Amy Intended Ch. 01byredsliver©
Chapter One - First and Twenty
"Do you think you could turn off the giant light? Please. I can't see who I'm talking to and it hurts my eyes. Also, perhaps shutting down that huge fan, its noise can't be comfortable for any of us." I was tied to a chair. I shoved my chin to my collarbone trying to look away from the industrial spotlight. My eyes were swimming in tears and cold water that had just been thrown onto my previously unconscious face. "Please."
"You don't get to make demands." The woman's voice was chopped by the blades of the heavy fan.
"They were requests actually. I was even polite. I said please." The hazes formed into black projections of a man and a woman. The light was much dimmer but it was still blinding. The fan slowed to a stop.
"I can't believe he did that." The woman tsked. The man, the other silhouette was clearly a man, just shrugged. The woman stepped forward and I could smell her perfume. It was gentle and sweet smelling. It made my captivity seem fictitiously comfortable.
"Thank you," I offered my charming smile, but my slowly drying clothes and dishevelled appearance left the smile to fend for itself. Silence carried for a moment. The man looked at his wrist. Probably, a watch, the soft tick started making it to my ears. Or maybe I was just translating my heartbeat. If so, my ticker was calm.
"No you don't," The woman stepped forward, the click on the stone floor confirmed she was wearing heels. "You have to talk."
"Its easier to talk to a face than a shadow."
"If that was true than the internet wouldn't be so popular." She sermonized. "Tell us how it happened."
"Well, first there was nothing. With Nothing else to do but Nothing, Nothing got all hot and bothered until it exploded. We call This the Big Bang. Then--"
"Don't pretend to be clever." She was snappish. Amy would know just what to say to bait her out of her cool. I was never so confrontational. Thing is, I'm the sidekick. A knight to the queen. And I didn't know what had happened to Amy. I just had to keep my captors' attention on my words and not on the meaty punchability of my handsome face. Antagonizing them, telling them Amy would come for me, would just mean she might find a pulpier pile of Simon. "We're interested in how you and hero girl got involved in this."
"I suppose I should skip elementary school and how she used to pick on bullies until they gave her their lunch money?" I asked raising an eyebrow and finding my eyes were taking the light much better. The squeaky woman and silent man were still indecipherable.
"That would be nice." The woman said.
"I guess it started when we were thirteen and someone had stolen my bike." I hadn't told this story in forever. I'm pretty sure we get to hear the origins of the big heroes on at least a monthly schedule. But the little guys, they just seem to blurt it out at the start and you're forced to remember it. "We had gone to Paradise to get milkshakes and--"
"We don't want to know how you started!" The woman hissed. She was easily upset, and impatient. Amy would have had a field day with her.
"We need to know how things changed," The man was much cooler. He had an accent, some kind of South American. Or I was overestimating my confidence as a world traveller and he was actually from Portugal. "Start with your first meeting with Dr Astaire and go from there."
"We made it into his lab thanks to the Drill-Cannon and he had already had Zeta strapped to the operating table. There was an IV running straight into her heart. Amy exploded, I'd seen her angry on missions before but this--"
"That was your fourth encounter with Dr Astaire."
"I don't think so." I said, rolling back over all of our missions. I had to assume everything before the Sethalapod battle was a write-off.
"The first time you raided his lab. We need to know about Damselfly's spark."
"That is way back there." I leaned back into the chair. It struck me to learn that Hannibal was so entrenched in my hero career. "Fine but I expect chicken wings, cheese fries and lots of Crazy House Barbecue Sauce."
"You don't get to make demands."
"I get to or you don't get this story." I showed backbone. It was easier when I knew what they wanted. But from their starting point it could be anything. I had some inkling. Hunches and clues carried me too far and I knew I was going to be digging someone's grave by the end of this. I just hoped it wasn't mine. "And you'll still probably need others to get the whole story."
"Actually, we're still getting the information from Dr Horne-Glasser and Never-inov." The man declared, "Once we finish with you three, we will be comparing notes."
"Irina? Really? I was thinking it was more of a Catscratch and Robber Baron conspiracy."
"You don't seem surprised that Amy's mother was involved."
"I'd be surprised if she wasn't." Simon nodded, "She's an odd duck."
"That's putting it lightly," The woman agreed. There was a knock and she slumped her shoulders and as she opened a previously unnoticed door. The soft office fluorescent lights gave me her face and clothes. I didn't recognize her but she had a rather gaudy seashell hairband holding up her chestnut brown hair. I looked to the man shadow but all I could tell was his posture. He seemed amused. The door closed and I turned my eyes towards the smell of chicken and grease.
"Your dinner," She put the plate on a table in front of me. There was no utensil, not even a plastic spork.
"So are you going to feed it to me, or do I get my hands untied?" I asked the smell was intoxicating and that hot sauce was making my mouth water. Could there be a greater condiment? Sighing, the woman slipped down onto one knee next to my chair and used a switchblade knife to cut the cable ties around my wrist and upper arm. I looked dead in her face, it took her three of four ties to realize she was no longer protected from the massive backlight. She fell back and grimaced.
"Fine, now you know it's me!" She stood up, "You were right earlier the light and the fan are hugely distracting."
"Very much so." I had no idea who she was, just an attractive woman in a green dress whose jewelry took a particularly oceanic turn. All of the water villains Amy and I had ever faced were men. She wasn't Storm Surge, the only hydrokinetic woman I knew.
"Mia don't--" The man stepped towards his partner. She had paddled some commands into a mobile phone and the room lights flickered on as soon as the spotlight had shut down.
"Hello Escher," I said at the man, "Could you free my left hand, I'd really like to get to telling the story and eating my chicken fingers. I did ask for wings, but these are acceptable."
"Ha," Sighed Escher. He was one of the great villains, his practical teleporter was a staple of superscience everywhere. He was nearing sixty, maybe twice as old as the pretty woman in her green dress, and his black hair was thickly winged in grey. His full face mask was gone and he wasn't wearing the shoulder armor and cape, but the purple and silver bodysuit was obvious. He had been around forever and I knew he was one of the top men at E.V.I.L. (Evil Villains in League -- Terrible right? Not like Great Justice was a better name.) Oh and the file I read said he was from Cypress. Yeah, don't trust me with accents. "Mia, have you ever encountered Warhound out of your body armor?"
"No," She looked to Escher's frown and my smirk and she had the sense to look embarrassed. She tugged nervously on her dolphin and heart pendant and laughed unsympathetically.
"You're also wearing a lovely green dress," Well it was really a midriff baring top and a wavy knee-length skirt, but she never corrected me, "I wasn't very close to guessing the identity of The Lady in White."
"This doesn't actually change anything, Hound." Escher said, "Just that we can send out for chairs much earlier. Please, tell us the story."
"Alright, but I'd like to see how the full story looks too," I announced, "I think I know the best place to start...
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
I knew how to run. I may not have been the fastest. I wouldn't be representing my country, my state, or my college any time soon. I wouldn't win marathons. I could run them though. I was quick, I sprinted and long hauled with a stark determination that was seldom matched. The important thing was that I knew how to run correctly. I could start running from my back and zigzag through barbed wire and underbrush with almost no deceleration. I knew when to leap, how to land and where to turn. I knew how to strap in my gear so the jostling didn't unbalance me. I knew how and when to cut loose. I knew what to hold back. I was damned good at running when I needed it.
I needed to run. I was out of the compound, the blast doors had fallen flat on the ground. The crumbled concrete was pitching up a cloud of dust and ash. Chemical burns and electrical arcs scattered out in a radius from the compromised fortress. I hit the cobbled path with searing thighs and full deep breaths. The filter mask echoed my breathing up into my skull.
My name is Simon Kokoska and I am a superhero. There are few statements as arrogant as that one. I didn't even have superpowers. I was tied down with an arsenal of gadgets cobbled together from an incarcerated supervillain's warchest, Great Justice ordnance and a steadily climbing Radioshack bill. I didn't have the nom de guerre, my uniform was a blue armored vest with assorted pockets and crossbelts. I ran in baggy pants stuffed into black polished army boots. My face was stuffed into a gas mask and my eyes were behind the blue shielded glass of my 12N1 goggles. The only reasons I had to truly classify me as a superhero were a mad scientist archnemesis and poor senses of boundaries and survival. I was also partnered with a real hero.
Amy was chirping in my radio. "Catscratch coming at you." "Rocket fuel compromised." "Bug out." and other terse phrases that reinforced my need to run. Even silent. Even unknowing the mess behind me. I would have been tearing my way through the scorched battlefield. I would have ducked, vaulted and skidded around the burnt out robotic triceratops husks. Ahead of me, Dr Amadeus Victor, my aforementioned nemesis: Doctor Victorious, was sprinting.
Chalk and concrete dust puffed out of his hair. His soot stained lab coat was only resisting the speed and not flapping behind him like a cape because of the brass gas tank strapped across his back. I could say I ran to catch him. I could lie and explain that I had a sense of competition and justice that refused to let him get away from me. I ran because he ran. If there was something behind Victorious that he wanted further behind him, I did my best to keep up. I missed her warning: "Scratch incoming!"
The collision sent me sprawling off the path, against the belly of beaten robot and face down into the sand. I kept rolling, almost cartwheeling in my ricochet until I landed hard on my back. She leapt over me. Adrenaline and shock giving the fraction of a second impossible longevity. I couldn't help but notice Catscratch's figure. Her whole body tightly held in her red and black suit. Her long platinum hair fluffing out behind her. The way the material defined the muscles of her ass. "On your feet!"
My partner skidded into the sand on her knees. She twisted to land perpendicular to me. I grabbed her wrist and she hopped up into a run. Her pull and my muscles dragged me to my feet and to speed with little wait time. I was still feeling dizzy. The pain in my muscles spread up from my legs and along the right side of my ribs. The shore was only moments away. The ground was rattling under our feet. The complex was collapsing, the first geysers of flame were cutting their way out through the ventilation mushrooms spread across the yard.
Victorious had reached his exit. Water fell in sheets from the arachnidian submersible as it skittered up onto the shore. Victorious was scrambling over its head, trying to get to the hatch atop its abdomen. Catscratch was halfway between the pair of us. Our own exodus, a zodiac raft was just as far along the other branch of the inlet. Amy would want to take the fight to Victorious. I needed to get out alive. It was one of the few instances where I could give the deciding vote. We sprinted towards the raft. Amy's more rigorous training and longer legs started a gap between us. The grunt and squawk of steel was mixed with the splash of water as Victorious began retreating. Catscratch was just making her way onto the head.
"Laser!" I shouted. There was a cannon rising out from the head of the spider. Catscratch's German accent carried her expletive with added rancor. I pushed every ounce of power into my legs and dove, shoulder first, into middle of Amy's back.
Outside of our armor, I have nearly thirty pounds on Amy. I was wearing and carrying nearly twice the equipment she was. I collided with her, throwing her to the ground with a heavy whomp. She snorted out a cloud of sand. I grabbed the back of her head and pushed down, forcing ourselves flat.
I realized our relationship was unconventional. I had my eyes closed and was hugging the ground as tightly as I could. I managed a count of "Seven Missi--" before the air above me opened in blue plasma. You know you have something when your nemesis let the flub of dodging too early go and refused to readjust his targeting. I smiled and Amy started to push up, intent to roll me off. I was laughing. She was swatting the beach off her face.
"That was, sill--" I tried to laugh. I almost got to see the grumpy snark forming on her lips when the island erupted. This time we were chest to chest as we were slammed down to the ground. There were half a dozen large explosions. I pulled Amy's filter mask onto her nose and mouth. She ripped her goggles over eyes. I didn't stop squeezing her until I was certain the booms were my heartbeats and not more fireballs. The black and magenta cloud announced the end of our mission.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
Rosa Somers was opening up. She had been bookish and shy at the best of times. Her masters in biology, entomology, had been her refuge and escape. Now, as a doctoral candidate, she had found herself employed by Barrett and Marley. She opened up, bloomed. She evolved out of heavy sweaters and baggy trousers. She dressed smart. Form fitting jeans and nice blouses that she had barely even considered before her opportunity. Her confidence spiked. She had flirted with Derek, the shaggy smiling security guard. She gossiped with Erin, the HR representative and only other female employee her age. She even joined several other colleagues for drinks over a football game. She had been encouraged to ask stupid questions and get into the game. She was having more fun than she remembered in her life.
She still had her hair tied up in a utilitarian ponytail. That was more because the lab required a certain level of competence. She was dissecting a chimera, the colony had just exited their cocoons and she was curious to see if the resultant species was viable. The knock on her door startled her.
"Good morning," She said brightly. Her experiment was contained within a glass box, the wing nuts screwed on hand tight. She was brushing the sweat off her newly denuded hands on the skirt of her lab coat. The man at the door showed no displeasure in the wait or Rosa's unhurried approach.
"Good morning," He was a heavyset man just beginning his fifties. "How are things coming along?"
"Oh quite remarkably!" Rosa lit up and hurriedly led the man to her lab station. Picking up the clear plastic stylus from next to her tablet she proceeded to indicate the dragonfly in the small glass container. Her guest moved a magnifying glass on a triple jointed arm over her display. "The females are quite as my research indicated. Here we can see the gland is quite significantly enlarged. It has not adversely affected their locomotion or behavior but the males are quite beside themselves."
She illustrated the last point by turning her visitor towards a large terrarium. Inside several dragonflies were flitting about or resting on the greenery. These were the females. Flying in strange formations around each one were two to five males. Dozens of other male corpses lay scattered across the bottom. "Many of the females had to be removed. Too many females led to fights over the alpha females."
"What occurs in the presence of one alpha female?" He asked, nose beginning to fog up the glass. Rosa was ecstatic to see him sharing her enthusiasm.
"The beta males eventually kill the female rather than submit to the alpha males."
"Dangerous." He considered. "How does it perform with queen led colonies?"
"Chaos." Rosa said simply. The true explanation would take days to explain and she was quite aware that this man had read and reread every detailed sentence she had written on the subject.
"Excellent," He nodded and she smiled brightly, "You are doing fine work Ms Somers."
"It was all due to the opportunities you helped assure for me," Her gratitude was quite sincere, "I never would have approached this without your support, Dr Astaire."
"Never sell yourself short, young lady," He grinned, "You are perfect for what we need."
Rosa contained her spastic celebratory dance until Hannibal's footsteps could no longer be heard down the hall.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
The Escher-Gate hummed as it spat me out first. I had performed the exit a half hundred times by now yet I still had to skip and stumble before I could safely claim my feet. I staggered a half circle to the left hurrying out of the teleporter's mouth before Amy could follow. Her heavily reinforced satchel skidded down the sheet steel ramp as she lazily exited the tube by letting her momentum carry her into a lazy handstand. Once her legs were vertical, she split spread eagle, reasserted her verticality and then followed through the cartwheel and up onto her feet. Amy made it look easy.
Amy stretched out lazily. Her 5'11'' gymnast's body should have been over balanced by her breasts but she still moved like a leaf on a lazy breeze. She was pulling out the pigtails from her shoulder length blond waves. White sand and flakes of concrete tumbled onto the cave floor. She always tied her hair back in two tails on missions but never at home. She had legs and muscle to spare but had stopped looking like a fierce little tomboy years ago. Her filter mask hung like mine around her neck and she had pushed her 12N1 goggles up like a hairband. She wore a plain green military tank top down to her utility belt and a pair of khaki cargo pants with specialized pockets down into her augmented combat boots. She was peeling the hardy yet dextrous gloves off of her hands. They were missing the tips on the fingers and the palms were padded with some weave that you could only get through Great Justice. Strapped on her left upper arm was a hard plastic case, our emergency beacon, a concession we made to Great Justice in order to take advantage of their resources.
I was not quite as tall as Amy, and only after five years of heroing was I beginning to fill out at my shoulders. My gear was similar to Amy's, same filter mask (though my filter was center forward not left sideways), my goggles retreated into my ball cap and weren't strapped to my skull, My beacon was on my utility belt and my gloves were more for labor than for combat or precision work. I also carried a sealed launch tube over my left shoulder. It was designed to lob any of the grenades we carried or, with small adjustment, fire a grappling cable up to five times the distance of our pistol-grapnels. I also wore body armor and had a list of reasons to validate every heavy pound of it.
The Command Center was one Amy's father's old secret lairs. Its presence in Newgate Hill was a PR embarrassment that would never be declassified. Newgate Hill was actually built on the slope of an inactive volcano. However, down below in the caves, there were reliable geothermal vents that Peter Glasser had used to power his lair. It was a great big cave, with several offshoot chambers and a clean underground river. The area was lit by seven strategically placed stand lights that aimed up to the ceiling which had been cleared of needless stalactites and reinforced with steel beams. The computer bank and the biggest TV/monitor I had ever seen were placed opposite the Escher-Gate and next to the elevator that led up into Amy's living room. The left side of the room was outfitted with tools and meters I didn't understand and didn't touch without express instruction of our friend and tech wizard, Tim.