Reveal

To my surprise, I woke up. And believe me, when you get suffocated into unconsciousness, waking up is a BIG surprise.

I knew I should have killed that bulldog-looking jackhole when I had the chance.

Chains dangling from a ceiling wrapped my wrists, holding me off the ground. I only had my pants on as I hung there. A single bulb cast shadows along the windowless walls of some type of dungeon. My gear lay in a corner. How cliche. Whatever happened to originality in villains. I half-expected a car battery and some jumper cables to be sitting on a stool.

I cleared my throat. “I’m awake,” I yelled. “You can reveal your nefarious plans anytime now.” I’m not a very good kidnappee.

The door behind me creaked open. I didn’t hear anyone come in. Not only that, I didn’t see or smell anything either. Not even a shadow.

Nothing until a face popped right in front of mine. It was young and looked more seductive than her picture. The braces were gone and the hair straight and lustrous.

But there was no doubt it was Lisa Brannigan. And she hung from the ceiling upside down.

She smiled and her incisors, elongated into fangs, flashed. “Ooooh,” she cooed. “You’re my hero.” She cackled in my face.

“I’m sorry this happened to you,” I told her. “I can try to help you, if you…”

She laughed again and dropped from the ceiling to the floor. She ran her hand along my face, then down my torso. I didn’t bother to hide the shudder. She leaned in and whispered, “Like you helped Torrie?”

I could feel my face burning. She kept going. “And why would I want help? Look at me.” She stepped away, stood on her tiptoes, and did a little pirouette.

“I’m so sorry,” I said again.

“You keep saying that!” she screamed. “Stop it!”

The door creaked open again and this time I heard footsteps and smelled perfume. I realized I had been played from the word go.

Mrs. Brannigan stepped in front of me, whatever spell she had used to hide her necromantic energies from me expired. I could see death hanging around her. The same death that fueled the spell on Torrie.

“How nice to see you again, Mr. Douzeper,” she said. She practically oozed false cheer. “You’re probably wondering why you right about now, hmmm?”

My jaw clenched so hard it hurt. I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction.

She grinned at my intransigence. Only once have I ever wanted to punch someone so badly. “You see, my baby had a serious genetic condition, inherited from her father’s side, of course. I had to change her to save her life.”

“So you changed her into a monster?” I spat out.

She slapped me. “She is NOT a monster. She is better. She is everything humanity should aspire to.” She stroked her daughter’s hair in a mockery of motherly affection.

I wanted to puke. Instead, I ground out, “And what did Torrie ever do to you?”

The false cheer fell from her face and twisted into a mask of hate. “Don’t mention that little whore’s name to me,” she hissed. “Her and her mother got exactly what they deserved.”

She waved her hand and several different footsteps came through the door. Ice Diamond and Aeromancer shoved a hooded Mr. Brannigan into the room, while Aeromancer’s goons, RapidFire, Umber, and Tek-Knight followed. Mrs. Brannigan went over to where her husband knelt and ripped off the hood.

Mr. Brannigan blinked at the sudden light. “T-T-Tara, what’s going on?” he asked.

She cupped his chin and squeezed. “What’s happening, Bill, is that your sins are coming back to haunt you.”

She shoved him away and went back to her daughter. “Tell Lisa who Torrie was. Go ahead. I want her to hear it from your lips.”

“I don’t know what you’re talk…” Ice Diamond’s fist crashed into Mr. Brannigan’s mouth. I didn’t react when blood flew from his mouth. I had figured where she was going with this, and found my pity in short supply.

“Don’t lie!” Mrs. Brannigan screamed. “You slept with that whore and Torrie was your daughter! Then you had the nerve to rub it in my face by allowing that harlot’s child to be Lisa’s friend!” Flecks of spittle flew from her mouth and whitened the corners of her lips.

Figures. I decided to interrupt. “Excuse me.” Every eye turned toward me. “Why am I here?”

Mrs. Brannigan inhaled and blew out a deep breath to collect herself. “Isn’t it obvious?”

“Well, yes, but I want to hear it anyway,” I said.

That Cheshire smile came back. “Very well. I need a fall guy. It will be horrible. You will have found out that Bill molested his darling daughter, and, in a rage, you murdered him. Aeromancer,” she gestured to her bulldog, who grinned, “and his team will defeat you. Unfortunately, you won’t survive your apprehension.”

She actually seemed to do a little dance. “After a suitable period, I will take control of my husband’s business. With the help of my new associates, I will soon rule the city from behind the scenes.”

I shook my head. “There’s just one problem.”

She cocked an eyebrow at me. “If you are talking about your little friend or Boost, rest assured they will be taken care of.”

It was my turn to Cheshire grin. “Nah. Not worried about them. The problem is you left my gear in here. It’s activated by the sound of my voice. The comm links directly to my blog, so every word you just said has been posted online.”

Mrs. Brannigan paled. I kept going. “Further, while the lone hero that relies on no one but himself makes good copy, reality is a little different.” I nodded toward my pile of gear. “My Diavel has been homing in on my bracer’s signal since I woke up. Lady Aether, Boost, and the Keepers of the Gateway should be following right behind.”

I love great timing. A boom resounded above us. The building shook and dust fell from the dungeon ceiling.

In the interest of keeping the length down, I’ll let you know what happened next time.

Douzeper

It’s a Trap!

The Sears Tower. It’s a trap. I knew it was a trap. YOU knew it was a trap. Admiral Ackbar knew it was a trap.

trap

I went anyway.

Boost’s family was fine and she offered to come with me. I declined her offer. She needed to be with her family because who knew if this was just a play to leave them vulnerable? Villains aren’t exactly known for their clarity of thinking. They are known for convoluted plots to mentally and emotionally torture their enemies.

So no Boost.

No Stephanie, either. Oh, she cussed up a storm when I told her to stay away from the meet, but I wasn’t about to bring a rookie into her first trap. She could stumble into her own on her own. Boost offered to keep an eye on her. I accepted.

Stephanie told me, “Be careful.”

I’m in the wrong line of work for that.

At the appointed hour I swooped down on my Diavel. I didn’t bother to recon the place. If they can teleport through magic or whatever, I wasn’t going to see anything until they wanted me to anyway. I hopped off my bike and sent it off. The Tower loomed over me, a symbol of humanity’s pride and a city’s inferiority complex. It lit up the sky and looked from the ground like a giant finger pointed at the Gods, as if to say, “Look at Us. We are mighty!”

The presence of powered humans only dented the arrogance of humanity. I shudder to think what would happen when that arrogance is completely stripped away. Would we survive it? Could we survive it?

On the other hand, maybe that stripping of the blinders is what we need to advance again as a species.

Several cars passed by. I stared up at the Tower, waiting.

“What are you doing here?” a familiar voice that dripped with disdain asked.

Lisa’s father. Everything clicked. I rushed him, grabbed him by his shirt and jammed him against a wall. “Why did you set me up?” I yelled. “How did you lie to me?”

I admit, I almost killed him I was so angry.

He yelled at me at the same time. “Where’s my daughter? What have you done with her?” It took several repetitions before what he said penetrated my thick skull.

I let him down and took a step back, but ready in case he tried something. He took a moment to straighten his shirt and collect himself. His eyes were icy as he regarded me.

I figured I’d break the ice, so to speak. “A woman was murdered. Two women actually. Torrie Mallor was killed by a spell and her mother was killed by Ice Diamond.”

Brannigan’s face grew paler and paler as I talked. He stumbled and went to the ground on one knee. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn he was praying.

“There was a message left for me by the killer to meet here at this time. Then you show up.” I moved in closer, invading his bubble. My arms crossed. I knew he wasn’t behind the killings, but he hadn’t told me everything, and I was getting tired of being jerked around.

A soft sob and moan escaped his lips. He sniffled and said, “I received a note from Lisa’s kidnappers to meet here about their demands.”

He looked up at me, his eyes burdened with unshed tears. “Torrie’s dead?”

I could feel myself soften a bit. “Yes. I’m sorry.” It confused me why this man would care so much about his daughter’s friend. Maybe he felt more than I gave him credit for.

I opened my mouth to say something else, but started to choke. I couldn’t breathe.

I was suffocating from a lack of air.

The last sight I saw was Aeromancer with his goons standing next to Ice Diamond, Lisa’s father laid out at their feet.

We were both set up.

Where’s Billy Dee Williams when you need him?

Until next time,

Douzeper

 

Something I Really Didn’t Want To Do

Ice Diamond had disappeared into thin air. Boost looked terrified. “Go home,” I told her. “Make sure your family’s all right. We’ll meet you at the FBSA office. I swear to Utu.”

Swearing to the gods is a “big deal” for Empowereds, so Boost had no problem taking me at my word. Her eyes thanked me and she disappeared in a blur. If I had a psycho after me and such a public profile, I wouldn’t have stuck around either.

“What the flit was that about?” Stephanie asked me.

“Your guess is as good as mine.”

“Are you guessing that this has something to do with what happened to Lisa and Torrie?” she asked.

I crunched my out of the shop; thank goodness the government insured registered Powereds. Shards of glass dripped from various crevices and folds of my clothes. “Yes.” I was too tired and sore for a pithy reply. I’d used up my healing for the day against the Preservers, so healing au natural  was the order of the day.

My Diavel hovered where I’d flown from it. I limped over and heaved myself on. Stephanie (I’ve decided I’m not using that name she chose) climbed on behind me and snaked her arms around my waist. She raised herself up a bit and whispered in my ear, “You okay?”

I upped us to 500 feet. “Not in the least,” I answered. I kicked in the burner and headed toward the FBSA office. Chicago streamed by beside and below us. It can be a beautiful city.

Of course, I’ve found that most cities can be beautiful when there aren’t a bunch of people around to screw it up.

I spotted a familiar building and a light on in specific apartment. I sighed and changed course.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Stephanie shouted.

I hit autopilot and fished out a small earpiece and mike comm stashed in a goody compartment Jules built in. I handed it back to her. I really dislike shouting directed at my ear.

“What are you doing?” she asked again after putting activating the comm. I should have given it to her sooner.

“We’re…I’m going to see Torrie’s mother. You can stay on the roof and wait.”

I landed on the roof again and went down the stairwell. It felt…cold.

Too cold for a climate-controlled building.

I pulled by blaster with one hand and my sword with the other, placing my shield on verbal standby. The hallway leading to the apartment was dark, but a sliver of light spilled from the cracked door. I extinguished my blade and crept down the hallway. I leaned against the wall beside the door and sharpened my hearing.

I heard nothing.

I took a deep breath and kicked in the door. My blade flared into life and I swept the blaster from side-to-side, searching for a target.

I didn’t see anything…except for Torrie’s mother laying in a pool of water, her skin blackened by severe frostbite. My feet squished as I crossed the formerly lush carpet. I knelt and felt for a pulse, knowing full well I wouldn’t find one.

I hate it when I’m right about those sorts of things.

I called the FBSA office to report the murder. I turned back toward the door and saw the message on the wall.

Sears Tower. Tomorrow night. Midnight. 

I’m being jerked around. The suck part about it is don’t really have a choice.

I hate this job sometimes.

Until next time,

Douzeper

On The Way To The Office…

Ugh. Whoever scripts my life is a sadistic smurf.

So, Lady Aether (she really should have consulted someone on name choice) and I are cruising beside Boost on our way to the FBSA office.

Everything was going great. I managed to avoid a fight with one of the few powereds I admire, she actually believed our story (it helps when you’re the Empowered of a truth God), and I got to know one of my idols as a person.

Guess what happened.

Go on, guess. I’ll wait.

Give the man/woman/other a prize. Of course we were attacked by a powered-villain because originality sucks. I swear there must be a handbook called So You’re a Megalomaniac-12 Steps to Bringing Out the Supervillain in You.

Step 1: Have some kind of tragic origin. This particular 12-stepper is a villain called Ice Diamond (and who comes up with these names?). Her whole family died in an explosion at her cryo-research lab. Check.

Step 2: Murder various innocents in some misguided revenge plot. She destroyed an almost empty lab. Notice I said almost. Check.

Step 3: Up your game and attack a major target. She went after some corporate headquarters bigwigs during the middle of the day. Check.

Step 4: Get beat by a powered hero; swear eternal revenge while being sent to prison. Boost beat her and sent her off to Ravenswood Institute. Check.

She was at Step 5, apparently. Break out of prison and surprise attack your nemesis.

The first warning sign came when my wheels started spinning on the road. If I have to explain what was causing it, you haven’t been paying attention to any of the clues. Velma would be so disappointed in you.

Boost slid on the ice, the change in traction throwing her off-balance. Ice shards shaped like, you guessed it, hailed down on her. She managed to avoid many of them, but here and there rents in her uniform and thin red lines showed.

So I did what any right-thinking person would do. I switched my Diavel to hover-mode, blasted some Hail the Villain “Runaway“, activated my shield and placed us between the storm of shards and Boost.

Okay, I was showing off for my crush. Sue me.

A woman dressed like a bondagist’s wet dream stepped out of an alleyway. She raised some future-rifle and the intensity of the shards increased. The tinkling sound as they shattered reminded me of  wind-chimes during a tornado.

Over the noise I heard Steph-I mean Lady Aether-chanting. A fireball flew past me toward Ice. Who promptly flipped a switch and fired a sphere of pure cryogenic energy. The two opposing forces met and a cloud of steam obscured the field.

A shadow that looked suspiciously like a fire hydrant zoomed through the cloud toward us. And what do you know, it was a fire hydrant. It crashed into my shield at a velocity that sent me flying off my bike and through some store’s plate-glass window. You know, after I broke through the iron gate supposedly protecting it.

Boost took the distraction we provided and managed to get back on non-ice covered ground. She picked her angle and went barreling toward Ice.

Almost instantly an ice wall appeared along her trajectory and she had to shift to avoid slamming into it. Right into another patch of ice. Down she went again.

Then it was over.

As the kids would say: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Ice Diamond cackled and disappeared.

She’s not supposed to be able to do that.

And I’m sure I don’t like the implications.

Until next time,

Douzeper

Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs: Power Profile #006-Ice Diamond

Beatrix Kalte aka Ice Diamond

Gender: Female

Power Classification: Machinist/Enhanced

Sub-Category: Elemental Gadgeteer

Power Level: C-Class

Location: Operates in the Midwest. Currently at-large.

Affiliations: Solo Operator

Powers: Various devices that allow for the creation of various cold-related phenomenon. Her main weapon is her “Ice Gun”.

Synopsis:

Ice Diamond (hereafter referred to as I.D.) is a 30-year-old former weapons researcher for BranTech Industries. Her area of expertise lay in using cold-based phenomena as a means to shape and control future battlefields. On her 26th birthday, her family surprised her in her lab. It is unclear exactly what happened, but footage shows that her youngest son, Jakob, went unsupervised long enough to mix some volatile chemicals.

Ten people died in the ensuing explosion, and I.D. fell into a coma. She awoke two months later with a marked shift in personality and physiology. The chemicals leached all pigment from her skin and left her with enhanced strength. When informed of her family’s and co-worker’s demise, she went on a rampage in the hospital, injuring several doctors, nurses and security before making her escape.

She appeared five months later with her current nom de guerre in an attack on a BranTech research facility. She attacked at night, as her skin is now pained by sunlight, and murdered whomever she found, mostly security and janitorial services. After that attack, she fashioned a suit that would protect her from the sun’s harmful effect.

I.D. directed her next attack BranTech corporate headquarters, located in Chicago. She was foiled in her attempt by the hero, Boost (see Power Profile: Boost). During her trial I.D. was found mentally incompetent and was sentenced to The Ravenswood Institution for the Criminally Insane, the maximum security mental institution for powereds.

I.D. recently escaped and her whereabouts are unknown. It is believed she is heading back to Chicago for a second attempt on BranTech Industries or a confrontation with Boost. Possibly both.

Relationships: Johann Kalte-husband (deceased), Katrina Kalte-daughter (deceased), Jakob Kalte-son (deceased), Karl Astor-father (not believed to be in contact), Hilda Astor-mother (not believed to be in contact)

Threat Level: Orange

I.D. is an active threat targeting research and industry vital to our military infrastructure. Her strength is formidable, but it is her engineering genius that serves as the biggest threat. All due caution should be exercised when trying to apprehend her. Powered backup is advised when possible.