Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade
Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, mid-morning
Meredith sipped her second coffee of the day. I can't believe he left. An entire convention, and he's back in the freaking Yugo. She threaded through the crowd to get to the video room. He's missing out on so much. I mean, when was the last time any of these shows were on the air? It's been too long since Heroes of our Lives was last shown.
As she sat, her cell phone vibrated in her pocket. Meredith leapt at the unexpected disturbance. She fumbled to get the phone out. This better not be Mom. Meredith flipped open the phone. A text message appeared on the tiny screen asking her to put on the BIKINI's visor. Oh, for . . . Keith, this better be important.
Meredith left the room, heading to the women's washroom. She had to wait a minute for a stall to free up, but once inside, she grabbed the visor out of her pack. With practiced ease, she put on the device. "What?" she hissed.
"Took you long enough."
"What is it, Keith? Do you know what you pulled me away from?"
"The news is reporting two altered humans causing havoc not far from here."
"That's what the news said. 'Havoc'."
"Can't we just let the locals handle this?" Meredith pleaded.
"Cleveland doesn't have much other than its own police force. No known altered humans working for the side of the law. One known who is considered a nuisance. You may be it."
Meredith sighed. "Okay. Let me ditch my bag and clothes and I'll get right on it."
Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, mid-morning
Nasty ran into the large room used as both the Dealers' Room and the guests' autograph booths. Micki stood beside the Peregrine-cycle. A door at the back of the room was already open for Peregrine's egress. Without hesitating, Nasty climbed on to her motorcycle.
"Okay, update," Micki said. "So far, only two altereds have been spotted. Once is firing off some sort of energy blast. Pete saw it on the broadcast and thinks that it's similar to yours. It's the same colour, at least."
"What's the plan? Watch them or stop them?"
"Watch first. Find out if there's more. Then swoop in and do your thing."
Nasty started her motorcycle. The engine roared to life. "Got it." She eased the vehicle out of the Dealers' Room and into the hotel's parking lot. Once outside, Nasty opened the throttle, speeding through the parking lot and out on to the road. "Micki, are you there?"
"Affirmative, Peregrine. Stand by for directions."
Peregrine pulled to a stop at the side of the road, waiting for Micki to return. The motorcycle vibrated as the engine idled. I should have gone for a ride last night. This is what I needed.
Micki came back on the line with the directions for Nasty. The heroine gunned the engine, taking off in a jackrabbit start. She wove through traffic with ease, finding the Cleveland weekend traffic easier than rush hour in New York. A police cordon slowed Nasty down the brief moment it took for her to let them know she was Peregrine. A few blocks past that, she parked the bike and slipped off.
The sound of a panicked crowd came from ahead, followed by the crash of metal against metal. Beyond that, Nasty couldn't make out individual voices. She crept up the street, hugging as close to the buildings as possible. An alleyway opening offered a place to hide; Nasty took advantage and ducked into it. The commotion grew closer. Nasty retreated further into the shadows of the alley. A small mob ran past, fleeing something behind them. A purple beam gouged chunks of asphalt out of the road.
Well, fuck me. Figures it'd be someone who can fight at a distance. Nasty crouched like a cat ready to pounce.
Something made her look behind her. She spied a blue and pink blur zipping through the alley toward her and the entrance. /Great. Fairy Girl is here./ Nasty reached up with one hand and snagged the lilliputian girl around the waist. Bringing Pixie to her face, Nasty snarled, "What are you doing?"
"Helping?" Pixie answered. "Like you asked me to?"
Nasty let the girl go. "Wait."
"Why? There's two of them, two of us. We can take them."
"There might be more. I don't like an unfair fight when it's unfair to me. And how do you know there are two?"
"I flew over before I came down the alley. I didn't want to run into a dozen villains all by myself. Duh."
Nasty counted to five in Italian under her breath. "You're sure there are only two?"
"I saw two of them. I counted two of them. I even recounted; still two of them."
"Peregrine, who are you talking to?" Micki demanded over the radio.
"Hang on!" Nasty looked over at Pixie, her wings beating to keep her at eye level. "Wait. Okay, Foundation? I have help here. Pixie."
"From New York," Nasty explained. "The Youth Brigade."
"Damn it! Is it just her?"
"Yes." Nasty huffed. "Kinda busy here, have to go."
Pixie cocked her head to the side. Her blond hair cascaded over her shoulder. "Don't you hate it when people can't figure out when it's a bad time to talk."
Nasty glared at the diminutive figure. "Just get ready. On the count of three. One. Two." Before she could say, "Three," a silver streak crossed the skies overhead. "Oh, what the fuck now? Foundation, we have a problem."
Downtown Cleveland, mid-morning
Meredith zeroed in on the source of the disturbance. Keith kept up a running commentary of what he was seeing, something she was able to tune out as she worked on getting her visor to lock on to the correct coordinates. The BIKINI's force field flared blue from time to time as insects and air particulate brushed against it. "Keith, shush for a moment. I'm not getting the directions working here."
"What map do you have loaded?"
"What do you mean, what map?"
"The BIKINI's default map is Toronto. Have you changed it?"
"Are you trying to tell me that I've been trying to go down Spadina Avenue?"
"Wait a moment." The visor's head's-up display changed. "How's that?"
Meredith slowed down. "What happened?"
"I turned off the map. You still have the locator in red, right?"
"I do, yes. Wait, I get it. I can see it over on top of what I am seeing."
"Thanks!" Meredith increased her speed again. As she crested over a high rise building, she saw two older teens, both girls, one blond, one with red hair. The blond wore a black and green jumpsuit with a pink domino mask. The redhead wore a tight fitting black leather outfit that hugged her every curve; her actions, blasting anything that moved, left no doubt in Meredith's mind on what to do. "Contact! Engaging!"
Using gravity to add to her speed, Meredith performed a power dive. The wind rushed by her bare arms and legs, chilling her a little. The targeting scope locked on to the leather-clad troublemaker. Got you!
A fairy wearing a blue and pink jump suit appeared in front of Meredith, calling, "Wait!"
Meredith broke into a roll to avoid hitting the being. The targeting reticule disappeared from her head's up display as the lock broke. "What the hell?"
"Who are you?" the fairy demanded.
Meredith levelled herself off. "I could ask you that. What was the big idea getting in my way like that?"
The fairy bowed in mid-air. "Pixie. This is under control."
"Prototype Alpha. Never heard of you."
"I've never heard of you, either."
Meredith looked down at the altereds on the ground. The leather-clad one aimed an arm sheathed in purple energy skyward. Pushing Pixie aside, Meredith braced herself. A ray of purple energy smashed into the BIKINI's force field, pushing Meredith away several metres. She kicked in her ionic jets to fight against the kick. "This is control?" She dove down. On her descent, Meredith fired her ion bolts without waiting for a target lock. The bolts bracketed the red-haired villain, throwing up shards of asphalt into the air.
Downtown Cleveland, mid-morning
Nasty watched as the newcomer exchanged energy blasts with someone she couldn't see. "Micki."
"Yeah, yeah, Peregrine. FUBAR. Plan B is in effect."
"What the hell is Plan B?"
"You go in and hit everyone as hard as you can."
Nasty gave a feral smile. "I can live with that." She sprinted out of the alleyway, stopping dead in her tracks when she saw a duplicate of herself in a black leather corset and a pair of black leather pants. "Who the fuck do you think you are?"
The duplicate turned to face Nasty. "About time you showed up. I was getting bored."
Nasty powered up her fist. Purple energy crackled around her hand. "Let's go, bitch."
"Tori, handle these two for me, please? And call in Omega." Nasty's double turned her full attention on the latest arrival. "You, dear, need a lesson in manners. Not to mention some soap to wash out your mouth."
Nasty charged at her double, her arm cocked back and ready to strike. Her double stood ready, her arm glowing with the same energy surrounding Nasty's fist. Once Nasty covered half the distance between them, the double pointed her arm and fired. Nasty took the blast full in the chest. She flew down the street and landed, rolling along sidewalk. Nasty stood up. The front of her costume was blackened where the blast hit. Brushing herself off, she growled, "Lucky shot."
A blue bolt struck Nasty's double in the back, pushing her to the ground. A woman in a silver bikini swooped past, Pixie in her wake. "Need help?" the woman asked.
"Fuck. Foundation, there's a third around here somewhere!" Nasty ducked to let the flyers overhead. Seeing her double still getting up, she ran to try to get her.
The double got to her feet and fired wildly. Nasty twisted to avoid being hit, throwing herself off stride. "Three against one? A little unfair." The double snapped her fingers. "Tori? Are you ready to join in yet?"
"Coming!" The girl in black and green started growing, becoming larger and larger as Nasty watched in awe. By the time she was done, the girl stood almost three storeys tall. "Is this better, Natasha?"
"Excellent. Maybe we won't need Omega."
The woman in the silver bikini arced around. She aimed toward the taller girl. Ionic blasts erupted from her bracers, striking the grown girl along the legs and stomach. Tori cried in pain, then swung an oversized arm, just missing the woman. Pixie flew in under the overgrown girl's reach, circling around the limb. She released a silver dust that sparkled in the sunlight. The dust landed on her target's arm. Pixie pulled away, but got caught.
"What was that?" Tori asked, her voice booming off building walls.
"Pixie dust. You should be falling asleep in three . . . two . . . one." Pixie waited a moment. "Or, now."
"Let me guess, it doesn't work on you."
"How did you know that?"
Tori removed her overlarge domino mask. "Recognize me?" she started squeezing.
Nasty ignored the fight and concentrated on her duplicate. "You still haven't told me your name, bitch."
"Are you really this dense?" the double taunted. "I am you. Or you're me. We're each other, in any case. Call me Natasha, if you really want a name." She fired a blast up at the woman in the metal bikini. "However, I know every one of your tricks."
Nasty growled wordlessly and ran at Natasha. As the double brought her arm down in line with her, Nasty dove into a roll, letting the purple burst pass over her. She came out of the roll in front of Natasha. "Even that one?" She began swinging her fist.
Natasha ducked below the arc, bringing her left hand around. A quick purple flare sent Nasty into a wall. "Yes, even that one." She glanced up at the unknown woman. "I recognize your friend in Tori's grasp. Who is your new one?"
The woman in the silver bikini answered. "They call me Prototype Alpha." She fired an blue bolt down at Natasha, just missing her.
"Oh, good. Omega has a new toy."
"Where is Omega?"
A large metal man fell on top of Prototype Alpha, driving her into the road. "Here."
"About time you showed up. Care to help with the trash?"
Nasty pulled herself back up. "I'm not that easy to get rid of," she said. She spat some blood on to the ground. "Bring it, bitch!"
Natasha rolled her eyes. "This is getting tiresome."
Nasty stalked closer, anger blazing in her eyes, both hands crackling with purple energy. "Then give up, before I have to hurt you."
"Hurt me?" Natasha's laugh trilled. "You haven't laid a hand on me yet. Look around. Your little friend is ours now. Your metal exhibitionist is grounded. You should be giving up."
Prototype Alpha pushed herself off the ground, her force field a solid blue. "It takes more to stop me." She fired several blue bolts, hitting Omega dead centre on his torso.
A compartment opened on the metal figure's shoulder. The device turned until it was pointed at Prototype Alpha. "Let's try this." A dozen projectiles erupted from the device. Out of instinct, Alpha covered her head and face. The projectile bounced off Alpha's force field. "Hmm . . . designed to withstand bullets. Let's try something else." Omega raised an arm, a tube coming out of it.
"That wouldn't happen to be a railgun, would it?" Alpha tapped at a bracer. Six wires popped out of it, ionic energy charging up along them.
"It would." Omega fired. The steel ball accelerated along the length of the magnetic tube and flew straight at Alpha. She managed to get her shield only partially in place. The ball struck the ionic shield and ricocheted up at her head. The force field turned completely opaque before failing. Alpha fell to the ground.
"That's two down, Peregrine," Natasha gloated. "Give up."
Nasty grimaced with every step. Despite the padding, she was sure the last hit she took would leave a massive bruise. Still, she kept going. "Never." A few more steps. That's all she needed.
Natasha turned her back to Nasty. "Omega, could you deal with this? Non-lethal only, that's a dear."
Omega faced Nasty. Two darts flew from his chest and embedded themselves into Nasty's shoulder. She reached up to remove them, but dropped to her knees as the darts discharged electricity into her.
Parking lot, Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, mid-morning
Keith ran through the frequencies he programmed into the Powered BIKINI. "Alpha, come in. Alpha, respond. Mere, are you out there? Meredith!" He ignored a knock on his window. "Damn it, Meredith, answer me."
The knocking persisted. A woman's voice said, "Sir, please get out of the car."
Keith looked up. He rolled down the window. "I'm sorry, is there a problem?"
The woman showed him her ID badge. "Please, get out of the car now, sir."
Taking the badge, Keith read it. Micki Sinisis, of the American Eagle Foundation. "Can I help you?"
"You can help by getting out of the car."
Sighing, Keith did has he was asked. "Am I parking in the wrong place?"
"Follow me." Micki started walking to a green van parked near by. Keith followed. He whistled softly when she opened the door and revealed a bank of electronics. She let him in first, then followed, slamming the door shut behind her.
"Is something wrong?"
"I don't know," Micki said. "A metahuman attack occurred downtown, and here you are sending and receiving signals from the site of the battle. Not to mention that when we finally triangulate you, you're hiding in a Yugo. Care to explain?"
Keith shrugged. "Well, it was cheap, which was a good price because I had spent most of my money on the electronic equipment I wanted to install in it."
Micki arched her eyebrow. "What?"
"The Yugo. It was for sale dirt cheap. Sure, it needed some work, get the rust removed, be reupholstered, get an entirely new drive train--"
"I wasn't asking about . . . that's a Yugo? I shouldn't have knocked so hard."
"Everyone's a comedian."
"Sir, I was asking about the signals we picked up between you and the battle site."
"I work with Prototype Alpha. She was there, fighting. Are you the ones who cut off her radio signal?"
Micki nodded at one of the men dressed in dark blue suits. He began tapping at a keyboard. "Prototype Alpha, out of Toronto. Powersuit wearer."
"Toronto? A long way from home, aren't you?" Micki gave Keith a hard stare.
The young Canadian swallowed. "I was here for the convention. You know, the CHC? The one Peregrine is supposed to be at?"
"Then why aren't you in the convention and instead are out here?"
"It's a long story."
"I still have my patience."
Keith tried to get comfortable. "Should I start from leaving Toronto or from finding the breech between dimensions?"
The Foundation personnel shared looks between each other. "How did you know about the breech?"
"Sensors in the Yugo. I don't think the original factory would recognize it anymore."
"Pete, call Rochester and let them know what happened. You, kid, what's your name?"
"Keith. Keith, come with me. We've got a talk to do and it'll be far more comfortable inside."
Nasty woke up with a team of miniature jackhammers breaking through her skull. She winced from the headache. Her mouth felt dry. Her arms ached. She pulled on one, trying to bring it down to clear her eyes. A chain rattled, and her arm jerked.
Natasha flounced over to Meredith. "You, however, are an enigma. Here I was expecting Omega's counterpart and here you are. Omega, is this your counterpart?"
Keith edged into the conversation. "There is a way to detect the breech before it opens. There's all sorts of subatomic particles disrupted by the opening. Quirks and quarks apparently don't like being around a rip in the space-time continuum."