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.
Grover had been watching the museum stuff for maybe ten minutes, and he was hungry. And thirsty. Bruce Paine had only just arrived in a limo, but the people who were already in there were eating little fingerfood things off fancy silver trays carried around by even fancier waitresses in still fancier waitress outfits. The things that looked like scallops wrapped in bacon were making his mouth water even though he was outside, looking through a window. And everyone was drinking champagne or at least something sparkling out of really tall, thin, expensive-looking glasses, even though every wedding he’d ever seen had champagne in plastic glasses that were flat and on a stem.
Grover watched as Bruce Paine and a very hot brunette made their way inside. Mister Paine had that walk. The ‘I have had way too much to drink, but I’m used to being loaded’ walk that Grover had seen before. Old Mister Chandler down the block, and Aunt Margery. If it was an act, it was a really good one.
The brunette had a different kind of walk. Grover knew that walk too. It was the ‘I’m too sexy for my dress’ walk. Cindy could sort of manage it when she wanted to, but this brunette could give lessons. Grover was already wondering if he could find a really tight, shiny, pink dress kind of like that and get Cindy to wear it.
It was a little windy, standing on the windowsill like he was doing. He was really glad he finally had some clothes. Invisible clothes. Okay, the wool didn’t make for really comfy underwear because it was a little itchy, but it was warm. And it beat the tar out of running around naked just to be invisible. And his mom really had figured out how to felt wool, so he had boots. They were sort of like Uggs with a soft sole added underneath, but they were real boots that came up above his ankles. He had needed to trim the invisible horns off his invisible sheep so it didn’t ram anyone else, and he’d used the horn to extract some invisible keratin monomers to make pretty sturdy soles that were sturdy and flexible and really quiet when he walked. He also had two invisible weapons, thanks to Hanna, who knew way too much about how to injure or kill people.
He had an earjack too, but it wasn’t invisible. That was why it was lying down on the ground, where no one would see it. Dr. Lee was a really bright guy, but Bill didn’t see any way to make an invisible earjack. Dr. Lee’s suggestion was to go with some components that were so tiny no one would notice them, and run them off a separate base system. So right now, earjack ten feet away, down on the ground.
Grover watched as Mister Paine chatted with people and paid lots of attention to his date, and just seemed to be aiming for a waitress with champagne glasses all the time. Even if he did disappear off to the men’s room a couple times with a full glass in hand, so maybe he was pouring out what he had and puking up what he’d already swallowed. It seemed like a ton of work.
And finally it was time for the ribbon cutting, which looked just like Grover had always imagined it would.
Except for a green supervillain walking out of the exhibit and controlling some pretty massive plants. He scrambled down to the ground and hid behind a bush to talk on his earjack. “Klar to Lead. Klar to Lead. We have activity.”
“Lead to Klar. Describe, please.”
Grover told Riley, “Very hot redhead with green skin and a leaf bathing suit, and she controls plants. She’s interrupting the ribbon cutting.”
“What is Target doing?”
Grover got back up and peeked through the window. “He’s vanished. Plant Lady has all three security guards wrapped up in plants and sprayed with some sort of plant poison and unconscious. Or dead. I can’t tell.”
“Lead to T. Please move to rooftop and assess. Lead to Klar. Move inside with earjack and take up a position behind an object so you can keep updating. Lead to Action. You have clearance for parachute.”
Grover listened as Alex and Hanna said their ‘roger’ bits. He moved as quietly as he could manage over to the front doors. Shit.
He retreated a good fifty feet and ducked down behind a wall. “Klar to Lead. Guard on door. Mean-looking guy with a machine pistol.”
“Lead to Klar. Retreat and try rear entrances.”
“I am… Bane. And I was brought here to make sure this is your last night on Earth.”
Batman watched as a man dressed like a law officer fresh out of the southwest stepped forward, holding a Colt .45 that he had pointed at Bane’s center of mass. The man was even wearing a real Stetson. He drawled in a New Mexico accent, “Now hold on right thur. Sam McCloud, New York City Police Department. We don’t take it too kindly when people come in and abuse our hospitality. So why don’t you jess…”
Batman moved at the motion out of the corner of his eye, but the flying knife wasn’t intended for him. It caught the New Mexican right in the center of the back of his gun hand, making him gasp in pain and drop the handgun.
Still, that meant that Bane had brought cohorts. Maybe even minions. And he was smart enough to keep them under wraps until they were actually needed. So what else did he have up his sleeve?
Bane was clearly a lot stronger than Batman, so the usual ‘hard’ martial arts he preferred would have to be… adjusted.
Chris Coughlin cringed as Sam took a knife in the hand. She should have known.
Ordinarily, Sam was about as anxious to go to one of these things as he was to get a root canal done. Oh, she’d known he was up to something when he’d asked if she had anything going on tonight.
He wasn’t as tricky as he liked to think he was. She’d suspected there was someone at the soiree that he suspected of some crime, and he wanted a chance to meet them in a nonconfrontational setting.
But supervillains? Sam was definitely stepping up to the major leagues tonight.
And the Bat-man. Now that was news. Chris knew the Commissioner of Police had been trying to squash anything about that guy, ever since the host of anticipated ‘police brutality’ charges had not been filed, and the criminals involved had all insisted it wasn’t the arresting officers. But someone who lurked in the darkness and swooped down to beat the tar out of violent criminals? That was just too good to pass up, if she had material to write about. And here she was, getting to watch the Bat-man fight a supervillain. Or two. Or perhaps more.
The big guy, who called himself Bane, was strong. Just ridiculously strong. Picking up a stone statue to use as a club? That was pretty scary. But the Bat-man moved like a martial arts master.
Bane strode forward with a punch to the ribs that would have caved in the Bat’s chest if it had landed, but the Bat pivoted smoothly and grabbed Bane’s arm in a throw.
Which Bane tried to reverse.
And the Bat tried to counter.
And Bane had a counter to that. These guys were astonishingly good.
And Bane used a brute force move that the Bat simply went with, flipping through the air to land gracefully in a three-point stance twenty feet away.
But Sam wasn’t out of the woods yet, either. He had been down on his knees, trying to wrap a handkerchief around his wounded hand, but one of those massive vines had snaked its way over and had him by the wrist. Judging by the way he was straining, it was a lot stronger than he was. Well, it was as big around as Chris’s forearm. If it managed to get around Sam’s neck, he was a goner.
Hanna was already out the door of the chopper before Major Finn completed his orders. But she was in a hurry. The helicopter was at five thousand feet to make it undetectable, and she had a long way to go to get to the ground. So she dove.
Hands first, head tucked in, legs straight, she pointed herself at the ground like an arrow and flew. She knew she would be down to the level of the buildings in seconds, but it still wasn’t fast enough for her.
It was times like this that she was jealous of Alex. Alex wasn’t as strong or as quick or as tough as Hanna, but Alex could fly. Alex could squeeze out of a three-inch port on a modified SR-71 canopy and fly into a firezone at hundreds of miles an hour with no plane around her, no parachute, nothing. It had to be the greatest feeling in the world.
Major Riley had let Hanna operate with a modified basejumping parachute that would open abnormally quickly. Most people would find it too abrupt. But she wasn’t most people.
Major Riley had also insisted on her wearing a ‘disguise’ this time. The disguise was simple enough that she put up with it, mainly because Charlie thought it was a good idea. But she had her hair up in a tight military braid so it was out of the way, and she was wearing a half-mask that fit tightly to her skin from the top of her forehead to the top of her upper lip.
The ceiling of the museum’s ballroom was about sixty feet above the ground. She was planning on popping her chute at three hundred feet and punching through the security glass just above the front doors.
Batman used an aikido glide and a hapkido move to turn Bane’s offensive move into a miss, but Bane was too well trained. And something mechanical buzzed through the air to clip him in the heel, knocking him to the ground.
He rolled to his feet and backflipped, avoiding a three hundred pound planter and Bane’s follow-up move, but the flying mechanical weapon zipped toward him and tried to shoot him in the face. The new boomerang he had been about to try out on Bane had to be used to thwart the flying threat. He threw, and caught the flying threat cleanly in mid-air with one sharp tip of the boomerang.
The flying machine exploded, knocking him to the floor and planting shrapnel in his body armor. If he had been wearing ordinary fabric, or even Kevlar, he would look like a swiss cheese now.
Bane took advantage of the opening and moved for him.
But a sharp, authoritative, female voice called out, “Hey! Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?”
Alex was plenty frustrated when she finally got into the ballroom. First, there was no easy way in from the roof, because the roof doors were special security doors with sealed edges she couldn’t squeeze through. Then she had to find the special HVAC system on the next part of the building, and deal with a whole bunch of filters and fans and special pressure control systems just to get inside. And then she found not just Batman, but two supervillains, and probably a bunch of minions, because she spotted that little flying jet thing that exploded in front of Batman and threw metal shards everywhere. But she was already flying in, so she used as much telekinesis as she could afford to block the shards that would have been flying at the people off to the side.
And she just wanted to slap herself in the forehead again, because she should have told Jack about the green supervillainess with the creepy plants. What had Selina and other-Batman said? ‘Poison Ivy is an ecoterrorist.’ ‘Pammie has terrible taste in shoes.’ Something like that. So, because Alex hadn’t remembered every stupid detail of that five day trip, someone else was in danger.
She flew down and hovered a couple feet off the ground, so she was looking down slightly at Mister Muscle. Holy crud, that guy was built! But she pointed one finger at him and snapped, “Hey! Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?”
Okay, that probably sounded stupid when the guy was obviously three times her size. Maybe more.
Batman growled in a really familiar tone, “Watch it, he has minions lurking nearby. A knife thrower and a gadget user, at a minimum.”
She glared at Mister Muscle. “So you cheat, too. What a surprise. And you probably used a biochemical to get that body.”
Bane sneered, “As if you didn’t, as you fly in the air like that.”
Alex asked, “And is there a reason you’re fighting him when you’d rather be fighting me?”
Bane growled, “I was flown here to stop him, and I was paid to stop him. But you’re right. I’d rather fight you.”
Alex was pretty sure he’d even bring his minions with him if she could just get him out the doors and in an area where they wouldn’t be endangering tons of rich museum patrons. She opened her mouth to make a suggestion, and a window behind her exploded.
Alex jetted twenty feet upward and spun around as she moved so she was above and behind Mister Muscle, instead of having him at her back. And so she was just in time to see Hanna coming feet and gun first through the second-story window she had just shot out, her parachute cords streaming behind her.
Hanna shrugged out of her already-unbuckled harness, and she leapt through the air. She shoved her handgun into its holster, did a forward flip, and smoothly landed on her hands. She rolled forward, came up on her feet, and charged straight at Mister Muscle, yelling, “HE IS MINE!”
Batman slid backward in a modified aikido glide-step, but the crazy girl wasn’t even looking at him. She had parachuted through security glass and leapt a ridiculous distance before landing as easily as if she’d hopped down a couple stair steps. And he could judge that she was moving too quickly. Strength, speed, durability, quickness… The girl had to be yet another superpowered being.
He had never run into a super-threat in his entire life, and suddenly he was in a room with four
. That was insane. Or perhaps it was causal.
Two knives came whirring out from the darkness of a service door. He swept his cape through the air and intercepted both of them. It wasn’t as if his cape was merely a bulky pile of black fabric.
Then he whirled in the opposite direction and used one of his boomerangs to pick off another one of the flying mechanical menaces. He dropped one of his smoke pellets and stomped on it, providing enough cover for him to dart to the side and go deal with Bane’s accomplices before some innocent bystander got hurt.
Bane looked at the girl charging at him. If he hadn’t seen the superheroine Terawatt in the flesh, he might have been deceived. But forewarned is forearmed. And this girl came through security glass as if it were nothing. She looked like a hundred twenty pounds of beauty queen in a silly costume. He would not treat her that way.
He blocked her first punch…
Or at least he tried. But she was startlingly fast. Her fist shot out faster than he could block, and struck him in the stomach. And she hit far harder than the Bat. If he had been an ordinary man, she would have broken him in half by the time her third punch found its mark.
But he was not an ordinary man. He struck back with a lightning-fast jab and a fast elbow-knee-foot combination. She dodged the jab, and fought her way into his combination, trying to close the distance that his superior reach made a clear advantage for him. She successfully blocked his elbow and knee, then dodged his foot.
He managed to land his next blow, though. He threw a tight hook while she was warding off his leg, and he caught her right in the jaw. She went flying backward.
If he had not felt the force of her blows, or seen the way she leapt from that parachute, he would have assumed that his punch had not only knocked her out but had also shattered her jaw. But he wasn’t going to make an assumption like that. He was going to make sure she was crushed before he moved back to his original target.
Alex would have called Hanna off, but she saw something a lot more pressing. The green woman was still on the little podium, but she had two huge vines that had trapped two men in expensive suits, and it looked like the vines were strangling them.
She darted over and used her secret knowledge against the woman.
Poison Ivy’s head snapped up, and she glared at Alex. “Who are you? How do you know my old name?”
Alex said, “Poison Ivy, put those men down unharmed, or I’ll be forced to destroy your plants.” She flashed a huge spark between her hands and moved threateningly toward some more of the vines.
“No! Don’t hurt my babies!” Poison Ivy looked around frantically, but whatever support she was expecting was probably already busy fighting someone.
Alex pushed her luck, flying in closer to Poison Ivy so she could intimidate the woman more. “Then do as I say! I can make things a lot harder on your plants, bec-”
She wasn’t expecting Poison Ivy to breathe out a cloud of yellow stuff right at her face.
He peered out through the hole he had cut in one of the curtains. He had yet another model airplane up and ready to attack any of Bane’s opponents. This one had razor-sharp wings and a spray can of Teflon to undermine anyone’s footing.
He still was not sure why Bane had not been able to take down the petite blonde in the military outfit. But Bane had hit her three times, and she still wasn’t down. And for every blow Bane got in, the girl got in four or five strikes, several of which had staggered Bane.
He figured that if he ran his model plane behind her and slashed her back, she would lose all focus and be an easy target for the boss. So all he had to do was…
He spun around at the noise, dropping into a capoeira stance, but the service hall behind him was empty. Not dark, or shadowy, but utterly empty. He turned back, model controls in his hands and moved to get another peek through the hole.
Out of nowhere, something wrapped around his ankles and pulled, dumping him on his face. He felt the controls break as he landed on top of them. His face slammed into the floor as his feet were pulled upward.
But he rolled with a smooth kick, and freed his feet from… Nothing?
There was nothing there and no one in sight. The hall was still empty. He leapt to his feet and looked for some sign of what was going on. He stepped forward and felt something like a rope under his foot, but there was nothing there.
Just as he was asking himself if there could possibly be an invisible rope, there was the faint swish of movement in front of him, even though he could see nothing there… and a foot caught him right in the crotch. An invisible foot.
He folded in on himself, helplessly grabbing his groin. An invisible hand slammed his head into the wall.
Hanna watched as the giant adjusted his stance. The man was an excellent fighter. Not as fast as Major Riley, but still as fast as Captain Graham. And stronger than Major Riley, although perhaps not stronger than the scarred monster-man in New Jersey. The giant didn’t need to be stronger than the monster-man, because the giant was extremely skilled, and the monster-man had all the fighting skills of a baby caribou.
He had managed to punch her three times, once in the jaw, once in the solar plexus, and once in the cheek. She had blocked or dodged all the other attacks, although she would have an assortment of interesting bruises from them. She would have to wear something frilly and long-sleeved for the next day or two, so Janet would not spot all of them, or else there would be a lot of fussing and unnecessary pampering, which admittedly made her feel warm inside.
The giant moved. He launched a kick at her knee, which she easily dodged and managed to hook his ankle. But when she tried to use his mass against him, he turned her jujutsu throw into a grapple that let him get one arm around her waist so he could smash her into the floor.
Batman moved through the dark hallway. He had knocked out two minions carrying machine pistols, but someone else had taken care of the man who had the remote controls. He didn’t know who it was, and he was not yet sure if it was an ally, or a rival of Bane’s forces, or something even less obvious.
The pale man with the throwing knives was simply standing there, in the doorway, waiting for an opportunity to put a knife in one of the young women. It looked like he was trying to get a shot at the lightning-fast fighter who was engaging Bane. Batman had no idea who or what the girl was, but she had taken two punches to the face that would have killed a normal human, and she still looked like she was enjoying herself. He didn’t want to think what condition he would be in if Bane had punched him in the jaw like that.
Batman moved silently into position, and then struck. Two swift blows, and the man was unconscious.
“Jesus!” a young man squeaked in the darkness behind him.
Batman whirled about and moved into a fighting stance with a boomerang at the ready.
The voice said, “Hey! No hurting the good guys, okay?”
Batman flipped on the hall lights, and… there was no one there.
The voice said, “Umm, yeah, about that, I’m not exactly easy to see anymore. But if you could put down the dangerous sharp thing, I’d really appreciate it.”
Hanna hit the floor with a crash, but she was already twisting into position. The giant tried to land atop her and pin her for some groundfighting moves, but she wasn’t going to hold still for that. She got her legs under him and kicked hard enough to flip him over her head and into a big planter.
He crashed through the solid material of the planter and hit the marble floor on the other side with a thud that she felt through the floor.
She started to leap to her feet when she realized she was already pinned down. Vines as big around as her upper arm had snaked around both wrists and her waist. Another was trying to ensnare her right foot, and yet another one was writhing toward her throat.
Even if the vines did not kill her, she was now a very easy target for the giant. It occurred to her that this was the kind of thing that Colonel Jack was always telling her she needed to avoid, and this was what a fear response was for.
Sam McCloud was wrestling with a chunk of plant. How was he going to explain that when the Chief got wind of this? He hadn’t gotten his hand bandaged fully, but he was too busy now to finish the job. At least the plant had grabbed him around his right wrist, and so he’d twisted his arm a couple times until the plant was not only holding him in place, but also accidentally serving as a tourniquet.
And he wanted to know who was that good at throwing knives. Even knives like that one, which was a lot thinner and more aerodynamic than a normal knife.
He kicked out at the other end of the vine, as it tried to grab him around the ankle. He just knew Chris was gonna be mighty upset about this mess.
Alex instinctively went silvery as the yellow stuff came her way, and she jetted straight up. She didn’t know what the stuff would do to her, but she didn’t want to find out.
Poison Ivy started to yell something at the plants that were already attacking Hanna, so Alex let loose. First, a lightning bolt right into Poison Ivy’s considerable chest, and then a bigger blast into the over-muscled bully as he tried to get back up to attack Hanna again.
They both dropped, although it was pretty clear the big guy wasn’t down for the count, just slightly stunned.
The vines went crazy.
Uh-oh. Maybe she shouldn’t have blasted their mommy.