Worth The Risk
Across town Quickstrike peeked cautiously into an abandoned warehouse off old Colfax in Denver. The exterior was covered in graffiti and broken windows but she knew there was more than meets the eye here. She leaned into a doorway, surveying the area before she tiptoed inside. Very little light reflected off her matte black cat suit, keeping stealth on her side. On her heels, with eyes as big as saucers, Vixen crept in behind her. She was also in full uniform, though hers was little more than a hoodie, leggings, and a mask. Rico had phoned to say he was on his way, as apparently he had no stomach for interrogation.
“Stay here…” Quickstrike mouthed to Taylor before disappearing in a cloud of dust and returning mere moments later. In her hand were a dozen small video cameras, ripped from their mounts by a Katana. “All clear,” she reported in a normal voice.
“Looks like we’re in the right place.” Taylor observed. No one would put state of the art cameras in an abandoned warehouse. Quickstrike nodded grimly.
“Hopefully, we just solved the boss’s problem.”
As she spoke, a heavily modified gunmetal grey Dodge Charger pulled up and Rico hopped out. The car was Nona’s, she being the car lover of the team. Rico’s uniform was little more than a muscle tank and joggers, with a bandana tied around the lower half of his face in case anyone was around. Quickstrike never wore a mask, confident in her ability to go unrecognized. He approached the girls.
“Is this the place?” He asked his speech slightly muffled by the bandana. Quickstrike nodded again. Throughout the night and much of the day they had, along with Legend’s team, canvassed nearly the entire city looking for any signs of CLU’s hidden lab. The lead that brought them here had come from Legend himself, one of his acquaintances having sold this particular warehouse to someone matching CLU’s description. The deal was quite illegal making it impossible for Legend to show up there as it might damage his criminal credibility.
“Follow me, and stay close.” She raised her Katana and they all crept quietly through the warehouse until they reached a set of heavy steel doors. “Rico?” she asked and gestured towards the door. He grabbed each handle and forced the doors apart. Once they were open, several motion sensor lights came on, illuminating the room before them.
“Well, damn.” Rico breathed as they all took in the sight before them: Miles of chemistry tubing, multiple computers and workstations and a very large and uninviting vat of nanites; Enough nanites in fact to control not just their team, but also the entire city most likely. The trio wandered around the lab for sometime in awe of the massive operation CLU had managed to put together right under their noses. Rico was the first to snap out of it.
“We need to destroy EVERYTHING. Taylor, pull as many files off these computers as you can, we’ll review all the data later. Then wipe it all.”
Taylor pulled a laptop and USB cord from her messenger bag and plugged in to the nearest computer. She only had to try three passwords before the system let her in. The winning password was a variation of CLU’s given name and she tried not to be sickened by his arrogance as she worked.
They spent the next few hours gathering as much intel as they could about CLU, his plans and his methods. Taylor found he had extensive notes on each of them detailing their heritage, powers, and even some personal preferences. They appeared to be instruction manuals. Further investigation showed messages between CLU and potential buyers discussing the many different uses of a super-powered being. It seemed Jordan was the frontrunner for bids, fire being a very effective and somewhat untraceable weapon. CLU was going to sell them like livestock; super powered hired help.
“Guys look at this…” Taylor called the other two over. They both read the passages she had highlighted on the screen, Emiko letting out a startled gasp first, reading impossibly fast. Rico’s frown deepened even more than before.
“That son of a bitch,” He murmured angrily. “Ladies, we need to get rid of these nanites, ALL of them. Suggestions?”
“Fire,” Taylor piped in as she continued to furiously type. When she looked up and was met with bewildered glances she clarified. “Nanites can be destroyed by extreme heat. Kill them with fire.”
Not far from where the three teammates worked to destroy the lab, a sinister figure sat watching them on a monitor in a blacked out sedan. He smashed his fist angrily against the dash as he watched his files being wiped and his precious nanites destroyed!
“Fools! You have no idea who you’re messing with. Jordan WILL be mine. She’ll be my greatest accomplishment yet. And then, all of you will be bought and sold like the sideshow freaks you are. Just wait…”
Jordan collapsed immediately after they left the shed. As soon as the door closed, she fell to her knees, the intimidating fiery façade gone in an instant. Nona knelt beside her, almost afraid to touch her skin. Stilling her fear she grabbed Jordan’s shoulders, relieved to find them only slightly warm. Legend rounded the corner, concern written plainly across his face.
“What happened?” he demanded. Nona ignored him, focusing on her sister who was seconds away from passing out.
“Are you okay?” She asked, coaxing her sister to make eye contact. Jordan finally looked up and nodded slowly. “That was… I don’t know…when did you learn to do that?”
Jordan swallowed hard and gasped “Couple…days ago…” before leaning forward enough to brush her forehead on the ground, fighting the urge to pass out.
“Well, I think you made your point, though I don’t know if that was good for your recovery.” Jordan was able to lift her head again and she sat back, leaning heavily on her sister.
“Yeah... definitely not feeling… my best…” She managed to gasp between clenched teeth. “Someone has… to…look out for you.” She tried to joke but the pain wouldn’t let her smile as she said it. Nona looked hurt, even though she knew Jordan was trying to make light of the situation.
“I thought I had him…” She began before Jordan shook her head hard and waved a hand dismissively.
"We got what we … needed. Worth … the risk.” She took a deep breath and held it as if in preparation for something. “Help me up.” She said determinedly, though it didn’t seem to Nona that she could even stand. She dutifully pulled her sister up and though she swayed, Jordan didn’t collapse again. Nona was feeling drained herself as holding Goliath proved to put more of a strain on her powers than expected. They began slowly moving toward the house.
Legend moved forward to help but Nona waved him off. “Just give her some space to breath,” she told him. Rico was conspicuously absent since Nona had made it plain she didn’t want his comfort and he wasn’t sure how Jordan felt about him either since his brother had tried to kill her a few hours before.
Nona and Jordan were almost back to the house when a stiff wind ruffled their hair and Quickstrike was standing in front of them. When they hadn’t needed his help Legend decided to have a little chat with Goliath, in case he had neglected to tell them something. Both women were startled by Quickstrike’s approach but Jordan spoke before she could.
“Emiko! What is it?” The smaller girl winced at the painful sound of her leader’s voice but proceeded with the report.
“We found CLU’s lab.” She reported. When met with inquisitive looks from her leader and co-leader, she clamored forward with the rest of the details. “We wiped all his files, destroyed anything that looked like a nanite but he wasn’t there. The others are still looking for him.”
“How was everything destroyed?” Nona stepped in again knowing Jordan would keep pushing her voice until she couldn’t speak at all. Emiko answered the question cautiously, sure Jordan wouldn’t like who else was included in her story.
“We remembered what you said before about fire being their weakness.” She turned to Jordan. “We turned on the gas on all the Bunsen burners and then lit it. No offense boss but we can blow things up without you.”
Jordan just nodded with a small smile. She didn’t seem particularly pleased with the report. She also looked overwhelmingly tired all of a sudden and Nona felt it best to continue this conversation somewhere Jordan could lie down. She said as much and soon they were in the family room with Jordan lying on her side in one of the room’s plush couches.
They had helped her out of the stiff uniform coat and back into Kurt’s soft sweatshirt, the fabric much more forgiving to her injuries. Her eyes were closed but she appeared to be listening as she occasionally nodded her head in agreement with what was being said.
“Emiko, you and Rico need to get back out in the search… Wait… where’s Taylor? I haven’t seen her all day?” Nona inquired, causing Jordan to open her eyes and bolt upright.
“I’m here! I’m fine.” A youthful voice came from the other room.
Taylor bounded in, her dark brown hair stacked up in a messy bun, in full uniform sans her mask. Nona’s eyes narrowed at the sight and Jordan looked like she might have a stroke at having confirmation that Taylor had been out searching for someone so dangerous. She noted Jordan’s expression and hurried over to her.
“Hey, ma, don’t worry. I’m fine; it was totally safe. Emiko was watching me like a hawk!” She wrapped an arm protectively around Jordan’s shoulders and hugged her as tightly as her foster mother’s injuries would allow. “I just wanted to help, you know. I know it’s important we find him…” She trailed off. Jordan hugged her back, relieved and proud all at the same time.
“I know. Thank you.” She whispered. Taylor leaned back to look her foster mother over, disliking what she saw. She quickly stood and started to reposition Jordan on the couch.
“You need to be resting!” She complained as she put Jordan’s feet back on the couch, then grabbed a throw off the couch beside her and tucked it around the older girl.
Jordan winced at the rough treatment, Taylor not having the most gentle of touches despite her good intentions. Nona intervened knowing her sister would never let on how much Taylor was actually hurting her. She grabbed the pillow out of the teens hands that she had been aggressively fluffing.
“Okay! I think she’s good Taylor. This would probably be a good time for you to head back to school.” She pulled the young girl away from Jordan before she could unintentionally hurt her anymore. “Emiko, and Rico will head back out to search. Legend and I will join them as soon as we can.”
“What about Jordan?”
Taylor seemed much more anxious now that she had seen Jordan with her own eyes. For the past day and a half she had been sleeping for the most part, Taylor only peeking in on her occasionally. No one had told the young girl how bad Jordan’s injuries were but now being face to face with her, the damage was hard to hide or ignore.
“What about Jordan?” a voice asked from the kitchen. Kurt had returned with supplies and from the load in his hands, it was clear he intended on bringing everything in one trip. He dumped the load less than gracefully on the kitchen island and moved into the living room. When his eyes settled on her, he nearly sprinted to the couch!
“What the hell happened?!”