The two girls grappled, trying to push each other to the ground. Bystanders stood back, watching the battle, avoiding being caught up in it. One of the girls, a tall brunette, threw a wild punch over the head of her opponent, a Vietnamese girl who easily ducked. The tinier girl rushed the brunette, catching her off balance and bowled her to the ground. They landed with a thud and a crack. The brunette winced with pain and clutched her elbow.
"Cut!" Cynthia rushed on the stage. "Move back!"
"Christine, are you okay? I'm so sorry." The Vietnamese girl scrambled to her feet. "Christine?"
Christine sat up, still cradling her arm. "I'm fine, Somei. Just cracked my funny bone, that's all."
"You're sure?" Cynthia asked. She checked the time. "Let's call it a day here. Em, can you take Chris to the nurse?"
Emily nodded, then led Christine off stage. Somei followed, worried. Cynthia watched the rest of the drama club disperse. One she was alone onstage, she looked up at the lighting rig and shrugged.
Nasty sighed. Anne better appreciate this. She climbed down from the rafters. Out of habit, she reached to brush her hands on her jeans. Fuck. I hate this uniform. Nasty waved her hands in the air, not sure what to do with them.
"Jess? Are you down yet?" Cynthia called.
Keep your fucking skirt on. Nasty walked out on stage. "Yes?"
Cynthia rested her hand on her hip. "Your opinion?" she prompted.
"I hope I don't run into them in a dark alley. I might laugh to death."
"That isn't fair. Christine and Somei worked hard on that scene. They've been waiting to show it to the rest of the cast."
"What were they trying to do, have a pillow fight? Cynthia, if you want to make Macbeth --"
"Jess! It's 'The Scottish Play'! What are you trying to do, jinx us?"
Not this stupid superstition again. "If you want to make 'The Scottish Play' believable in this year, that fight has to look real. No one's going to believe that those two are going to kill each other, even if they do."
"You're right," Cynthia admitted. "Work with them."
"Work with Christine and Somei with their fight. Surely you've been in a fight before."
Don't blow her off, Natasha. You're supposed to find out what she's up to. "I have, yes. You?"
"Who hasn't?" Cynthia patted Nasty's back. "It just wouldn't do to sully Em's and my images with the idea that we can fight. You, well, you don't have a rep to maintain. Not yet. Besides, work with me and who knows how far you'll go here and elsewhere. Trust me, Jess."
As far as I can throw you and your sister. Nasty checked her watch. "My ride's waiting for me."
"I'll walk you out." Cynthia wrapped her arm around Nasty's shoulders, leading her off the stage. "I shouldn't tell you this, but Em and I have something planned for this weekend at the football game. You have to come out to see it."
Snow on the football field gently reflected the light from street lamps. The only sound came from a motorcycle rolling to a stop. Nasty cut the engine and rolled to a stop. I don't get it. Why would Cinder and Ember attack a high school football game? Who would pay attention? Hell, given some of the people at Fieldson, they could be paid to burn the place down with those bitches in it.
Nasty slid off the Peregrine-cycle. She brushed a few snowflakes off her costume. At least I'm warm. Eagle's designer is on the ball. She looked around. No one's going to sneak around tonight. It'd be easier to break in during the day.
A short whoop of a siren caught her attention. A police cruiser stopped behind her. The officer stepped out of the car. "It's you," he said.
"Yes, it's me," Nasty replied.
"You're wasting your time Peregrine. A task force has been watching ever since the Mayor got that video. Take the night off."
"Thanks." Nasty sighed. I could've done homework tonight.
The cop's radio squawked. "All units near Jefferson, be on the lookout for two metahumans. They are in a brown Ford van, last seen heading east."
The officer jumped into his cruiser. "That's close by. Want to join?"
"Damn straight!" Nasty got on the Peregrine-cycle and started the motor. She followed the police car away from the field. "Anyone at the Foundation?" she radioed.
"Peregrine, is that you?" a male voice answered.
"Yeah. You know about the alties?"
"Eagle's en route. Be careful Peregrine. We don't have any information on them yet."
"Understood." Nasty broke the connection. She gunned the engine. About time there's action. Ahead, the cruiser's lights turned on. Nasty felt her heart rate speed up.
"Peregrine, I'm patching in the police band." A hiss of static popped over Nasty's radio.
"Suspects have turned on to Elm."
The cruiser stopped at an intersection. Nasty pulled up beside. The cop rolled down the window. "They're heading this way."
Nasty nodded. She set her foot on the snow-covered pavement. The wind ruffled her hair, sending a chill down her spine. In the distance, she saw flashing red and blue lights approaching. Sirens grew louder. With an effort of will, Nasty kept from racing towards the chase.
The pursuit roared past. A Ford Econoline led three police cars, one of which showed damage to its grill. Nasty gunned her engine and joined the chase. She wove the Peregrine-cycle past the cruisers. The van veered across the sidewalk and into a park. Nasty bounced her motorcycle over the curb. The bike wobbled but Nasty kept it upright.
The van returned to the street. Nasty braced herself for the impact as she followed. Behind her, one of the cruisers hit a patch of ice and spun out of control. Fuck this. I can take them. Nasty pulled alongside the van and pounded on the side. "Pull over right now, asshole!" The driver looked at her, then accelerated. Nasty scowled under her helmet. She kept pace with the van. "I told you to pull over!" The driver cut Nasty off, forcing her to swerve and brake. "Shit!" The girl manhandled her motorcycle back on course.
The back doors of the van exploded. The remaining cruisers avoided the debris. A costumed man stood in the wreckage, one hand crackling with electricity, the other holding on to the frame. He extended his glowing hand at a police car. A bolt of lightning flew out, enveloping the cruiser with actinic light. The car's lights burst in a shower of sparks.
"Peregrine, language," the Foundation's monitor admonished.
"One of them just shot lightning!"
"Help is on its way. Be careful."
"Yeah, right." Nasty focused on the van. The suspect's hand charged up, growing brighter. Nasty opened the Peregrine-cycle's throttle full. She launched herself off the bike into the van, bowling over the costumed thug. Scrambling to her feet, she kicked out, catching the crook on the knee. He yelped. "I told you, pull over," Nasty snarled.
The opponents watched each other warily, powering up their fists. Nasty shouldered the thug, driving him into the van's wall. He struggled to shove Nasty away. She slammed her head into his. As he fell, Nasty kneed him in the gut. Turning her attention to the driver, she ordered, "Stop this fucking van right fucking now!"
"Not when we have a hostage," Nasty heard behind her. She whirled around. The costumed thug rose to his feet. "The last Peregrine was never stupid enough to jump into a villain's van alone."
"And you're too stupid to stay down." Nasty swung. The thug dodged, the charge building in his hand.
"You'll never defeat Shock!"
Nasty threw a jab, hitting Shock in the chest. A purple light flared, sending the costumed thug out the back. Turning, Nasty said, "One down. You're next."
"Stop. The. Van!"
The van jerked. Nasty thrust out a hand to steady herself. The engine roared. Outside, lampposts appeared to shrink. The driver opened the door, then looked down. Nasty grabbed his shoulder. "You're not going anywhere." She noticed the ground further below the van than she expected. "What the hell?"
The van landed a few hundred yards with a soft bounce. Nasty shoved her captive out the door, then jumped to the ground herself. She hauled the driver to his feet. "Don't move," Nasty growled.
"Good work, Peregrine!" Eagle stepped out from behind the van. Under his arm, he carried Shock. "You caught the miscreants."
Nasty manhandled the driver to face Eagle. "What do you want done with him?" she asked.
"The police will take care of him. They have a unit coming to take both suspects in. You should go back to the Foundation."
Good. I'm going to need some sleep to deal with class tomorrow. Nasty turned away from Eagle. Several blocks away, her motorcycle rested on its side, its front fork bent. "Shit." Nasty walked over to the wreckage and knelt beside it. "Fuck." She turned around. "Eagle, I need . . .." Her voice trailed off as she saw the hero flying away. She slammed her fist on the wrecked motorcycle.
A police officer knelt down beside Nasty. "That's going to take a lot of work," he remarked.
"No sh-- No kidding." Nasty removed her helmnet. "I can't ride that." She stood up and kicked the Peregrine-cycle.
"I'll drive you back," the cop offered. "Help me get your bike in the trunk."
"Thanks." Nasty helped the officer maneuver the wreck, then slipped into the cruiser. She took a deep breath. This day sucked. I just want a shower and my bed. She didn't notice when the cop got in.
A short drive later, the cruiser arrived at the Foundation. Nasty guided the officer to the loading dock where they dumped the motorcycle. Thanking the cop again, Nasty walked inside. A night supervisor let her know that he'd take care of the bike. Grateful, Nasty went down to Peregrine's garage.
The elevator doors opened to the lit garage. Anne stood inside, waiting. Nasty removed her cowl. "The bike's a mess; the cops have the thieves; and I'm tired."
"Your day's not over yet," Anne said.
"I am not fixing the Peregrine-cycle tonight."
"We have to talk. Go get changed."
Nasty bit back her reply. She walked into the locker room, stripped out of her costume, and put on her street clothes. I don't need a lecture tonight. I just want to go to bed. Nasty returned to the garage. "I'm ready."
Anne led Nasty to the parking lot and to her car. Inside the vehicle, Anne said, "Don't worry about the motorcycle; we have spare parts. You will be fixing it, though not tonight. It's your language, Jessica."
Feeling her cheeks grow red, she slumped in her seat. Fuck. She shook her head. "I can explain."
"I don't want explanations, Jessica. I want you to watch your language when you're Peregrine. The Foundation has an image to uphold. You have to be careful, especially when you have an open mike."
"Alright, I'll watch my language."
Anne shook her head. "I need more than that."
"I'll watch my language, f--" Nasty cut herself off. "I'll watch my language. I promise."
Anne pulled into the apartment building's lot. "Go rest," she said. "You had a long night."
Nasty smiled. "Thanks."
"Is Peregrine Subject 13?"
"Confirmed. Similar abilities and power readings. Both paranormals were arrested."
"Can we be traced through them?"
"Not at all. They were more interested in the money."
"Good. Keep me informed."
[End Issue 25]
Next: The search continues.