Alvin stopped in his tracks as a glowing ball of light appeared in the air in front of him. Blinking twice, he switched to ultrasonic imaging to discover that it was just a trick of the eyes- it vanished as soon as he changed vision modes. He twitched his fingers, making himself a reminder to get his eyes calibrated. Moments later, he was focused on his task once more. He had been sent to check out why some of the chipheads had dropped off the mesh suddenly.
So he wasn’t paying attention when he walked straight into the ball of atmospheric plasma, which discharged its energy with a ‘snap!’ His eyes and ears filled with white noise as the electromagnetic pulse knocked out his implants, and his muscles clenched at the surge of current.
“Yes!” Exclaimed Dame Danger from her vantage point around the corner as the chiphead flopped gracelessly to the floor.
“Holy hell, you were right. He just walked right into it,” said Emily, disbelievingly.
“What’d I tell you?”
“Something really sciency about electromagnetism and lasers. Did you expect me to understand all that?”
Dame Danger sighed at Emily’s ignorance. Emily walked around the corner and started laying down sigils, drawing them on the white floor tiles with her toes.
“You know the PEPS?”
“The stun-gun thing? Yeah.”
“It’s based off of that, except then it locks the plasma ball in a second, charged layer that stops it from dispersing immediately.”
Dame Danger pressed the button on the metal box she was holding, creating another ball of light in the air. Emily glanced over at it for a moment before returning to trapping the corridor.
“So, like plasma mines or something?” She asked.
“Kinda, yeah. I think if I changed the frequency I could probably create an impermeable plasma. Or a fire beam, if I tuned it to the bonds in water.” Dame Danger sounded thoughtful.
“Impermeable plasma- wait, like a force field?”
“Yeah, you could say that, but a little less controlled. My experiments got up to a couple hundred degrees in just a few seconds, or just exploded.” Dame Danger shrugged. That was nothing new for her. Her prototypes tended to blow up in her face a lot- she was reasonably sure her eyebrows were actually fireproof by now. Some tinkers didn’t have to sleep, She got stuck with fireproof hair.
“That could still be useful,” rebutted Emily. She finished up the runes she was drawing and started heading back down the hall. “Well, I guess I know what your specialty is,” she commented offhandedly.
Dame Danger nearly exploded. “WHAT?”
Emily jumped at the sudden outburst, surprised. “You don’t know?”
“No! What is it?”
“Plasma- isn’t it obvious?” Emily paused when she realized that it clearly was not obvious to the other girl. “Everything you’ve made uses some kind of plasma.”
“But Guardian Angel’s sword-“
“Fire is a plasma,” Emily cut Dame Danger off.
“The power armor…” Dame Danger trailed off, thoughtful.
“You have power armor? I’ve never seen it.”
“Yeah. I could never get it to work correctly… Oh my god, you’re right. “
“Now come on, let’s booby-trap this hall and get back with the rest.”
“The rest” were making their way down the hall leading in the general direction of the IT department, where all the servers were located.
“To keep their encryption compatible, they have to have a centralized source for the scrambling. If we can find whoever that is and neutralize them, I could take over the signal and overload every chiphead in the school.” Adam said with growing confidence as he realized that the rest of the group was actually listening to him.
“So great, we just fight our way through?” Asked Legion shakily. Jet looked at him, concerned. Legion was normally pale, but not quite as pale as he was now. He had insisted he was fine, but Jet had his doubts.
“Or we could be stealthy,” said Plateau. “We know they can communicate with one another. If we take more out, they’ll know someone’s coming for them, or one of them could warn the others. We won’t have the element of surprise for long.”
“Yeah, but that’s no fun,” said Kismet sarcastically. Plateau noticed she was having trouble adjusting to her costumed persona in such a familiar environment. He didn’t know which was the real her, and he wasn’t sure she did either.
“And besides, shouldn’t we try to rescue some of the hostages?” Asked Jet, siding with Legion after a moment of thought.
“No, Plateau’s right,” said Adam tentatively. “If we do this stealthily we could take them all out at once and find their leader. This is the best way to rescue the students. Otherwise, we would have to neutralize them one at a time.”
Kismet grunted and pressed hand to her forehead, massaging her temples. “Fucking a-”
Plateau spun and faced Kismet. “What the hell has gotten into you, Kismet? You do not talk to a teammate that-“
“None of your business,” said Kismet immediately.
“You have a right to be as angry as you want, but as soon as you start taking it out on your teammates it becomes my business.” Plateau didn’t seem angry, more like he was trying to be authoritative.
“I’m not angry!” She snarled, sounding as though she most definitely was. “It’s this fucking headache, and my power’s not even working right now. It’s been so sporadic since the thing with the Upright guy, I don’t have any time to think about what I’m going to say before I’m caught up-“
“-Think I’m gonna puke,” said Legion behind her, and she abruptly twisted around and delivered a devastatingly precise side-kick to Legion’s neck, snapping it with a sickening ‘crunch.’ Legion split into two copies, one collapsing to the floor and scattering into dust, the other stumbling to the side and letting the first copy take the hit.
Plateau jumped into action almost immediately. He extruded his carbon-fiber sphere into a bo staff, with which he whirled around and planted a blow to the side of Kismet’s head. He lengthened the staff as he swung to add mass to the blow.
“What the hell?” Exclaimed Jet, leaping back and almost tripped over Adam in his haste.
“Not again,” hissed Plateau through gritted teeth as he pressed Kismet against the lockers with the staff held in two hands.
Legion stumbled back to his feet, less pale than before, assisted by Jet.
Kismet’s eyes cleared, and she spoke, “What’d I miss?”
“I swear they went this way,” said Dame Danger crossly, gesturing down a hallway almost identical to the rest they’d been down. Emily laughed, prompting a glare from Dame Danger.
“Oh god, I just realized how dumb this is. They sent the freshman and the new student out together.”
Dame Danger groaned. “How did we not realize that?”
“Hey, it’s cool, let’s just call them or something. You’ve got your thing, right?”
Dame Danger didn’t respond as she extracted her communicator from one of her packs. The communicator was indistinguishable from a regular smartphone, though noticeably heavier due to the ultra-high-density circuitry and the armor in the case.
Dame Danger swiped her thumb across the screen, letting it read her fingerprints and biometrics, and opened up the “team tracker” function.
“Great,” she muttered when the other team member’s locations appeared on the screen. She looked up at Emily and said, “Naturally it doesn’t have a map of the school.”
“Just call them and ask,” said Emily, trying not to laugh again.
“Right,” said Dame Danger sheepishly. “Doing that now.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I missed a few seconds when my power came back on,” said Kismet.
“I don’t want to have to fight you, Kismet. What the fuck was that?” Growled Plateau as he pressed Kismet back against the lockers with his staff.
“I what? Jesus, Legion, you okay?” Kismet sounded shocked.
“You attacked Legion. If it had been any other of us, we would be-,” Plateau pressed harder on the staff, unconsciously.
“Good.” Said Kismet, breathing a sigh of relief, then seeing the reactions added, “Sorry, still playing catch up, dialing it in.”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” said Legion from where he leaned on Jet.
“Christ, I am so sorry. I have no idea what happened. Am I caught up now?” Jet gave her a thumbs-up. “Good.”
“Maybe it was mind-control,” suggested Jet, watching Kismet cautiously.
“No such thing. No one has ever manifested anything like that,” said Plateau, reciting the fact drilled into the public’s mind.
“That’s not true,” said Adam, then stopped when the others looked at him.
“It’s not?” Plateau was surprised.
“N- no. According to Tipping Point, a villain from Redlake called ‘Commandant’ could control the actions of people who were under the influence of some stimulants, including Pils. He used to work with Opiate, before Blackwell recruited her. He’s in the Bastille now for mass assault with metahuman abilities and extremely controlled substance trafficking.”
“Wow, I’m glad he never worked with Maeve,” commented Kismet, looking past Plateau at Adam and raising her eyebrows behind her mask.
“The same group had another member who could influence people’s actions and emotions with his voice, though that might just be endocrine manipulation. Plus, there are a few Nightmares, like Shiver, for example, who have similar abilities.” Adam’s eyes flicked back and forth as he spoke, as if reading off a page.
“How do you know all this?” wondered Legion aloud.
“Internet connection,” Adam tapped his head. “I have it set to the same band as your comms so I can use your proxies and encryption. It’s a lot easier when I don’t have to do that myself.”
Kismet’s communicator buzzed.
“It’s Dame Danger,” said Adam.
“You mind if I get that?” Kismet asked Plateau.
Plateau hesitated, then said “I’ll give you the benefit of doubt, but if you try anything, I will make it my mission to take you down myself, and damn the consequences. Understand?” She nodded, and Plateau stepped back after one last glare, releasing her.
“Everyone watch each other. Whoever is behind this does not hold back,” said Plateau to the others. “If we’re dealing with some kind of mind-control power, every situation becomes far more dangerous.” Plateau didn’t add his growing doubt that he may have killed Phenomena for no reason. He had managed it well, blocked out some key pieces of information, but now the possibilities were open.
Kismet reached into a pocket and answered the call.
“Sup, Danger? Yeah, hold on.” She spoke to Plateau, “It’s double D, says they got lost and you wouldn’t pick up.”
“See?” said Adam quietly. Jet nodded appreciatively.
“Add me,” directed Plateau as he too pulled out his communicator.
“Where are you guys? We’re in C wing and you aren’t here,” came Dame Danger’s voice when Plateau joined the call.
“What floor are you on?” He asked.
“First floor. We’re near C128.”
“The numbers in C wing are weird. First floor is 0, second floor is 1, and there aren’t any windows in the halls, so people get lost there all the time. Find a staircase and get down here.”
“Right, sorry. I-“
“Hey!” A faint voice cut Dame Danger off.
“Shit! We’ve been spotted.”
The call disconnected with a ‘beep.’