Washington D.C. Airspace
Dante. I detect an anomaly ahead; it appears to be an anti-gravity generator.
“So does that mean we’re close?”
If the Unidentified Flying Object in question has an anti-gravity drive; then it is exactly two hundred yards from our current location.
“Okay, talk through me again. Scanners on full, or whatever. We need to know everything we can.”
“Acknowledged. Meteor Man, Argonaut. We are closing in on the target. One hundred sixty-metres south-east of us. Be prepared.”
The UFO detected the presence of a trio of fast moving objects, and activated the EM countermeasures, designed to scramble missile guidance chips.
“The target is aware of us. It generated an electromagnetic field to attempt to disorient our equipment; and I detect the several mechanisms activating within the target.”
“Argonaut, you’re probably the toughest” suggested Meteor Man “Fly in there, see what it shoots at you. Earthman and I got your back.”
Argonaut launched forward, and the airship turned to face him. It moved faster than he would have thought possible; performing a 90 degree turn in about a second. And while it turned, seven panels on the side of the airship opened to reveal a combination of missiles, machine gun turrets and even an ion emitter. An absolute storm of artillery was unleashed at the superhero.
“Guys?” called Argonaut, a second before bolts of shimmering blue energy from Earthman lanced through the missiles. Meteor Man swung wide to draw the tracer bullets from another angle, easing the pressure of the others.
Dante decided to take care of the fighting, and give Bart something to do “Bart! Can we get a look inside that thing? Tell me where the rocket launchers are?”
I am running a scan as we talk. The shell is made of an unusual alloy; it appears to be a combination of several nanoscopic materials which are not bound, but moving freely as determined by electrical impulses and subsonic vibrations. This alloy is difficult to penetrate. Only when the underside missile launchers open can I get a clear picture inside, and it’s full of anomalous technologies.
“Underside missile launchers? The ones shooting at the town.”
Indeed. A scan reveals them to be concussion missiles; with very little thermal radiation output, they are more likely to frighten and maim then kill. Estimating major property damage with minimal casualties.
“We can’t stop them now; Meteor Man is in trouble.”
It appeared that the majority of weapons had ignored Argonaut in favour of Meteor Man; and the ion blasts had taken their toll. His entire left arm was bare; and he was being pursued by six hunter missiles.
He shot straight up, and they followed him, closing on him.
“Earthman!” he shouted “Give it a run, see how many rockets it can loose.”
“On it” he promised, shooting forward.
Meteor Man finished his plan as the missiles closed in on him “Argonaut, follow him. Let the missiles chase him, while you punch through” he punched the closest missile with his right hand and it exploded, shrapnel digging into his armour. It held, but he couldn’t do this forever.
As Earthman and Argonaut rushed it, more missiles were loosed. Earthman, with Bart’s help, took them all down with his neutrino discharges and his fists. And Argonaut punched through the metal.
“I’m in!” he shouted excitedly, before a burst of static cut off his transmissions.
Las Vegas, Nevada
The Saint was running full tilt after a criminal, dodging through alleyways and over streets, she was impressed despite her irritation. With her enhanced strength, Saint’s running speed had doubled that of a normal woman her age, and he was still keeping a steady lead on her. His prize wasn’t overly heavy, an Australian Opal from the museum worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the Saint was beginning to understand why capes were fast becoming unfashionable. It had snagged on two things so far, and kept billowing out in the wind, slowing her down. Pressing on, she failed to hear the sound of flight as the Praetorians closed in. They had been diverted to pick up the Saint on suggestion by Homeland Hero Fire-Trick, and seen her predicament.
A bolt of energy leapt from Kid Praetorian’s hand, glancing off the ground in front of the thief. He tried to twist in midair, but failed. He slammed into a wall, and before he could get up the Kid was pointing a sword at his throat.
Without hesitation, Saint slammed into the young crimefighter, sending him flying.
“What the hell?” he asked, watching as the criminal regained his footing “He’s getting away.”
“I don’t use swords on people” warned Saint “I’ll handle this my way.” A rush of air, and a larger man in similar armour was hovering over them, holding the fleeing criminal.
“That’s not what I heard” argued Praetorian, landing next to her “I heard you stabbed a villain just a few months ago.”
Ice filled the young woman’s veins, and she nearly clocked him across the jaw “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“That was uncalled for” agreed Kid Praetorian “Just tie him up, and let’s go.”
“Fine” shrugged Praetorian, tossing aside the criminal. He turned to face Saint for the first time, and did a double take. “Wow, you’re fine” before she could reply, his brother smacked him on the shoulder and he jumped.
“Ok, sorry. Well, are you coming? We’re going to be late”
“What?” the Saint looked from one Praetorian to another, perplexed
“The shit’s hit the fan, and they’re calling in all the capes. We got the orders to come give you a lift, and we’re on a deadline.”
“Who’s they?” she asked, folding her arms. While Esperanza was familiar with the Praetorian Family, that didn’t mean she was willing to trust them straight up. Especially the oldest one, she got the feeling he was extremely egotistical.
“The Homeland Heroes. Who else? Some big and bad took out the New Patriots, and those D.C guys, the Five, so now Justice is composing a little army to tear it apart. And you got the invite.”
“How did -” she began, before shrugging “Whatever. Where’s the ride?”
Praetorian pointed up, and she frowned.
“I can’t fly”
“Well, now. That means you’ll need one of us to carry you, doesn’t it?” grinned Praetorian
Inside the airship, Argonaut looked around. He’d landed directly behind the nose of the ship above the cargo hold, and was surprised to be in a hallway with Chinese characters written on the wall.
“Guys? I’m in” static answered him, so he pressed on. There was a door in front of him, with a regular handle and everything.
“If you can hear me, I think there’s someone here” he carefully opened the door, and was struck in the back by an energy blast. Bright red, and as hot as lightning, it pushed Argonaut through the doorway. Turning, he saw his attacker in a ridiculous blue-and-yellow costume.
“Oooh, a tough one” said Red Hand, firing another blast. Argonaut took it without flinching, though the heat washing over him caused his eyes to water. Charging forward, he pushed Red Hand out of the room with an open palm. The villain turned head over heels, slamming into the wall. Dazed, he pressed a switch on his glove, and a symbol that Argonaut recognised from the news lit up on his outfit.
“You’re from the Pact, aren’t you?”
“Smart man” said a voice, and he felt a hand brush his cheek before wrapping around his throat. He felt energy draining from his body, and fell to his knees. Antihuman, the original and the best, stood over him as her power increased.
“Your father would be so proud” she teased Red Hand, before a golden light surrounded her prey. She was flung across the hallway, denting the wall on her landing. Instead of the Mightiest Man on Earth, she was looking at a twelve year old with a security blanket.
“Well, isn’t that embarrassing” she said, standing and cracking her knuckles. Half of the power of the Golden Fleece flowed through her, and Jason was temporarily powerless.
En route to Washington D.C
Justice leant back in his chair “Okay, Amber just called. She’s got Sean and they’re nearly here. The Praetorian’s picked up Esperanza, and Ray is going to meet us there. That leaves-”
Mainframe interrupted “Justice, I just received a phone call from a pay phone in the District of Columbia; Kevin Blue is on the scene.”
“How the hell did he do that? Of all the places to be?”
“I’d rather know how he found the phone number” admitted Mainframe
As Jason had to deal with the Pact, Earthman and Meteor Man were running out of luck as well. Another salvo stopped them from joining their comrade, and this one shattered Meteor Man’s armour completely. Bart then suggested that Dante play dead, and allow the two of them to be captured.
An abduction sphere enveloped Earthman and the gas inside reacted with oxygen, turning into a potent anaesthesia. For any life form on earth, this mixture would render them unconscious, while for the bio-armour, it simply registered as a new kind of toxin that needed to be filtered.
“It’s a shame we didn’t to explain to the kid why you shove things down my throat” reminisced Dante, fully conscious “Maybe we’d have thought of this sooner.”
I am more distressed with the simplicity of this tranquiliser gas. A chemical diagram appeared on Dante’s HUD. Your species does not adapt well, Dante. A volcanic movement of any major scale would render your species near-extinct.
“Y’know that happened once before. An asteroid hit the planet millions of years ago, and the dinosaurs died out.”
Focus. We are approaching the vehicle.
“Okay. Scanners on full, set phasers to stun.”
“It’s a joke. Don’t worry” They entered the airship, and were immediately shunted to an empty omni-prison.
You interrupted. I was beginning to quote “I have a bad feeling about this.”
“Dude, you’re getting cleverer by the minute” stated Dante in approval, before all humour fled from his voice. The omni-prisons holding his fellow heroes were all around him; and while The Freedom Five were all awake but helpless, the effects of the gas were only just starting to wear off the New Patriots.
Bolt was suspended in a breathable liquid, any attempts to run halted. Tin Soldier was trapped in an electromagnetic coil, and Shooting Star was trapped in a clear tube, with what looked like a million white fireflies flying out of her and into a battery. Red Mage was in a cell with some sort of glowing picture on the ground, and Victorious was waking up in a regular cage. Meteor Man was trapped in a cage with thicker bars, but was still out cold.
As Earthman’s sphere reached his appointed prison, the scanning device scanned them twice, and then paused.
I believe that it is having trouble identifying us.
“Well, you can’t get suits like this at the Salvation Army, that’s for sure.” That jibe was an understatement; in terms of weaponised powered armour, comparing the Earthman suit with current military technology was like comparing the SR-71 with the Wright Brothers’ glider plane. Made completely of organic and semi-organic materials, it was effectively 3 kilograms of genetic building blocks, which lived inside Dante’s bone marrow and connected to his spinal column. When activated, it would mix with an enzyme to grow exponentially. Sliding up through his skin, burning fat cells for energy, it bonded with his nervous system to create a reaction/response time even faster than his regular limbs. On contact with the atmosphere, it solidified into a very durable carapace.
It didn’t actually look like powered armour. When it first wrapped around him, it dissolved his clothing away and simply moulded around his body. Fingers, toes and eyelids all were snugly wrapped, as moveable as normal. A bit of discussion led to the armouring of several body parts; namely the face and genitals. Also, the blue plating was moved to look more impressive, with a large blue-green circle icon on his chest.
Eventually, the airship’s scanner decided to treat him like it would a biomorph, or metahuman with the ability to turn into any animal. It trapped him within a tube, and gassed him again.
This procedure is technologically impressive admitted Bart But the biological disadvantages of your species, even the superhuman kind, are not. As soon as the gas stopped pumping into the prison, Earthman raised a hand. Energy channelled from the photosynthetic cells throughout the armour, and focused on little pads on his fingers. A bolt of neutrino energy leapt from his hands, and shattered the tube.
An alarm, and the beam emitter rose from the floor. It fired a beam at Earthman, and he simply flew out of the way.
“Damn” said Dante, as the beam emitter struggled to get a lock on him “Ok Bart, take over. Blast the New Patriots’ and the Freedom Five’s cells, and let’s get out of here.” A beam struck him in the chest, and he was thrown into the wall. A door opened up, and he saw Jason Butler, knocked out, being carried by a woman with incredibly pale skin and glowing eyes.
Be wary; that woman is emitting very strange energy readings…
“Oh? Well, I’m sure a neutrino blast will suffice” he fired a blast, and she reflected it back with her palm, as though it were solid. It struck Earthman in the chest and tore right through his armour.
Dante! I am not impervious to my own neutrino discharges.
“That’s something I should have known before this” argued Earthman, regaining his footing and watching as the cells slowly knitted together.
“And who are you talking to?” asked Antihuman, tossing aside the twelve year old and flying toward Earthman.
“My suit” answered Earthman honestly, and he threw a punch. She caught it and broke the fingers in his hand.
“You’re suit isn’t very strong” she observed, placing her hand on his chest. Dante felt the life rush out of him.
No. Bart took over, growing sharp spikes all over Earthman’s ‘skin’. Throwing another punch, he drew blood. She screamed, and he detected the beam emitter turning to face them. Flying directly upward, he let it shoot her instead. She was sent flying through the doorway, and Bart followed.
Dante, are you alright? My scans reveal she forced your body to burn through sugar and fat cells to produce biothermal energy for her to feed off. If she did that to Argonaut, it’s possible-
“Listen, not to sound rude, but I feel like death right now. Get us outside, so I can pass everything onto Justice, but after that let it capture us.”
That doesn’t sound like a-
“We can recuperate right here, and when he gets here we’ll be on the inside.”
A pause. Very well Dante. Try to rest, I shall use reserve power to exit the airship.
When the call came through, the team had been assembled. Three different aircraft contained the heroes The Aggressor, Backstreet, Black Titan, Empress, Fire-Trick, Justice, Thunderette, Kid Praetorian, Praetorian, Rescue O.N.E, The Saint and Stratosphere. Ray would be meeting them in D.C, and Blue Lightning was already there.
“Excellent work, Earthman” said Justice, as the three jets flew toward the capital “Hold out for a few more minutes and-”
“I can’t. Bart- my suit, that is, is having trouble with communication over such long distances. I’ve had a few hits, and I’m losing power. Wait, what’s-” a crackle of static, and Earthman was cut off.
“Earthman? Earthman?” nothing answered him, and he leant back in his chair. His eyes swept over the people in his jet, and after several moments silence, he keyed the communicator, broadcasting to all the heroes on the way. “Okay, everyone listen up.
“I’m going to assume that Ray O’ Sunshine can hold his own once he gets there. Rescue O.N.E and Stratosphere join in, keep those spheres off our backs.
“Praetorian Family, you three cut a path to the UFO itself. Take out the armaments. Then, Black Titan and The Aggressor can tear through that thing like there’s no tomorrow.
“While they’re doing that, Fire-Trick, Saint, Backstreet and I will get captured. I have gas masks here to protect us from the spheres, so all we have to do is break out and take care of the defences. Once that happens, we can free our compatriots and take down the Pact” he stood, and looked out the window at the silver speck on the horizon.
Earthman was dizzy as anything; making the call to Justice had required him to slow his speech and talk clearly. And with Bart interrupting in his ear to correct or remind him, they both missed the latest salvo of missiles. The explosions tore his armour to shreds, and while it started regenerating, he was caught by an abduction sphere. The anaesthesia started to fill the sphere, but his atmosphere filtration system was still functioning.
“Okay, I can do this” he said, waiting for Bart to provide an insight. It didn’t come “Bart?”
Error. Danger. Error. Danger. Error. Danger. Error.
“Great” he had only spoken Utapau-ian when first activated, before translating English. This meant that the actual AI had been damaged. Hopefully he would be rebooted soon.
The abduction sphere entered the airship, and he jumped. Waiting outside the sphere this time was a man wearing a faded blue jumpsuit with a lightning bolt motif. He also had a pair of arc-welding goggles and a trilby hat.
“What the hell?” exclaimed Dante, crawling backward to put as much distance between himself and this man.
The man reached out and planted both hands on the sphere. Sparks leapt from the fingertips, and as he brought his hands closer together the static electricity inside the sphere increased to painful levels.
“Hey, stop that. Ow!” Dante rubbed a spot where the armour hadn’t grown back yet, and heard a sizzling sound. The Blue man had managed to bring his hands together and close the circuit, melting a hole in the sphere.
“Who are- actually, no. What the hell are you wearing?” the man in blue asked, indicating the patches of armour that were peeling off his skin.
“Uh… I’m Earthman. And my armour got a bit… wrecked.”
“Never heard of you” the man in blue, holding eye contact for a solid second before walking away “Now, walk slow. I can only generate enough static to confuse the sensors, not stop them.”
“And stop talking.”
“Why? Can it hear us?”
“No. But I can hear you” the blue electrical man walked slowly, stepping as though walking through a herd of sleeping lions.
“Who are you?” whispered Dante, trying to imitate the walking style while his armour slowly grew back. The man froze, and Dante shook with fear.
“You don’t recognise me? I’m Blue Lightning.” He pulled the goggles off his face, and looked at Dante as though he was crazy “Are you sure you’re a superhero?”
“Well, you’re obviously not a good one. I can’t believe you were messing around outside like that, the real action is in here.”
“Okay, you’re Blue Lightning? What kind of name is that?”
“I’ll admit the name isn’t the high point of my career. But I’d like to see you do better when you’re being hassled by the press, and you’re dizzy from fighting Dr. Narcolepsy. Oh, that’s right, you can’t. He’s dead.” With that, Blue Lightning crept to the doorway leading outside, peering inside to have a look around.
Dante rolled his eyes, but he had to admit that this guy had an impressive presence “So what, are you going to sabotage this thing? Because that would be a bad idea. We’re-”
“- hovering over hundreds of innocent people, I know. No, I’m looking for the brain”
“Yeah, y’know. The central processing unit? The part that controls this machine? Please tell me you thought of looking for the control centre.”
Shaking his head, Dante noticed Jason in a cage “There isn’t a brain. We had to fight off a super strong lady just before”
“We? We who?” he looked around at the prisons “You and… the kid, right? He seems like a suitable partner for you” he then noticed Meteor Man “What the hell? Why is only Meteor Man here? Where’s the rest of the Homeland Heroes?”
“On their way. Justice sent me, Meteor Man and that kid here to keep it busy while he gathered reinforcements.”
Blue Lightning appraised him again “Okay then” he continued climbing through the doorway “If Justice sent you here, you must be alright. It looks like that armour is growing back by the way.”
Dante looked down, and saw that Blue Lightning was right. It was nearly fully regrown.
“Bart?” he whispered, before noticing that the auxiliary systems were all inactive “Activate auxiliaries.”
The green cables slid out from the armour, plugging in and settling under his skin. The armour began to grow faster.
Dante. I appear to be running at 69.2% efficiency, and will be combat ready when recharged. However, there is not a lot of energy in here to recharge my photosynthetic cells.
A thought struck him “Hey, can you recharge with pure electricity?”
There was a pause before the answer. Yes, but it is not ideal.
A grin spread across Earthman’s face, and as the armour grew over his lips it gave him an unearthly look “Hey, Blue?”
The Mill, Kansas
Director Alan Fangor was watching the news, and waiting for the inevitable phone call. It came just as he’d predicted it would.
“Director Fangor? General Page. If you’ve been watching the news, then you realise that the shit has hit the fan is Washington.”
“I have sir, but I don’t know what we can do about it. Least Resistance was the go-to project for situations like this, but we’ve yet to bring it back to operational parameters.”
“Director, it is vital you bring that program up to speed. Your funding has been doubled, and security is as good as it gets. If you cannot bring us that program-”
“Sir, with all due respect the most pressing concern should be finding out who the thieves sold it to. While the technology was only in testing phase, it is still a potent weapon, and to have it used against the United States would be more disastrous then anything the Sovereign could do.”
“Which is why we need that program up and running. Unless you have something you can give me now, our options for dealing with this unidentified weapon are limited to Very Bad Things. With the number of superhumans imprisoned inside it, our national security is at risk.”
Fangor’s eyes fell upon a list on the computer. A name jumped out at him. Carson, Lenny.
“Sir, I may have something. It’s unorthodox, but there’s nothing else like it.”