“You have to admit that they’re better than one might expect,” Juniper was saying as she and Melissa were being hustled down hospital corridors by a pair of men in suits.
Melissa glared aside at her. “Are you actually trying to look on the bright side and the best you can come up with is that our hospital gowns are higher quality than normal?”
“Well yeah. All things considered… that they don’t open in the back is the best thing I can come up with.”
One of the suits snorted and therefore earned the full power of Melissa’s glare. “I thought you didn’t understand English.” The man shared a look with his counterpart and stoically set his jaw. “Right. We’re not going to let down our guards and tell our secrets just because there might be a language barrier. Haven’t you heard? Our most important secrets are already out there for everyone to hear.”
“Maybe it’s the opposite,” Juniper offered. “They look like Feds, so maybe they’re not talking to us so they don’t let on about something they don’t want us to know. Like how we got here. We’re not still in Venezuela, you know?”
“Why would you say that?”
“Venezuelan federal police carry Ignacio T39 Compact Laser Pistols as their service weapons. These guys are carrying war-era Brazilian masers. That means we’re in either in Brazil, Columbia or Guatemala.”
Melissa almost tripped before goggling at her friend. “How do you know these things? Better yet? Why do you know these things?”
“Well my parents thought powers might outlawed eventually at some point—you know, back before The Descendants happened and things changed. They thought we might have to go on the run and South America was pretty much the safest place for descendants back then. So they made sure I could survive on my own if I had to and deal with… well things like this if they come up.”
She hated to admit it, but it explained a lot. Like how a teenager had managed to get an identity forged that fooled even the toughest scrutiny. After a short silence and a quick glance at the two likely federal agents, Melissa then asked, “So what do we do in this situation then?”
Juniper didn’t even stop to think. “Cooperate. At least until we figure out what’s going on.”
A few minutes later, they were escorted up an elevator, down another hall and into what looked like a board room. They found the rest of their team there as well, all wearing similar hospital gowns and concerned expressions as them.
Upon delivering their charges to the room, the two agents took their leave, locking the door behind them.
“Finally!” Tammy hopped up from her seat and get Juniper a hug. “Colombia is weird and I’m ready to go home now.”
“Are you two okay?” Kay asked, seated at the far end of the table.
Juniper gladly hugged Tammy back. “So we are in Colombia?”
“And this close to being an international incident.” Lisa said, demonstrating with her thumb and forefinger. “It sounds like they don’t know what to do with us. I mean we’re clearly on their soil without permission, but on the other hand, relations between them and the US is bad enough without putting the US’s most popular superheroes on trial over it.”
“But that’s not the worst of it,” Tink chipped in before nodding to Warrick.
He nodded back to her before reporting, “We got sent here—but we have no idea where Maeve’s crew got sent. They might have gotten whatever magic MacGuffin we were sent after—or they might have landed somewhere else and might be wreaking havoc as we speak. I hate to say it, but we don’t have time to be diplomatic. We need to get out of here ASAP and figure out where they went.”
At that moment, as if carefully orchestrated with the help of hidden recording devices, the doors opened and a small entourage entered the room. Eight men in suits, each armed as the ones who escorted Melissa and Juniper in, took posts with two at each corner of the room.
They were followed by the Director of the Department of Intelligence whom some of them had already met on the mental plane, and a woman some of them had seen but only on television. President Juanita Estaban-Vega cut an impressive figure standing six-foot three even before her middling height heels. While her form wasn’t bulky with muscle, but her strength managed to be evident beneath the midnight blue suit and long skirt she wore. Her black hair had been pulled back in a mid-length tail held in place with a pair of combs colored to match the suit.
“I could not agree more, Mister Kaine,” she said by way of greeting. “Why we were waiting for you to wake up, the situation has changed quite a bit. First and foremost: there have been reports of a local tour group that was attacked by what they describe as monsters.”
“The faeries.” Kay muttered.
“So I’ve heard. Creatures from the same world your dragon came from.”
Warrick shook his head. “She wasn’t really ‘our’ dragon. And these guys aren’t ours any further than we were fighting them before whatever sent us here did its thing. We’ve be happy to help you hunt them down and stop them though.”
The President inclined her head. “I appreciate you making this no more difficult than it has to be. I understand that our two countries have had our differences in the past, but I hope that with my election and growing acceptance of our kind in the States, relations can improve. Perhaps this opportunity too cooperate can facilitate that.”
She then passed a gaze over Tink and Lisa. “And I am very eager to discuss how Impo… how those not born with powers can acquire them if you are willing.”
Director Restrepo cleared his throat. “Of course gathering such information is not something you have to take upon yourself, Madame President. After all, you assume so many direct responsibilities already. Intelligencia can handle that and the attendant research.”
At their end of the table, Warrick and Tink shared a quick look before Warrick nodded. “Well we are in your country without permission and our enemies are threatening your people. You’ve got our full cooperation on that. As for the rest… Well it’s up to Tink and Lisa whether they want to give up any secrets.”
“We’ll discuss it,” Lisa added.
Kay frowned. “You know, I wonder why our government never asked us about magical stuff. It’d be pretty useful what with faeries crossing over all over the world.” She remembered herself soon after saying that and added. “Oh. I guess you guys didn’t know about that.”
“Actually we did. There was a session of the United Nations shortly after the dragon incident.”
Massaging her temple with the heel of her palm, Melissa chipped in. “We probably missed that when ‘a dragon appears and threatens the wide out a coastal town’ turned out not to be the only emergency we had to deal with that month.” A glimmer of curiosity entered her eyes. “Does that sort of thing happen in your country too or is it a US thing?”
President Esteban-Vega spread her hands in a mildly helpless gesture. “We have potestade criminals and the occasional vigilantes, but here those of us who wish to help our community are encouraged to join the ranks of first responders and the military. The same basic principal, but less… dramatic flare.”
“I don’t mean to come off as rude,” Tink spoke up, actually raising her hand reflexively before putting it down, “but when you were the last President’s Director of Defense, you personally led attacks on insurgents and the remnants of the cartels.”
“I admit that I am personally inclined toward that same flare. I ran on it in fact. To many, I am essentially the official superhero of Colombia.” She raised one fist and black glossy material grew from her skin, surrounding it in armor scales. “That’s how I became known as La Dama Obsidiana. And naturally, I will be accompanying you as we track and confront these creatures.”
That drew Kura’s attention, who sat up straight from the slouch she’d been developing, grinning with manic glee. “Wait. You’re coming with us? We’re faerie hunting with the freaking president? That’s so cool! Are we going to have a band of powered Secret Service guys or a bunch of super-strong military dudes with eye lasers and ice breath?”
“Just me and a small two-man escort,” the President replied airily. “Despite popular belief outside our borders, we don’t have a super-soldier army. There is no draft and sadly too few potestades choose a military career and even here, our numbers are relatively small.”
“The Powered Defense Force,” Tink filled in. “Small squads of three to five descendants with powers specifically chosen to synergize in some way tactically.”
The President’s eyebrows rose. “You seem to know a great deal about our nation, Miss Carlyle.”
“Tenth grade Social Studies Project,” Tink admitted. “We had to pick a topic in the news outside the US and that was around the time of the Pasqual Riots. I thought it was edgy and cool at the time to point out how people here were treating non-descendants the way we in the US were treating descendants.”
“And you thought me and Kura were the ones that were going to start an international incident.” Tammy stage whispered to her brother.
President Esteban-Vegas waved this idea away however, “No. I understand the sentiment. The Separation Act is a necessary evil for the protection of the people.” She held out her obsidian-covered hand as an example. “When I first gained my power, I couldn’t control when or where they emerged. To this day if I’m startled or caught off guard, sometimes they still manifest. Obsidian edges are some of the sharpest blades in the world—this makes me unsafe to be in close proximity to those without powers.”
She shook her head as Tink started to protest. “I know: I’m a danger to those with powers that don’t have some way to resist or heal as well. It isn’t a perfect system—but with the ability for an impotente to gain powers of their own, perhaps it won’t be necessary for much longer.”
Director Restrepo once again cleared his throat. “Though even if this method is effective, it will take years, perhaps generations to implement.”
Giving him a slight nod, the President concluded: “But we need to focus on the situation at hand. Your costumes and other accouterments will be returned to you and you may change in the the surgeons’ locker rooms. A military transport will be here in half an hour to take us to the sight of the attack.”
“Thanks to the D-icons, I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like actually suiting up,” Juniper commented, settling her Zero cloak around her shoulders. While Warrick, who had no real costume to speak of since he had to be cut out of his armor, waited outside, the women of the team were preparing for battle in the surgeons’ locker room.
Tink tested her gauntlets by making tight fists with them and nodded. “I’m having to stop and mentally go over my old checklist. Starting to wish I’d made my stuff less complicated.”
“Okay, I’ve been quiet long enough,” Even though she was her own costume, Cyn was still hanging out in the room for the conversation, “What was up with you, copper top? It’s usually me being difficult with folks, but you didn’t even give me half a chance. What’s with you and the Hard Rock President out there?”
Kay nodded, “I’ve been wanting to ask the same thing. I know all about the kind of stuff that goes on down here too, but I wasn’t ready to pick a fight over it.”
Tink frowned and took a seat on the bench spanning the space between the lockers. Ostensibly it was to put on her boots, but she made no move to do so. “You know that old saying ‘never meet your heroes’?”
“I kind of find it hard to believe this lady’s one of your heroes,” said Melissa.
“Once upon a time,” Tink said quietly. “When I was like eight that was about the time of the revolution down here. My dad always had news radio in the house, so I heard all about her story: how she was a descendant—well ‘psionic’ then—who had been forced to fight and kill disobedient workers under the cartels that turned into the symbol of the revolution. That was before we all saw how the whole revolution turned out and hearing about how she fought for freedom with her powers? It made me wish I was a descendant so I could do the same.”
She sighed and actually started on her boots. “It’s stupid, I know. Descendants weren’t exactly being treated too well here at the time, but I really idolized her and angsted a lot about how I wasn’t born with powers. I didn’t really pay much attention to what came next, but then I did my report and with all that research…”
“She didn’t exactly live up to your own hype, did she?” Cyn folded her arms, shaking her head. “See? This is why I never had heroes. Then again, when you have a family like mine, you stop expecting much from people.”
“Yeah…” Tink hid her face by keeping her head down as she laced her boots. “But the more pressing thing now is one more thing that put me off La Dama Obsidiana: she’s a killer.”
“We can’t hold that against her though right?” Juniper asked, “They made her kill people.”
Tink shook her head, “No one made her do the things she did during the revolution—or against the insurgents after. Soldiers shooting one another is one thing. Executing people on the spot with an obsidian ax? Not so much. And if she catches up with these faeries? She’s going to take no prisoners.”
Kura grimaced at her memory of the unicorn and its compatriots. “Is that really such a bad thing? Didn’t we lose the game or whatever in the Lost World because we wouldn’t kill those dudes?”
“We’re superheroes,” Tammy said with a shake of her own head, “Thou shalt not kill is Rule One. We’re not soldiers or even cops. Go around killing people and there’s no a lot of difference between us and any other powered criminal. We capture them and turn them over to the government.”
“Only,” Lisa jumped in, “La Dama Obsidiana is the government. And really, I’m kind of feeling suspect that Camp Hero is the only place our own government has put faeries—but it’s probably the nicest and the least ‘dissect you’-y.”
Deflating visible, Tammy asked, “Wait. So no matter what we don’t have any say what happens with the Faeries? Even if we’re not thinking about right and wrong here, one of them’s like one of Maeve’s servants or something. We could get a lot of information from him, right?”
Cyn growled, rubbing her temples. “Thous shalt not kill is like the worst part of being a superhero. Have you ever read those threads on PrelateWatch? Lots of teenaged psychopaths telling us who we should have offed and why. ‘You should have killed Inexorable; he’s too strong’. Yes, dumbass and we could barely knock him out much less kill him. ‘Why didn’t you kill you Dr. Paralous?’ because he’s just some dork without a clue. He’s never even injured anyone. It’s a good think people like that only have power on the internet, we’d have the death penalty for jaywalking!”
“I don’t know,” Lisa said, “Humans and faeries are one thing, but have any of us thought about what we’re going to do about Maeve? How do you stop something that’s like a god without killing it?”
“I was just assuming we’d seal her away for some chosen hero to deal with a thousand years from now,” Tammy supplied with a shrug. “It’s how they do it in video games. And before anyone says this is real life: this all started with us going on a fetch quest for one of a number of relics.”
Now fully geared up, Tink stood up and stretched to make sure everything was on correctly. “All I’m saying is that we have to keep an eye on the President out there. And the Director. Am I the only one who noticed that he was not happy with the idea of normal people getting powers of their own.”
“Well duh,” said Cyn. “It’s more of a surprise that she wants to make things fair than him wanting to keep things unfair. Guys with power—not our kind of powers, but money, politics, that kind of crap—aren’t usually about sharing with others. Kindergarten drop-outs the lot of them.”
“Just remember the training we’ve had with Kareem and watch out for shenanigans of any kind,” Tink said. “From the faeries and the politicians.”
To Be Continued…