Pinkie yawned as she walked into the class, and paused to grin before taking her usual seat beside Adana.
"Please, please, please, please tell me there isn't a pop quiz today?"
"There isn't a pop quiz today," Adana told her dryly. "There is a section exam."
Pinkie's jaw all but dropped.
"No," she rasped.
"Up late again?""You should have been there, girl," the blonde grinned, though she still looked wrung out. "Delta Pi was having a mixer, and….."
"Clear your desks," the professor growled as the stern matronly woman in no-nonsense business attire walked into the room carrying her usual briefcase right on the bell.
Pinky groaned, and eyed Adana. "Guess it's not open-book?""Since when did Professor Williams make Economics easy," Adana asked, this being only the fourth week of class, and far from the first test.
"Man," Pinkie groaned, sinking into her desk. "I am so going to fail again."
"Again," Adana frowned.
"This….might be my second go at Econ-101," she groaned. "I have to pass," she sighed. "My old man will have a fit if I blow another class."
"Maybe less partying, then," Adana suggested as the woman stopped to eye them, then put a sheet of paper face down on her desk.
"Do I need to separate you two," the professor asked somberly.
"No, ma'am," Adana assured her. "Darla was just bemoaning her lack of caffeine this morning."
"Indeed," the older woman declared, and slapped a paper down on Pinkie's desk. "I rather doubt the lack of sleep is aiding you either, young lady. I suggest less socializing, and more studying if you wish to pass this term."
Pinkie groaned again as the professor went on passing out papers, and then walked to the front of the class, about to give her last-minute directions even as the door abruptly slammed open.
Every eye in the class went to the tall man in the door with a ski mask over his head as he raised a machine pistol even as he stepped forward, shouting, "School's out, corporate cogs," and opened fire.
Everyone screamed as the lead began flying, and Professor Williams went down spraying blood from a wound in her left side as everyone else dove for the floor in a vain attempt to escape.
More gunfire erupted as the class continued screaming, and the students tried to find a place to run, or just duck down to hide.
A few years ago, she would have screamed, and likely died, too.
Everything had changed, though, and despite the time of relative peace, her now honed, and practiced instincts surged to the fore as she leapt from her desk even as the professor fell, crossing most of the classroom in the blink of an eye, and stopped not three feet from the gunman.
All while he continued to fire.
Only his bullets weren't reaching any targets any longer.
Her hands flashed faster than even the stream of deadly lead, and every round was intercepted, and bounced back, sparing the fourteen students in the class who had been fully expecting to die when the man in green camo had burst into the room.
The man began to scream profanities when he realized that not only wasn't the girl in front of him dying, but no one else was either. He stopped the rapid fire, and aimed a single round at her face, certain she was wearing a vest, since he couldn't quite grasp that her now visible bracelets she wore were the means of her defense, and gave an aborted yip when her hand moved again, this time inadvertently sending the ricochet bouncing back to punch a hole right through his own forehead.
The man dropped twitching, dying even as he did, but Adana heard more firing down the hall.
Even as she jerked the guy out of the hall, and into the room, the other students with her tried to run past her, mostly in panic mode, and seeking only escape.
"Get back," Adana hissed at Pinkie and the others as she peered around the door into the hall. "There are at least two more men out there," she told them, seeing one coming their way, and another kicking another class door open as he apparently opened fire on them, too.
"Oh, God, we're going to die," one of the girls behind her whimpered shrilly, which drew both men's attention.
"Pinkie," she said, keeping her eyes on the men as she stood just inside the door. "When I draw their fire, you lead the others left to the stairwell, and get them going downstairs."
"I'll be right behind you," she assured the girl as the wounded professor sagged between two students who stared at her as if she were nuts. None of them had yet to understand just how she had managed to stop that gunman since they had all been ducking for cover at the time.
"Just go, and don't look back," Adana hissed.
"Well, well, well," one of the two men grinned as they lifted semi-automatics in her direction even as she stepped out of the door. "Looks like we got us a hero."
"A dead hero," the other spat, and opened fire.
Pinkie, about to move, ducked back, shrieking again when the men both opened fire.
To her genuine astonishment, Adana did not fall in a bloody heap when the bullets starting flying, and ricocheting again. Instead, her arms moved in a blur of motion they all saw this time, and she shouted, "Go! Now," even as Adana kept her eyes fixed on the men firing at her, the blonde unable to believe what her friend was doing.
"Oh…..my…..God," someone wailed, but Pinkie took the hint, and was bolting for the stairs. Behind her, the class followed, and Adana heard the stairwell door close as the men cursed, and paused to reload.
Before they could, Adana rushed forward, slamming one man into a wall, knocking him instantly unconscious before grabbing the other, and slinging him around as she tore his weapon from his hand.
"I am going to give you one chance," she hissed as she held him before her. "Tell me what's going on here. How many of you are there, and where they are now? Tell me, and maybe I won't throw you out the window."
The man's eyes rounded behind his ski mask, knowing they were four floors up. The fall might not kill him, but he would still be in a lot of pain when he hit. If he survived.
"What the fuck are you," he hissed in response, his hand scrabbling for something at his belt.
"Looking for this," she asked, holding up the web-belt she had torn free with her other hand when she grabbed him, along with the grenades, and the long knife sheathed there.
"You can't stop us. Not all of us. We are going to make a statement that not even your corrupt President can denyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy," he howled as he went flying toward the window, but hit the wall next to it instead.
He slumped to the floor, not out cold, but in genuine pain as he had clipped the hard glass, and the corner of the frame, and likely shattered something in his back.
"My bad. Guess I'm not much of a throw. Should I try again," she asked the wailing man.
"All right! All right," he cried, feeling that if she grabbed him again something else was going to seriously get hurt. If it weren't already the way his side ached that had hit that concrete. "Nine of us are working to take down this entire building. We are going to hit all the poli-sci classes. They were targeted to prove a point."
"That you're idiots?"
"That American government is corrupt, and must be…"
"Where are the others," she cut him off.
"On the first floor by now, waiting for those we flushed to come down, and be cut down," he grinned raggedly. "So, kiss all your little friends goodbye. By the time they reach the lobby… Bang, bang," he cackled just a bit madly.
She slapped him hard enough to break his jaw, and this time he did not move when he hit the floor.
"Bastards," she spat, and raced for the stairs.
She pushed through the door, and let her breath out when she saw Pinky below her on the second floor landing, and shouted, "Wait! Wait right there. I think more are on the first floor."
"What do we do," the girl asked as the fourteen students whimpered as she put a foot on the railing, and said, "I'll go first."
And even one of the boys yelped as she dropped straight down to the first floor landing after jumping the guardrail to plummet past them. Professor Williams, looking barely conscious, just stared blankly at her.
Looking back up after landing in a low crouch, Adana nodded at the sophomore, and told her, "Stay low, and stay quiet while I check this out. Don't open any doors until I say it's safe."
Pinkie just nodded, just staring down at the girl she thought she knew as the wounded Professor Williams rasped, "Meta. Has to be….a meta."
"You think," one of the boys grumbled at the woman. "Damn, no wonder she isn't scared!"
Adana heard all that and more as she moved to the door, and listened. Pushing the lever, she heard nothing, but she stepped out, and looked down the hall, and saw the side exit was chained shut. That meant they intended to likely herd everyone to the front, and then have them shot there in a likely crossfire. She eased down the hall, snapped the chain with a tug, and pushed the door open to glance out at a bunch of police already surrounding the building.
Glancing back the way she had come, she saw no one.
Holding up a finger when one of the police outside gestured curtly at her, she ducked back inside, and went to rush Pinkie and the others to the door.
"Take the exit, and stay to the side of the building. I think they're all in the lobby near the front. I'm going to check the other exits."
"Thanks, Ada," another girl told her, staring at her incredulously. "Thanks," she rasped, and then ran outside.
"Go," she nodded at the others, keeping herself between them, and anyone else that might yet appear in the hall.
Once they were out, she looked up and saw a few more cautious students upstairs looking down. She waved them down, and then headed for the lobby even as she noted several cops were now rushing the side door even as the students, leading their injured professor, hurried away from danger.
Nine wannabes had been part of the plan according to the guy upstairs.
With one in the classroom, and two in the hall, that left six.
She got to the cross-section of the hall near the lobby as she glanced toward the doors, and saw four men with weapons aimed at over a dozen students down on their knees in front of the glass doors. Obviously cowards, she knew, to use others as shields. That still left two more unaccounted for as yet.
She glanced left. The elevator doors were open. Jammed. No one was inside. That meant they expected people to use the stairs, and even as she looked, she saw seven more people coming out of the stairwell on that far end even as two more gunmen emerged behind them, herding them. Several were already wounded. She didn't want to imagine what they had likely left behind them.
Adana frowned, and glanced back at the lobby.
She had seconds to act, and whatever she did, someone might still get hurt.
She wondered if her mom had ever felt like this even as she sifted things in her mind, and chose a tact. She already knew these boys were willing to take innocent lives. She knew that people likely already lay dead upstairs because they were so eager for blood from all that shooting she had already heard.
She glanced right again, and raced forward. Thankfully, no one in the lobby noticed her run past them. She moved on, staying low as she rushed forward, seeing the alarm in the first students' eyes as she chose her mark, jumped up, and landed on top of the gunmen before they realized she was even there. Both men were out cold even as she rose upright from their downed bodies.
Hopefully, she hadn't hit them too hard. The last thing she needed to do was have to face their inevitable lawyers. Not that she worried about them too much just yet.
"Ssshhhh," she told the stunned group as they gaped at her. "Follow me. I'll let you out the side. The police are already waiting."
She found the far door chained, too, like the other, and hocked them by snapping the chain like rotted twine, and ushering them outside. Stopping the last professor, a wiry man she didn't know, she told him, "Tell the police there are four more gunmen in the lobby. Two more are incapacitated upstairs on the third floor. Ask them to distract the men in the lobby in two minutes so I can try to take them by surprise."
"Go," she hissed, and shoved the man out the door even as she saw the cops surging forward on that side of the building when they noted more students rushing outside.
She eased back toward the lobby, listening, but the gunmen had yet to figure out what was going on.
"What's taking the guys so long," someone complained. "We should have a full house by now. Or something close."
"They're probably playing with the sluts. Who cares? Before this over, we're going to famous, dawg," someone chortled. "Everyone will know our names. We'll even be on the New Letterman Show!"
"Screw that. I just want to rattle that pompous freak in the White House. It's time to light the fire, and let this country burn," the stocky man growled.
"It's gonna burn," another of the four laughed mockingly. "And it's going to start right here. We cap these posers right in front of the cameras, and everyone is going to know we're serious. They are going to…"
"You in the building. This is the police," someone shouted over a bullhorn.
"Well, duh," one of them muttered. "Talk about dimwits."
"We're ready to listen to your demands. Just don't hurt anyone."
"Too late, piggy," someone tittered, sounding as if they were just a little mad. Adana used her hearing to place him, and decided he had to be first. He would likely be the one to try to hurt someone with his dying breath. Madmen always did.
"You want demands," one of the men shouted even as she used the lobby furniture to creep closer. "I'll give you demands," he shouted as glass cracked, and more shots were fired.
Someone shrieked, and people wailed, but Adana didn't smell fresh blood.
She turned the corner, and surged forward once more. She found the madman by placing the source of his voice, and jerked him back the instant she reached him, throwing him back behind her even as she rushed the man spraying the crowd outside with a mini-gun. She didn't stop to wonder where he had gotten such a weapon. She clamped a hand down on the barrel, twisting, and bending the weapon into useless metal even as she jerked it from its owner's hands, and then swung around, catching a third man in the jaw, knocking him back, and not quite out as he screamed hellishly at the impact.
Okay, still had to work on holding back she reminded herself as she noted his cheek and jaw both gave way even as she turned on the fourth man while a follow-up kick drove the machine-gunner to the floor with a dull groan.
The last man had to be one of the most intelligent.
He looked around him, threw up his hands, and shouted, "I surrender," even as his gun was dropped from his hands.
The man she flung back was just then sliding down the wall near the elevator doors, out cold from the impact of hitting the wall. His hand, she noted, dropped a remote detonator that flashed red, indicating it was active.
"Don't…..move," she told the only man on his feet as she walked over, picked up the detonator, and crushed it in both hands after she disarmed it.
Just to be certain, she jerked several battery-packs from the fallen man's belt, and dropped them on a nearby table well out of his reach.
"Outside," she nodded as the hostages just looked around, still on their knees, still uncertain as to whether they were safe, or not.
The wannabe frowned, but she stepped forward, shoved him before her, and saw the doors were also chained.
"You guys really are idiots," she told him, and snapped a chain to open the doors before she shoved him again, out and into the limelight he apparently craved as she waved the police in. "I think it's clear," she shouted. "We need paramedics, though."
She wasn't thinking of the men she had put down, of course. She was thinking of the people around her, some of whom looked hurt. Some just battered, one overtly bleeding. She still had no way of knowing what yet waited on the other floors.
Then the police were there, waving weapons, rushing people out, and a grim, cold-eyed man was in front of her with a badge, asking her questions so fast she couldn't answer them before he asked another.
She stood and stared at him as the police and paramedics swarmed around them, and the man finally paused, and demanded, "Aren't you going to say anything?"
"After you take a breath," she remarked blandly.
"Smart ass. Just tell me, are you here undercover? You're with the League, right?"
She sighed, and pulled out her identity card. "Provisional status," she told him. "I'm actually attending classes here when these clowns decided to use us to make some kind of insane political point."
The man eyed the badge, and frowned.
"I'm going to need a formal statement. And I'll need to clear you with the local League Chapter."
"I know the drill," she grumbled. "Am I going to need a lawyer?"
The man looked around.
"It likely wouldn't hurt," he told her. "Not that I care, but I can already guess some of those perps are going to be screaming when they wake up."
"Probably. I left two down the hall, and two on the third floor. Uh, three. But one of them isn't going to be waking up."
"You killed him?"
"He killed himself," she told him. "I can't control ricochets when they fly off my bands."
"Bands? Damn. You're that Winter. You're one of Amazon's kids, aren't you? I thought I recognized the name," he said before she could reply. "And you chose our little town?"
"That going to be a problem?"
"Honestly, I'm not sure yet. Just now, I think a lot of people are probably glad you were here," he allowed.
"Uh-huh. And the….perps?"
"Like I said, you might want your lawyer ready to handle complaints. You always get them when norms are handled by metas."
"I'll call my mother. She still handles all my legal issues," she told him. "Is that all?"
"Just now, I'd say keep yourself available, and you might want to get yourself checked out," he said, eyeing her somewhat shredded blouse. Especially around her wrists. "But I doubt you're hurt. Are you?"
"Well, my wardrobe budget just got hammered," she smirked, holding up one arm, and noting the shredded sleeve of her favorite blouse. "I'm not actually one of the active League members. I actually work for a living, and have to buy my own clothes."
"I know the feeling. Just don't forget that formal statement for the official case files. You might want to get out of here for now, though. Forensics will be coming in, and they hate civilians more than most. Then, too, the media will be here very soon."
"I'll bet," she drawled, and headed for the door.
"One last question, though, Winter. Did you know something was going down here today?"
"Didn't have a clue till one of them burst into our class, and started shooting at us," she told him.
He nodded, and turned to start commanding the men around him as they began clearing the building. Most of the baddies, she noted, had to be carried out. She tried not to feel too bad about that.
"Ada," Pinkie shouted, and rushed over with an EMT's blanket still around her slender shoulders as she fiercely hugged her as Adana blushed at the contact as everyone turned their way to just gape. "You're like…a real hero! I can't believe you….! And then you….! And, you…..! Are you okay," she finally asked, looking her up and down as one of the faculty came over, and eyed her before nodding to one side.
"I'm fine, Pinkie. Let me go see what Dr. Sanders needs. 'Kay?"
"Sure thing. Hey, and….best buds. Right? We have got to have a serious talk, girlfriend, because you have seriously been holding out!"
No one else nearby said a word as she shook her head at her unlikely friend, and followed the dean to one side of the crowd well away from the arriving cameras, and other officials.
"So. You're a meta?"
"Yes, sir," she nodded.
"Are you….undercover, or something?"
"No. I really am here to get an education," she assured the man.
"You knew nothing about those…..thugs? Nothing in advance?"
"No. They surprised me, too. I actually chose this town because it seemed about as far away from the usual….chaos as I could get. I thought I could live quietly here," she sighed.
"I see," Dr. Ian Sanders nodded. "Are you an active hero, or….?"
"I have provisional status with the local League teams, but that's only my mother's conciliation toward government regulations. I really do want to just live a….normal life. Well, as normal as I can," she added ruefully.
The older man nodded, then nodded again.
"Officially, we'll have to….investigate, and then discuss this entire matter, and your…ah, other identity with the university's board. Unofficially, I want to thank you. You undoubtedly did save a lot of lives today," he said somberly.
Adana grimaced as she saw the first stretcher coming out, the sheet pulled up to cover the body.
"Not all of them," she said quietly, knowing it wasn't a gunman.
"You did what you could," Ian Sanders told her. "And as I said, unofficially, you have my gratitude. I'm sure most of those students you rescued feel the same way."
Adana heard one of the injured men captured howling in pain and fury as he was brought out next. Badly injured, and strapped to a stretcher, he was still struggling as if he might somehow break free.
"Not fair," seemed to be his constant refrain. Followed by, "I'll sue!"
Adana only sighed.
She'd better call her mother, and Captain Atom. The senior member in charge of the local chapter in this region.
She could just imagine how both of them were going to take her actions that had exposed her identity just over one month into her freshman year.
To Be Continued…