by Dan Swanson, based on a concept by Tynnechris
As often happened with difficult questions, framing the question properly provided the seeds of the solution. The Legion of Justice Stealth Squad was a team, while these nouveau Legionnaires had shown no concept of teamwork, save Chronotrapper, the least dangerous of their number.
“Hourboy!” Chemique shouted so he couldn’t miss the command. “Keep the rock-pile busy for a few, will you?” She pointed at Brickosious, who did look like she was built out of rocks.
“A few what, boss?” Rand Tyler joked weakly. “I might manage seconds; I hope you don’t mean minutes!”
Still, he turned to Brickosious. She had found some steel rebar in the rubble and was molding a new handle for her mace. The way the steel was flowing, she was using some other power than just super-strength.
“Don’t worry too much about her health!” Chemique encouraged him. “She’s a Lodroid!” This was a term they used that was short for Legion of Doom android.
“Oh, that makes it ever so much easier,” he muttered sarcastically as he stalked the miniature mountain. “A fearless, super-powered android assassin without conscience or remorse!”
Brickosious was so involved in her repair that he approached her undetected and, without warning, kicked her under the jaw. Her head jerked backward, and she used the force of the blow to rise to her feet.
“You dare? Then face the wrath of the goddess of explosions!”
She spun her mace at him with all her strength. It swept at his knees — if that blow were to strike, he’d be crippled for the rest of his life — which wouldn’t be very long. He hopped and drew his knees up as high as he could, then thrust them down at the exact instant the mace paced beneath him. Luckily she was so short. His full weight on the mace for just an instant unbalanced the duchess of detonations, and the mace swung into the ground. Rand took advantage of this to kick her again, then leaped away.
This fight was going to be difficult. Hourboy didn’t have a lot of practice dodging blows delivered from the level of his thighs. All his blocks and parries assumed opponents would swing mainly at his head and torso. Of course, Brickosious might make it easy on him — she was swinging her mace in an overhead blow, and he was used to parrying vertical swings. He twisted aside, and carefully but quickly reached inside the swing, placed his hand on the haft of the mace, and pushed, redirecting the swing away from him.
Or at least he tried to do that. When he touched the shaft, he was blasted backward through the air at least thirty feet by a tremendous electrical discharge. If his boots hadn’t been insulated, he’d be dead right now. As it was, he hit and rolled until he smashed into a wall, then struggled to his feet. Well, that was one way to dodge her blows.
Brickosious roared with laughter. “More than one kind of explosion, eh? Better not forget about electricity! And what about pressure?” She slammed her mace into the ground, and the enormous force, confined to the small area of impact, caused an explosion. She strode forward, gleefully swinging her mace at random, exploding everything it touched.
“Maybe a pocket nuke?” Brick laughed again. “Or a little antimatter? No…” she sighed. “Destroying Springfield would probably make General Urbane a little annoyed.”
Rand managed to roll around a corner and, by leaning against the wall, was able to struggle to his feet. He triggered his radio. “Time’s up, Miqui!”
After she gave Rand his assignment, Chemique turned to the rest of her team. “Retreat!” And she started backing away from their opponents. Mystified, Timepiece and Teleteen joined her. Aerophase, Impervia, and Gymnastryx advanced after them, and as they advanced they drew closer together.
“OK, Tommy, wrap ’em up!” she ordered.
Tommy Tamare closed their foes into a spherical force-field. “I can’t hold them long, Mique — I’m about worn out.”
“Only a couple seconds, Tommy. Hold on! Rex, wrap a net around Tommy’s field! Tommy, you can let go as soon as–”
Rexford Tyler was puzzled — but he did it, anyway. A net blasted from his chair’s weapon system and wrapped around Tommy’s telekinetic prison. Then he got it. “Aha! Attrition!”
“–Rex is done.”
Tommy dropped his field. Aerophase passed through the net, and Gymnastryx was able to stretch and slip out between the strands, but Impervia was well and truly trapped. She wasn’t strong enough to tear the strands, and the more she struggled, the tighter she was bound up.
“Now the ghost, Tommy! Rex, blast her!” Chemique caused the ground under Gymnastryx’s feet to become very sticky, and even her agility and stretching powers didn’t help her get away. Still, even with her feet stuck fast, she was able to stretch and attack Chemique. The two exchanged blows, while Rex blasted the trapped Aerophase with high-intensity light that changed colors and flickered randomly — and she couldn’t pass through Tommy’s force-field to escape. Within only seconds she had collapsed and become solid, and Tommy gently deposited her on the ground, unconscious.
“OK, Rex, get Chronotrapper — and Tommy, help me out here!” Once again Tommy trapped one of the wanna-be Legionnaires in his force-field. Chemique enhanced a chemical reaction that normally only took place in a very high-energy environment — the partial oxidation of the nitrogen gas trapped in the field — and converted some of the oxygen and nitrogen into nitrous oxide. She was very careful to make sure no harmful or toxic oxides formed, and within a few more seconds, Aerophase was unconscious.
“Time’s up, Miqui!” Rand’s voice over the radio sounded desperate.
“Hold on, Rand! Drop it quick, Tommy!” A few seconds of nitrous oxide wouldn’t be harmful, but Gymnastryx would recover quickly when she had normal air to breathe, so Chemique touched her gently and increased the effectiveness of the saratonin currently in her body. Now she’d be out for twenty minutes or so.
“We’re on our way!” she screamed to her teammate, and she and Tommy ran at top speed toward the area where Rand was battling Brickosious.
An explosion shattered the wall Rand was hiding behind, and a heavy lump of building material fell on him, trapping him. He looked up and saw the last sight of his life as the mace of Brickosious was descending toward him. Instinctively, he dived into the past, even knowing his power was useless — and he found himself in his phantom form a half-hour in the past. In the present, Rex had used a sonic stunner on the very young and virtually helpless Chronotrapper, whose only power prevented others from manipulating time in his vicinity.
So he was going to live a while longer. Rand had never had such a close brush with death before. One good thing — he knew exactly where Brickosious would be standing in a half an hour, so he could position his last two flash bombs for maximum effect. He moved from the position where the mace would strike, twenty-nine and a half minutes from now, and set his bombs so that one would be only inches in front of the miniature mountain, while the other would be inches behind her.
He now had twenty-nine minutes to rest and observe. One thing that was very unusual was that the streets of Springfield, Virginia, were deserted — a boon to the Legion in their upcoming fight, but why? He floated into a nearby home and watched a news report on the 3V. As soon as Operation Confusion had been put into effect, Amgov had declared martial law in a number of cities up and down the East Coast — and from their briefings from Timepiece, Rand was able to recognize that all of those cities had secret tube stations in them.
Amgov Security teams consisting of Justice Legionnaires and squads of security agents and soldiers in battle armor were guarding each of the secret tube stations. It was fascinating to watch; this new Legion had almost a hundred members, virtually every cadet from the Legion Academy over the age of ten, and all the members of the Legion Reserve had been put on active duty and were being called Legionnaires — and they were reinforced by a handful of super-powered beings that he didn’t recognize, such as Brickosious. Urbane was pulling out all the stops on this one.
Ten minutes left in his phantom state before he returned to the present. The battle was about to start. He floated back outside and watched as he and his teammates got clobbered. He was fascinated with Aerophase — she was a phantom as he was, yet she didn’t sense him, so her power was totally different than his own. But he realized with panic that Rex’s seizure-inducing light beam could affect him as well as Aerophase, so he rapidly flew away.
Only a few seconds now. He wanted to watch what happened to Brickosious from a safe distance. He saw the explosion that trapped him, and then the mace swinging down toward his head — and then he was in the present, and his flash-bombs exploded an instant before Brickosious’ mace smashed into the pavement where his head had been.
Brickosious was instantly enveloped in a billowing cloud of chemical fire extinguisher foam. The explosion when the mace hit the ground blew away some of it, but the remaining foam continued to expand on contact with the air, and she was totally enwrapped. Denser than the thickest fog, it didn’t actually impede her motion in any way, but she couldn’t see anything, and it followed her as she moved. Whirling her mace didn’t dispel it.
The Legion Stealth Squad didn’t have to physically trounce their opponents to defeat them. For the moment, this squad of new Legionnaires was neutralized. The group reassembled, returned the flying disks to Rex’s control, and Rex moved them a nanosecond into the future.
A few minutes later, the Hot Rod blasted at top speed from the abandoned boathouse, almost straight up. Even with full stealth, the Amgov military was firing on it before it had gone five miles. The Hot Rod jinked and juked, a magnificent flying machine flown by a master pilot. The stealth must have been partially effective, because time and again the lasers barely missed, and the maneuvers of the Hot Rod often managed to put the pursing missiles right in the path of the lasers.
General Urbane had seen this trick before. A squad of armored soldiers descended on the boathouse from which the Hot Rod had fled — and discovered the Hot Rod slipping into the bay. The first Hot Rod had been a decoy — as Urbane had suspected from the acceleration it had displayed during maneuvers. It was a drone missile using electronics to broadcast a radar signature that looked like a stealthed spacecraft.
As soon as the second Hot Rod was discovered, the first one stopped dodging and was instantly destroyed, and then it was like a rerun. The real vessel fled at high power, and once again there was a deadly game of laser and missile tag. The real Hot Rod couldn’t dodge as quickly as the decoy had, being much more massive and carrying a living cargo. But the piloting skill on display was even better — this time, the pilot was flying for his life. And in an unbelievable display of piloting virtuoso, the Hot Rod made it out of the atmosphere, almost reaching an altitude where it could enter hyperspace, before the Amgov Orbital Security defenses finally blasted it.
A practical man, Urbane ordered a small tactical nuke detonated on the boathouse where the Hot Rod had been concealed. It was virtually radiation-free, but it destroyed everything within a three-mile radius.
“Damn, she was a sweet ship,” Tommy Tamare sighed. He and his teammates had never left Springfield and were now back in the tube system. All they needed now was a place to hang out until Gernsback could activate the boom tube again. An automated repair depot twenty miles south of Springfield suited their needs just fine. A tube car scheduled for routine maintenance was both more spacious and more luxurious than the Hot Rod had been. Tired and battered, the team spent most of the interval sleeping.
Despite the detailed report she provided Canary, Chemique never got the post-mission dressing down that she had expected. The Legion leader figured that the Stealth Squad had learned some valuable lessons, and they achieved their mission. And despite her reputation as a martinet, she was trying to get away from the General Urbane way of doing things. After all, the Legion was a voluntary team, not a military unit.
One serendipitous result of Kid Terrific’s mission to Pehanron University on Sentinel Gate was that the University owed the Legion several favors. WildCat was able to negotiate with them to place Drake Logan in the University Hospital, where he would receive the best care available on Sentinel Gate. This left the team free to work on their time-travel research and, incidentally, battling evil throughout local space.