Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Meta Corps: Dream of the Youth (Part 17) (Finale)

  Chapter 28

             Sarra passed over the ocean, fully cognizant and very grumpy after being tasked with finding out where Clive had gone. An hour had passed since Clive was detained, and Sarras on-the-spot plot for revenge had been thwarted by both a now-telepathic moron, and her own sister. She figured that finding a chunk of ice would not be that hard, but it was far more difficult than she would have liked. Sarra thought of the search as a metaphor for how Clive was more experienced than she was, not just in hiding, but also in fighting skills, trickery, and overall being an EnWol. This made her even grumpier.
 Sarra headed back to shore, swearing her nonexistent lungs out. She passed over the several twisted freight ships, unaware of the sphere of melting ice that had wedged itself between a pier and an oil tanker on that late afternoon September day.
 Dr. Garner walked with a low slump to his back and a shuffle as he was escorted into the back seat of a police car. His shield had faded away completely. Anne Redford floated nearby and watched him. She couldn’t help but feel sorry to see him go. Garner looked up at her, his face drooping and tender. Anne fought her tears, but the effort was for naught. She said good bye to her best friend and flew away.
 “Alright,” Juno said; a computer tablet in hand. “These data says that Anne’s power ascended into absurd levels without any lasting effects. Levan, having been a dope by trying to save her, actually succeeded and gained some of her power. Because Anne held so much of her ballooned power and with Levan’s copying ability, Levan’s gain of Anne’s power is permanent since there was so much for her to give.”
 Levan nodded.
 “Precisely. Whatever that means.”
 Juno made a sarcastic laugh, sounding not unlike a goat.
 “You’re cute, now, what eludes us all is: One: how did Clive get himself to split into independent parts when every single post-human EnWol can only operate in one-one synchronicity when split. Two: why was the odd, ethereal tone that reportedly came from Levan so effective? And three: how in the name of Gaia’s womb did you, sir, with your reputation, make such a deduction right on the spot that you did not know would work at all?”
 Juno pointed at Levan, her finger inches from his nose. He leaned back and put his hands up, his stretching power gone.
 “Lady Juno, I am as unfathomably unsound as you. To paraphrase, the solutions to the problem stem from the ether and abruptly disembark from my thought process. I cannot express sufficient regret for my absentminded predicament. In short, I find the circumstances incalculable.”
 Juno sighed and threw her upper body on the console, her arms supporting her.
“I don’t know if you know what you’re talking about or not.”
 Florence walked up.
 “Maybe we need to regroup and talk to Bronson about the... odd behavior and give time for Levan to gather his thoughts.”
 Juno held her hand up and dropped it, signifying her lack of decision. Florence tilted her head to emphasize her order.
 “Go home, Levan, we’ll let you know when we need you. I’m not sure if Juno wants to test you out or not.”
 Levan frowned and left without a word.
 Anne floated up and watched him go. The heroes could tell that she felt a little better after seeing Dr. Garner go.
 “He’s pretty silly.”
 Florence sighed and put her hand on Anne’s shoulder.
 “Not as silly as he looks.”

             Lora and Tench roamed the cave, trying to find out where Morgan had gone. The cave remained a monument in the rubble as the only sign that anyone had been there at all.
 Tench knocked a few times on the structure.
 “Behold the cave of junk; a great mystery that was built long ago by the same civilization that built Stonehenge, the pyramids, the Easter Island idols, and of course, Fred King on the news channel.” Tench said.
 Lora giggled.
 “No kidding!”
 Tench shared the laugh and walked over to where Lora had said Morgan was last seen. There was a slight, human sized depression in the burnt and wet grass. He shrugged.
 “I might be way off on this, Pink, but I’m pretty sure that she escaped.”
 Lora frowned.
 “Is that bad? I mean, are there ways to track her down?”
 Tench shook his head.
 “Not really, but you know, you wouldn’t believe how often bad guys get away. It happens all the time. The good part is that they usually come back to do another dastardly deed and we nab them then.
 One of the things that Florence teaches new heroes is that small battles have to be lost to win the war. We lost this bogey and Clive, but we’ll get them next time.”
 Lora looked away, remembering what Morgan had told her. About her decisions hurting others, and finding only loneliness in a world full of people. Lora bit her lip and her heart shuddered.
 Tench frowned and gently took her chin.
 “What’s wrong? We saved the day and kept everyone from suffering a permanent relocation to toy land. Who cares that the bad guys escaped today? We all know that they’ll be back, and we’ll be stronger than ever when they do.”
 Lora looked up at Tench and thanked him with a smile. She didn’t want to burden her with her worry, and felt that it would bring him down.
 Tench backed off and leapt into the air, hovering a few feet up.
 “Hey, let’s report in and get that arm patched up. You never know too, we might be able to talk Bronson into fixing up that patch for you too, an EnWol ex machina, if you will.”
 Lora laughed and jumped into the air.
 “Awesome! Let’s go. I don’t want this to get infected.”
 The two sped off back to Meta Corps and into the sunset.

                               Chapter 29

             The wound had blossomed into something terrible, and Lora was its victim. She and Tench hovered down the hallway leading to Bronson’s lab with hope that he had worked out the error with the gauntlets.
  “That’s good, stay airborne; it won’t jostle it as much.” Tench said. Lora held her arm just below the slash with an iron grip; she was trying not to cry.
“It’s alright. Bronson knows you’re coming. If this works, it will be better than any surgery, Lora. Trust me.”
Lora sniffed hard and nodded with a grimace.
Sarra leaned on the wall outside of Bronson’s door, eyeing her sister and Tench.
  “For pity’s sake, Sarra,” said Tench. “Can you help us?”
Tench and Lora stopped outside the door.
“I want to talk to you alone.” Sarra said.
“What?” Tench and Lora said simultaneously.
“What on earth are you­—” Tench started. Sarra assumed full height and jerked her head toward the door.
“Send her in and we’ll talk.”
Tench glared at Sarra and started to growl. Lora put her hand on Tench’s shoulder and gave a small smile.
“Sarra’s a good guy, Andy. I’ll be fine.” Lora’s face soured and she hissed as she went in.
“Lora! Okay, I have some food for you; you’re going to need it to help regenerate yourself for that wound. It won’t work otherwise.” Bronson said before the door shut.
Tench approached Sarra, who sunk back into the wall.
“Blast you, Sarra, what is so important that—”
“I have a hunch about you that says you’ll be around a while, around Lora.” Sarra said.
Tench blinked.
“What? Sarra, what do you mean?”
“Oh you two, lovey-dovey on the first day with similar power sets and ambitions. You’re the same person with different hair lengths.”
Tench’s brow furrowed.
“You want to assume there’s a relationship because of that? This is what’s keeping me from helping Bronson in there?”
Sarra walked up to him and forced his attention on her.
“Hey turkey, my hunch is pretty strong, and it says that there’s a possibility for disappointment between you and Lora. Listen to me; I don’t want you to fuck around with her, I’m serious. Do not disappoint her, or I’ll kick you in the teeth. Got that?”
Sarra’s face was inches from Tench; her message started to sink in. Tench stood tall and he took a breath.
“All the truth serums on the planet would make me say the same thing. I don’t have plans to, and I never will. Trust me.” He smiled again, but it was overflowing with serious intent. Sarra saw it as being cocky and shoved him.
“Look flyboy, I’m a good guy with no tolerance for anyone’s stupid bullshit, especially from the bad guys and dumbass heroes. Think about this; I’m a nasty bitch, but all the things that I’ve done to pick on Lora are nothing against some compatible looking boy breaking her heart.”
Tench deflated. He frowned and took a step back. He licked his lip and nodded.
“Yeah…” He said, barely above a whisper.
Sarra stretched her arm out to the doors sensor and it rolled open.
“Great minds gestate in the same pod. Don’t be the rotten end.”
Tench nodded and headed inside.
 “Great Gaia’s Ghosts, that’s a good one!” Bronson said as he hovered near Lora’s shoulder. Her suit stretched out over her wound to expose the injury. Lora’s shoulder was spilt open, deep enough to burn white hot, but shallow enough so that it did not hit a major artery.
Tench grabbed a first aid kit and worked to clean the wound. He took over from holding the suit from Bronson.
 “I didn’t know that the suit was a weave that allowed bleeding through.” He said with a slight waver in his voice.
 Bronson shook his head and flew back to the controls.
 “I guess that Lora expected it to be like that on a subconscious level.”
 Tench wiped the blood away and leaned in to study it.
 “I gotta say though that it looks a lot like a pomegranate.” He said.
 Lora squeaked and her face paled. Tench grimaced and held his hand up.
 “Sorry, sorry. I’ll stop making comparisons.”
 Lora whined.
 Bronson called back as he fiddled with his computer.
 “I found out the problem after you left, but I haven’t had time to implement it since Juno had asked for help with the afternoon’s debacle.”
 Tench smiled.
 “Oh yeah? What was up?”
 Bronson worked on fixing his mistake as he talked about it.
 “In section 85,634-B, I forgot to put in some particular values pertaining to human fingernails. The system knew that something logical went there, but it wasn’t pulling anything from the data buffer, and instead of letting our Lora here sprout very thin strands of intestines when she recovered from an injury,” Bronson paused to let Lora express how disgusted she was. “Instead of, well, that or some other horror, the machine knew that that was not right at all, and came to a full stop. Everything bottlenecked from that and thus the system overheated. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.”
Tench was taken aback.
 Sarra entered the room and stood nearby. She changed from her costume to her civilian clothes consisting of some jeans and a black top.
 Tench glanced over. He turned away to ignore her, but decided against it.
“Hi Sarra.” He said. Sarra ignored him.
She stretched her neck out to look at her sisters wound.
 “Sick.” She croaked.
 Bronson finished the code and saved it to the flash drive. He turned around and saw Sarra.
 “Oh, good. I was about to call you in. Fork over the gauntlets, we’re going to try this again.”
 Sarra took her gauntlets off and Tench took Lora’s off. Lora was whimpering, her shoulder panicking liberally. Bronson took the gauntlets from Sarra and Tench and set them up.
“I still think that there’s a snuff film hidden behind all this.” Sarra said.
 “Please hurry…” Lora said softly, quiet sobs erupted from her. Tench went back to stand with her.
 Sarra crossed her arms as Bronson loaded the machine.
 “Don’t worry; you’ll be back to being Dr. Lora Lessbleeder in no time at all.” Sarra said.
 Tench looked back at Sarra, his eyes were half closed.
 “No one likes a smartass, Sarra.” He said in a hushed tone.
 Sarra stared at him and felt very cold all of a sudden. Images of her father sprang to her mind. She pointed at him, her closed fist facing up.
 “Dude, that’s frickin scary.”
 Tench shrugged, misunderstanding her.
 “Nah, I was already the guinea pig for these things and that code here and there. Bronson’s just going to put the new stuff in and send you two off. That’s all.”
 Tench looked at the gauntlets in their chamber. They sparked up and interacted with each other, looking normal.
 Bronson studied the sparks and nodded with a smile.
 “It’ll work now, supposedly, just remember to take the gauntlets off when a battle’s over. Of course, when Lora gets them back, there should be no trace of her injury.”
 Sarra snorted, dismissing the eerie comparison between Tench and her father.
 “With how she got that injury in the first place, I would think that she would either have her arm ripped off,” Sarra was interrupted by Lora’s squeak. Sarra held her finger up and raised her voice a little bit, to be heard over her sister.
 “Or, I think that she would have been killed right there.”
 Tench nodded.
 “Well, it’s good that this is the only thing that happened. A dead Pink Lemon fresh into her first day would hurt our reliability, trust and by extension, both Meta Corps funding and stocks.”
 Sarra nodded.
 “I don’t doubt it.”
“Where would we be then?” Tench asked.
 “Overrun by a paranoid sociopathic meta dictator.” Sarra said.
 Tench nodded.
 “Yep, that’s exactly right. No one wants that to happen again.”
 Sarra glanced at him and then scoffed and rolled her eyes.
 Within a few minutes, the gauntlets had completed their new upgrade. Bronson removed them from the chamber and floated up to present them.
 “Alright, each lady gets two cheap and disgusting microwave burritos. Dig in.”
 “Diarrhea in a tortilla. Yummy.” Sarra said. She hooked her gauntlets back on and they resumed sharing Sarra’s fluidity.
 Tench carefully slid Lora’s suit back up her shoulder. She gasped and flinched.
 “Isn’t it going to get infected if you do that?” Lora asked.
Tench shook his head.
 “It won’t matter if Bronson’s upgrade works. I’m being baby soft, so it shouldn’t hurt that much.”
 Tench took the gauntlets from Bronson and put them on Lora. There was an odd whirring noise, and then Lora burst with a thin pulse of light. A stronger glow came from the gauntlets, and scanned her body up and down several times. With each pass to her shoulder, the bloodstain diminished, leaving no trace behind.
 “Hah, it’s working!” Bronson yelled.
 As if on cue from the exclamation, the scan stopped and Lora’s glow subsided. She hovered an inch or two off the ground and rubbed her arm.
 “It should be fine.” Bronson said.
 Lora patted her shoulder, waited for a reaction, and smiled.
 “Oh it is, Mr. Bronson. Thank you.”
 Bronson nodded.
 “You’re welcome. Just be careful on the field.”
 Lora went up to hug him and she giggled.
 “Oh, hey, you bet.”
 Lora backed away and studied her formally hurt arm.
 “I don’t feel any different though...”
“Well, you shouldn’t.” Bronson said. “It should work on a normal basis, I mean, the worst that could happen is that you turn into some kind of shapeless goop.”
 Everyone laughed and Bronson gave Lora a wink.
 “On a normal basis?” Sarra asked with a raised eyebrow.
 Bronson wrinkled his nose, an odd sight since he appeared to lack the protrusion of one in the first place.
 “Or it will work every single time, all I’m saying is that neither Lora nor her heroic ascendants should have to worry about getting hurt from a lack of elasticity.” Bronson paused. “That’s why the EnWol transformation is there in the first place.” He chopped his hand with each word.
 Lora nodded, understanding why there was a transformation.
Tench cleared his throat.
 “Bronson, while we were in the toy land back there, the scene shifted to one of Clive’s memories, particularly how he became EnWol.”
 Bronson nodded.
 “An incorrectly overclocked EnWol. He had the sand that I was threatened to forge in 1970, and consumed enough for forty; I knew that. The silver sand became the sand of time, lost in its new namesake because we could not find it in the remains of Max Doom’s stronghold.” Bronson pointed at the women. “History lesson.”
Tench held his black gloved finger up.
 “A-ha, but there’s more. We found out that the sand was given to Sergei Slade.”
 Bronson’s eyes widened.
 “No. No way, man. If Slade had the sand than he would have an EnWol army that would have attacked Meta Corps by ‘75, I bet. It’s not his style to just sit on something that powerful for,” he blew a curt raspberry, “forty years.”
 Tench shrugged.
 “That’s what I saw, and Clive reacted pretty strongly to it. I think that what we saw was true.”
 Bronson nodded.
 “Could be.”
 Lora floated up.
 “Excuse me, but who is Sergei Slade? I know that he was there when I got the gauntlets, but I didn’t know much about him.”
 Bronson looked at her and laughed.
 “You were in Costa Mesa? Okay, that makes sense. Slade must think that he needs the gauntlets to enable the elasticity. We’re lucky that you got them in that explosion instead of him.
Anyway, Lora, the Russian born Sergei Slade is an extremely elusive weapons industrialist with a fondness for, in his own words, ‘what can hurt the most.’ He’s a master at hiding, so this search may be very difficult.”
 “So, getting the sand back is going to be impossible then?” Sarra asked.
 Bronson shook his head.
 “I don’t know; we’ll have to find Slade first. I just wish that I could converge the sand that Sarra has into both chambers on all four gauntlets, but there’s a different system for each and there’s no compatibility. What got the previous EnWol in Lora’s place up and running was that I had a small reserve that I thought would last a lot longer than it did. A lot longer. Slades reserve is the mother lode, ready to be converted and assigned to each chamber for when the gauntlets run out. Otherwise it converts unceremoniously.”
 Sarra crossed her arms.
 “How do we find the panzer sucker then?”
 Tench glared at her, trying not to laugh. Bronson shook his head.
 “I have no idea. I’ll take it up with Florence and Clark and see what they say. There’s not much that we can do about it now. Thanks Tench, that will help us out significantly.”
 They said their good byes, and went their own ways. Lora and Tench stayed together and talked as they roamed the underground waterfall.
 “So, how did you like your first day, Pink?” Tench asked. Lora watched the waterfall and frowned.
 “I don’t know yet. I had a friend back in Orange County named Cindy. She was a stretcher too, like Rachel. I think that the EnWol elasticity makes Cindy look like a tight little hair bow next to a glass of water. The idea of Sarra being like that, and myself before today, was a little daunting.”
 Lora sighed and rubbed her arm.
 “It’s just sort of yucky, I’ve told everyone that.”
 Tench nodded, and Lora continued.
 “Cindy also said something about how… how I’m submissive and always do what I’m asked. She thinks that I’ll get in trouble because of it.”
 Tench smiled.
 “Well, it can’t be blind yes’s, you’re smart enough to say no when someone asks if you can swim around in toxic filth, jump off a cliff, or put on some strange gauntlets and become some kind of silver goop.”
 Lora chuckled.
 “Oh, you quit it. Cindy said that I’m too passive and agreeable. I could see it a little, but her advice was that if my conscience says that saying no feels right than I should say no. Before that, I just pushed it aside and tried to please whoever was requesting my help.”
 Tench frowned.
 “I’m sorry, Lora, I don’t see your point. All I can figure is that Sarra enjoyed your time for all the wrong reasons.”
 Lora swept herself in front of Tench and stopped him.
 “Oh, she did, but… Andy, my conscience said no to being a Pink Lemon because I’m afraid that I might hurt someone, or get hurt myself.” Lora rubbed her arm where her gash used to be.
 “The problem is that a lot, a lot of people have relied on EnWol to run out and save the day, to be an idol, and now Sarra and I are next. I don’t want to let them down by screwing up.”
 Lora started walking again.
 “My first day opened my eyes to how heroes really operate. Violence, cruelty for selfish reasons, I was kicked in the stomach repeatedly.”
 Tench’s eyes widened.
 “Really? Wow!”
 Lora nodded.
 “Yeah, it wasn’t fun.”
 “I’ll bet.”
 “Yeah. Being a hero is grittier than I could have ever imagined, Andy. My first day’s opinions… well, I don’t know…”
 Lora’s hand shielded the side of her face opposite Tench, as if she did not want to be seen.
 Tench shrugged.
 “Well, you know, Lora, not all heroes and villains reflect the reality in The Little Squirts. Do you believe everything that this rubber Cindy says about you?”
 Lora rubbed Tench’s arm.
 “She’s a good friend to laugh and shop with, but, well, she’s a little challenged sometimes.”
 “A little dumb?” Tench asked.
 Lora made a noise of disapproval.
 “That’s okay, not everyone can be Juno Osbourne. Listen, it sounds like she means well, but frankly, this is your decision, Lora. If you’re worried about hurting people and letting your fans down on the first day, I would stick with it, see if it gets better. If you’re still here a month, a year, two, three years and you still feel like that then hey, by all means, quit. Take the gauntlets and leave them in a park, someone will find them, and become the next Pink Lemon, or Dazzling Blaze, or whatever they want to be called. Give it some time, okay?”
 Lora smiled.
 “Okay.” She held up her hand. “I think that I need some more practice with my powers.”
 Tench laughed.
 “Yeah a little bit. I could tell that you were on the ball with your reflexes, but your ice was a little wild. Here, come here.”
Tench walked over to the waterfall. He sat at a ledge and twirled his finger over the still water. He glanced at Lora.
 “Copy me.”
 Tench dipped his fingertip in the water and swished it around. Lora copied him. They made a frozen base that sunk to the bottom. The two added to the base and molded a thorn that broke the surface and curved in on itself. It was held steady by the base. Lora’s fell forward.
 “Oh! Oh no!” Lora held it straight up and tried to balance it.
 “Let it go, it’s alright.” Tench said. Lora ignored him and supported the base with some new ice. It tipped to the side, but it remained stable. She looked at him and chuckled nervously. Tench nodded with approval.
 “That’s pretty good; much better than some guys that could do that since they were born.”
 Lora tried to stabilize the tilted sculpture.
 “Oh really? That’s cool.”
 Tench cut his hand through the air.
 Lora giggled.
 Tench rubbed Lora’s shoulder and looked at the twin ice hooks.
 “Lora, listen. Do you need practice with the ice? No, I don’t think so. That’s bullcrap. Are you brave, yes, I would say so. I was impressed with your wanting to defend your sister, but it’s good to remember that she can no longer get hurt. Most EnWol have to have that driven into their heads.” Tench said.
Lora looked at him.
“Well, I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing. Even after I escaped the vortex, I flew right back in to save both you and Sarra.”
Tench whistled.
“Really? I’m impressed. That took guts.” Tench patted Lora’s back.
Lora started to laugh.
“Aw, thank you.” Lora said.
Tench nodded.
“That’s a really good quality, Lora. Facing the odds when they are against you and persisting anyway. It’s just the kind of person you are. You persist because it’s the right thing to do, and I think that’s very heroic.”
Lora smiled and felt her delight grow. Her fear washed away with the realization, and Lora felt the world tumble from her shoulders. She held her cheeks and giggled.
Tench laughed.
“Hey, I’m glad that you liked that. For every good, there’s a bad though, and I want to look at some first day jitters that you had...”
Lora nodded.
“Go right ahead.”
Tench blew air from puffed cheeks.
“I noticed that you had a little bit of hesitation. This is bad, Lora, a small delay can kill you. That’s it. This happened when Clive showed up, when Sarra was interrogating that one innocent, and, although I can barely blame you for it, you’re passing out at Clive turning into a nightmare.
I can see that you’re a passive person. Yes, it’s apparent that you took self-defense courses, but I’m afraid that you might not fight back for fear of hurting the assailant.”
Lora sighed.
“I…. I’m trying not to worry about it.”
Tench nodded.
“Well, if you do fight, why not use your passive nature instead of trying to run? Instead of trading blows, why not sneak in some attacks while defending yourself?”
Lora smiled.
“I was trained by my sempai to defend myself over attacking. That’s what we paid for.”
Tench shrugged.
“Hey, it’s different now, Lora. Florence wanted equality between metas and humans and taking some self-defense classes did it. We’ll see if you can be shown how to be offensive. Defending yourself all the time though, that’s the polar opposite of what Sarra would do. You saw her with Clive.”
Lora frowned.
“Yeah, poor Sarra. I’ve never seen her panic like that before.”
Tench curled his lip and shook his head.
“I don’t know about Sarra. After what Florence told us about how she reacted to orders, I have a suspicion that she might go rogue. I think that we both know what a rogue EnWol can do as of today.”
Lora nodded.
“Oh boy, no doubt. I don’t think that Sarra would do that kind of thing though. She’s very particular in her ways.”
Tench sneered.
“I don’t know. I have a bad feeling about her, Pink.
Anyway, I want to make another point about your first day, and it regards your flying. Using your ice gives you a better degree of control when out of control. I’m not sure if you’re immune to the cold like I am, but when I’m flying and I lose it like you did, I create a huge slide.”
 Tench made a dramatic U shape with his arm and a wide candy cane like shape that was made of ice appeared over the water. Tench took a hold of it before it sunk and showed it to Lora. She proceeded to run her fingers across the inside rim. She giggled.
 “Ooo, that’s fun.”
 Tench nodded.
 “Yeah, during peace time they are. These take a lot of practice to create and they have saved my life more times than I can count out on the field. I shoot a burst of ice at a surface at an angle, and bring the slippery side to me. This way, if it doesn’t break first, I fly off into another direction where I can have the opportunity to regain control.
Just don’t overdo it. I’ve passed out maybe once or twice from blowing out too much ice. You can’t regain control when you feel like you’ve blown too much air into a bunch of balloons.”
 Lora smiled and looked at the small-scale slide with more interest.
 “Man, Andy, you know a lot about this stuff.”
 Tench chuckled.
 “Not really, the ice powered EnWol can run rings around me. These are just some tricks that I learned.”
 Lora held his shoulder.
 “Yes you do know a lot about having ice powers. More than I do, anyway. These are really wonderful ideas and I really think that you should get them out there.”
 Tench shook his head.
 “They’re just little things.”
 Lora grabbed his chin and looked at him with a hopeful smile. His face went slack and his heart beat faster.
 “Can you show me then, please? My ice cream man?”
 Tench’s grin grew wide. He shook his head.
 “Sure Pink Sugar. Where do you want to start?”

To be continued…

If you would like the whole book, a souvenir of the experience, check it out at Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/87111 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Meta Corps: Dream of the Youth (Part 16)

  Chapter 26

             Tench was too dizzy to make out anything coherent, as he spiraled to the earth. Florence flew up right beside him, finding herself in the same situation as before. She matched Tench’s velocity, grabbed hold of him by hoisting him over her shoulder, and swooped off, leaving his stomach behind. This jolted Tench awake and he got a look at his savior.
 “Again?” He shouted.
 “My hero.” Florence retorted.
 Tench rolled his eyes.
 “Okay, stop, stop. I’m fine.”
 Florence slowed to a hover, and Tench got off. He floated across from her.
 “Dang, what happened?”
 Florence looked away, trying to locate the enemy.
 “Clive smacked you upside the head and took Anne that way with Sarra not far behind.”
“How are we going to stop her?” Tench asked.
 Florence crossed her arms and smiled.
 “Well Andrew, tell me how would you put a stop to me if I went rogue?”
 Tench paused for a moment, and then chuckled.
 “Well, with ice, obviously.”
 Florence nodded and stretched her arm to pat him on the shoulder.
 “Good. If that’s the solution, then let’s go flank him.”
 Florence flew off, her pink hair billowing, and Tench followed along.

             Sarra could have sworn that Clive went into the previously empty lot. Piles and spreads of buildings, heavy machinery, tools, raw materials and cars filled the area like a dusty attic. Sarra snaked and oozed through the several loads and up with nothing.
 “Dammit, how can Clive hide some girl in a pile like this?”
 Sarra was getting mad. She knew that it was not good for her, but she believed in acting on revenge as soon as possible. With Sarra being the newbie hero, and Clive a villain since 1958, that set the challenge bar for Sarra far, far too high, and it was frustrating her to no end.
 “Come out you slimy fuck. I’ve got some calcium chloride for you to rot in…”
 Sarra peeked around a corner, and heard a scream that came from her right. She undulated over without hesitation. Sarra looked around the corner, to see her sister fall to the ground in the mouth of a cave.

                               Chapter 27

             Lora hit the ground, hard. Her lightheadedness cleared up enough to allow pain into her awareness. She gripped her arm and squealed. Her shoulder burned white hot. Lora looked up to see someone kicking her in the stomach, casing a comparatively dull pain.
 “Stop please—!” She squeaked.
 “No! I must finish my research! For many years, I have wanted to take my revenge for this curse on us all, and I have never been this close! The calm project must be set in motion immediately!” The woman shouted.
Lora could not think straight. She tried to get up.
 “Morgan, she’s down!” A male voice yelled.
 Morgan kicked Lora in the head to keep her from getting up, and her vision faded in the corners. Suddenly, the spikes of pain stopped and Morgan felt to Lora’s eye level. Lora moaned and looked away.
 “Chill the fuck out, woman! My sister didn’t have the luxury of being EnWol.”
 Sarra stood on top of Morgan, disregarding her. Morgan moaned and yelped.
 “Can you get up?” Sarra asked, slightly uninterested. Lora held her hand up and nodded, a very sour look gracing her face. She retched and went on her hands and knees. Sarra looked toward the rear of the cave.
 “If I were you, I would knock this whore’s block off when I got the chance. At least Clive wouldn’t have killed me. Remember to fight back, too Lora. Grow some ovaries.”
 Lora retched again in reply.
 “Get off of me!” Morgan ordered.
 Sarra stretched her neck down.
 “You cram it!”
 Morgan looked at her, shocked.
 “How dare you?”
 There was a yelp of frustration in the back, keeping Sarra from retorting farther. Anne flew out of the cave with a flying yellow noodle chasing her. Sarra watched Anne leave, and timed herself so that her entire torso wedged itself in with the cave. Clive’s arm passed right through Sarra’s torso, creating a hole. She had forgotten to alter her viscosity.
 “Come on!” Sarra yelled, unbelieving.
 Clive ignored Sarra and passed the rest of his body through as if Sarra were a thin membrane.
 “I’m such a silly sod, how could I let her escape?”
 Sarra lost her balance and fell backward. She slowed her fall, shifted herself so that her back literally became her front, and shot after Clive.
 Lora and Morgan were left to ache together.
 Lora smiled; she saw a light pulsating in synch with her heartbeat.
 “I guess that you’re the bad guy, huh?” She asked without thinking and then promptly collapsed with a moan. Morgan curled her lip and rolled over.
 Anne raced up to Levan to execute Tench’s idea, and she wasn’t going to let anyone stop her.
 Anne did not understand her power in the least. She was sure that she was able to fly, ‘ghost’ through nearly anything (her tube that Morgan put her in was the first thing she could not phase through), and project her innermost desires in a phantasmagoric form at will.
 She was unsure as to why she was the only one who saw those traits as normal parts of her life. She suspected that since everyone she interacted with seemed scared of her power, that they repress their own, only to use it to fight crime, of course. She had a fond wish to draw the power out from others to show them that it was not as scary as they thought it was.
 With Levan, and her own experience with trying to harness an overload, Anne was starting to understand why her power was so revered, and why, in her own mind, not too many people put their own projection and intangibility powers to use. With her newfound realization, Anne rushed to Levan to try to help him to keep his own newfound powers under control.
 Clive Ogden was right behind Anne and quickly closing the gap between them with Sarra following. She felt a strong need to hesitate because of how Florence approached her, but, as usual, Sarra used the hesitation as power and it drove her further.
 As Sarra slowed, she spotted someone flying beside her. Florence pointed up at Clive and nodded. Sarra was miffed at how her superior was contradictory, but she didn’t argue. She decided to take the moment in to exact her revenge on Clive.
 Sarra saw Tench rush up to Clive, fly up next to him, and throw ice in his face as soon as se got a look at who had joined him. Clive reacted accordingly and tried to brush the ice from his face without success. Sarra laughed and looked at Florence. She flicked her hand out in a similar manner that she uses to discharge herself. She wanted Sarra to use her ice powers, and Sarra got the message. She worked to draw in enough ice to encapsulate Clive, and got ready to attack.
 Clive was surprised to see that the ice had gone as suddenly as it came. He saw Sarra rushing at him, and ducked down at the last second. Sarra threw her ice, her body working before her mind caught up, and Clive dipped down to make an arc. He pitched herself upward so that both Clive and Sarra would smack into each other, belly to belly.
Sarra was still getting used to her elasticity, thus, she still had a low viscosity. Clive collided with her from below and Sarra’s body exploded into several globs of chrome. Clive rolled over and continued on his course as Sarra fell to the earth, her body recovering from the shock. Florence was directly behind her, hoping that her electrical charge mixed with Clive’s would be enough to send him down.
 Tench came up alongside Florence and flew past her. He rose over Clive and doused his body from his feet to his shoulders with ice. Clive’s momentum allowed him to fly past Anne and Levan, missing them by six feet. He reached an apex and fell.
 Anne was terrified to see that Levan’s nose was bleeding. She whined as he did, both for different reasons, as she inched herself over to him. Anne materialized a small teddy bear for Levan to hold. He acknowledged it, but Anne was aware that he might not have cared. She probably would not have either under that much pain. Anne held onto Levan’s hand and started to reabsorb whatever bit of his excess power that she could take.
 Clive’s body had too much friction against the ice to be able to escape without a struggle. He had no fear of death from falling at great heights, but it irritated him that he was encased in a trap with only a time consuming method of escaping as the ground came closer and closer. Clive took all of his inner silver that had not frozen, and forced it up out of the icy prison, leaving a silver shell stuck to the interior. He let his head and shoulders fly upward in the air, and then he drained herself in a glob.
 He took on a human shape, less than an inch smaller all the way around, and watched the block fall. He was bemused to see a hot spot form in the middle of the block before it blew up instantly, the pieces turning to steam. Clive smiled as his half-inch shell returned to him.
 “Morgan… Thanks, mate.”
 Clive looked back up at Anne, and darted to her, relying on his witch of a partner to get him out of a cryokinetic mess.
 Lora watched Morgan stand at the mouth of the cave, muttering to herself and orchestrating an unseen symphony. Lora felt like throwing up. Her shoulder was throbbing and the spots in her eyes had dulled significantly. Lora felt powerless to do anything but roll over and sigh. She tasted bile.
 Sarra reformed a good one hundred feet from the battle area, feeling deeply annoyed. She shot up to Florence, who was keeping an eye on Clive, wondering what she would do after the tomb of ice exploded.
“Hey, what gives? Why didn’t you prevent Clive from doing that with your own electricity, huh?”
 Florence’s face soured. Tench smacked his forehead and moved away. Sarra was unaware of Clive’s escape.
 “You are a stinker, aren’t you?”
 “What’s up?” Sarra demanded. “This isn’t pride, this is legitimate annoyance.”
 Florence crossed her arms.
 “Clive, the Electric Beaulieu, mind, has power over electricity. In this heroic and tiresome game of roshambo, Clive struck gold when he became EnWol silver. That newfound elasticity allowed him to become far more powerful after absorbing his element.”
 Sarra curled her lip.
 “You’re useless then?”
 Florence’s sour expression deepened. She did not answer.
 Sarra clicked her tongue.
 “You are useless; I’ll take care of Clive myself.” Sarra flew around Florence toward Clive.
 Florence sighed.
 “She’s torn her dress and her face is a mess…” Tench said.
 Florence nodded.
 “That’s apt. Go help her.”
 Tench nodded and followed Sarra.
 Lora stood up; her knees were buckling. She leaned on the side of the wall trying to rein in what was left of her curdling nausea. She watched the fight above. Sarra got close to Clive and shot some of her ice, but was smacked away. Clive got a part of himself incased in Sarra’s ice, to which Morgan reacted and directed a spell to heat the ice and free Clive.
 “She’s helping Clive from down here…” Lora said to herself.
 She inched over, feeling less like she would throw up than the moment before, and wobbled behind Morgan. She watched the back of her head for a moment, wondering if she should act at all. Sarra, Tench, and Florence were busy with Clive trying to capture Anne, Clark had no idea where she and Morgan were, and neither did any other hero available.
 Lora saw that she had the advantage over Morgan, who was busy tossing her riding crop of a wand around as if she was trying to swat several flies with it.
 Lora raised her arm to attack, and crumpled silently when she realized that her dominant arm was also her badly wounded arm. Cursing herself over her mistake, Lora decided to take a different route, even if it would make her feel more ill. She prepared herself for the oncoming sickness and bit her tongue. She spread her feet wide, crouched, and spun around to kick Morgan in the back of the head.
 The hit connected.
 Lora fell to the ground and so did Morgan, the latter without a peep. Lora made a loud gasp as she landed on her less hurt shoulder, the shock going through it to her bloodied one. Lora tried to keep from blacking out from the pain by standing up in a fighting stance.
Morgan was holding her head, and Lora’s nausea returned in spades. Her stomach and arm felt wretched. She walked past Morgan and picked up the wand.
“Look, I’m sorry for kicking you, but you were keeping my friends and sister from extinguishing the portal. You know, it was getting bigger when I last looked, so it would probably gobble everything…”
Lora’s hand tingled.
She looked at the wand and the world around it turned black. An uncomfortable warmth permeated her hand and went up her arm. Lora heard whispers emanate from the wand. They echoed chants of hatred and got louder with each racing beat of her heart.
“…Calm… Morgan… Fire… Flight… Leon… Die!”
Lora made a sharp gasp. She had to make the whispers stop! Lora gripped both sides of the wand and snapped it in half. The world returned to normal.
 Morgan looked up at Lora; her face contorted with horror and anger. Lora dropped the two pieces while trying to catch her breath. Her heart was a piston.
 “You fool, have you any idea what you have done?”
 Lora jumped and almost by reflex, she sprayed Morgan with ice from her upper abdomen down to her feet. Morgan hissed at the abrupt cold and started to shiver. Lora held her arm up, staring at Morgan with disbelief at what she had done.
Morgan narrowed her eyes and her lips rose with disgust.
 “You may be green now, but you remember this for when you are a professional hero, Pink Lemon. Heroes never have friends; they only have those who fear them, and those who hate them. After several lifetimes of fighting at the top, Pink Lemon, you will find that there are no positive feelings harbored toward you. The citizens you saved will turn away; your family will be shamed, and those who love you will be gone. Beware the superman, they will cry, all because the so-called hero would one day hurt those whom they had once tried to save.
 Hate is the emotion that stems from anger at others and it requires its opposite, the concept of another’s company to function. However, the true opposite of love, Pink Lemon, is loneliness. Long, dark, infinity. Alone. That is how those you save will shape your future and create your fate in the void. Heroics, harm, fear, and loneliness.”
 Lora stepped back, feeling both her shoulder and heart throb. A fat blister of sorrow tried to burst from her chest. She had a flash back to when she was inside Anne’s vortex, how both Tench and Sarra vanished, and she was alone in the void of toys. In the purest form, nothing was out there. No cities, no people, no apple pie, no love. Nothing.
 Lora’s mind made the correlation for her between Morgan’s curse and her experience with the very concept of infinity and it made her want to scream.
 Lora shut her eyes and shook her head hard. She had to get away from Morgan before the poison spread farther. Without watching where she was going, or even caring, Lora flew up into the air and forced herself to find the eye of the vortex.
 She dwelled on why she was even continuing as she flew, why bother, why be the hero if there was an inevitable point where she would do something catastrophic? Sure, she’s needed for that situation, but how much would she be needed still and not be despised when the time came?
 Lora wanted to lie down in her fluffy bed with a romance novel and good chocolate wrapped in gold foil and forget about being a hero, especially if the experience is as bad as the first day. Instead, she wondered why she trudged on in spite of both what Morgan told her, and her own feelings.
 Morgan watched Lora leap up and fly away in a zigzag. She reached for her broken wand bits and looked at them. Walter R. was engraved in elegant lettering on the handle and Morgan could feel its unbiased magic being reabsorbed back into Gaia’s immense reserve.
 Morgan clutched the two bits of wand and wept as they erupted in blue flames.
 Lora watched as Sarra and Tench tried to freeze Clive as the cloud got smaller. Clive knew better than to get cocky when he was being helped. He was on guard when it came to who was beside him, and who was not. He came close to grabbing Anne a few times, but he was forced away by at least one annoying fly that did nothing but vomit ice in his face.
 With Clive’s ability to electrocute people only by touch, or arc if the conditions were right, and the heroes with the ability to throw their ice at him from a distance, Clive decided to get crafty. If the heroes were keeping him from his prize, in essence, his healing, then changing the game seemed like a good idea. He had changed the rules when he ate Sarra to moderate success.
 Clive drained himself from the ice that covered a little bit of his torso. He let his stuck and icy thin skin fall to the bay, knowing that the covering would come back. He closed his eyes and concentrated. Clive’s head split in half down the middle, and it continued down his torso.
 Lora flew up to Sarra as she examined Clive.
 “What’s he doing, Sarra?”
 Sarra sneered.
 “There’s no one new to eat, so I don’t know.”
 Florence and Tench arrived and joined in on the villain watching.
 “How’s your arm?” Florence asked.
 Lora just moaned.
 “Are you delusional from the blood loss?” Sarra asked with a sarcastic bite.
Lora shook her head.
“I don’t know.”
 Clive was literally split down the middle. He willed his body not to reform itself as he felt himself splitting as well. The two halves of his body each formed an identical whole, their height shrinking by half to compensate for the other half.
 Clive Ogden had become two.
“What is he doing?” Florence asked. “All that EnWol can achieve by splitting is synchronicity, how can he expect to gain an advantage if he’s using an impossible method to—” Florence interrupted herself as the two Clive halves flew off in different directions. Florence frowned.
 “Oh my…”
 Florence looked right at Sarra, but spoke to everyone.
 “I’ll get Clark to call for more help, you all fire at will! Go!”
 Tench and Sarra, with a smug smile, left toward a Clive half as Florence went the other way. Lora held her arm and followed her two partners.
 The two Clive halves laughed and twirled amongst each other, glad that the mitosis had worked and that their minds were still linked. As if it were instinct, one left to rush after the hero cavalry and the other went to Anne.
 Anne looked up at Levan as she tried to reabsorb enough of the power for him to deal with. The entire cloud had a radius of one hundred feet, and Levan seemed to be coming to. His breathing had stabilized, and he seemed only very tired. His crusted blood cracked on his upper lip.
 “Is it all better yet, mister?” Anne asked.
 Levan nodded.
 “Yeah, the aberration and torment shall ultimately cease once the young miss sorts out the nefarious tribulations.”
 Anne giggled. None of them had a clue what was just said.
 Clive came up behind Anne, slowed himself to prevent breaking her spine, and took her away. Levan’s arm stretched out with a jolt, it still being elastic from acquiring Rachel’s power from a slap after stealing her radio.
 “Confound it, viscoelastic wench!” He looked up at the portal, the eye a small pinprick, and plugged it with his finger. The cloud dissipated instantly and left Levan wondering how he knew that that would happen. He looked for the Clive half, wondering how he knew what he was about to do would be effective.
 The other Clive half was delighted to see that the three heroes flew in a formation worthy of a professional flight exhibition team. He let the group come to him.
 “What is he doing?” Tench yelled through his radio to be heard.
 Sarra snarled.
 “Who cares?”
Tench looked at her. Sarra looked terrified. He frowned.
 “You sure, Sarra?”
 “Just go!” Sarra snapped. “I’m not going to let him pull that horrible trick on me again!”
 At the last moment, the Clive half’s chest had a creature burst forth from it. The several tendrils tipped with blood waved back and forth, their hairs matted and irregular. In the center was a single normal looking eye, sky blue and friendly. Underneath was a mouth with no teeth, gnawing aimlessly at whatever it could find for sustenance. It shrieked.
 The Clive half looked on with a wicked smile, entirely whole behind the creature.
 Tench paused, surprised by the sudden change. Sarra’s heart caught and she stopped completely. This surprised her.
Lora plowed on without missing a beat.
 Clive focused on grabbing Lora by using his sticky tendrils. Lora swooped up and down and dodged every swing while trying not to cry. She was terrified. After what Morgan had told her about being alone several years down the line, along with Sarra’s reaction to Clive’s transformations, and the experience in toy land, she had a right to be.
Lora wondered why she bothered, why did she care? Why had Morgan’s words struck her so hard in the gut and yet she persisted in opposition? She didn’t know why she endured, but she knew that to defeat Clive, she had to kick her fear to the curb.
Lora approached Clive, roared, and kicked him square in the face. Ice exploded from Lora’s foot, and Clive’s head sped away from his body, stopped in suspended animation by the ice.
 The horror shot back into Clive’s chest and the husk of the body fell, limbs flailing madly.
 A thought came to Lora and she started to laugh. She covered her mouth, the giggles growing in spite of both her hurt arm and emotional state.
“Oh my goodness. Brain freeze.”
 Lora enjoyed her joke and kept to her attack. She swung her arms and prepared to cover Clive in ice with only seconds before he recovered. Lora gasped and stopped when she saw Sarra fly directly into her path. Sarra dove after Clive and got ready to unleash her own attack. Lora moved out of Sarra’s way so that she could add to the blizzard.
 An ethereal sound wafted in from out of the blue with Sarra hearing it first. She lost focus and felt her ice changing back into a gaseous form.
 Sarra shook her head.
 “No, no, no! Stay with it!”
 The song slunk across the Dogpatch district, playing itself for the heroes. Tench, Lora and Juno were confused by the new music, but the remaining EnWol were enchanted. Juno watched Florence and Clark, interrupted from trying to strategize and make sense of what Clive had done.
 Clark turned to silver at his own feet, quivering; his top half bleed from over the table.
 “This tone confuses the human brain on a level of physical perception; a quality that the EnWol body no longer has. Why are they affected into hypnosis?” Juno wondered. She looked up at the heroes and villains above, trying to make sense of the new situation.
 Lora flew back to Tench; he was looking for the origin of the sound.
 “I’m definitely sure that I’m hearing this, Lora. How about you?”
 Lora nodded.
 “It’s pretty.” She said.
The Clive carrying Anne heard the slow tempo, high-pitched music and unwittingly shifted his body to a silver blob. Anne, who had been having trouble with her intangibility, slipped out from Clive’s grasp. Clive kept flying; he had not noticed that his detainee had escaped.
 Anne gulped and flew off to Levan.
 Anne could easily see which mark among the sky he was since there were refractive waves searing off of him. Anne arrived and watched him for second. The sound came from his head, yet it was not vocalized.
 “What’cha doing? That’s scary music.” Anne said.
 Levan shook his head.
 “I am most uncertain young miss, yet I know in my heart that radiating my thought patterns into an audible frequency shall assist us greatly in this terrible plight.”
 Sarra tried to block everything out in trying to keep her focus. The sound was affecting her on a mental level; it penetrated her to her core and made her melt, no matter how hard she tried to block it out. She kept her eyes from seeing light years through San Francisco, she kept her focus on the ice long enough to hold onto it, and she kept control long enough to see her gloved hands melt into reflective stumps. The mild shock was enough to force Sarra off the edge, and she melted away, unable to help herself by surrendering to Levan’s song.
 The two Clive halves suffered the same fate. They lost control and became unaware that they were shooting back at each other in a straight line, like two rubber bands that were tied together and simultaneously let go.
 Tench watched the two shoot toward each other and smiled when he realized what was happening. He patted Lora’s back and she turned to look at him. Tench leaned in with his lopsided smile.
 “Let’s go kick some ice.”
 Lora could not help but giggle and she could feel herself melt for reasons unrelated to Levan’s song.
 Tench flew past Lora to the point that he guessed the two Clive’s would converge. Lora followed and caught up. He noticed her beside him, and he had begun to orbit her. Lora felt low temperatures radiate from him as he spun. She worked to do the same. The two quickly orbited each other, creating a reserve of ice in their center.
 “You got it!” Tench yelled over his radio to Lora.
 Lora laughed as the ice and snow at their center grew larger and more frantic.
 The two halves of Clive collided with each other, not a thought between them as the song played. They both conglomerated into a mass of yellow spotted silver with bits of hair and random shapeless limbs poking out.
 Lora and Tench got within twenty feet of Clive.
 “Do as I do!”
 Lora nodded. She watched Tench make a motion to grab the reserve, and the two hurled themselves around Clive like a gravitational slingshot. They completely covered him in a three-inch thick layer of ice within six passes, making special care not to leave any openings.
 The two broke off and twirled upward, leaving a whole, immobilized and deformed Clive to fall to the ocean. Lora and Tench met at their spiraled pillar of excess ice and Tench held out his hand for a high five. Lora returned it with her good arm and gave him a hug with a boisterous laugh…
 …and gasped when her bad shoulder protested the action. She chuckled nervously and rubbed it.
 Tench laughed.
 “Hey, don’t let the arm be a killjoy, we did it. Enjoy the moment, Pink.”
Lora smiled and nodded.
Tench returned the smile, leaned in and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Lora’s face flushed and she beamed. She squealed and hugged Tench with her good arm, her warmth radiating and melting his ice to its core.

If you would like the whole book, a souvenir of the experience, check it out at Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/87111