“Let’s begin this inquiry,” Colonel Trask said. He was sitting in a semi-circle with five other high ranking officers. “Miss Bowman, what were you doing before the power went out?”
“I was reading the collected novels and stories involving Sherlock Holmes,” Sirvanna said.
“Were you alone at the time?”
“No,” Sirvanna said. “Undine was around.”
“And what was she doing?”
“She was just hanging out,” Sirvanna said. “She complained about being bored and just sat down.”
“Did she ever leave?”
“No, she was there the whole time,” Sirvanna said.
“How were you able to tell?”
“I admit that she can go too fast for the naked eye for short periods,” Sirvanna said. “But the door was closed and she couldn’t have snuck off without stirring up a breeze that I would have noticed.”
“And what did you do when the power went out?”
“At first I thought it was just a power outage so I went to find a torch,” Sirvanna said.
“What did Miss Reyes do?”
“She went with me,” Sirvanna said. “And she made some flirtatious comments about ways to occupy ourselves in the dark.”
“What happened when the alarm sounded?”
“I sent Undine ahead,” Sirvanna said. “When I arrived Aurora was feeling ill. Pixie filled me in on the situation so I sent Mara and Sylph to guard the perimetre so the culprit or culprits couldn’t escape.”
“And what did you do?”
“I went to examine the power station,” Sirvanna said. “I couldn’t due to the repair teams so I went to check the command centre. Nothing appeared amiss so I returned to the others.”
“You may go, Miss Bowman” Trask said. “Leave out the side door.”
Sirvanna nodded and shuffled out of the room. Trask grabbed his radio. “Send in Miss Reyes.”
The group shuffled their papers when the front door opened. Ines was standing in front of them before they could look up.
“Yo!” Ines said.
“Miss Reyes,” Trask began “What were you doing before the power went out?”
“Thinking,” Ines answered. “There wasn’t anything else to do on the base.”
“Were you alone?”
“No,” Ines said. “I was with Sirvanna. She was reading something or other.”
“Why were you around her if you weren’t going to interact?”
“Who doesn’t like to be around a gorgeous girl?” Ines asked.
“What did you do when the power went out?”
“Suggested that me and Sirvanna…” Ines paused “…play, but she wanted to be boring and find a light.”
“Do you often flirt with your squadmates?”
“Define ‘often’,” Ines said.
“Never mind,” Trask said. “What happened when the alarm went off?”
“Sirvanna sent me ahead,” Ines said. “Katelyn told me there might be an intruder so I combed the area several times to check it out.”
“Did you see anything suspicious?”
“The generator was down,” Ines said. “Other than that there was nothing of interest.”
“You didn’t see anyone?”
“Just our own soldiers and techs,” Ines said.
“How do you explain that?”
“Best guess is that it was an enemy plaguer who could teleport, turn invisible or shapeshift,” Ines said.
“That will be all Miss Reyes,” Trask said. “Go out the side door and wait with Miss Bowman.”
He grabbed his radio “Send in Miss Richards.”
“Something’s been bugging me lately. I don’t mean to pry, but is Zhao really older than you?” Jenny asked.
“She is,” he answered. “By several years in fact.”
“How is that possible?” Jenny asked. “I know, it’s stupid to ask since you’ve already told me that she’s older than I am but she looks so… young.”
“Zhao’s body hasn’t aged since I met her,” he answered. “I can only deduce that it’s an unexpected result of her gift similar to the hair colour changes some of us underwent.” He shrugged. “Of course, she is the only one I’ve met with such a side effect and, unfortunately, I can’t tell you why. I’ve given her periodic exams, tested her cell structure, brain chemistry and everything else in an attempt to isolate those factors which resulted in her ageless body, but my efforts have been fruitless. All I can tell you for certain is that her body doesn’t age but her brain does. It’s quite a fascinating puzzle really.” He stretched an open hand back to her. “Would you care for a kinder egg? They’re quite good.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Jenny said. “So, why treat her like a child?”
“I don’t,” he said. “No more than I treat anyone else, anyway.”
“Is that so?” Jenny asked. “Well, I have to get back. She needs me to model that stupid power armour.”
“Have fun,” he said. “Oh, and take an egg for her too.”
“Now, Mr Washington says that your partner was acting strange, how do you explain that?”
“Of course she’s strange,” Katelyn said “she’s a plaguer. We aren’t exactly the nuclear family down the street.”
“So, you attribute her behaviour to the fact that she’s a plaguer?”
“No,” Katelyn said. “I attribute it to her being a muppet.”
“This is a serious inquiry Miss Kyle,” Trask said. “It’s not the time for sarcasm.”
“My watch must be off then,” Katelyn said.
“And what happened when the other members of your squad arrived?”
“We got naked and danced in a circle to bring in the solstice,” Katelyn said. “We went looking for the culprit, of course. Yuni and I stayed near the barracks in case it was an attempt to take out the soldiers or worse, to steal my pillow. Ines went to run around. Alena and Alexa went to patrol the perimetre and Sirvanna went off to look things over.”
“Did you see anything suspicious?”
“Now that you mention it,” Katelyn said. “I saw a bunch of dudes in uniform carrying guns.”
“You saw our own troops?”
“Are you admitting to something, Colonel?” Katelyn asked.
“Get out of my sight, Miss Kyle.”
“So, behind you then?” Katelyn asked.
Katelyn joined the others. “I didn’t know I was the last one,” she said.
“Yeah,” Alexa said. “It wouldn’t have been such a pain if our fearless leader hadn’t been useless in an emergency.”
“Say that again and to my face!” Sirvanna said.
“Gladly,” Alexa said. The little conference room filled with lightning and wind. The cameras were quickly destroyed. An electronic bug was tossed in the air where Ines caught and crushed it.
“We’re clear!” she called.
The lightning and wind died down immediately.
“We don’t have long until they come to investigate,” Sirvanna said. “I’d just like to say three things. The first is that you all did really well. The second is that I have no intention of letting anyone here die. If that means we have to lose a battle or ruin our own side’s plan on occasion, then so be it. You’re my squad and I will keep you safe. Even so, I think it’s important that we try to win this. Even if it’s flawed, this is our country and we should protect it. Now, any questions will have to wait until we aren’t under tough scrutiny. Until that happens no one is to mention any of this.” She and Alexa locked their arms.
Colonel Trask came in with Benton and a group of soldiers. “What is going on?” he demanded.
Sirvanna and Alexa split. “A slight discipline problem, Sir,” Sirvanna answered.
“Take it outside next time!” Trask cried. “Never mind, we have a new mission for you.”
Ines sped through the base. It was the third time she’d been there, so she was perfectly familiar with the layout. She ran down another corridor, taking careful note of everything and everyone she passed.
“Undine,” Sirvanna’s voice came in over her headset.
“I’m here,” Ines answered.
“Have you found anything?”
“Nothing,” Ines said. “The strangest thing I’ve seen on my run through was a couple having sex in the janitor closet, but I haven’t seen any indications of anyone spying.”
“Was the couple at least cute?” Katelyn’s voice joined in.
“I don’t know,” Ines said. “I can’t really judge guys.”
“Let’s keep this professional,” Sirvanna said. “Have you found anything, Pixie?”
“Not a thing,” Katelyn said. “Is there really a spy here?”
“Information keeps getting leaked from this base,” Sirvanna answered. “There has to be someone doing it and it’s our job to catch them.”
“You want me to buy bear traps?” Katelyn asked.
Alexa floated in the air above the computer terminals. She was using binoculars to examine what everyone was doing.
“Sylph, have you found anything?” Sirvanna’s voice came in clearly.
“Not a ruddy thing,” Alexa said. “Unless you want to talk about the decidedly unprofessional sites some of these people visit during work.”
“I’m fine, thanks,” Sirvanna said. There was some static as her radio exchanged hands.
“Put the names of the soldiers down on report,” Benton’s voice came in.
“Whatever,” Alexa said. “I’ll do it if I remember when I’m done keeping watch.”
“Your team is insubordinate,” Benton said, handing Sirvanna the radio back.
“It can’t be helped,” Sirvanna said. “We weren’t exactly trained before they dropped us into this mess. Still, we get the job done.”
She kept staring at the monitors and tried to ignore her chaperone problem. “Mara, have you found anything?” she asked.
“Nothing,” Mara said. “The files all seem to be in order.”
“I see,” Sirvanna said. “How about you Aurora?”
“I’ve written down everything said at the mess,” Yuni said. “Some of it might be important.”
“And by that she means that it’s all idle gossip,” Katelyn said.
“That’s mean!” Yuni said. “There could be a code of some kind.”
“What’s the last entry?” Sirvanna asked.
“This is from a lady talking on her cell,” Yuni said. She cleared her throat. “‘Yes dear, I’ll bring home milk. Don’t worry so much, we aren’t that close to the front anymore. Yes. I’ll see you when I get home. I love you too, bye.'”
“Mystery solved,” Katelyn said. “Let’s nail her and head home.”
“You think?” Yuni asked.
“She was being sarcastic,” Sirvanna said. “Keep listening. Maybe you’ll hear something.”
“Yo,” Ines said.
“Shouldn’t you be running through the base?” Sirvanna asked.
“I came to check the monitors,” Ines said. “See if I missed any major part of the base.” She put a hand on Sirvanna’s shoulder and leaned forward. “Wait, what?” Her voice trailed off and she stared intently at the main computer room monitor.
“Sylph is watching that,” Sirvanna said. “Did you see something?”
“There it is again,” Ines muttered. “And again. Of course, it all makes sense now.” She looked down at Sirvanna. “You may as well recall the others. Except Alexa, of course. We don’t want to alert our prey.”
“Got it,” Sirvanna said. She went to hit the talk button on her radio.
“Hold on a second!” Benton said. “You’re really going to recall everyone because she ‘saw something’ even without her telling you what?”
“Undine may have negative aspects,” Sirvanna said “but she’s reliable. If she says that she saw something I’ll trust her.” She hit the button. “Mara, Pixie, Aurora, return to the security room.”
“See,” Ines said. “It’s always the same computer.”
“I see it,” Alena said. The lights in the room had been turned off as had every monitor save one.
“So, what is it?” Sirvanna asked.
“One of the unused computers is sending messages,” Ines said. “So fast that even I almost missed it.”
“That’s impossible!” Benton cried. “Computers can’t…”
“Shush,” Katelyn said. “The grownups are talking.”
“Why you little…” Benton began.
“Sergeant,” Sirvanna interrupted. “You were sent to observe, not to get involved. Please allow us to do our job.”
“In simple terms shut up, sit back and stay out of the way,” Katelyn said. “So, what does it mean?”
“Either they have a way to tap into the computer remotely that’s beyond our current technology,” Alena said “or there’s a plaguer at work.”
“Is it still the same computer?” Sirvanna asked.
“Yes,” Alena answered over the radio.
Sirvanna nodded and Ines stormed through the room, unplugging every computer save for the suspicious one.
“What are you all doing?” the demand came from a muscular woman in a high ranking uniform.
“Sergeant Alex Benton special forces,” Benton said, showing his papers. “We’re here on official business. Please vacate this room.”
The woman called in his information before ordering everyone out. Alena arrived as they were leaving and Alexa floated down.
“One computer left on,” Ines said. “And it looks to be the one we want.”
“I’ll just have to fry its mainframe,” Sirvanna said, a burst of lightning emerging from her fingers.
Light flashed from the monitor. A woman emerged from the screen. She was roughly 5’7 in height, slim with blue-green hair and bright blue eyes, even her sclera were a bright blue rather than the natural white. She held up her hands and bowed her head. “I surrender. Go ahead and kill me.”
“We aren’t going to kill you,” Benton said. “We’re going to take you in for questioning.” He turned to the squad. “You ladies watch her. I’ll call this in.”
“Torture then,” she said.
“We wouldn’t do that!” Yuni said. “We’re the good guys!” She looked around at her companions. Alena, Ines and Katelyn all looked away. “Right?”
“Sometimes you have to do distasteful things for the greater good,” Sirvanna said. “Especially in times of war.”
“No way,” Yuni muttered.
Where are you going?
“I’m taking a little trip to the front,” he said. “I’ll trust you to look after everything while I’m gone.”
You can’t go to the front! You’re useless in a fight.
“I have no intention of fighting,” he said. He picked up his cell and dialed. “Jenny, get your power armour and meet me at the front gate. Don’t dawdle now, or I shall be cross.” He hung up and dialed a different number. “Anya, get your team together. I have a new mission for you. Yes. I’ll send you the coordinates. Thank you.” He hung up and his cell rang almost instantly. “Hello Zhao. Yes, I’m afraid that I’ll need her. I will. As a matter of fact, I do. Yes, I have a package I’d like you to deliver. Of course. Get the FT-Y7 group ready. I’ll also be sending Wraith. Thank you, I’ll bring you back a souvenir.”
What are you planning?
“I’d love to give you the details, but time is rather important. If all goes well I’ll be back in a couple days.” He grabbed his suitcase and strode away.
Naoko looked at his laptop, it had been left on. It was displaying a simple message.
“I’m sorry, I’ve failed. They’ve caught me. I just hope that I was useful to you. Please, remember me fondly. With love always, Trojan.”
“I’m sorry if I interrupted you,” he said. “But time is of the essence.”
“Not at all,” Jenny said. “You didn’t interrupt anything.”
“Jenny dear,” Christina said. “You may want to… Well…”
“You’ve got hand-prints on your ass,” Anastasia said.
Jenny blushed and looked down.
“You didn’t have to put it so bluntly,” Christina said.
“When did you and Zhao start getting into it?” Anastasia asked.
He raised his right hand very slightly and everyone in the transport plane went silent. “That’s better,” he said. “Let’s focus on the mission and not get nosy about anyone’s personal life. It’s quite impolite.”
“I object to you being involved in this,” Anya said.
“I know,” he said. “But it can’t be helped. The plan won’t work if I don’t appear in person.”
“You should’ve used a shape shifter,” Anya said.
“Now now,” Christina said. “Let’s be calm. He has all of us to protect him. He’ll be perfectly fine.”
“I’ll be relying on your strength,” he said. “However, I do have one important order that I’ll have to ask you all to follow.” He stood up and walked calmly to the transport’s centre so that the members of Omega Theta Sigma were in a circle around him. “Jenny, Christina, Anastasia, Anya, Callie,” he looked at each of them in turn as he spoke “you are all going to survive this mission. Even if you have to leave me behind.” He held up his hand before any objections could be raised. “Now, I don’t think it’ll come to that. However, I will not have you pay for my vision with your blood. If someone must perish, let it be me. I will entrust you all, as well as our other gifted comrades, to turn my vision into your own and realise it after I’m gone. Should the worst case scenario come to pass.”
“This is it?” Sirvanna asked.
“It will have to do,” Benton said. “The man responsible for this war is touring the eastern front. Most of our soldiers have been diverted to mount an assault. The prisoner transport will be up to me, your squad, and Lieutenant’s Red, Berkley and Hudson.”
“It’ll be fine,” Yuni said. “We don’t have to take her through hostile territory or anything.”
“It would be tactically unsound to mount an attack behind enemy lines just to save one spy,” Alena said.
“All right,” Sirvanna said. “Undine, scout ahead. If you see any potential danger run back. The rest of us will keep an eye on the prisoner. It’s a pretty long drive, but we can sleep in shifts when the time comes. Maintain radio contact at all times.”
They set off on the road. Ines ran ahead. The rest of Sirvanna’s team sat in the back of the truck along with Hudson and Red. Benton and Berkley were in the front. Trojan was being kept in shackles. She made no move to resist.
Everything was peaceful for a couple hours when Ines ran back.
“Another break?” Sirvanna asked, scooting over.
Ines shook her head. “A bunch of cylinders were just dropped by unmarked aircraft moving at great speed ahead of us.”
“Stop the truck!” Sirvanna cried. The vehicle came screeching to a halt.
“What’s going…” Benton was cut off by a succession of loud crashes.
“Hudson and I watch the prisoner, you go,” Red said.
“Got it,” Sirvana said. “Benton, you and Berkley had better stay put too.”
“I’ll go along as an observer,” Benton said. “My first duty is still to keep an eye on you.”
“Do whatever you want,” Sirvanna said. “All right, let’s go.”
“At least we get to stretch our legs,” Katelyn muttered.
The six scrambled out the back. There were four large cargo canisters on the road roughly five yards away.
“What do you think is in them?” Yuni asked.
“Ice cream and spoons,” Katelyn said.
“That can’t be it,” Yuni said. “They don’t look refrigerated. Besides, they’re far too big. Unless… They’re carrying refrigerators with Ice Cream?”
“Sylph, Aurora, cut them open from here,” Sirvanna said. They had moved to within a yard of them.”
Alexa and Yuni were just about to get started when the canisters opened on their own. A large metallic feline with rockets attached to its sides emerged from the first. It was followed by a bulkier ape-like robot. There was also a large saurian and one that looked like a great floating orb with all kinds of mechanical arms attached to it.
“Robots,” Sirvanna said. “Everyone, be on your guard. Wait until you find out what they can do and strike back.”
“Where’s Megaman when you need him?” Katelyn asked.
“There may be more trouble,” Alena said. She nodded towards an empty parachute, barely visible behind the cylinders.
“Great,” Sirvana said. “That’s all we needed.”
It started with an unusually large rush of wind, followed by a second, smaller one. That was when Sirvanna noticed that both the feline and Ines were gone.
“Undine, get back here,” she said. “You can’t take it on alone. It’s dangerous.”
“Danger is lurking around every turn,” Ines said. “I’ve gotta trust my feelings on this matter. Besides, it’s too fast for the rest of you.”
Sirvanna glanced up. The other three were still stationary.
“They’re testing us,” Alena said.
“Seems so,” Sirvanna muttered. “Aurora, I want you to hurl daggers of light at the remaining three. Sylph, kick up a cloud of dust around them. Maybe we can obscure their sensors. I’ll make them ride the lightning.”
“What should I do?” Alena asked.
“Stay back with Pixie and warn us about what you see them doing,” Sirvanna said. “The sun should set pretty soon and then you can join us.” She looked at Katelyn. “Feel free to jump in whenever you notice an opening.”
“They certainly have shown up in force,” Jenny muttered.
“You guys go fight,” Anya said. “I’ll protect him.”
“Are you sure?” Jenny asked.
“Yeah,” Anya nodded. “My gift is the most suited for defense.”
“Then we’ll be off,” Jenny said.
“Try not to kill any of our gifted friends,” he said. “Unless you have no choice, of course.”
“We know,” Jenny said.
“Please don’t worry,” Christina said. “We’ll make sure to be careful.”
He pulled a beeping device out of his jacket and looked at it with some amusement. “This again? I would have thought they’d have learned their lesson.” He pushed several buttons and put it back.
“What was that?” Anya asked.
“There was just a little something developing,” he said. “Nothing to worry about, I dealt with it.”
The ape lumbered after Sirvanna. Her lightning didn’t seem to affect it. She shot the ground beneath it, causing it to leap into the air. She rolled under it, firing crimson lightning at its underside.
Yuni saw the saurian approaching. She took several steps back and shot light daggers into it. They didn’t penetrate its armour. She sent a large ball of light at its head to blind it. It kept coming.
The orb’s arms moved towards Alexa. She gestured and a great wind blew it away. Its arms quickly retracted leaving it as a smooth orb and it came right back. This time the wind wasn’t effective.
“The nukes reversed course!” a soldier cried. “We can’t regain control!”
“It wasn’t the computer girl stopping us?” General Anderson asked.
“Order the personnel of the bases that fired them to take cover!” Anderson said. “If we’re lucky these ones will be deactivated like the last ones were.”
There was a sharp knock on the transport’s rear. Red, Hudson and Berkley looked at each other. They gave some quick hand signals. Berkley and Hudson readied their guns. Red opened the door with one arm.
“There’s no one out there,” Hudson said.
“Odd,” Red said, closing the door. “Could something have been knocked against it? Or maybe…”
He was cut off when the knife pierced his throat. Berkley and Hudson both fired in his direction, but there was no visible target.
“A plaguer?” Hudson asked. He glanced around. Berkley was lying dead in a pool of blood. He felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned to see a muscular man with dark hair and brown eyes.
“We prefer to be called gifted,” the man said. He thrust a knife between Hudson’s eyes. “Don’t misidentify us again.”
“Wraith?” Trojan asked. “Why?”
“My Lord wants you rescued,” Wraith said. “And what my Lord wants he shall have.” He held out a cell. “My smart phone should have more than enough of a charge to last the trip.”
“Got it,” Trojan said. The phone’s screen shimmered and she vanished. Wraith placed the phone in a protective case and disappeared from sight.
“Must keep on moving ahead,” Ines thought. “But, I can’t keep this up forever. I’ll tire before it will. I need a plan.” She activated her communicator. “Sirvanna!”
“I’m a bit occupied right now,” Sirvanna said.
“Won’t take a moment,” Ines said. “In thirty seconds just loose a burst of lightning in a stream in front of you. Thanks!” She glanced back. The feline was still right behind her. “That’s it, Kitty. Take my lead, I’ll set you free.”
She doubled back and ran toward Sirvanna. The feline turned to follow her. She counted down the seconds. “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two,” she ran directly past Sirvanna “one.” Sirvanna loosed a stream of lightning. The mechanical feline was caught by it. It was thrown to the ground where it sparked, fidgeted and stopped moving.
“Oh yeah!” Ines said.
The feline had been eliminated, but the ape was still coming. Sirvanna moved away from it. “Just fry it,” Ines said.
“I can’t,” Sirvanna called. “It’s insulated.”
“What a pain,” Ines said. She ran up its back. Sirvanna couldn’t make out her movements both due to her speed and due to the fact that they were on opposite sides of the machine. The next thing she saw was Ines being tossed off and the ape turning towards her.
“Above the right shoulder!” Ines cried.
Sirvanna looked at the spot. A hatch had been torn open, revealing its insides. She aimed and hurled a bolt. It hit right inside that hatch. The ape staggered, its arm fell of, but it didn’t stop. It punched the ground with its remaining arm, sending a wave of dirt at Sirvanna.
Before she could move away she was scooped up. “I’ve got you,” Ines said. “What next?”
“Take me to its stub,” Sirvanna said.
“Got it,” Ines said. “Let’s dash.”
Within seconds the two of them were right alongside the ape. Sirvanna fired a stream of lightning right into its stub. It collapsed, pieces falling off of it as it went.
Yuni ran from the saurian. It followed behind her, taking bites as it went, but she managed to outrun it. That was when she saw Alena in her path.
“Get out of here!” Yuni cried. “Run!”
Alena shook her head. “I won’t.”
“But it’ll kill you,” Yuni said.
“Unless someone stops it or it goes dark in thirty seconds,” Alena said.
Yuni moved between them. She hurled daggers at the saurian’s feet. They weren’t effective. She had to protect Alena but what could she do? Her powers just bounced off of its hide. Wait, that was the answer. She stood her ground as it approached, gathering energy in her hand. When it snapped at her she struck, hurling all that energy down its throat.
The robot’s insides blew and it fell into a smoking heap.
“I did it,” Yuni said. “I… I really did it.” She stared at her own hand. Alena took it in hers.
“I knew you could,” she whispered.
Alexa took to the air. No matter how many times she pushed the orb away it kept coming back. The last time it had almost reached her.
“Hey,” Katelyn’s voice came in clearly. “Do you think you have enough power to send it over here, or did you use it all trying the same ineffective tactic over and over again?”
Alexa looked over. Katelyn was standing by the canisters.
“Don’t regret it,” Alexa said. She landed back on the ground and summoned a great wind to toss the orb towards Katelyn.
“Bottom of the ninth,” Katelyn muttered. “Bases loaded.” She gestured and one of the canisters uprooted itself from the ground and crashed on top of the orb, crushing its components. “And its a strike! Or would this be more of a foul ball?”
“Looks like we did it,” Sirvanna said. “Let’s regroup.”
The six of them gathered back together. Yuni had her arms around Alena.
“She’s tired,” Alena said. “Used a lot of power.”
Alexa looked shaky.
Sirvanna’s legs were wobbling and she was sweating profusely. “Well done, Everyone. But there’s still a person out there somewhere. I’ve sent Undine to run a search but we should all look for…”
“Too late,” Ines said. “Those three Lieutenants are dead and she’s gone.”
“Could they still be around?” Sirvanna asked.
“Unlikely,” Ines said. “I saw a stealth jet flying away, low. The prisoner and whoever rescued her are probably on board.”
“I’ll call for air reinforcements,” Benton said. “It might not be too late. You six get some rest.”