Another Kind of Reveal
A/N: Alex’s powers and new knowledge will make more sense if you go read the first story in this series: “The League of Extraordinary Women”. The disclaimer, spoilers, and other information are in chapter 1.
Alex tried to keep her voice steady. “What kind of problem? And how big?”
Willow said, “State police have a supercriminal flying north-northwest towards you. He’s a pyro.”
“He starts fires?”
Willow said, “He is
a fire. Police reports say he looks like an orange guy covered in flames, and he’s dropping balls of fire as he goes. He’s basically a human torch.”
Willow said, “The Human Torch. Fantastic Four. Comic books? Movies?”
Alex said, “Oh. Him.”
Willow added, “I’m pulling all the police and fire reports that might be this guy, and… Okay. I’ve got a nearly straight line, headed right for Paradise Valley. Based on times of incident reports, I’d estimate he has a cruising speed of about a hundred twenty-five miles an hour.”
“Oh shoot,” Alex muttered. There was no way she could fly that fast. “You said cruising speed?”
Willow said, “Yeah. We have no way of knowing if he’s got a sprint speed that’s faster, or a maneuvering speed that’s slower.”
Alex groaned, “But we’ll be finding out. The hard way.”
Willow said, “I’ve straight-lined him all the way back to an abandoned warehouse… which is now one big inferno.”
Alex asked, “Is he setting fire to houses or police cars, or what?”
Willow said, “Ooh, good question! Let me see… House, empty field, highway median, truck on highway, field that’s just crops… Didn’t hit anything… Hmm, went right over a strip mall, that would’ve been a terrific target if he was doing it deliberately… Not on an apartment building… Wow, I am so glad I got this GIS software and all these Google Earth images. Looks like it’s pretty random. He may not have control of his powers.”
Alex groaned, “Which means everything in town that’s in his flight path might end up getting firebombed.”
Willow said, “I’m hacking into the governor’s office and ordering state and federal forest fire crews to assist.”
Alex asked, “Can we get some of those planes that dump water on fires?”
Willow said, “Probably not. They’re mostly contractors, and cost the state big bucks to hire. I can’t find a way to do that electronically. It’s probably voice only, with lots of paper contracts to sign first. And… oh frack.”
Willow said, “My GIS program projects he’ll get to the middle of Paradise Valley right about… one o’clock.”
Alex got it instantly. “Just in time for Libby’s photo shoot. And he probably knows where to go.”
Willow said, “Someone’s probably tipped him off.”
Alex disagreed, “It’s Danielle Atron. She probably bought off several of the paparazzi that are just in it for the cash. One of them let her know, and she’s sicking this guy on Terawatt. Only it’s not Terawatt. If he gets there first, Libby’s gonna be a charcoal briquette.”
Willow said, “This guy has no control yet, except on his flight. Everything in the vicinity could get roasted. Including all those photographers.”
Alex said, “Danielle probably didn’t bother to tell these guys they were signing their own death warrants. And she’ll need to kill all of them, so the guilty ones can’t squeal on her.”
Willow asked, “Would she even care? She’s already wanted on one count of first degree murder, five counts of attempted murder, about three dozen counts of aiding and abetting a Class I felony, terrorism, kidnapping, RICO… She’s already looking at about five thousand years in jail.”
Alex said, “I can go do my thing, but I can’t go fast enough to counter him before he gets to his target. And I don’t know where his target is.”
Willow said, “And if he flies that much faster than you, you can’t block him or cut him off. He can just duck around you and you’ll never be able to catch up with him in time.”
“So what do I do?” Alex asked. She didn’t sob. She really didn’t.
Willow said, “I don’t know. Give me a few minutes.”
Alex looked at the clock on her desk nightstand and winced. It was already clicking over to 12:51. They had no time left. But Willow would know that. She probably was looking at a clock on her computer this very second.
In nine minutes, Libby was going to be a screaming ball of flame, and everyone and everything around her was going to be on fire too. And there was nothing Alex could do to stop it.
She said, “Look, I’ve got to go… do my thing.”
“Take your phone, just in case.”
She said, “Will do.”
She hung up and went downstairs. She stopped her dad and handed him one of the burner phones. “I’ve got to get my uniform and go. I need you to grab my cameras and that steering wheel camera frame you made, and get ‘em over to Ray. Take this and make sure Ray knows it’s one of the Team Terawatt phones.”
Her dad looked worried. “Honey? Are you going to be okay?”
She tried not to look worried too. “I’ll do my best, dad.”
“You always do.”
She went silvery and puddled out to her mom’s car, where her uniform was still in the spare tire compartment.
Willow typed furiously. “Come on, come on…” The GIS software was slow. Really annoyingly slow, even on her fastest box. She knew a lot of that was the image processing and geographical analysis sub-programs, and a lot was building the images for map overlays that would go up on the screen. So she needed a faster machine with faster graphics. And maybe she needed to analyze the bottlenecks in the software and then re-design the code. Or maybe she needed to figure out how to extend the code so it could run as a parallel processing problem on all the computers in her room. But not right now.
She checked the streams of police reports, each of them tagged with GPS data so the police could provide fast response even if an officer was down. Alex’s supercriminal was still going in a straight line, with pretty minor deviations. He had to know the whole area up and down the interstate, and know just where he was headed.
Uh-oh. The latest news and emergency reports didn’t look good. A police helicopter and a news helicopter had just tried to follow him, and he had plastered a fireball right on the police copter’s windshield. The news copter had wisely ducked way out of the way. The police copter had needed to set down, since the pilot had no visibility anymore and the front of his copter was on fire. But that meant the crook might be getting better with his powers.
And he was rapidly approaching the outskirts of Paradise Valley.
Willow plotted a linear regression line across the map, and plotted confidence bounds. She knew the accuracy of the confidence bounds would be crap, because the points weren’t independent, but she wasn’t after exact probabilities. And the crappy stats in the GIS program didn’t let her do the kind of geospatial statistical model she really needed to run. But she just wanted a flight corridor to study.
At least Alex’s house and her dad’s chemical plant weren’t in the corridor. But…
Wait, she had a hit from one of the phone numbers. Mandy’s cell phone. She listened to the cell packets.“I’m on my way back. I’ll be there in no time.”
“You better, Libby needs her sunscreen. And I hope you got the right coconut water this time.”
“Stop being such a bee-atch. I’ll be at drake in a couple minutes.”
Willow checked the cell phone towers that were transmitting the cell packets. She had one that was less than a mile from the flight corridor. Aaaaand… Another cell tower. Mandy was driving directly into the projected flight corridor. She was moving eastward, probably driving down one of the main roads there, right toward…
If Mandy kept going in that direction, on one of the two possible east-west roads she could be on, she was going to cross that flight corridor.
Right at Alex and Libby’s high school.
Willow clicked the phone router and prayed she was in time.
Alex was in the air, and moving toward the middle of town. She didn’t know what else to do. She couldn’t stop the guy in mid-air, he could just zoom right by her and then she’d never be able to catch up. 125 miles an hour? That was way faster than she could ever do.
Her phone buzzed inside her left glove. She fished it out. It was Willow. “Oh please know where to go, oh please,” she whispered. She flipped it open and said, “Go.”
“Tera, the high school. Libby’s high school. Mandy said she’d be at ‘drake’ in a couple minutes.”
Alex said in her Terawatt voice, “That’s the big rocks east of the main building.” She knew what to do, after having to deal with Jo. “Call the police. Try to get Officer Dave Watt if you can, but anybody should do. Tell them it’s criminal trespass on school grounds, they’re at the school boulders, and there’s probably at least one case of fraud and identity theft, plus at least one of the photographers is guilty of aiding and abetting a felony because he told Danielle Atron where to send the superthug. Tell them Libby’s made herself the target of this flying Human Torch guy, so we’ll need fire department support too. I don’t know what else to tell them.”
She hung up and turned toward the school. She called Ray on his Team Terawatt phone. When he answered, she cut in before he could get a word in. She made sure she was using her Terawatt voice, too. “Don’t talk. It’s me. Libby’s high school, at the big rocks. Only there’s a flying, fire-throwing threat coming. Do not, repeat do not
get close. I have no idea what the safe zone is. But if you can get photos, give it a try. Just stay safe more than anything.”
“Gotcha, Tera.” He hung up.
She shoved the phone into the glove on the inside of her left forearm, and she headed for the school. She wondered if she was doing the right thing. There had to be things she could have done to stop Libby before this. There had to be something better than asking Ray to take photos when she had no idea how dangerous this flying fire-goober was. And she had no idea how to stop the guy. Or girl. Or whatever.
She had managed to beat a fire-breathing dragon once. She could beat this guy.
to beat this guy.
Mandy pulled up and parked on the street. The parking lot over by the school rocks was already swarming with cars and trucks. It looked like Libby had about a dozen guys with big still cameras, and three guys with those big videocameras hung over their shoulders.
The far rock looked great. They had painted it last night. A quick coating of white, with ‘TERAWATT’ in nice capitals all in black. And Libby looked good. Mandy thought the white bikini was a little too tiny, but she knew she was supposed to shut up and follow orders, or she’d be out of Libby’s homegirls, and she would end up a loser looking for some other losers to hang with. Libby also had some white high heels, and a little Lone Ranger kind of mask that looked sort of like Terawatt’s mask. They hadn’t been able to find anything better.
Libby was still in a white bathrobe, and Tylea was spreading a thick white blanket over the top of the rock, while Carli was setting up a ladder on the back side of the rock so Libby could get up there.
Mandy looked at the junk she had just picked up, and she winced. She still thought this was a really bad idea, but Libby didn’t listen to some lamer like Mandy Wilson. Couldn’t these guys tell Libby wasn’t really Terawatt? Mandy didn’t get how Libby had tricked her boyfriend, and Tylea, and Carli. But if Libby really was Terawatt, wouldn’t she just fly up onto the top of the rock? And if she had superpowers, why would she need sunscreen?
Mandy couldn’t figure it out. If Libby really was Terawatt, why would she do this? But if Libby wasn’t Terawatt, why would she think she could get away with getting all these guys and news agencies to take her picture? And if Libby wasn’t Terawatt, wouldn’t the real Terawatt get really mad at Libby for doing this? Her head was starting to hurt from stewing about it for two days, and nobody would listen to her. Not even Carli.
That was when she looked up and saw the thing like a flying, blazing meteor coming straight at them. She screamed.
A/N: As you probably gathered from Willow’s comments, Marvel Comics exists (in some form) in this universe. DC very definitely does not.