanied by the Hispanic-looking giantess she now knew was Megan Amazon, in a less well-fitted black suit. Megan held a golf umbrella over both their heads. They kept a respectful distance from the proceedings, not coming within conventional earshot, though Suzanne guessed that Simon could hear everything anyway.

She herself wasn't really hearing what the rabbi was saying. She stared at the coffin, felt Ira's fingers squeezing her hand painfully. He'd watched Josh's body stop breathing, the Outsider had said, weeping the whole time, and had let himself be led away and put to bed after it was over. He'd barely said a word since and didn't seem to be sleeping much, though he'd eaten when someone had put food in front of him. She was going to have to discuss the situation with Andrea, who was already fairly harrowed by events and the media. But Andrea at least had David, who worshipped the ground she walked on and took meticulous care of her.

And Suzanne had Simon.

Ira had no one but some hired companions. Would the Guardians stop footing the bill for those now?

She glanced aside at the old man, and felt both oppressed by the responsibility he represented and desperately sad for and protective of him. She loved Ira, as troublesome as he could be. Her own parents were gone -- dead, possibly, but she'd never bothered to find out. They'd given her far too much insanity over the years for her to care.

The coffin was pale wood with brass fittings. There were no flowers.

Suzanne had always known that Josh was a bit of a bastard, but hadn't known that he was a killer. Wasn't that always the way, though? Hardly anyone really expects her or his husband to come home from work one day, having decided on committing mayhem. Not really. Really? She'd always known it was possible -- hell, she'd specialized in stories like this when she was a reporter. Well, at the end of her career, anyway. Maybe she should've paid attention to the things that were catching her attention then, after being married to Josh for several years.

She tried to summon back a memory of loving him and failed. All she could remember was Mitch -- the sweet, unkempt, desperately poor Southern boy who sent nearly all his money home to his mother and the siblings living with her. He was a tall and thin and dark-haired, with a farmer's tan and a tendency to have five o'clock shadow at eleven in the morning. He worked as the Guardians' receptionist and administrative assistant when he wasn't in his Guardian armor, and they paid for him to take his GED and start college. They'd made him have extensive dental work done on his teeth, which were brown and chipped and full of cavities, since he'd grown up without fluoridated water or even a single dentist appointment. She'd first met him -- out of armor -- when he'd come back to the Guardians headquarters, face full of novocaine and giddy from three hours in the chair. Josh had been busy, so she took Mitch out for drinks. He slurred out his life story to her in a desperate attempt to avoid thinking about what had just been done to him.

She thought that, perhaps, she'd fallen for him then.

The rabbi was wrapping up his speech, whatever it was he'd said, and she found herself weeping. She covered her mouth with her handkerchief and choked a sob. Poor Mitch. Poor idealistic superheroic Mitch. He'd just been doing the right thing, like he always had. And Josh...

And Josh...

Andrea put an arm around her waist and patted her shoulder. Ira turned his watery gaze to her and tightened his lips in something close to a smile.

The coffin was lowered into the grave. She took her turn with the spade, and bit her lower lip to keep herself from grinning vindictively as the clods of earth echoed on the wood.

Then it was finished. The rabbi was shaking her hand, and Ira's, and Andrea's.

Netted between Josh's parents, Suzanne turned away from the grave and started into the sleet. Various black-suited undertakers with golf umbrellas materialized to escort them to the limousine.

She looked up from the ground once, and squarely met Simon's gaze. He hadn't replaced his shattered glasses yet, and the wolf's eyes probably disturbed other people. But not her, not now, not any more. She wanted to throw herself into those eyes and not have to think for a while.

He mouthed three words to her. She stared at him for a moment, stricken, and opened her mouth to respond, but was gently pushed into the limo by Andrea.

The door closed, and she indulged in a savage torrent of weeping, though she couldn't have explained why.


From Jude:

And here is a bonus episode because I couldn't think of a better way to thank my latest donor! I hope you all enjoy it. :)

Vote for us at Top Web Fiction!
wonder_city: (Default)
This story arc has been published as a novel!

Buy in print at Createspace or Amazon!
Buy the ebook at Kindle | Kobo | Apple Store | Scribd | Inktera


Rescued from the Pool of Time

Josh's concentration visibly shattered and the Ultimate's fist drove him six inches into the remains of the street. "You stay put, now," she said to his crumpled shape.

Lizzie lunged forward, hands stretched toward him, and a transcendental burst of light and noise blew Megan flat on her back.

When her eyes became less dazzled and her hearing returned, she could see Lizzie holding Josh up by his toga-front, and Josh was struggling dazedly and shrieking, "You aren't my mother! You aren't my mother!"

The girl smiled sadly at him. "Perhaps I never was anything at all. But I'm here right now, and you need my help."

"I don't need your help!"

"You do," she said. "You've destroyed yourself, and tried to destroy everything else. You've killed people today. You killed someone before. Is this what your parents raised you to do?"

Josh looked around for a moment at the destruction. They were in the midst of a crater, so they couldn't see the full extent of the destruction, but there were bodies littered up the sides of the crater. Megan recognized Olympic, bloodied but still breathing, a few feet away. Megan wondered vaguely where Simon was. The only visible people on their feet were the Fat Lady, whose dress and coiffure were much worse for the wear by now, the Ultimate, who was breathing a little hard and looking like she very much wanted to hit Josh again, and Lizzie, who was holding up Josh. He started to squirm, trying to loose her grip from his robe.

"No, Josh," she said. "You're coming with me."

The Ultimate said, "Where're you taking him?"

Lizzie looked over her shoulder and smiled sweetly at the Ultimate. "It's hard to explain."

The Ultimate failed to be impressed with either smile or vagueness. "Huh."

"He won't be a trouble again," Lizzie said.

"Huh," the Ultimate said again. "And can you guarantee that?"

"That's my job," Lizzie said.

The Fat Lady put a hand on the Ultimate's arm. "He's been dead a long time, and ghosts are notoriously crazy, Ruth. Let her take him. I think she's telling the truth."

The Ultimate looked at the Fat Lady. They stared at each other for a long moment, then the Ultimate nodded. The tension in the atmosphere let up a little.

Lizzie looked at Megan. "Thanks," she said.

Megan nodded.

Lizzie paused thoughtfully. "Tell Mister Metro... tell Ira that I'm sorry. And tell him, 'Thanks for thinking of me.'"

Megan gave her a perplexed look but nodded again.

"Come on now, Josh," Lizzie said, and a strange light-being separated from the girl's body.

The Ultimate caught up the unconscious girl as the light-being dragged Josh aside. Then Josh faded into light himself. The pair of bright figures lingered for a moment, then vanished.

The Fat Lady said, "Well, then."

Simon, from behind a pile of debris, said, weakly, "Woof?"

The Ultimate said, bitterly, "Why is it that I can smash comets with my bare hands and run corporate megagiants, and I am still cleaning up after white people like my mama did?"

The Fat Lady patted her on the shoulder. "Let's head home, then, and put our feet up. Let's let the white people do the grunt work this time, hey?"

The Ultimate snorted and looked down at Lizzie -- or whatever her name really was. "Let me hand this girl off to someone first."

Megan looked down at herself and said, "Er, does anyone have some pants I could borrow?"


Vote for us at Top Web Fiction!

wonder_city: (Default)
This story arc has been published as a novel!

Buy in print at Createspace or Amazon!
Buy the ebook at Kindle | Kobo | Apple Store | Scribd | Inktera


Keep On Trying Till You Run Out of Cake

The shockwaves of the blows being traded forced Megan to kick into the frozen asphalt for footing. Within a few steps, she was barefoot, because her favorite shoes were not designed to cope with that sort of abuse.

She pressed against the wind, the energy blasts, and the shocks. She felt her good jeans start to fray and burn, and smelled the smoldering leather of her beloved jacket. She shielded her face reflexively against the heat of Josh's radiation. Periodically a blast would force her backward, her feet dragging through the road surface. She finally reached back and dragged Lizzie along by the shoulder, not trusting her jeans or the girl's grip.

Megan could see that the Ultimate and the Fat Lady were the only people left facing Josh. Other heroes were littering the landscape in various levels of consciousness. She had to step around the bloodied body of someone she thought might be the Blue Eagle, and nearly lost her lunch and nerve simultaneously.

Josh was holding off the Fat Lady's sonic assault and the Ultimate's more physical attacks with effort. He was sweating. He was standing in a deep crater of pulverized pavement. Suzanne was gone, and there were no suspicious remains; Megan dared to hope that she'd gotten away. This close, the blasts were like walking into a hurricane. Even so, she noticed that the Ultimate and the Fat Lady were clearly pulling their punches. It confused her for a moment, then realized that they were trying to take him out without leveling all of downtown.

She took a fraction of a second to be grateful.

Megan dragged Lizzie around under her, then crawled forward on hands and knees, the smaller woman mirroring her. Megan decided it was humiliating, yes, but better than many alternatives.

She reached a point where she couldn't press on any more. She'd reached the force field and she couldn't push through it. She stared at Josh's face and watched him twitch and strain.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something moving: an enormous golden-gray wolf, face smeared with blood, bellycrawling through the rubble on three legs, one back leg dragging uselessly behind.

Megan clenched her jaw and started to pound on the field with one fist. It garnered her an annoyed look from the red-haired godling, but he was immediately distracted by the Ultimate's punch, which stopped short of his face by only six inches.

The wolf was getting closer, and Megan saw it squeeze nose-first through a weak place in the field near the ground of the crater, eyes and ears stretching crazily against the pressure. Apparently, Josh didn't think in three dimensions. She redoubled her attacks and tried to time her punches with those of the Ultimate. Lizzie periodically put her hands flat against the mostly-invisible field, then withdrew them as if it burnt her -- which it probably did, Megan thought. But it was useful for Megan, since she could see the field shrinking back toward Josh. They shuffled forward.

The Fat Lady paused to draw breath. The Ultimate resettled her footing. Megan put her shoulder to the boundary. Lizzie braced her feet against a divot in the asphalt.

The Fat Lady hit a tight, high note. The Ultimate, Megan, and Lizzie lunged forward together. Josh held them all off, face screwed up and red with strain.

Then Megan saw Simon's fangs sink into Joshua Feldstein's perfect toga-clad ass.


Vote for us at Top Web Fiction!

wonder_city: (Default)
This story arc has been published as a novel!

Buy in print at Createspace or Amazon!
Buy the ebook at Kindle | Kobo | Apple Store | Scribd | Inktera


So Little, So Late

Ira gave thorough instructions to the next-door neighbor's daughter, who had agreed to sit with Josh while he was gone. "And if he wakes up, make sure you press Record on the tape player," he concluded.

Her brow wrinkled. "Don't you have a StarSeed for that? It's digital and has tons of memory." She displayed her shiny gold plastic egg-shaped device. "You wouldn't have to worry about running out of tape."

"We don't have a StarSeed," he said. "I have to go."

"Don't worry, Mr. Feldstein," she said. "We'll be fine."

Ira hurried to the front door, taking his keys and wallet from the bowl but leaving the nametag. He glanced in the mirror, then looked down at himself. His best uniform was still in crisp lines, even if it hung on him. He couldn't help the fact that he'd lost some muscle in the past few years.

The bus trip into the French Hills was longer than he remembered. More stops, more people. Most of the old storefronts were gone, and as they were frequently replaced by townhouses in a variety of beige tones. Still, he saw some buildings he recognized: a few big stone churches that predated the big building boom of the 1920s, the massive apartment house he and Lizzie lived in when they were first married, and the original Guardians Aerie, now a museum.

When he stepped off the bus, he didn't have to look around for long to spot the massive, sprawling Gold Stars compound. The stately brick walls surrounding it were pure decoration over the real fortifications, constructed of force fields and cyberium steel.

The guard in the kiosk at the gate used one of the new genetic scanners on him, and Ira watched his records pop onto the guard's screen. Ira remembered a time when the hero team used ID cards. But that was before the Shapechanger Army, he supposed.

"Your passkey, Mr. Metropolitan," the guard said politely, attaching the slender, metallic sticker to the back of Ira's left hand. "According to the schedule, the Gold Star on duty is Sekhmet, and she'll meet you in the parlor. Have a nice day, sir."

"Thanks," Ira said, studying his passkey for a moment and then proceeding to the front door.

Doors opened obligingly for him, buiding him inside and into the parlor. A kindly feminine computer voice suggested that perhaps he would like coffee or tea, which was in the cabinet in the corner of the room.

He didn't wait very long, sitting in the deceptive blue chair that looked like an overstuffed armchair but was really as hard and uncomfortable as the benches at the Y. The door in the back of the parlor opened, and a tall, dark-skinned woman in a neat pinstriped suit stepped through. Her hair was quite short, lying in tight curls against her scalp, and she was striking, with high cheekbones and a long, patrician nose. "Mr. Metropolitan?" she said, her slight accent injecting a small roll at the 'r'. "I am Sekhmet."

He nodded, swallowing hard and summoning a smile. "Thank you for seeing me on such short notice."

"We try to make time for those who have served before us," she said. "Why don't you come into the office?"

He tried to keep his back as straight as hers as he followed her. She gestured him into a chair and sat in a chair opposite him. The small coffee table between them was set with a silver tea service. She poured out the tea.

He fidgeted slightly, but waited for his teacup. He preferred to have something to occupy his hands for this, otherwise, he suspected, his hands would wander around aimlessly, twitching like an old man's.

She handed over his cup. "How can I help you?"

"Well," he said, peering down into the dark tea. "I expect you know about my son, Josh. He was the Bronze Guardian, before the present one, I mean."

She nodded. "Yes. He stopped Skywraith when he absorbed the Godstuff, as I recall. I wasn't active at the time, but I remember the stories."

He nodded too. "Well, yes, he's been in a coma ever since the Iron... I mean, Skywraith, and we -- his wife and I -- have been taking care of him. Well, to make a long story short, he woke up the other day, and..."

"He woke up?" Sekhmet said, half-starting from her chair. "Why hasn't anyone been notified? I always assumed we'd hear..."

"Well, heh heh, he fell back into a coma almost immediately," Ira said uncomfortably. The china rattled in his hands, and he set the teacup down quickly. "He woke up, spoke to me, and then he was gone again."

Sekhmet settled back into her chair, frowning. "I see."

Ira caught himself starting to wring his hands. "You see, he told me that the reason he's been comatose is that he's helping to fight an enemy called the Mind Marauders. They're getting closer to Earth, and he wanted me to warn people."

"I see," she said again. "Did he give you any details?"

"He said they were psychic vampires," Ira said. "That there was an army of them moving through what Josh called Psychespace, which is a dimension that... that rides along with ours. Like, you know, the Positive and Negative Planes."

"Hmm," Sekhmet said, pulling a palmtop out of the inner pocket of her suitcoat and making some notes. "And does your son have allies?"

Ira nodded. "He said there were warriors of many worlds there with him who had been recruited by some... some... oh, damn, I can't remember the name." He clutched at his forehead, brow furrowed. "Damn this brain of mine."

"That's all right, Mr. Metropolitan," Sekhmet said. "I can contact the known telepathic and astral-traveling heroes and see if any of them have encountered Psychespace. Did he tell you anything else?"

"No," Ira said, shaking his head. "He went away again before I could ask any questions."

Sekhmet was sympathetic. "Well, you've done just what he asked, Mr. Metropolitan. Thank you. You can leave it in our hands now."

They stood up and shook hands, and Sekhmet showed him out, one hand warm on his shoulder. She patted his back as they parted.

As Ira passed through the gate, the guard nodded and the shiny sticker dissolved into water. Ira shook it off his hand and smiled at the street as he made his way to the bus stop on the other side of the street.

His eyes stung a little as he stared at the Gold Star compound. It had been a long, long time since he'd been back in the game. He hadn't realized how much he missed it: the bright colors and strong bodies and sleek technology. Beautiful women and handsome men, standing between evil and good, and exciting adventures for all.

But he was just a spectator this time.

It hadn't lasted long enough.

It would probably be the last time.

Well, until Josh woke up to give him more news.


wonder_city: (Default)
Wonder City Stories

June 2017

25 2627282930 


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Apr. 22nd, 2019 06:26 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios