Twig

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Chapter 5

Most Arrivals were harmless.

… I take that back.

Most Arrivals didn’t want trouble. Plenty of people came through portals with ray guns, nukes, or worse. Most of Mock City’s population came from unknown planets, but plenty of people arrived from a place called “Earth.” Its people were usually crazy, hostile, or self-absorbed. But Earth also gave us Scarlett. Rarely if ever, did anyone step through a portal and immediately bring havoc. As I crept through the mall like a stalker, I searched for whoever or whatever caused the damage.

My uniform, a janitor jumpsuit, was less than heroic, but I was determined.

There were weird scorch marks everywhere as if someone shot long beams of fire. The concentrated controlled straight lines lead me to believe a heat ray was involved. It was easy to follow the destruction. Kiosks were tossed, and a few were on fire, but they all seemed to be pushed in a similar direction.

With my powers, I could have jumped around like a ball. The souls of my feet were basically trampolines. It would have been faster, but something told me to move slowly.

I crossed the shoe section, went around the electronics department, and after avoiding the pet shop, I made it to the food court. The space was almost unrecognizable. Again, I found those distinct scorch marks, but in higher concentrations. Metal tables and chairs were melted down to the point of making the floors smooth and shiny like a chrome-covered skating rink.

No one was there. I thought I was getting closer to the Arrival, but there wasn’t a single person in sight. Just then, as I prepared to give up, something got my attention.

Bang!

I jumped to face the disturbance, but another rang out behind me. Before my feet could swivel around again, someone flew through a wall and crashed into my back. Thanks to the metallic floor, we slid for a minute before I was able to see who was riding my back. Rolling over, I saw it was Hatch carrying an oversized carrot cannon.

“Hatch!” I exclaimed.

“Twig?” he said as if annoyed by my presence while I pushed him off of me so I could stand up.

While Hatch recalibrated his cannon, I witnessed the source of the strange scorch marks. It was a woman with magma hair and searing red eyes. Those eyes shot beams of fire like oversized laser pointers. Kid Ninja was in the fight. Dodging and evading her heat rays, Kid looked effortless, but he wasn’t gaining any ground. All he had were his weapons, but throwing star after throwing star, Magma woman melted everything tossed her way.

" Go home,” hatch said to me before running back into the fray.

“I work here,” I yelled back, but as the battle went on, no one paid me any attention.

They were incredible, the heroes, how they countered, and fought. Still, they weren’t making any headway. I had to wonder where Scarlett was. It was unusual to find two of The Trio out and about without their third.

Magma had fire-based powers, so the answer seemed obvious. Why hadn’t anyone turned on the sprinklers? There should have been plenty of fire alarms ringing, but something must have been stopping them. A switch had to be in the area; it was a food court after all.

While the heroes battled it out with the Arrival, I tried to find an alarm switch without getting myself cut down. I couldn’t take a step without ducking or dodging projectiles. It’s a miracle all the civilians were gone. Without my ability to jump and bounce the way that I did, I might have been toasted.

All the little fast-food huts were obliterated, but they remained sound walls to hide behind. I went around the room, avoiding the center floor where the battle picked up. Taking gunshots was easy, but after being blasted with lightning, I knew I wasn’t invincible. I had never been hit with a fireball before, and I was in no hurry to find out if I could.

It was hard to focus on searching the area when the ceiling might have fallen at any moment. Still, I scrambled to look around going wall to wall. My plan may have been apparent, but it wasn’t panning out very well. Most of the building was rubble by that point, so I had to look for a wall to be still standing before I could worry about a switch.

When I finally found an alarm switch, it seemed like a holly grail sitting under spotlights. I lunged forward to pull it, and for a moment, the world slowed down.

The simple act of pulling that switch felt like a checkmate. As the sprinklers kicked in, I jumped up from my hiding spot to celebrate. It was then that I turned my attention to the center of the food court and noticed Kid had Magma pinned down. She was already subdued. The joy faded from my face while the three of them saw me.

“Go team,” I said halfheartedly.

“I told you to go home,” Hatch argued from afar with his cannon pointed in my direction.

How egghead managed to carry something twice his size on his shoulder was ridiculous at best, and dangerous at worst.

More importantly, the water was useless. It was nowhere near enough to put out the woman’s flaming hair. If anything, the water created another problem.

Steam.

As the sprinklers pelted the food court, it began to fog up enough to hide everyone from view. When it was impossible to see a hand in front of my face, I heard Kid’s voice as if he’d been tossed. Hatch shot his carrot cannon indiscriminately. The rapid-fire was frightening. One of his vegetable bullets hit me square in my chest hard enough to punch me into a wall, but Hatch kept firing. He didn’t stop until a heat beam suddenly cut through the clouds.

The steam eventually cleared away, though the water continued to fall. I climbed over a counter to walk over to the heroes where I found Magma was gone. Worse, one of the heroes was down.

Hatch was down.

His white shell of a head was cracked.

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