Sabrina sprung up into the air, twisting her body and delivering a fierce kick to Jason’s torso. He was able to easily block the kick with his right arm. For such a small girl Sabrina was able to create a surprising amount of power with her attacks.
“When you jump into the air and spin like that you’re only giving me more time to see it coming,” Jason told the girl.
Sabrina pranced in a circle around the mat. “Well it isn’t fair,” she said. “I’m used to waiting for my opponent to make the first move, but since we were both trained by the same mystic being we’ll just end up staring at each other for an hour if I do that.”
Jason chuckled and took the note. He decided to strike first this time, first jabbing with his left fist and then crossing over with his right. The jab never reached Sabrina as she jumped back out of the way and then was able to use her height to her advantage and easily duck his cross.
She dropped to her knees and slid underneath Jason’s right arm before kicking out her legs and wrapping them around his. Sabrina then rotated her torso, using every bit of core strength she had to bring her much larger opponent to the ground.
Jason recognized the maneuver immediately and tried to maintain his balance, but the girl’s legs were strong and the minute he tried to move his feet and free himself he lost his balance and toppled to ground, his back landing flat on the mat.
Unfortunately for Sabrina, there was little she could do from this position to prevent Jason from getting back to his feet. As soon as she released her grip on Jason’s legs he was flipping over backward and springing himself to his feet. Sabrina also took the opportunity to get back up, using some kind of modified breakdance move to throw herself up into her fighting stance.
Jason smirked. The girl’s counter wasn’t bad, but she’d have to do a lot better to beat The Eagle.
It was Sabrina’s turn to attack—she took two quick steps toward Jason. He prepared to defend himself, uncertain what she might attempt to hit him with now. He was completely unprepared for what came next.
The girl came straight forward, showing no sign of breaking stride. When she was only a step away, she sprung up with her right foot and while in the air reached out with both hands. Jason threw his arms into position to block her attack, but soon found that she hadn’t brought her arms up to throw any punches. Instead she grabbed onto his arms and used them for leverage as she swung her lower body around until she was able to wrap her legs around Jason’s neck.
She continued her motion until she was sitting upright on the back of Jason’s shoulders. She wrapped her feet together on his chest and squeezed as hard as she could with her thigh’s, cutting off his air supply. Jason tried to shake the little girl off of him, but her grip was too tight. He widened his stance as he felt her throw herself backward in an attempt to take him to the ground, but he stood solidly in place.
He didn’t want to hurt the girl, but he also didn’t want to lose. He began punching at the girl’s legs wrapped around the sides of his neck, but she refused to yield her grip. As Jason felt his brain starting to dim from a lack of oxygen, he took the only course of action he believed he had left. He leaned slightly forward, then threw himself backward at full force, slamming the back of Sabrina’s body hard into the mat.
Jason heard the air being forced from the girl’s lungs. She coughed and gasped, trying to replenish her lungs with oxygen. To Jason’s surprise however, her grip never loosened for even a second. She continued to squeeze her legs, preventing any fresh oxygen from making its way into Jason’s now depleted lungs. As the light began to slowly fade from his vision, Jason knew that he had been beaten. He started tapping on Sabrina’s chin, indicating that he was willing to concede victory.
Sabrina immediately released Jason from her death grip and got to her feet, rubbing her hands together with a sense of accomplishment. The two ninjas had now gone head-to-head five times, and Sabrina had beaten him on four of those occasions.
“Again?” She asked him, rotating her head and stretching her neck in preparation. “That was the shortest one yet.”
Jason laughed, genuinely not upset that the young girl had bested him yet again. “No. How many times have I told you that I’m too old for this?”
Sabrina shook her head and put her hands on her hips. She was wearing a pair of grey sweatpants and an old t-shirt. She toweled herself off while Jason went through a series of yoga stretches. The bout had lasted only a few minutes, but it had been enough to make his permanently battered body very sore. He still had enough left in the tank to win a fight if he absolutely needed to—the adrenaline did its job masking the pain while in the throes of combat—but he could no longer sustain a high level of intensity beyond that first fight the way he used to.
Sabrina took a slow lap around Jason’s basement while he finished his stretches. She was still taken in by the fact that this simple basement had once been the headquarters of the organization known as the International Assembly of Superheroes. It was even harder to believe after visiting the extravagant island headquarters that housed them now.
At first glance, it looked like a typical old man’s basement. The walls were covered with wood paneling, the floor with old beige shag carpet, and the ceiling was made up of drop tiles. The only major difference was the advanced equipment being housed in the basement, and the once state-of-the-art security system protecting it.
Inside the normal household door at the top of the staircase was a reinforced steel one that could only be opened by way of retinal, hand, and DNA scans, as well as voice recognition just in case the first three scans weren’t enough. The rest of the Assembly had considered it overkill, but Jason always felt that one could never be too careful with their secrets. There were also tiny cameras and microphones scattered all over the basement—two-hundred and four to be exact.
The main area that opened up at the bottom of the stairs was filled with an array of computers, monitors, and communication devices. In the center of the all that equipment was a large, oak poker table that had been the setting of many discussions during the earliest Assembly meetings.
Around to the right of the staircase was the sparring mat. There were a number of ventilation systems built into the areas beside and above the mat to remove the stench of perspiration.
Around and to the left of the stairs was a kitchenette and laundry room that Jason had converted into his workshop. A bright fluorescent light hung above a wide granite workbench that took up almost half the room. It was always the messiest area of the house as Jason was constantly engineering new gadgets that he and the team could use the next time they found themselves in trouble. There were gears and mechanical pieces lying all over the place, as well as tools, beakers, chemicals, and who knows what else. It was a place of creation and Jason firmly believed that any realm of creativity was not meant to be organized.
“You got any food?” Sabrina asked after finishing her self-guided tour.
Jason stood upright after his final stretch and shook his head at the girl who always seemed to have food on her mind. “I’ll make us some sandwiches.”
Without so much as a thank you Sabrina took off up the stairs. Jason rolled his eyes and slowly followed. He gave her a free pass because she had grown up on the street, but he knew that he was going to have to teach that girl some manners. He imagined that his less forgiving sister had probably already begun doing so.
Things had gone surprisingly well since Sabrina had moved in with Jason’s sister. It seemed that Kayla enjoyed having another young person in the house now that her own had grown and flown the nest, and Sabrina seemed happy to be living under a roof with someone that treated her more like a tenant and less like a charity case.
The situation was more than ideal. After breakfast Sabrina would walk down the street to Jason’s house where they would spend the day training, and in the evening they would both walk back down to Kayla’s house to have dinner with her and her husband Al. As Jason had expected, Sabrina fit in very well with the rest of the family and soon began to feel like a part of the family herself. If she wasn’t so close to turning eighteen, Jason probably would have tried to talk Kayla and Al into adopting her.
With current circumstances being what they were Jason and Kayla did their best to keep their distance, knowing that it would only be a couple weeks before the young girl took off to join the SSE. Though they did well to hide it, the Haze family was an emotional bunch and they knew better than to get overly attached. Jason also feared that too much parental affection might risk scaring the skittish orphan girl away before those two weeks were up.
Sabrina went into the living room to watch TV while Jason made them sandwiches in the kitchen. At first he had felt sheepish making lunch for the girl when she was perfectly capable of doing it herself, but she was clever and managed to outwit him with flattery, claiming that she was incapable of making a sandwich that tasted as good as his. He knew what she was up to, but Jason’s pride prevented him from denying that he was in fact an elite sandwich crafter.
He heard the television flip on to the twelve o’clock news. For some reason Sabrina made a point to stay current on the day’s news stories even though she had spent most of her life without media. Perhaps now that she had begun considering herself a valuable member of society she felt it important to stay informed. Jason was impressed by Sabrina’s quick turnaround, including her newfound dedication to becoming a member of the Assembly.
There was a swinging door between the kitchen and the living room which made it difficult to understand everything the anchor was saying, but it sounded like the big news story of the day involved a large explosion somewhere that had taken the lives of hundreds. This in itself would have been enough to get Jason’s attention, but the sound of Sabrina’s voice as she called to him was a cause for far greater concern.
“Jason…you need to get in here now.”
Jason quickly set down the deli meat in his hands and wiped them on a dish rag as he pushed open the door to the living room. Sabrina was standing with her eyes glued to the television set, the remote control still in her hand.
“What is it?” he asked, trying to move around Sabrina to get a clear view of the TV. What he saw made his heart stop beating.
They listened quietly as the news reporter spoke over aerial images of the island. “We say again, we have reports that the fusion power core on the private island that was the home for the new Superhuman Society of Earth and the new world headquarters for the International Assembly of Superheroes has gone nuclear, completely decimating the island. Designer Roger Bankman has refused to comment, but a spokesperson for his company has released a statement claiming that the fusion reactor had been built with a containment field designed to prevent such a catastrophe. Clearly the containment field failed as you can clearly see the devastation the reactor’s detonation caused to the entire island.
“Due to high levels of radiation we are unable to bring you any reports from the ground, but from what we’ve been able to tell from up here there appear to be no survivors. There were reportedly over three-hundred people living on the island prior to this explosion. The United Nations has said that they will be sending out a team to investigate immediately. We are still awaiting more information as to what may have caused the failure to the fusion reactor core that had provided all of the electricity to the island. We will certainly keep you updated as this story develops.”
“Oh my God,” Sabrina whispered in stunned disbelief.
Jason turned to march back into the kitchen where he’d left his phone.
“Where are you going?” Sabrina asked him.
“I have to call Harry,” Jason responded as he pushed back open the door to the kitchen. “We have to go find out what happened.”
He heard Sabrina continue calling to him from the living room, “It sounds like they already know what happened. The fusion core exploded or whatever.”
Jason hit send next to Harry’s name in his phone and marched back into the living room. Sabrina’s eyes were still fixated on the news report.
“Bankman may be an arrogant ass, but he knows what he’s doing,” Jason explained as the phone began to ring on the other end. “I went over the specs for that containment field—the design was perfect. This shouldn’t have happened.”
He suddenly heard Harry answer his call, “Hello?”
“Have you seen this?” Jason asked immediately.
“Yeah, the media already has the embassy here surrounded.”
“We have to get to that island immediately,” Jason told his friend and former teammate. “This was no accident.”
“I agree,” Harry responded on the other end of the phone.
Before Jason could continue putting together a plan to get to the island, something outside the window caught Sabrina’s attention. “Jason…” she said softly.
“What is it?” Jason responded shortly, covering his phone with his hand.
Sabrina separated two of the blinds and looked back at her mentor. “You might want to see this.”
“One second,” Jason told Harry over the phone before moving to look out his front window. Two separate television crews were currently setting up shop on his front lawn.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he groaned.
He put the phone back up to his ear. “Harry—Get the jet ready and pick us up in Omaha. Call me when you land and Sabrina and I will meet you on the tarmac—and make sure Bankman is there with you. See you soon.”
Jason hung up before giving Harry the chance to respond.
“You want me to go with you?” Sabrina asked with a bit of surprise in her voice.
Jason nodded firmly. “This is your fight too now.”
Sabrina felt a sense of déjà vu as she stared out the window of the Assembly’s private jet at the ocean below. The time between seeing the news report and meeting Harry at the airport had been little more than a blur. The tragedy on Insula Lacertus had generated a lot of panic and anxiety all over the world, but somehow through it all Jason had managed to keep his cool. Sabrina was very impressed with his poise. Even though many of his friends and companions had been on the island at the time of the explosion, he maintained his composure and put together a solid plan to investigate what went wrong. She supposed such a trait was near the top of the list as to why the Assembly had once considered him their leader.
Harry and Roger Bankman had been waiting for them by the plane when they arrived on the tarmac. Bankman had immediately jumped on the defensive, arguing that there was absolutely no reason why the containment field should have failed. Jason had already told Sabrina something along those same lines, but he refused to let Bankman know that he agreed with him. Instead Jason acted aloof, unwilling to discuss the subject until they arrived at the island and were able to get a good look for themselves.
Sabrina expected Bankman to look like the stereotypical nerd genius, but he was nothing of the sort. He was ruggedly handsome with baby blue eyes and a chiseled jaw. His medium length, wavy black hair was slicked back with gel and a neatly trimmed beard covered his face. His build was also very strong and bulky. He was almost the same size as Jason, which probably added to the reasons why Jason didn’t particularly care for him.
This having been her second trip to the island, she could sense that they were getting close. Jason must have been sensing the same thing as he was currently preparing four hazmat suits in anticipation of the intense radiation that will have enveloped the island following the nuclear blast.
The two had barely spoken to one another since leaving the house. In fact, once Bankman had finished defending himself for the accident, there had been less than ten total words spoken throughout the entire flight. Jason managed to keep his mind preoccupied with a variety of tasks in preparation for his investigation, while Harry streamed movies on his brain computer. Bankman on the other hand, had spent the entire time writing feverishly in his notebook.
As Sabrina turned her head to look back out the window, she nearly gasped at the sight of the island. The once a luscious green paradise had been completely scorched. Everything that had once been living now appeared dead. There was nothing but red and black rocks and dirt. The beach resort had been completely incinerated.
“Oh my God,” she heard Bankman murmur from the other side of the plane. This got Harry and Jason’s attention. They positioned themselves so that they could also get a glimpse of the wasteland below.
The view only got worse as they approached the area of the island where the city had once been. Metal debris littered the ground. It appeared that some of the domes had been flipped over while others had simply been blown away. What had once been a well-structured city was now a chaotic collection of debris.
Sabrina tried to find the tower to see if it was still standing, but it of course was not. Instead what remained of the great structure was scattered all over the ground near the center of the city. From what she could tell from the air there appeared to be no hope for survivors.
She looked to Harry and Jason, each looking out a separate window. They remained silent. Sabrina thought she saw a tear running down the side of Harry’s face. She had not known that the bionic soldier could cry.
Suddenly, a burst of static came over an old two-way radio that Jason had brought from his basement. It was currently sitting in the seat across from Sabrina. The unexpected noise caused her to jump halfway out of her seat.
Jason turned away from his window and scurried over to the radio. He began carefully adjusting the knobs to try and get a better signal.
All of a sudden, a distinguishable voice began sounding over the radio. At first it was too garbled to comprehend, but as Jason continued to adjust the frequency the words became clear.
“Jason, is that you? Jason?”
Jason immediately began fumbling for the microphone. “Amara? Amara, is that you?”
“Jason!” Amara replied, the sound of relief filling her voice. “I knew you’d come.”
“As soon as I could,” Jason replied with assurance.
“Ask her if there are any other survivors,” Harry said, now standing over Jason’s left shoulder.
“Amara, is there anyone else still with you?” Jason asked over the radio.
There was a span of about three seconds between the time Jason asked the question to the time they got a reply. “There are only five as far as we can tell.”
Jason looked up from the radio with a grim look on his face. “Five out of almost three-hundred,” he said solemnly.
Harry turned away and rubbed his face with his left hand, holding the right on his hip. Bankman continued scribbling in his notebook.
Jason pulled the mic back up to his mouth. “Amara, we are going to try and find a place to land. We will rendezvous in the center of the city as soon as possible.”
“Roger,” Amara responded. “She-Beast out.”
Jason took a deep breath as he set the microphone back down on top of the radio. He was clearly relieved that Amara was still alive, but stung by the hundreds of other lives that were lost.
There were five or six news helicopters that continued to circle the island, but the pilot was able to navigate around them and land on what once was the island’s airstrip. As soon as they were firmly on the ground, Jason began handing out the hazmat suits.
Sabrina, Jason and Bankman immediately began putting on their suit while Harry just stood and watched.
“What are you doing?” Jason asked when it was clear that Harry had no intentions of suiting up.
“Waiting for you,” Harry replied innocently.
Jason raised his arms in confusion. “Aren’t you going to put on a hazmat suit?”
Harry shook his head. “No need. My bionic parts should be able to handle it.”
Jason dropped his arms and threw his head back in annoyed disbelief. “You can’t use that excuse for everything Harry. Parts of you are still human, and those parts can still be affected by the radiation. I know you like to think so, but you’re not invincible.”
Harry cocked his head as he considered Jason’s argument. After a brief moment he seemed to see the light and began stepping into the specially designed suit that would keep him safe in the radioactive environment.
Once the four of them were safely inside their hazmat suits, Jason pulled the tab on what appeared to be a pop-up decontamination chamber. As the plastic box began to expand, he opened the cabin door while doing his best to maintain a seal between the inside of the plan and the radioactive environment outside. As far as Sabrina could tell he had been successful.
Sabrina was the last one out of the plane. As she surveyed the world around her, it reminded her of the set on a movie about the apocalypse. The air reeked of death and destruction.
Even though the hazmat suit would keep her safe, she couldn’t help but feel a great deal of anxiety about being surrounded by deadly radiation.
While Harry and Jason searched for the best path to the center of the city, Bankman immediately took off in the other direction.
“Where are you going?” Jason demanded when he noticed the physicist’s unscheduled departure.
“I have to go see what happened to the reactor,” Bankman said over the suit’s internal radio. “Go find Amara and the other survivors. I’ll radio to you after I’ve had a chance to investigate.”
Jason stood indecisively. Sabrina knew that he wanted to be there to investigate the reactor with Bankman, but Amara and the survivors were his first priority.
“Roger that,” he eventually said over the comm.
“No pun intended,” Harry added playfully. He smiled at his friend but Jason’s expression quickly reminded him that this was an incredibly inappropriate time to be joking around.
It took over two hours for Jason, Sabrina and Harry to hike over piles of debris to the center of the city. Amara and the other survivors were there waiting for them when they arrived.
From down on the ground it appeared that the tower may have toppled over before it was blown to pieces. Where the diamond tower had once stood was a large whole in the ground—an intended bomb shelter perhaps. The roof of the shelter looked to have been ripped clean off, and inside were the burned bodies of those who had tried to escape the blast.
The invulnerable She-Beast stood tall and strong atop a large pile of debris. To her left lay the unconscious body of Grok Tûn, and next to him was Eric The Animal, who appeared to be in a great deal of discomfort. On her right side sat two individuals that Sabrina did not recognize—a woman and a man—both clearly suffering from severe mental trauma.
Sabrina, Jason and Harry carefully climbed their way up the pile to where the others were standing. Jason immediately threw his arms around Amara.
“I’m glad to see you’re okay,” he told her, the sound of his voce muffled by his suit’s plastic headpiece.
Amara returned the embrace but appeared far less moved by it. “I’m indestructible,” she retorted as though he should be ashamed for worrying about her when so many other lives had been lost. “I was never in any danger, but everyone else on this island wasn’t like me. They killed them knowing that I would have to watch them die.”
Jason took a step back. Clearly there was a lot more going on here than he’d realized.
“They?” he asked in response to Amara’s emotional outburst.
A fire burned in Amara’s eyes as she stared into Jason’s, letting him know that the situation was somehow even worse than it appeared. Her once white suit was now almost entirely black, covered in ash and dirt.
Sabrina looked over all five of the survivors. They were all covered in ash and dirt—streaks of it running across their arms and faces. They looked like hell, and rightfully so.
“Agh!” The Animal cried in pain from where he lay on the ground. “As much as I’m touched by this little reunion, do you think we might get out of this radioactive hell hole anytime soon?”
Jason looked back to Amara for an explanation.
“The radiation has the same effect on him as it would anyone else,” she explained, “but unlike anyone else his cells keep regenerating themselves. His body is in a constant state of destruction and repair.”
“And I’d much like to fix myself for good, if you don’t mind,” The Animal added in his distinct, northern English dialect.
Harry went over to help up his old teammate. He threw one of The Animal’s arms over his shoulder and looked at Jason. “We should get them back to the plane.”
“Shouldn’t we search for more survivors?” Sabrina asked reflexively. She had been under the impression that was the reason for their visit.
Amara appeared to notice Sabrina for the first time since their arrival. “We’ve already searched everywhere—we’ve found only bodies, and as far as I know there was no one else here with abilities that would have helped them to survive.”
Sabrina opened her mouth to speak, refusing to believe that these five could have searched everywhere.
“She’s right,” Jason stated before Sabrina could speak. “I’ve been scanning for signs of life since the plane first flew over the island.” He pulled a small electronic device with red lights out of his pocket. “So far it’s turned up only ten—the five of them plus the four of us and the pilot. I’m afraid they’re all that’s left.”
Sabrina dropped her head. She accepted Jason’s assessment, but she was crushed by the idea that only five could have survived this. It felt like she was just there, standing in the center of the most unique place on Earth and her future home, and now it was all gone—senselessly destroyed for apparently no reason at all.
“Let’s get back to the plane,” Jason ordered. He turned back to Amara, “We can talk about them on the way.”
Amara nodded, “It was Walter, Jason.”
Jason and Harry both looked at each other, and then back at Amara, caught completely off-guard by the news of The Insider’s return.
Sabrina’s knees almost buckled. Anyone that hadn’t spent the last twenty years living underground knew the story of Walter Sykes a.k.a The Insider. Major Justice was supposed to have killed him in Hong Kong.
“But…how?” Jason asked weakly.
Amara shook her head and began to cry. Whatever The Insider had done here, it went far beyond a simple explosion.
Sabrina listened carefully as Amara explained what happened after Walter had managed to sneak onto the island undetected. Apparently he had taken control of several minds at once, turning each victim against the rest of the Society and using their powers to destroy the city.
“At first we couldn’t figure out what was happening,” she explained through tears, “he had somehow managed to mask them from us. I looked right at the flamethrower, but I dismissed him as if he wasn’t even there—I remember that now.”
“It’s okay love,” The Animal said from beside her. “I was there too. He had us all fooled.”
Amara sniffled and continued, “But then—after I’d thrown aside someone that I was trying to rescue as though they were a piece of rubble—I saw him. I tried to go after him but…but he got to me too.”
Everyone in the group had the same reaction to Amara’s story—all feeling sorry for the powerful woman who had been forced into a helpless situation.
“He turned her loose on the city,” The Animal finished the story for her. “We never stood a chance.”
“I hurt so many people!” Amara cried.
Jason immediately threw his arms around the emotionally wounded hero. The two survivors that Sabrina hadn’t recognized appeared a bit uncomfortable, not used to seeing their indestructible leader so vulnerable.
Harry—visibly disturbed by the news that he hadn’t actually killed the Assembly’s former member turned foe all those years ago—was helping to support the injured Animal’s weight with one shoulder while carrying the unconscious alien over the other. He turned the focus of their questions to The Animal.
“What about the fusion reactor? What happened there?”
The Animal shrugged as he limped along, trying to ignore the tremendous pain the radiation was causing him. “Apparently he did something to overload it and disrupt the containment field. We were all trying to deal with what was going on in the city. Amara was the only who even knew that Walter was ever here. No one was watching the reactor.”
As if on cue, Bankman’s voice sounded from inside their hazmat suits. “Well I think I figured out what was wrong with the containment field—it wasn’t there.”
Sabrina saw Jason’s face wrinkle in confusion. “What do you mean, wasn’t there?”
“I mean it wasn’t over top of the core like it was supposed to be,” Bankman responded. “I found the arches lying about a kilometer away and the shield is nowhere to be seen.”
Jason continued to look confused, “I thought the arches were rooted deep enough into the ground that the force of any blast the reactor could create wouldn’t be enough to move them.”
“They were,” Bankman confirmed. “I’m guessing by the looks of it that someone must have plucked them out of the ground before overloading the core and causing it to go nuclear.”
“Walter’s powers have clearly grown immensely since we last saw him,” Amara noted.
Jason appeared to be dissecting all of the information he’d been given, but Harry had already cracked the code.
“No,” he stated firmly, his head down as they continued their trek to the plane. “Walter doesn’t have any abilities that provide him physical superiority—that’s why he has to use other people to do those things for him. But we know someone who does have the ability to remove those arches and would have been in a vulnerable enough position to align himself with Walter.”
Sabrina knew immediately who Harry was speaking of. “Bryan.”
Amara looked back and forth between Sabrina and Harry. “You mean that little telepath boy you brought with you to the tower?”
Harry nodded. “He has telekinesis. Theoretically he could have used it to lift the arches out of the ground. It’s the only explanation that makes any sense.”
Amara acted as though she wasn’t ready to accept that Bryan was Walter’s accomplice. “But what if I did it? Walter must have the power to erase certain things from our memory—especially while under his control.”
Jason shook his head. “It doesn’t add up. Why would he let you remember everything else but make you forget that? He clearly wanted you to suffer. And besides—not even you would have been strong enough to pull those arches out of the ground. I have to agree with Harry—Bryan must have been here with Walter.”
Harry dropped his head as he continued walking. “First I can’t even kill the bastard and then I deliver him the perfect sidekick on a platter.”
“Don’t beat yourself up Harry,” Jason replied immediately, trying to prevent his friend from going down a dark path. “We could all find reasons to blame ourselves, but the only one who’s really to blame here is Walter.”
“And Bryan,” Sabrina added. Jason looked at her in silent response. It appeared that he wasn’t quite convinced that Bryan was entirely at fault, but his glare suggested that his feelings were something he preferred to keep between the two of them for the time being.
“So what now?” The unknown woman asked. It was the first time either of the other two survivors had spoken.
“Now,” Jason began, “I suppose we’re going to have to find him.”
“We?” Harry echoed for clarification.
Jason grimaced. “Whatever else he has planned, he can’t be allowed to act. If this is all that’s left, you’re going to need all the help you can get.”
Sabrina watched the serious man glance over at Amara next to him and believed she saw him almost smile. “I guess this is worth coming out of retirement for.”
Amara returned the almost smile. What a messed up relationship these two have, Sabrina though to herself.
“Nice work Bankman,” Harry said over the comm. “Meet us back at the plane.”
The group continued walking in silence. The walk back to the jet took even longer than before due to the waning condition of the survivors. Sabrina hadn’t even stopped to think about how long they had probably gone without food or water.
Sabrina decided to speak to the two survivors she did not recognize in an attempt to take their minds off of their frail condition.
“I’m Sabrina,” she said to the woman unprovoked, reaching out her hand.
The woman was a short, full-figured brunette—just barely taller than Sabrina. Her face—though covered in dirt—was round yet still very pretty. Her skin was fare and her eyes were bright green, and there was something about her that led Sabrina to believe there were probably many layers to the woman’s personality.
“I’m Sammy,” she replied. “But you’d probably recognize me better as Chip.”
Sabrina did not recognize the name. Before she could respond, the other male survivor took the liberty of introducing himself.
“I am Antonio Suarez from Barcelona,” he said in a Spanish accent. “But on the television they call me…The Illusion.”
Sabrina did her best not to laugh at the man’s uncalled for enthusiasm. “I’m sorry,” she told them, “I never really had a TV or anything, so I’m not really up on all things superhero.”
Antonio seemed almost pleased by this news, as it gave him a chance to talk more about himself. He was a stunningly handsome man. He was not very big or strong, but his skin was a perfectly tanned caramel tone and his long, chiseled face was perfectly symmetrical. His long dark hair was pushed back behind his ears, and his dark brown eyes were easy for any women to spend a few lost moments gazing into.
“Ah ha. Well I was one of the four members who joined after the original six. I have been with the group since nineteen-ninety-four,” he explained.
“I see,” Sabrina responded, trying to seem interested. “And what is your ability?”
Antonio raised his head proudly, “I can create an illusion so that there appears to be multiple versions of me at once.”
Sabrina cocked an eyebrow, intrigued by the uniqueness of Antonio’s power. “And how does that work exactly?”
“So glad you asked,” Antonio began, “The doctors and scientists tell me that it has something to do with a unique chemical that only I can perspire—and I perspire this chemical on command. For instance, a person will look at me and I will tell my pores to release this chemical, and something about the way the human eye interprets the way the light reflects off of this chemical makes it appear to them as if there are multiple versions of me. Sometimes four—sometimes five.”
“Huh,” Sabrina uttered, not entirely understanding how Antonio’s ability worked but fascinated by the fact that it did.
“It’s really weird when you see it,” Sammy added.
“I’ll bet,” Sabrina laughed. “And what about you, Sammy?”
Sammy seemed far less comfortable talking about herself than did Antonio. “Uhh…I’m from Portland, and I have the ability to mentally interact with computers.”
“Really?” Sabrina asked, very curious about Sammy’s powers. “How does that work?”
“Well,” Sammy began her explanation, “Actually what I can do is tap into wireless networks. So for instance if I’m in a coffee shop, I can access the WiFi network with my brain and pretty much hack into anyone’s computer or phone—whatever is hooked up to the network—and get information off of it. It also works with cell and satellite signals—anything wireless I can connect to it.”
“That’s crazy,” Sabrina said, truly impressed. “How did that come about, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Sammy shot Sabrina a curious glance. “You really don’t keep up on us, do you?”
Sabrina heard Jason chuckle. He had been listening in on their conversation.
Sammy shrugged her shoulders and answered Sabrina’s question. “I used to work with cell phone towers—I built them and did maintenance on them and stuff.”
Sammy ended her sentence as if she had given enough of an explanation. Antonio nodded as though he were expecting her to go on, and seemed very upset when he realized that she had finished her story.
“And then?” he inquired, urging her to finish for his own sanity.
“What, are you new?” Sammy asked the Spaniard in a demeaning tone.
In monotone unison, Amara, Jason, Harry and Eric all said, “There was an accident.”
Antonio’s cheeks went blush red, embarrassed that everyone had seemed to put that together except for him.
Sammy grinned and continued, “I honestly don’t remember any of it but they tell me they found me unconscious while strapped to one of the towers. Anyway I woke up the next day and I was inside the hospital’s wireless network. It’s hard to explain, but I could like, see it. I kept it to myself for as long as I could while I perfected it—using it for my own selfish purposes most of the time but also to do good when I was given the opportunity—but Bankman eventually figured me out and tracked me down. That was when the Assembly offered me a job.”
“Better than cell phone towers, eh?” Sabrina jested.
Sammy smiled politely. “That was always just a gig to pay the bills, ya know? At heart I was really a programmer…and a hacker,” she laughed. “So yeah, it was nice to find something where I could use those skills and get paid big money for it.”
That was when Sabrina noticed something else about the two survivors. “Why aren’t you affected by the radiation?”
Sammy shrugged. “I guess because I got my power after being exposed to high levels of radiation it doesn’t affect me. I’m not sure.”
Sabrina then looked over at Antonio. “My power too, is based on radiation,” he explained. “The chemical I perspire is radioactive, so my skin has to be able to regenerate itself very quickly because of all the damage—that is how I survived the blast. Unlike Eric though, my body is constantly dealing with radiation, so this is nothing too new.”
Sabrina took a step back upon hearing that Antonio had radioactive chemicals in his body.
“Do not worry,” he assured, “The radiation is not enough to harm you unless you are exposed to the chemical for long periods of time. You have nothing to fear from me.”
Sabrina nodded in understanding, though still not entirely comfortable with the idea.
The group continued walking in silence a few moments before Antonio broke that silence once again. “So what about you Seniorita Sabrina? What can you do?”
Sabrina smiled. She should have known that question would come back around to her eventually.
“I actually have no super human powers,” she said earnestly.
Antonio nodded as though he were worried he may have offended the girl, which of course he hadn’t.
“So you’re the one,” Sammy said in realization.
“One what?” Sabrina asked defensively.
Sammy smiled slyly. “The one without any powers. The Eaglet.”
Sabrina was surprised by what she was hearing. “You guys have heard of me?”
“Everyone in the Assembly had heard about you, girly,” Sammy replied almost as if she were mocking Sabrina.
Sabrina looked over at Jason, who was currently giving Amara a dirty stare. She must have been the one gossiping to the rest of the Assembly about Jason’s new protégé.
Sabrina shrugged it off and continued navigating through the debris with her head down. She decided that she should be flattered rather than upset.
“I prefer Sparrow,” she said to no one in particular.
Harry chuckled, remembering the nickname the others in the group had given to her that day at the embassy.
Out of nowhere, Amara seemed to have an epiphany. “I know where he is!”
The rest of the group jumped to attention, startled by the woman’s sudden outburst.
Realizing that she had sufficiently confused the group, she explained herself, “I know where Walter is. I can see it in my mind. He must have implanted it in my brain when he took control. He wants us to find him.”
“Why the bloody hell would he want that?” The Animal asked in confusion.
“He wants to finish off those that he couldn’t kill,” Jason offered.
“Jason’s right,” Amara said. “He knew that I’d survive and that Jason and Harry would come find me. He also knew that eventually we’d be able to find him and come after him.”
“Now he’ll be forcing us to fight on his terms,” Harry added.
“What do we do?” The Animal asked, turning to Jason for an answer rather than Amara. Amara didn’t seem to notice or mind, as she was also looking at Jason.
Jason considered a moment before arriving at the answer they all hoped he would. “We have no choice. If we don’t go he’ll just kill more people until we do. We have to go.”
The group seemed to march with a newfound determination as they finished the journey back to the plane. Bankman was there waiting for them.
Jason activated the make-shift decontamination room that everyone had to enter before being allowed to get on the plane. Inside he doused everyone with a special chemical that he formulated which would eliminate any residual radiation. Once everyone was safely inside the plane and the hatch was sealed shut, Sabrina heard the pilot ask Jason where they would be going next.
Jason turned to look at everyone in the cabin. They were all looking at him to make the call.
“To the headquarters of the International Assembly of Superheroes,” he called out so that everyone could hear him. “Twenty-two forty-three Cherry Street, Omaha, Nebraska.”