Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade
Parking lot, Hank Cheetas, Cleveland, evening
Nasty watched as the Cleveland police SWAT team swarmed over the parking lot. She looked down at her injured arm. "Mom's going to kill me." She rested her head on the metal of the car's hood. "This was my favourite shirt, too." With her right hand, she tried to fix the tears on her t-shirt. Seeing that part of her bra was still visible, she folded her right arm over the hole.
"Tash?" Eric ran out of the restaurant. "Tash, where are you? Are you okay?"
"Over here!" Nasty winced at the effort.
Eric ran over and crouched by Nasty's side. "Tash, are you okay?"
Nasty forced a smile. "I think so."
"What's wrong with your arm?" Eric glanced at the limb hanging at an odd angle.
"I think it's dislocated. But I'm fine. Really. Really really."
"No, you're not. Tash, you're in shock."
"Eric, I've been hurt worse."
Eric stood up. "I need some help here!"
"Eric, I don't--"
"Yes, you do, Tash." He crouched back down. "I saw what happened to you. You went through a glass window."
"I've been in fights before. Nothing's broken." Nasty reached out to Eric, not touching him. Her hand shook.
Eric took her hand into both of his. "Tash, you're trembling. Your hands are cold."
"That's the adrenaline wearing off. Help me up."
"No, Tash. Stay there."
"Eric, please, help me up."
"Tash, please, stay where you are. For me."
Nasty looked into Eric's eyes and saw his concern. "Okay. For you." She smiled.
"Did you mean it, back at the beginning?"
"That I'm your boyfriend?"
Nasty's cheeks turned red. "That. I didn't mean to impose, Eric. I was upset that she was there all over you and I didn't want her to hurt you and it's not just something you're really supposed to say without talking to you but I didn't want her doing anything to you and I should've asked you before I said anything because we haven't even been dating or anything but it's something that I . . . I really wish you were. My boyfriend."
Eric smiled. "Okay."
"What do you mean, 'okay'?"
"I'll be your boyfriend if you'll be my girlfriend. I didn't know how to bring it up with you. I didn't want to scare you off or anything."
"I didn't want to scare you."
Micki arrived to join the two young adults. "Can we deal with the teen soap after Natasha has gone to the hospital?"
Both Nasty and Eric blushed. Eric stood up and stepped aside to let the paramedics in. The paramedics immobilized Nasty's arm and helped her lie face down on the stretcher. "Micki, can you let Mom know that I'm okay? She's going to be upset if she sees me on the news before anyone tells her what happened."
"I'll call her. I'll need to debrief you about what happened here once you're released." Micki turned to the paramedics. "How does it look?"
"I'm not supposed to diagnose, ma'am," the paramedic said. "I'm not a doctor."
"In your opinion, then?"
"The young lady is lucky to be alive from what I saw. Dislocated arm, numerous cuts on her back, bruises. They'll want to X-ray her at the hospital to see if there's any internal damage."
Micki handed the paramedic some paperwork. "Show the doctors this. The Eagle Foundation has permission to act has her legal guardian. The doctors can do what they can to help Natasha unless she protests." The liaison turned her attention to Nasty. "Don't protest, okay? I'll meet you at the hospital."
Meredith touched down near the stretcher. "You okay, Tasha?"
"Yeah. I just need my arm adjusted. Nothing broken." The paramedics excused themselves and rolled the injured heroine to the awaiting ambulance.
Meredith looked over to Micki. "Is she okay?"
"I don't know." Micki shrugged. "She's tough, but I don't know if she's tougher than a van. What the hell was she thinking?"
"That I was in danger." Eric joined the group. "She doesn't know that I know this, but I've heard about the fights she got into before she started at our school. She said that those were worse."
Micki looked doubtful. "Maybe. I'll go deal with the press then the hospital administration. Go find Pixie, then all of you, go relax. You, too, Eric. I'll call you from the hospital when there's news." She returned to her car.
Vicki walked over. "Where's Peregrine?"
"On her way to the hospital. Micki gave us the green light to go." Meredith hooked her thumb at the City Center Hotel. "Want to go back to the hotel and soak in the hot tub there?"
"Thanks, but I better get back there before my dad does. He's going to wonder where I am soon." Vicki shrunk and flew off into the night.
"What about you, Eric?"
"Thanks, but I just want to go back to my room and watch some TV. Might be safer for you, too. Tash was pissed when she stormed into the restaurant."
"Keith and I can give you a lift back."
Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, night
Vicki locked the door to the bathroom and stripped out of her costume as she started the shower. Meredith's hot tub invitation sounded so tempting to her, but she wanted to see her dad first. She stepped into the hot shower and let the heat seep into her aching muscles. 'It's different without the team there. I hope the fight made national news. They have to see it for themselves.'
With the sweat of the fight washed off, Vicki shut off the water and towelled herself dry. She slipped into her comfortable pajamas. A knock came from the door. "Vicki, are you there?"
Vicki stuffed her Pixie costume to the bottom of her backpack. "I'm here, Dad!" She finished dressing, then came out of the bathroom. "What's up?"
Richard turned on the TV and started flipping through the channels. "You should have seen it. Huge fight at a restaurant near here. Your sort of thing, with energy blasts and giants."
"And I missed it?" Vicki flopped down on her bed.
"I'm trying to find it on the news. Ah, here we go." Richard stopped at a news report. The scene showed a reporter live at the site of the battle, waving at all the collateral damage. "They really got into it. One of the heroes got thrown through a plate glass window."
Vicki winced in sympathy for Nasty. "Ow. That had to hurt. Why were the bad guys there?"
Richard shrugged. "They're not sure. Two were asleep when the SWAT team got there. The third was crying about a broken leg as they took her away."
"Do they know which heroes where there?" Vicki turned up the TV's volume.
"No idea. I got some photos, but they didn't turn out too well. They kept moving all over the place."
On the television, the reporter said, "Details are still conflicting. The Eagle Foundation's spokeswoman, Micki Sinisis, said that her agency is still investigating and more will be known once Peregrine is out of the hospital. The identities of the villains in tonight's fight are still unknown. However, I've been told by a man attending the Cleveland Hero Convention that one of the heroes in the fight was Prototype Alpha, a Canadian hero based in Toronto."
Vicki folded her arms in disgust. Oh, sure, the Canadian gets recognized.
The scene switched to split screen, with the anchorman on the right and the reporter on the left. "I'm getting word here that the other heroine is from the New York group called the Youth Brigade. Unfortunately, we don't have a file photo of her because of her size. She uses the code name Pixie."
Vicki's mood flip-flopped. 'There. Recognition. Too bad I'm so small as a hero.'
Richard looked over at his daughter. "Pixie? I wonder what she's doing here."
"Maybe she wanted to see the con?" Vicki shrugged.
"I'll bet her family doesn't know she's here. In fact, I'll bet they'll be very upset with her when she gets home for taking off like that."
"Dad, she could be here with her family."
Richard humphed. "What sort of parents wouldn't know where their daughter was at all times? Really, Vicki, give me some credit here."
Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, night
Meredith pulled her keycard out as the elevator doors opened. She stepped out, followed by Keith. Down the hall, at their hotel room door, a young woman wearing a tank top and a pair of faded jeans sat against the wall. "I don't believe this." Meredith spun on her heel to face Keith. "How did Boob Girl there know where our room was?"
"She asked me."
"What is she doing there?"
"I don't know. Want me to ask?"
Meredith shook her head. "I think she wants you to ask. I don't want to know." She started back toward the elevator.
"Mere, aren't you going to get your bathing suit?"
"Keith, think for a moment. Is your new friend going to be at all happy that I'm with you?" Meredith gave Keith an encouraging push toward the room. "Go talk to her. Just leave the 'Do Not Disturb' sign out while she's there." She stabbed the call button. "I'll go wander for a bit. Don't worry about."
Keith shrugged. "Alright, Mere." He walked down the hall to the room.
The elevator door opened. Meredith stepped inside. 'He could have at least protested.' The lift stopped on the main floor. Meredith got out and started walking through the halls, peeking in at the different events. Nothing interested her.
Near her, two young men hunched over a digital camera. One said, "I've got my laptop in my room. I'm sure I can stream it to the TV."
"Great! I'll get the others and find a store for some snacks. They're going to be amazed!"
Meredith edged over. "What's that?"
"I recorded that altie fight at Hank Cheetas! Man, they really went at it." He looked up at Meredith. "Want to come up and see?"
"Sure! Want me to get anything?"
"If you want." He gave Meredith his room number. "Be there in ten minutes, okay?"
Meredith watched the young man run off. Who needs a silly old hot tub anyway?
"Will madam be giddy all day?"
"About time you're up, Vicki. I saw you on the news."
"You are too adorable for words. I'll see you for breakfast."