"Plasti-Girl," Pinky sputtered. "Please. Do I look like I am some weirdo in tights?"
"Well, what do you call yourself," Robbie sniggered as Spark and Ember finished disarming, and tying the unconscious men up before they turned to the blonde.
Spark handed one of the men's armored tunics to Pinky as he approached her.
"I noticed you still cringed when the rounds hit you. I'm assuming you do still get hurt?"
"Duh. I'm not really bulletproof," she huffed. "I can just….alter my density in limited areas enough to manage a minor shift that allows me absorb any major blows."
"Like force impacting a trampoline," Gaia suggested.
"Something like that. And no jokes from the mentally impaired," she pointed at Dreadnaught.
"Yep, she's got your number," Ada smirked at him.
"But, you're not a meta?"
Pinky looked back at Spark. "No, I'm not. I'm….. I'm the reason my mom is dead."
"What," Ada asked.
"Dad…. He doesn't know, but….. The day she died, I was there. I….. I got her killed."
"Whoa. This sounds heavy," Gaia murmured. "Is this the time…."
"I think you need to know what happened, because….. I'm pretty sure the guys that killed mom are in there. The same guys that grabbed Dan, and are now after Barb," Pinky declared authoritatively now.
"You're smarter than you let on," Ada nodded. "So, what happened, Pinky? What is going on?"
"Genetic fusion. Just like I said. The day mom died, I sneaked into her car, wanting to see what the big deal about her new job was since she wouldn't even tell dad about it. He didn't like it, of course. I have said he's a major control freak? Well, even back then, he was bad. He didn't like her working in a job that required so much….secrecy. I was young enough, and stupid enough, that I decided to hide in her car, and find out what was going on."
"Kids," Robbie smirked.
No one smiled.
"I had this notion that I could surprise my dad, and he'd….I don't know….like me more for watching out for mom. That, of course, was the only smart part of my plan. The rest went to hell fast."
"Go on," Spark nodded, looking around,, and noting no one else was in the area. He had the men's radio frequencies now from their silenced radios, and no one was even looking in this area, thinking the team still out on patrol, looking for potential survivors. They had, apparently, not had time to call in their discovery.
"Mom got to work, and the first think I heard when I crept out, and followed her, was a big argument. Even while I was playing spy, mom had a big showdown with some hotshot in a suit. He was coming in, and taking all their research. Something about a big project for the 'good of all mankind,' as he put it. I remember that's the way he said it."
"Sounds familiar," Spark murmured.
"Doesn't it," Ada said quietly.
"Anyway, the guy was putting stuff into a briefcase, an didn't notice one of the vials had fallen, and rolled across the carpet. It landed right near the draperies where I was hiding. I used my foot to nudged it out of sight, and waited. The minute they left, mom still yelling, I grabbed that vial, and ran for the car. I figured it was some kind of serious evidence, and mom might need it, since I heard the guy say she was terminated."
"You mean fired."
"No, he said terminated. I thought he meant fired, too. Then. But mom was heading for the car even as I climbed in, and she was scared. I heard her try to call dad as she tore out of that place, not even stopping to check out at the gate. I heard shots behind us hit the car, too. I thought, whoa, that can't be real. Only it was."
"So, the story about your mom's death."
"Oh, a super villain nailed her all right. Only it was one I know those suits sent. Which meant…."
"How long ago was this," Spark asked.
"Five years. I was just fifteen."
"And when your mom's car went over…..?"
"She saw the guy slam into the bridge. She knew she didn't have a chance. She thought she could spare the other people if she just…. Well, she didn't know I was in the car. Not even then. I was so scared, I was still hiding. Until she hit the brakes. I looked up, saw the weird guy in the rainbow suit standing in the middle of bridge looking right at her, and I knew we were dead."
"So, she tried driving over the side to escape," Ada murmured.
"Almost worked, too. We hit the water hard, but mom was already dead. That guy…threw something. Hit her right in the back of the head. Funny how no one noticed that when they dragged her out of the water."
"And, you," Spark asked.
"Imagine hitting the water, slamming into the back of the seat in front of you, and having all your bones broken at once."
"Damn," Robbie murmured.
"Imagine, too, having a vial full of mystery…stuff in your jacket pocket, right in front of you chest, and it breaking at the same time, and splashing you with…..something."
"It overrode your genetics," Ada realized. "Reacted to the trauma of the impact, and gave you the ability to…..bounce back from the injury. Literally."
"Something like that. But before I realized any of that, the world turned red, then white, and I screamed a lot. And almost drowned.
Only I was also lighter than I was before, too. Don't know why. I floated up, and off in the current while mom's car sank, taking her to the bottom. By the time dad got the bad news about his 'crazy' wife, I had staggered home, barricaded myself in my room playing sick, no great effort just then, and slowly figured out what happened to me."
"Suddenly, your correspondence with Wilson takes on new meaning."
Pinky eyed Spark.
"I was looking for a cure, okay. You think I like being like this," she said. "I'm not even sure if I'm entirely human any longer."
"What," Ada frowned. "Of course you are….!"
"No, I look human, Ada," she said sadly. "Because I learned to remold myself. Afterward. If I relax long enough, this is what I look like now," she said, and her entire body shivered, shrank, and became a four foot humanoid latex silhouette. She no longer even had a true face. Just narrow slits for eyes, and a mouth.
"Pinky," Ada murmured as she stared at the unnaturally thin shape that now stood before them. A shape that was completely pink, head-to-toe.
"Like I said," Robbie murmured as Pinky willed herself back into human form.
"One more crack with you, and I'll see if that armor lets you survive suffocation," Pinky muttered.
"Actually," Spark told her. "He may be onto something. Near the end of his life, Plastic Man began to…..degrade, for lack of a better word. He went to many specialists, trying to find a cure. Something that would save him, or at least spare him an ugly death. No one ever saw him again. It is possible that someone…."
"Took samples of his unique bio-chemical makeup, and used them for whatever was in that vial," Pinky nodded. "I guessed as much. During my long march of self-discovery, I found mom's old notes. I hid, them, too, so the guys that showed up babbling about national security couldn't find them. It's where I first learned about genetic fusion, and the up-side of it."
"These guys, however, are obviously looking for the down-side," Ember murmured.
"Stands to reason. I say we go got bust them up. Pinky included. Now."
They all looked to Robbie.
"Civilian? Spark, she's part of it. Has been before we were here. She has a right for some payback. I say, if we were sent to do a job. Well, let's go do it. All of us."
Spark looked around the group, and while Ada was frowning, she wasn't shaking her head.
"I never wanted to be a hero, you guys know that. But if you ask me, this is Pinky's call. She's been in this from the start, just like Dreadnaught said. If she wants in, I don't think we have the right to stop her. Or make her go. It's her call."
Pinky stared at her.
"I would like to finish this. And maybe….find out who the guy was that killed my mom, and ruined my life," she said quietly. "But I'm not like you guys. Not really."
"You think we knew what to do the first time we manifested," Spark asked. "I scared myself to death, and almost got lost inside my own laptop."
"I burned my house down," Ember blushed.
"I almost killed sixty people. All of whom deserved it," Gaia told her.
"I, uh, knocked down a skyscraper. I sneezed, and leaned into it," Dreadnaught sighed. "Who knew?"
They all looked at Ada.
"I went home, and…..hid under my bed. For three days. Took my grandmother to drag me out. Literally."
"That's it? That's all," Ember asked.
"It wasn't…. Well, there were….other issues. Look, it's personal. Okay. Enough said. Are we doing this, or what," Ada demanded.
"Or what," Dreadnaught nodded.
"If there's a chance….. Just a chance to find out why, even I can't get a cure, I'm in," Pinky told them.
"One thing, Pinky," Ada turned to her, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Never, ever think you aren't still human. Whatever else, it's the heart and mind inside that determines that. Not the shape of your flesh. I learned that one, if nothing else."
"Thanks, girlfriend," she smiled.
"If we're done with the hearts and flowers," Dreadnaught complained. "Let's get to the sticks and stones. 'Cause I want to break some bones!"
"Me, too," Pinky grinned.
"My kind of girl," Robbie cheered.
"Here we go," Ember murmured.
"So, you can….shape-shift, too," Gordon asked thoughtfully.
"Yeah. It's a good way to slip out of detention," she grinned.
"Suddenly, some of your getaways this year make more sense," Ada realized.
"Sssshhhhh," she winked.
"Okay. Pinky, can you look like one of those guys?"
"Here's my plan. We let Pinky, in disguise, march one of us right up to the door. I'm thinking Ember. They had to have seen him in action, if nothing else. Pinky says he found him hunting his teammates, and claims his people are still looking for us. Meanwhile, Dreadnaught and Gaia flank, and cover as planned while I still creep in on their electronics."
"And, me," Ada asked again.
"You hold back. You're our secret weapons, Meta. Right now, no one knows how really strong you are, or the fact you can apparently fly, too. With luck, we sneak in while they're distracted, get the data we need, and break out. If things go south, I'll send you a call, and you break in, and do your thing."
They all eyed Dreadnaught.
"What he said," Ada asked Gordon. "I mean, what do you expect me to do?"
"Lose your temper," Gordon told her.
"You want me to….lose my temper?"
"Exactly. Just imagine that entire installation is filled with Dreadnaughts. And they all…..groped you."
"C'mon, Sparky," Robbie moaned, not liking the way Ada's eyes glittered just then.
"Good plan," Pinky agreed. "Ada is touchier than a virgin nun in a porno convention."
"Pinky," she sputtered, blushing redder than Ember's costume.
"What? It's the truth, girl, and you know it."
"All right. Everyone get ready. Pinky, pick a guard, and get ready to play tough. Ember, get ready to fake capture. We're on," he said, and turned to nod at Gaia and Dreadnaught. "Go," he told them.
"What if they jam the communications," Ada asked Spark before he could take off even as Pinky started transforming with some effort.
"They can't jam me," Spark told her. "If I call, you'll hear. If I do, come fast."
"I'll be needing this," a much gruffer voice came from Pinky's new visage as 'he' lifted a weapon from the pile near the unconscious men. "Okay, brat," Pinky drawled, shoving Ember forward. "Move that skinny butt."
"You are taking way too much pleasure in this," the teen grumbled as he staggered forward, not expecting the shove.
"Just making it look good, hot stuff," the unlikely visage winked, and smirked at him.
"Seriously," Todd moaned. "Don't do that!"
Spark allowed a faint grin, and turned back to Ada as the pair took off, Gaia and Dreadnaught already having taken off.
"With luck, I won't have to call. Be ready, though. You never know how these things will go."
"Mom always said the same thing," she nodded. "Seriously, be careful. You don't know what they might have ready. Even for someone like you."
"I'm not the one you need to worry about, nodding after Ember and Pinky.
"Yeah. In six months, I never once guessed….."
"We all have our secrets, Meta. Lay low. You don't want someone spotting you before we make our play."
"Right," she nodded, but paused to destroy the remaining arms in that pile before taking off after Spark disappeared.
Just in case.
"Target destroyed. Multiple impacts," the man at the radar station reported.
"No contact on radar," he reported.
"Witnesses described a burst of flame escaping the vehicle before impact," another man reported. "Might have been a meta."
"Send out patrols. He couldn't have gotten far. Especially if he's saddled with wounded teammates."
"How do you know they might be wounded? Surely…..?"
The officer standing over the station scowled.
"If they came in a vehicle, then they couldn't all fly. If they didn't get out, someone got hurt. Even one flier couldn't carry an entire team. There had to be four to five members on board, since that's the standard League model. Now, we might four to five corpses, but we might have four to five very angry heroes about to break in our doors. Shouldn't we find out before they get here," the man demanded of the radar tech.
"Yes, sir," he grimaced.
"Thank you for agreeing, peon. Get those patrols out. Arm them for anything," he added as the station chief nodded before relaying the orders.
The tech was left monitoring the radar around the site for over thirty minutes, but didn't spot any new marks.
"First three patrols report nothing. We have six others yet to report. Still searching," the security chief reported.
The officer studied a digital map.
"They flew in from the southeast. Impact was here," he tapped the screen. "Obviously, they weren't north, or west of us. Focus patrols in these regions," he indicated.
"Already moving in that direction, sir," the chief nodded. "We just cleared the north and west quadrants to be sure."
"Good. I like a man that knows to be thorough," he nodded at the chief.
The junior officer simply nodded, and went back to monitoring his own teams on the radio with the communications tech on station.
"Team five reported no contact as far as the river gulf. Turning south to join with team six. Four is turning back. Nothing to report."
"The others," the chief asked the tech.
"Team two reports nothing, but they're going to move a little farther out just to be certain."
"Where is team one, or three?"
The tech turned back to call in reports.
Listening, he turned to him, and said, "Team one just reached their checkpoint. Team two still hasn't called in."
"Where," the chief demanded.
The tech pointed out the section the team was assigned.
"Order all teams to converge. Now."
"Sir, we've got one member of Team Two at the door. He has a live captive. The rest of his squad is still searching for survivors," a man came into the control center to report.
"A live capture," the senior officer murmured. "Why didn't he report?"
"Damaged radio, sir. The kid put a fight."
"Boy. Maybe seventeen. Skinny runt in red. Baker is taking him to holding now."
"Take him to the lab. Full containment," the security chief countered. "Take no chances. Meanwhile, all teams will converge on Two's last known locations."
"Team Four reporting, sir. They just found Team Two bound, and unconscious near the edge of the forest."
"What," the senior office frowned. "Confirm that. How many of them were found?"
"All three, sir," the tech relayed.
The security chief didn't hesitate.
"Shutdown," he ordered, slamming a palm over the console. "Full iso-protocols. We have an intruder," he shouted as alarms went off all around them.
Ada didn't need a signal. Just a mile away, hiding in the top of a very tall tree, her hearing easily picked up on the klaxons going off inside that giant, metal dome that sat squarely in the middle of a forested plain where nothing was supposed to be.
Military trucks and aircraft were all around it, mostly camouflaged, but more than a few jets, and anti-aircraft batteries were ready to go.
They were taking no chances.
How, though, she was wondering, did they get around the Canadian government allowing them access up here? Especially in an overly obvious military outpost of this kind?
She waited, expecting a call from Spark, but nothing came.
She listened more closely, the klaxons starting to sound….fainter now. As if muted.
"Electronic masking," she realized.
Now the alarms were completely silent. She didn't buy it, though. Not if they had just gone off. Something was shutting down all sound around the dome.
Which meant even Spark might not be able to get back out without help.
If her mother had taught her anything, it was that charging in blindly was a sure way to disaster.
"Always have a plan," she had taught Tala, and in time, her, "Or you're never going to win."
She glanced around, and fixed her eyes on a small helicopter near the flight line being fueled up.
"That will do," she murmured. Then she looked around a little closer, still amazed at how sharper her vision seemed to be getting the more she used it.
There. Those staggered, but less than randomly placed dishes weren't pointing out. So they weren't standard transceivers. They had to be defensive. In short, she guessed, they had to be the source of whatever was jamming outside surveillance, and even her hearing.
Steeling herself, she swallowed hard, and flung herself forward as fast as she could move.
She hit the first of the concave dishes four seconds later, traveling close to Mach One. She smashed through, ignoring the sparks and minor explosion, and kept moving as she made a complete circle around the entire complex, taking out every one of the dishes before rising high over the dome, and looking down.
She couldn't see through walls, but she could hear very, very well. Tuning in on the sounds now easily audible to her, she listened, and pinpointed several distinctive voices.
"Cat's out of the bag, Pinky," Ember shouted. "Time to do some damage, and buy Spark time to do his thing!"
He was flinging fireballs, and overheating anything that looked critical in their area as she lay down fire with the weapon she still held.
"Where's your buddies? We could use metal-head about now! Isn't he supposed to be tough?"
"Tough as they come," Ember agreed, and the entire base vibrated ominously just then, and the young meta grinned. "And it sounds like he just figured out things have gone south," he said as the walls rumbled again.
Then the ceiling came crashing down, and a blue streak smashed through the ranks of the guards cutting them off from the exits before Ada slowed, and hovered in the air before them.
"Well? Planning on moving in? Let's go," she shouted, and flew forward, smashing anything in her way out.
"And she didn't want to be a hero," Ember rasped.
"Let's go," Pinky shouted, looking like herself again, but still wearing the guard's armor to help protect her.
Ember didn't argue as he raced after her, and Ada.
"I knew you would come. Eventually," the officer smirked at the narrow, reinforced tube that was filled with pulsing electricity much like a Tesla jar. "Which is why I had this little trap waiting just for you. You think you're the only one that exploit electricity, boy," the man laughed.
"Sir, something just shut down our entire containment system," the security chief shouted.
"Well, get it back up?"
"I can't contact the vacuum array," the tech wailed, tapping madly on his console. "Everything is….."
The entire dome seemed to shake, and the officer looked around.
"Did the League show up," he demanded. "Wasn't anyone watching that damned satellite for movement?"
"No movement, sir," someone shouted. "This came from outside! It's…."
"Good…..God," someone rasped as the steel doors that sealed the room bowed, and thundered, and then fell in. Five feet from the frame.
"Hey, guys, I knocked," Ada growled, "But no one answered."
"You," the officer rasped, recognizing that face.
"Meta, did you find…."
Ember stared right at the containment tube, and swore as he fired a massive burst of flame.
"Do your thing, buddy, and let's blow this place!"
"Emphasis on the blow," Dreadnaught roared as he charged into the chamber, and started smashing into anything that got in the way.
"More guards are following," Gaia told them as the electric surge pulsed out of the tube, and flashed across the nearest consoles.
"Shut him out," the officer shouted. "Self-destruct! Now! Now!"
"Too late," Spark spat, glaring at him as he reformed just beside Gaia, and Ada.
Even as the officer swore, Pinky ran in, and stared.
"That's the guy that killed my mom," she shrieked, and aimed her weapon at the senior officer.
The man stared, but when Pinky pulled the trigger, the hammer fell with a soft click. Her rifle was empty.
Screaming, she ran at him, but he turned, and bolted through a passage that opened in the wall, closing almost as fast as he left his own people behind.
Just before a voice declared, "One minute to self-destruct."
"You heard it," Spark shouted. "Everyone, let's bail!"
"There's a chopper waiting on the east side we can use," Ada told them. "This way," she said, and turned, and flew through the corridors, clearing the way for the rest of the team.
"Go," Spark shouted, taking her lead as he followed without question.
"Okay," Robbie murmured as Ada cleared the last hall by smashing right through the armored wall to tear a hole through the final barrier to the outside. "I'm not teasing her any more!"
They had just reached the waiting aircraft, throwing the flight crew aside as Spark took control, when the entire dome exploded. The helicopter, just started to rise, bucked in the air, and almost got smashed back into the ground had Gaia not redirected the concussive blast with a wall of wind she conjured to let them rise up, and away.
"Contact Watchtower," Spark, obviously spent, rasped as he sagged in the pilot's seat, just managing to keep them airborne as they left the smoldering crater behind. "We need to debrief, and now."
To Be Continued…..