It’s a Trap!

The Sears Tower. It’s a trap. I knew it was a trap. YOU knew it was a trap. Admiral Ackbar knew it was a trap.

trap

I went anyway.

Boost’s family was fine and she offered to come with me. I declined her offer. She needed to be with her family because who knew if this was just a play to leave them vulnerable? Villains aren’t exactly known for their clarity of thinking. They are known for convoluted plots to mentally and emotionally torture their enemies.

So no Boost.

No Stephanie, either. Oh, she cussed up a storm when I told her to stay away from the meet, but I wasn’t about to bring a rookie into her first trap. She could stumble into her own on her own. Boost offered to keep an eye on her. I accepted.

Stephanie told me, “Be careful.”

I’m in the wrong line of work for that.

At the appointed hour I swooped down on my Diavel. I didn’t bother to recon the place. If they can teleport through magic or whatever, I wasn’t going to see anything until they wanted me to anyway. I hopped off my bike and sent it off. The Tower loomed over me, a symbol of humanity’s pride and a city’s inferiority complex. It lit up the sky and looked from the ground like a giant finger pointed at the Gods, as if to say, “Look at Us. We are mighty!”

The presence of powered humans only dented the arrogance of humanity. I shudder to think what would happen when that arrogance is completely stripped away. Would we survive it? Could we survive it?

On the other hand, maybe that stripping of the blinders is what we need to advance again as a species.

Several cars passed by. I stared up at the Tower, waiting.

“What are you doing here?” a familiar voice that dripped with disdain asked.

Lisa’s father. Everything clicked. I rushed him, grabbed him by his shirt and jammed him against a wall. “Why did you set me up?” I yelled. “How did you lie to me?”

I admit, I almost killed him I was so angry.

He yelled at me at the same time. “Where’s my daughter? What have you done with her?” It took several repetitions before what he said penetrated my thick skull.

I let him down and took a step back, but ready in case he tried something. He took a moment to straighten his shirt and collect himself. His eyes were icy as he regarded me.

I figured I’d break the ice, so to speak. “A woman was murdered. Two women actually. Torrie Mallor was killed by a spell and her mother was killed by Ice Diamond.”

Brannigan’s face grew paler and paler as I talked. He stumbled and went to the ground on one knee. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn he was praying.

“There was a message left for me by the killer to meet here at this time. Then you show up.” I moved in closer, invading his bubble. My arms crossed. I knew he wasn’t behind the killings, but he hadn’t told me everything, and I was getting tired of being jerked around.

A soft sob and moan escaped his lips. He sniffled and said, “I received a note from Lisa’s kidnappers to meet here about their demands.”

He looked up at me, his eyes burdened with unshed tears. “Torrie’s dead?”

I could feel myself soften a bit. “Yes. I’m sorry.” It confused me why this man would care so much about his daughter’s friend. Maybe he felt more than I gave him credit for.

I opened my mouth to say something else, but started to choke. I couldn’t breathe.

I was suffocating from a lack of air.

The last sight I saw was Aeromancer with his goons standing next to Ice Diamond, Lisa’s father laid out at their feet.

We were both set up.

Where’s Billy Dee Williams when you need him?

Until next time,

Douzeper

 

On The Way To The Office…

Ugh. Whoever scripts my life is a sadistic smurf.

So, Lady Aether (she really should have consulted someone on name choice) and I are cruising beside Boost on our way to the FBSA office.

Everything was going great. I managed to avoid a fight with one of the few powereds I admire, she actually believed our story (it helps when you’re the Empowered of a truth God), and I got to know one of my idols as a person.

Guess what happened.

Go on, guess. I’ll wait.

Give the man/woman/other a prize. Of course we were attacked by a powered-villain because originality sucks. I swear there must be a handbook called So You’re a Megalomaniac-12 Steps to Bringing Out the Supervillain in You.

Step 1: Have some kind of tragic origin. This particular 12-stepper is a villain called Ice Diamond (and who comes up with these names?). Her whole family died in an explosion at her cryo-research lab. Check.

Step 2: Murder various innocents in some misguided revenge plot. She destroyed an almost empty lab. Notice I said almost. Check.

Step 3: Up your game and attack a major target. She went after some corporate headquarters bigwigs during the middle of the day. Check.

Step 4: Get beat by a powered hero; swear eternal revenge while being sent to prison. Boost beat her and sent her off to Ravenswood Institute. Check.

She was at Step 5, apparently. Break out of prison and surprise attack your nemesis.

The first warning sign came when my wheels started spinning on the road. If I have to explain what was causing it, you haven’t been paying attention to any of the clues. Velma would be so disappointed in you.

Boost slid on the ice, the change in traction throwing her off-balance. Ice shards shaped like, you guessed it, hailed down on her. She managed to avoid many of them, but here and there rents in her uniform and thin red lines showed.

So I did what any right-thinking person would do. I switched my Diavel to hover-mode, blasted some Hail the Villain “Runaway“, activated my shield and placed us between the storm of shards and Boost.

Okay, I was showing off for my crush. Sue me.

A woman dressed like a bondagist’s wet dream stepped out of an alleyway. She raised some future-rifle and the intensity of the shards increased. The tinkling sound as they shattered reminded me of  wind-chimes during a tornado.

Over the noise I heard Steph-I mean Lady Aether-chanting. A fireball flew past me toward Ice. Who promptly flipped a switch and fired a sphere of pure cryogenic energy. The two opposing forces met and a cloud of steam obscured the field.

A shadow that looked suspiciously like a fire hydrant zoomed through the cloud toward us. And what do you know, it was a fire hydrant. It crashed into my shield at a velocity that sent me flying off my bike and through some store’s plate-glass window. You know, after I broke through the iron gate supposedly protecting it.

Boost took the distraction we provided and managed to get back on non-ice covered ground. She picked her angle and went barreling toward Ice.

Almost instantly an ice wall appeared along her trajectory and she had to shift to avoid slamming into it. Right into another patch of ice. Down she went again.

Then it was over.

As the kids would say: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Ice Diamond cackled and disappeared.

She’s not supposed to be able to do that.

And I’m sure I don’t like the implications.

Until next time,

Douzeper

Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs: Power Profile #006-Ice Diamond

Beatrix Kalte aka Ice Diamond

Gender: Female

Power Classification: Machinist/Enhanced

Sub-Category: Elemental Gadgeteer

Power Level: C-Class

Location: Operates in the Midwest. Currently at-large.

Affiliations: Solo Operator

Powers: Various devices that allow for the creation of various cold-related phenomenon. Her main weapon is her “Ice Gun”.

Synopsis:

Ice Diamond (hereafter referred to as I.D.) is a 30-year-old former weapons researcher for BranTech Industries. Her area of expertise lay in using cold-based phenomena as a means to shape and control future battlefields. On her 26th birthday, her family surprised her in her lab. It is unclear exactly what happened, but footage shows that her youngest son, Jakob, went unsupervised long enough to mix some volatile chemicals.

Ten people died in the ensuing explosion, and I.D. fell into a coma. She awoke two months later with a marked shift in personality and physiology. The chemicals leached all pigment from her skin and left her with enhanced strength. When informed of her family’s and co-worker’s demise, she went on a rampage in the hospital, injuring several doctors, nurses and security before making her escape.

She appeared five months later with her current nom de guerre in an attack on a BranTech research facility. She attacked at night, as her skin is now pained by sunlight, and murdered whomever she found, mostly security and janitorial services. After that attack, she fashioned a suit that would protect her from the sun’s harmful effect.

I.D. directed her next attack BranTech corporate headquarters, located in Chicago. She was foiled in her attempt by the hero, Boost (see Power Profile: Boost). During her trial I.D. was found mentally incompetent and was sentenced to The Ravenswood Institution for the Criminally Insane, the maximum security mental institution for powereds.

I.D. recently escaped and her whereabouts are unknown. It is believed she is heading back to Chicago for a second attempt on BranTech Industries or a confrontation with Boost. Possibly both.

Relationships: Johann Kalte-husband (deceased), Katrina Kalte-daughter (deceased), Jakob Kalte-son (deceased), Karl Astor-father (not believed to be in contact), Hilda Astor-mother (not believed to be in contact)

Threat Level: Orange

I.D. is an active threat targeting research and industry vital to our military infrastructure. Her strength is formidable, but it is her engineering genius that serves as the biggest threat. All due caution should be exercised when trying to apprehend her. Powered backup is advised when possible.

Death from Above and Below and All Sides

Stephanie and I are back at Chez Venereal after what can only be described as a massive cluster-flit (man, Jules is thorough on this swearing thing).

Both of us need to recover a bit before I even think about going to see Torrie’s mother.

Stephanie: “This place is horrible! I feel like I need a VD test just from sitting down.”

Excuse me.

“Sorry, Miss Public University dorm-living scholarship woman, that the accommodations are not to your liking. Feel free to take the some of the massive bankroll you undoubtedly have and stay at the Waldorf or something more suitable to your refined tastes.”

Stephanie: “Please. I heard you call it Chez Venereal. You’re just trying to be a jackhole.”

Stephanie: “Wow! You weren’t kidding about the swearing thing, huh? Can’t even say jackhole.”

“Will you knock it off. I’m trying to give my two readers a thrilling tale of derring-do or whatever nonsense people call it.”

Stephanie: “Whatever. Listen, I’m going to take a shower. No peeking.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. By the way, do you have shower shoes or something. I only ask because, you know, things can get kind of sticky.”

Stephanie: “GROSS! HOW DO YOU STAND STAYING HERE?”

“I’m a firm believer in the adage “Ignorance is Bliss” when it comes to staying here, or any hotel, really. Plus, I have shower shoes. And no, I don’t want your gnarly feet in them.”

Stephanie: “I don’t have gnarly feet!”

“You won’t have any teeth either if you keep grinding them like that.”

noise identified as door slamming

Ah, blessed silence. Except for, you know, me talking.

Where was I?

Oh, right.

So, I’m following I-57 back to Chicago and we’re right at the point where it changes to I-94 near West Chesterfield when I spot Aeromancer and his goon-squad, the Preservers.

I made for the ground because I am definitely at a disadvantage in air-to-air combat with someone who can control air. Road pizza, I’ve found, is not a good look for most people, me especially.

We land in Abbott Park…and it’s full of people because of course it is. Serendipity and I had a nasty break-up long ago.

A crowd starts to gather around us. Which is understandable. I would be curious about someone landing a flying motorcycle as well. Unfortunately, it is the exact wrong move for these people.

“EVERYONE EVACUATE!” I scream. “THERE’S ABOUT TO BE A POWER-BATTLE!”

Necks crane into the sky to see if they can spot some well-known power.

I blame media glorification of super-fights for the lack of survival instinct. They mention civilian casualties, but it is glossed over in favor of “in-depth” analysis of the individual powers involved and political ramifications of said battles (which is a whole ‘nother post).

I even saw some intrepid reporter wannabe’s bringing out their camera phones to try to get video.

“It’s the Preservers,” an anonymous voice rang out. Clapping and cheering started from the crowd.

Ah, the benefits of having a massive PR firm behind you.

Having determined I was already going to be the “bad guy” of this particular piece, I decided to play the role to the hilt. I pulled my blaster, set it on Destructo-ray, and blasted a jungle gym into slag.

“GET THE H E DOUBLE-HOCKEY STICKS OUT OF HERE!” I roared.

The crowd scattered and I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d deal with the consequences later.

“Get some spells ready,” I told Stephanie. I pointed her over to a copse of trees that would serve as decent cover. She looked pale and scared, but nodded and ran off to her position.

She’ll make a heck of a hero.

The wind picked up a couple of minutes later. I looked up to see Aeromancer hovering in the air, his power giving his team the ability to fly to the battle.

I suppose I should introduce his team.

Quick rundown:

Rapidfire- An Enhanced. Cybernetic systems give him super strength, speed and agility. Fully cybernetic arms allow him to change them into a variety of weapons including lasers, swords, axes, or whatever suits him.

Umbra- An Empowered of the Egyptian God Kuk. This particular Empowered is female, so she takes on the female aspect of Kuk, that of a snake-headed woman. She controls darkness and carries a gold-plated ax as her power-focus.

Tek-Knight- A Machinist of the Gadgeteer subset. He always has several drones flying about him filled with various offensive and defensive packages.

There’s our contestants, Johnny. Tell them what they’ve won.

One ticked off Douzeper. And one newbie Magician.

I put my shield on standby and opened my arms up, inviting them to make their move.

Aeromancer dropped his hold on his team and Rapidfire dropped, arms in cannon-mode, blasting away. I snapped my shield on and charged toward the falling man, blocking each blast. I pulled my sword handle and activated the blade.

While it kills monsters, it won’t kill people. What it will do, however, is make whoever I hit with it face the truth about themselves. It may not sound like much, but it can shatter a person’s mind. Take away all the rationalizations, all the little and big lies we tell ourselves about our motives and actions.

Most people don’t want to know the truth about themselves. Those that say they do are usually engaging in lying to themselves.

Rapidfire was one of those people.

I run fast enough that I met Rapidfire as he touched down. He changed his left arm into a shield to try to block the blade.

Fool.

My blade rammed into his chest and he screamed. I have no idea what he saw, but it was enough to drop him gibbering to the ground.

One.

Tek-Knight hovered near a tree using jet-boots. The tree swayed and branches lashed out at him, damaging one of the boots and sending him into an uncontrolled spin toward the ground.

Unfortunately for him, a tree trunk met his face before the ground did.

Two.

“MAGE!” Umbra shouted.

A miniature tornado sprang up and raced along the ground to the copse of trees sheltering Stephanie. Umbra raced toward me.

I pulled my blaster and fired off a shot at Aeromancer before Umbra reached me. It forced him to collapse the whirlwind and increase the density of the air around him into a shield.

The blast couldn’t penetrate, but Stephanie, in a wonderful display of tactics, threw a massive fireball at him immediately after. The magical fire engulfed Aeromancer and pulled all the oxygen away from him, leaving a singed and breathless target.

Umbra reached me just as I fired my second shot, her ax biting into my side. Blood spurted out and I screamed. Yet, my shot flew true and hit Aeromancer, knocking him out for the second time in a day.

He fell from the sky and pancaked into a children’s playset. Taking him out bought me a moment as Umbra watched him fall. I placed my hand over the wound and Utu’s power flowed through me, closing the wound. It left an angry red scar across my side, but I can live with scars.

My blade flashed and she blocked with her ax. Our movements became a blur of strike and counter-strike. She would create a globe of darkness around us, and I would burn it away. Day and night battled it out, with no clear decision.

Luckily for me, my teammate is better than hers.

Stephanie stepped from behind the trees. She gestured and stone hands grew from the ground to hold our fallen opponents. After they were secure, she strode over to the two of us. I could see her coming. Umbra couldn’t.

She didn’t even have to hit her from behind. All she did was clear her throat.

The noise distracted Umbra for a fraction of a second. At the speed we were moving, that was all I needed.

I knocked the ax from her grasp and my fist met her jaw. I heard a crack and her eyes fluttered up into her skull.

Teamwork works, folks. The Preservers fought as individuals and lost.

Intent is also key in a fight. They intended to teach me a lesson and didn’t press their advantages. We intended to win and win quick.

We won. And without killing any of them, which I am strangely ambivalent about.

The battle did take its toll on us and so we went back to the room to rest up a bit. Magic takes it out of a person, and the adrenaline crash after a fight doesn’t help.

Stephanie, in her first real battle, shook like a leaf. I was a bloody mess from all the nicks and cuts received from Umbra. So we took some time.

Which brings us to now. I’m sure we’ll be seeing the Preservers again.

I just hope it isn’t soon.

Until next time,

Douzeper

Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs: Power Profile #004-Aeromancer

Tad Whitemore III aka Aeromancer

Gender:  Male

Power Classification: Innate

Sub-category: Elemental control

Power Level: B-Class

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Affiliations: The Preservers (see Power Profile: Preservers)

Powers: Aerokinetic, which gives him control over air. This ability allows for flight and creation of any air (wind) based phenomenon, including tornadoes. He can force the air to become denser, creating an almost impenetrable shield, or cause it to dissipate, depriving an enemy of oxygen.

Synopsis:

Aeromancer is the son of the prominent Chicago businessman, Tad Whitemore II, and grew up in the lap of luxury. He attended the best schools and had every opportunity to succeed. Yet, he didn’t. Aeromancer is not a very bright individual and only passed high school due to his father’s money and influence.

Despite his intellectual deficits, his father gave him a high-level position within his company. Aeromancer kept that position despite numerous sexual harassment suits brought against him, again, due to his father. His only real accomplishment came when he foiled his own kidnapping by manifesting his powers.

His psych profile suggests that Aeromancer is cruel and sadistic, with a hatred of women that is almost pathological. It was the recommendation of the FBSA that Aeromancer not be certified to operate. We were overruled.

He leads a team called the Preservers, based out of Chicago. This group is comprised of powers hired by Tad Whitemore II to give his son, and by extension the Whitemore name, the prestige of leading a team.

The team as a whole has done some good, but scandal constantly plagues it. Due mostly to Aeromancer’s antics. Many of his “arrests” are suspect, as are the “confessions” he has elicited.

Relationships: Tad Whitemore II (father), Rapidfire (teammate), Umbra (teammate), Tek-Knight (teammate)-see individual Power Profiles for more information

Threat Level: Yellow

Aeromancer by himself only rates a level Blue threat warning, yet he is rarely by himself. The team his father has surrounded him with effectively act as bodyguards/nannies, and are well-paid to follow Aeromancer’s lead. Fortunately, Tad Whitemore II has yet to find a magician willing to join the Preservers. If he ever does find one, the threat level will be moved to Orange.