by Dan Swanson, based on a concept by Tynnechris
“Uh, Rand…? Why are they still conscious?” Chemique asked her teammate. Rand Tyler should have disappeared at the first sign of problems and, in his phantom form in the past, placed flash bombs around the feet of the new Legionnaires, and the new team should have already been gassed — and the Stealth Squad should be on its way.
“My power isn’t working!” he answered, dismayed.
Miqui was starting to get a bad feeling. “Rex, get us out of here!”
“No dice, boss! Me neither. That kid at the end of the line must be Chronotrapper,” said Rex Tyler, referring to a cadet at the Legion Academy. “Looks like a call up from the minors.”
“Agreed. Impervia, Gymnastryx, Aerophase, Chronotrapper, and I don’t know the short one with the mace.” Yup, definitely a bad feeling.
Impervia sprang at Hourboy. He kicked her in the chin, and her head jerked away from his foot, but otherwise she was unaffected.
“Hey, big boy! Miss me?” she laughed as she smashed into him.
“Can’t say I did, Pervi. You and Tryxi still get off on beating up kids?”
He spun by her, smashed his elbow into the back of her neck, and tripped her, then watched as she crashed to the pavement. He was unsurprised when she got back to her feet, totally unscathed.
Gymnastryx, meanwhile, was attacking Timepiece. Rex had ordered the prosthetic arms of the chair to fend her off, and he charged both arms with electricity, but she easily weaved between the flailing arms. His force-field stopped her inches from him, and she leaped onto the chair and started jumping up and down, trying to upset him. He charged the field, and she leaped well away to the side, turning to face him while still in the air.
Timepiece ordered his chair to rotate to the left, trying to bring his built-in antipersonnel weapons to bear before she landed. He swore at a newly uncovered design flaw — all his damn weapons faced forward. He fired a net, which spun and spread out as it flew, and she sidestepped easily — but he had fired another one an instant later, and it wrapped around her.
Chemique gestured, and Aerophase was standing in a column of fire. She had exponentially enhanced all the oxidation reactions taking place in that area. But Aerophase stepped out of the flames, and Miqui could see that they were passing through her opponent with no effect. She tried to affect Aerophase’s body chemistry, but while her opponent was out of phase, her powers had no effect.
The small, unknown being leaped at Teleteen, swinging a giant mace, almost as long as her body.
“The mace of Brickosious will put an end to you!” she crowed.
The mace slammed into his force-field, and there was an explosion, knocking Tommy backward even through his field. When the flames had cleared, the mace was undamaged, and the dwarf was advancing to attack again.
“Brickosious, goddess of explosions, from the Crystal City?” Tommy asked, not expecting an answer. Crystal City was the home of the gods in a role-playing game he had played as a cadet.
And he got no answer. The mace slammed down on the ground in front of him, and there was another explosion, throwing him into the air. His force-field protected him, but the goddess waded through each explosion and was battering his shield with another one before he could compose himself for an attack of his own. This being did indeed have the powers and personality of the character from the game. Stomp forward, swing the explosive mace, stomp forward, swing again, stomp, swing, boom — stomp, swing, boom.
Tommy’s mind worked furiously. How did you defeat a goddess? A real-life fight wasn’t anything like an RPG — he certainly never got battered like this sitting at his computer console. Still, she hadn’t really hurt him yet. And it seemed like as long as he could keep his force-field up, she might not be able to.
Brickosious was determined to test that theory, though. She smashed him with a mighty blow, but this time there was no explosion. The mace rebounded from his shield, and she used the rebound, putting all her strength into whirling that awesome weapon around in a full circle. Before he could react, the head of her mace, which had just bounced off his shield in front of his chest, smashed into the rear of his shield back — and there was another tremendous explosion, and he flew forward, out of control. The spherical shield rolled, and he was caught inside like a doll in a glass bowling ball. He was going to pass out from dizziness, if nothing else.
He smashed into the side of a building. Luckily his shield absorbed most of the momentum, but he had to drop the shield to get back to his feet. He was going to have to change tactics — his willpower was weakening, and he was getting bruised and battered, making it harder to concentrate.
Teleteen used his power to make himself weightless and swarmed up the side of the building he had crashed into. Fifteen feet up he pushed off from the wall and flew over top of his foe. She scowled, then threw the mace at him.
Tommy used his power to reshape his shield from a sphere into a big, almost flat disk, and air resistance slowed him virtually to a halt. The mace flashed by, and he wrapped a separate field around it and was pulled along with it as it flew. Some fifty or sixty feet further up it slowed and then started to return to its owner. He released it and watched it go. She couldn’t reach him here, which gave him a second to think.
Rex electrified the net that was wrapped around Gymnastryx. She instantly elongated her body and slipped between the strands of the net, then laughed as it fell uselessly to the ground. Rex fired a stunner at her. She sidestepped the beam easily, and he spun the chair in the same direction. She leaped into the air, and the beam swept past underneath her. She stretched an arm and grabbed a second-floor window on the building behind him, and then swung right toward her.
The heels of her boots slammed into his force-field only inches from his eyes, and his chair rocked dangerously. He quickly cut lifting power, and the chair settled down to the pavement, preventing it from overturning. She picked up some debris — pavement shattered by one of Brickosious’ explosions — and threw chunks of concrete at him. Using her flexible limbs to fullest effect, her improvised missiles flew much faster than any normal human could throw.
They smashed into Rex’s force-field and shattered, and for a second he was blinded by dust and debris in the air in front of his face. He lifted the chair and moved out of the dust cloud — and could no longer see his foe.
Chemique repeated a trick — she set off one of her modified flash-bombs and tried to flash-freeze Aerophase. No good — the new Legionnaire passed right through the wall of ice. She stopped and threw a punch at Chemique, solidifying her body at the last instant. A solid left jab, followed by a nasty right cross, rocked Miqui backward, knocking her off her feet. Miqui wasn’t really hurt, just surprised.
She slightly accelerated her metabolism. She had to be careful with this trick — she would pay for it later, and if she sped up too much it made it very difficult to communicate with her teammates. Still, her opponent now seemed to be moving much more slowly. Miqui observed her closely as Aerophase returned to her phantom form. She could sense no chemical changes taking place in Aerophase’s body — not even the normal chemical reactions of a living body.
“Actually, I have missed you, Pervi!” Rand laughed as he unleashed a leg side-kick to her midsection, then skipped into a fast spin and smashed a spinning fist into her jaw. She stepped backward a couple of steps. “I have a mad-on that I need to work out — and I can’t go full speed with anyone on my team.”
He stepped in and smashed a one-two-three combination to her jaw. She stopped, temporarily knocked backward by the force of the punches, then advanced again.
“Don’t call me that!” she screamed. “You think you are such hot stuff, big-shot Legionnaire and fighter! Well, I’m a Legionnaire now, and you’re a traitor! And you’re faster than me, but you can’t hurt me, and I never get tired. I’ll just wear you down, like every time we fought in practice — and this time, there’s no referee to save your sorry butt!”
Rand had no qualms about hitting this woman with his best shots — not after the punishment she’d given him the first time they’d fought at the Legion Academy — but she was right. No matter how much faster he was, sooner or later she’d manage to grab him — and he would be lucky to get away then.
Debris from an explosion caused by the mace of Brickosious temporarily blinded Aerophase, leaving Chemique free for a second. She turned her attention to the small goddess of explosions. Her chemical sense quickly discovered that Brick was not a living being, but an android — chemically very similar, in fact, to the androids in the Legion of Doom — and somehow immune to her power. In a flash of insight, Miqui realized that the chemistry of her own body was also very similar to the androids in the Legion of Doom, but she was too busy to follow up on that flash.
Chemique dodged a blow from the Mace and realized that whatever protected the android from her power did not extend to her weapon. It couldn’t be and still work, she realized — the explosions depended on very fast chemical processes releasing lots of energy in a limited region of space-time. Her enhanced metabolism made it easy for her to duck a swing of that awesome weapon, slip inside the circle of Brick’s swing, and grab the shaft of the mace. Where her hand gripped that lethal weapon, she sped up the chemical processes of decay, and as she squeezed, the shaft crumbled in her hand.
Brickosious screamed and drove forward with all her power, lowering her head and catching Chemique in the stomach. It was like being hit by a cannonball. Brick continued to drive forward, and Chemique realized she was about to be smashed into a wall. She struggled to roll and managed to slip from Brick’s head to her shoulder, so the enraged goddess struck the wall with her head slightly before Miqui’s side was slammed against that same wall.
Both combatants survived an impact that would have killed regular human beings, but the bodies of each were constructed of more durable materials. Yet such was the strength of the goddess of explosions, even without her mace, that neither was unscathed. Chemique had bruises, contusions, and a couple of cracked ribs, and Brickosious had the android equivalent of a concussion.
As Brickosious staggered backward, Chemique slid to the ground against the wall. She allowed her enhanced metabolism to return to normal and then focused on the chemical processes that healed her bones. This only took a few seconds, but all the self-enhancements she had been doing took a lot out of her. She needed to eat and sleep — a lot of each — very soon.
Brickosious had fallen on her back and was struggling to get up. Miqui took advantage of the short respite to check up on her team.
Impervia had finally managed to grab hold of one of Hourboy’s wrists with both hands. She wasn’t exceptionally stronger than a normal human, but she never tired, and she could always use her full strength without fear of injuring herself. She started spinning him around and then released him, and he flew through the air and bounced off Rex’s chair. She charged after him, but Teleteen — temporarily at loose ends — grabbed one of her ankles telekinetically, and she tripped.
She turned to Tommy as she got up. “Tele-twink! Hey, boy, I got something for you!” She charged forward, and Tommy tripped her again, but she had been expecting that, and she managed to crash into him, knocking him backward. “Ever since you kept me out of the Legion, I’ve been waiting for this chance!”
As Tommy fell backward, she kept on rolling and rolled across him, pummeling him with her knees and elbows as she did. His telekinetic force-field protected him from the blows — but he was jolted by each strike.
Tommy recalled his own Legion tryout. Every six months, more or less, all of the teenage cadets at the Legion Academy competed for one spot in the Legion of Justice. At nineteen, it had been Impervia’s last chance. At thirteen, Tommy had been the youngest cadet in the competition.
“That was so smart — using your power to simulate mine.” By surrounding himself with his telekinetic force-field, Tommy became nearly as invulnerable as Impervia — and he had shown that he could do a lot of other things that she couldn’t — such as trip an opponent at a distance, float weightless in the air, and other feats we’ve already seen.
Tommy was now doing the trick where he used his power to float into the air, but she grabbed him. She locked her legs around his body in a figure four and started pummeling him.
“Your force-field might keep me from hitting you — but I know this hurts!” She slammed him with a sledgehammer blow, both fists clasped together. It was stopped a couple of inches from his head. “Sooner or later, you won’t be able to take it any longer.” She slammed her hands to the sides of his head, and though his field stopped it, her fists were closer to him than ever before. “You’re like an olive in a martini shaker, and if I shake hard enough, you’ll squish on the inside of your own precious force-field.”
She punctuated her words with hammer blows of her invulnerable fists, throwing in a head butt every once and a while, and Tommy was starting to get woozy. He funneled all his energy into his force-field, and the two of them dropped from the sky. They had floated up around forty feet. When they reached the ground neither was hurt, but the impact jarred them apart.
Timepiece wasn’t sure what he could do to stop a phantom, but Aerophase was closing with him. When Hourboy was in his phantom state, he seemed to be totally unaffected by anything — except, Rex had noted, visible light and sound.
He commanded his chair to float backward to give him more time, and then gave it another order. On the front of the chair a panel slid aside, revealing a lens. Another order, and Aerophase was speared by a beam of high-intensity light. It flickered, perhaps at random, and changed colors at bewildering speed.
Aerophase halted and threw her arm across her eyes. But that didn’t work, nor did closing her eyes. Even turning her back didn’t help. The high-intensity photons somehow continued to affect her optic nerve, even after passing through her phantom body. She could feel her body starting to quiver, and she remembered that flashing lights could trigger epileptic seizures. She had to get out of this beam.
She quickly slipped through a wall, then sprang out of wall in a different location and charged at the flying chair. Rex couldn’t change his aim fast enough to hit her. She managed to stick her hand into the light projector, and the light failed as her phantom form disrupted its electronics.
Rex lifted the chair abruptly, and as soon as his spotlight was free of her interfering phantom form, it began working again. He had to stay clear of her; if she managed to disrupt the chair’s computer, he would be helpless. It wouldn’t reset as quickly as the spotlight had.
She tried to stalk him, and he kept frantically ordering the chair to swing in one direction or the other. When the beam would brush her, she would stiffen and quiver, and she started to become worried about the cumulative affect of this strange weapon. She had to put that chair out of action before her body stopped obeying her.
Somebody tapped Hourboy on the shoulder. He immediately squatted and spun around, prepared to launch himself in any direction. Instead, Gymnastryx — curled into a ball — smashed into him from behind, and he sprawled forward onto the pavement. She unrolled and began pounding on him from behind. No sense of fair play in either this one or her sister Impervia.
Rand’s costume had some built-in armor pads over his kidneys, small of the back, and back of the neck, which blunted some of Gymnastryx’s attacks. He began rolling and managed to slip out from under, and then he was back on his feet. Gymnastryx advanced on him with a flurry of punches and kicks. He could block some of them, but she was more agile than he, and she could stretch and contort her limbs so that the blows continually came from unexpected directions. And when he did land a blow of his own, it didn’t have the jarring effect he hoped for; instead, her body would stretch, then rebound, bouncing his fist or foot away, keeping him continually off-balance.
This battle was a draw for now, but like her sister, Gymnastryx never tired, and Rand was slowly being worn down.
Damn! Rand was right — none of these guys would have been good enough to make the Legion when we were still here. But they’re beating us! Chemique was puzzled. What did her team have to do to beat these guys?