Sunday, August 19, 2018

44 : Team


“And with this, we are seeing the last of the accessible Doorways sealed away for good. All eleven Doorways, even those hovering over the oceans since the formation of New Gondwana, have been filled with concrete and sealed inside three-foot thick walls of solid steel. Some have been further protected by superhuman force fields. With this, the American States and Provinces completes its first cooperative effort with a foreign power since the United States’ ban from the UN six years ago.”

I only half paid attention to the television. I was currently at the rental home DSA had arranged for us, mulling over my options. Thankfully, the DSA had opted to not reveal my identity to the public. Officially, the Doctress was still considered dead, and the DSA was arranging for me to have a new identity. I would never need fear being hunted down again. I was expected to undergo counseling, but that was long overdue anyway.

As for what to do with myself now, well, I’ve had my fill of field work. I knew the others were planning for an excursion into New Gondwana, and I knew they’d ask me to come along. I was not feeling up for it. New Gondwana, from what Strider told us, was a fucking hell hole, with ten times the superhumans running around acting crazy than we had in the whole rest of the world. Hell, probably twenty or thirty times as many now, since they obliterated Cero’s army. I wanted no part of it, and I’d be useless on the mission anyway.

That wack-a-doo scientist Kismet had invited me to join her staff, so I could apply my powers to assisting her research. If nothing else, she said, my abilities could help further explore the possibilities of biological and chemical and medical progress for.

My first instinct was to say no. But the DSA knew what caused my sudden freak out last time. They knew better than to force me into something I don’t want to be a part of. So maybe I would take her up on her offer, as long as I could work on my own terms. Going on this little adventure made me realize that while I’m not eager to go back into the “beat the shit out of people” line of work, I’d gotten tired of wasting my life hiding in shitty apartments and working menial grunt jobs. I was time I started doing meaningful things again.

If it got to be too much, I could always quit and find something else to do. Worse came to worst, I could still take that year off and be a bear in the woods in Eurasia.

I reminded myself there were no more bears in the woods in Eurasia. There weren’t any mammals, period, except those being slowly reintroduced.

The rest of the world may have sealed away most of the Doorways, but New Gondwana had access to two more, and according to Strider, they were still actively using them. At some point, if they kept sending people into the arms of the Masters, one of those other worlds was going to send another person like Cero along, and they might complete her work. If I could have done something to prevent such a fate, even just provide a distraction at a critical moment, then I had no excuse not to try.

Damn it, Earth Mage. Somehow, you made me care again. If I ever manage to join you in an afterlife somewhere, I’m gunna sock you in the jaw.

They held a grand memorial for all the people, superhuman and human, slain by Cero’s machinations. America, the Pacific, and Europe each erected a monument to countries fallen champions in their nations’ capitals. All three countries also erected a statue of the Earth Mage to honor his contribution as the world’s first superhero and as the heroic martyr who led the charge to bring Cero to justice.

It was a shame Max-Out hadn’t gotten the same honors. We wouldn’t have made it this far if not for her, either. But she hadn’t had James’ iconic status, and according to Echo, she would have scoffed at the idea of being idolized like that anyway. At least she had a plaque on the monument right alongside those of the Super Fem Force.

Presently, I stood before James' statue now, a fifteen foot tall bronze replica, in the style that reminded me of the old Greek statues of great heroes and philosophers. I got the feeling that he would have been flattered, but probably embarrassed. He hadn’t seemed the type to truly crave glory and fame.

I couldn’t help but sad, looking up at his image. Not overwhelmingly so; what few tears I had left, I’d shed after the fight with Glorifica. But I still felt that little pang in my chest, wondering what could have been, if only I could have defeated her before it was too late.

I hadn’t known him for more than a few days, and our alliance had formed under dubious terms, but I missed him. I wouldn’t have minded being his sidekick for a bit longer. Maybe it was just a silly fantasy, but I could just imagine us being a crime fighting duo, our powers working in tandem so well.

More over, I admired what he stood for. Even if he said he wasn’t very good at it, he at least had taken his great power and done some good with it right off the bat. He’d stuck to that choice to try and be a hero, and hadn’t let anything deviate him.

I like to think that, in another life, one where I hadn’t met with the worst sort of people immediately after exiting the Doorway, maybe I could have been a hero from the beginning.

But now he was gone, and it was up to us to carry on his legacy. It was up to me to set things right, in his name, and in mine, whatever name I chose to use.

So, I was officially a bounty hunter for the DSA now. It wasn’t like being an SFF or Stiletto member, but it still made me feel almost as sick. Echo even vouched for me, the kill-crazy bitch. I knew she only did it so she could keep me under her influence, make me feel both indebted to her, while also making sure I knew I was under America’s watchful eye. She couldn’t fool me.

Still, I had to begrudgingly admit, it was better to be able to work in an official capacity than have to constantly operate in the shadows and fear being discovered and captured by the authorities and the criminals. As a bounty hunter, I was still given a fair amount of freedom, it just meant I had to answer to my new superiors after every incident. Make too much of a mess, and I could find my status revoked. I had to play nicer now.

Of course, with the Supervillain Epidemic now finished, there likely wouldn’t be too many more cases where I’d have to throw myself at other wacko superhumans way out of my league. I could continue my work against the still-persisting cartels, and this time with Mexico’s police force directly aiding me. I guess it wasn’t so bad.

I still wanted to punch Echo in the face. Maybe next time I got the chance to possess a male super as fast and strong as her, I’d zip over and belt her one just for good measure.

I didn’t want to go on their little suicide mission. I had to agree with Shoggoth, this was so far out of my depth, I had no business going anywhere near it. It was a miracle I’d even survived the Earth Mage’s mission against the Villain Maker.

True, I’d told Strider I’d help her save the world. As far as I was concerned, I’d done so. Cero was dead, the Supervillain Epidemic was over, the ASP was even starting to finally make nice with Europe and the Pacific again. New Gondwana could rot, for all I cared. It was time to go back to fixing up the problems in my own country. There were plenty of other, more powerful superhumans that Echo could recruit for this mission. If anything, I’d probably just get in the way.


Ah, who did I think I was kidding? A woman like me likes to see things through to the end. If I was still nipping at the heels of the cartels after all these years, I’d never forgive myself if I just walked away from this.

I was a bit surprised that Hitchhiker and Shoggoth wanted to come with us after all. I had figured they’d want to sit this one out, being something of an almost-certain suicide mission. Bringer of Dawn had insisted on coming as well, but I wasn’t comfortable working with someone still so young. Powerful as his energy effects were, the kid had never struck me as a combatant, and certainly not a trained one.

Where brute force had failed, we would attack with stealth and speed. Strider to get us where we needed to go, Hitchhiker and Shoggoth to infiltrate and capture key targets, and myself to attack those whom the others couldn’t.

Our plan was to use the mind-control device to get Kilika, Ojau, Xyla, and Yrba on our side. With the four strongest lynchpins under our control, we would be able to shut down the Great Shield, eliminate the other Queens, and possibly even restore the continents to their original position. Even if it meant causing their empire to collapse in on itself and cause a period of chaos, we could at least begin the process of freeing those trapped within from a fate of either death or sacrifice to the Doorways.

If we failed, it would be up to my remaining former Stilettos, and what was left of the European and Pacific forces, to find another way.


1 comment:

  1. Ah, okay, that makes sense, the final realignment of the Earth is at hand. It'll be easier said than done, but at least Cero's technology might ensure the survival of the Earth itself.

    At least, I hope so.