The north side crowd booed as the yellow flag dropped to the ground. On the field, the teams broke apart, watching the referee pace out the penalty. Up in the stands, Nasty shifted in her seat. The costume's too damned hot hit under this jacket. She took off her gloves, shoving them into her pockets.
"The refs have it in for us today," Christine complained. "We never did anything."
Nasty shrugged. She scanned the crowd. Rusty waved at her from the east end zone bleachers. Nasty returned the wave.
"Pay no mind to her," Cynthia said. "Enjoy the game."
The boy beside Nasty wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "I can keep you warm if you want."
"Don’t Jess and Jonathon make a cute couple?" Emily asked.
Nasty slipped out of Jonathon's hold. We are not a couple, damn it.
"Me and anyone would be cute," Jonathon said.
"Em, we better go," Cynthia said. "Five minutes before halftime."
Emily stood up. "I was wondering when you'd give the word." Her sister made a face at the comment.
"Do you need any help?" Nasty asked.
Cynthia shook her head. "You just stay here and be amazed." She and her twin left.
Jonathon took Nasty's hand into his. "Come, sit closer. We can enjoy the show together."
Like hell we will. Nasty reclaimed her hand and got up. "Nature calls," she explained. Ignoring Jonathon's protests, she picked her way past the other spectators in her row. I am going to kill him if he paws at me again. Nasty shook her head. She walked into the stadium concourse. A crowd of people wearing a mix of Fieldson and Lincoln letter jackets swarmed past her. Nasty grumbled. Damn it, lost her. I can't believe it. She headed for the concession stand. Time for a Coke.
At the stand, Nasty only had to wait behind a couple more interested in each other than the menu. Shooting them a glare as they left, Nasty stepped up to the counter. "Large Coke," she ordered.
"All we have is Pepsi," the attendant said. "Is that okay?"
"I guess." Nasty shrugged. That makes it official. This mission is torture. She paid for her drink and stepped away from the stand. I don't want to go back. I don't want to be here. Fuck, I just want to go home. At least there, I don't have to make nice to anybody. Nasty sipped her drink. Ugh! Flat Pepsi.
Screams of terror erupted from the crowd. Nasty dashed to the gate. Before she could enter, a gout of flame spiralled through, scorching the concrete. "Thank you for your attention," a familiar voice said. "Don't try leaving. My sister is more than capable of burning you before you can take a step."
Fuck! Son of a bitch! Nasty peeked around the corner. She saw several classmates sitting, but couldn't see the field. Time for Peregrine. Tossing away her flat soft drink, Nasty crept away from the corner, then ran to the washroom. Inside, Nasty locked herself inside a stall. She looked underneath the dividers and saw no other pair of feet. Raising her left wrist to her mouth, she pressed a button on her watch. "This is Peregrine," she said. "They're at the field."
"Peregrine, this is Base. Eagle is on his way. Keep them busy but be careful."
"Okay. Anything else?"
"Don't get hit. Base out."
Nasty released her watch. Smart ass. She started unzipping her jacket. I am so going to enjoy smacking them around. The pain these two have put me through. Nasty pulled off her sweater, revealing the top half of her Peregrine costume. All the hassle of the past week. She slipped out of her jeans and adjusted her boots. The headache of Fieldson. Nasty pulled her cowl over her head. Those bitches are mine.
Nasty emerged from the washroom, a feral grin on her face. Classmates cowered along the wall and on the floor. As she stepped forward, a long burst of flame roared by. Several people whimpered. "Get out of here!" Nasty shouted.
One girl looked over at her. "What about the fire?"
"I'll handle that. You just get your ass out of here." The burst of flame passed by again, its heat causing Nasty to sweat under her costume. "Now, go!"
As the frightened teenagers ran towards the exit, Nasty raced into the stands. Cinder and Ember glanced up, letting their fiery burst die. "Look, sis," one of them started, "Peregrine's here."
"Excellent!" the other exclaimed. She waved at Nasty. "Peregrine, come and play with us!"
Heads turned towards Nasty. "Peregrine!" one person shouted. Other voices followed, turning the name into a chant. "Peregrine! Peregrine!"
A wave of fire washed over the stands. The crowd ducked, cutting off the chant. "Hello? Villainesses at work here," Cinder said.
"A little respect would be nice," Ember added. She turned to address Nasty. "So, Peregrine, where's Eagle?"
"Don't tell me you two broke up already."
"I was so hoping to see both of you here."
"Though you did get here quickly."
Ember turned to her sister. "Do you think Peregrine was waiting for us?"
"Shut up!" Nasty roared. She stomped down to the field.
"Rude much?" Cinder remarked as she gave Nasty a dirty look.
Nasty leapt over the rail and on to the field. "It's over."
The twins smiled. "Wanna bet, Peregrine?" Ember purred. She held her arms out, pointing them at Nasty. A bolt of fire erupted from her hands and sped towards her target.
Nasty dove, landing on her side. Pushing herself up, Nasty glowered at Ember. "That was your free shot."
Ember maintained the flaming stream. Cinder traced a pattern in the air. Nasty looked over her shoulder. The flames matched Cinder's movements, then rushed at Peregrine. "Shit!" Nasty swore. She rolled to the side, landing on her back. Nasty closed her eyes. She felt the heat of the flames pass over her.
Cinder continued her dance, Ember's fire matching her, motion by motion. Nasty scrambled to her feet. Forced by the flame to keep low, she tried to get closer to the twins. Obvious openings soon filled with the travelling conflagration. Nasty pulled back, sweat pouring uncomfortable down her back. This is bullshit. I have to stop the flames. She looked around while dodging. Nothing. I wish I had that Pepsi. It'd be useful . . . Aha! Nasty charged at Cinder.
As Nasty expected, Cinder redirected the flames at her. She switched course towards the sidelines. "What's wrong, Peregrine?" Ember called. "Had enough?"
Nasty dove over the players' bench, landing in piled up snow. She grabbed a handful and packed it into a ball. Pushing herself to her knees, Nasty hurled the snowball at Ember. Cinder redirected the flames to intercept the icy missile. The snowball melted.
"Really now, Peregrine," Ember said. "A snowball?"
"Eagle must be desperate," Cinder added.
Nasty made a second snowball, throwing it this time at Cinder. Her twin easily melted it in flight. "Peregrine, snow doesn't do well against fire."
Nasty threw another, back at Ember. Fire met the snowball, vaporizing it; however, the rock embedded in it did not. Instead, it struck Ember on the cheek.
"You bitch!" Ember snarled. The flame bolt died as she covered her face.
Nasty charged across the field, powering her fist with a purple glow. "Em, watch out!" Cinder cried. Ember looked up in time to see Peregrine lashing out at her. Nasty struck. Ember flew several feet before landing hard on the ground. She rolled several times, ending face down.
Nasty faced Cinder. "Give up."
"You hit her! You hit her, you bitch!"
"Give up," Nasty repeated. She took a menacing step towards Cinder.
The crowd roared and restarted their chant. Cinder gestured at several burning fires, causing them to reach to the sky. "Shut up!" Cinder yelled. "All of you, shut up!" She turned back to Nasty. "As for you, Peregrine," Cinder walked around Nasty, never looking away, "no one hurts my sister and gets away with it, bitch."
"Come get some," Nasty growled.
Cinder mimed throwing with first her right hand, then her left. Small fires erupted, arching towards Nasty. Nasty dodged both, but lost sight of the remaining twin. She glanced around, ready to avoid incoming flames. Spotting Cinder climbing into the stands, Nasty grumbled, "Fuck this." She ran after the disappearing villainess.
The crowd parted, letting Nasty get to the concourse easily. She stopped and looked around. Where the fuck did she go? "Get out here and fight!"
The concession attendant poked his head up from behind the counter. "Someone went into the office." He pointed at an open door. "Over there."
Nasty nodded, then crept to the door. She heard someone moving on the other side. Gotcha! Nasty kicked open the door. A redheaded girl scurried towards the desk. "Get back here!" Nasty ordered. I knew it!
"Peregrine!" the girl exclaimed. "Em, it's Peregrine!"
An identical head emerged from under the desk. "Peregrine!"
Both are here? Then . . . crap! Nasty looked from one girl to the other. "Are you two okay?"
"I think so," Cynthia said.
"Good. Did you see a girl in costume come through here?"
Emily pointed at a broken window. "That way."
Nasty nodded. "Stay put." She ran to the window and looked outside. She saw Cinder sprinting across the parking lot. "Shit!" Nasty climbed out and dropped to the ground. As she dashed after the feeling Cinder, Nasty raised her wrist communicator to her mouth. "Peregrine to Base."
"This is Base. Go ahead."
"When is Eagle getting here?"
"ETA is five minutes. What's your status?"
"I'm chasing one of them now. The other's on the football field."
"Roger. Ambulances are on their way as well. Anything else needed?"
"Fire trucks?" Nasty suggested.
"Standing by for the all clear."
"Good. Peregrine out." Nasty doubled her pace.
Ahead, Cinder made an abrupt turn towards the stadium. She leapt on the chain link fence. Nasty adjusted her course. Cinder reached the top of the fence and jumped down on the other side. She continued running, heading back to the field.
Nasty swore. She arrived at the fence. Fuck climbing this. She powered her hand. This worked when I was in that coffin. Nasty touched the fence with her glowing hand. The purple glow exploded, bursting open the chain-link. Nasty slipped through the hole she had made.
"Peregrine!" Cinder called. Nasty turned in the direction of the voice. Three flames rushed at her from over Cinder's shoulders. "My sister better not be dead!"
Nasty dove flat on the ground. The concrete in front of her nose shattered, sending charred chunks into her face and shoulders. Debris rained on her back. She pushed herself up.
Cinder darted in, kicking. Nasty tried rolling out of the way, but the kick landed on her arm. In response, Nasty reached for Cinder's other leg. The twin fell backwards. "Stay down," Nasty growled.
Cinder scuttled backwards, flailing with her feet. "Fuck you!"
Nasty covered her face with one arm, trying to grab one of Cinder's legs with the other. Cinder landed glancing blows on Peregrine's head and arms. Nasty rolled aside, coming up crouching. A couple of yards away, Cinder lay sprawled on her back. "There's nowhere to go," Nasty stated.
"No one has ever taken us in, Peregrine." Cinder thrust her arm straight up. Flames throughout the stadium shot into the sky. "You won't be the first." The flames arced towards each other, intertwining and combining.
Nasty looked up at the fiery mass. It writhed, shifting into a huge bird. "Oh, shit," Nasty mouthed. The bird screamed soundlessly, then descended in a steep dive. Nasty leapt to the side. The flaming creature followed. Its heat forced Nasty to turn away. She covered her head.
Fire exploded all around Nasty. After a few moments, she noticed the its heat never touched her. Opening her eyes, she saw a blue field protecting her.
Cinder gasped. "Eagle!" She got to her feet. The fires returned to normal; the bird dissipated.
"Oh no, you don't." Nasty chased after Cinder, tackling her. Nasty knelt on the girl's back. "Give me a reason."
"I give up! I give up!" Cinder rested her head on the ground.
Eagle landed in front of Nasty. "Good work, Peregrine," he boomed. "Where is her sister?"
"On the football field." Nasty stood up. "Want me to get her?"
"The police can handle that. We need to get everyone out."
"Is that your job or mine?"
Eagle laughed. "They're your age."
"Right." Nasty sighed. She returned to the stands. "I don't need this," she muttered.
A roar erupted from the crowd when Nasty stepped out of the passageway. The redhead staggered under the enthusiasm. People came up, patting her on the back and shoulders. Nasty made her way through the crowd and on to the field. She glanced at where she left Ember. Several teenagers, including Rusty, stood around the inert body. "Is she still out?" Nasty asked, shouting over the din of the crowd.
Rusty returned a thumbs-up. "No problems here," she reported.
Nasty turned back to the crowd. She held up her hands, trying to quieten the crowd. "People, can I get your attention?" The crowd kept cheering. "People, hello?" Nasty grumbled, "Idiots." She let her hand charge up.
"Shut up!" a voice boomed over the public address system. The crowd's voice fell to a murmur. "Here," Rusty said as she handed a microphone to Nasty.
Nasty let the energy drain from her fist. "Thanks." She tapped the mike twice. "Okay, guys, I want you to leave the stadium. Don't run; don't push, okay? The danger's over and if any of you need an ambulance, it'll be here soon." The crowd cheered. Several people started chanting Peregrine's name. "Go, already." Nasty switched off the microphone. She walked over to Ember's still form. "How is she?"
"Alive," one of the guys said. "She might have a broken rib."
"Did you really get her sister?"
"Eagle did. I'm here to get everyone out of here." Nasty took a quick look over at the stands. "That means you, too," she called to the stragglers. "Go!" She turned back to Rusty. "You better go, too."
"Alright. What about the people on the concourse?"
"Eagle and the police are handling them."
"One more thing."
Nasty resisted the urge to sigh. Rusty, just get out of here already. "What is it?"
"Can I get your autograph?"
"I, um . . . " What the fuck do I say? "I don't have a pen on me. No pockets."
"Oh, not right now," Rusty said. "Anne Hathaway – you must know her, right? – she can pass the autograph to her daughter Jess."
"Um, sure." Nasty felt a wave of relief. "Who should I make it out to?"
"Just Rusty is fine."
Several police officers kitted in body armour and riot helmets arrived. "Is everything secure?" one of the officers asked.
Nasty nudged Ember with her toe. "Looks like it."
"You can go, then. Headquarters will want your statements and Eagles." The officer addressed Rusty's group. "You all can go home. We'll be in touch with the schools if we have to contact you."
"I've sent the videotape via courier, Boss," Subject Two said. "That's definitely our girl."
"The tape will show that?" the Coordinator asked.
"Subject 13 sent Cinder a few yards with that energy punch. Or was it Ember she sent flying?"
"It doesn't matter, Two. They're interchangeable nuisances."
"Nuisances that most heroes can't handle. Our girl won by not fighting on their terms."
"I'll get Seven to analyse the fighting style. Thirteen won't be able to hide in the Foundation's shadow for long."
Nasty opened the apartment door in time to hear the phone ring. She ran to pick it up. "Hello? Oh, hi Rusty. No, I just got in." Nasty shifted the phone to her other ear. "Yeah, I saw. No, I got pinned down while getting a drink." She leaned against the wall. "A bunch of us ran out when the fires died down. I saw Eagle coming in, though." Nasty shrugged to herself. "They what? Well, obviously I'm not. I can't; Mom has some chores for me to do. I'll see you Monday, then. Bye." Nasty hung up the phone, then slumped against the wall.
"Hi, Jess," Anne said as she knocked on the door. "Everything okay?"
"Yeah, just exhausted. I wasn't expecting the third degree."
Anne entered, shutting the door behind her. "Standard procedure. You'll go through it in cases like today's. Don't worry about it." She leaned against the wall beside Nasty. "So, what are you not?"
"Huh? Oh, Rusty was telling me about a rumour going around."
"It didn't have you as Peregrine, did it?"
Nasty shook her head. "Worse. I'm supposed to be one of the pyro twins."
"I see." Anne laughed. "Go freshen up. "I'll prepare dinner."
"I can do that," Nasty protested. "You don't have to trouble yourself."
"I want to. Besides, Jess, you've had a busy day."
Nasty shrugged. "Thanks, Anne." She disappeared into her room where she divested herself of her jacket and boots. As she rubbed her feet, she thought, At least I'm done with Fieldson. I don't have to do homework. I don't have to do that fucking art project. And I don't have to deal with Cynthia or Emily ever again! She flopped back on her bed and stared at the ceiling. I just need time for myself. No one else making demands, just me and whatever I want to do. I should take advantage of living on my own. Nasty took off her socks and wriggled her toes. I should get Rusty that autograph, though. It's not her fault the rest of her class are assholes.
Anne called from the door, "Are you decent?" Hearing Nasty's affirmative, she let herself in. "The steaks are marinating. I just wanted to ask your opinion about the mission, if you want."
"Sure, I guess."
"Okay. Don't take any of this personally. It was your first mission as Peregrine and you'll have learned a lot from what happened."
Nasty raised an eyebrow. "Alright."
"Is there anything you think you would have done differently in your investigation?"
"Not sure. I should have cleared Emily and Cinder sooner. I don't know how, though. Maybe get closer, but they annoyed the piss out of me." Nasty saw Anne's expression. "Right, language. They annoyed me, though."
"I got caught up in the routine at the school, doing homework and joining clubs and all that. That took away from the investigation."
"Was there anything you enjoyed?"
"I liked patrolling, being out there. Same with being at the game today. I felt useful. Which reminds me, Rusty wants an autograph."
"I'll talk to Eagle."
Anne laughed. "You've got a fan club."
Nasty blushed. "I just have to get it to her somehow. My mission's done, remember?"
"That's something else I want to talk to you about."
[End Issue 28]
Next issue: Nasty's next mission.