CHAMPIONS OF FLOWERBUD
VOLUME TWO: LEARNING CURVE
CHAPTER 14: ENTER BRODIK
The girls erupted from the Goddess Pond in the midst of the city and immediately discovered their unique problem: aside from Karen, none of them had a means of quickly transporting themselves. Thankfully, Poprui was ever ready with an over-active imagination to solve the problem. She suggested Karen carry Elli, Mary push Ann (with her power, that is), and she herself could leap across the ten foot gaps in-between the buildings rooftops. The next building, Popuri tossed the other girls while Karen jumped. Then Ann was able to stretch across and they ran across her form like a thin rubber bridge. There were at least a dozen ways they invented to run across rooftops rather than street level in order to go where they needed.
Before long, they arrived at their destination: The Metro Park Convention Center in the heart of the Commercial Sector. It's entrance lay before Metro Park, a well maintained park approximately one city block in size with plenty of nice grass, a fountain in the center, and a couple of trees. They slid down to the street and ventured forth, jumping into line with the other costumed people waiting to gain access to the comic con.
The Snake Pitt
The Reapers milled around the inside of their reconstructed home base/billiard hall/bar The Snake Pitt. Marauder, their leader, emerged from a back room like a man with a purpose, tucking a cell phone into his pocket. "Gather round, Reapers."
The eleven bikers gathered around at the bar, where Marauder stood. "Got a job."
"From the Boss?" Pitbull asked.
"Not this time." Marauder said, "This is from an old friend of mine from back in the war. Big sumbitch who knows how to kick ass. Works as a merc now for anyone that's got money. Says he needs to take care of some business and wants us to keep the cops off his back. So, we fly in doubles today: I want you guys partnered up and on the streets. We scatter, everyone in a different direction. Drive as hard and fast as you can to different points of the city. Exactly thirty minutes from now, no matter where you are, start fucking shit up. Pull a job, shoot someone, blow up an orphanage…whatever, just so long as you get the cops on your ass. Keep the pigs busy for a while and then head back. If the heat gets to be too much, haul ass back to the Pitt."
"Don't feel right." Rider said. "The Reapers always been twelve and we're short one man since you iced Devil."
"Can't fix that now." Marauder said, "Not with the Boss on our ass like he is. Alright, enough talking. Get on the bikes and ride! We got thirty minutes."
Moments later, the roar of eleven motorcycles filled the alleyway where the Snake Pitt was nestled into a deafening roar as eleven bikers went out in different directions in pairs, save for Marauder, who went solo.
\The Industrial Slums
A battered and ancient Oldsmobile chugged into the parking lot of a diner so old it bordered on the archaic. In the Industrial Slums, there weren't many places to get a decent meal and Toby's Diner certainly wasn't one of them, but it was close, it was cheap, and it was the only place that Detective James Takakura wanted to eat in the morning time.
A grizzled and battered man eased himself out of the Oldsmobile and tucked a fedora onto his head. To say that the Detective was old school was an understatement. His battered duster and fedora looked out of place and out of time in a day of internet access and 24 hour news channels. But Detective Takakura was an old fashioned man set in his old fashioned ways. His cell phone was only capable of one thing: taking phone calls. He once turned it off and couldn't figure out how to turn it back on, so he never turned it off again. But he had a knack for knowing the criminal element and because of that, he was kept on the force as the most experienced and grizzled detective that the city had ever produced-even if he had to have outside help to read his email.
Nursing a cup of coffee so black that you could tar your roof with it, he sat alone in a booth, clad only in his tan duster and brown fedora. He looked as if he had wandered directly out of a detective serial, save for his clearly Asian features.
Toby, the young asian fellow who ran the diner, refilled his cup. "Detective. Work on your special assignment going well?"
Takakura sighed, "Hundreds of tips, thousands of eyes, plenty of leads…no arrests. You try tracking down five teenage girls in Metro."
"If they stop for cup of coffee, I'll call you." Toby replied, returning to his duties.
Takakura's phone beeped. He read the text sent to him: "Anon tip-5 grls rooftops near conv. Cntr."
With a grunt, he finished his cup of coffee and shuffled into his Oldsmobile. For the detective assigned to find the Metro Heights Sirens, he found the endless number of empty goose chases an annoying waste of his time and abilities. But he didn't get to pick his assignments, those came down from high command and he followed them.
At the edge of Metro Heights, a trio of black gunships-heavily armed helicopters-descended below radar level and shot straight into the heart of the city.
The Convention Center
"This is beyond weird." Ann said aloud as she and the girls waded through the throng of costumed humanity.
"What's weird?" Elli replied, "That we're dressed up in our unique costumes while everyone else is role-playing as someone else?"
"No. That we're real superheroes in the middle of people dressing up like superheroes." Ann pointed out.
"No one else knows that." Mary said, "So please don't say it too loudly, we don't want to attract undue attention to ourselves."
"Well, I don't know about you girls, but I'm having a blast!" Popuri said as her hands dipped into her bag full of goodies and came back with chocolate shaped like an 'X' which she promptly shoved it into her mouth.
Elli nudged Mary with her elbow and whispered, "I forgot about her sweet tooth, did you?"
"Must has slipped my mind." Mary sighed, still fidgeting with her cheeks as they tried to adjust to the domino mask and its adhesive sticking to her face. Just like Elli was constantly taking the occasional wide, awkward step to get her suit to fit over her rump just right, Ann was pulling at her straps and trunks. The only one who was standing tall and confident was Karen, who surveyed the landscape of the comic convention with an authority that Mary seldom saw.
Gone was the sarcasm and snark, replaced by a demeanor that seemed to speak of power and confidence. Mary felt both a twinge of thanks and jealousy. On the one hand, Karen was stepping up to fill the role she wanted for herself. On the other hand, Mary had tried to mentally prepare herself for being the voice of authority on the team and suddenly Karen was trying to do the same. She was simply going to have to play this by ear until things settled into a familiar course.
Together, they made a few laps of the convention center floor, explored some of the booths, idly saw the lines to get autographs from celebrities, and collected a few nick-nacks-with Popuri's candy bag being the largest. They encountered every manner of costumed individual-male and female, young and old-in both copycat costumes and fan made ones. While no one seemed to recognize them as the five "Sirens" from a month before, they did garner a lot of compliments on their costumes-praise that Popuri absolutely lavished in. A number of fans wanted their pictures taken of the girls or even with the girls.
Karen wore a stoic look on her face as she was snuggled next to one chubby guy in a costume after the other, their hands always managing to fall onto her hip or shoulder with a big goofy grin as if they had somehow done something more with her than just stand and take a picture.
Karen took a last picture with a chunky Wolverine and gave a fake, plastic smile as she peeled his hand off her shoulder, "Okay, I think that's about enough for today. Can we go?"
"Sure." Mary replied, "Let's get out, grab a bite to eat, and we'll talk about what else we can do today."
As the girls headed for the entrance, they passed a young man carrying a stack of ten pizza boxes. Luke Goldberg set the boxes onto the registration desk at the front of the convention center. "Yo. Delivery from Chase's Pizza."
As the person behind the desk dug into their wallets to pay him, Luke looked to the side and saw the girls in their costumes, but his eyebrows lifted to see Popuri. He watched them all leave, but his eyes never left Popuri's costume and pink hair. He chuckled and whipped his phone out, sending a text to Chase.
Yo, just saw five grrrls in sweet costumes. One was dressd lik miss mighty.
Luke took his payment and handed the pizzas over, then looked down as his phone went tweet.
How u no tht wasnt rlly miz mity? Chase's text read.
With sudden horror, Luke tripped over his own stupidity and when realization that the source of his vlogging pursuit might be walking out the door, in a flash he was racing through the crowd, trying to find a glimpse of pink hair as his hands dug his video camera out of his backpack.
Takakura was nearly to the convention center, puttering along in sparse traffic when a trio of black helicopter gunships shot overhead, dangerously close to street level. He cursed and watched them take the corner ahead of him into the park district where the convention center was seated.
"The hell?" He spat, grabbing his radio mic, "HQ, this AWL-GC, I've got three black helicopter gunships flying below deck directly into Hamilton Park. Request back up."
After nudging their way through the crowd to the outside of the convention center, the girls were eager to leave and find a bite to eat. "Feel a little better now?" Elli asked Mary. "We walked around in our costumes and no disaster so far."
"Not unless you count Poppy getting diabetes." Ann snickered.
"Leave me alone, Ann." Popuri said, her mouth full of jawbreakers, "I have problems."
Mary chuckled with the others, "Let's hit this Diner I know near the Portal, it…Wha?!" Mary was cut off as the three black gunships came soaring into the park where the convention center rested. A hundred feet to their side, the gunships tore over the crowd. Two of the gunships went upwards, taking a hovering position and facing outward while a single gunship came to a hovering stop near a third floor window.
"Is that normal?" Popuri asked, one eye-half closed.
"I don't think so." Mary declared.
A moment later, the side of the gunship opened up and a tall, imposing figure aimed a rocket launcher at the window and fired. The side of the building shook with a fireball that spewed outward.
The crowd behind them gasped and screamed. Mary gulped, "Okay, that is definitely not normal."
From where they stood, they could see a figure leap into the building and fire a weapon into the ceiling. Weapons, explosions, and screaming. It took a moment before Mary finally realized they were witnessing the kind of thing they were supposed to be stopping.
"We have to stop this." She cried, turning to the other girls.
The four other girls froze, suddenly unsure of what to do in the face of this threat.
"Are you sure? I mean can't we call the cops first or something?" Elli asked.
"Elli!" Mary snapped, "We're supposed to be doing this ourselves."
Ann snorted in laughter, "Yeah, its not like there's not five thousand people back there with no cell phones or cameras."
Mary took a glance back and saw more cell phones and cameras than she could count at first glance. There was no turning back now, if they pushed forward with this. But when she turned back to try and formulate their next step, she heard a collective gasp from the crowd and a flash of blue and suddenly Karen was gone, leaping into the air towards the gunships.
"KAR-ROCKET GIRL!" Mary cried out, but Karen was already out of earshot.
"What now?" Elli asked.
"Let's go!" Mary said, trying desperately to think of a plan that was already thrown into turmoil thanks to Karen abandoning them. As she sent her and the rest of the girls into a sprint towards the fountain at the center of the park, a voice in the crowd bellowed, "IT'S THEM! THE SIRENS!"
Karen leapt once under the gunships, eluding their scrutiny, and then up into the busted window. When she landed inside the building, she gasped. Littered around her were people, not dead but very injured. Bloody noses, bruised face, and limbs bent in ways they weren't supposed to bend. Most were unconscious, though those that weren't lay moaning and whimpering.
What Karen noticed then was that there was a trail of the broken, bloody people leading down a hall in front of her as those who were healthy enough to run scattered about, ignoring the girl in the blue superhero costume. She marched forward several steps, hearing a bellowing voice cry out, "WHERE IS THE ACE?!"
Karen fought with a dozen different thoughts on what to do and where to go. She started cursing herself. Dammit, this was not how she envisioned things going. In spite of her mindset to be Team Captain, she wished Mary were here to help her think. Perhaps she could jump back and tell her what was going on, blow it off as a scouting effort.
Her decision was made for her when a man in a white lab coat sailed into the hallway and slammed into the wall, collapsing to the floor in a bloody heap. Karen froze in shock. What in the hell?
He came storming into the hallway a second later: taller than Popuri and twice as wide as Karen. Broad shouldered, olive-skinned, and cut like a Greek god as every muscle and vein stood out on him. He wore a tight, black tactical vest, combat pants and boots, and wore a loose, red bandana around his neck. His hair was cut short and shone a striking silver. In his hands, he held a black box, which he promptly tucked into a side pocket. He saw Karen and paused twenty feet from her, momentarily distracted by her attire.
Karen had only to see his blood stained gloves to know who had been mauling the people in the office building. She knew she should say something bold, commanding, direct, but the only thing she could spit out was, "Who in the hell are you?"
The tall man sneered at Karen and began marching forward. Karen knew if she were in his way, he'd roll over her. Now she was faced with a troubling issue: how did she stand against a nearly seven-foot muscled giant when all she could do was jump?
As soon as Mary and the girls began running towards the gunships, the two outward facing gunships-having seen Karen slip past their guard-unloaded a hail of machine gun fire on the other four costumed girls running towards them. Caught out in the open of the park with nothing but a sparse tree here and there, the girls were caught out in the open with no cover save the fountain.
A line of glowing hot bullets cut a path of exploding earth towards them. Elli froze, a solid, chrome steel statue thanks to the shining steel ring Saibara had made her. Ann tucked into a ball and the bullets from one gunship bounced off of her durable skin. Mary tripped, but Popuri acted quickly and drove her fist into the cement under their feet, hauling the concrete up and ducking behind it. She grabbed Mary and tucked her in behind their quick shelter.
"Can't you stop those bullets?!" Popuri cried.
"It doesn't work that way!" Mary cried back to the sound of bullets biting into the concrete. "I can only grab one thing at a time. I'd grab one bullet and get shot by the others."
"Well…FRAZZLE FRACK, MARY! DO SOMETHING!"
"I'M THINKING, I'M THINKING!"
Detective Takakura's Oldsmobile roared into park area and screeched to a halt in front of the convention center and its crowd, jumping out of his car. The gunships he'd seen were firing on civilians in the park! At the convention center, people were scrambling everywhere, but many were gawking at the gunships, rather than taking cover.
"I don't believe this!" He said to himself. Gunships firing on civilians, people gawking when their lives were at risk and, what luck, he was the only cop in sight.
A sudden THUMP to his car made him turn and he spun to see a blue-haired, bandana-wearing youth pointing a camera at the unfolding chaos. A youth he knew all too well. "Luke? What the hell are you doing? Get your ass inside before you get shot!"
Luke flashed a grin to Takakura, "Well hell, if it isn't my favorite gumshoe! Not a chance, Tak! Those are the Sirens those ships are shooting at!"
The grizzled detective was at a loss for words when he spun around, hearing that the girls responsible for his headaches for the last month were all inside the same area.
"Stand back, asshole!" Karen gave only one threat, but the silver haired brute took no heed. He marched forward with abandon. Karen crouched and leapt forward, plowing into his gut and knocking him backwards until the two of them went crashing through a wall together and into a computer lab.
Karen was struggling to overcome the stun of having propelled herself and another human through a building interior when a massive vice-like grip snagged her by the throat and lifted her up. She dangled in his grip, her feet well off the floor. He snarled at her, "The name is Brodik and you only get the chance to do that once."
"I have had enough of this crap!" Popuri declared. She stood up and grabbed the massive hunk of concrete with both hands. "Mary, do something!"
Mary peeked her head around the piece of concrete. Ann was doing cartwheels and front flips, trying to distract the pilot of the gunship targeting them, while Elli was sneaking forward, freezing every time the gunship fired on her.
Mary thrust her hand out at the gunship firing on her and Popuri and grabbed it with her power and pulled. The gunship rocked forward precariously, just enough for the aim of the pilot to be off.
"Now Poppy!" Mary said.
Popuri lifted the massive hunk of concrete over her head and hurled it. The concrete missile soared through the air and the gunship pilot tried to swerve in order to avoid it, but Popuri's aim was true and the concrete slab smashed into the gunship's rotors and blew the heavy weaponized helicopter into a giant fireball. The shockwave rocked the other helicopters sideways, off their balance.
That was all the opportunity Ann needed. She extended her legs quickly in a short thrust, sending her leaping skyward towards one gunship, but the pilot corrected his imbalance and opened fire. Ann's nigh-indestructible body absorbed and deflected the impact of the terrible firepower unleashed against her, but not without consequence. After riddling her durable form with bullets for the second or two that she was still in air, Ann fell back to the earth and slammed down on a sidewalk near the flaming remains of the fallen gunship.
"Holy shit, did you see that?" Luke cried.
Detective Takakura had seen it, but unlike Luke, he wasn't enjoying the experience, as he cried into his radio, "Where's my damn backup?! It's a third world war zone out here, ya hear me?!"
The radio's response was lost amidst the roar of gunsfire and screams from the crowd behind him.
The explosion of the first gunship rattled Brodik out of his murderous intent and he lowered his guard long enough to look out of the hole that he and Karen had forced him through. That was all the time Karen needed. She lifted her legs, crouched and coiled them against his chest and PUSHED! The force of her jumps, normally propelling herself into the sky, were then forced against Brodik's chest and sent the big man careening across the room, through towers of super-computers, through two more walls and into another room across from them.
Karen leapt to her feet, adrenaline coursing and, arms shaking, mind flying in a hundred different directions, but a glance back out through the open window and she saw her way was clear, unobstructed by any gunship. She ran towards the opening and peeked outside, seeing Ann get shot down by one of the gunships.
Suddenly, something slammed into her back. Brodik had snuck up behind her and booted her squarely in the back right out of the window. Karen wouldn't have been nearly as scared if she knew she could land on her feet, but she was spiraling out of control with the pavement rushing up towards her.
She stopped, her face inches from concrete, floating in mid-air with a sense of déjà vu. She knew who to thank. And a moment later, Mary and Popuri came running up to her. "You okay?"
"Don't drop me on my head, rock brain!" Karen said. Mary dropped her none-too-gently on her tush.
Mary noticed the bruises and scrapes on Karen, "What the hell happened to you?"
"Some big, burly sonofabitch named Brodik is up there, tearing up everything and everyone he can get his hand on." Karen said, "Who took down the gunship?"
"Me did." Popuri squealing happily
"We'll worry about him later," Mary answered quickly as one of the gunships began to turn towards them. "We need to-"
"Get out of my way!" Karen finished, leaping up towards the gunship. Mary gave a sigh of discontent and turned to Poppy, who gave a half-hearted shrug, as if to say "What do you want me to do about it?"
At first, it looked as though Karen was going to soar right into the gunship's rotors, but her aim was true and she landed sprawled across the gunship's cockpit,. When she did, she faced a humanoid shaped construct with a single red eye staring up at her. Unable to see past her, the "pilot" moved the gunship back and forth. She couldn't do anything to him, but so long as she was obstructing it's view, it couldn't target anyone either.
It was this time that Elli came up with a bedraggled Ann in her arms. Ann's hair was frazzled, her costumed frayed in points, and her skin covered in black soot and splotches, but she walked well enough for the moment. Still, Mary had to ask her, "Ann, are you okay? You kind of got…shot up."
"I'll be fine after a couple of mugs of beer." Ann replied.
Suddenly, the door to the front of the building exploded outward in a shower of glass shards. Brodik came storming out of the building, hell-bent on leaving without being stopped. When he saw the four girls, he sneered, but said nothing.
"That must be Brodik." Mary said, stepping forward, a diminutive girl against a nearly seven-foot giant of a man. He held her hand up, "Stop where you are, Brodik."
Brodik did no such thing, marching forward with the menacing look of a viper, ready to strike. He had no weapons that they could see. They had experience on their side: they had taken down a dozen Reapers before, this one guy couldn't be that much trouble.
"Let's take this guy out and help Ka-Rocket Girl." Mary mentally cursed herself. She was going to have to give them all names before they went blurting their real names all over the place. But first order of business first. She lifted her hand and pushed at Brodik.
But the burly man kept coming, feeling no ill effect.
Mary's eyes widened. "That's impossible."
"Magic has no effect on me!" Brodik roared in triumph, dashing into their midst, brining himself too close to form a plan. The girls scattered away from him as he tried to plow through them with a clothesline.
"I got him!" Popuri said, throwing all her strength into a haymaker aimed right at his head.
But Brodik deftly dodged her. "You're the strong one, aren't you?" He said, dodging another swing. "All your strength can't do much if you can't hit me, can you?" Popuri tossed a third swing at his head, but he dodged, grabbed her arm and used a judo toss to sling her away from the fight.
Brodik spun around, quick as a snake, and planted a boot in the center of Mary's chest, driving her away. Elli approached with a growl, turning her arms into shining steel, but Brodik dodged her strikes just as easily and then caught her steel arm and punched her in the face, driving her to the ground.
That left Ann, who tossed a quick punch from ten feet away. Brodik deftly caught her arm and instead of snapping back, it snapped her towards him, where his boot caught her face and then slammed her into ground over and over until he slung her aside as well.
Brodik looked up, seeing Karen stuck on the windshield of one of the gunships. He scoffed and produced a small tablet, punching in a few commands. A moment later, the gunship detonated into a fireball. Karen instinctively leapt away from the explosion, but was caught up in it's shockwave, which sent her tumbling through the sky. She landed on her feet, but her momentum took her off her feet and tumbling over and over until she slammed into the side of Detective Takakura's Oldsmobile.
Brodik scoffed at the girls and spat on the ground, marching off without a second thought, sparing nary a word for the four of them. The final gunship lowered itself down to the ground and allowed him on. Staring through tears of pain and shame, Mary watched the big bully vanish into the sky, leaving only a ruined park and two destroyed gunships behind-and five badly beaten girls.
Ann sat up and helped Elli to her feet as Popuri lifted Mary up with one hand. The girls were bruised and battered, but otherwise fine. Their pride, on the other hand, was another matter entirely. Together, they shuffled their way back to the front of the Convention Center, where Karen had picked herself up and was leaning against the Oldsmobile that had stopped her tumble. She looked even worse and wasn't at all happy with the crowd of comic geeks that had formed around her with clamor and cellphones.
As they approached, the crowd opened up to allow them in, but the girls saw little of it, seeing only the dark look on Karen's face. And seeing Mary approach was all it took to set her close to the edge. 'Don't say a word." She warned.
Mary, though, had had enough, "What the hell was that crap? Our first chance to be superheroes and you have to go jumping off like a spastic kangaroo!"
"Don't push me, captain ironmind!" Karen spat the title back at Mary, "I went to scope out the situation, I didn't expect to get caught by a psychopath with a pain fetish who tried to kill me, thank you very much for caring about my well being."
"Well, that's no excuse, Rocket Girl!" Popuri shot back, to which Karen blushed hard in shame at having been called the name she hated, "But we were getting shot at by globbing helicopters and the only widdle-waddle who can come close to flying wasn't there to help us."
"Hey, we were trying to help too!" Ann cried, gesturing to her and Elli.
"Well, fat lot of good you did, Calamity Ann." Karen snapped, using the town nickname for Ann and her destructive behavior, "All you could do was get shot while the atom girl there stood frozen like a statue! At least Miss Mighty can throw something, but what good is all this if we're useless in a fight?!"
Suddenly, a pair of tiny gloved hands grabbed Karen by the neck of her suit and Karen found Mary suddenly had a strength to rival Popuri's. She yanked Karen down and the two girls were suddenly face-to-face, yelling, "I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOUR BULLSHIT! YOUR RECKLESSNESS ALMOST GOT US ALL KILLED!"
Mary's clenched teeth bared, her lips quivering in rage. Ann, Elli, Popuri, and Karen were all stunned into silence. They had never-never-seen Mary this angry before. For a moment, everything was silent and tense until someone said, "Awesome! Catfight!"
Suddenly, the girls realized they were not by themselves, but surrounded by costumed comic fans. All at once, their passion for fighting each other seemed to dissipate as they realized just how many people had been watching them squabble.
A particular camera forced its way through the crowd, held by a trembling young vlogger. "It's you, isn't it? You're the Metro Heights Sirens! The girls that we all heard about last month! I knew I was right, I knew you girls were superheroes! Listen, I'm Luke Goldberg and I-."
And then there was a gun pointed at them.
"This day just gets better and better." Karen muttered. The girls spun to see Detective Takakura pointing his service revolver at them casually, steady, very no-nonsense. As one, they lifted their hands slightly to show no aggression on their part.
The Detective was battered by a chorus of boos and jeers from the crowd, but he approached the girls slowly. "I've been after you girls for a month. You've got a lot of questions to answer for and I'm not in the mood for excuses." He tugged his radio mic to his mouth, "This is Detective AWL-GC, I need a bus over at the Convention Center and as much backup as you can spare. I've got trouble out here."
A second later, his mic crackled to life. "Acknowledged, AWL-GC. No available units to spare at this time. All current forces are incapacitated by the Reapers."
At the mention of that name, the girl's head lifted in curiosity.
Takakurka kept his stony face rigid, "Are you shitting me?"
"Sir, there's reports of Reapers covering the rainbow across town. Repeat, no available units to spare."
"Covering the rainbow?" Mary asked.
"It means a spectrum of crimes." Takakura explained, his sights never wavering, "Arson, shooting, assault, you name it. The Reapers are good at turning this city into a war zone."
"We've faced the Reapers before." Elli said.
"And beaten them." said Ann.
Mary took a step forward to approach the Detective with her hands raised, but Karen stepped forward first, her face mirroring is stony visage. "Detective, I'm sure you're a good man and you want to do the right thing. We're not here to hurt anyone, we're here to help. And right now, the best way we can help is to let us loose on those damn Reapers!"
Karen's hands turned into fists, "This is our city! And we're it's Champions!"
A rousing cheer went up among the throng of humanity, though Takakura remained un-phased. Mary and Elli looked at one another, unsure if Karen's gambit would work. Behind them, Ann was readying herself to stand in front of the gun in order for them to escape.
After a tense moment, Detective Takakura muttered a short curse and lowered his revolver, sending another cheer up amongst the crowd surrounding them. Karen looked back and gave a quick nod of her head and the girls began to file past her. When Mary went past, Karen lowered her head and said in a loud whisper, "I'm sorry. I lost my head. No more bullshit, okay?"
Mary sighed and patted her on the arm, "I don't know if you're my best friend or my worst enemy sometimes."
Karen just smiled and turned and found herself facing the stony scowl of Detective Takakura. He fixed Karen with a stare and said, "The only reason I'm letting you go is because 1: I can't get a bus to haul you all off in and 2: this crowd of geeks and nerds would riot if I tried to arrest you."
"Don't we have to have committed a crime in order to be arrested?" Ann asked as she passed.
"I can pin a misdemeanor on you right now for disturbing the peace just to get you in the tank." He said gruffly.
"Ooooh, get us in the tank!" Ann giggled, "Sounds kinky. Dinner and a movie first, Detective. No offense, but I just got my gut gunned down by a helicopter and lived. Do you really think your revolver would have done anything?"
Quick as you please, the Detective whispered back, "Making enemies of the police in this city is a bad idea, Red. Trust me: you'd rather go in with me than with someone else. Thank your lucky stars this time, because next time it won't be the same."
Ann snickered, causing Mary and Karen to question her sanity. To all their surprises, Ann reached up and pinched Takakurka on the cheek, making the older man flinch in surprise, the first time his granite-like gaze had given way.
"You're so cute when you're mean." She laughed. "Come on, let's go say hi to our old pals the Reapers."
That was enough to snap all of them back to reality. The five girls ran off with the voices of the crowd following them. Karen leapt to the roof of the nearest building while Popuri used her strength to throw Elli and Mary. Finally, Mary used her power to lift Popuri up to the roof with them.
"I really wish we could fly." Elli sighed.
"Is everyone alright?" Mary asked.
Everyone nodded in answer. Their nerves were still racing with adrenaline and the rush from their confrontation was fading a bit now that it was over. Mary paced back and forth, "Look, Karen, we'll have to talk about what happened in that building, whatever it was."
"Well, the sign on the front says Hamilton Labs." Elli pointed out, "That'd be a start."
"He was yelling at people and asking for something." Karen pointed out, "But we don't have time to think about that. The Reapers are causing trouble and we need to step up and put an end to it."
"This can't be coincidence." Elli said, "That this attack happened at the same time the Reapers are all over the city, causing trouble."
"Figure it out later, ladies." Karen snapped, "Reapers. Now."
"How do we find them?" Popuri asked.
"Shouldn't be too hard." Ann pointed to the cityscape and noted the plumes of smoke rising at various points throughout the city, where distant sirens could be heard.
Mary smiled, "Girls, this is our chance to make up for blowing this first chance. Gunships and a mercenary hard-ass is hardly a good first start. Let's do something we know how to do: kick Reaper ass. This will be a chance to really show what we're capable of. All together?" She held her hand out.
The other girls put their hands on top of her and repeated her words, "All Together."
Karen took a great leap into the sky to the next building and waited for the other girls to catch up when she felt something scratching her stumach. She looked down and saw a small, glossy card tucked into her belt. She pulled it out and gave it a curious look. Someone had slipped this into her belt? When? Had to have been when that crowd was around them. It had a glossy logo on the front, a stylized 'H' that was also on the front of the Hamilton Labs building. On the back was a note scrawled in black ink.
"Come see me. Tallest tower in the city, penthouse at the top. Eager to meet."
Karen looked back at the front of the card and read it again. GILL HAMILTON, MAYOR
Silently, as the other girls approach her, she tucked the card into her glove and took off.
The Convention Center
The instant the girls were out of sight, Luke snapped his camera off and began running at breakneck speed into the city. He brought his cellphone out and dialed, holding it to his ear as he dashed like a madman through traffic and people.
The other end picked up, "Oh, what is it now, sunshine?"
"Chase!" Luke cried, "It's them! The girls! All five of them! Costumes…jumping…gunships and firing and explosions…I GOT IT ALL ON TAPE!"
"That's digital camera, it doesn't use tape."
"Get your ass to the computer and get the servers ready,! We've got work to do!"
Watching the city below him burn was a thrilling feeling unlike any other. High up at the edge of his balcony on his penthouse, Mayor Gill Hamilton surveyed the ensuing chaos erupting in his city. It was fabulous. Nothing made him look more like an upstanding, all-action mayor than responding to a crisis. And crisis is exactly what he had expected.
Nothing the Reapers did escaped his notice. He knew their plan, knew what they were capable of, and was prepared to hold a very solemn press conference as soon as the threat was clear. His cell rang and he answered it, "Speak."
"She got the card."
"Are they for real?" Gill asked.
The voice on the other end replied, "Very real. Check the internet, it'll be full of videos shortly. At least a thousand people outside, most with cameras."
"Very well." Gill snapped his phone off and tucked it away. He tightened up his tie and made for the elevator. He had to make sure the press knew he was on top of this chaos-it always helped his poll numbers. Never let a good crisis go to waste.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Author's Note: YAY, I'M NOT DEAD! Seriously had some writers block on a lot of this. I know its not much now, but there will be lots more coming in the next chapters as Volume Two rolls on. Hope everyone likes the new additions. Doesn't Takakura look like he'd make a perfect detective? Just put him in a trench coat and fedora and he's there. Toby gets to be a Diner owner here, and BRODIK makes his way in as a mercenary villain! A man of few words and plenty of action. He's definitely more than capable of holding his own against the girls, isn't he? Looks like they've got a lot to learn and with the Reapers on hand and causing trouble, they've got their work cut out for them.
Good to be back. Hope you enjoy the chapter. More on the way soon.