The Belcher League
By Henry Cobb

One day the three Belcher kids were walking home from Wagstaff School when Tina was suddenly surrounded by a bubble of green light.

"Tina!" Louise and Gene cried out in surprise as their oldest sister was carried in the bubble up into the air and then away into the sky out of sight.

Tina looked back in shock at her younger siblings, but soon shifted around inside her bubble to look forwards. She looked not at the sky and clouds which had always been above her all her life, but rather at the ground as it sped faster and faster below her. She caught a glimpse of a horse ranch miles inland and then the bubble flew up into the clouds.

As the bubble emerged above the clouds Tina saw that the bubble was heading in a westerly direction, towards the late afternoon Sun. She held her breath for a moment as the rising bubble rose to such a height that the daytime sky grew dark above her and the curve of the Earth was visible below. Then she resumed breathing normally, with no difficulty despite the great altitude the bubble flew.

"Am I being abducted into space?" She wondered to herself, but then the path of the bubble slowly nudged down and it began to descend somewhere in the American southwest.

As the bubble descended it slowed down. When she felt certain she was almost at her destination she was able to read a sign she flew past.

"Welcome to Roswell, New Mexico. No spaceship crashes for the past _ days."

She saw a worker on a ladder raising the digit Zero up to the sign then she flew past to be dropped gently on her feet a short distance from a crashed flying saucer in a desert cannon.

She stepped up to the craft and saw an alien holding his left hand against the wound on his chest. "Oh my gosh! Are you alright?"

"No, I am dying." His lips didn't move, but Tina heard the words in her head.

"Here, let me get you to help." She stepped forwards, but stopped when he held up his right hand. She noticed then that he was clad in a tight green and white uniform with a green ring on his right hand.

"No, there is no time for that." His voice sounded in Tina's head again. "This ring has chosen you because you combine the honesty, imagination, willpower and courage to use it to uphold justice."

Tina nodded. "I am a strong independent woman at peace with myself." She lied to him and herself.

"Take the ring and the lantern. Defend your planet and your sector. Await word from the Corps and beware of Ack-ka!" He convulsed and then lay still.

The ring flew from his hand to hers. She was surrounded by a green glow. When this faded she saw that her clothing had been replaced by a green and white uniform of the same pattern. She looked down and saw a lantern symbol in green on the chest.

She turned back to the alien to see what she could do for him when suddenly the flying saucer exploded. She crossed her arms in front of her face, then lowered them when she saw she had been protected by another of those green bubbles, which just as suddenly vanished. The saucer was gone, but lying in the crater was a green lantern, which she decided to take with her.

She looked around. "My parents must be worried. How do I get home from here?"

Bob and Linda Belcher were indeed concerned. They sent their remaining children to their rooms and called the police.

Louise heard her parents arguing loudly with Sergeant Bosco in their living room. How dare they dismiss the story she had told them? This time she wasn't lying. Even Gene backed her up, word for word.

She turned to her window and said to the gathering clouds, "No way are the police going to solve this case. It's up to me, but first I need a weapon." She pulled a book out from under her mattress then carefully opened her window, crept out onto the fire escape and dropped the last six feet to the street.

When she reached the school she tried several windows until she found one that was unlocked. She walked through the corridors, stopping only to hide from the janitor.

In the chemistry lab she pulled her copy of The Anarchist Cookbook out of her backpack and read it by her flashlight. Then she turned to the racks of chemicals to make her selection.

Gene, as was his habit when alone in his room, lay on his bed in just his underpants, thinking about what had happened that afternoon.

He turned when he heard a noise on the fire escape. "Tina?" He looked out the window and saw Louise drop down the alleyway. He was about to follow her when he noticed his state of undress.

He quickly put on his clothes and shoes, but by the time he too had reached the alleyway there was no sign of either of his sisters. "Louise must have gone after Tina, but where?" He looked up at the thick clouds. "She went into the sky. I need a plane!"

Gene headed out the opposite direction Louise had gone. In a few minutes he reached his destination. "Kurt's seaplane, it's here." He untied the aircraft, got inside and fiddled with the controls as it drifted away from the pier. With a sputter the engine started. The plane bounced off the waves for a while until Gene pulled back on the stick and it rose slowly into the sky. After a few minutes he was able to puzzle out how to steer it and headed west, into the gathering storm.

He flew for a few minutes into the lighting flashes but then a sudden gust tumbled the plane. He struck his head against the dashboard and passed out.

Back in the chemistry lab Louise frowned at the slowly bubbling red liquid in the beaker in front of her. "That's not what it's supposed to do." She slammed the book closed then turned to look out the window at the storm above.

There was a bright flash as lighting struck through the window at Louise. She jerked backwards into her solution and it exploded around her. Then everything faded to black.

Gene was revived by the cold waters of the Atlantic as he plunged into them. He struggled against the heavy seas to the surface, grabbed onto a piece of wreckage from the aircraft. He paddled for a while, but the cold water sapped his strength and he collapsed back into unconsciousness.

In the American southwest Tina sat on a rock and stared at the ring on her finger. "The alien, he was able to use you to do things, but how? He mentioned honesty, imagination, willpower and courage. Why imagination? If it's a magic ring then perhaps I just need to imagine what I need?" She stood and held the ring up to the sky. "I wish I was home!"

Nothing happened.

Tina sat back down on the rock and looked at the ring. "No, that's not it. Perhaps I need to imagine a form of transportation?" She held her arm out, closed her eyes and imagined as hard as she could. When she opened her eyes again she jerked back a little because a large lovely green eye was staring back at her.

"Did I make you?"

The horse of green light nodded back to Tina.

"Can you take me home?"

It nodded again then knelt before her.

Tina jumped up onto her horse of light, pointed in what she assumed was an easterly direction and shouted "Giddy up!"

The horse rose back to all four hooves and started off at a leisurely gait in the direction Tina had pointed.

"Faster!" She grabbed at its mane as it started to gallop.

"I wish you could fly. Whoop!" Tina crouched down to its neck as it leapt into the air. The horse now sped along as fast as she had ever ridden in her father's car, the motions of its legs nowhere close to matching the speed of its flight.

Back at the Belcher residence Bob had gone to summon his two remaining children from their rooms so they could tell the truth about Tina to Sergeant Bosco this time.

"Gene?" Bob looked around his son's empty room. Fearing the worst he dashed to the next door and threw it open. "Louise?"

"Bob, what's the matter?"

"Linda, they're both gone."

"What, no. I can't have lost all three of my babies on the same day." Lina Belcher rushed to Bob's side and clutched at his arm.

"Sergeant Bosco, I've got two more missing children to report." Bob stopped when he saw the police office was listening to his walky-talky.

Bosco looked back at Bob. "I'm sorry, I've got to go. There's been an explosion at the school."

"It's them. It's our kids Bobby!"

"You don't know that Linda."

"I just know. A mother knows these things."

"Sergeant Bosco, do you mind taking Linda along to the school? I'll wait here in case any of them call home."

"Do you want me to identify the burned bodies of my own babies Bobby?"

"No, it's just so you'll be relieved when you see that it's somebody else."

"I know it's them Bobby. I can't. I just can't look at their poor little mangled bodies. Not now. You go Bobby. I'll wait here. Call me, call me when." Linda clutched at Bob and sobbed.

"I've got to go now. Are you coming along Bob?"

"Linda, will you be okay?"

Linda nodded to Bob, released him and sat down on their sofa.

Far to the west Tina clung to her horse of light as it galloped on top of the clouds. Then from below she heard police sirens and motioned with her knees for the horse to descend down into the clouds.

A slightly different siren sounded as an ambulance sped past Sergeant Bosco's car in the other direction. Bob looked back at it until it turned the corner. Then he looked forwards at the cloud of black smoke rising from the school.

As soon as the car stopped Bob leapt out and confronted the police officer standing next to the school as the firemen continued to spray the already extinguished rubble.

"Did they find any bodies?"

The police officer turned to Bob. "One, a girl."

"How tall was she, what did she look like?"

"I couldn't tell. She was too badly burnt, but the paramedics said she was just clinging to life. So here's hoping."

Bob tried to walk towards the school, but the officer stopped him. "Sorry Sir, no civilians allowed. It's too dangerous."

Bob looked down at the ground, knelt and picked an item out of the mud. He turned it over in his hands. It was badly burnt, but still there was no mistaking that one of a kind bunny hat. "Louise!" He looked back in the direction the ambulance had gone then ran back to the car.

"Bosco, you've got to take me to that hospital!"

"It was one of yours Bob? Yeah, get in. If you can identify the body it'll really speed things up."

"She wasn't dead yet!"

"Yeah, there's always hope."

Tina nudged her horse lower towards the bank surrounded by the police cars with their sirens wailing. "Take us down there..." She thought for a moment. "Emerald. Yes, I'll call you Emerald. If you like that?"

Emerald nodded, at either the command or the naming or both, and flew them down towards the bank.

The police officers looked up and stopped at the sight of the girl who wore green and white except for her maroon backpack mounted on a flying horse.

Emerald kicked in the doors to the bank and Tina was greeted by a hail of gunfire.

Off in the Atlantic Gene lost his grip and his hand was the last thing to vanish below the waves.

Suddenly a hand that appeared human, but wasn't, reached down and grabbed Gene's wrist and pulled him out of the water. The ancient goddess gathered Gene in her plate clad arms as she rose just above the highest waves. "I must ask a great deal of you, my child. I wish I could wait for your answer but the need is urgent, in this moment of great peril." She kissed Gene on the forehead then she turned to the east and they vanished, leaving only the wave scattered wreckage of the floatplane behind them.

Bob rushed into the emergency room entrance and grabbed a passing doctor by the shoulder. "Did they just bring a girl in here?"

The doctor looked up from the file he had been reading. "Yes, but I'm afraid there's been a mixup."

"Can you take me to her!"

"She's a relative?"

"She's my daughter."

"Yes, yes. Getting a positive i.d. can help to start to sort this out." The doctor used his passkey to open the emergency ward doors and led Bob to one of the rooms.

"Louise!" Bob took two steps in, then turned back to the doctor. "What's wrong with her? why is she lying there? What happened to her?"

"Well, that's the problem. These notes don't make any sense. Burns over ninety percent of the body, three broken limbs, crushed ribs, possible concussion."

"But she doesn't look like any of that?"

"Exactly! There isn't even a mark in her arm from where they said they gave her a saline drip."

"Why is she unconscious?"

"I don't know. Perhaps she bumped her head? We took some x-rays but saw no fractures." The doctor turned to the door. "There you are." He motioned the two paramedics in. "Explain this."

"Explain what?" The taller paramedic asked.

"This girl you brought in doesn't match any of your notes." He handed the folder over.

"Yes, these are our notes, but this isn't the girl we brought in. That girl was very badly burnt."

"If you'll excuse me, mister?"

"Belcher. Bob Belcher."

"Mr. Belcher, if you don't mind waiting here with your daughter I've got a badly injured patient to find. By these notes I suspect I'll find her at the morgue. Just be thankful it's not your daughter."

"I have another daughter missing, and a son."

"Oh. Please just wait here. I may return shortly in case we need. Well, just wait. I'll be back."

Tina sat on Emerald's back and watched amazed as each bullet was stopped by a tiny circle of green light that would briefly appear right in front of her.

The bank robbers, equally astonished, stopped firing. One of them grabbed a bank worker and he turned his weapon on his hostage. "I don't know what kind of stunt you're trying to pull girl, but back away right now or this woman gets it."

Tina looked around the bank lobby. Could she order Emerald to move quickly enough to disarm all of the robbers before any of the hostages were shot. No, horses were never violent.

"Hurry up and get out of here, or she gets it!" The leader of the bank robbers held his pistol against the head of his hostage.

"Violence isn't the answer, love is!" Tina held her right arm forwards.

The bank robbers were so focused on her that they didn't notice the hideous green shapes appear around them until it was too late.

Bob's first call was to their neighbor. His second was to home.

"Hello."

"Hello, Linda."

"Bobby, she's okay!"

"Yeah, Louise is right here. She's sleeping, but seems okay."

"Oh! Then two of my babies are okay. Is Gene there?"

"No, I haven't seen him. Tina is with you?"

"No, I saw Tina on TV."

"What was she doing on TV?"

"She stopped a bank robbery. I'm so proud of our little girl."

"Tina stopped a bank robbery?"

"Well she was wearing a mask and and a strange costume. But she still had her backpack on. Come on Bobby, what other girl on a flying green horse would summon a horde of glowing green zombies to kiss and hug and grope six bank robbers into submission?"

"That sounds like something out of Tina's stories."

"We've got a little super hero in our family, but we've got to keep her secret identity. Nobody must know who the Green Ranger really is."

"So, which bank was this?"

"Some bank in Oklahoma City. Where is my Louise?"

"She's right here in the hospital. Are you sure you're okay to drive."

"But what if Gene calls?"

"Mort's coming over to listen for the phone."