“This facility is pretty nice,” Yuni said. “I just hope we don’t get lost.”
“No worries,” Alena said. She produced a map.
“Where did you get that?” Yuni asked.
“He gave it to me,” Alena said. “The dorms are here,” she pointed. “Cafe, restricted area, hangar, briefing room, workshop, medical facility, gym, common area,” She pointed to each one as she said it.
“How come I didn’t get one?” Yuni asked.
“Maybe because you didn’t ask,” Alena said.
“So, you’ve joined us,” Anya said.
“Looks like it,” Alexa said.
The two stared at each other.
“I’m not going to apologise for beating you down,” Alexa said.
“I was about to say the same thing,” Anya said. “And you stayed down.”
“Are you trying to pick a fight with me?” Alexa asked. “Because I will mess up your pretty face.”
“You think I’m pretty?” Anya asked.
“Doesn’t matter,” Alexa said. “Your personality ruins any appeal you might have.”
“Keep provoking me and I may forget we’re on the same side for a while,” Anya said.
“That would be fine with me,” Alexa said.
“It’s like I’ve gone to college,” Katelyn muttered. She looked around the commons area. There were a couple shelves with snacks, a fridge, several regular tables and some tables for billiards.
Blair was sitting at one of the tables drawing on a sheet of paper with crayons.
Katelyn checked the fridge. “Thought so, nothing alcoholic.”
“That stuff’ll hurt your liver,” Blair said.
“The damage can be fixed,” Katelyn said. “What are you drawing anyway?”
“Me protecting him from the monster,” Blair said.
“That’s a monster?” Katelyn asked. “It looks like a tube with some tentacles.”
“It’s the one I always see in my nightmares,” Blair said. “He says that I should just remind myself that I’m strong and I can protect him so I’ll feel better.”
“I don’t know about that,” Katelyn said. “It has a lot of tentacles. It could probably reach right past you and gobble him up.”
Blair put down the paper and looked up at Katelyn as if she was going to cry.
“Crap,” Katelyn muttered. “I am not good with kids.”
“Did you miss me?” Ines asked.
“You really weren’t gone that long,” Sirvanna said. “I did miss you, though.”
The two walked hand in hand down the corridors.
“How are your parents doing?” Sirvanna asked.
“They were a bit confused,” Ines said. “But they don’t feel a lot of love for home anymore on account of the wrongful imprisonment. So they were pretty willing to take my lead on this one.”
“Is their new home nice?”
“Yeah, it is pretty nice. You’d almost think there wasn’t a war going on to check the area out. Their neighbour is gifted like us. She can just gesture and whatever she wants just appears.”
“You sure it’s not sleight of hand?”
“She couldn’t do it fast enough to fool me,” Ines said. “What Chelsea does is definitely some kind of teleportation.”
“Chelsea?” a voice behind them asked. The two turned. It was the older woman from Theta Squad. “What Chelsea can do isn’t that simple. Chelsea shifts reality completely. She can even do it to make things that don’t really exist in this world.” She nodded. “She was definitely the most powerful of us.”
“So, why is she sitting things out?” Sirvanna asked.
“Because she doesn’t have the spirit. Chelsea could only get really fierce in battle when Rose was in danger. So, when Mr. Wagner offered our squadron the choice, she decided to live in peace and create a home for Rose to come back to.”
“What kind of mission do you think this is going to be?” Sirvanna wondered.
“Go to the place, beat the crap out of the people,” Katelyn said.
“Maybe it’s a bake sale,” Yuni said.
Alexa and Katelyn both turned to give her looks.
“Oh, right!” Yuni said. “I can’t bake at all.” She grabbed Alena’s hands. “You can cover for me, right?”
The door opened and Jenny walked in followed by the other members of Omega Theta Sigma.
“What are you all doing here?” Sirvanna asked.
“We were asked to come for a briefing,” Jenny said.
“You should leave this to us,” Alexa said. “You’ll just hold us back.”
“Worried that we’ll spoil your losing streak?” Anya asked.
Alexa rose and marched over to Anya, getting in her face. “I dare you to say that again.”
“Gladly,” Anya said. “Are you worried that we’ll spoil your losing streak?”
“Calm down you two,” Sirvanna said. “We’re all friends now.”
“We may be working together but that doesn’t make us friends,” Alexa said.
“For once, we agree,” Anya said.
“Now, now,” Yuni said. “Why don’t you two just kiss and make up?”
“They wouldn’t have to lean much further,” Katelyn said.
“Nonsense!” Alexa said. She hastily turned away from Anya and marched back to her seat.
Jenny took a seat. Her squadron quickly followed suit.
“Good, we’re all here,” Michael said. “I have an important mission for you.” He placed a miniature projector on the table and switched it on. “This is the current eastern front. Right now one of the closest enemy military bases is here, in the Rocky Mountains range.”
“Isn’t that the western front?” Yuni asked.
“Not from our perspective, Hon,” Christina said.
“Quite right,” Michael said. “Our next operation is going to be to take this base. Our forces are going to attack here and here. Jenny, Anya, and Anastasia will support this flank. Sirvanna, Ines, Yuni and Alexa will support this flank. Eventually the two groups should be able to meet in the middle. In the meantime, Callie, Christina, Katelyn and Alena will covertly move into the base and disable its defenses. Once we have the base we’ll fortify our position there while planning the next move. Aside from taking the base I have two objectives for you. The first is to live. If you have to retreat to survive, do it. We can always take the base at another time, but we can’t replace any of you. The second is to try not to kill any gifted opponents you meet. If you’re in imminent danger or otherwise don’t have a choice it’s fine, but I would prefer to avoid casualties of our people as much as possible.” He turned to the group and gave a slight smile. “After all, we all know that most of them aren’t actually fighting because they want to.”
“We’re in position,” Jenny said, speaking into her radio. “How about you guys?”
“We’re ready,” Sirvanna said.
“Ready,” Alena said.
“Alena, wait about five minutes and then go in with your team,” Jenny said. “Sirvanna, you and I will move now. Maintain radio silence, unless something incredibly important happens. Behemoth out.”
“Does she think we’re going to chatter about our girlfriends or something?” Katelyn asked.
“What makes you think we all have girlfriends?” Callie asked.
“My entire team except for, possibly, Alexa,” Katelyn answered. “Is your team really that different?”
“Anya might be straight,” Christina said. “It’s hard to say. I’ve never seen her show romantic or sexual interest in anyone. Other than that… Jenny has Zhao, even Callie can talk all day about Anastasia if you’ll let her.”
“How is it that just about every plaguer we encounter is a lesbian?” Katelyn muttered.
“That’s gifted person,” Christina chided. “We don’t use the p word.”
“Women do survive the plague more often than men,” Callie said. “So, maybe…”
“Five minutes,” Alena said. “Let’s go.”
Anya gestured and the enemy soldiers’ weapons flew from their arms and into the air. They were quickly mowed down.
Anastasia’s eyes flashed and a section of enemies who had taken cover were engulfed in flames.
“Planes!” Jenny cried.
“Got them,” Anya said. She floated into the sky. She pointed at one of the planes, it crumbled into a sphere and fell to the ground. Several missiles fired at Anya, she looked over towards them. They turned around and fired into the remaining planes.
Ines ran into the crowd of enemy soldiers. She lifted a knife from the first and got to work. In twenty eight seconds the entire group had dropped with cut throats.
Sirvanna and Yuni fired bolts of lightning and daggers of light into the larger column.
“Won’t we exhaust ourselves like this?” Yuni asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” Sirvanna said. “We’re support. We just have to keep them back long enough for Alena and her team to do their job.”
Alexa flew into the air to meet some fighter jets. One fired homing missiles. She dodged under them. They followed her. She stopped in front of the jet that had fired them, waved and flew behind it. The missiles slammed into it. She created a ferocious wind, pushing one of the jets into another.
“The enemy plaguers are causing havoc among our troops.”
“How many Golem units do we have?”
“Nine, Ma’am.” We’re supposed to get another shipment in at the end of the month to supplement our forces.”
“Send units all of them, except unit five, in two teams to meet the enemy plaguers. Unit five will remain here to guard the base.”
She turned to the view screen. “We’ll show them the strength of discipline.”
Jenny lifted a boulder over her head and tossed it into the enemy line.
“We’re just about at their base,” Anya reported.
“Let’s burn through them,” Anastasia said.
“We’re supposed to be holding them here,” Jenny pointed out.
“If they’re too weak to keep us here, we might as well take the fight right to their base,” Anastasia said.
“I agree,” Anya said.
“Right,” Jenny said. “Let’s keep moving!”
The three rushed forward only to be blocked by a beam of ruby light.
“Gifted,” Anya said.
“Stop,” Jenny called. “We don’t want to fight you. We can remove the explosives for you.”
The only response she got was a second beam of light.
There were four opponents. The one hurling the force beams was a young woman with a shaved head and a tattooed number 2. She gathered energy in her hands without speaking and fired. A second enemy, this one male with a shaved head and a tattoo of the number 3, grew to sixteen feet tall and threw a punch at them. Jenny caught his massive fist and pushed him backwards. He crashed heavily on the ground. A second woman, also shaved with a tattooed 7, stretched her fist at them, it became massive while the rest of her body shrank.
“This is kind of creepy,” Anastasia said. She hurled a ball of flame at the oncoming fist. The fist went right into it without making an effort to dodge and came down at Anastasia. Several sheets of metal moved into its path. It crashed into them with a sickening thud.
“Thanks,” Anastasia said. Anya nodded at her.
The final woman, shaved and with the number 9 on her forehead, ignited into flames and flew after Anya.
“I need a breather,” Yuni panted.
“Go ahead,” Sirvanna said. “I’ll cover you.”
Yuni ducked and worked on gathering herself. Suddenly, a man with a shaved head and a “1” tattooed on his forehead appeared beside her. It took her a moment to recognise him.
“Hey,” she said. “You’re that guy who sent us…” he decked her.
“We’ve got trouble,” Ines said. Running towards them. A woman with scaly wings, a shaved head and an 8 tattooed on her head was chasing Ines, almost catching her, and hurling bolts of lightning as she went.
The teleporter hurriedly vanished.
“Keep calm,” Sirvanna said. “If we can talk to them, we might be able to get them to back off.”
“Tell that to this one,” Alexa said. A woman with the number 6 tattooed on her forehead was hurling green energy arrows up at her in rapid succession.
A woman with a 4 tattooed on her forehead approached Sirvanna, calmly.
“Call off your attack,” Sirvanna said. “We can help you.”
Energy surrounded the woman and her skin turned into a steel-like substance. She threw a punch at Sirvanna, who barely had time to duck beneath it.
“I don’t like it,” Ines said. “The tattoos, the lack of any vocalisation. It can’t be a good sign.”
Sirvanna blasted the steel woman with lightning, but it didn’t seem to affect her. “What are you suggesting?”
“Brainwashing, probably,” Ines said.
“Smooth sailing so far,” Katelyn said.
Callie moved as mist behind a pair of guards, solidified and snapped their necks.
“The main control room should be coming up soon,” Christina said. “How delightfully simple.”
“Not over yet,” Alena said.
The four peered around the corridor at the control room’s entrance. There were two guards.
“My turn,” Katelyn said. Their army knives floated out of their holsters and buried themselves in the backs of their skulls.
“Your way is too messy,” Christina said. “It lacks elegance.”
“And I suppose turning into a bear and mauling people is the very model of grace?” Katelyn asked.
The four moved in.
Christina clapped her hands. “Okay, everyone. Weapons on the ground. Surrender and we won’t have to hurt you.”
The woman in the centre glared at them. “Unit five, exterminate the intruders.”
A woman with a five tattooed on her shaved head stepped forward. With a gesture, a stream of water pushed into the four. Breaking the steel door and sending them scattered into the hallway. She strode after them.
Sirvanna tried flipping backwards to avoid her steel opponent. Only to be tripped by the teleporter and fall over. She barely rolled out of the way of her opponent’s fist.
“That guy is getting on my nerves,” Sirvanna said. “Ines, can you neutralise the teleporter?”
“Not at this exact moment,” Ines called back. “Unless you want to take the winged wonder.”
“Oh for crying out loud…” Alexa said. She broke away from her opponent and propelled herself into the winged woman. The woman crashed into the ground only to look up blankly and chase after Alexa. She flew away, as fast as she could, her opponent on her tail.
“Guess I’m on it,” Ines muttered. She ran towards Yuni and Sirvanna. The teleporter appeared behind them with a pipe. In a split second, Ines had grabbed the pipe and jabbed it into his stomach.
“I think you killed him,” Yuni said.
“Probably,” Ines said. She ran to the left to avoid a barrage of green energy bolts.
The steel woman rushed towards Yuni and Sirvanna.
“Get back!” Yuni said. She absorbed all of the light around her, turning the entire area pitch black for a moment. Then she fired it in a concentrated beam at the steel woman. Her steel chest blackened and she collapsed.
The final woman stepped onto her comrade’s body and fired bolts all around her. Yuni and Sirvanna ducked behind some rubble. Ines stood her ground, dodging swiftly past any bolts that came her way
“Now that was a nasty attack,” Sirvanna said.
“I hope she’s okay,” Yuni said.
“Don’t worry about it,” Sirvanna said. “Not like it can be helped. These enemies just aren’t listening.”
She peaked out from behind her cover and fired an electric bolt. It hit the steel woman’s body, electrocuting her comrade.
Ines ran over and put her hands over Yuni’s eyes. “Don’t look,” she said. “Sirvanna made a mess.”
“I wasn’t aiming for the body,” Sirvanna said. “It’s not that easy to shoot straight when you’re under pressure.”
“No one blames you,” Ines said. “She is the one who stood on a conductor.”
“Check the enemy pla… gifted for survivors,” Sirvanna said. “If you find any, make sure they’re immobilised. Yuni and I will try to find Alexa. Hopefully, she’ll be okay.”
“Got it,” Ines said.
Anya gestured and several metallic bolts flew at her fiery opponent, only to melt before they reached her.
“Need help?” Jenny asked.
“No, I’ve got it,” Anya said. “I just need a change of venue.” She flew off with her opponent in close pursuit.
“I could get flames that hot if I wanted to,” Anastasia said. “I just…” she was cut off by the stretchy woman enveloping her.
The giant tried to wrap his hand around Jenny. Jenny caught his hand again and pulled him towards her. She wrapped an arm around his neck and held his arm with her other arm. She held him towards the woman firing force beams.
“Surrender,” she said. “I don’t want to hurt your comrade but…”
The woman fired a beam of light that burned through her comrade’s stomach and knocked Jenny backwards.
The giant shrunk back to his normal size, his entrails spilling through the hole in his stomach.
“What’s wrong with you?” Jenny asked. “He was your comrade and you just…”
The woman wasn’t looking at her, or even paying attention. She had turned towards Anastasia and the stretchy woman and was aiming.
“I don’t think so,” Jenny said. She tackled the woman. The force beam fired over Anastasia’s head.
The plastic-like woman was starting to glow and parts of her body were flaking off.
“Svarog, stop it!” Jenny said, picking herself up. “Your opponent is…”
But it was too late. The woman melted around Anastasia. Anastasia coughed a few times and gasped for breath.
“Ewww!” she exclaimed, finally. “There is not enough shampoo in the world.”
“You didn’t have to kill her,” Jenny said.
“Like hell!” Anastasia said. “I tried holding back and she almost choked me to death. Besides, it doesn’t look like you held back much.”
Jenny looked down at her opponent. The woman’s neck had been broken and her head twisted.
“I guess neither of us had a choice,” Jenny admitted. “Come on. Let’s get to Anya.”
“She can take care of herself,” Anastasia said.
“Ordinarily, I would agree,” Jenny said. “But these enemies are practically suicidal in their fervor to get their mission accomplished. Their obsession makes them far more dangerous than anyone we’ve faced before.”
“So, what’s the plan?” Christina said. The four of them were wet, bruised and ducking behind the corner.
“Throw her in the Hudson and watch her die of pollution,” Katelyn suggested
“Too far,” Alena said.
“I was being sarc… never mind,” Katelyn said. “What’s your plan?”
“Carmilla,” Alena said. “Shut the power down. Katelyn, Druidess, keep her busy until the lights go out.”
“Got it,” Callie said. She vanished in a mist.
“And me without my surfboard,” Katelyn said.
“Let’s just consider it a fun little challenge,” Christina said.
The two rounded the corner. “Hey, Waterboard, or whatever you call yourself,” Katelyn called. “Is getting people a bit wet all you can do?”
The woman turned to them and pointed. A massive stream of water gushed at them. Christina’s skin turned green and scaly. She jumped forward into it. Katelyn ducked and pushed her arms forward. The deluge curved backwards and went surging back to their source. Christina’s reptilian snout snapped at the woman, who pushed the water back with a gesture.
“What is this, a more interesting type of Tennis?” Katelyn asked. With some difficulty she pushed the deluge back.
Callie found the building’s main power source. It only had one guard. The rest had probably been pulled to deal with the attack. She materialised behind him and put her knife through his gut.
“Now then,” she muttered. “How to turn the power off?” She looked around. The control panel was easy enough to spot. But if she just turned it off they’d just come to turn it back on. Would they have enough time? Maybe if she could damage them… She lifted up the guard’s corpse and squeezed it over the panel, getting blood everywhere.
“You okay?” Christina asked, her voice guttural.
“Fine,” Katelyn grunted. “Just get her this time.” She pushed the deluge back, again.
That’s when the lights went out. Alena ran into the corridor. “Surface,” she said.
Christina rose. Alena landed on her back.
“Careful,” Christina said. “I’m quite the delicate lady.”
Alena rode Christina’s back until unit five started pushing the wave back. At which point she leapt off and decked the woman, sending her flying uncontrollably down the corridor and into the far wall.
Alexa glanced back. The winged woman was still following her, closely. A bolt of electricity went over her head.
Alexa stopped and stared forward. “You?”
“You?” Anya asked. The two flew downwards at the same time. Avoiding a fireball and a bolt of lightning.
“Looks like you have a problem,” Anya said.
“I have mine covered,” Alexa said. “You’re the one with the real problem.”
“Nonsense,” Anya said. “I’ll solve your problem and my own.”
“No…” Alexa said, “I’ll solve yours and then take care of mine!”
They flew off. Anya at the winged woman, Alexa at the fiery one.
“Fire, huh?” Alexa said. “You must have some immunity to it to fly around like that, but is it really complete? Let’s find out.”
“This is it?” Anya said. “This is your problem?” She allowed an electric bolt to hit her. “hat feels pretty good.”
Several guns floated up beside Anya. They melted and reformed as miniature javelins. Then they threw themselves into the woman’s wings. She started crashing into the ground. Anya caught her.
“Ready to surrender?” she asked. The woman threw a bolt of lightning into Anya’s face, sending Anya reeling, unharmed but startled. She tried flapping her wings, but couldn’t keep aloft and crashed into the ground.
“Idiot,” Anya muttered. She turned towards Alexa. “What are you even doing?” The winds she was throwing at her opponent were keeping her back, but they were also causing it to burn brighter and hotter.
“Fanning… the… flames,” Alexa panted. Suddenly, the woman’s flames went out. She was horrifically burnt. She plummeted to the ground.
“Not bad,” Anya said.
“You either,” Alexa said. “I guess.”
The two floated to the ground. Alexa took a step and almost fell over. Anya caught her.
“You okay?” Anya asked.
“Fine,” Alexa said. “Just… used… too much… power.”
“I guess I’ll just have to carry you back,” Anya said. She pulled Alexa up. “Stop squirming.”
“Not my fault… your arms are… overly muscled… and uncomfortable,” Alexa muttered.
“Better than being scrawny,” Anya said.
“Shut it,” Alexa said.
“I’m back,” Ines said.
“Any survivors?” Sirvanna asked.
“One,” Ines answered. “The metal girl is still alive. I don’t know if she’ll last, though.”
“We haven’t seen any sign of Alexa yet,” Sirvanna aid. “But I’m sure she went this way.”
The three hurried forward. “Alexa!” Yuni called. “You there?”
“She’s a bit ahead,” Ines reported. “You might want to keep it down though.”
“Why?” Sirvanna said.
“Just trust me on this one,” Ines said. “I’s kind of awesome.”
The three hurried forward and found Alexa. She was in Anya’s arms, fast asleep.
Anya was talking to Jenny and Anastasia.
“I can’t keep holding her,” Anya said.
“And I’m telling you that you can’t just leave her on the ground,” Jenny said. “You stay here, Anastasia and I will head to the enemy base.”
“Or you could give her to her team,” Anastasia nodded.
“Perfect timing,” Anya said, looking over at them. “One of you take her.”
“I can’t lift her,” Yuni said.
“We have to get to the base too,” Sirvanna said.
“Why don’t you just keep a hold of her?” Ines said. “You look pretty shaken anyway.”
Before Anya could protest Alena’s voice came in over the radio. “Mission accomplished.”