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My name is Heather Van Ness,
and I'm a superhero.
Of course, for the moment,
what I am is a deeply angered daughter whose parents are in the midst of
welshing on a charitable donation.
"Mother, I simply cannot believe you'd embarrass me this way!"
"Now Heather, I'm
willing to indulge these little philanthropic whims of yours, but you can't ask me to give money to
"You made a pledge, Mother," I say. "You
got your photo in the paper. You took all that adulation and praise, and now
you want to break a promise to the soup kitchen because Grandmama found out you
weren't being suitably bigoted."
"Heather, dearest, you
know your grandmother still has her preferences about how the family's money
should be spent," says my mother, Penelope Van Ness (née
Rotherton) as she fills out the monthly
allotment of (generally much too small) charitable write-offs. "I'm sure
they can make do with whatever they normally eat."
"Mother, you're impossible!" I shout and go tearing
off to find Father, who is away in the garden overseeing the illegal immigrants
who trim the topiary.
"Father, you've got to
do something about Mother," I say. "You can't let her back out of
that pledge to the soup kitchen!"
"Heather, you know I
don't have anything to do with the charity nonsense," says my father,
Oscar Van Ness, financier, golddigger, and unrepentant moocher. "You care
about that so much, go haggle it out with your mother. Besides, no one donates
to charities on Halloween. Don't you have your usual parties to go to this
"It's hardly a matter of
charities on Halloween, Father," I tell him. "The sooner the soup
kitchen gets donations, the sooner they can start planning for their
Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. We can send a check after Halloween if you
prefer, but it just wouldn't do to let so many people go hungry. Don't you
"It hardly matters to
me," Father says. "If they're so keen to get nice holiday dinners,
they should've planned better and gotten jobs like the rest of us."
And that, my dears, is the
way my life looks right now -- the only socially-conscious member of a family
full of gleeful one-percenters. I can't even look for support from my own
siblings. Older brother Oscar Jr. and his wife have taken father's
money-leeching lessons to heart off in New York, and little sister Anna is
coasting through UCLA solely on the strength of Mother's embarrassingly large
donations to whatever her major is this month -- which is, I suppose, the way I
made it through college, too, so perhaps it's wrong to expect more from her.
So what turned me into the
black sheep of the Van Ness family dynasty? I was actually on track to become a
clone of my mother until I took an "adventure vacation" in South
America that turned out a lot more adventuresome than advertised. To make a
long story short, there was a kidnapping, a flight to an underworld hideout in
the rain forest, and a daring escape attempt that ended with me taking a bullet
in the shoulder, falling into a river, washing down the rapids, and tumbling
down two different waterfalls.
And after that, almost three
months of living quietly with a remote tribe, waiting for one of the tribesmen
to walk out of the jungle to get help, slowly recovering from my injuries, and
learning not to be such a privileged bitch.
In a way, it didn't even take
that long. I was no stereotyped movie heiress -- it was obvious that playing
the spoiled diva would do me no good in a village where food and shelter were
already in short supply. When I was recovered enough to move (and when I was
convinced that the kidnappers weren't going to come looking for me), I started
working on learning their language, learning some low-tech skills, meeting the
people who'd saved me. I played with the kids, I learned to cook, I learned how
to take care of people who were sick or wounded, and I learned how to shoot a
bow and arrow. I was dreadful at it, and everyone had a good laugh at my
When a rescue party finally
arrived, I made sure someone took lots of photos of me with my new friends. I
was filthy, wearing rags, and breaking every possible rule of good grooming,
and I was as happy as I'd ever been in my entire life.
And as soon as I got back to
the U.S. consulate, I took a bath, brushed my teeth, shaved my legs and pits,
got a haircut, and bought a whole new wardrobe. Because again, I was filthy,
wearing rags, and breaking every possible rule of good grooming. I'm a Van
Ness, and a Van Ness is never a slob.
Nevertheless, my eyes had
been opened to how things were for the have-nots. We weren't the richest family
in the world, but I knew we could do a lot of good. Mother and Father needed no
persuading to send money to the tribe who rescued me, and I was able to direct
the donation through an organization that would make sure they got things they
really needed -- food, medicine, resources, and protection.
But I could also see how much
poverty and sickness there were here at home, too. And the family was a bit
more hesitant about helping people here in Metro City. Thus was born the
tug-of-war -- me trying to get the Van Ness pocketbook opened for more
charities, and the rest of the family struggling to keep the purse strings nice
Not that I've become a
complete granola girl. I am my parents' daughter, after all, and I still love
socializing and clubbing and being scandalous and calling people "darling!" One must have some fun in
life, shouldn't one?
So what to do about the soup
kitchen? The publicity about reneging on a charitable donation would be
entirely appalling, but I do have some options. I've got my own discretionary
funds I can raid, but it wouldn't do to completely drain my accounts. Luckily,
Mother and Father are both unable to resist when I tell them, "I'd love to
go to that soiree by Baltazar Bay, but I must
have a new dress to wear!" It's not like anyone will notice if I don't
actually buy a new dress. I mean, do you have any idea how many dresses I
already own? Like anyone would notice if I wear something I've worn only twice
Of course, I can't pull that
too quickly without Mother catching on to the scam. Luckily, I get an excellent
excuse to vanish from the house for a few hours so Mother can forget about the
soup kitchen when I get a call that the Metro City Police Department needs my
help with a hostage situation.
Oh my, all this chit-chat, and I haven't even gotten around to talking about
superhero business, have I?
Well, let's see, it all basically started several months after I'd gotten back
to Metro City after that incident in South America. I was heading off for a ski
trip in Colorado -- and not just a ski trip, thank you very much, I was making
some visits to environmental organizations I was considering donating to --
when I suffered another travel disruption.
Simply put, I was abducted by a UFO.
And after that, I kicked a Perseidian officer of the Intergalactic Defense
Patrol in his testicular cluster. Well, honestly, that's what I always felt one
should do when abducted by aliens. I prefer to arrange for my own probing,
thank you very much. That little act of self-defense almost got me kicked off
the ship somewhere around lunar orbit. It's a good thing no one is able to
resist my natural charm and charisma.
It turns out I had the perfect mixture of compassion, courage, and intelligence
that the IDP looks for in new patrol officers, and they'd been considering
inducting an Earthling into the organization for years. I got several important
internal organs scooped out and replaced with biomechanical replacements, had a
quart of computerized bonding goo poured into my brain, and had my official IDP
armor and weapons systems injected into my circulatory system.
It hurt like hell, and I kicked the Perseidian officer in his testicular
cluster again when it was all
Once all that was finished, there was a week's worth of training -- these
things apparently go quite quickly when you've had a quart of computerized
bonding goo poured into your brain -- and then I was returned to Earth.
No one had particularly noticed I was gone. My family assumed I was on some
sort of drunken bender in Vail.
I picked the superhero name "Defender" partly out of laziness and
partly because I assumed the IDP would have a crack legal team available to
help me defend myself in court if anyone sued me about using their name. I was
lucky -- no one in the superhero community had been unoriginal enough to choose
a name like "Defender" in over 70 years.
I don't call for backup from
the IDP very often -- they are generally of the opinion that any planet that
has as many metahumans as Earth should be more than capable of handling any
crisis without requiring assistance from the IDP.
I called them a few times
soon after I'd been issued my suit, but usually got told that I'd been inducted
as an officer on the assumption that I could handle any emergencies by myself
or with the aid of Earth superheroes. In fact, I've been told that every time
I've called them, including for actual heavyweight emergencies like alien
invasions and infestations of Time Flies. At this point, I doubt Earth will
ever see an IDP officer other than me.
So what can I do? All I have
to do is think of a specific sequence of code numbers, unique for each member
of the Patrol -- and no, dear, I'm not telling something that important to
anyone -- and my liquid-metal biomechanical alien blood substitute will ooze
out of my skin and form itself into a solid, durable suit of powered armor. It
gives me a minor shot of superstrength, increases my ability to heal myself,
lets me listen in on everything from radio communications to cell phone
signals, and enables me to fly. The armor has a full set of nonlethal weaponry,
including an energy net, neural stun pulses, molecular glue traps, and
subliminal pacification burstcasts. And I can produce a regenerative gel that I
can use for first aid and healing.
Trust me, dears, I'm entirely
So as I was saying, the Metro
City PD gives me a call about a hostage situation. It comes via my internal
cell phone system, so I'm able to pick up the call and chat with the dispatcher
without giving anyone else a clue anything is going on. I excuse myself from
Father's presence and head for the stables -- they haven't been used in the
past decade, and they're a great place for me to get into costume and fly away
I suppose I'm a great deal more fortunate than other Metro City heroes when it
comes to dealing with the police. While the rank-and-file police officers tend
to classify me as a "credit-hogging glory-hound" like the rest of
them, the SWAT team and hostage negotiators have never hesitated to call on me
when they think I can help out. Not too surprising for the negotiators, since
they tend to prioritize getting situations resolved quickly, quietly, and
safely much more than they do getting the chance to go shoot random people, it
has always seemed odd that the SWAT guys are willing to let me use my usual
non-violent methods rather than going gung-ho with the military-grade
Once I make it to the incident coordinates (4200 block of Jimenez Avenue, a
residential neighborhood), the PD gives me a few more details -- unemployed
man, marriage trouble, holding wife and two kids hostage. I've seen this much
more often than I'd prefer, and it often ends very badly. Some men get very
attached to being the Man of the House, and when that looks like it'll be taken
away, they kill themselves and their families in some sort of warped
desperation. Doesn't work like that all the time, but it's certainly something
I've seen happen more than I'd like.
I'm not even that surprised
that we've got problems cropping up this early today. Halloween is always a bit
chaotic in Metro City, and the local superheroes always seem to be busy all
evening. I haven't actually managed to attend a Halloween party for the past
several years. Doesn't seem any point when you know you'll spend the whole
night fighting supervillains. And tonight may end up even more epic than normal
-- Halloween on a Friday and a full
moon? Tonight may be one for the record
I tap into the police band
and give the officers a heads-up that I'll be landing in the home's backyard
and ask them if they'll be able to keep press photographers or choppers away
from the area. I always welcome press attention, but I'd rather not worry that
the hostage-taker may be watching TV and see me landing behind his house.
Knowing that superheroes are closing in is exactly the type of thing that will
make these situations much worse than they have to be.
The Metro City police and I actually have this worked out to a nice little
system. The police hit the lights in front of the house and start talking to
the dad through a top-volume loudspeaker just in time for me to blow apart the
lock on the back door -- the neural stunner does its best work by knocking
people out, but tuned just the right way, it'll do a wonderful job on a
mechanical lock -- and slip into the house.
Once I'm inside, I amp up the pacification burstcasts. They won't work through
exterior walls, but inside a home, the walls and doors are generally too thin
to block them. And since they're subliminal, no one exposed to them is really
aware that they're hearing them until they're fast asleep.
I normally prefer to direct burstcasts at one or two specific people, but since
I'm not even sure where the family even is right now, or where the dad is, or
how he's armed, it's better to be safe than sorry and just put everyone in the
house into slumberland.
So I spend a couple of minutes running the burstcasts. Not the most exciting
thing in the world, but they're not supposed to be. They're supposed to pacify
people and ultimately to get them to fall quietly asleep. I can run burstcasts
while I engage in a more traditional superhero-supervillain punch-up -- which
I've done plenty of times, darlings -- but sometimes it's best to get this done
without excess fuss.
So once I've run the burstcasts long enough to put a bull elephant safely to
beddy-bye, I set off to find the family. Doesn't take long, of course. I make
it through the empty living room, dining room, and laundry room downstairs,
then head up the stairs and quickly find one of the kids' bedrooms, where the
mom and dad are tied up, sound asleep, in a couple of folding chairs.
Wait. Why is the father tied up?
That's when the closet door
bursts open, and these two adorable little blond-haired moppets come at me with
I've been a superhero for a
while, darlings, and my reflexes are quite impeccable. But my surprise allows
them more than enough time to stab me in the leg and the stomach.
Don't be too worried now. My
armor is more than strong enough to fend off a couple of butcher knives. I open
up with full-power pacification burstcasts on both of the children... and it
accomplishes absolutely nothing. The little dears just keep right on stabbing.
This is really quite
unprecedented. Full-power burstcasts at close range are difficult for even
experienced supervillains to shrug off. Very angry villains can outlast them for
about 20 seconds. Normal people -- especially normal children -- should've been
asleep during my wide-range burstcasts, and should definitely be unconscious
The kids are starting to chip
away a little at the armor. I don't particularly feel like I want to become
known as the superhero who beats up small children... so I hit them with the
It takes three apiece to
knock them out. And I apply a double helping of the energy nets to make sure
they don't get back on their feet. How on earth were they able to keep going?
When the police officers
finally make it up their stairs, they come very close to plugging the father
full of holes before I point out that he was already secured and wasn't really
the bad guy anyway. I also give them plenty of warnings about the danger the
children may pose. I wonder if they need to be tested for metahuman powers, but
those rarely manifest in children that young.
Once the kids are taken away
to a hospital for treatment (the officers may be freaked out about this, but
they're not quite crazy enough to charge them with a crime) and the
understandably-terrified parents follow the ambulance in their own car, I
finally get to take my leave of the whole situation.
On the flight back to the house, I call the Chrome Cobra up and fill her in on
"I've never seen anything like it, Cobra dear," I tell her.
"I've used the burstcasts to subdue Rageface and the Grouch and dozens of others.
And the neural stunners are hard for anyone
to shrug off. I don't know if the kids were showing signs of powers or whether
they were keyed up to an extreme emotional state. And that doesn't even begin
to cover the question of why they turned into hostage-takers."
"Sounds weird," Cobra says. "Tense, too. There's... something I
don't like about it."
"There's a lot not to like about it, darling," I say. "Are you
alright, Cobra? Being hesitant doesn't suit you."
"I'm fine," she says. "Didn't sleep well. Nightmares."
"I'd suggest you skip patrols and get some rest," I say. "But
I'm not sure we can handle a Halloween night without your guidance. Surely you
can take tomorrow night off. Even you need some R&R occasionally, dear."
"Don't tempt me," she says. And we laugh, her because she's trying to
seem warm and human, and me because I can tell she's trying to seem warm and
Metro City has been quite
interesting lately. Yes, even more than the usual crazy-scandals-in-government,
entirely-amazing-society-parties, superheroes-fighting-supervillains stuff. You
see, there have been quite a few changes on the superhuman front here. There
have been three new superheroes in the city. First on the scene was, of course,
our delightful young Calypso, who's strong as an ox, or at least a dozen or two
oxen, and who is now in direct competition with Iota to see who can throw
themselves into the most dangerous situations in which they're likely to get
I've mostly decided Calypso is Atlas' daughter, primarily because they seem to
be trying very hard to never talk to each other in public, but always seem to
be found looking very concerned on the periphery of any scene where the other
has gotten hurt in a fight. I don't know if anyone else has noticed it yet, and
I don't know if I should even mention it to anyone else. But my word, it really
is so adorable.
A few weeks after Calypso made her debut, it was announced that Silver
Protector Kumiko would be taking up residence in Metro City. She's a bit of a
high-profile "get," as they say -- she has a lot of media recognition,
thanks to the television cartoon from a few years back. Even more importantly
for those of us on the crimefighting side of things, she's the first actual
spellcasting hero we've had here. We've had more than enough evil wizards blow
through the city, and it'll be nice to have a magic user on our side for a
On the other hand, dears, I'm afraid she has some attitude issues. From what I
gather, she's not a particular fan of our fair city. Just a few dropped clues
here and there, like during our first meeting when she referred to Metro City
as "a cultural and magical backwater" and "less a city and more
a collection of random skyscrapers built by nouveau riche assholes" and
"a bland, beige city so desperate for some sort of flavor that wasn't
stolen from better cities that they have to resort to inventing some fake 'food
tourism' with those vile Sloppy Metro sandwiches."
And at our second meeting,
when she said Metro City's superheroes were "a bunch of has-beens and
never-weres and wannabes and flakes and walking disaster-zones." That one
was fun because she immediately added, "Not you, of course, Ms.
Cobra," and the Cobra still
punched her in the face.
Kumiko hasn't even moved here full-time yet. I understand the Council of
Thaumaturges is losing patience with her a bit, but she insisted that she
wanted to spend Halloween weekend in Portland "where my real friends
are." Normally, I doubt I'd care, but again, this is Halloween, on a
Friday, with a full moon, and I'm sure we'll eventually have an "all hands
on deck" situation, and not a "most hands on deck, one hand drinking
margaritas in the Northwest" situation.
Which isn't to suggest that Kumiko is useless to us. El Phantasmo is very happy she's in town, because it
means he won't have to keep doing stopgap maintenance on the various magical
artifacts in the city. No more fiddling with the Quasmaux Configuration built
into the radio antenna atop Bissette Tower without worrying that he'll break it
and awaken the Worm Tyrants again. And in fact, she seems quite effective as a
crimefighter, too. She'll take on street crime and supervillains alike with a
great deal of enthusiasm, so I really can't question her dedication.
I must say, though, even for
a city that includes such superhero weirdoes as a zombie weapons-master, the
world's greatest driver, an indestructible private eye, a ghost-wielding
teenager, and a radioactive housewife who talks to herself, Silver Protector
Kumiko may very well be the strangest. I mean, she's a six-foot-tall
Japanese girl with pink hair and a Sailor Moon costume whose magic powers seem
to require her to shout the names of her spells. Really, darlings, I have to
suppress the giggles every time she shouts "Crimson Lightning
STRIKE!" or "Divine Dragon FLAMES!"
But for all of Kumiko's difficulties, she's a fresh spring rain compared to the
third new superhero in town. Professor Bertram McKenzie had the bad luck to get
in the way of one of Mad Doctor Gevaudan's schemes and ended up with a
twelve-foot-tall, yellow-skinned, eyeless, superstrong monster body. We went to
quite a bit of effort to help him out -- I paid for a new wardrobe, the Cobra
arranged renovations to his house, Calypso herself was quite instrumental in
making sure he was able to continue teaching English at Goodwin College. And
he's repaid our kindness by being a truly spectacular asshole.
He's rude, he's a grouch, he's arrogant, he's insanely class-conscious, he's an
elitist in all things, but particularly in literature, he's conservative on a level
that I very rarely see -- and I socialize with the richest people in town. And
he whines. Dear lord, how the old bastard whines. Every time we tell him he
should patrol more often, he starts whining. Oh, yes, we have to pressure him
to patrol, because he doesn't like to do it. And even with a massive,
superstrong, super-healthy body, he comes across as the cranky, bitter,
84-year-old sourpuss he is on the inside.
The Cobra and Calypso
apparently talked him into being a superhero, though it's clear he'd usually
prefer to teach his classes. There were serious concerns that he'd not be
careful with his new strength and accidentally injure or kill a criminal or
even an innocent, but I believe Cobra impressed upon him how long he'd spend in
prison if that happened. And it may help that he's only as strong as Atlas --
which is, obviously, very, very strong -- but if he gets out of line, he'd have
to deal with Miss Mega, who is much more powerful.
Dr. McKenzie has chosen
Polyphemus as his codename. This makes Squid Kid laugh and laugh and laugh.
Perhaps more significant than
our new heroes is the fact that several new villains have moved into the city.
The international crime organizations S.K.U.L.L. and le Conservatoire Malefique
have both opened new bases somewhere in the city and have been busy trying to
run their usual conquer-the-world schemes from here. And Daphne Diller has been
hearing rumors that the Hellraisers and the Scumdogs of the Universe are both
considering setting up shop in Metro City.
So like I said, lots of
changes for all of us to adapt to, in a fairly short period of time. It's been
strange to have to get used to new heroes and how they operate -- I just hope
we can rely on everyone to keep their heads on straight if this evening turns
When I finally get home and changed out of my costume, it seems like the
grounds around the house are a bit bare, and I wonder if Father sent the
gardeners home early -- which seems unlikely, considering my father and his
obsession with getting the topiary to look right.
I almost run into a group of the grounds crew members near the back of the
house. They're huddling underneath some of the shrubbery next to the house.
"Gentlemen?" I say. "Que pasa?"
There's a moment of complete silence, then one of them whispers hoarsely,
"La Migra! They're coming for us!"
Well, that would be something
to be concerned about. I consider illegal immigration a bit of a necessary
evil. It's not like Father would care to pay a living wage to American citizens
to mow the lawns and trim the hedges, and I've actually managed to get him to
pay them a bit more than he normally would. Frankly, I don't like the idea of
Immigration penalizing poor people for believing our politicians' marketing
about the Land of Opportunity. So I've always done my best to help our
less-than-legal staff avoid Immigration.
But I can listen in on police
band radio. And la Migra isn't running any raids today.
"La Migra is nowhere
near," I tell them. "I've seen no trucks and no police. I wouldn't
lie to you -- you don't need to hide."
It takes a few minutes to
coax them out of hiding. They won't say where they got the impression that
Immigration officials were staging a raid, but they don't hang around the
property for very long either. They all decide they want to leave. And if
they're still afraid Immigration may be near, I suppose it's hard to blame
At this point, I'm suspecting
the worst about Father -- that he decided he didn't want to pay his workers, so
he tried to scare them off. Not a smart move, Daddy Dearest -- if word gets
around that the Van Ness family calls La Migra on employees, we'll never get
anyone to work on the gardens again. Time to go search him out and tell him to
stop the short-sighted stunts.
I find him in his office. He's cringing against the back wall, staring at the
"Father? Whatever is the matter?"
"Heather," he croaks. "We're broke. We're destitute. There's not
a dime left."
"What? Like hell we are."
I head over to the computer. He's been checking the bank account, and it shows
a balance of... negative fourteen cents.
Well, that can't be good news.
I'm just about to call the bank to try to clear this up (Father's still huddled
against the wall like the Visigoths are at the door) when I notice something
odd about the computer monitor. The screen seems to be covered completely in
fine, black-colored, vibrating dust motes.
I tap the side of the
monitor, and a ripple cascades across the screen. I grab a tissue and wipe it
across the screen, and the words and numbers and graphics smear and flow off of
the monitor, splash onto the desk, and drip down onto the floor, creeping into
the cracks in the hardwood floor.
Now the computer screen still shows the bank website, but the balance looks much
more like what you'd expect for one of the city's richest families.
Clearly, something very odd is going on here.
"Father, don't worry -- we're still insanely wealthy," I
"Now do be a dear and stay far away from the computer, alright? I'm
to go find Mother."
I'm entirely in the dark
about what's happening. And I'm not yet willing to call in any superheroes --
this may have a simple or fairly mundane explanation. It may be some sort of
strange computer issue, or something we can let the bank or the police handle.
But something very strange is going on, and I'm going to make sure Mother is
alright before I make any calls to anyone.
I wish I could say I search
all over the house and finally find her supervising dinner in the kitchen. Of course,
superhero luck never turns out that nicely. She's in the living room being
menaced by Grandmama.
Oh, I should mention that Grandmama is nowhere near Metro City. She hasn't left
Boston in six months.
I should also mention that Grandmama is definitely not nine feet tall, nor does
she have fangs, claws, or bony plates. And while she's quite the terrible
woman, I don't recall ever seeing her hold Mother off the floor while shrieking
bizarre and nonsensical epithets at her.
In other words, it's not Grandmama. It's some kind of nine-foot-tall monster
that looks vaguely like Grandmama, but it definitely isn't Grandmama.
Well, neither Mother nor Fake Monster Grandmama are looking at me, so I step
back around the corner, repeat my special number sequence to myself, wait the
usual five seconds for my armor to ooze out of my pores and solidify, and then
step back around the corner.
"Oh, Mother, please let
me go!" my mother was weeping. "I'll be a better girl! I won't spill
juice! I won't ruin the carpet! I'll be proper!"
growls Fake Monster Grandmama. "YOU EMBARRASS FAMILY! MAMA PUNISH!"
"Well, there's one thing
I'm quite sure of," I say loudly enough to get the attention of both of
them. "You couldn't possibly be Barbara Rotherton of the Boston,
Massachusetts Rothertons. She'd never be seen in bone armor this late after
Labor Day, darling."
Fake Monster Grandmama glares
at me, tosses Mother aside (she lands on a sofa and seems uninjured), and
unleashes a wordless bellow at me. For a couple of seconds, her form ripples --
she looks like a cockroach for a moment, then like Madame Chaplaine, my old
piano tutor, then like... social isolation? And then she's back again as Fake
Monster Grandmama, and she charges at me screaming.
I hit her with a double-dose
of stunner pulse and... she vanishes. No, wait, she turns into a bunch of fine,
black-colored, vibrating dust motes that spill onto the floor and then creep
into the carpet, into the heater vents, out the nearest doors and windows.
Sweet mercy, I've not a
single clue what's going on here.
Almost immediately after Fake
Monster Grandmama disappears, Mother has wrapped me up in an entirely
unexpected and uncharacteristically enthusiastic bearhug.
"Oh, thank you, thank you," she cries. "You've killed her! She's
finally gone, I never really thought she'd finally die! All those years of
hell, and she's finally, finally... Wait, that couldn't have been my mother.
She doesn't look anything like... Well, whoever it was, you've just repelled some
terrible criminal from my home. You're Defender, right? My most heartfelt
thanks, young lady."
This is actually the only time I've been close to my mother while in my
costume, and I'm suddenly self-conscious that she's going to recognize me or my
"All part of a hero's job, Moth -- ma'am," I shout, snapping her a
crisp salute. "Please contact the police if there are other disturbances!
Now I must be on my way!"
And there we go! The most awkward exit I've made from my own home since I was
16 years old.
Once I'm safely out of the house, I'm able to take an extra few moments to
think about what's going on. Something very strange is going on in my home --
Father was made to believe we'd gone broke, and a monster version of my
Grandmama attacked Mother. Both were dispelled into little dust motes. And the
gardeners fervently believed that Immigration was coming after them.
I'd suspect this was all some sort of attack on our family if the incidents
made any sort of sense.
And on top of all that, my neural stunners easily blew Monster Grandmama apart,
while they were barely effective against the children in that hostage situation
I click on my in-helmet cell
phone and ring the SWAT commander who's my regular contact at the police department.
After a couple of rings, he picks up and whispers, "SWAT."
this is Defender," I say. "Is there anything you can tell me about
the two children who were involved in that incident earlier this afternoon? Any
indication that they're metahuman or in some way not normal kids?"
"I don't know," he
whispered. "I haven't heard anything about them lately. This may not be a
good time to talk."
"I'm sorry, Inspector,
were you in the middle of an operation? I'd be glad to assist, if you need
"It's not that,"
whispers Giddings. "Jason Voorhees is in the building."
Inspector," I say. "I don't think I know him. Is he with the police
department, the mayor's office, the FBI, something like that?"
"No," he whispers.
"Jason Voorhees. From Camp Crystal Lake."
"You mean the movie
serial killer?" I say. "The one from that old Halloween slasher movie? Are you having a movie marathon? Is it
wise to do that when you're on duty?"
"No, not Halloween, Jason's the one from Friday the 13th,"
Giddings whispers back. "I always knew he was real, I always knew
"Inspector, what the
hell is going on? You're not making any sense."
But he's already hung up his
I think the day has
officially gotten too weird for me to handle solo, so I click over and dial up
the Cobra again.
"Cobra, darling, what sort of reports are you getting about the city
tonight?" I ask as she picks up. "I'm getting the impression that
things have gone completely Halloween-Friday-Night-Full-Moon out there."
"I don't have time to deal with you!" Cobra screams at me.
"Everything is going to pieces! I can't control any of this! I can't
control any of it!"
"Okay, Cobra, I'm gonna ask you to let me have your coordinates," I
say as calmly as I can. "I can set my onboard computer to help with any
electronic problems, and I can help organize some stuff if you need it. Just
let me know where I can find your lab."
She doesn't really reply. She just starts screaming.
The Chrome Cobra doesn't scream.
To hell with it. I know her real name. I can find her home address in the phone
book, and I can triangulate her phone signals to find where she has her base
located. But once I tap into the city's grid, I realize what I'm hearing isn't
just the Cobra screaming.
The whole city is screaming.
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