Fantastic Tales – Ch 27: “Gathering Before the Storm!”


as narrated by Klara “Stormkick“ Jansons

Present Time

    Dodging attacks is as much about awareness as reflexes. Not just noticing that a mutant badger-man is trying to claw your head off but being aware of how his balance is weighted, which muscles are tensing to indicate that he’s about to commit to an attack and what spots he’s leaving open as a result.

    I took the claw swipe from him on my shoulder armor and “dodged” the next attack by breaking the Muta-morph’s leg. Sometimes the best defense is a crippling offense. Sadly that didn’t stop him from coming at me.

    I back pedaled to buy myself a moment and watched the broken leg knit back into shape. I already hated fighting regenerators and he was the first one I’d ever fought.

    My day didn’t get any better when a hulking beetle hybrid leaped over the madger-man to join the fray. I was going to ask if the day felt like throwing anything more at me than a regenerator with friends when I heard the giant monster that was destroying the city roar from about a mile away from me.

    Probably best not to tempt fate on that score I decided.

One Hour Ago

    It felt strange to be standing in group of a real heroes, listening to a real briefing for a real crisis.

    “Thank you all for answering our call. As you know we only activate our reserve members in times of extreme emergency. You’ve all seen what the city is like. I’m sure none of you missed the video of the War Beast that we’re fighting to keep contained in the South End.” Colonel Briggs said. She was addressing us from a podium while the screen behind her showed multiple video feeds of what was going on in the city. Each feed showed a different scene, from the people trapped in the shelters, (who were safe until power ran out for the shields that were protecting them), to the army of mutant animals that were prowling the empty streets the townsfolks had abandoned, and, of course several views of the colossal creature that acting as a one monster urban renewal project.

    “We’re beset by a variety of problems. Fortunately it seems that one of them may be the solution to the others.” Colonel Briggs said. “I’ll allow our subject matter experts to explain. Guan and Alpha, you’re up.”

    A snake/human hybrid slithered into the room causing a few of us to gasp. He was surrounded by a golden glow and was smiling peacefully as he stepped up to the podium and took control of the center screen.

    “Hello and thank you for coming.” he began in a surprisingly soft voice. “We don’t have much time, so I’m going to keep this simple. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them though.”

    “One quick one Guan, could you tell the folks here how old you are?” a hero in blue power armor said.

    “I’m fourteen. Alpha is…harder to quantify.” he said. I watched people relax at that and saw what the power armor guy had been getting at. If the snake man (or snake boy I suppose) was fourteen then he wasn’t been one of the Muta-morphs that was attacking the city. We all knew the Muta-Morphs been created by the weird rain that started all this.  It occurred to me that Colonel Briggs was probably having him speak to us directly for the same reason – so we could see for ourselves that he wasn’t the enemy.

    “I should explain that a bit. Alpha is a mental entity, picture a mind without a brain to support it. In fact, he’s a gestalt of several individual mental entities. They were drawn into this world by Doctor Wyrd as part of his plan to take control of the city. The Muta-morphs were the first part of that plan. The mutagen created creatures with great fighting capability but relatively empty minds, essentially the perfect vessels for the Psi-Lords to inhabit.” Guan explained.

    “What does that have to do with the giant monster that’s tearing up the South End?” another hero asked.

    “The Muta-morph attack on the city was intended to weed out the strong Psi-Lords from the weak ones. Wyrd was going to take the strong Psi-Lords and fuse them into creatures called Chimera that would have the power to dominate and control the War Beast.” Guan said.

    “What about all of the other Muta-morph attacks around the world?” someone asked.

    Colonel Briggs stepped back to the podium to answer the question.

    “Doctor Wyrd wasn’t acting alone. He’s part of an organization called the Society of Enlightenment. We’ve learned an awful lot about them since he was captured.” she said.

    “I don’t mind helping out but where are the Galactics? Or the other powerhouses?” someone said.

    “The Galactics are offworld, in another solar system in fact. They’re dealing with a threat that’s much bigger than this.” Briggs explained.

    “What about the Olympians? Are they all here?”

    “Most of them are. The rest were in other areas of the world when the attacks occurred and are assisting in the defense of the sites they were closest to.” the colonel explained.

    “What about Mother Earth?” The Olympians were the champions of the gods of the Greek pantheon. Gaia wasn’t technically a member of the pantheon but her champion lived in Brassport and was said to support the Olympians whenever they needed to bring out the big guns.

    “The Champion of Gaia is in New Delhi assisting with the defenses there.”

    “Sucks to be us.” one of the reservists said.

    “Wait till you get out in the field.” Helios said as he joined the meeting.

    “Which brings us to what we need you to do.” Guan said, stepping back to the podium. “Doctor Wyrd’s plan was doomed to failure. Based on the readings we recovered from his tests of the Chimeras he was able to produce, they wouldn’t have been strong enough to overcome the War Beast. But he was on the right track.”

    He gestured to the central display and the picture changed to a map of the city with red dots covering large portions of it.

    “Doctor Wyrd thought, as the Psi-Lord’s did, that only the aggressive members of their species could exert a noticeable amount of psychic force.” Guan said.

    “We have discovered a better way though.” Alpha said, the glow around Guan pulsing brighter with each word.

    “The problem is that even Alpha’s not going to be powerful enough to take on the War Beast. We need more of the Psi-Lords. Specifically we need all of the ones that are currently possessing the Muta-morphs. If we can add them all to the gestalt they should be able to generate enough psychic pressure to drive the War Beast back to the portal it entered this world from.

    “What we need you to do is bring the Muta-Morphs to Alpha. If any of you have any rodeo experience or are familiar with herding cats that will come in valuable.” Colonel Briggs said.

    “What happens if they don’t want to come, or if they don’t want to be part of this gestalt?” someone asked.

    “None of them are likely to come willingly. You will have to use whatever force is at your disposal to make that happen. You will be deputized for the duration of this emergency, so you will be arresting and detaining them on a variety of charges. For the ones who chose not to join Alpha’s gestalt there will be a storage device they will be able to inhabit once we restore the mutant animals they are being sheltered by to their natural state.” Colonel Briggs explained.

    “That seems straight forward but there’s a lot of them and I only count ten of us reservists here.” a woman made of crystal commented.

    “That’s where this gets really fun.” Helios said.

    “The Psi-Lords need host bodies with complex neural structures to live in. Regular animals are too primitive, if they sheltered in one of them a Psi-Lord would wind up crippled, almost lobotomized in fact.” Guans said. “We’re going to deploy a counter agent to the mutagen. It will force many of the Psi-Lords to abandon their current hosts and join together into small gestalts within the ones who are not targeted by the counter agent.”

    “That means that the Muta-Morphs numbers will be greatly reduced, but they will become faster, stronger and more powerful.” Colonel Briggs said. “Do you have any questions?”

    “Yeah, when can we get started!” I said.

Two Hours Ago

    “No. You are not going out there in this madness. I will not have my daughter be a part of this.” my father said. We were talking in hushed whispers so that the other people in the shelter wouldn’t hear us.

    “They need help, you heard them call for anyone with powers to report to the reservists station!” I hissed at him.

    “They were not talking to you. This is not your home. You should not get involved here.” he said.

    “I am involved! We all are!” I said. I couldn’t believe what he was saying despite the fact that it was perfectly in character for him.

    “No. We can stay here. The force fields are fixed. We will wait until this is done and then we will return home. I have had enough of America. This is too much.” he said.

    “This is happening all over the world father.” I spit out the last word, anger and contempt turning it to poison.

    “I do not care about all over the world. I only care about here and now and you are not going and putting yourself in danger for these people.” he said.

    “Yes. I am. They need me.” I said and stood up. This conversation wasn’t going to lead anywhere reasonable.

    “That’s what this is all about isn’t it. It’s all about you. You want to show off. You want to be the big hero. You are not a hero. You are a little girl and you should act like one.” I had no idea what my mother had ever seen in the man who was speaking to me.

    “I’m leaving.” I said, barely holding my anger in check as I turned to go.

    He grabbed my wrist to stop me from leaving. A wave of force threw him back against the wall before I got my power back under control. I looked at him sitting on his butt, the wind knocked out of him. There was fear in his eyes but it was mixed with a lot of anger.

    I understood him in that moment. He was afraid of losing me, but only because of what other people would say. Because it would mean that he was a bad father. He was just as afraid of losing to me, of not able to control me, because that would mean that he was weak and therefore a failure as a man.

    He was a scientist, but he was as closed minded as the strictest religious zealot when it came to social issues. I wasn’t so much his daughter as a piece of property with the labels “female” and “young”, both of which told him that I should be his inferior and willing to accept anything he said simply because he said it.

    “I’m leaving.” I repeated and walked away before he could say something that would be truly regrettable.

    “Maybe he’s not really my father?” I thought. I was a mutant after all, which made for occasionally screwy results on paternity tests. I knew that wasn’t likely though. My mother had never been with anyone other than him and I looked too much like my brothers and sisters to be anyone elses.

    I entertained the fantasy that I’d been switched at birth anyways to put me in a happier state of mind as I made my way out of the shelter and to the nearest National Guard squad that was  protecting it.

    “I’m here to sign up for reservist duty.” I told a guy who was carrying a clip board.

    “We can certainly use more of those. Let me take down some information from you and we’ll get you to central for the briefing.” he said.

    The questions were pretty much the one’s I’d expected. Name, blood type, what my powers were. I answered those all fine. Where things got sticky was when he asked me my age.

    “Sixteen.” I said and winced. Underage super heroes needed parental consent to be allowed to operate and were expected to spend months in training before they were allowed to be on active status. The rules were similar in a lot of countries and I’d checked the American regulations on it before my father was transferred here by his job.

    “Do you have parental consent?” the Guardsman asked.

    “No.” I admitted. He checked a box on his form.

    “Can you get it?” he asked.

    “No.” I said simply. I felt sick at the idea of being sent back to my father after the scene that had played out.

    “Ok. I’ll see about getting you a mentor then.” he said and checked off another box.

    “I can still help?” I asked, shocked and delighted.

    “Yep, Powers Act, State of Emergency section. We’ll do our best to keep you safe, but at times like this you might be the only one who can prevent a mega-casualty situation. We don’t turn down anyone who’s brave enough to step forward and can get the job done.” he said.

    And just like that I was a (temporary) superhero.

Present Time

    The beetle breathed a cloud of ice particles at me as it landed in front of the partially crippled badger-man. I ducked and the attack sluiced off my force field. The beetle’s momentum then carried him forward into the rising uppercut and spinning elbow that I delivered. Right in time with my blows a bolt of lightning shot down and skewered the beetle and the badger knocking them both out.

    “Thanks for the setup, where did you learn to fight like that?” Covalent, the hero in the blue power armor, asked me.

    “Dance class.” I said. “Or at least that’s where I told my father I was.”

    “Hiding things from your parents, ah I remember those days.” he said with a laugh. “Man were they awful.”

    “What happened to your legs?” I asked him. He was wearing a sort of cobbled together armor over them.

    “Tall and gruesome over there clipped me after I said ‘hi’ to him.” he explained, pointing off towards the rampaging giant monster. “Shattered them in twenty places but Helios was able to patch me up. The armor? Well I had to work with what was available.”

    “We should get these two over to Guan and Alpha right? I can take them if you want to keep hunting.” I offered.

    “Nope. We stay together.” he replied.

    “I can handle it.” I sighed, I’d been wishing at least the other heroes would take me seriously.

    “Yeah, but what makes you think I can? We’re working in team because we need each other. I know I’m supposed to be your mentor but I’m counting on you as much as you’re counting on me.” he said.

    “Really?” I asked. I hadn’t been thinking he needed my help at all.

    “Yes, really. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you’re not capable. Trust me, I was all kinds of powerful even when I was a lot younger than you.” he said.

    “What about me being a girl?” I asked. I could hear my father’s voice echoing in me.

    “Umm, what about it?” Covalent asked.

    “You’re not here to protect me because I’m just a girl?” I asked. It sounded idiotic the moment I said it but when you grow up hearing that over and over its hard for the idea not to burrow into your mind and stick there.

    “Umm, you’re bullet proof. I’m wearing armor that’s at about 40% efficiency at the moment. Of the two of us, I should be the one hiding behind you.” he said.

    “I, yeah, I guess that’s true.” That felt really weird to say. I’d pictured protecting regular people but the thought that I’d be able to protect other superheroes hadn’t even entered my head before now for some reason.

    “Remind me to introduce you to Thundercrash when this is all over. She’s just going to love getting her hands on you.” he promised me.

    I felt a little dizzy at hearing that. I didn’t know how to process the idea that a real superhero would be interested in me. It was terrifying in a way.

    A half dozen more Muta-morphs attacked us. I knocked them out with some moves I knew.

    “You can really introduce me to Thundercrash?” I said, still not quite believing it.

    Covalent hovered in the air above me, looking over the park area we were fighting in and the unconscious bodies that were around us. I kicked one of the regenerators to make sure he stayed down for a little longer.

    “Uh, yeah, I think I can manage that.” he said and I could hear his smile all the way through his armor.

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