Darkness fell upon the sky above a lonely bridge. Stars twinkled against the cloudless night, unabated by city lights this far away from civilization. Frogs in a nearby pond chirped at the crescent moon, while crickets sang their own song. There was even an owl somewhere far away, its hoot just barely audible. By all definitions, it was a nice night. Perfect for a sting.
She pressed herself up against a tree, back to the bridge. She looked left, and then right to get a feel for her surroundings, for what little good it did. Night vision wasn't her specialty. She leaned around the tree to get a good look at the bridge. Faint flashlights were visible, as was the light inside the open back of an SUV, but most of the scene was obscured by the vehicle. She would've liked to approach from the opposite side, but there had been no intel about the targets' positioning prior to arrival. This would have to do. She'd worked with far worse before.
Idly, she adjusted her clothing. So much jostling against the tree trunk had misaligned her hood. It was standard blue in color, and had an attached mask which covered up her forehead, eyes, and nose. Yellow lenses obscured her irises. Also unusual were the four rings she wore, one on each index and middle finger. A single metal composed each ring; tungsten and iron on the left, gold and titanium on the right. The rest of her outfit was a t-shirt striped horizontally in blue and white, denim overalls, and white sneakers.
With a sigh, she returned to a neutral position staring out into the little forest section. Her back rested against the trunk with perhaps more weight than necessary. Waiting like this wasn't so bad, especially if it were necessary for her work, but that didn't make it any less boring. Serendipitous it was, then, for a distraction to come her way.
"In position, Alloy," whispered a teenage boy's voice through the device in her ear.
"Copy, Flashbang," she emphasized his name to point out the superfluous use of her own. "What do you see?"
"The deal is definitely in progress. There are four gunmen in total, three men and a woman, assault rifles and sidearms."
"Well, it is a weapons deal. Makes sense they'd be well armed."
"That's not all. Three of the gunmen are on your side of the vehicle watching the forest. The fourth is talking with someone I'm assuming is a Neo."
"What makes you say that? Is he using his powers?" Allow leaned around her tree to get a better look, and was reminded that she still couldn't see very well.
"No, but he looks the part. Purple spandex, a white top hat, one of those stupid short capes to match."
"Oh, he's one of those." Alloy rolled her eyes. "Any read on his powers?"
"No idea. He's just talking right now. He... kinda looks like a magician?" Flashbang didn't sound to sure of himself.
"That doesn't really narrow it down. I don't like the idea of moving in against an unknown Neo."
"Neither do I, but we can't let this deal go down, either."
"What's the plan, then?"
"Okay." Alloy collected his thoughts for a second. "You go stealth and start moving up. I'll bull rush the three gunmen to get their attention. Once they move to to engage me, take out the Neo. Do not try to deal with the others. I can handle them."
"Sounds good," Flashbang said. "I'm moving out."
"Me too." Alloy slipped from behind her tree and started toward the SUV.
Her first few steps were at a normal walking pace. She took a deep breath, and broke into a full run. The foliage around here was rather thin, giving her a mostly straight shot at the scene. As she rapidly approached, the shapes of three distinct shadows matted against the backlighting became clearer to her. They most certainly held guns at relaxed positions. The one on the far right was notably shorter than the others.
The darkness of night covered her approach visually, but did nothing to mask the sound of her feet smashing through the brush. The shadows reacted to her all at roughly the same time. The two on the ends both raised their weapons, while the one in the middle just seemed mildly interested. The leftmost shadow took a few steps forward.
"Who's out there?" He shouted, demanding.
He got his answer when Alloy finally came close enough for the lights to reflect off her. He shouted to his comrades, who all pointed their guns at her. In the same instant, Alloy activated her power. The iron ring on her left index finger glowed briefly emerald green. She smirked and began counting down from thirty.
The gunmen opened fire, fully automatic bursts from a trio of weapons. Their bullets hit true, but instead of coming into contact with Alloy, the projectiles stopped a hair's breadth above her skin. Each impact caused a green shimmer to ripple out from the point of impact. The metal smoothed and splintered against the shimmering. All the while, Alloy remained unharmed.
Seeing their attacks do nothing, the gunmen ceased firing. Alloy took advantage of their lapse in attack. She shoulder checked the leftmost shooter. He was ripped of his feet and collided with the vehicle behind him with enough force to put it up on two wheels for a second. It came back down with quite the ruckus, and the man fell to his hands and knees.
In that time, Alloy was already moving down the line. The second gunman, the one who had been in the middle, pointed his weapon at her. She grabbed it just behind the front sight post and ripped it from his hands. It landed somewhere in the forest. While he watched it go, Alloy grabbed him behind his bald head and slammed his face through one of the SUV's back windows. It exploded in a shower of safety glass and blood droplets. His hands flew to his face in a desperate attempt to keep his nose together. Alloy grabbed the back of his windbreaker, spun around, and tossed him toward the trees. He flew for several feet before audibly colliding with a heavy trunk somewhere out of view.
The woman pulled her trigger. A few shots skittered harmlessly off of Alloy's aura, producing more verdant ripples. Shrapnel from a destroyed bullet bounced back and grazed the woman's cheek. She covered the wound just as Alloy closed on her. With one hand, Alloy forced the gun's muzzle toward the sky. The other delivered an open palm strike to the woman's sternum. She relinquished the weapon to her attacker and stumbled back a few steps before falling onto her rump. Alloy crimped the barrel with a quick squeeze and tossed the gun away.
At this point, the first gunman to fall had recovered. Still on one knee, he drew his pistol and opened fire. The bullets did nothing as they failed to penetrate Alloy's back. She craned her neck around to look at him. Turning around to engage may cause some of his shots to miss, and potentially hit the woman she'd just disarmed. So, instead, she leapt straight backward. She collided spine-first with her attacker. The impact sent him sprawling spread eagle on the ground. Alloy whirled on him and delivered a single punch to his cranium. It was a fraction of a percent of her power, but still knocked him out cold.
The forth and final gunman rounded the front of the car to at last join the fight. As he did, Alloy felt the strength leave her bones. The man pointed his rifle. Alloy had to act quickly. She channeled her power into the titanium ring on her right middle finger. The world slammed into focus as she became acutely aware of every minute movement around her.
The shooter began to squeeze his trigger. Before he could, Alloy dashed in and grabbed the barrel of his gun, forcing it off line, toward the SUV. He fired off a single shot. It rattled in her hand, but Alloy kept her grip. She delivered a quick punch to his elbow. The joint hyper extended and his fingers loosened. Alloy tore the gun away and gave him a kidney punch with her free hand. She thrust her newly acquired weapon at him, jabbing him in the stomach with the butt end of it. Alloy punched him in the face, then smacked him across the temple with the gun. While he reeled, Alloy threw it as far into the woods as she could, which was still a considerable distance even without her super strength.
The freshly recovered female guard charged up behind her with all the delicacy of a rhino. Even without her temporarily enhanced reflexes, Alloy still would've seen the attack coming from a mile away. She stepped back and let the woman sail past, taking note of the slender knife in her hand.
The woman twirled around with a big, broad slash. Alloy stepped back. The blade missed her nose by an inch. It was an impressive attack, given how much taller she was than the knife wielder. Not a surprise, though. She was tall for her gender.
The criminal stabbed low with her knife. Alloy faded back, away from it. A second thrust came her way. This time, she stepped forward, deflecting her opponent's wrist with the back of her hand. Now within her guard, Alloy ducked and administered a pair of body shots. She straightened, utilizing the motion to add strength to a right uppercut. The woman stepped back, which put her into the perfect range for Alloy to place a push kick into her small intestine.
The woman lost her balance and flailed her arms as she faltered backward. She came to rest against the SUV. Alloy closed the distance with a flying superman punch. The back of the woman's head smacked against the driver's side window as the punch pushed it back. Alloy followed up with a vicious left hook.
Before she could follow up, the fourth gunman was back on his feet. He ran at her in an attempt to tackle. Alloy crouched down into a little ball, hugging knees to her chest. The gunman careened into her shrunken form. He tumbled over her back and landed face first into the dirt, where he skidded for a few inches.
The moment was quick, but gave the female assailant ample time to retaliate. She lashed out with a vicious kick. Her shin made contact with Alloy's face. Alloy was forced to her feet, amazed her nose hadn't broken. The woman followed up with a wild haymaker that caught Alloy on the cheek. She thew a second big punch, but Alloy caught it on her wrist well before it made contact. The heroine countered with a swift uppercut, followed by a short jab.
The world blurred back to its normal bluntness. Her reflexes slowed as the power faded.
But there was no time to let up. Alloy kicked the woman in the side of her knee. She hunched just slightly as the joint bent at an awkward angle. Alloy drew her arm back and threw a tremendous overhand punch. Her fist made contact with the enemy's ear. The criminal went down and, though she writhed in dazed pain, did not get back up.
Alloy channeled into her iron ring. In an instant, she felt as though she could lift a house.
There was still one opponent to deal with, the final gunman to join the fray. He had managed to roll onto his back and was trying to stand back up. Alloy closed on him. She crouched down low, placing her hands in his armpits. She rose up to lift him off the ground.
"No, wait—" plead the criminal.
Alloy wouldn't listen. Using her entire body for momentum, she slammed his back into the ground. He didn't even have time to feel pain before losing consciousness.
She straightened up and took a deep breath. The criminals were all either out cold or too hurt to get back up. She reached into a pocket inside her overalls to grasp a bunch of stasis cuffs. They probably wouldn't be getting up any time soon, but might as well be thorough. She never even managed to get the cuffs out before a surprised shout cut her off.
Alloy whipped her head around just in time to see Flashbang fly through the air. Some dark, unnatural force gripped at his chest, obscuring the armored matte black bodysuit he wore. He slammed back-first into the concrete slope underneath the bridge, where the dark force held him aloft. He tried to push himself away to no avail. The two of them locked eyes for a moment. Or, at least, they would have, had his not been obscured by his power. In that moment, Alloy knew there was no time to waste. Her teammate needed her help.
Using super strength, Alloy leapt over the SUV and pushed off it with enough force to dent the roof. The Neo that Flashbang described had his hand held out. The same dark stuff which held her friend enveloped it. He wore an annoyed look on his face.
While Alloy's attack was certainly aggressive, it left something to be desired in subtlety. The Neo turned his head to look at her as she hurtled toward him. He held up his free left hand. Alloy stopped in midair so suddenly her head and limbs continued on forward until they reached their painful limit. She looked down. That weird dark energy clung to her torso. It swirled like waves in a breeze and felt slightly cool through her clothes.
She gazed at the Neo. He gave her a sneer before swiftly moving his hand in front of him, crossing it over the other. Alloy was flung in the same direction his hand moved. She turned over once in the air before slamming upside-down against the concrete a few feet away from Flashbang. She hit much harder than he had. If not for her super defense, the impact definitely would've broken a few bones.
Only her chest was bound. Alloy grabbed at the energy holding her up. Her hand passed right through it as if it weren't even there. Whatever this stuff was, it had no corporeal presence. Yet, it still held her up. She could ponder the physical implications of that later.
Since she couldn't move the troublesome substance, the only other option was to move herself. She brought both her hands up and then slammed them down to her sides. Her fingers dug into the concrete. Tiny fissures formed around the holes. She bent her elbows and raised her shoulders in an attempt to worm her way down the man-made wall. Her muscles tensed, straining against the force which kept her aloft. The concrete under her palms gave way, leaving her with nothing but two handfuls of the stuff. She could probably manage to move herself eventually, but not against such a flimsy surface.
The strength left her body. The dark mass felt like a lead weight on her chest.
Alloy looked over at Flashbang. He seemed to have figured out that he can't touch the energy, because his efforts to escape were focused solely at scrabbling against the wall. Even without her super strength she was the stronger of the two, so he really had no hope of moving himself. His struggling did give her an idea, though. Neither of them had their arms restrained. Maybe there was a reason for that.
Alloy channeled into the gold ring on her left index finger. A wave of heat pumped through her body with all the force of a baseball pinch hitter. Rather than painful, it felt good, like she could take on the world.
Emerald green energy coated her left hand, with the ring as a focal point. She cast out her hand, and the energy shot from it. The amorphous bolt retained its shape as it flew, though it was little more than an undulating mass. The projectile struck the enemy Neo square in the chest.
The air was forced from his lungs. He bent over and took a single step back. After a quick breath, he punched his open left hand forward. Alloy was slammed further into the concrete. A pained grunt escaped her lips. She could feel the dark mass crushing her, now, as it pushed her back against the unyielding wall. It threatened to break her ribs.
Green encased her left hand again, and she fired another shot at the Neo. This one took him in the shoulder. He stumbled again, then looked upon her with hatred in his blue eyes. He clenched his right hand into a fist. The dark energy around it dissipated. So, too, did the force holding Flashbang aloft. He dropped the ground on his hands and knees. He activated his power and vanished into thin air.
Alloy smiled before dark energy took her left hand to pin it fully outstretched against the wall. She couldn't help but rejoice through the pain of her fingers on the brink of cracking. It was just as she thought; this Neo was rather weak. He could only manipulate small areas.
She did her best to move her left hand around. The motions were small, but kept her joints from grinding together too much. It was getting hard to breathe. If this went on any further, she'd definitely walk away with a broken rib. Or worse, a collapsed lung. She'd had both before, but really hated the idea of dealing with either again.
A deep breath in, and then out. That was the important part. If she could breathe, she could fight. Alloy bent her knees and pushed up against the wall, a vain attempt to reposition. The dark energy's clench was absolute. In, and then out. The Neo tightened his hold on her hand. Alloy gasped, wincing at the pain. She was forced into making a fist, one that compressed her thumb in an awkward angle between her palm and the bridge. Much further, and it would surely dislocate, if not snap entirely.
Flashbang reappeared behind the Neo. Without a sound, the teenager put a hand over each of the Neo's eyes. Several flashes of impossibly bright light burst in rapid succession, straight into the would-be magician's pupils. The Neo cried out in surprise and pain. He tossed his arms out behind him, caring not for form nor function. Darkness took Flashbang's chest and thighs and he shot backward, landing somewhere in the woods, but his goal had been achieved. Alloy dropped, no longer effected by the enemy. She twisted around landed on her feet with a deep bend of her knees.
The moment she recovered, Alloy bolted. She ran full bore, straight at the Neo. He was doubled over, rubbing his eyes with a strained expression. Good. All the easier to take him out, then.
Halfway there, Alloy felt the heat leave her body. She wasted zero time in channeling through her iron ring. Strength coursed through her veins.
The distance between them closed. Alloy bent down and grabbed the Neo by the throat. She heaved him up to a full extension of her arm, and slammed him back down. His only reaction was to give a painful wheeze. Unseeing eyes darted around in a vain attempt to figure out what just happened to him. He wouldn't get the chance. Alloy produced a stasis cuff from her overalls and slipped it around his wrist. A red pulse outlined his nervous system. A second later, his arms snapped to his sides and his boots clacked together. Only his eyes were allowed to move, not that they did him any good. He was well and truly restrained.
Alloy stood up and looked around. The Neo was down, and none of the other thugs had gotten up that she could tell. Everything was secure. She peered off into the sparse woods trying to spot her teammate, though she couldn't see much beyond the light around the SUV. She pressed her communication device a bit deeper into her ear before speaking.
"Are you alright, Flashbang?" She gave him a second to respond. He didn't. "Flashbang?" Again, nothing. Panic set in. She took a step toward where he'd disappeared. "Hey, F.B, are you—"
"Yeah," Flashbang's voice cut her off. "Yeah, sorry, I'm here. Had to peel myself off a tree."
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm good."
"Good." Alloy breathed a mental sigh of relief. "I'm gonna restrain the guys around the car. I threw one of them into the woods. Could you go look for him?"
"Sure, I'll find him."
"Thanks." Alloy began walking around the back of the SUV. "I'd do it myself, but I can't see in the dark."
"I got it, no problem."
Alloy rounded the vehicle and took a few seconds to survey the destruction she'd wrought. With a broken window and caved in door, it would need a fair amount of work before whatever company repossessed it could make it into a successful auction sale.
The three mooks she'd disabled were still on the ground, two of whom were unconscious while the only woman amongst them gave little motions every now and then. Alloy sighed. These three could've joined the military, or something, and actually contributed to society. Instead, they chose lives of crime. Such wasted potential.
Alloy strode forward, extracting three more stasis cuffs as she went. The last enemy to join the fray was the first to be restrained. Kinda poetic, that. The heroine slipped the device onto his wrist. His nervous system flashed, and his body went stiff.
Next she moved on to the woman, who was currently laying on her front more or less like she'd left her. This one was still awake, so Alloy was extra careful as she stood above her.
"Try not to move. It'll hurt if you struggle." Alloy took the woman's wrist in a gentle grasp.
"Don't touch me, bitch!" The woman thrashed her arm about. Alloy allowed her grip to be broken. She could've tightened her grasp, but that risked hurting her charge more than she already had been. No need to be unnecessarily cruel.
"I'm sorry things turned out like this, but—"
"No you're not," the woman cut Alloy off. "You get off on this shit, just like every other freak in a mask."
Alloy kept her tone even. "I'm only here because I have to be. I don't like fighting."
"Yeah? Bullshit." The woman turned over just enough to look at Alloy with a bruised eye. "No one's forcing you to be here. You love your job, even if you won't admit it."
Alloy sighed. "I know I can't convince you, but I mean what I said."
"Yeah, sure. Whatever you say." The woman faced forward. "Whore."
Alloy rolled her eyes. This wasn't the first time she'd heard something like this, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. The strength left her, and she didn't replace it with anything. This time, when she grabbed the woman's wrist, she was not shaken off. The stasis cuff went on, and the woman went rigid.
Finally, Alloy moved to the first gunman. Though the woman had suffered the worst beating, this guy clearly had the most severe injury. His left collarbone was quite clearly broken. Alloy very carefully laid his arm by his side so the stasis cuff wouldn't exacerbate his wound too badly.
"Hey, Alloy?" Flashbang said in her ear.
"What's up?" She responded while cuffing the gunman. He went rigid.
"I'm sorry things didn't go as planned."
"What do you mean?" Alloy began to walk around to the other side of the SUV.
"I mean, I let that villain get the better of me," Flashbang clarified. "He must've heard me coming up behind him, or something. I fought him off for a little bit, but he got me. Sorry for dropping the ball."
"Don't apologize." Alloy leaned up against the passenger side door. "You kept him busy while I dealt with the others, and then you helped me take him down. That's a win, in my book."
"No buts. The plan mostly worked, and that's good enough for me. You did good today. And on the whole mission, really."
"Okay. Thanks, Rio."
She smiled. "You're welcome. Careful with the name, though."
"It's not like Rio is your real name. Besides, this guy's knocked out. I don't think he heard me."
"You found the guy I threw?"
"Yeah. I've already cuffed him. We're coming back now."
"Alright. Let me know if you need any help."
With a slow breath out, Alloy looked up at the stars. That Neo really threw a monkey wrench into the plan, but it had been an excellent sting, all things considered. It wasn't quite over yet, though. There was still one more thing to do, and it would be a lengthy process.
They'd waited about forty-five minutes, give or take, but probably more on the give side. A cavalcade of tired looking men and some women roamed around the crime scene, bathed in oscillations of red and blue light. Some wore police uniforms, while a few others came dressed in modest suits. The area was more lit up than before, giving Alloy a better view of the forest around her.
Alloy stood off to one side of where most of the activity took place. The police and investigators milled about, doing this or that, all working together to secure the scene in a way both succinct and thorough. She admitted to no envy for their part of the job. It seemed much more complex than what she did. Police and heroes were professionals in their own fields. Though separate, when their work came together, the results were undeniable.
She paid special attention to the officers placing the criminals in the backs of squad cars, just on the off chance something went wrong. They had to be carried, which made actually putting them in the seats a two person job. Still, the stasis was better than regular handcuffs, which presented the possibility of escape.
The white hat wearing Neo had already been put away. Alloy could see the car he'd been placed in. Through the back window she kept an eye on him. He was still motionless, and would remain that way. She was aware that this was mostly paranoia on her part. A dominate part of her felt the job wasn't truly done until the perpetrators had been removed from the scene, a view her teammates mostly shared, though a few were a bit more lax than others.
Flashbang stood in a random patch of grass giving a statement to a detective who diligently scratched notes on a memo pad. The detective shifted his balance from one foot to the other. A second later, he made an unnecessary adjustment to his suit jacket. He was visibly uncomfortable. Flashbang often had that effect on people. Playing with the light to make his face appear as nothing more than a flat expanse of African-American skin was pretty cool, but also disconcerting to look at. It gave villains pause, though, which was a good thing.
Alloy was aware of someone approaching from her right side. She turned and gave a friendly smile. It was someone she recognized, an older woman in a gray suit and brown trench coat that didn't really match. Gray had taken her wavy hair long ago. Square jawed and brown eyed, she was still pretty for her age, and walked in a way that demanded respect.
"Detective Thain," Alloy greeted with a slight incline of her head. "Are you here for a statement?"
"No, I'll make one of my subordinates do that," Denied the detective. "I wanted to thank you, personally, for everything you've done for us."
"It's no problem." Alloy batted the notion away. "We're happy to help in whatever way we can."
"Help is an understatement. When Halberdier got hurt, I expected the worst. You two have been a godsend these past few weeks."
"We're just doing our job."
"The brass tells me this is your last night here."
"That's the plan, yeah. We can always stay longer, if you need us."
"No," Detective Thain shook her head. "Thank you for offering, but we're fine. Halberdier is ready to get back out there."
"Did you talk to him?"
"Not personally, but the higher-ups did. They said he's almost completely healed and eager to resume his duties."
"That's good," Alloy said. "I'll have to follow up with him later. My higher-ups are interested in keeping an open line of communication with him."
"I think that's a good idea," agreed Thain. "He can usually handle things on his own, but it'd be good to have your team to rely on if something big comes up."
"We're happy to assist whenever you need us."
"And the city of Corpus Christi thanks you for your assistance."
"Of course." Alloy nodded.
"I'll find someone to take a statement from you." With that, the detective walked away toward a group of officers apparently discussing some piece of evidence.
Alloy rolled her eyes. She didn't really understand why Detective Thain couldn't just take her statement, but she guessed that was just the chain of command in action.
She shared a glance with Flashbang, who was done speaking with his own detective. She gave him a quick smile, and she assumed he returned the sentiment, even though she couldn't actually see his expression. He had every right to be happy. They both did. It had been a good three weeks of work, of helping a city that needed them. Still, the idea of sleeping in her own bed was quite appealing. She couldn't wait to get home.