The training went on for another two days of routine before being disrupted. I was in the middle of a series of chin up when Molecular came into the gym in full costume.
“Training is over!” His voice carried through the gym and everyone stopped. “DELPHI has just triggered an alert. It’s the rogues, they’re up to something. The Young Guardians have been tasked to answer the alert. Get moving people!”
Everyone dropped what they were doing and made their way to the dressing room on the first floor of the lounge building with haste. I hesitated and Kickback gave me a nudge to follow them. Nobody hesitated, they all started changing, not caring about privacy. Costumes were hung in small alcoves on the wall, one of them was covered by a screen, with my Cape name engraved over it.
“It came in yesterday.” Kickback said, uncovering its content. “I’m sure you’ll like it.”
The alcove held a rack containing a costume. It was fairly simple; a ghost white armor with light protective plates and padding, there was a utility belt along with a bandolier on the chest. The face was covered by what looked like a porcelain piece, it didn’t have any holes or feature beyond two small black indent at the eye levels. But most noticeable was the hoodie, over the armor, they had layered a white hooded jacket that covered the head.
“It’s yours, kid.”
“It has a Hoodie?” I asked, incredulous.
“Kenzie was the one who suggested it. Don’t worry about the safety of it, if they try to pull on it, It will just detach, it’s the same system all capes, cowls and cloaks we use have. Now, get dressed or the others will have to leave you behind.”
“But I haven’t finished training.”
“It’s a rogues encounter, there is no real danger, so you’ll be fine. Just follow the instructions you’re given. Molecular will be your chaperone.”
I got undressed, I didn’t have time to worry about modesty, I wasn’t going to miss this chance. The armor was fairly simple to put on; a one piece suit with a zipper on the back. The mask was more problematic, it had to be strapped to my face. Once it was on, I knew why it didn’t have holes for the eyes, the inside featured a heads up display and it was almost as if the mask was transparent once it was online. Last piece to put on was the hoodie, it had a certain familiar weight to it that comforted me. Kickback gave me an L shaped commlink and she applied adhesive to the side of my face, letting it stick there.
“Looking sharp Shell.” It was Chuan, or Buzzkill if we were going for Cape names. He had a binder on and I couldn’t imagine it was very comfortable to wear while doing super heroics. “ready to kick some Rogues butt?”
“Not in the slightest. But I don’t think anything can prepare you for that.”
Once everyone was dressed, we went into the courtyard, a flyer was waiting for us, It was the first time I’d seen it there. It was an odd craft, it didn’t have wings or rotor, instead using two pairs of tinkerer-tech propulsors. It hovered lightly a few feet off the ground, creating surprisingly little draft but illuminating the ground a yellowish blue.
“This is a Second generation Hermes transport.” Molecular explained for my benefit as we climbed aboard, a few had been deployed steps to let the more vertically challenged of us to get in. “It is the first mass produced functional VTOL aircraft of it’s kind created by Aerodyne engineering for our benefit. Capable of mach six if we have the time to accelerate safely.”
We all strapped into our seats, Kenzie and I being right next to each other. I probably looked a little nervous because she squeezed my hand.
“Everything is going to be alright.” She whispered to me.
“Alright, DELPHI spotted Skedaddle on the Airport road, we believe she’s following a convoy with the intent of snatching it.” Molecular said, reading info off a tablet that was attached to every seat.
“DELPHI is the supercomputer in charge of scouring surveillance feeds and whatnot for villain activity.” Kenzie-- Ingot told me.
I opened my tablet and it saw that it was already displaying the information concerning the local rogues; Big Wild Life inc as they called themselves. A corner of the screen showed Skedaddle on a motorcycle driving between lanes, she wore a black and purple suit with the letters ‘SKDDL’ on her back.
The Rogues had eight members with abilities and I took the time to skim their dossier; Skedaddle was a teleporter who could teleport herself and things surrounding her and exchange the with things from another location. Kudzu could cover an area with vines that would form buds with different effects, Royal had the ability to give commands to people vocally, Vertebrae was a monstrous divergent with a bladed tail and bone armor, Burner could create fiery geyser wherever she touched, Grotesque could grow parts of himself and shapeshift slightly, Limb could sink his limbs into something and it would appear elsewhere and finally there was Local who had some area based telekinesis.
“Skedaddle just activated her ability, GPS on the truck is now reporting form Earthquake park.” Molecular said. Where she had stood International Airport road now contained woodland rubbish; branches, snow and the like.
“ETA one minute forty seconds.” The pilot yelled, coming to us through the commlink.
It might have been only two minutes, but the wait felt like much longer.
Molecular had a hand on a piece of something, I didn’t know what, that was arranged on his bandolier. His skin quickly changed, taking a dark rubbery looking appearance. That was his power; he could take the properties of things he touched. Meanwhile, Amarok began creating her minions.
I took a peek outside; The secure truck had been breached and the rogues stood around it, some of them carrying bags to a point further away. The driver and the security guard were still inside, not moving, just standing rigid. They had to be under Royal’s control.
“Remember, this encounter will be televised, be on your best.” Molecular said as a half dozen small baseball sized flying camera drones detached from their sockets inside the ship. Pay-per-view superhero battles had become a thing, as odd as it might be, few people questioned the logic of it.
The flyer lowered and I was among the first to drop down from the flyer, my boot finding their way onto the ground and Kudzu's ability, one of the drones swept around me while others took flight and positioned itself above the battlefield.
The clearing had already been coated by her power, the snow and ground obscured by a tangle of red vines and miniature flowers. One of the buds grew next to me and exploded into a shower of sparks, some of which came dangerously close to me, activating my ability, it's icy armor forming over the costume I wore.
That hadn’t gone unnoticed.
“Yooouuu!” It was Burner that screamed, pointing toward me, she was wearing a gray jumpsuit like gas station attendants wore along with a hockey mask, both had a flame motif painted over. “Ooh. This is going to be fun!”
I knew Burner was actually one of my jerkass classmate and seeing my power in action, she’d made the link as to who I was. Also, she was definitely still sore about the time I hurt her by accident.
She ran toward us and then slid on her feet, kind of like a rock star. Her hands touched the ground and two jets of flame erupted from where she touched, aimed at me. Our powers clashed; her pyrokinesis making my armor boil while my armor flash freezed more of the atmosphere to replenish itself. I wasn’t sure my armor would handle more so I threw myself down and rolled sideway, blinded by the sheet of ice covering my facemask.
With the immediate danger over, my armor evaporated.
I got up on my feet just as Burner was readying another salvo, her previous one had dissipated once I’d moved out of it. Had she cancelled it or was that a feature? I didn’t know. I charged at her and she tapped her hands in rapid succession on the ground, creating another series of flame geyser that clashed with my power.
Bandersnatch was the next to get a move on as she ran past me. Bandersnatch was fast and not in a ‘Fast for a half-ton creature the size of a small car’ kind of way, she could effortlessly catch up with a moving car. She zipped past me and all I saw was a blur of white fur. She had her adversary picked for her; She leaped through the air for about forty feet before crashing into Vertebrae whom she began to savage. Vertebrae wasn’t pretty, she was long, skeletally thin and covered with plates of bones while a two meter long tail that ended with a wicked blade lashed out violently around the two.
“Shell.” The words buzzed from my commlink, it was Molecular. “I need you to handle Grotesque, he’s the most dangerous brawler they have. Let Amarok handle Burner. Distract him until we can help.”
As I ran, Burner’s attack hit me full force, I shielded myself with my arms and ran past her. I heard her swear once she realized I wasn’t giving her the attention she desired. Grotesque was well, grotesque. He was naturally a pretty big guy but with his ability he’d grown another two feet, his legs and arms enlarged along with his head. His costume was a patchwork of metal plates, with spikes placed strategically though along with what looked like a bear trap on his humongous jaw big enough to swallow me and a set of jagged hooks on his hands.
I charged him and he intercepted me, lifting me up. My armor covered most of my body and he threw me into the truck’s side. The two layers of armor I had cushioned my fall but it hadn’t been very pleasant. Still, I was stumbling back to me feet quickly enough.
Grotesque didn’t charge me yet, He let out a primal roar in my direction, giving me a moment to recuperate.
I saw the some of the others, Ingot was flying through the air and accelerating bolas over her head with her ability in order to throw them at Skedaddle who was teleporting out of the way. Amarok was burying Burner in minions, Local had a barrier composed of ton of rocks, branches, dead stump and content of the truck around him some of which he was chucking at Volley and Hedron who had taken cover behind one of his eponymous constructs.
Grotesque picked a large rock that was just sort of there and he chucked it at me. I dropped back to my feet, the rock denting the truck behind me. I’d gotten distracted by the others. I had to focus on Grotesque. Out of projectiles, he rushed closer and lunged at me with his hand hooks. My armor interposed itself and it raked against the nitrogen ice, removing some chunks. Out of balance, he gave me an opening and I socked him right in the face. My armor formed over my hands and protected it, preventing every bones in my arm from shattering. He barely reacted to the hit that I knew should have broken his jaw.
His body was a lot harder than it should have been, punching would definitely not be a viable move if I wanted to beat him.
He grabbed me by the waist and threw me further into the clearing, I ragdolled for a moment. This was going to leave some bruises.
I raised myself on all four only to see one of Kudzu's flower buds finish growing right next to me. It exploded with concussive force, sending me a little further and dazing me even further.
Kudzu's ability was definitely the worst, unlike the others, she didn't even need to aim it. I looked around and found her hiding behind the van, looking around the corner at the chaos, She wore a simple reddish purple suit with one of those neutral mask they used in theater and held a baton to deal with potential foes.
Also I noticed that Grotesque was coming my way for round three.
I had to find something to do about him, the ‘distract him’ part was working but I wasn’t sure I could keep getting beaten until my friends could help... My costume had a utility belt, something on there had to be useful. I started patting down the different bits.
A gun handle. I didn’t know how to shoot and I doubted it would do much. A small plastic box shaped like two tubes connected together. Those were signal flares, useless. A small utility knife. Useless. A pocket sized emergency medpack. I couldn’t think of anything that could be in there that would be useful. A thumb sized small cylinder of spray. I hoped it was what I thought it was.
I took it and discretely hid it in the palm of my hand.
Grotesque came close to me and I aimed the cylinder at him and pressed it. Pepperspray went everywhere; I practically drenching him in it. He started screaming, but it didn’t last long as he began coughing his lung out. His eyes and internal bits weren’t as impervious as the rest of him. That was good to know.
With him out of the picture I could get a better picture of what was going on. Vertebrae and Bandersnatch were still fighting, Vertebrae’s tail lashing wildly. My friend had a nasty cut on her back that oozed a thin layer of blood.
I went toward Kudzu, she was the biggest annoyance and I could take her. I didn’t make it far though; Skedaddle was moving around, teleporting with her ability. She disappeared for one second and came back with a boy wearing a simple princely costume with a crown and a white porcelain mask. It had to be Royal.
I saw Molecular running for him.
“STOP!” Royal shouted in a supernaturally charged thunderous voice. I felt my muscles stiffen and refuse to move any further. The others seemed just as affected as I was.
All except for Molecular who didn’t seem affected as strongly, rather than running he was jogging.
The Rogues stopped fighting like they were on cue and all headed for a corner of the clearing. Skedaddle teleported next to me and grabbed Grotesque before I could react.
“SURRENDER!” Royal yelled at the advancing Molecular.
Molecular threw something at Royal, distracting him. He didn’t get to pump out another command as Molecular was punching him strongly in the guts, he hunched over in pain, was thrown off his feet and received a kick to the kidney.
Royal’s hold on us dissipated.
The Rogues used our momentarily paralysis to cut their losses, I saw that Limb and Kudzu were holding bags full of loot. Skedaddle took them away after screaming something. With them somewhere else Kudzu’s vines instantly withering to dust and where the rogues had stood a second ago, the snow had been exchanged for mud.
“You did well Shell.” Molecular said, coming over to me. “Volley, call for an extraction.”
“Yes sir!” Volley said, his hand rested on Buzzkill’s shoulder. I hadn’t followed any of Buzzkill’s prowess during the fight.
The most of the Rogues had gotten away, leaving two of theirs in our care and most of the stolen loot was in the still in the truck or scattered by Local’s ability around the battlefield. Still, it wasn’t the worst possible first outing as a part of the team.