Bryan pulled the man from his black sports car and proceeded to punch him in the head. He then placed a remote explosive in the middle of the road before jumping into the sports car and driving off. When he was at a safe enough distance, he pushed the button that triggered the explosives, blowing up all of the cars in the vicinity. Three stars suddenly appeared on-screen, indicating that the police were now after him.
Bryan laughed out loud, keeping his eyes on the screen and his hands on the controller. The best part about living with The Insider was that he let him play all of the video games he wanted. This one was a particularly violent game, but Bryan knew not to take it seriously. The reason the game was so fun for him was because he was able to do terrible things that he would never dream of doing in real life.
But then he remembered that he actually had killed people—hundreds of them. He suddenly began to hyperventilate at the stark realization that he was a murdered. How could he have done something like that? He’d never wanted to hurt anyone in his life—except for maybe the bad guys—but the people he had killed were the goody guys.
Just before his anxiety could turn into a full-blown panic attack, a sensation rose from inside his brain, calming him down and telling him it was alright. It reminded him that what he had done had been for a reason—that he was the good guy and the lives he had taken had been sacrificed for the greater good. What he’d done on the island was not murder, it was heroism.
The Insider sat on the cold ground in deep meditation while Bryan played his video game. He was always meditating. His master had tried to get him to join in the practice when Bryan had first moved into the cave, but Bryan found it incredibly boring and decided to leave the meditating to his master while he occupied himself with virtual entertainment.
The police managed to corner and kill Bryan’s character in the video game. He decided it was a good time to hit pause and take a break. His eyes were beginning to strain from prolonged gameplay.
“That game will ruin your brain,” his master said from his spot in the center of the room.
Bryan rolled his eyes at him. It wasn’t his fault that there was nothing else to do in this stupid cave.
Bryan stood up from his black gaming chair with speakers built into the headrest and a chilled cup holder that kept his drinks cold. In front of him were three screens. The center one was currently hooked up to his gaming console, while the outer two showed images of the cave’s entrance.
Since being “killed” by Major Justice in Hong Kong, The Insider had taken to hiding in a cave like a Taliban terrorist. Bryan hated it. It was always cold and damp, and the vast, empty space always made him feel lonely. A part of him missed his home and his family, but he knew that his sacrifice was for the greater good and that was what kept him motivated.
There were three main caverns that made up Bryan and his master’s cave lair. The first was the entrance. As far as the two of them knew there was only one way in and out of the cave. The cavern just inside the cave’s entrance was left completely empty—made to look like any ordinary cave to the outside observer.
What any unexpected visitor wouldn’t notice was the hidden doorway at the back of the cavern. The door opened to a long, narrow tunnel which led to a second cavern—the detention area. The detention area was currently unoccupied, though The Insider had grand plans to hold the remaining members of the Assembly prisoner in there very soon.
Above the tunnel and between the two large caverns was a third, smaller cavern that had been converted into the cave’s main control room. This was where Bryan and his master ate, slept, and generally spent the majority of their time. From here they could monitor the entrance to the cave as well as control the doors, lights, and anything else that ran on electricity. The room was currently dark, lit only by the three video monitors.
Just beyond the video monitors in the control room was a wide opening that looked out over the detention area. From where he stood Bryan could see ten stone slabs, each with reinforced steel restraints intended to be fastened around a prisoner’s wrists and ankles. The platforms were on a hinge which enabled them to be positioned either vertically or horizontally. Bryan had asked his master how he planned to prevent She-Beast or Major Justice from breaking either the restraints or the slabs. He assured him that he had a plan and that Bryan needed to trust that his master knew what he was doing.
There were small doorways on either end of the control room, each leading out to one of the other caverns. The door that opened to the front cavern led to a small ledge from which there was no way up or down other than climbing. The door at the other end of the control room also opened up to a small ledge, but The Insider had chiseled out a set of steps that led down to the floor of the detention cavern. All in all, the cave was pretty plain.
Bryan’s eyes scanned the reddish brown walls of the cave. In a few places, stalactites and stalagmites rose up from the ground or hung down from the ceiling. On one wall of the detention cavern there were ancient cave paintings, still visible today. For anyone visiting for the first time the cave was actually something to marvel at, but when you’d been stuck there for days on end the glamour quickly faded and the view started to become monotonous and boring.
“They’re coming,” The Insider suddenly spoke from his spot in the center of the dark control room. “A matter of hours—a day at most.”
Bryan turned toward his master, “Who? How many?”
The Insider took a deep breath as he continued to reach out to the minds of the surviving Assembly members. “I count six—Amara, Harry, Eric and Jason of course—as well as the ones they call Chip and Illusion.”
As his master opened his eyes and turned to face him, Bryan thought he could see a purple glow in the darkness.
“We will be ready.”
The scene at Jason’s house was frantic as everyone tried to get cleaned up before meeting in the basement for a mission briefing. Everyone seemed anxious to suit up and go after Walter before he could hurt anyone else.
Jason continuously brought food and drink to the island survivors in an attempt to build their strength back up before the mission. Everyone had been passed out pretty much the entire flight back from the island, catching up on some much needed sleep.
It seemed a surprise to no one that Jason still had a lot of clothes stored away that belonged to the other original Assembly members. The each took turns using the shower before choosing a slightly outdated but clean set of clothes to change into. Sammy and Antonio were able to piece their outfits together by borrowing from the others.
Grok lay unconscious in the bedroom, still in his pink uniform. His brain still showed signs of activity, but his body had been badly battered by the blast. It was unclear how long he would need to remain unconscious for his body to fully heal. Jason guessed at least a couple decades.
Sabrina tried not to giggle at the team as they rushed around the house like a family running late for Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s. They acted less like a team of superheroes and more like a fraternity, getting into petty little arguments over nothing and stuffing their mouths with whatever food they could get their hands on.
After a little over an hour, everyone was finally ready to meet in the basement headquarters to plan their attack on Walter. There were a lot more gadgets in the basement than Sabrina had realized previously, many of them hidden away in the walls and other surfaces. As everyone gathered around the large poker table, Jason pressed a button underneath that opened up a section of the wall, revealing a large touch screen monitor.
Amara jumped on one of the computer terminals situated along the wall to the right of the table and pulled up a map of South America. Once everyone was quiet and ready, she walked over to the monitor and pushed on a location in Peru. The image immediately zoomed in and the team found themselves looking at a satellite image of a mountain.
“Here,” she said, circling a small area along the edge of one of the mountains. “There’s a cave entrance here. That’s where he’s hiding.”
Everyone sat quietly and stared at Amara while she silently stared back.
“Is that it?” Antonio asked her.
Amara looked a bit confused by the question. “Yes. He’s there. There is only one way in and one way out—there.” She looked as though she was trying to search for something else to tell them, but she had nothing.
Jason pulled out his phone and held it up in front of the screen. “Sending the coordinates to the pilot now.”
“So what’s the plan?” Harry asked, looking at Jason as he did.
Jason remained in his seat as he began answering the question. “Simple—you go in head-on as a group. He’ll already know we’re coming, so there’s no sense trying to sneak up on him. I’ll go in separately and try to find and neutralize Bryan while you keep Walter occupied. Once I’ve taken care of the kid, we’ll try and neutralize Walter together.”
“That easy, is it?” The Animal questioned from the other end of the table. “And just how is it we expect to stand a chance against Walter head on?”
Sabrina sat behind everyone else at the table, a silent observer. She couldn’t help but think about all of the fanboys who would have given anything to be in her place right now.
“You’re up Bankman,” Jason said, his eyes fixed forward.
“Right,” Bankman replied, standing from his chair and moving around in front of the video screen. “When we found out it was Walter who attacked the island I took the liberty of calling my R-and-D team in Seattle and had them bring over a few toys I began working on after your last encounter with The Insider.”
Bankman pulled out metal a briefcase and set it on the table. He opened the briefcase to reveal five small devices and a larger one. The smaller devices were about the size of a quarter—flat, round and metal with a small blue light in the center. The larger device looked like some sort of chrome plated headband.
Bankman explained the function of his devices, “As you know, the brain operates and communicates using electrical signals. These signals create measurable waves which operate on various frequencies. With the data we’ve gathered from studies conducted when Walter first joined the team, I was able to gather more information on how Walter is able to use his own brainwaves to manipulate others’.
“Now what I found was that when he reaches out to listen to other minds, he utilizes mostly alpha waves. That’s why he practices meditation—alpha waves are mostly generated while in a more relaxed state. In order to take control of another mind however, he uses beta waves, and more importantly he uses them at a specific frequency—one that other human minds cannot achieve. This is what makes him unique.
“And so,” Bankman said, getting to the point, “my team has created a device that blocks that frequency from entering the mind. Similar to scrambling a radio signal, it uses magnetic waves to ‘scramble’ the signal being sent from Walter’s mind to that of his victim, preventing him from gaining access.”
“So he’ll still be able to read our minds,” Jason suggested.
“He should, yes,” Bankman replied, “but he won’t be able to control them which in a six against one scenario should be enough to give you the edge.”
“Will the devices have any effects on our brains?” Amara asked.
“Not unless your brain creates waves on that frequency, which none of yours do,” Bankman explained.
“What about me?” Sammy inquired.
Bankman looked at the woman as though it were a good question, “Similar, but not on this frequency.”
Jason seemed anxious to move on, “So how do we use it?”
Bankman pointed at Jason before responding, “Simple. Amara, would you mind?”
Amara walked over to be the subject of Bankman’s demonstration. He picked up one of the small devices, and peeled a cover off the back. He then reached up and stuck the device to Amara’s left temple.
He accompanied his demonstration with a narrative, “Just stick this little guy on your head like so, then push this little button…” Bankman pushed on the little light in the center of the device. It beeped once before illuminating a blue light. “And presto—mind control free.”
The rest of the team looked to Amara for a reaction. “I don’t feel anything,” she said.
“And what’s that?” Harry asked, pointing to the headband.
“This guy here,” Bankman explained, “Is to neutralize Walter completely. It sends out electronic signals on a plethora of frequencies. Flip this switch and place it on his head and it will hinder his brain function so much that he won’t be able to think. The wearer of this device becomes trapped in a constant state of confusion—so much so that they aren’t even able to realize it’s happening to them.”
“Sounds similar to what Walter did to us,” The Animal added.
“And then what? Once we have him neutralized,” Harry asked, again looking to Jason for an answer.
Jason took a contemplative breath, “And then we send him to the World’s Prison.”
Amara began to boil over with anger. “Excuse me? We are going to continue to allow that monster to exist on this Earth? Are you kidding me? We need to eliminate the threat entirely.”
“We tried that last time!” Jason barked, pounding his fist on the table. “Look how that worked out!”
Amara responded to Jason with a death stare, “This is different and you know it.”
“Enough!” Harry spoke firmly before the fight could continue. “We can make that call once we’ve neutralized his powers. Until then let’s just worry about getting that ring around his dome. Okay?”
Jason and Amara both nodded slowly, clearly still very angry at one another but willing to table the debate for the time being.
Bankman continued, “I have five Extro-Neuro Blockers—I figure our bionic companion here will be just fine without.”
Harry nodded in confirmation.
“And who should hold onto the headband?” Bankman asked, not wanting to offend anyone by handing it to the wrong person.
Jason and Amara shared a tense stare, while everyone else in the room silently looked back and forth between them, waiting to see who would take the first shot.
“I’ll take it,” Harry said, disarming the bomb before it could go off by plucking the device from Bankman’s hand.
“Do we have any uniforms?” Antonio asked as if it were the most crucial detail of the mission.
“Right,” Jason said passively, still frustrated with Amara’s desire for blood. He went over to the nearest computer and typed in a command on the keyboard. The webcam on top of the monitor emitted a red laser grid, scanning his face. A second after completing the facial scan, one of the wooden panels near the sparring mat popped out a few inches from the wall. He pulled on the panel, revealing a collection of uniforms in varied shapes and sizes. There appeared to be one for every current member of the Assembly before the attack on the island.
Harry chuckled as he went over to grab his uniform. It looked almost exactly like the one in the display at the tower.
“You have one for all of us?” he asked.
“I know none of you are surprised to find me prepared for this,” Jason replied with a smirk.
Harry laughed. “Always a boy scout.”
After putting on his black suit with the white eagle on the chest, Jason went over to an electric guitar that was sitting randomly in the back corner of the room. Sabrina had often wondered about the instrument as she’d never heard Jason play.
He picked up the guitar and turned on the amp next to it. He positioned his fingers and began to play a song that Sabrina actually recognized—it was the opening guitar riff to “Johnny B. Goode,” only Jason had missed a few key notes.
As soon as he finished his flawed version of the guitar riff, a section of the wall near him rotated, revealing a pair of weapons—The Eagle’s infamous katana and crossbow.
As he pulled his weapons down from the wall, he noticed everyone staring. “What?” he asked innocently. Rather than responding, everyone simply shook their heads and continued preparing themselves for the mission.
Sabrina watched as the team moved upstairs and prepared themselves to head out the door. Part of her wished she was going with them, but she was not yet a member of the team and possessed none of the training necessary to take on a supervillain like The Insider.
As everyone else filed out of the house, Jason stopped to talk to Sabrina.
“Here’s a pass to grant you access to the tarmac at the airport,” he said, handing her a laminated I.D. card. “The others should be here by the end of the night.”
“The others?” Sabrina asked, confused by what was happening.
“The rest of the gang from the embassy,” he clarified.
Sabrina looked at the card and then back up at Jason, her confusion quite evident from her expression.
Jason’s expression remained very serious as he looked her directly in the eyes. “We don’t stand a chance if Walter knows we’re coming—even with those toys Bankman gave us. He will find a way to beat us—he always does. He knows us too well.”
Sabrina felt a sudden chill run down her spine. Jason’s words were making her very uncomfortable.
“But he doesn’t know you,” Jason continued. “He won’t expect you guys to show up after he’s taken care of us. You and those other kids are the best hope for beating Walter. We need you.”
Sabrina blinked repeatedly, unable to comprehend what her mentor was telling her.
Harry called to Jason from the driveway. The rest of the team was in the car and ready to go.
“I’ll be right there,” Jason called back. He turned back to Sabrina, “I know you can do this. You can lead the others and you can beat The Insider. I left my tablet on the poker table with all the information I have on Walter and Bryan, and I left the uniform rack pulled out—there should be enough on there for you and the others to suit up with. I plan on sending the jet back to Omaha as soon as we land in Peru.”
Sabrina still couldn’t believe her ears, but she did her best to remain strong. If the coach was calling her up to the big leagues, she would be ready to play no matter how high the odds were stacked against her.
“We’ll be there,” she said confidently.
Jason smiled, and she couldn’t help but throw her arms around the man who had been like a father to her the past few weeks.
“Remember one thing for me,” he said, pushing her back so that he could look into her eyes, “Walter is very powerful, but his one weakness is that he’s easily distracted. You’ll have the best chance of succeeding if you can use that against him.”
Sabrina nodded as she took a deep, nervous breath. “Be careful,” she told him.
A car horn sounded from the driveway.
“I will see you again,” he told her, before rubbing her on the head and walking out the door. The greatest heroes on Earth were depending on a homeless orphan girl to lead a bunch of newbies who had never even been in a fight on a mission to save the world because they weren’t capable of doing it themselves.