"Hercules. John Henry. Artemis. Legendary figures known for their extraordinary abilities. The notion of people possessing powers on par with a god seemed impossible or far fetched. No one could have predicted we'd share our world with such people."
None of the students of Classroom 602 were that enthralled by the effort the announcer of the video was putting into his performance. They were at the ready to jot down notes as soon as their eyes adjusted to the darkness or were sitting back in their seats confident that notes weren't necessary. The latter were either trying to sneakily use their phones or get some shut eye. Part of their confidence stemmed from their faith in the class's best note taker, Mason McGuffy, giving them a copy of his notes. And they were right to make that assumption, as Mason just finished titling his page. Not only was he ready to write, but he was recording it all on his phone for later in case he missed any material that might be on a test.
"If we didn't have the kind of technology that we have now to record all this, there's no way anyone decades from now would believe us. Future generations would see this as just a tall tale. There are days where even I find it hard to believe that this is all real," said the first interviewee.
"Nobody could have been prepared for what was going to happen." An older woman claimed. "I'm not even sure we are ready for it now."
"Join us, as we relive the monumental event in human history that is, The Ignition."
Mason thought it would be wise to write down the event just in case, even though the world was reminded about this incident on daily basis as the day that changed mankind forever.
"March 6th, 20XX. In the United States, preparations in various coastal cities prepared for the wave of tourists celebrating Spring Break."
"I was told I had to go," explained one of the women being interviewed, who looked like she was in her late 40s. The captions below her revealed her name to be Rachel Finch. The name didn't ring any bells but he put her initials in the margins in case she became relevant later. "My roommates told me it was like a rite of passage-"
Mason's phone chimed informing him and the students near him that he received a new text. Mason jumped in his seat when that sounded off and pressed his pencil too hard breaking the lead. In a panic, he reached for his phone and tried turning the volume down as quickly as it would go. It seemed like the teacher hadn't noticed but he couldn't guarantee it just yet. The screen's brightness was set to the minimum setting so he could peek at the text.
Hey M. Heard you guys were watching a movie in class. Can I get a copy of the notes after school? I'll be at the mall after school.
Mason had no problem with helping out a fellow classmate but wished Gary had sent this after class, where Mason was less likely to get in trouble for having his phone out. He only used his phone to record lessons that he could listen to at home, but few teachers were satisfied with that excuse. He quickly typed back an OK to Gary, turned the screen off, and returned his attention to the movie before he could miss any crucial information. Sure, he could look anything he missed in his textbook or look it up online but people relied on his notes. By Mason's logic, if the notes he lends leave out important facts he'd be to blame if his classmates didn't do well.
The narrator transitioned to the next segment of the documentary. Mason frantically erased the huge line tarnished his paper and grabbed a tiny square pencil sharpener no bigger than his thumb from his backpack to fix his pencil.
"… at 2:47 PM, survivors claimed something was amiss." The narrator recited.
"My dad used to tell me that right before it happened, he and his friends heard something. He said it was like a click followed by whirring noise. Like a computer or something powering up and then... and then just…a blinding flash of light."
"At approximately 2:48 PM, five explosions were set off simultaneously at across the world: Miami Beach, Cape Town, Paris, Dhaka, and Harbin." Mason scribbled the names down sensing that could be part of a multiple choice question. "The blast itself did not harm anyone initially and appeared to only disorient the victims, who were unaware that they were being changed on a genetic level."
"As soon as my eyes cleared, I looked around. Everybody was just as confused as I was," recounted a victim being interviewed. "And then somewhere in the crowd just... fired laser beam straight out of his eyes and killed like 12 people. If I had stood a few feet closer, I could have been the thirteenth. That's when people started to panic and…they began changing."
"Betty and I ran as soon as those people got killed," claimed another woman in her early 50's. "I…I lost her for a second and tried to go back for her. That's when I saw her screaming. Her hands were turning into these pincers and the look she gave me…she was so scared. I shouldn't have left her. She was my best friend. I was just so confused and scared, it was the first time any of us had ever seen anyone change like that. I thought it was like a virus or something and that I'd get it too if I stayed. One girl who fell nearly got trampled but then she started growing scales and turned into some sort of monster."
Mason winced at the macabre details as footage from a phone showed beach goers fleeing the scene while others were screaming as they metamorphosed. Mason kept his head down and his eyes on the paper, waiting for the scene to pass and move on to something more lighthearted.
A young girl's cry rang through the second floor of an illustrious private estate, alerting the family's protector, Chuck. Sprinting down the hallway like a linebacker, he skidded to a stop outside of a door where the name 'KATIE' was spelled out using glittery paint and sequins, much like something a child would make. Chuck was about to burst into the room, but stopped himself, remembering who he was dealing. This wasn't the first time he's reacted to a false alarm by Katie and he was sure that eventually his employer would start docking his pay if he broke any more doors. So instead, he used his fist to knock on the door instead of breaking it.
"Katie?" He called out. "Is everything alright?"
"Nuh uh," moaned a miserable, but very much alive and not in immediate danger, girl. While the threat wasn't physical, something was bringing her down.
"What is it this time? Did one of your series get canceled?"
"Is the Internet down?"
"Was your arm ripped off by a raving monkey?" He asked.
"Can I come in?"
There was a pause before he received a dejected, "Yes."
Once he had her approval, he turned the doorknob and entered her room. Inside he found wooden craft table with a closed laptop and various art supplies spread out and set up next to an open closet. The clothes inside ranged from casual wear to formal wear to colorful, home-made costumes. The faint smell of glue and scented markers wafted in the air, no doubt used recently. With a crane of his neck, he found the teenage girl lying in bed with her face buried in a pillow bundled up in a sweater.
"Two weeks, Chuck. I spent two weeks avoiding the leaks for the Jungle Girls season finale that's on in six hours," Katie sulked, her voice muffled by the pillow. "Then I just HAD to look up a cosplay tutorial, and what do I find? The end to Honi-chan's epic journey, six years in the making, because SOMEONE didn't tag their post for spoilers and now...now...IT'S RUINED!"
Chuck tried to empathize with her but he didn't share Katie's passion for anime. He would watch some shows with her but he wasn't as invested as her. Even though she was being overdramatic, this clearly meant a lot to her so he had to make some effort to comfort her. He sat down on the edge of her bed and gave her a supportive pat on the head. "I'm sure you'll still enjoy it regardless. I mean they didn't spoil everything, right?"
Katie raised her head and let out a sullen sigh. "Yeah but not as much. The internet sucks sometimes."
Chuck nodded and wondered how long the pity party was going to last. "Well I'm afraid you can't stay here wallowing in misery."
"Because your mother is heading out and she thinks you need to get some fresh air."
Katie groaned and rolled over onto her back. "C'mon, I already finished my homework. Can't I just stay here?"
While she sounded like a spoiled brat, she had been keeping up with her studies and doing well with her tutors. Yet mom's word was law and there was no point in fighting. "What do you think she'll say?"
Katie pouted and said nothing, refusing to respond knowing full well that this was a fight she couldn't win. "Fine, tell mom I'll be down in five." She sat up and brushed a couple golden strands out of her face.
"And you shouldn't keep designing your costumes in bed. It's covered in glitter."
"What are you-?" It was then she realized the shimmering mess all over her bed. "Oh! Right, crafting. Yeah, I'll get that!" He stood up and left her to swiftly brush the glitter off of her bed and into the nearby trash bin. A bit of an overreaction on her part but again, he kept that to himself. While she had a tendency to let her room get messy and had been scolded before by her mother, it was just glitter.
Everyone was waiting with anticipation for the clock to strike three. Mason took his time making sure he had everything with him. He didn't want to leave any homework sheets or notes behind and fret about that all weekend. He raised his arms in the air and stretched his stiff muscles, listening to his joints pop. For some reason his body felt tight and he needed a good stretch. Mason didn't have the time do so because the bell finally rang. Everyone rose to their feet and made a beeline for the exit, Mason included.
Mason mixed in with the wave of students pouring out into the hallway and had to navigate the cluttered corridor. Mason did his best to avoid bumping into anyone, sidestepping teens stopping at their lockers, talking with friends, or moving at a leisurely pace. The corridor was like a game show obstacle course made of bodies who either used too much body spray or not enough. Except the grand prize wasn't money or a new car or an extravagant vacation, but making it to the bus stop on time.
"Scuse me! Sorry! Pardon! Excuse me! Sorry!" he squeaked, slipping past people in his way. He ground to a halt when a large, heavy set student came out of the bathroom. No doubt Larry from gym class. He was twice as wide as Mason and shuffling at a snail's pace. Anyone else in a hurry would have rudely shouted out the big guy for delaying them but Mason wouldn't dare do so. He couldn't muster up that kind of courage. Plus he was aware of Larry's condition and couldn't blame him for taking longer. Normally Mason would be patient but he was in a hurry and couldn't afford to miss his bus.
"Hey Larry, got a sec?" Mason asked, hoping that Larry could hear him over the hustle and bustle of the other students. He heard Mason he turned to face the tactical teen, creating a gap between him and a girl checking her make-up. "I heard that GMN is doing a deal on Pistol Pete games this weekend."
"Oh really? Thanks for the heads up, Mason." Larry said, as Mason took the opportunity to slide past him and the lockers. Mason nodded and then speed walked to the front.
Once he pushed the double doors open, he dashed across the school lawn heading straight for the bus stop. He spotted the armored bus turn from the intersection into the school parking lot. Mason had to sprint to the sidewalk, his lungs burning as the bus stopped at the curb. Mason reached into his pocket and fumbled around for his wallet while the other students boarded the reinforced vehicle. As the last person stepped on, Mason reached the sidewalk, leapt inside, and flashed his bus pass just in time receiving a nod from the driver.
Victorious, Mason smiled through gasps of air and stuffed his wallet back into his pocket. Mason tirelessly trudged to the back of the bus passing by some familiar faces from other classes already on their phones. The bus revved up and departed as Mason took his seat. He strapped his seat belts over his chest, and got his phone out just like everyone else. Once he had his earbuds in, he pulled out his notebook and searched for the recording from earlier on his phone. He hit play and turned to his recent notes making sure that he got them right.
"Nations all over the world raced to quarantine the victims of the outbreak. One month after the Ignition, the militaries of the world were successful in placing barricades around each of the attack sites. But by then, hundreds of the victims had escaped. To this day, no one knows how many of them are still in hiding." The narrator said.
"The victims commonly referred to as 'Mutates' could go years without triggering their power or undergoing a change, and could potentially pass this abnormality on to their children. As far as we can tell, what abilities or transformations they go through appear to be random, but in the majority of cases the cause is similar: the subject goes through an overpowering emotional experience like anger, fear, remorse, joy. Otherwise the changes can occur suddenly and naturally as their bodies develop."
Slick, ebony leather seats, rich red carpeting the color of fine wine, a travel-sized television built in, and a sliding glass window separating the driver and the passengers. It was one of the many perks Stacey Mesmer received as governor. While she was grateful for the limo, the charm of it has lost its luster of the years. Sure the leg room was nice and there was satellite TV installed but it was usually set to a news station. Plus Chuck was the one doing the driving, while she was on the phone talking to one of her aides at the office setting up a meeting for the weekend. At least her daughter seemed to be enjoying herself.
"Yes. Saturday at 3. Talk to you then Chase." She ended the call and placed it in her pocket. "Katie?"
Her words fell on deaf ears. Or at least, headphoned ears. Katie was lost in her headphones jamming on air guitar and mouthing the words to whatever she was listening to. It was nice to see her in a better mood than earlier but it was a pain for Stacey to get her attention. Rather than shout until she paid attention, Stacey leaned over and pulled the chord out. Her phone blared sugary, sweet rock music from one of Katie's anime. When she was younger it was easy to keep track of them but now it all just looked the same to her.
"Mom!" Katie whined, taking her headset off and pausing the song.
"Your eardrums will thank me later." She said.
"Are we finally heading home?" So much for Katie's good mood. Though four hours driving around town would get on most people's nerves. She didn't need to come, but Stacey felt at ease having her daughter close by for her to protect. Or at least, for Chuck to protect.
"Not yet. We still have two stops left to make."
Katie huffed and leaned back into her seat. "Good. I don't why you even dragged me along in the-"
She couldn't finish her sentence because something had caught her eye. Pressing her face up against the glass, she could make out the colorful letters that spelled out CRAFTERIA. Stacy had experience keeping a straight face during meetings, public speeches, and negotiations, but here she was unable to hide her smug smile here. "Well if you're in such a hurry to get home, we can skip this and go straight to- Oh!"
Katie cut her off with a tight hug and a big grin on her face. If there's one thing in the world that could boost Katie's spirits, it was the craft store. The one place where she could get all the art supplies she needed for her costumes. Katie preferred it to shopping online even though it was a chore for Stacey to drive all the way out there and then wait for her to finish meticulously browsing the store's selections. It was worth it, especially given how distant Katie's been these last few days. Work made it hard for them to spend quality time together but she hoped that tonight they could have a chance to catch up. "You got half an hour. You better be ready to go when we get back."
"Of course! I will! Thank you!"
Katie released her bone crushing grip on her mom and was out in a flash. Stacey shook her head and caught Chuck looking back at her smiling, but once he was spotted he turned around and tried to act as if he wasn't listening in. For a bodyguard, Chuck was good at keeping her updated on Katie.
The bus came to a halt outside the mall. Mason grabbed his bag and paused the recording. In his head he was debating whether he should go through with this. His parents were sure to worry about him if he didn't get back home on time. For all they knew, he could be in a car wreck or jumped by a gang of hoodlums. Yet what would happen if he didn't get those notes to Gary? What if on their next quiz, there was question or two that only people who saw the video would know? What if those one or two questions determined if he passed or failed? Not only would he lose Gary's trust, but he'd be responsible if his grade tanked and Gary would hate him and tell everyone that he let him down. Then they'd never trust him with anything ever again.
With the consequences weighed, Mason made his choice and hopped off the bus. The doors closed, sealing his decision behind him, and the bus drove off. With no turning back, Mason started walking towards the mall. He checked the time and pondered how much time he would have to find Gary and get back before the next bus arrived. He estimated he had about twenty fives minutes, give or take.
The parking lot was the easy part. Navigating the choppy waters of the mall was another story. Inside, the mall was buzzing with activity, like a hive of capitalism with the customers pollinating businesses with their money. Mason was so busy debating whether he should go or not that he didn't think about how he was going to find Gary. Calling him was off the table because he wouldn't be able to hear Gary over the chatter of passing people and the techno music from the arcade. Plus, he wasn't good with talking to people over the phone. Or face to face. Which is why he resorted to texting Gary and asking where he was. "C'mon Gary," he murmured, hoping to hear back from him promptly. Seconds passed and his anxiety worsened as he waited for those three little dots to show up. Mason didn't bother waiting a full minute before he decided to venture off on his own and track down Gary.
Since the mall was pretty linear, all he had to do was keep going straight and he'd be sure to find his target. If he wasn't on the first floor, Mason would go to the second floor and trace his way back. Not the best made plan but he was sticking to it until a better idea presented itself. He passed kids running around their parents begging for a pretzel or some pizza, kiosks selling phone cases and drones, a Gothic store ironically selling brightly colored figurines and pop culture merchandise. If he had more time and some spending money he would have liked to do some shopping or maybe a little browsing. He popped into stores long enough to check if Gary was there, skipping places like the toy store or lingerie store that Gary was not likely to be perusing. Although a nagging doubt made him question if Gary was in one of the stores ironically browsing the items or maybe buying something for a friend or relative. Mason ignored the notion and continued towards the food court, reminding himself that he didn't have time to dawdle.
As he moved further into the mall, he was greeted by the sweet sugary aroma of cookies from a bakery. Even before he saw colorful fast food restaurants came into view, he caught wind of the approaching food court. The lines of people waiting to get a late lunch or early dinner stretched out from the businesses as servers called out at the top of their lungs that an order was ready. He stood against a walled up section of the mall that was undergoing construction. A massive banner hung over the blank space explaining the renovations and listing some of the businesses that would opening soon, though Mason hadn't heard of any new developments. It felt like it's been closed for ages. At least he stood out against the cloth so Gary could see him. The food court was his best bet to find Gary.
Mason eyed the crowd of people passing him by for any familiar faces. There were lots of teens there that looked familiar but none he knew well. If they did go to his school, he didn't recognize them. The only people at school he had memorized were the students he had been paired up with for an assignment or asked him for help, and even then it was so he assist them to the best of his abilities without being a hindrance. He could only speculate what these cliques were up to. Probably going to see a movie or head to a party or head back home and stream some new movie. Which sounded pretty nice to the note taker, wishing he had plans like that. Once he handed Gary his notes, he was heading straight home, getting some pizza, and then figuring out something to do in his room. Thinking of this prompted him to remember his mission. Mason checked the time on his phone and to see if there were any new messages.
"Yo Mason! Over here!"
He looked up and saw Gary with one arm in a sling from his latest match, with a few friends sitting at a round table. He recognized them as Phoebe, Brent, and Sasha from school. Overjoyed, Mason made his way over to the table and pocketed his phone. If his life were a movie, he'd consider them to be the cool kids of the school. Or at least his cool in his class. They weren't jocks or cheerleaders, although Gary did play tennis despite being a bit chubby and Mason did think Phoebe was cute, but to him they exuded coolness and seemed like they were always having a good time.
"Sorry to keep you waiting." He apologized, fiddling with the zipper on his backpack in his searching for his notes.
"Don't sweat it bro, we just got here. I was just about to text you." Gary told him, reaching for his smoothie with his good hand.
"Here's your notes," Mason said handing his pages over. He then realized Gary couldn't grab them with his formerly good hand, so he placed them on the table and slid them over. "Hope your arm gets better. I guess I'll see the rest of you on Monday."
Mason was about to take his leave but then Sasha said, "What's the hurry? Why don't you stay and hang out with us?" He stopped in his tracks and wracked his brain for a polite way to turn her down without hurting their feelings so he could still make it back to the bus stop.
"Oh thanks but I wouldn't want to impose. Besides, I only came here cause Gary needed to borrow my notes." He said sheepishly. Sasha glanced at Gary and gave his good arm a love tap with her fist.
"Gary, you're so mean! Making Mason come all the way out here just for you." While he appreciated her coming to his defense, he didn't want to stir up any trouble.
"What's the big deal? He doesn't seem to mind." Gary answered defensively. Granted Mason did have to go out of his way to find them but he kept his lips shut about that.
"That's cause he probably has like a thousand back up copies, dude." Brent chimed in.
"It's really not that big a deal," Mason interjected. Brent wasn't far off though, Mason did take pictures of his notes on his phone before he arrived. "I didn't know you'd be here together. I mean, Gary mentioned you guys like to hang out here after school but I didn't know for certain you'd all be here today. Besides, my bus stops by here on my route home. I was just about to head home." He couldn't tell but it felt like he was rambling and feared that he was overstaying his welcome.
"Come on Mae, Gary owes you like a smoothie or something." Brent insisted. "I'm sure your folks will be cool about it."
"I don't know. These notes don't look THAT good. Maybe he can buy himself something and if I get an A I'll pay him- OW!" Even though it was obvious that Gary was just messing around, Sasha still punched him in the arm again.
"C'mon, five minutes won't kill ya. Take a load off," Sasha offered, patting a vacant spot next to Phoebe and Brent. As kind as their offer was, it also placed a lot of pressure on Mason. The last thing he wanted was to upset his family but it felt rude to leave now. Plus he still had a good eighteen minutes until the next bus arrived. He would have to wait either way, but if he waited here he would actually get to hang out with other people his age like a normal teen.
"Well...I guess five minutes wouldn't hurt." He sat down and joined his classmates, unaware that his earbuds were dangling from his pocket, still playing the recording from earlier.
"…the mutates. The nations of the world came together to collaborate and form a new organization to quell the frequent attacks and crimes committed by criminal mutates, commonly known as Masks. This would be later formed into the multinational group known as M.O.A.T. At the same time, vigilantes began to spring up left and right, but none were more powerful or reached critical acclaim than Captain Solar."
As cliche as it was, Katie truly did feel like a kid in a candy store. Except instead of candy, the aisles were stocked with multicolored fabrics, patio decorations, jars of glitter and paint, art supplies, and various other knick knacks one could use to liven up their home while on a budget. In a way, this was the antithesis of a candy store. Not to Katie though. She had a different outlook on the situation. Whereas most kids saw this place as a painfully slow stop on their mom's list of stores to visit, Katie saw a world of opportunity for her to create cosplay.
Taking out her sketchbook, she flipped to a page with a list of supplies she needed alongside a mock sketch for piece she had been working on for weeks. So far she'd gotten a feathery mask, some chicken wire, a roll of yellow yarn, a PVC pipe, a new pair of scissors, and some leather swatches. It was fortunate that she knew her way around the store like the back of her hand because there weren't any employees around to help her. The exception being the store's elderly owner, Mrs. Hasagawa, who was standing at the cash register biding her time with a magazine.
Katie was contemplating which paint would work best for her next piece when she heard the familiar ding of the sliding doors opening and the shuffle of feet. Deep down she hoped it was another girl her age that shared her love of costume design. Being home schooled by private tutors made it hard for her to have a social life, save for the niche network of friends she made online.
"Welcome boys. How can I help?" Hasagawa asked in a sweet, motherly tone.
So much for them being girls. Well, it would still be nice if they were at least her age
"Well you can start by telling us where the bathroom is," said a gruff voice clearly belonging to an older man, probably in his 30's. "My buddy here has to take a leak like you wouldn't believe."
"Just go down the last aisle on the right and you'll find it in the back."
"Much obliged," Katie heard one of the other guys say, followed by the squeak of his sneakers as he ran past her aisle. "I'll make it quick, Frank!"
"DON'T SAY MY NAME OUT LOUD, DUMBASS!" So much for her making friends. Her curiosity drove her to take a peek at who was there. With her back against the shelves, she snuck a look at a trio of men older than her. They didn't look like any of the middle aged moms she's used to seeing here. If anything, they looked like the type to hang out in seedy biker bar and oozed masculinity. Maybe literally if she got a closer look. It was easy to pick out which of them was Frank. He was the largest of the bunch. He bulging biceps and wore a sleeveless vest, a muscle shirt, and had an ominous aura to him. Katie was a firm believer that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but she couldn't buy that these guys were here just to get decorations. She watched as Frank leaned against the counter and continued, "And while you're at it, how's about you tell us about the Masks you've been supplying."
That's it? They just wanted some masks? Katie felt a little silly misjudging them. And yet, this request seemed to fill Ms. Hasagawa with dread, the color draining from her face. "I...I don't know what you're talking about." The elderly woman insisted. "We-we-we sell materials to make masks but-
"Cut the crap!" roared Frank, slamming his palm down on the counter. "We know you're helping those FREAKS hide in plain sight. Word is you're delivering the stuff straight to 'em."
Katie didn't like the sound of that. It took her a moment to realize that they weren't talking about your average latex mask but Masks. Masks were what people called those who were "altered" by the Ignition. The name caught on as more and more of them took up vigilantism and started dressing up like superheroes and villains to hide their identities, or try to establish a brand and make a quick buck off merchandising rights. It was preferable compared to calling them freaks or monsters. It also made sense they would rely on hair dye, face paint, and the various other supplies that Hasagawa sold to blend in with society. Could she really be assisting those people? Maybe out of kindness or at least to make a little extra income but it she couldn't buy the trembling shopkeep doing anything so risky. The trouble was convincing these goons that she wasn't planning anything.
"Please, this is just a misunderstanding. I'm sure we can talk this out."
Frank's dirty look softened as he took a calming deep breath. "Y'know, maybe you're right. How's about I clear things up?" He clarified, using a nicer tone. "We don't want any trouble. We're just doing a uh...public service. You see, we got it on good authority that you're helping masks instead of reporting them to M.O.A.T. And I get it. Business must be good when your customers have no one to turn to other than you, but they could send you away for an awful long time. So rather than tell M.O.A.T. about what you're up to, we're giving you a chance to do the right thing and come clean. Which, I think you should do because if you don't," Frank paused dramatically and reached into his coat pocket.
To Katie and Hasagawa's dismay, Frank withdrew a handgun. "...someone's gonna get hurt."
Katie looked away, frightened by her discovery. Whether Hasagawa gave up the names or not, someone was going to get hurt. Her fists clenched tightly as she feared for her life. She reached for her phone only to discover that her hands were filled with more of that shiny dust. Katie bit back a yelp and tossed it on the shelf as if it were a spider. Now was the worst time to deal with her recent 'changes'. She had bigger, deadlier problems to deal with. There was no time to wait for help to arrive. She needed to take action. She had to make a stand against these crooks.
She needed a disguise.
Mason was usually prepared for a number of situations. Fires, earthquakes, abrupt Mutate attacks, and so on. What he wasn't experienced in was excusing himself from social situations. To be clear, he didn't hate spending time with his classmates. It felt nice to be included in something other than a required school project but he was also out of his element. At first the four tried to get to know Mason but the answers he gave didn't give them much to build off of. The conversation eventually transitioned away from him but he couldn't find an appropriate time to take his leave. All he could do was sit there and listen so he could respond appropriately if they asked him anything. Mason was tempted to check the time on his phone but he didn't want them to think he was bored. Granted, Phoebe was already on her phone but he assumed she had a good reason for it, despite the disinterested look she gave. Her expression suddenly changed as her eyes lit up.
"Guys, check your SuperSpotter app," said Phoebe. "Captain Solar is heading our way" Immediately everyone dropped the current conversation and reached for their phones. Mason used the opportunity to check the time before pulling up the app. He had ten minutes left. While Mason wasn't attentive when it came to social media but even he had the SuperSpotter. It was an app programmed to track the status of known Superheroes and Villains, allowing users to prepare if a super criminal was heading their way or to snap a picture of a passing hero.
Mason didn't bother turning the sound off, he was more focused on getting his SuperSpotter app open. Once he did, the screen revealed a map of the world with icons for various heroes and villains. A swarm of comments began popping up claiming to have seen the hero and a crudely mapped out course was shown on the map. Mason zoomed in to get a better view of the flight path and just as Phoebe said, it almost looked like he was travelling straight towards their town. Gary and the others were excited by this news but Mason wasn't as enthusiastic. Construction noises began blaring over in the closed off section.
"I need to get home. Now." Mason said, standing up from the table.
"No way, bro!" Brent said. "You're gonna miss the chance to see the captain fly by?"
"Guys, if he's coming this way than it has to be because something bad is happening, or about to happen." Mason reasoned.
"Oh come on, like anything crazy like that would actually happen here." Sasha pointed out.
"Wouldn't that make it even better place for a super criminal to do something here? No one would ever think to look here for Tentaclina or…or Headcase or something out here. They could easily hide in plain sight." He pointed out. The metallic rumble was growing louder, and garnering more people's attention. Along with that there was a slight rumble that one could almost mistake for a minor tremor. "Like in a warehouse or a closed building…"
The rumbling intensified and drew the teens' attention to the closed off section of the mall. People started backing away while others made a dash for the exit. The gears in Mason's head were turning just as the sound of literal gears grinding could be heard along with sound of something powering up. "….or beneath a mall."
From beneath the floors a mighty force shook as a gargantuan, metallic figure tore through the floor and shot past the ceiling. Mason could only bring himself to shield his face with his arm and crane his neck back to watch the figure reach its peak. If Mason wasn't frozen like a gawking mannequin he would run while he still could. Not that it would have done him any good. The chrome giant dropped like a rock down on the mall. It landed with a thunderous stomp that tossed everyone back from the impact. Mason hit the floor hard and was blinded by the wave of dust and smoke that flew up. His shoulder ached from the landing but he tried to get up. He kept telling himself he needed to or this would be it for him.
His mind raced indecisively. He looked for a way out through the mist of dirt but was also searched for his classmates. Yet all he could make out was the towering figure that shot out from beneath them. The debris was settling but the dust clouded the surrounding area. The only source of light came from the massive hole in the roof mostly occupied by the metallic giant. It reminded him of a retro-styled robots from those old monster movies from the 60's and 70's. The foot alone had to be maybe three, four times as big as him. Again, it was hard to see with all the smoke and dust. What grabbed his attention was the booming voice that came from the robot's speaker system.
"BEHOLD, YOU FEEBLE-MINDED SIMPLETONS! BASK IN THE INGENUITY OF DR. DOYSTRUM!"
Mason always suspected he would be the victim of a super villain attack. Statistically speaking, there was a 30% percent chance that someone would be involved in an incident like this at some point in their life. It was inevitable, but Mason also prayed that he would never deal with an A-lister like Dr. Doystrum. He wasn't just a mad scientist, he was THE Mad Scientist. Most super criminals gave up on crime after a few years of being foiled, but Doystrum was one of the few that hasn't stopped trying to prove to the world that he was a genius by defeating Captain Solar.
Speaking of his creation, Mason got a chance to gaze upon the hunk of steel looming over them. A gigantic humanoid robot stood in the middle of the wrecked shopping center with sharpened, dagger-like claws that could pierce a sedan clean through, thick, armored limbs and various slots that no doubt housed sinister secrets. The chassis of the torso appears unharmed by the launch save for some dirt and scratches. Instead of a head there was a semi-translucent dome where a single man donning a lab coat and goggles operated a control board with a malicious smirk on his face.
"That blowhard of hero, Captain Solar, thinks he can top my latest creation? Soon, he will meet his match and realize his might is no match for my mind! AHhahahahaaha!" The doctor cackled.
People scattered towards the nearest stores for safety. Portions of the second floor walkway were smashed, trapping the few shoppers still up there with their backs against the wall. The robot moved and Mason watched as the leg rose over him effortlessly smashing through the second floor. Chunks of plaster, wood and metal toppled down onto the food court. Mason came to his senses and regained control over his body. He ran back the way he came, dropping his phone in the madness. He frantically searched for the nearest exit but it was futile. The foot came back down and tore through the ceiling and second floor again. Mason tripped and fell flat on his chest. He scrambled to get back up but then he heard the groan and snap of the infrastructure above him. All he had time to do was look up and watch as a section of the upper level the size of king-sized bed came down on him with a crash. Mason went on instinct and covered his head. When nothing came crashing down on him, he opened an eye. Through his blurred vision he saw that the slab stopped short just a few inches from crushing him. It was slanted, perched up by bench. He couldn't believe how lucky he was.
He could hear the robot marching away from him and the screams of people nearby. People that were confused and panicking, crying out in terror, wailing in pain, ordering each other to move or wake up. Even with all the cacophony of people, he could hear Gary and Sasha's cries over it all. Mason couldn't make it out but it was clearly a call for help. Mason had spent most of his life being prepared for every situation but aside from crawling out from under the slab, he wasn't sure what to do. Stay put and wait for help? Attempt to escape? Try and help people nearby?
A sudden creaking caught his attention that came from the bench. It scraped against the floor as the weight of the slab pushed down on end and the other rose up like a teeter totter. Slowly the slab began to lower onto Mason. He frantically tried to crawl away but could feel it press against his back and his legs. He raised his arms to push the slab off of him but he lacked the strength to do so. The slab pinned him and was crushing his body. His arms were pressed to the floor and tense from his hopeless attempts to save himself. No one was there to save him at that point. Not his classmates, not his parents, and there was no sign of Captain Solar at all. Even though his body was in agony he willed together all he could muster to keeping the slab up and prolong his demise.
Mason's mind was clear up. He knew what he wanted. He wanted to get out. He wanted to escape. He wanted to stop feeling so helpless. He wanted to help. He wanted to live.
His muscles trembled and his body shook. His lungs and eyes burned from the detritus. He feared that it was his body on the brink of collapsing from exhaustion. Then he heard cloth tearing and joints popping, and felt the pressure from the slab lighten. He was actually lifting it! Mason found his second wind and got up on one knee. Ignoring all the sounds around him he got to his feet and sensed a rush of energy course through him. His entire body loosened as he stretched his arms out as far as he could pushing out all his muscles. The slab felt lighter than before but more importantly smaller. In fact, everything was getting smaller. Everything except him that is.
Jerry left the restroom with an empty bladder and a content grin. Not because of the piss he just took, although he'd been holding it in for about half an hour. No it was because of how easy this job was. Not only was this going to be easy money, but he'd get a chance to kick the crap out of a Mask. He was sick of hearing about them on the news, and people moping about how terrible and unfortunate their lives were being taken to a private facility and locked up like an animal. Meanwhile Jerry and his buddies got sent to prison and nobody cried crocodile tears for them. When he got out he was barely making minimum wage at his old job. He couldn't wait to tell his pals that he managed to take one of those freaks out himself. He hoped that the old broad would be smart enough to give up the names. Jerry took no pride in hurting an old lady but Frank looked like he was just waiting for an excuse to throttle someone. From what he heard a few months back, some Mask was playing vigilante and made a laughing stock out of Frank. He could do all the dirty work for all he cared. Better her than him. All Jerry had to do was head back and watch the magic.
Except he didn't make it back. Down one of the aisles Jerry heard what sounded like a bubbly fart. He stopped and did a double take. No way did that come from the front of the store. Jerry backed up and looked down one of the aisles where he found the source of the sound. It was girl, probably in high school, standing over a puddle of paint and glitter. Her hair was dripping wet with green hair dye, her clothes looked like a rainbow puked ahodgepodge of hues all over her, and a domino mask obscured part of her face. She stared back at him like a deer caught in headlights. In her hand, she held a squeeze bottle of paint.
"I know what you're thinking, but it was the bottle. I swear." She insisted.
Up until now, the store had been dead quiet. Only the barely audible scribbling of Ms. Hasagawa's pen and the drumming of Frank's finger broke the silence. That all changed promptly with an impromptu clatter down the way. Following that came a resounding crack and a thud that put the criminals on edge.
"The hell? Go check that out, I'll watch the front." Frank ordered. His two remaining cronies nodded and left to go investigate while Frank stayed at the register with one eye on the trembling shopkeeper.
The two goons found Jerry collapsed against a shelf with a nasty welt on his forehead. One of them tried to shake Jerry awake but stopped when their foot stepped in something sticky. It wasn't blood that was pooled on the floor but hair dye. There was also a set of footprints leading down the aisle away from their buddy.
"You go down the other aisle, I'll see where this goes."
The other goon nodded and pulled out a set of brass knuckles while the other followed the footprints and got out a switchblade. At the end of the aisle, the latter of the two found another row of aisles displaying tacky looking decorations that one would find in at their grandma's house. They followed the footprints past displays showcasing some grapevine wreaths, an entire aisle devoted to stickers, and then stopped beside some carved, wooden alphabet letters shimmering with glitter. The footprints lead him into the next aisle.
"Wait! Don't hurt me!" a voice cried out. He got his knife out ready to stab whoever made that noise. A girl nervously stepped out with her hands held up drenched in paint. She looked as if she was going to piss her pants in terror. Evan liked that. She knew he wasn't to be trifled that and it boosted his ego. "You're looking for the guy that took your friend out right?" She asked.
At first he didn't know what she was talking about but then it clicked in his head. There's no way this kid managed to take out Jerry. She probably booked it as soon as the real guy took Jerry out. "Yeah...yeah! Where'd he go?"
"I...I don't know. B-but who wanted me to tell you something." She stammered, her eyes darting from side to side as she took a step back.
"Oh yeah? And what's that?"
"He said...he said...let 'er have it?"
Before he could question what that even meant, she swung her arms to the right as if she were shoving something out of the way. Suddenly the brick-sized blocks were launched off the shelf and pelted the unsuspecting assailant. He staggered backwards until a B got him in the noggin and down he went. She held her breath for a moment, unsure if he was knocked out or not. After a few seconds passed with no movement, she pumped her fist in the air and cheered.
"Yes! That actually worked. Though I really got to work on my quips." Katie murmured to herself.
Her self-reflection was interrupted when her hair was pulled and she was turned to face the last goon. By the snarl on his face, it was safe to assume that he saw her take out his partner. Grabbing her by the scruff of her sweater, he lifted her up in the air with one hand and raised the other one with the brass knuckles. "Wh- hold on! Let's talk about this. I have jewelry!" She reached into her sweater frantically and begged, "Don't hurt me and it's yours."
"Nice try. Bet you probably made it with some fake jewels. It's gonna take more than some shiny crap to buy me off."
"Well...How about something glittery?"
She pulled her fists out of her sweater and tossed two handfuls of glitter at the goon. He dropped her and shouted, struggling to wipe the glitter stinging his eyes.
"GAH! You brat! You're dead you hear-"
Suddenly, he felt himself being lifted off the ground. When he moved his hands, he saw the girl straining with her hand outstretched rising like a conductor holding a note. And also that the glitter she tossed was also clinging to his clothes.
"Sorry, but I don't have any one one-liners. I'm kinda new to this."
Doystrum had barely made it down the block from the mall without any concern for people in his path. He was living the villainous dream of going on a rampage through a city in a giant robot. This was sure to garner some prestige among the super criminal community. As the masses ran as fast as they could from the mechanical menace, his eyes were darting from screen to screen, checking every one of his video monitors. None of them had what he wanted to see.
"Grrrrr, where is he!? That pompous buffoon should have been here by now. When did those morons say he found my base?" He muttered to himself. The doctor checked one of his consoles to find the message his goons had sent to him about the hero finding one of his numerous lairs. An alert popped up on his screen. He hoped that his nemesis had finally arrived but instead the alert was warning him about a much, MUCH larger presence nearby. "That can't be right. There's no way I could miss something that-"
A rumble from the mall caught his attention. He looked up from his console and watched as a towering, muscular figure shrouded in ash and dirt rose up from the ruins.
As the dust cleared, the creature opened its mouth to speak.
"NGGGGAAAHHHHHH! Much better. Now to find a way to- whoa! Everything's really tiny! Wait, no, I'm just really big." Mason realized, thinking out loud. He overlooked the mall standing at about 100, maybe 150 feet tall, or so he guessed. Everyone looked like ants to him so he estimated that he was pretty big. His mind wasn't racing like usual and despite the mayhem around him he was surprisingly calm. That or the reality of the situation has yet to sink in. He also wasn't hurting like he was before. He examined himself and didn't find any serious gashes or bruises but he did find his muscles were more defined that usual. Actually this might be the first time he had muscles, period. Granted he wasn't jacked like a weightlifter but he felt beefier. "Oh my god, this is insane! I'm huge! I'm-" Before he could further comment on his new physique, it also dawned on him that while his body had grown exponentially, his clothes didn't. Especially his underwear, much to his embarrassment.
He lowered one hand to cover himself while he looked for something to wear. The first thing that he spotted was the banner that he stood by earlier and wrapped it around his waist like a towel. "Eh, kinda drafty but it's better than nothing. Now where was I?" With the immediate hazard taken care of, he tried to recall what he was all worked up about a moment ago. He was positive it was something important. No wait! Someone important. "Oh yeah!"
He knelt down and got a look at the damage caused by Doystrum's robot. Everybody seemed so tiny and minuscule to him, it was like standing over a play set. It took a moment for him to spot Gary and his friends huddled in the food court trying to help Phoebe. It looked like she had her leg stuck under some rubble and most of the paths out were blocked by debris.
"Hang on guys, I got ya." No longer did he feel panicky and insecure but instead he was acting as if the situation was no worse than if they needed some change for a parking meter. The roles were switched as they were the ones freaking out as he plucked the hunk of stone off her like it's a pebble and flicked it aside. With his other hand he brushed the debris away like it was nothing.
With that matter taken care of, he noticed more people trapped on the second floor. One look at the defunct escalators and Mason had an idea. "Eh, I'm sure they won't mind if I just borrow this." With his newfound strength, he pulled one the escalator loose and leaned it against the platform. Desperate to escape, the frightened, trapped survivors reluctantly accepted his help, descended the escalator while he held it up, and made a break for it while they had the chance.
"Way to go, bro!" Brent shouted back at him.
Mason heard it and smirked. "I think you mean way to grow, bro." Since he was feeling pretty heroic, he thought he might as well lighten the mood with a quip. It was dumb but it sounded better in his head. Normally he'd be more cautious and avoid saying something that could embarrassing or upsetting but it's as if the filter in his head was turned off. The same could be said for his insecurities and other faculties.
Just then he heard the familiar sirens of cop cars and firetrucks in the distance. "Finally, I thought they'd never show up." The emergency teams were cut off, not by some jerk who wasn't respecting traffic laws, but by one of the robot's chrome tootsies. One of its claws charged with bright orbs of pure energy as it approached the teen. Normally Mason would be going with the flow and fleeing in terror but today seemed to be opposite day for him. He stood up and glared right back at the bot and did something he would never typically do. Stand up to a bully. "Just who do you think are, trashing malls and nearly squishing me and my friends? Well, I mean, we're not friends yet but we were getting there."
"Silence! I could ask you the same thing!" The enraged doctor responded. "I've been planning this for months. It's already bad enough that Captain Solar discovered my plans before I was finished with my creation. It's insulting that he has the audacity to take his sweet time getting here and make me wait, but I REFUSE to share the spotlight with some overgrown imbecile"
"Look, I get it. It sucks when you put a lot of effort into planning something and then it all falls apart but you can't just take it out on people trying to enjoy their Friday. TGIF, man! Besides, what are you complaining about? Your robot looks awesome."
"I don't care what a dolt like you thinks! All I want is to destroy Captain Solar and prove to the world that I am the greatest genius of our time, if not all history!"
"Aaaaaand you're going to do that by building a giant robot to kill a guy? You could sell this to the military or fight crime with it or help out with natural disasters or like rent it out to billionaires and give the money to charity or cure cancer or…"
"SHUT UP! I'm don't have time to deal with some half-naked numbskull!" Doystrum raised one the claws and aimed at the gigantic guy's head.
Although he may not be as bright as usual, he could still tell that he should probably dodge. He ducked just in time to avoid the energy orb the size of a wrecking ball whizzed by him. He could hear Doystrum mutter something about the aim being off over his speaker. Mason stepped over the still-standing walls of the mall and into the parking lot, where he shouted, "Hey, knock it off!"
"You want me to knock it off? Fine." He growled, which pleased Mason at first thinking the doctor was surrendering. But then he continued, "I'll knock it CLEAN OFF!" The robot charged at Mason and raised one of its claws to strike Mason but the teen managed to swerve out of the way.
"Hey, stop- Oh I get it. Like knock my block off." He realized while trying to dodge the swinging limbs.
He backed away stepping on a few parked cars while avoiding the punches. He didn't want to fight and would have been satisfied with an apology but the doctor wasn't listening. One of the claws managed to graze his shoulder and managed to draw blood. Mason scowled, clutching his shoulder. He was fed up with his robotic opponent. "I said. Knock. It. Off!" Impulsively, he slammed his body into the robot. Doystrum's creation staggered back as Mason rubbed his other shoulder regretting that move. "If you aren't going to stop, I'll make you stop!"
Even after he recovered the doctor still shook from the sudden assault. Just as he is about to return the favor, Mason came at full speed and punched at its torso. It left a dent in the torso which only managed to upset Doystrum even further. "Very well, this will be good warm up until that lout shows up."
Mason readjusted the banner and clenched his fists. It's not like he wanted to be there. All he planned on doing was give his notes to Gary, go home before his parents noticed, plan out his weekend, and have a quiet night in. All of that was gone out the window thanks to this whack job who nearly killed him and wouldn't stop insulting him. The time for diplomacy was over. They were both past annoyed now and done talking.
"What's taking so long?" Growled Frank. Ms. Hasagawa finally finished writing the list and he was ready to go. However, his back-up wasn't back yet. He's heard some banging back there and assumed they found someone and were roughing them up. If it turned out that they were distracted by all this artsy crap or messing around on their phones, then he'd turn them into an art project and make them black and blue without the use of paint. "I knew I shouldn't have let them hold the keys."
Frank got his answer when one of his guys was tossed from the back and slammed into the wall. He fell to the floor limp like a bruised bag of potatoes. Frank and Hasagawa stared in disbelief wondering what the hell could have happened. Again, Frank was answered promptly as some color-coated kid came out from the back and rushed to check the limp body, muttering "crap" repeatedly and fearfully.
"Crap crap crap crap! Please don't be dead, please don't be dead, please don't be dead."
Frank gripped his handgun and stepped back. He wasn't planning on their being a Mask at the store. Especially not one that could take down three guys by herself. As tempted as he was to shoot the twerp, he also knew better than to underestimate a Mask. She could be bulletproof or weird mind powers or super strength, and he didn't have the right tools to deal with that. One thing was clear, she was a softy. And he had the perfect distraction. He caught the shopkeep by surprise and pistol whipped her knocking her to the ground. She fell to the floor and just as Frank expected, it got the kid's attention. She left his crony and attended to the broad, giving him a chance to escape. Frank bolted for the entrance while she was distracted, thinking that he had enough time to make a getaway.
"That's right, run away you...you..." He didn't get hear what the last thing she said because the doors closed behind him. She could shout all she wanted, he had more pressing matters to deal with. The cops were sure to be here any minute and he didn't have time to hotwire a car. He needed to find a ride out of here. As luck would have it, someone was pulling into the parking lot right in a fancy looking limo.
"Five minutes? You're crazy, Chuck." Stacey had heard her fair share of crazy proposals, but to suggest that her daughter would only ask for five more minutes was just laughable.
"We don't know if she has her phone out. For all we know she could have it in airplane mode." Chuck rebutted.
"No way, she's probably double checking to make sure her costume is accurate. You know meticulous she is."
"But she's got a finale to see tonight. Spoiled or not she wouldn't miss it. Remember that one Easter?"
"How could I forget?" Reporters still loved to poke fun at her about that incident, although she was pretty sure the guy in the Easter Bunny costume didn't find it as funny. At least it gave her sympathy points during her first campaign. At the time she was mortified but now she could look back and laugh at those memories. With the final tap on her phone, Stacy sent her follow-up text to Katie. Whether or not she would actually respond to it or even notice right away was another story. Stacey was in a good mood today and would spare Katie her usual lecture about being punctual if she could keep her art supplies from leaking and staining the upholstery again. That stuff stains worse than ketchup or ice cream. She would know since Katie has spilled both before when she was younger.
While glancing down at her phone, the door swung open. Perhaps she underestimated Katie. "Well, that didn't take-"
The cocking of a handgun shut her up right away, as she quickly realized that this wasn't her daughter but a menacing gunman staring her down the barrel of his gun.
"Drive! NOW!" The man ordered.
So much for her good mood.
The limo sped out of the parking lot and back onto the main road. Katie chased after them calling for them to come back. Before she could wear out her voice, she tripped on a pothole and skinned her knees on the pavement. It was a light scrape but it wasn't the reason why she was fighting back tears. None of the would have happened if her mother hadn't dropped her off. Her mother wouldn't be in this mess if not for her. If she hadn't stopped to tend to Hasagawa, she could have stopped Frank from getting away. Ms. Hasagawa's cheek ached but she was otherwise fine. She stepped out of the store and was on the phone, no doubt calling the police. They would be able to arrest the crooks Katie took care of, but not catch up to her mother in time before Frank did something dangerous. She tried to stop the tears from falling but all she could think about was how this was all her fault.
"Yes, three of the men are unconscious in my store," Hasagawa reported, "but one of them just stole a limo and is getting away."
Katie sniffled and dried her eyes. Ms. Hasagawa was right. They were getting away, but they weren't gone yet.
"No he's not."
There was still time. She could still save them. No, she would save them.
Katie pulled her sweater over her head and tossed it to the ground. Without the sweater, her yellow, paint splattered T-shirt was visible, as were the two slits cut in the back of it. Poking through those slits were a pair of transparent wings like one would find on a dragonfly. A few weeks ago, Katie awoke to discover wings sprouting from her back one morning that gave her a full-on panic attack. The fact that she could also conjure glitter that could make things float didn't help but once she calmed down, she made the decision to hide this from her family. While she dabbled with her new powers, Katie hoped she could go on with her life without ever using. It seemed like she had no choice but to stop hiding it and make use of it before she lost her family for good.
Hasagawa jumped back when she saw the wings unfurl and flap rapidly. Katie lifted off the ground and staggered trying to keep herself upright. For days she had been waiting for the right opportunity to give her new wings a test drive, and fate had presented her with one. When she found her balance and was hovering roughly ten feet in the air, she took off after the limo hoping that she could make it in time.
The bladed digits of the robot widened and spun like buzzsaws. Doystrum went on the offensive and slashed at Mason but once again he missed. The spinning blades did slice through several nearby rooftops. Mason blenched imagining being sliced by one of those and hoped that those buildings were empty. He tore a streetlight from the ground and swung it like a club only for it to snap like a twig against the robot's exterior. He chucked the other half at the glass dome on top but Doystrum leaned aside.
"My Mondotron won't be defeated that easily!" Doystrum shouted as he sliced at him again. Mason grabbed a truck and used it as a shield.
"Cool name but it can be defeated right?" Mason clarified, as one of the blades sliced up through the truck as if it were made of soft cheese. He lost his balance and fell on his back, setting off the alarms of what little cars were left.
"Whu- Du- No IT CANNOT BE DEFEATED!" He slammed the blade down but Mason managed to roll aside. The blades struck the road embedding in the concrete. Mason sat back up ready for the next move but instead watched as Doystrum tried to free the robotic hand lodged in the street. With the speakers still on his intelligible cursing was broadcast for all to hear him struggle.
"Really? Well time to see if this really is undefeatable." Mason said with a smirk. He rose up and ran straight towards the robot with an idea. He jumped in the air and landed a kick to the back of the bot toppling it onto his front. If the doctor wasn't strapped into a chair he would have been launched out of his seat and into his own dome. With the robot down and Mason standing on top, he reached down and grabbed one of the legs. "Sorry I got to bust your robot but you asked for it."
He grunted and tried to tear the leg off the Mondotron. He figured the robot couldn't go on a rampage if it couldn't move. It's tougher than the escalator and street light so he had to harness all his newfound strength. Just as it looked like he was about to rip it off, several slots in the back of the metal monster opened up and from them flew out several drones. Mason didn't notice them at first until they started to swarm his head. He dropped the leg and swatted at the drones buzzing around. Every time he smashed one another quickly took its place. They closed in on his head and linked together wrapping around his head. He couldn't see anything, just the blinking lights on the consoles.
He stepped off the robot and tried to smack the drones off him. Doystrum took the opportunity to rise back up, abandoning his claw to free himself. "Nice to see that my Dampener Drones are working perfectly." Doystrum commented as he recollected himself. The remaining clawed hand returned to normal and delivered a punch to Mason's stomach.
Mason staggered back and got the wind knocked out of him. The drones finally backed off and he could see again. Just in time to witness Doystrum's fist connect with Mason's face. His laughter blared from the robot's speaker and angered the boy. Just as the drones were about to sync back up, Mason clapped his hands trying to crush them like a mosquito. Not only did he smash it but the sound was deafening and the shockwave from it was intense, breaking the windows of several buildings. Doystrum and his drones were momentarily disoriented letting Mason smack the other drones out of the sky and whale on the Mondotron. Doystrum was far from finished. Mason had cornered the creature against a set of buildings and swung his fists at the bot until it couldn't take anymore. He didn't notice the clawed tips of the remaining hand aim up and spray a green substance at him. Well, not at first. He did notice once it started to burn.
"AHHHHHHHH! OWWW! OWWWWW!" He cried out, backing away and trying to wipe the substance off.
"What's the matter? Can't handle a little corrosive acid?" Doystrum taunted. His amusement was short lived, seeing as the acid wasn't burning off his skin like it did the pavement. "Ok, maybe you can. Your epidermis must have grown more durable when the rest of you did. Fascinating." Interesting as that may be, Mason would have preferred to learn this in a much less painful way. At least Doystrum could enjoy the pest's screams.
The burning sensation faded away but it still hurt like a bad sun burn. Considering the damage it did to everything around him he should be lucky. He was more concerned about his banner than checking for long lasting burns. "Look, I know you're trying to kill me but could you not do that again? It really stings and I don't want it destroying the only thing covering my bits."
Doystrum shuddered at what that would be like and answered, "Ugh, very well."
Mason was still rubbing his eyes when he heard that and sighed in relief. "Thanks, that's the last thing I want to-"
Doystrum landed a direct hit with one of his energy orbs straight in the chest, knocking him back down to the ground. He tried to get back up but the Mondotron placed a foot on top of him, holding the giant down. To make matter's worse, the dented chest opened up revealing a large energy cannon. It lit up and hummed with energy. Mason could feel the electricity tingle in the air and had a dreaded feeling this was going to finish him.
"Gotta say, this is a pretty nice set up ya got here. Nice to see our taxpayer dollars at work."
The gunman was the only one who seemed to find his own joke funny because Stacey and Chuck were not laughing. In their defense, most people would have a hard time mustering up a chuckle if they were in the middle of being carjacked. Most people would be losing their cool right about now and blubbering like a baby, but not Stacey. She just faced him head-on maintaining a stoic disposition.
"Geez, lighten up lady. I've had exes give cold stares that weren't this bad."
"You'll have to forgive me, it's been awhile since my last kidnapping and my training is a tad rusty."
"Training for what? Getting kidnapped?"
"You'd be surprised how many criminals think kidnapping a politician is creative. They teach us this in safety training. Right now I'm just trying to stay calm, wait for your demands, and do what I can to keep you from shooting anyone."
"I hate to interrupt," Chuck's voice reminding the two of his presence, "but where exactly am I taking you?"
"Don't rush me, Jeeves, I'm working on it. Just keep driving until we're far away from the freak show." Frank stared out the window at the road behind them anxiously.
"You heard him, Chuck. Just...keep going." Stacey ordered sternly. Chuck paused before nodding and pressed down on the gas pedal. His attention split between watching the road, the rising speedometer, and the rear mirror.
"Y'know you two outta be more grateful. If it weren't for me, you'd have to deal with the freak back there that took down my pals."
"Lucky us," Stacey said, her voice dripping with so much sarcasm it could soil the carpet.
"Speaking of, what's a governor doing at some crummy craft store?"
To her surprise, Frank asked a legitimately good question that managed to offset her stone cold expression. "I...I was picking up supplies for my daughter. She's making a diorama for her school project." Truth be told, she hadn't a clue where Katie was but she held on to her belief that she was still safe and hopefully hiding out in the store. As impulsive as Katie could be, even she knew better than to get involved in a fight she couldn't win. Even so, the last thing Stacey wanted was for this lowlife to assume this 'freak' was her daughter. Which was crazy for her to consider, since Stacey was miles from any of the Ignition sites. It had to be some other girl, Stacey was sure of that. But this hoodlum didn't know that so she had to be sure.
"Awww, well aren't you mom of the year," Frank patronized. "Y'know if you really cared about her you'd do something about those Masks and round 'em all up. Put 'em out of our misery."
If Stacey wasn't overwhelmed with worrying about her daughter and keeping the gunman pacified she would have rolled her eyes at the suggestion. It seemed like every generation had a crisis to deal with whether it was immigration or climate change. For Stacey and every other politician had to deal with Masks. It was a hot button issue since they were a genuine threat to society whether they meant to be or not, but they were also people with rights and liberties just like everyone else. Some say that they are providing a service to the community and help out the cops but others see them as a nuisance that do more harm than good. Stacey did her best to avoid the issue as best she could to avoid riling up voters. "That's something you'll have to take up with M.O.A.T. Masks are outside of my jurisdiction."
"Well maybe you should make it part of your jurisdiction," he warned, his calm demeanor going south. "It's only a matter of time before those creeps take us out one by-"
A car horn cut off their assailant as Chuck ran a red light. They were nearly clipped by a sedan they cut off. Stacey tightened her seat belt and her captor cursed profanely. This wasn't her favorite emergency plan but it got people's attention, especially the police.
"Are you crazy?!" he yelled, peering over his shoulder. "Watch the road, you-" He stopped midsentence and swore again. Stacey didn't understand what had shut him up until she saw what was following them. They were too far away to make out who it was but what worried her was that her pursuer was flying. The limo merged onto the highway and reached 50 MPH but the winged individual was slowly gaining on them.
"Keep the car steady, and don't stop for nothing!" the gunman shouted.
That was their plan up until now. Stacey didn't recognize the flyer as anyone from L.I.G.H.T. but she hoped that they were here to help and had a plan to deal with the gunman. Otherwise she better be good at dodging bullets.
The wind whipped at Katie's face forcing her to squint just to see ahead. The mask wasn't helping her peripheral vision either. Once she found her balance, all she had to was focus on flapping her wings and catching up to the speeding limo. With them on the freeway she didn't have to worry about swerving around lampposts and street signs. She was around thirty to forty feet from the limo and would reach them in just a minute. There was just one problem racing through Katie's mind as she closed the gap between them.
WHAT THE HECK DO I DO!?
She was so busy focusing on staying aloft and saving her mother that she didn't consider just how she was going to save them or take care of Frank. She had enough trouble lifting one of the goons back at the store so she wasn't going to try and lift the limo, especially since Frank was inside the limo. It wasn't easy to concentrate either because she was constantly checking to make sure that she wasn't losing altitude or about to slam straight into a freeway exit sign. While she's practiced a bit at home, she'd never flown this high or fast before. So on top of everything else, she was worried that if she didn't end this soon, her wings would give out and she'd make a crash landing on the pavement or wind up splattering on a windshield like a bug.
Just then, one of the windows of the limo lowered and Frank stuck his head out. At last, she had a shot to take him out. But he had a shot too and was aiming his gun at her.
Katie rolled to the right before the gun went off and the blast rang around them. Cars behind the limo immediately made a sharp turn and moved away from the runaway vehicle, heading for the nearest exit. Katie tried to clear her mind and keep calm but how could she? Even with the kidnapping training her mom made her take, she wasn't prepared to handle being shot at. Even during the few handful of times she and her mom were taken hostage no one actually used their guns. Some superhero would take out the threat before they could get a chance. While it was fun to watch superheroes fight bad guys on TV, it was terrifying to actually be part of the action. Part of her was waiting for someone to swoop in and take the reins from her so she could go home, wash off the paint, and recover in her room but that wasn't going to happen.
Katie had to be the hero this time. Her mom and Chuck's life depended on her. She couldn't back down.
Frank steadied his aim and Katie advanced on him, lurching to the left as he fired at her again. Her heart was racing and adrenaline pumped through her body. Frank fired again but she managed to jerk to the side once more.
"Stay still you freak!" He raged, gripping the window as the limo swerved to the right around a delivery truck.
Katie went left and took cover on the other side of the truck. She had a moment to figure out her next move but that moment was shorter than she expected. She heard a gunshot and a metallic clatter, catching a glimpse of a side mirror bouncing down the road. She could only imagine how scary that must be for the driver but she didn't have to think that hard. She realized what Frank was doing once she saw truck's wheels turning and the truck shifting over. Katie pulled up and flew over the truck before the startled driver could ram into her. Her foot was just an inch away from knicking the top of the truck as it passed by beneath her safely.
Up above she could see that they were passing over the Schuylkill River bridge, which would have looked pretty cool from her perspective if Frank wasn't grinning sadistically and aiming right at her. He had her right in his sights, but what he wasn't paying attention to was Chuck pulling a hard right. He missed his shot but Katie could hear the bullet zip past her ear. Frank clung to the roof of the car as the limo swept erratically through the other lanes. The goon snarled and tried to line up another shot but something pushed against him. If he wasn't clinging to the limo he would have been pushed out.
"You crazy bitch! Are you trying to kill me!?" Frank shouted, before firing into the limo and blowing out a window on the other side. Someone was distracting him and struggling to get him out. Katie guessed that was her mother, surprisingly being a bad-ass facing a carjacker head on. It certainly explained Chuck's swerving. With Frank distracted, Katie was able to bank to the right and catch him off guard delivering a swift kick to the jaw. His head reeled back and he fired, thankfully not hitting anyone. However, it did hit one of the front tires. The limo dipped to the right and didn't show any signs of stopping as it headed straight for the crash barrier. The squeal of tires were deafening as the limo tried to brake before it could crash through the steel guardrail.
But it didn't.
"Kudos on putting up a good fight, but you've wasted enough of my time. So goodbye and good riddance!" announced Doystrum.
Mason struggled to escape but there's no way he could get out from under him and escape the blast in just a few seconds. Yet Mason didn't want to give up now. He refused to let this wacko get away and wreck the town. He couldn't let everybody down. He told himself to get up even though his muscles ached, his chest hurt, and he was exhausted. Unlike before, there wasn't an untapped reserve of strength that he could suddenly access and use to push the robot off.
"What's with the goodbyes? I just got here." Called forth a cheerful, dazzling newcomer. That voice grabbed the attention of the demented scientist as he looked back to see none other than his arch nemesis hovering above the two colossal combatants.
"Captain Solar." Doystrum hissed.
Doystrum hastily inputted a new command into his console before Mondotron's chest beam could fire. The robot shifted its body away from Mason and fired a scorching beam of energy as wide as a two lane road at the sky.
The Captain darted away just in time and flew towards the back, his cape flowing in the wind. Mason watched as Solar punched a hole into the stern of the Mondotron and with his herculean strength tore it wide open exposing the internal hardware. "Nice job keeping Doystrum busy. I'll take it from here." Solar said to the teen.
Mason could hardly believe it. THE Captain Solar was there, saving his life no less. It's an honor just to be in the presence of the world's greatest hero and talking to him. Well, he assumed Solar was talking to him. It would be weird if he was talking to his arch-nemesis, and no else was around as far as he knew. All this helped him take his mind off the fact that he was almost killed moments ago.
Captain Solar's warm, unbeatable presence was as comforting as the sun on a cold winter's day, his blonde lockes as bright as the source of his power. Doystrum tried to swipe at Solar but he easily caught the menacing claw and was able to hold it back. Gazing at the exposed internal machinery, Solar concentrated and fired his heat vision inside of it. Mason could hear the crackle of the circuitry being destroyed and saw a tankard of the corrosive acid Doystrum used earlier burst open and spill out. Doystrum's speakers were off but Mason was sure he could hear Doystrum ranting inside his protective dome. Or at least, he imagined the doctor throwing a tiny tantrum, which got a chuckle out of him. As the teen got back onto his feet though, he heard latches being undone and the revving of rockets. The glass dome on top of the Mondotron detached and blasted off into the sky.
"You won't be so lucky next time Solar!" Doystrum shouted through his speakers, still trying to sound imposing even though he clearly lost the battle.
The robot wobbled and quaked. Captain Solar flew out in time as the robot collapsed on the ground motionless and inactive. Although his attacker was getting away and he wasn't positive the robot was out of commission, neither of those mattered. Mason stood there awestruck by the legendary Captain Solar hovering in front of him with a dashing smile, looking like he was posing for a comic book cover. Even though Mason couldn't help but feel small despite being dozens of feet taller. This had to be a dream, possibly the best dream he's ever had. He just hoped that it wouldn't end prematurely.
When the limo crashed, Stacey was clutching the handle on the interior of the automobile for dear life. The entire vehicle shook when they smashed through and she could feel the wheels skidding off the road. The carjacker was launched through the open window and she listened to his screams grow distant as he fell off the bridge. She only had a second of reprieve to grasp her head and check for blood when it dawned on her. "Chuck!"
"I'm alright," Chuck groaned, parting the window to check on her. He gave her a small smile put her at ease but the hand on his head suggested otherwise. Especially once she noticed blood seeping underneath his palm. She opened her mouth to call him out when the weight of the limo shifted like when a plane tilts back during lift off. Except they weren't taking off; they were going down. "Stacey! Take my hand!"
Chuck held his hand out stretching as far as he could. She rushed to unclip her seatbelt and shimmied towards her bodyguard, careful not to agitate the vehicle. Once she was within reach, she grabbed Chuck's hand and let him pull her up. She managed to reach the window when the vehicle dipped again. Only this time it didn't even out. Chuck's arms wrapped around her and pulled her in close as the limo toppled off of the road. All she could do was scream and hold on to Chuck for dear life until they hit the water. Time felt like it was slowing down around here as she feared that this would be the end.
Except time wasn't slowed down. Time was beating to same rhythm as ever. Yet if that was the case, they should have hit the water by now. Chuck took a few seconds longer to realize this because he had his eyes shut tightly. She had hers wide open, and as a result she could peer out the window and see that they weren't falling, but rising. Not just that, they were moving. When Chuck finally realized this and released her, Stacey moved to the driver's seat and looked out the window. The limo was in fact floating over the water but there weren't any wires or cables or anything to support it. What she did find was a glittery substance on the roof and flying above them the Mutate that had been pursuing them, straining herself as she somehow kept them afloat. They were nearing the river bank and starting to descend.
Seeing that they were safe for the time being, Stacey pulled her head back in and pulled from her breast pocket a tissue for Chuck. He reluctantly accepted and dabbed his wound with it. The car dropped just for a second scaring the bejeezus out of the two before their would-be hero caught them. As they reached land, the limo landed with a thunk on the grass. While not the gentlest landing, they were at least safe. She opened the door and placed a hand around Chuck helping him out. It felt nice to step back onto solid ground and rest assured that they weren't in any immediate danger.
"Are you alright?"
The two turned and gasped when they realized their savior was still there, hovering in the air above them basking in the sunlight. Which made it hard to get a good look at her. Apparently it was a girl, one trying too hard to make her voice deep and sound tough.
"Y...yes. We're fine," Chuck answered cautiously.
Stacey was quick to interject, "I'm fine, you need a hospital."
"Oh please, I've dealt with worse," Chuck waved off with a bloody hand. "Besides, we need to go back and get Katie."
Stacey was going to argue with him but with their lives now no longer in immediate danger, her thoughts returned to the daughter she abandoned. "Oh god you're right, Katie! She's still at the craft store!"
"Katie is- I mean, it's alright. I secured the store before I came to your aid," The mysterious stranger assured them, her voice faltering briefly. Chuck wasn't convinced and took out his phone to call her and Stacey was about to do the same. She stopped because when the Mutate stumbled she sounded familiar. Looking hard at the girl,Stacey asked, "Who...are you?"
"M-me? Oh just a concerned citizen that wants to help," She explained rather nervously. "Though I suppose you could call me... Pix-"
The notion would have been ludicrous for her to imagine minutes ago, but once they slipped past her mouth it was starting to seem chillingly plausible. It didn't help that the mystery girl had gone quiet and with every second losing her aura of mystery and confidence. "What!? No no no, I'm not your daughter, or uh whoever this Katie is-"
She didn't get a chance to explain herself, because right then and there a phone went off. The ringtone came from the mystery girl and it wasn't an ordinary ringtone but a song in Japanese. One Stacy has heard her daughter listen to over and over again. Chuck lowered his phone and ended the call while their savior struggled to silence her phone. Realization sunk in for Stacey as the illusion shattered like a pane of glass.
"Oh my god, Katie!" Stacey shrieked with horror.
"No no no! It's a telemarketer. You've got the wrong idea." She plead, trying to maintain her mystique but it was like trying to hold melted butter as it seeped through her fingers. She looked to Chuck who was left stunned with his jaw lying on the ground.
"Do you think I don't know my daughter's voice when I hear it?" Stacey's tone was no longer frightful, it was furious. It's common for a teenager to lie to their parents, but this was far worse than catching her with a boy or drinking beer. Much, much worse. "Katie Marie Mesmer, you get down here this instant!"
She sounded as if she was about to burst into tears like a toddler being scolded for breaking a window. Police sirens were heard in the distance interrupting the moment.
"We'll talk at home! BYE!"
She launched herself high into the sky and left the two on the grass absolutely speechless and processing the fact that Katie was a Mutate.
"Thanks for the help back there kid. Got a little sidetracked getting here but better late than never right?" Captain Solar laughed off, as if he wasn't hovering over a decimated battle zone.
"Uh y-yeah, of course! I never thought I'd actually get a chance to meet you. Thanks so much for saving me back there, I'm a big fan of yours." Mason gushed, still starstruck by the superhero.
"Yeah I can see that. You've always been a big fan?"
"Yeah!" Mason admitted, missing the pun entirely, "Well I mean, I keep up with everyone in L.I.G.H.T. Mostly to know if I should be prepared for some kind of attack but I still think you guys are pretty cool. I never thought I would ever get to meet you."
"Well I can say I never thought I'd be helping a giant kid take down a giant robot."
"I know, right? That was the most exhilarating and scariest experience of my life. I nearly died back there!" He exclaimed energetically, only to realize something. "Oh crap, I nearly died back there! Oh man, what was I thinking? I never pick fights, especially not with giant robots. My parents are going to flip!"
"Look kid, I'm sure they'll-"
"Oh crap what are they going to do when they find out I'm huge!?" His confidence and carefree attitude were slipping as an overwhelming yet familiar sinking feeling took hold. "How am I going to fit inside my home or go to school or the bathroom!? Oh no no no, please tell me the guys didn't recognize me like this." Solar was going to interject but decided to let Mason get everything out of his system. Especially since more than just Mason's morale was shrinking. "Everyone's going to know me as the giant naked guy that wrecked the mall. I'm never going to live this down. What am I even going to wear? This banner can only cover like a third, no wait half of my body. I can't wear this forever, it'll tear sooner or later. What if Doystrum wants to get revenge and hunt me down. Or hurt my family. And then there's M.O.A.T. I'll going to be hauled off to a facility and be locked up just like when they took-"
His panic attack was put on hold as he noticed something. The banner that initially was only able to cover a portion of his body was now blanketed over him. He grabbed the banner and tried to unravel himself like a kid whose parents tucked him in too well. After a few seconds he managed to get his head out and discovered that he was back to his normal size. "Oh. Well I guess…that's one less thing to worry about."
"Are you done with your little melt down?"
"….for now." His sense of duty to the captain overpowered his dread for the time being.
"Good, cause I have something to say to you. I don't know what people are going to think or say about all this, but to me you did something pretty heroic. Sure, you messed up here and there, but what matters is you beat the bad guy and saved the day. Some people are going to be a bit upset but don't let anyone tell you otherwise." A small smile worked its way onto Mason's face as he felt a little better about the situation. Even if the collateral damage was bigger than what Solar was telling him. Still, it was comforting to think that he helped saved lives.
"Th-thanks Captain, but I think this was just a fluke."
"Maybe…but I know a way we can find out."
Before Mason could ask him anything, Captain Solar grabbed a corner of the banner and leaped over the starstruck teen to grab the other side. He took the corners of the banner and wrapped it around Mason once more tying up in a bundle. "Stay calm and try not to grow big or anything. This'll be a long flight."
"What about DoystAAAAAAAAHH!" Mason cried as Solar took off into the sky carrying him along for the ride.
"Don't worry, the cops can handle him. Shouldn't be too hard to find a madman in a flying glass dome. Besides, we got bigger things to take care of. Starting with taking you back to HQ and meeting the team."
The two of them departed, leaving behind Mason's small home town, the wreckage of the mall, his classmates, his family, and his phone still playing that recording from before.
As we finish our look into the past, let us look to the future and mysteries it holds. Who knows what sorts of heroes and villains will be spawned or what lies in store for mankind and mutates. Whatever awaits us, rest easy knowing that there are heroes watching over us in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
Katie should be happy. Not only did she survive a stick up, stop a gang of misfits, and save her Mom and Chuck from a carjacker, but she did it all on her own and was able to push her powers farther than ever before. And best of all, she got to be a superhero for the afternoon. That's every kid's dream. She should be celebrating. Instead, she was sulking on the couch in her living room while her mother paced back and forth choking on her anger.
"Three weeks! You kept this from us for three weeks?!" Stacey repeated, absolutely livid about the whole thing.
"Well more like seventeen days," Katie clarified, hoping that it would somehow make the situation better. It didn't but it was worth a shot. Especially if it would get her mom to settle down.
"That explains a lot actually," Chuck chimed in. He was leaning against the wall checking his phone for any news about their incident. After the police came and questioned them, they drove straight home to confront Katie and get a first aid kit for Chuck. Katie was thankful he wasn't giving her such a hard time. If anything, he seemed to be the only thing keeping her mom from having a nervous breakdown but even that seemed like a losing battle.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
"Well I thought it was something embarrassing," Chuck answered cautiously, "like she was looking up porn or it was that time of-"
"Not you, her!" Katie knew that tone well. Her mother was in complete mama bear mode. She was not to be trifled with and you'd need a heavy dose of tranquilizer to knock her out.
"What was I supposed to say?" Katie retaliated. "'Hey mom? Could you come in here, some wing sprouted on my back overnight and I can make things fly with this dust I make!'"
"Wait, flying dust?" While Chuck was being more level-headed, he was still concerned and a bit confused.
"Yeah if I concentrate, I can make this glittery stuff from my hands. If I put it on something I can make it float and move it from a distance. It only lasts like 10, 15 minutes tops. The heavier something is, the more dust I need." Katie explained, trying to calmly assuring them that she was fine but saying it aloud even she thought it was strange. She didn't want it to sound strange but how else could you describe it.
"How do you know this!" Stacey said, both irate but also flabbergasted that Katie could treat this so nonchalantly. When the reality of it was that Katie was starting to lose her cool too.
"Because I've had time! When Chuck isn't tutoring me, I've been trying to figure out what's wrong with me and how to control it," she revealed, folding her arms up and growing irritated. "I've done a bit of hovering in the backyard but I haven't flown like that until today."
Her mom exhaled and rubbed her temples. "Tell me you haven't shown anyone this...this thing you can do."
"Of course not! I'm not an idiot." Sure she could be a little naive but even she wasn't that foolish. "Besides, who would I tell? Our non-existent neighbors? The handful of people I follow online? My imaginary friend Gorbo I had when I was 8?"
"Now Katie-" Chuck started before being interrupted.
"Do you think this is funny? This is serious!" fumed Stacey.
"I KNOW THIS IS SERIOUS! That's why I've been trying so hard to hide it so you don't send me away!"
Katie's sudden exclamation left her panting and the adults speechless. She was tired of having them talk down to her like she was a naive kid. She's thought about this more than they thought and spent even more time keeping up the facade that everything was fine. "I know what I am, and I know what happens to kids like me. You have to call M.O.A.T. and let them take me away." Her voice cracked as if her body was trying to stop her from stating the horrible truth.
"Now wait a moment," Chuck said, "We would never-"
"You have to! I've seen the videos. My powers could go haywire and I could hurt people. Or someone could find out and use it to blackmail mom. If the police find out, you guys could go to jail." She could name plenty of ways of other scenarios that have been on her mind for weeks but there wasn't a point in doing so. They all spelled out the same thing. She was a time bomb that could destroy them at any moment. "I thought if I could control my powers and hide it, I wouldn't have to tell you and you wouldn't have to worry about me. But then I had to go play the hero and put you in danger. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. I'm sorry for being so selfish. I'm sorry I messed up our lives."
Once she spoke her piece, the tears began to flow. It was all out in the open and it was all over. She dried her eyes with her elbow, and expected one of them to make the call to M.O.A.T. Instead, her mother swooped in for a tight embrace.
"My life is already messed up," Stacey admitted. "I have to juggle the responsibilities of being a governor and a single mother. I know I haven't always been there for you and I haven't been able to give you a normal childhood but I've taken comfort in thinking that I kept you safe. If I made you think for a second that I would just let someone harm you or take you away from me forever, then I must have failed you somewhere down the line."
Hearing her mother's words hurt worse than any bullet. She'd rather have her mother shouting at her then listen to her sorrow. "Of course not! You haven't-"
"That's why I want to make this clear, Katie. If keeping this a secret will keep you safe, then I'll take this to my grave. Because wings or no wings, I love you, sweetie, and I'll never stop loving you or protecting you."
Katie sniffled and gazed at her with disbelief. Stacey Mesmar, the incorruptible Governor, no, her mother, was willing to break the law to keep her powers a secret and her safe. To think that she ever doubted her just seemed ridiculous at this point and made her smile. Not because of the audacity of it, but because it showed just how much her mother cared for her. She hugged her mom back and savored the moment for as long as they could. The sweet silent moment didn't last long. Someone's loud sniffling broke the peace, and it wasn't either of them. The two looked at Chuck and saw him try to quickly blot his eyes.
Realizing that he disrupted the scene, he cleared his throat. "Oh, um...I should probably step out and um order dinner. If you'll excuse me..." Chuck sheepishly stepped out of the room trying to preserve the sentimental occasion while he still could. Just as quickly as he left, Chuck stuck his head back through the doorway adding, "Just to be clear, I also promise not to-"
"Oh we know Chuck. We trust you." Chuck wasn't just a bodyguard. He was practically family, and if there was anyone she could trust to keep a secret, it was Chuck.
"Right, right," He said, looking a bit awkward. "So, how does pizza sound?"
Stacey chuckled and said, "Only if it's light pepperoni. You know how they overdo it."
Chuck nodded knowing well what she meant and took his leave, giving the girls their privacy.
"So...you're really okay with this?"
"As long as you aren't hiding anything else. No other hidden powers or secrets?"
"I'm not that good at hiding secrets."
"Alright," Stacey mused. "Wings should be easy to hide, but I want you to promise me that you will never pull a stunt like that again. I'll make an exception just this once because it was for self-defense but you're not becoming some sort of vigilante. Promise me that you won't use these powers unless it's an emergency and YOU are in danger."
"Well what if-"
"Call the authorities and let THEM handle it." She should have known that her mom wouldn't just let everything slide.
"Oh...alright. I promise."
"That's my girl. Now go wash up before dinner gets here." Katie only washed off the paint from her face, the rest of her clothes and body was still coated in colors. Katie chuckled and nodded, standing up to head to the shower.
"You think they'll talk about what happened on the news?" she asked pausing before taking her leave.
"Doubt it!" Chuck shouted from down the hall. "Everyone's talking about some half naked giant fighting a killer robot."
"Yeah, I'm still in Philly. I lost the cops hours ago," Frank reported, his clothes soaked from the events prior. "Can't say the same 'bout the others, but they don't know squat. And hey, if the cops picked up that old broad's list, we could probably pay them off and get it back."
Try as he might to put a positive spin on the day's events, it was clear his boss wasn't too thrilled. Frank would be pissed too if the roles were reversed. "Okay okay, I hear ya but I do know one thing. There's at least one of those creeps running around playing hero. If you send me a couple guys down, I can-"
"You will lay low until I instruct you otherwise. The last thing we need is L.I.G.H.T. catching word about our plans. Let her pretend she's a hero. Maybe we'll get lucky and she'll get taken out by someone from G.L.O.O.M. Just observe and keep me updated until I arrive." As much as Frank hated sitting by and missing out on the action, he couldn't argue with the boss. He was the only person he would take guff from.
"Alright I'll lay low for now. I'm gonna make it all up to you, you'll see. I-" Frank was met with silence as the call was ended. He growled and shoved the phone back in his drenched jeans. "She thinks she's so tough. Wait til the boss gets a hold of her. She'll wish I put a bullet in her head."
Thank you so much for taking the time to what is essentially the pilot to a series I've been developing for the last 4-5 years. I aim to write more "episodes" when I get the chance and look forward to writing more about Mason and Katie's adventures, although I might change the names as I develop this. The series will bounce between heroes kind of like how the MCU switches between the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc. Some episodes will be team-ups, some will be solo outings. Please take the time to comment and leave a review as it always brightens my day when people leave their two cents in.