Speakeasy #137-I Wish I Could Fly

Some just stick with you.

I don’t know why. I’ve seen death…so much death, in too many of its gruesome permutations. Burned, electrocuted, drowned; you name it, I’ve probably seen it.

People, normal people, seem to think we fly above it all.

I can’t fly.

No, I’m right there on the ground, covered in the blood and waste, dealing with the aftermath.

Emergency lights flashed, painting the world in red and blue. EMT’s scurried about setting up a triage area, desperately giving aid to those they could, ruthlessly moving on from those that can’t be saved. Police barked orders at onlookers, holding the line against the rubberneckers, gawkers, and vultures with their cell phones looking to become internet famous.

Firefighters blasted water at the inferno started by Flamestar during the battle. Armor-clad Feds bustled the members of The Anarchy into specially reinforced paddy-wagons designed for Powereds. Everyone not involved in something else climbed, dug, and searched for survivors buried among the tons of rubble stacked in mini-mountains along the street. The cloud-darkened skies dumped buckets of snow, whitewashing the area and hindering rescue efforts because Mother Nature cares not for our petty squabbles.

We always try to take the fights out of the city, but the bad guys don’t always accommodate us. The Anarchy decided to cause chaos, in some protest against the ” increasing commercialism of false holidays” or something similarly stupid, and cause it they did. They hit Woodfield Mall, O’Hare, and The Magnificent Mile, causing us to split up, decreasing our effectiveness.

We put them down, but not nearly fast enough.

It’s never fast enough.

My head jerked over to stare at the corner of North Michigan and Delaware where a Presbyterian church used to stand. When we soared in, Apkallu carrying me by my arms, I remembered seeing a brunette wearing a black jacket and red stocking cap. The guy with her pointed a Polaroid in her face and snapped a picture of her horrified expression as Flamestar and Jackhammer rampaged down the street.

I watched as Flamestar unleashed a fiery hell on the church, unable to do anything but rage. I didn’t see what happened to the woman and the man with her.

I started to jog over to the corner, three blocks away. My feet picked up speed and I barreled through the crowds, unheeding of their complaints and threats of lawsuits. Smoke rose as the building hissed from water and heat colliding. My nose picked up the sickening sweet smell of cooked meat. I aimed for a mound topped by two cars crumpled beyond recognition, and tore through it.

I kept enough presence of mind to throw the cars away from any populated area, but beyond that I don’t remember much, until…

Until…

“Go on,” Dr. Allen said.

I found the picture, her face twisted in a scream. That didn’t…bother me. No, the fear and resignation in her eyes, as if every hope she carried died at once.

That bothered me.

I looked around, and I swear I saw that same look in every bystander, every first responder.

In the mirror.

“And what do you think that means?” Dr. Allen said.

It means we lost. It doesn’t matter that we beat the bad guys; they stole their hope. I mean, that’s why we do this. We dress up in primary-color costumes, help out with disasters, and “save the world” to give people hope.

When that gets taken away…

“And how does that make you feel?”

News channels excoriate us, politicians praise us with one breath and call for us to be sent to camps with the other, while generals and spies cry “National Security!” as they lobby for creating a Powered-draft. I won’t even get into how the evangelicals treat us.

But none of that bothers me. The accusations that I don’t care; that somehow I don’t feel pain because my body’s strong and resilient. That bothers me.

I do hurt. I sleep very little, afraid of the faces that swirl in my subconscious.

“You said some stick with you. What did you mean?”

That brunette I mentioned. She’s haunted my dreams, and from that day forward, every time I drove past that street corner, I thought of her.

Speakeasy #137. This week’s prompt(s): “From that day forward, every time I drove past that street corner, I thought of her.” Used as the last line and:

My entry is a little different, mostly because I’m weird like that 😉

But on a more serious note, while studies show that suicides during the holidays do NOT rise, they actually peak in the spring and fall, it is a problem that occurs year-round. I chose to use “superheroes” to put a little distance to the subject, not to make fun of it in anyway. I could just have easily used any type of uniformed civil servant and not changed a great portion of the story.

I hold no illusion that some random blog post will change someone’s mind, but on the off-chance that it does, then please seek out some form of help if you are having thoughts and feelings of hurting yourself. I’ve had those feelings, and it can get better. I would have missed out on a lot of great things if I hadn’t received help.

Peace, Love, and I hope everyone enjoys their holiday season, no matter what you celebrate.

Head on over to Speakeasy and check out some great writers. The challenge is open to everyone, so feel free to join in the fun.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

My Solo Mission Gets An Addition

After unceremoniously being told to basically eat smurf and die, I scrambled to find someone with a space-capable vehicle. Maria had given me her home number, just in case, so I rang her up first.

Strike one.

As I swerved through traffic on the way to Jules’ house, Maria told me neither Boost or the Keepers take space-based cases. There are so few of them, usually rescue, that investment in that type of ship proved fiscally unwise.

Especially considering the way teams end up going through vehicles like some people go through tissues.

I thanked her and hung up just as I arrived at Jules’. George eyed me curiously, but didn’t hesitate to let me in when I explained matters. I headed straight for the house. She created in her workshop; she planned in her drawing-room.

Maybe that says something about the type of life powereds lead. The room ostensibly for entertaining friends serves too often as a place where battles are planned. Of course, depending on your type of friends, your drawing-room may be used for the same purpose.

I popped in her house, striding right by Clara, Jules’ head of house-staff, with nary a grunt of acknowledgement. I dialed up Quickstep, the retired powered that, along with me, taught Jules hand-to-hand.

“What?” Quickstep’s voice sounded like it came from the bottom of a well.

I sighed and opened the door to Jules’ drawing room. Various maps and star-charts papered the walls. The couch and chairs sat along the walls, making way for a cube about 3-feet tall and wide. “Put the phone to your ear, Quickstep.”

“What?”

“I’m not in the mood for the doddering old man who doesn’t understand technology shtick today, Roger! Put the phone to your ear!”

“Ok, go.” His voice came through clear and business-like.

“Do you have any contacts that have access to a space-capable vehicle?” Quickstep was a bit of a legend back in his prime, and many heroes still admired him.

“Give me five.” Click.

I inched toward the cube. Rationally I knew Jules wouldn’t put something dangerous (read: explosive) in what was essentially her war-room, but machinists have a reputation for unexpected booms. As I neared, I saw a small black dome on top of the cube. I waved my hand over it.

It started whirring, and I’m not too proud to say I scurried back. The chandelier dimmed and a galaxy burst into life in front of me. It was magnificent, it was beautiful, it was…

My comm beeped and I realized my mouth gaped open. I could feel my face turn red. Luckily, no one saw me gaping like a teen looking at his first naked woman. “Go.”

Quickstep’s voice rang in my ears. “I got a lead on a vehicle. Problem is you’re going to have to make your case in person.”

“Can do. Who am I begging?” I looked at the stars circling my head. One shone a bright pink. I reached up and caressed it with my finger. A string of numbers and the name “Tol Star” sprang into view. I memorized the coordinates.

“You’ll have to go to The Legendary.”

Crud.

Of course, it would have to be the premiere powered-team in the world. One I had no ties to.

“I assume you need this because Jules is in some sort of trouble,” Quickstep said.

“Yup.” I waved my hand over the cube and shut down the hologram.

“I’m coming with you.” I recognized that voice, as would countless mooks, flunkies, and powered-villains. It was the voice that said, “You can try to stop me, but you’re going to fail. So why bother trying?”

I didn’t bother trying. “Welcome aboard. Meet me at Jules’ hous…”

“I’m here.” Show-off. The old man could still motor when he wanted to. It may be short bursts, but he could cover some ground.

I clicked off my comm. “You can take the phone away from your ear now, Roger.”

Maybe I, along with Quickstep, could convince The Legendary to lend us a spacecraft.

If not…well, I could always steal it, I guess.

Until next time,

Douzeper

Agent Chase-Government Hatchetwoman

It’s amazing how time seems to slow to a crawl when you are anticipating something. My fingers drummed the armrests of my chair and my foot tapped in rhythm. AIS personnel tend to be obsessively punctual.

Drives me nuts. I’m more of a get there early type of person. Probably a holdover from the old days where Crowley and I would arrive at a job early to make sure no variables had changed. My fingers curled into a ball at the thought of Crowley.

Five ’til. Ugh. I tried raising Jules again on the comm she gave me. Like the forty other times I tried, I got nothing. I stood up and started to pace. Two steps one way, two steps back. I do not have much room in my office.

A business-like knock sounded and the door opened before I could even muster the k-sound in come in. A muscular bald man in a government issued suit and shades entered my office, head turning as he scanned for threats.

I sneaked a quick glance at the clock. The second-hand had just swept past the twelve. 10:00 exactly.

Baldy turned and nodded to a figure behind him. An older African-American woman who can best be described as “stout” strode into the room. She wore a cream-colored pantsuit that barely showed the bulge of her pistol in its shoulder holster. Her hair lay short and square on her head, matching the rest of her body. A pair of diamond earrings served as her only extra-adornment.

I had a feeling if anybody stole those earrings, she would track him down and that person would die slow.

Douzeper.” She didn’t ask. She merely identified me, a nod to social pretext. She acknowledged me in a clipped tone, as if pointing to a dog and saying “dog.”

“You lost contact with Stargazer. What do you want with me?” Two can play that game.

Her eyes narrowed, almost lost in the fleshiness of her face. Lips hinted at curving down, but didn’t quite move. She lowered herself into one of my client chairs, Baldy standing guard behind her like a faithful hound. “I see you are familiar with who I represent.” A hint of warning colored her tone.

I waved it off. “I was at San Francisco. I keep up.” I perched on the edge of my desk, purposely putting myself in her space. My arms folded across my chest.

She didn’t seem to notice. “How did the Brannigan case go?” Her serve and it was doozy. My muscles tightened imperceptibly as I fought the urge to give her a Diamond-Cutter across my desk.

Maybe not so imperceptible, as Baldy shifted his stance, ready to intervene in case I lost all sense.

I hadn’t…yet. “Poorly, as you well know, or you wouldn’t have brought it up.” I back-flipped over my desk and landed in my chair. It’s specially reinforced to handle my more crazy maneuvers.

I’m just glad I hit my mark this time.

I waved a hand to dispel the tension. “Listen, I would love to sit here and snipe at each other all day, but my friend is in trouble. So, how about we just get down to brass tacks, huh?”

She nodded, as if my retreat secured her alpha-dog status. Have I ever mentioned that I dislike bureaucrats and the petty games they play? If not, I should have. If I have, then repetition should let you know I mean it.

“My name is Veronica Chase, and, as you have surmised, I am with the AIS. Approximately 48 hours ago, Stargazer and Celia left on a diplomatic mission to the planet Tol to seek a treaty with them. We know she arrived safely, but she has missed every check-in since.”

“You’re sure it’s not just equipment failure,” I blurted.

She gave me a look usually reserved for dog poo being scraped off shoes. “We have the finest machinists in the world, including Stargazer, working for us. Celia also has a homing beacon built-in, in case of such problems. The homing beacon has disappeared, as well.” She arched an eyebrow.

I read eyebrow rather fluently. This one said, “Any other stupid questions, idiot, or can I go on?”

I nodded, properly chastened. She cleared her throat and continued. “Normal protocol calls for a strike-team to mount a rescue mission. However, since these are potential allies in the war against the Hytians, that protocol has been set aside for the moment.”

Now I knew what she wanted with me. “You want me to go to Tol and find out what happened.”

She nodded, clearly unhappy with entrusting this type of mission to any outsider, much less me. “We need someone deniable and expendable to investigate what happened. We have…intelligence that there is a faction on Tol that actually seeks subjugation by the Hytians. They believe that being ruled is better than dying by defying them.”

“We need to know if this faction has sabotaged the talks.”

I grinned, but it didn’t reach my eyes. “Well, I’m nothing if not deniable and expendable. I’ll do it.”

She stood and Baldy opened the door for her. She turned back before she left. “You will be on your own. If you get caught, we will disavow any knowledge of your actions. Don’t tell anybody about our meeting.”

Anything I said in response to that would be a lie, so I kept my mouth shut. She walked through the door and something occurred to me. “Hey, how am I supposed to get there?”

She paused and glared at me. “That is entirely your problem.” She strode off before I could say another word.

Baldy hesitated long enough to sneer at me before he made his exit.

Both of them are so going on my “to-punch” list.

Until next time,

Douzeper

 

Where I Commit Treason…

I said my goodbyes to Maria, Boost, and the Keepers. I took Lady Aether back to her dorm, despite her protests. I’d already disrupted her life enough. She needed to get back to it.

She made me promise to call her if I needed her help. Promises cost nothing to give, in most circumstances, so I did. Not that I have any intention of calling her again, unless it is a dire emergency. Like “Oh my, Utu, the world is about to end” dire. So, technically, not a lie.

She’s good–too good to be hanging around me.

I put the Diavel in flight mode and set course for home. I let the auto-pilot do most of the flying. My mind was too busy racing with possibilities.

I had a good idea who the agent represented. I’ve dropped enough hints. I’m about to go full on WikiLeaks here and spill some state secrets.

Aliens are real. The attack that leveled San Francisco, the one blamed on rogue magicians conjuring extra-dimensional “things man wasn’t meant to know,” was actually perpetrated by an Hytian alien invasion force. All those who fought in San Francisco were sworn to secrecy. Everyone else who might know the truth died in the attack.

That never set well with me.

After the attack, a new agency was created. They recruited top exobiologists, astronomers, machinists, and linguists to create the Alien Intervention Service. I don’t have a problem with that. Understanding is the key to peaceful interaction.

They also tapped combat-oriented Innates, spec ops from every branch, and some power-suit machinists to create their own black ops force.

I have a little bit of a problem with that, but at the same time I can understand the desire for a security and reaction force.

I don’t understand keeping the rest of the world in the dark about the existence of alien species, and the threat the Hytians pose.

Jules, being one of the more open-minded and understanding of space-capable powereds, signed on as an ambassador for the AIS. I knew her current mission involved her visiting another species, the Tolans in order to help create an alliance between our two worlds. Kind of a Mutual Defense Treaty-type deal.

Hytians are apparently the wieners (oh, Jules) of the galaxy. We’ve “discovered” several new species in our travels since the Battle of San Francisco, and all have had problems with the Hytians. So, diplomacy is called for now.

A Hytian scout force destroyed a major city. They aren’t a problem we can just punch away.

If the AIS is looking for me, then something must have gone wrong with Jules’ mission. She loves her family, but I know she put me down as the contact for emergencies.

She doesn’t expect me to rescue her, they have strike teams for that. She expects me to decide if her parents should know what’s going on.

However, if she is in trouble, I will go find her. If the AIS doesn’t throw me in jail first.

But why would they? It’s not like anybody is really reading this.

I make it home early in the morning, exhausted. I fall on my bed, out when I hit the pillow.

Despite my worries, I don’t toss and turn.  I need to be at my best.

For Jules.

I’ll give you the gist of the meeting later.

Until next time,

Douzeper

 

 

Afterwards

After the cleanup and reports to the FBSA, everyone came to Boost’s place for a post-battle party. They’re inside now, relieving the stress and combating the adrenaline crash that comes along with any powered fight.

I don’t feel like celebrating.

Not that I don’t appreciate the save or the fact that Boost ran to St. Louis to gather the K.O.G (Keepers of the Gateway for those naughty people not reading my previous posts). I just don’t count this a win. Two teens and an innocent mother are dead. A billionaire government contractor hates my guts. I (well, Utu) aged a woman 40 years in a moment.

Call me crazy, but I fail to see the victory.

Maybe I just have the post-battle blues…

voice identified as Maria Acevedo

Maria: “I’d say you probably do. Mind if I sit? It’s getting a little loud in there and Reyna needs some air.”

“Feel free.”

Maria: “Thanks. So, you blogging right now?”

“Yes.”

Maria: “It’s a good way to get your feelings out there. It can help you sort things out.”

“Maybe.”

Maria: “Ha! From what Tara says, I expected a bit more conversation. By the way, I think she’s hot as well.”

“Uh-uh…you see, what had happened was…”

Maria: “Relax! I’m just yanking your chain and trying to get you to open up a bit. You aren’t the first fan of my wife. I think FastTrack actually cried a little when he found out she wasn’t into guys.”

“Heh. The great thing about fantasy is anything’s possible.”

Maria: “There you go! Here hold Reyna for a bit.”

“I don’t know nothing about holding no babies.”

Maria: “Here hold your arm like this so you support her head. Good. Now just cradle her…good. She’s smiling. She likes you.”

“Or it’s just gas.”

Maria: “Probably. Listen, I want to thank you.”

“For what?”

Maria: “I know she was a victim, and a young girl, but she had been turned into a vampire. If you hadn’t…done what you did, Tara would more than likely have ended up facing her. She would have hurt people, maybe my family. So…thank you.

“You know, if you’re not careful, you might take your wife’s place in my dreams.”

Maria: “Now I know you’ve been out here by yourself too long. Come on back in with everyone.”

sound identified as incoming call

sound identified as sighing

“It’s my agent, Sandy. I should take this. Here’s Reyna.”

Maria: “I’ll wait.”

“Hey, Sandy.”

transcript of call added to record

Sandy: Dee, you about done up there?”

Douzeper: I am done. What’s up?

Sandy: There’s some government guy who won’t tell me who he works with asking about you.

Douzeper: Any idea what he wants?

Sandy: He said it has something to do with Julie, but won’t tell me any details.

third voice identified as Maria Acevedo, added to transcript

Maria: You all right, Douzeper?

Sandy: Who was that?

Douzeper: Maria Acevedo.

Sandy: Boost’s wife? Hey, ask her if she would like new represen…

Douzeper: Focus, Sandy. The agent. Julie. Did it seem urgent?

Sandy: Sorry. Yeah, he seemed really upset when you weren’t here.

Douzeper: I’ll be back later tonight. Did he leave a number?

Sandy: Yeah.

Douzeper: Do me a favor and tell him I’ll meet him at my office tomorrow morning at 10:00.

Sandy: Will do. Later.

Douzeper: Thanks. Bye.

end added transcript

Maria: “Is everything okay?”

“Knowing my life, I doubt it.”

Until next time,

Douzeper