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 disclaimers, spoilers, and other information are all in previous chapters.
Graham reversed his tranq rifle and used the butt to block the closer tentacle. He was surprised when he made contact. He had unconsciously been assuming he could just knock it aside like an extended hand. But it was like hitting a steel pole.
He hit it as hard as he could, and managed to move it aside. It simply swung back at him. And the other silicate moved in closer.
A tranq gun fired behind him, and a dart plunged into the second silicate. But both of them were a good ten or twenty seconds from being incapacitated.
He treated the closer tentacle like it was a pugil stick with a strong fighter behind it. He held the rifle in both hands and blocked the tentacle, knocking it aside. The tentacle wrapped itself around the middle of the rifle. He realized that if he could hang onto the rifle for another dozen seconds, that silicate would collapse before it got to him. But the other one was still moving toward him, and it was snaking its tentacle right at his face.
Lupo came flying through the air and landed right on top of that second tentacle with her bad foot. Only it was the ‘good’ foot for this, because whatever the silicates used to inject their calcium-liquefying poison into you was not going to get through a solid plastic boot like Lupo was wearing. But Graham didn’t see how she expected that her weight would be enough to hold one of these things at bay.
At least, that was what he was thinking until he saw she was also holding a metal display case in her arms and using its length to fend off the rest of the bulk of the creature.
Meanwhile, the first tentacle was doing its best to pull his tranq rifle out of his hands. These things were a lot stronger than they looked. He struggled to hang onto the rifle, and he told himself he only needed to last for another ten seconds. Just ten stinking seconds.
Lupo groaned with the effort of trying to push the second silicate backward, while being unable to adjust her footing because she was pinning a tentacle down with one foot. She cursed creatively and rammed the end of the metal case into the creature hard enough to leave a mark in the thing.
Graham briefly wondered what a relatively sheltered seventeen year old girl like Alex Mack thought of Jo Lupo’s cursing. Graham still hadn’t heard Alex say anything rude. According to Lupo, when she had yelled a wake-up order in Alex’s face, Alex hadn’t managed anything worse than ‘oh crud’.
Carlson came charging into the room with a yell like a Viking berserker. He had one of the fifteen foot steel poles the forces had used as a two-man weapon, and he was running with it like it was a polevaulting pole. He rammed it tip-first into Lupo’s silicate so hard the thing was knocked back several feet.
Lupo used the opportunity to jump off that tentacle and smash her display case on top of the tentacle that Graham was still fighting. She jumped on top of the case and pinned the tentacle down.
First one, then the other tentacle sagged limply. Graham yelled, “Pull me out before these things start leaking radioactive crap all over me!”
But he was talking to Lupo and Carlson. They were already grabbing him by the shoulders and hauling him out from under the wall before he got past ‘pull’.
He backed out of the store and brushed himself off. He noticed that Marshall and Bailey were still doing their job, standing in the street and making sure nothing else came their way.
He said, “Good job, everyone. And Lupo, you’ve really got to stop putting your legs at risk to save my ass.”
“Yes sir,” she answered crisply.
He added, “Because Doc Fraiser’s still not happy about you being on this op. And Carlson? Nice work. Can you carry one of those poles and still shoot effectively?”
“A little unwieldy, sir. Why?”
Graham answered, “Because that pole’s just what we need for close-range combat with these bastards. If we dart one and hold it off with that pole, we don’t have to worry about it getting within six feet of us.”
Marshall said, “Sir, I can take one end of the pole, so we can have one along.”
Graham said, “Good. And Carlson? Next time you wield that pole, aim for that thin area right underneath where the tentacle comes out. If there’s any part of the front that you might be able to punch through to pin it in place, that’s probably it.”
Graham moved his team forward, fully aware that as soon as his adrenaline stopped spiking, he was going to be one aching officer.
Colonel Watanabe accepted the reports.
Team Two had lost a couple members to the silicates, and Team ‘American Cowboys’ had charged to the rescue. If they weren’t so competent, he would be really upset with them. Instead, he was just… discouraged. Even knowing that these had to be the cream of America’s fighting forces, he still wanted his people to look good in comparison.
And radar had just reported that something had dropped off the SR-71 and was flying in at several hundred miles an hour. It looked like Terawatt was going to make a splashy entrance as well.
Was it a requirement that Americans had to be showoffs?
Alex soared downward, following Willow’s directions. Alex was still a silvery blob, but her tPhone was floating in front of her and her injector was floating fifty feet behind her. She had spent the entire time in the Blackbird being in a silvery puddle in her seat, with the injector on the floor below her. She was still uncomfortable about the possible effects from having a radioactive injector pulled into her morph. And she hadn’t busted the first needle yet. Although she was hanging onto the two spare needles just in case.
She really could use a utility belt. Maybe Jack knew some guys who could make a really cool one for her. She was thinking two wide pockets in the back for energy bars, and smaller pockets in the front. Maybe a couple zipcuffs, like Riley had used in Tromaville. Okay, once she zapped people, they tended to stay down, so maybe not. But it just seemed a little weird to ask for a utility belt that was nothing but a snack holder.
She knew Selina carried things like lockpicks and anti-burglar alarm gear that Alex didn’t need. It was a shame Batman hadn’t told her all the stuff he carried around in his belt.
She had a signal from Graham’s comm system, and Willow had an app on the tPhone so Alex could sync up with that. So she just aimed at the building Willow had highlighted on the map app as the pharmaceutical lab that had the outbreak.
And really, how creepy did you have to be to unleash things like this on three major cities on three different continents at the same time? If Alex hadn’t made contact with Hermione back in Berlin, Petrie’s Island would probably be a nightmare by now. And if Hermione hadn’t called her about the island, the silicates would be all over Tokyo and Rome and New York City by now.
What would happen to the world if three other countries had to nuke their most important city, only days after China had to drop nukes on one of their big cities? And the United Nations was in New York City. And the Vatican was in Rome. This could have been so mega-awful.
Okay, it could still be mega-awful, because Tokyo wasn’t saved yet, and no one knew how many other labs around the world were running these same experiments right this minute. Someday she was going to catch up with The Collective, and she was going to give each of them a huge zap. Or at least a punch in the nose.
Ooh! Maybe a tiny fold-up telescope! She could use that about now. She could see that she was about two miles out from Willow’s point on the map on her tPhone, and she couldn’t see anything yet. Okay, even if she had a really great telescope she’d only be able to see tops of buildings, because everything was so built-up around here.
She slowed down a little, because she was still moving pretty fast. But she was in a big hurry, just in case too much badness was going on.
And she could see down one long street to where there were barriers set up. So maybe they had things contained, at least. That would be good. She slowed down to maybe a hundred thirty miles an hour and called Graham. “Terawatt to Team Miller. Terawatt to Team Miller. Come in please.”
“Miller here. Terawatt, come in on my position. We now have containment in zone one, but that’s four city blocks. We have yet to reach the lab. Silicates have forced at least three exits out of the lab, and are in a lot of the other buildings now. If you can clear the streets and along the barriers, the self-defense forces can move more people in.”
“Roger that.” She swept in to where Graham’s team was stalking down a street looking way more dangerous than the silicates, and she gave him a wave as she went normal and started doing as he asked.
Colonel Watanabe watched in shock as the American superheroine flew in and made it all look… easy. She passed over a line of silicates trying to get out over the barriers, and in seconds the things wilted and died. She landed in the middle of a trapped team of Japanese defense forces and simply stood there with her hands on her hips. But silicates began sliding across the streets, crashing into one another and having their tentacles tied together in square knots, as if by magic. In under a minute, she had disabled fourteen unstoppable monsters and saved that team. She flew completely around the zone one barriers and wiped out everything trying to get out. No wonder Captain Miller wanted to wait for her.
Colonel Watanabe had naturally assumed that the reports of Terawatt’s abilities were exaggerated, as usually happened when Western newspapers and television got hold of anything. But he was beginning to believe. It should be impossible to do what she was doing, but she was doing it.
She flew up to his post on the rooftop and simply floated in mid-air as easily as he was standing. “Colonel Watanabe? Captain Miller asked me to check and see what you needed done next. We have the streets clear, but as you know there’s still a lot of room-to-room that has to be done. Do you want me to move on the lab building?”
“Yes, please. If you could clear that, we would at least know that we do not have an unending flood of the creatures sweeping toward us.”
She gave him a big smile. “Will do.” She turned in mid-air and darted away at a ridiculous speed.
He gritted his teeth as he concentrated on military maneuvers. Was there a reason that a real superheroine had to be curved like a superheroine in a manga? At least she wasn’t really wearing a seifuku
and white panties.
Alex swooped through the ceiling vents and down into the pharmaceutical lab’s rooms. Every room that she cleared, she shut the door after her. She worked her way from the fourth floor down through the third floor and into the second. It was gruesome. There were those rubbery, boneless corpses everywhere.
And why were there three silicates squealing and squeaking and thrashing at a refrigerator? It looked like they had been beating at it for a long time, because the fridge was totally covered in dents.
And there were two plastic tubes sticking up out of the top, where the rubber gasket was supposed to seal everything in. And there were refrigerator shelves on the floor.
She slid the silicates, one by one, out into the hall and then injected them with more radioisotope. Then she shut the door and barricaded it with a lab table. She flew over to the fridge and knocked gently. “I’m here to rescue you! Are you okay?”
She yanked the door open. The woman inside the fridge shrieked as she tried to get her underwear back up. The poor woman had been trapped sitting sideways inside a fridge with her panties down so she could use the shelf as a toilet, and holding a big gallon can of fruit juice as her only sustenance, and breathing through plastic tubing like a snorkel. And besieged by monsters. And sitting over a pretty stinky open toilet. For maybe two days. Alex was surprised the woman hadn’t gone nuts.
As soon as the lady had her panties back up under her skirt, she clambered out of the fridge and hugged Alex and burst into tears and sobbed out a story in Japanese that Alex had no idea what she was saying. But it was probably really horrible. Alex just patted her on the back and let her cry for maybe five solid minutes.
“Terawatt to Captain Miller.”
“Miller. What’s the matter?”
“I have a survivor. She’s been hiding inside a fridge the whole time. She needs a medic. Or maybe a shrink. And I’ve got more things to stab.”
“Miller to Terawatt. We’re working our way inward, but you’re at the center of zone one. You’re on your own until we can clear some more buildings.”
Alex looked at the woman. She was really petite. Even in what were probably four-inch heels, she was hardly over five feet tall. Alex hugged her and lifted as hard as she could.
They lifted off the ground. The woman squealed in terror.
Alex said, “I’m going to fly you out of here, but it’s going to be scary. You held up really well just hiding in that fridge with monsters after you. Can you do this?”
The woman started babbling in Japanese, but then stopped and switched to fairly stiff English. “I do not know. I will try. You have rescued me, and it would be… impolite to refuse to cooperate with you in turn.”
Alex said, “Good girl,” even though the lady had to be twice Alex’s age, and probably had only said ‘impolite’ because she didn’t know the right English word for what she really meant. Alex went silvery and pulled the woman into her morph. Then she strained as hard as she could. It was just enough to lift the two of them into the air.
She darted up into the ductwork, out the roof intake she had come in through, and flew over to Colonel Watanabe’s rooftop. Then she went normal, standing the woman up beside her. “Colonel, please get this woman immediate medical attention. She’s been hiding inside a refrigerator the entire time, with nothing but some fruit juice, while silicates beat on the outside trying to get at her. At a minimum, she probably needs a nutritious meal. And some Prozac or something.”
Alex flew back to the lab building, with the woman yelling thank-you’s in Japanese the whole time.
Colonel Watanabe watched the medics help the woman down the stairs and off the roof. He wasn’t sure he would have held up as well as the woman had, under the circumstances.
But his forces were winning. Even thirty minutes ago, he had been looking at losing containment. Now his teams had nearly cleared zone two, and were moving successfully into zone one. Terawatt had nearly cleared the entire pharmaceutical lab all by herself, and Captain Miller’s team had made it possible for the defense forces to turn zone one into a cordon-and-search effort.
Terawatt was flying out the front door of the lab, so that had to be clear now. It really looked like his people could clear all the silicates and not have to worry about the next division time.
He did not consider himself a religious person, even if his wife was. But he told himself that when she next visited her shrine, he was going to go as well.
Alex flew down to where Graham and his team were providing backup for several Japanese teams doing the icky part: room-to-room when there might be silicates in there somewhere, maybe lurking around the next corner.
She landed beside Graham and said, “Lab cleared, barriers cleared, and streets cleared. And it looks like they got zone two cleared out. What do you need me to do next?”
Graham asked her, “How are you holding up?”
“Starving,” she admitted. “I could really use a massive dinner and maybe half a dozen energy bars. All this powers stuff burns calories like you wouldn’t believe.”
Lieutenant Lupo told her, “I know a lot of women who would kill to have that problem.”
Alex tried not to grimace. “It sounds great. It isn’t.”
Jo quoted, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is simple, clear, and completely wrong. H.L. Mencken.”
Graham told her, “We’ve got this. The local teams haven’t found another silicate for five minutes. We’re probably down to our last two or three. Get Willow to vector you to the Blackbird, have her get Walter to make them bring you a couple MREs or something, eat while they’re fueling up, and head home.”
Carlson smirked, “MREs? What, you don’t like her?” Bailey snorted with laughter.
Graham made a face like Carlson had a good point. “Okay, I’ll see if Walter can work his magic and get her something other than-”
“Meals Rejected by Ethiopians,” contributed Bailey, to general snickering.
Alex figured that meant the MREs wouldn’t be that great. Still, she was really hungry. She said, “Anything you can come up with is better than starving.”
Graham gave her a tired smile. “We do want to take care of you, particularly when you’re saving three continents in one day.”
Alex left the injector with Jo, because if anyone here around could use it, it would be her. Once Willow gave Alex a vector, she took off. It only took about a quarter of an hour to fly to the airbase, and the Blackbird was getting fuel and lots of inspection when she arrived. Her pilot had a gift for her from Walter, too. Somehow, Walter had talked someone into bringing her two big bowls of donburi, one of gyudon and one of tendon. She loved donburi. There was a great place at home where this nice old Japanese couple made really great donburi and yakizakana and udon and… Well, they had a ton of great stuff. Even better, someone had provided a spoon so she could eat fast. She totally couldn’t eat as fast with chopsticks as she could with a fork and spoon, unless she cheated and used her telekinesis too.
By the time she’d polished off both bowls and started on one of the energy bars from her gymbag, she was feeling like she would last long enough to get home. And her pilot was ready to go. She really hurried, and she managed to get through three more energy bars before the Blackbird took off and got high enough that she needed to go silvery.
On the flight home, Alex managed to get a nap in. It was a little tricky, because she had to stay silvery and still nap, so it wasn’t like it was really restful. And the flight was only a little over two hours at Blackbird speeds. And it was nighttime in California, so it was pitch dark when the pilot started descending so she could bail out.
When she flew down from the plane and zoomed toward Paradise Valley, she popped her tPhone out of her morph and flicked it from ‘airplane mode’ to ‘normal mode’. And once it found a local cell tower, it told her that she was flying home at three in the morning.
That was crazy. She’d left yesterday morning. She’d flown to Ireland. She’d fought monsters. She’d flown to an airbase and then to Rome, where she’d fought more monsters. Then she’d flown to Tokyo and fought more monsters. Then she’d flown home. She’d flown all the way around the world, fought three awful battles against monsters, and she was back home seventeen hours later. It just felt like it should have been days, instead of hours.
She dove into her favorite creek, went silvery, and flew as a puddle all the way through the tunnels and into her garage. The lights were out, except in the kitchen, where there was a note on the fridge saying ‘Honey, whatever time it is when you get in, please wake us up and let us know you’re safe.’
Crud, they had to be really worried about her. She totally needed to be nicer to them.
She flew up to their bedroom door and knocked a couple times. Then she opened the door and stuck her head in. Her folks were just barely awake, so she said, “Mom? Dad? I’m back. And I’m fine. Not a scratch on me.”
Her mom asked, “Have you eaten yet?”
She admitted, “Well, not for a couple hours, and I could eat again…”
Her dad yawned, “Your mom made your favorite roast pork with gravy, so we can heat up some leftovers.”
Her mom said, “George, you don’t have to get up too. You have to be at the plant by eight.”
He groaned in that dad way and stretched out his arms. “I don’t think I could sleep, anyway. And maybe I’ll have a glass of warm milk.”
Her mom said, “That sounds like a really good idea.”
Alex thought it sounded yucky, but she didn’t say so. “I’d take a mug too, if mine can be hot cocoa.”
Her mom smiled a little. “You probably need the calories after all those superhero fights.”
Alex admitted, “Well, I thought the lightning was what really burned up the calories, but just being in my morph for a long time really makes me hungry too. And flying is just lots of telekinesis, and that burns up the calories too.”
Her dad frowned, “I need to do more theoretical research on that.”
Her mom put a nightrobe on over her pajamas and headed downstairs. Alex flew with her gymbag to her room and did a silvery quick-change into her regular clothes. Her hair was a disaster area after being under a wigcap for nearly a full day, so she just slapped on one of her hats. The cute teal and green knit hat with the fun tassels. Even if she was home, and inside, and it was nighttime.
Her mom must have thought she was starving to death. There was a ton of roast pork, all sliced the way she liked it, with her mom’s gravy poured over the top. And mashed potatoes with blue cheese and garlic and butter mooshed into it so they were extra yummy. And peas with pearl onions. And a couple rolls with butter and grape jelly. And a pretty salad with chopped up veggies in it, and nuts, and some currants.
Okay, maybe she really was starving to death, because she ate almost everything her mom had heated up.
The huge, embarrassing burp afterward didn’t help, either. “Oops, sorry. I didn’t mean to do that.” Then she made sure to hug her parents and tell them how much she loved them, because worrying about other people was way more stressful than you’d think. She’d found that out the hard way.
She showered and put on her pajamas and went right to bed, even though she really needed to get her uniform into the laundry.