“Oh, hello brother,” Lilith said sweetly. “Nice to see you brought friends. I’ve got two of them inside already.”
“Don’t you dare hurt them.”
“Oh, don’t worry, I have the data I was after. Now I just need one last thing: you.”
“It was part of the deal. Archangel Samael is interested in you. He provides me with some cherubim and the tools to build an army -it’s great; most of them don’t even know what they’re doing- I give him you and the student files.”
“Why would I go with you?”
“Because if you don’t, I’ll kill your new friends,” Adam was silent for a moment, and the gravity of the situation bore down on the others.
“You wouldn’t,” said Adam finally.
“You know I would. You’re not the only one who’s a little defective.”
The light in Adam’s eyes stopped flashing, staying solid red for a few moments before flickering out.
“Fine,” Adam acquiesced bitterly.
Lilith stepped out of the IT department for the first time. She was smaller than the heroes were expecting- about the same height as Adam. She looked far younger than her voice sounded, which was quite disorienting at first. She had gone for a kind of punk look- hair dyed a pale green and shaved on one side, hanging down in a point over one eye. Behind the point of hair, a white light flickered erratically, tinted green by her hair. Her skin was pale by normal standards, though she had far more color than the Cherubim.
“Adam, it’s-” wheezed Plateau from the floor, then cut off, coughing.
” You know, I saw your little trick earlier,” said Lilith. “Running encryption for a couple hundred high-school morons is really annoying. I need to get me some Ophanim.”
Kismet’s fingers twitched as she moved to stop Lilith, saw her plan fail, then aborted it before it could happen. She tried again, with the same results. I can’t hold back both of them and Lilith. Dammit! She cursed mentally. She hated being unable to act.
Lilith strolled casually past Plateau, who was struggling with what appeared to be several broken ribs. The Lilim flanked Adam, escorting him out behind Lilith.
Emily glared down the arm that pinned her to the wall. Beside her, Dame Danger was still struggling vainly to pry the cold, hard fingers away from her throat. She’d recognized the Cherubim immediately- her father had shown her the footage from Japan to show what they’d escaped. She checked the progress of her sigil, flowing down the Cherub’s arm and onto his chest and neck. It didn’t seem to have noticed, fortunately. The moment Lilith stepped out of the IT room, Emily turned her head to Dame Danger.
“Sorry about this,” she said tightly.
Dame Danger’s eyes widened, and then she realized what Emily was going to do and screwed them shut. Emily detonated the sigil.
There was a sound like a plate shattering and the Cherub’s right arm exploded into shards of its nigh-indestructible ceramic, splattering Emily and Dame Danger with blue coolant fluid. Emily was unhurt by the shrapnel, but Dame Danger was hit by a few shards. Beneath the outer shell was a complicated mechanical core, filled with black carbon-fiber muscles which steamed as the remaining coolant evaporated with a powerful, chemical stench.
The Cherub leapt back, dropping Dame Danger to the floor in the process. She fell to her knees and picked up her PEPS. It was broken, the case cracked, the lenses misaligned, but it looked like it would still work. In theory. She aimed, not that it would matter much, pulled the trigger.
The weapon didn’t react at all how she expected. Instead of the quick burst of laser generated, magnetically accelerated charged plasma, the laser pulsed directly through the coil, completely unfocused. Dame Danger discovered much later exactly what caused the spectacular results- a cracked focusing lens, a misaligned laser diode, a broken pulse timer, and a shorted-out flow limiter worked together to create something she would spend quite some time trying to replicate, and eventually became what would be known as a plasma lance, though the name was misleading.
A hair-thin beam of light shone from the aperture on the device, crackling as dust intersected it. After a moment, it swelled with energy. A *boom* tore out from the aperture, splitting the air as a bolt of energy, white hot like lightning streaked across the room, earthing itself in the less damaged side of the Cherub. The beam punched through the Cherub, carbon fibers snapping and titanium-carbon-ceramic bones melting into very expensive slag. Emily shaded her eyes, but Dame Danger just stared as the beam of plasma continued to flow from the device in her hands. She turned it, slicing through the Cherub. The Cherub toppled, collapsing into a heap of scrap. The beam from Dame Dangers’ device died, leaving it smoking.
“How the hell did it do that?”
“It wasn’t supposed to?” asked Emily.
The plasma lance caught fire suddenly, and Dame Danger dropped it with a surprised squeak.
“No! Crap! I wanted to find out how it did that.”
She sighed disconsolately watched as it burned out, spitting sparks and foul smoke.
Legion and Jet rushed to the glass in time to see the helicopter starting to take off, filling the senior courtyard with buffeting winds. Jet ran down the hall to the door and pushed roughly through it against the wind. The sound of helicopter’s rotors filled his ears, deafening in the enclosed courtyard. Jet looked up at the helicopter, gauging the distance. He glanced back at Kismet helping Plateau up inside the building. She noticed him, and clapped her hands over her ears, urging Plateau to do likewise. Once the others were safe, he jumped.
The plexiglass windows flexed outward as air rushed to fill the space Jet had just vacated, and burst inward as the pressure wave crashed through them. Kismet swayed, and barely avoided overbalancing and tipping Plateau back onto the floor. Dame Danger and Emily rushed out and watched as Jet clung to the underside of the helicopter. The helicopter jerked upwards as the gust of wind from Jet’s passage hit it.
SHIT SHIT SHIT I did NOT think this through! screamed Jet mentally as he clutched the runners with white-knuckled hands. It was much harder to hold on than he expected- the downdraft from the rotors pushed him downward, and the vibrating runners numbed his fingers rapidly. His mental tirade continued, but he forced himself to move. Wind rushed past him as he clambered around the bottom of the helicopter, reached up and yanked open the door.
Jet belatedly realized he didn’t actually have a plan when he pulled himself inside to see two enormous men flanking a passive looking Adam. They both glare straight at Jet, who took the opportunity to panic.
There was a flicker of red from the corner of Adam’s eye and he stood, then another flash. The LED came back on and stayed on, and Adam suddenly looked very, very angry. The two men moved to stop him, but Adam was already in motion.
There was a horrendous tearing sound as Adam ripped the pilot’s chair out from the floor and threw it into the two Cherubim, Lilith still attached. The helicopter lurched as Lilith was jerked away from the controls, causing Jet to lose his balance and almost fell out through the still-open door. He caught the edge of the door and clung to it. Lilith untangled herself from the wrecked chair and stood facing Adam.
“Ah, there we are,” said Lilith. “I’d wondered when you’d lose. I must say, you held on longer than I ever could.”
Adam didn’t respond, just dived at Lilith. She ducked low as he dashed forward and caught him by the legs, flipping him around to crash headlong into the rear bulkhead. The helicopter tipped precariously, throwing Jet back into the helicopter. He stumbled towards the now unmanned controls, hoping to maybe take control.
Lilith looked at the two Cherubim, which were still sprawled on the floor. “I guess that’s what I get for having the defective ones,” she muttered, then looked to Adam. “If only Eve could see you now,” she said mockingly. “Father would be proud.” The light from the eye hidden by her hair flickered like the light on a modem.
“He wasn’t my father,” growled Adam. “He was insane.”
“No more mad than you or I, though I will give you that one. Who in their right mind goes around calling himself Dr. Destructo?” She paused. “Then again, it does seem like megalomania runs in the family.”
Jet stared down at the controls. There was one joystick between where the pilot’s knees world be, a lever by the side, and a set of pedals on the floor, along with numerous gagues. Their use was far beyond him, but a joystick was a joystick, and he wagered they all worked pretty much the same. He crouched where the chair had once been connected to the floor and grabbed the controls. He ignored the continued crashing sounds behind him and gently pulled the lever back. Nothing happened at first, but after a few moments the world lurched as the helicopter started ascending.
Enormous hands grabbed Jet roughly from behind, tearing him away from the controls. He struggled to reach the controls to send them downward instead of up, but he couldn’t. In a last-ditch effort, he kicked the joystick sideways.
The world tilted dangerously towards the door, but the Cherubim maintained its iron grip. It hauled Jet around to face Adam.
“Okay, now how about you give up?” said a visibly battered Lilith. “Or I’ll crush this chump.” She brightened a bit. “You know, I could really get used to this whole hostage-taking thing.”
Adam’s eyes flicked around rapidly, the red light shining. “I don’t think so,” he said, and leapt down and out the open door. Jet wasn’t sure if Adam could survive the fall, but he didn’t really want to find out.
“Aw maaan,” complained Lilith, then turned to Jet. “You-“
Jet had no intention of sticking around. Jet took a breath, and used his power. The sound of the helicopter rotors cut out and the world shifted into extreme detail as Jet’s senses adjusted to his velocity. The Cherubim let go immediately, so Jet shot through the open door. Once in the open air, Jet released his power, coming immediately to a stop. He spotted Adam in the air below and before his reaction time could slow back down, lunged towards him, closing the distance in a heartbeat. Adam spun, buffeted by the winds of Jet’s passage, but Jet managed to grab him around the waist. He used his power to cover the remaining distance to the ground and was surprised at how slow he seemed to move. When he reached the ground and dropped out of speed, he dropped Adam and flopped ungracefully to the ground, suddenly realizing that he’d never taken someone with him before. He laughed as the adrenaline high started receding.
“Holy shit. Never doing that again,” Jet said. Adam looked over at him from where he was lying.
“Sorry you had to, and thanks; that landing would have hurt,” said Adam.
Above them, the helicopter shimmered and faded from sight.
“No shit, an invisible helicopter?” came Legion’s voice. He was standing nearby in the courtyard- he’d come out to watch the helicopter.
“I guess that explains how they got in,” wheezed Plateau, supported by Kismet. The two entered the courtyard followed closely by Emily and Dame Danger.
“What happened to you?” Asked Legion.
“Broke a few ribs when the Lilim threw Adam at me, speaking of which,” Plateau fixed his gaze on Adam.
“You need to hack some chipheads, and then you have some explaining to do.”
As per tradition, the team watched the news coverage of the day in the lounge after while the debriefings were going on.
“A hostage situation at Davis Academy was resolved today only by the intervention of local youth hero team, ‘Wardens of Tomorrow.’ The perpetrators were members of a group called ‘Chipheads,’ who had been provided illegal implants and weapons by an undisclosed source. We have one of them with us now. Tell me, how did you get recruited?”
A blur appeared on the screen, pixelated for anonymity, and a distorted voice spoke, “I wasn’t doing too well in school, and one of my friends, well, someone I knew, said they could help, said they had a thing that would let me just… know stuff. I thought it sounded like cheating at first, but it was uhh… too good to pass up, at least that’s what I thought at the time.”
“And did you participate in the event at the school? Don’t worry, we’ll protect your anonymity.”
“God, it’s not like we don’t know who they all are,” commented Kismet, most of her costume tied across her waist. She waved a hand dismissively at the news anchor on the large flat-screen TV. “It’s pretty obvious who it is when one of the students suddenly just vanishes.”
“Yeah, but they wouldn’t want whoever’s behind it to find out they blabbed to a news station,” explained Emily. “Stuff like this always has fallout.”
“He’s sorry?” snorted Kismet. “You can’t just get off with an apology.”
“Well, I guess I kinda did,” answered the anonymous figure nervously. “I’m really sorry, I don’t know why I went along with the rest. It really seemed like a good idea at the time. I dunno what came over me. Looking back at it… I don’t even…”
“This sounds disturbingly similar to the reports coming out of Japan in the weeks before Metatron ‘s coup,” interrupted the news anchor, aware her guest was trailing off. “Do you think you may have been influenced somehow by the implants you were given?”
“Damn, that’s just what we need,” said Emily. “Lilith had Cherubim with her, so I bet they had Metatech, somehow.”
“She mentioned someone called Archangel Samael, too,” added Kismet.
“She did?” Emily exclaimed. “Shit! If there’s an archangel here…”
“Yeah, Metatron getting a foothold in the US is not good news,” said Jet.
“You know, the catholic church must really hate Metatron,” remarked Kismet. “She totally co-opted all their coolest stuff.”
“God, I hope… I hope I wasn’t, but at the same time hope I was you know? Either I did that stuff myself, or I um, got royally mind[bleep]ed. Neither possibility is all that great.”
There was a sharp intake of breath from Adam, who had been silent to this point.
“You okay?” Kismet asked him.
“No, I’m fine,” said Adam, but the LED in his eye was flashing orange, betraying his actual feelings.
“Thank you very much, and that’s all the time we have. I’m being told now that the money collected by the chipheads in ransoms has not been returned, which begs the question, who has it now?”
The door to the debriefing room opened and Dame Danger exited.
“Adam, you’re next,” she said as she sat down on the couch.
Adam stood from his place on the floor and entered the room nervously. Jamisson was seated on the opposite side of a table from an empty chair, which Jamisson motioned for Adam to sit in.
“So Adam. Since this is your first official debriefing, I’ll explain how this works.” Jamison leaned forward a bit, resting his elbows on the table. “The others already told me everything that happened, and as the newest member you go last. There are still a few gaps, so just answer my questions as well as you are able. You have the right to remain silent, but do not lie to me. Understand?” Adam nodded silently. “Okay, just wanted to get that out of the way. Now, first question: Who is Lilith?”