by Dan Swanson, based on a concept by Tynnechris
“Greenfire! Respond!” Canary tried frantically to raise her teammate over the radio.
“Relax, leader lady,” his voice came through the radio, and he sounded amused. “C’mon, you know electricity can’t hurt me. Want me to take out those blasters?”
“No, damn it, I want you to wait for the rest of us!” She was angry with him as usual. “I sure wish we could see!” That last was a rhetorical musing, but Greenfire responded anyway.
“Would a bright green sun, right up under the top of this dome, be of any help?”
“You can do that?” Canary asked incredulously. “OK, then do it!” she ordered. “You’d better not be joking!”
He let his actions answer for him. A bright green light like a flare rocketed upward and stuck to the underside of the dome. Then it grew brighter and brighter until it hurt to look at it. They could see, but with only green illumination, the landscape was bizarre.
“Not that I’m complaining, Burroughs, but is there any way you could make that star white?”
Canary gestured, and her team moved out toward the village. It was difficult to make out normal shapes, and they stumbled and tripped often.
“You… always… complain.” Greenfire’s voice over the radio sounded strained. “It’s what… you… do. Sorry, but… green.. is all I’ve got.”
She was concerned about the pain in his voice. “Can you keep this up?”
“A few minutes… is all.” He stopped talking entirely for a second. “Better… hurry.”
They stopped talking and moved as fast as they could. Within a minute they came across a well-maintained road leading toward the village, which allowed them to start running flat out.
Gina Lance hated this part. She was a superb athlete, one of the best in the world, in top physical condition, but she was easily the slowest member of the team in a flat-out race such as this. Teleteen could lower his weight telekinetically, which allowed him to easily move twice as fast as she, and Chemique’s android body was much more efficient than the best-conditioned human body could ever be. Hell, in a straight line, even Timepiece’s prosthetic chair could float faster than she could run.
Still, even slowed as they were by the pace of their merely human leader, they neared the village in under ten minutes, none of them breathing hard. A two-mile run was nothing compared to the training runs General Urbane put them through on a daily basis. During that whole time, Greenfire was silent. Canary hoped that having light was worth the cost.
Canary was expecting an attack, and before they reached the buildings, she was on the general radio band, issuing commands. “They’ll probably ambush us just as we pass inside the first line of houses. Drake, when I give the signal, shut off that light. Miqui, how sure are you about the IR eyesight thing?”
“Oh, no, not on me!” Teleteen protested.
“Shut up! Orders!” Canary barked at him. He knew better than to argue.
“I’ve been practicing on my own eyes since I thought of it. I can switch back and forth easy. No problem, boss!”
“How long does it take?” Canary didn’t want to think about the fact that Chemique’s android eyes were composed of artificial materials — Miqui knew that and should be taking it into account.
“Easily less than a second.”
“OK. Instead of running out between these houses, you’re going to adapt our eyes, Drake’s going to douse the star, and we’re going to hit the ground and roll to the sides in the dark. Locate your cover now!” She had picked a ditch well off to the side of her current headlong rush. “Miqui, now!” The landscape around her changed weirdly, and she stumbled as the road seemed to writhe. “Drake, now!” The green light died before she hit the ground.
An instant later, lasers and lightning swept through the air where they should have been running and then started blasting the ground at random. As Gina had hoped, the enemy wasn’t prepared for the sudden darkness, and they were temporarily blinded — though she was sure that condition would last long. The three heroes rolled into their preselected cover positions and waited for Canary to give further orders. She scanned the darkness around her, a little spooked at seeing in infrared without night-vision goggles. She could make out the features of buildings, and as far as she could tell, there weren’t any people in the open nearby. There were glowing white spots where people must have been waiting only seconds ago, but nothing human-shaped that she could see.
“From the weapon flashes, there’s at least six shooters. Tommy, can you locate them?” Tommy Tamare couldn’t read minds, but sometimes he could feel them and place their approximate positions by feel. “If you can, send us their positions.”
Tommy turned his head, sweeping his perception over the darkness in front of him. He was able to feel some human minds in the village.
“Marking their positions.” He entered direction and distance into a small keypad on his wrist, and his communications computer automatically send the coordinates to the wrist displays of his teammates. He located six, and then something odd.
“Canary, there’s a whole cluster in Town Hall–” He named it automatically and then realized that his teammates might not know what he was talking about. “–that big building in the center of town. Well, not really — they are well below ground level.”
“They must have some kind of escape tunnel. Concentrate on the ones on the surface!” Canary commanded. “Mick, can you take out any of those weapons?”
Chemique concentrated on the closest of the indicated positions. She tried to speed up the decay of any electrical insulators in that location. After a few seconds, she turned to the next one. And then the next. There was only one more she could affect; the others were too far away. But now Canary had another command.
“Pick one of these guys and short the battery in his gun.”
“But that could kill him,” Chemique started to protest.
“Orders!” That tone in Canary’s voice sent chills down her spine. Miqui couldn’t disobey. She concentrated on the last position in reach, and there was a violent explosion.
“Take ’em!” Canary shouted on the command frequency.
As she had been giving orders, Canary had been creeping closer to one of the positions from which she’d see a weapon flash. As she yelled to her team, she crashed through a window into a room in one of the buildings and immediately attacked the man she found hiding there. He wasn’t much of a fighter, and she was able to kick the gun from his hands before he could use it, but none of her punches or kicks were able to touch him. She battered him and he fell back, and he couldn’t escape or attack, but she was having no effect on him otherwise. And then she was blinded by bright visible light.
She moaned in agony and collapsed on the floor, writhing. The light had felt like a knife, stabbing deep into her head. Her opponent took advantage of her blindness to rush past her and out of the house.
When the explosion occurred, three of the enemy tried to fire their weapons, which grew very hot, very quickly, but didn’t fire. They threw their guns away as their hands were burned. A single laser beam flashed out and vaporized the ground where Chemique had been laying only an instant before, but she was already gone. Teleteen leaped out of his hiding place and rushed toward an enemy, using his power to push the barrel of the opponent’s gun out of line, so when his gun spat lightning, he blasted a crater in the ground rather than hitting the hero.
And then the light blinded them, and like Canary, they fell to the ground in agony. Instead of attacking their helpless opponents, though, the subversives all ran toward Town Hall. Two of them helped their friend whose gun Chemique had exploded. He seemed to be dazed but otherwise uninjured.
When Chemique realized that the dome had vanished, allowing sunlight to light up the area that had just been shrouded in total darkness, she immediately reversed the chemical change in her own eyes. Still, it was several seconds before she could see again. With no enemies to fight, she looked for her teammates. She found Tommy first, still rolling on the ground in agony, and just when they discovered Canary, stumbling blindly out a door, they were deafened by a tremendous roar. The Town Hall was blasted apart, and a rocket flashed skyward from inside. As they watched it rise, Greenfire flew down and joined them.
“Geez, I wish they hadn’t done that,” said Teleteen sadly.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. We are so screwed!” Burroughs replied.
“Us?!” Canary was incredulous, stunned by his callousness. “What about them?”
“They’re high enough! Cover!” warned Chemique. All but Drake turned their eyes downward. A half-dozen lines of bright, ruby-red light sprang into existence out of nowhere, high in the sky, and converged on the climbing rocket — which exploded, violently.
Canary slugged Greenfire as hard as she could in the face-mask. “You’re right, damn you. We are so screwed. But at least we’re still alive.”
“Star Lass, we’ve got big problems! A Legion of Doom smash squad is attacking the Heritage Day celebration in Yorktown, Virginia.” Cathy Beamish, AKA Kid Terrific was on monitor duty this day and immediately alerted Theresa Knight, alias Star Lass, the Legion of Justice Officer of the Day.
“How many, and when did the attack start?”
“Five. Three minutes ago.”
“Noted. Recall Sandy and Rexford. Alert Reserve One to be on duty in ten minutes, max. Notify Transport to have Dart One standing by in five minutes. Update the Dart‘s onboard strategic systems with everything you’ve got, and have Transport patch it in to the Yorktown Guardian channels.”
Done! Kid Terrific thought as her hands flew over the controls of the monitor station. No trace of hesitation or excitement in your voice — or worse, stress or panic. You’re doing great, kid, don’t stop now! Though she couldn’t say this out loud, Kid Terrific approved of her less-experienced teammate’s actions and demeanor.
Being Officer of the Day could be a very stressful job when there was an emergency such as this. Especially when you had to give orders to more experienced teammates. She knew General Urbane did this on purpose, so the younger Legionnaires would be ready to lead after their older teammates graduated. Urbane was ruthless and deadly, but he understood people better than anyone she had ever met.
Theresa Knight continued, “Notify all Guardian units within ten miles to dispatch their SWAT teams to Yorktown, Stat One.” Local law enforcement agencies had been renamed to Guardians years ago, long before Star Lass had been born. “Patch your board through to Rex’s chair. He’ll take over monitor duties remotely as soon as he acknowledges recall. At that time, you report to Launch and assume command of Action Team B. Go!”
Theresa had done a great job; Cathy was proud of her. Star Lass would be the senior Legionnaire and de facto team leader in a little less than a year, and she should do a bang up job. Kid Terrific finished up her orders. As she had expected, Rexford Tyler, alias Timepiece, was in his laboratory, so she remoted the monitor board to his chair. He should reach the control center in minutes.
She got Liberty Lad on the first try as well. As Commander of the Legion Academy and leader of Reserve One, he was always ready for a chance at some live action. He and Equal, one of his instructors, and the four most senior Legion cadets, would reach the control center only a few minutes behind Timepiece. She locked down her board and headed for the assembly room in Launch.
After she entered the lift, Cathy checked her wrist display and made some selections on the touch screen. She reached to her belt as a small memory module the size of a twentieth century dime slid out of a slot in the buckle. She lifted her long red hair, revealing a small square plastic patch set into the back of her skull. There were two circular dime-sized bumps on it, and two circular dime-sized depressions. With the easy skill of long practice, she touched the memory module to one of the depressions, and it sunk in slightly, forming a bump that matched the others. She closed her eyes and stood quietly for a second as she accustomed herself to the new module, and when she opened them again, she was the world’s leading authority on the Legion of Doom.
Only a tiny percentage of the population could be fitted with this type of memory enhancer, as most people’s immune systems quickly rejected the device. Most of those who could tolerate it had to concentrate intensely to make use of it. Only one person in a billion, perhaps, could access it as easily as any other part of their natural brains. Cathy was one of those lucky few.
Her belt held hundreds of these modules, the ones she felt she might need as an on-duty Legionnaire, and with only a few keystrokes she could be an expert on virtually anything almost immediately. And she had access to a library of millions more. General Urbane had assembled a large research staff that constantly updated the data stores. Each night the modules stored in her belt were refreshed.
Action Team B was ready when she arrived. Star Lass addressed her formally. “Action Team B ready for your command, ma’am!”
Again, Cathy was proud of her younger teammate. As Officer of the Day, Star Lass could have designated herself as leader of Action Team B, but that would have been the wrong move, and she would have been given demerits for it later. She quickly examined her team.
Star Lass, Golden Boy, Hourboy, Hawk Lad, and WildCat. She winced at the last pair — hawks and big cats were natural enemies, and these two were rarely assigned to the same action team. Well, they would work together under her command, or she would bust their heads. But this team was much more powerful than Canary’s team. Good, because smash squads were tough.
Dart One would have them in Yorktown in twenty minutes. She hoped the local SWAT teams could at least contain the Legion of Doom smash squad and limit the damage.