Please Note: Chapters have been posted in their unedited form and do not fully reflect the final work.
Suddenly I was standing in front of a thrift shop in a plaza full of people. I looked around wildly not knowing what to do when my earbud chirped to life, “Star confirm onsite. Hostile contact is imminent. The primary objective is to protect a newly manifested Delta from abduction. The subject has been designated ‘Delta One’ and their last known location is Mary’s Thrift Shoppe in Liberty Plaza.”
“Star confirms onsite Overwatch. What am I facing and what about all the people in the plaza”, I nervously replied.
The reply was now quick and professional, “Reports of an unknown Supernormal abduction team. Exact composition is unknown, however expect them to be heavily armed and use extreme caution. Intelligence suggests that a Supernormal operator is in play. Your secondary objective is to protect any citizens caught in the crossfire and minimize casualties. Backup has been dispatched and is approximately five minutes out. Good luck Star.”
“Thanks,” I muttered as I racked my brain to figure out what to do. Think Star, think. God, Captain Williams and Fox have been drilling me with tactics for the last two years, why am I blanking now? Just when I was starting to think I would never think of something I remembered something Captain Williams was always saying, ‘Control the battlefield’. While in an open space like this, I couldn’t do much to control the environment but I knew they were coming so I had that advantage. I just need to find a weakness and use that as a wedge to start breaking them down.
“Overwatch, do we know Delta One’s name?”, I asked while I stood bouncing in front of the shop like a boxer waiting for a round to start.
A couple of seconds went by before Overwatch responded, “Julie Jones, age fourteen.”
“Thank you Overwatch.”, can you patch me through to the shop and Julie’s phone?”
“Negative Star. Communications seem to be down in your area. We suspect jamming has been deployed. Be aware, your communications may be affected even though we use a different system. This attack caught us by surprise, and we only learned of it at the last minute. Abduction teams are usually fast and mobile but expect at least a five person team,” Overwatch responded although there was noticeable static in the response this time.
“Roger that,” I replied while squinting out into the plaza like I could manifest the bad guys. Realizing I needed to do something proactive, I turned to the shop and yelled, “Attention those in the thrift shop! This is Supernormal first responder Star, we have an emerging Supernormal threat out here. Communications in this area are down and for your safety, I ask that you find the safest location in the store and stay put until given the all clear. Your shop is my responsibility and I will be intercepting anything that comes your way. If you look out your windows I’m the blonde lady in the silly white outfit with a star on her chest. Now that you’ve had a look go find someplace safe and we’ll get through this just fine.”
I really hoped that would be good enough. This scenario was starting to feel a little too real and I had to be running out of time. Touching my earbud I attempted to contact Overwatch for another sitrep, but all I got back was an ear full of static. Not good.
It was time to do something other than stand there and wait so I decided to get a bird's eye view of the approach and hopefully gain some intel. I floated up about 50 feet in the air and did a slow spin to surveil the area. Feeling a bit of breeze and noticing that it looked like a weather front was approaching from the west I still didn’t see anything. I didn’t want to alarm anyone unduly, but the people in the plaza were starting to notice my odd behavior when suddenly I saw a glint from a three-story building about 500 feet away.
“Crap!”, was all I could exclaim before pain blossomed in my right shoulder, and I fell like a stone to the ground as the report of the sniper rifle echoed through the plaza. It felt like a hot poker had been jammed into my shoulder and looking at the spot where the round hit I could see a discoloration where it had hit on my uniform. My side also was smarting a bit since I smashed into a light pole on the way down so I was off to a rocking start.
After getting behind some cover by a fountain I looked out into the plaza and saw the abduction team scattering for cover from a panel van. I caught three hostiles bail from the van so with the sniper and driver Overwatch was on the money on the size of the hostile team. If I had to guess they were going to try and flank me with one of them laying down suppression while their teammates work their way around while their sniper kept me grounded.
This was just supposed to be a practice run before my test tomorrow. I don’t know what Fox was playing at but I decided I didn’t care if ‘Julie’ was virtual or not these a-holes were not going to get their hands on her. My shoulder was a constant dull throb and even though Fox had warned me ahead of time I was still pissed I’d already managed to get myself shot. It was time to take it out on something.
Standing up from the fountain manifesting my energy ability in my fists, I clapped my hands together over my head resulting in a loud “CRACK” that echoed off the plaza and a burst of light in the fuchsia, and neon blue colors that are the manifestation of my energy ability. Fortunately, I got the desired effect of causing the plaza to stop and look at me and I yelled out, “Citizens! Evacuate immediately!”
And with that, I was on the move. Staying below the rooftops so the sniper couldn’t get a clean shot I flew straight at the hostile who was on point at the other end of the plaza. My little light show bought me the time I need to get to the first hostile and flew in a little too fast and almost overshot them but was able to grab them and smash an elbow into their temple dropping them immediately. I took a quick look around and there was still too much chaos for my liking. People were running all over and it was making it hard to see the other hostiles.
“Overwatch, Hostile down,” I said into my communicator but didn’t get a response. “Overwatch if you can hear me I’ve got at least five hostiles. One neutralized. Do you copy?”, but there was still nothing.
Realizing I needed to keep moving I spared a glance at where I last saw one of the hostiles who was edging around the plaza when a burst of gunfire erupted from that area causing the ground to my right to erupt in debris. The people who had yet to evacuate the plaza began to scream and panic even more as I jumped back to try and spot the shooter through the chaos. I was almost certain they were by a food cart when they broke cover for another burst of fire that missed by about a foot but still caused me to jump back to try and break line of sight with the shooter.
Turns out this was actually a feint and the shooter wasn’t aiming to hit me but rather to push me back into the sniper's line of sight. I know this because, for the second time in a minute, I felt the impact of a bullet. This time I was struck in the leg and spun down to the ground with a cry of pain. My whole leg went numb and I realized at that point that I was flailing. I did not have control of the battlefield and if I didn’t do something soon I was going to fail my objective.
Rolling next to a planter I pulled myself up with a grunt of pain. I was out of options, and I had to start eliminating some hostiles. It was already a miracle nobody had been killed collaterally at this point, but before I could get too lost in that thought I needed to get moving before the sniper could get another shot, and it was time to take care of the hot dog shooter. Floating off the ground so that I didn’t have any weight on my injured leg I put a hand up and quickly strobed my power “Pop, pop, pop” and then immediately shot to the hot dog cart to try and catch the hostile by surprise which in a stroke of luck I did. They were looking to change positions and didn’t see me coming around the opposite side of the cart. They caught sight of me at the last second but it was too late I was already firing an energy bolt into their chest which flung them back about ten feet before they smashed into the pavement. I flew over to make sure they were out before turning my attention to the driver and the van.
The plaza had finally cleared out and I moved quickly to cover behind a vending machine. I knew it had only been a couple of minutes but it felt like forever. I didn’t have time to dawdle but also knew I needed a plan and to take stock. My shoulder hurt like crazy but was usable so that good. My leg on the other hand already had a deep purple bruise where it had hit bare skin on the back of my thigh. I was getting some feeling back but it was weaker than I’d like.
I turned on my communicator to check in with Overwatch and said, “Star to Overwatch. Do you copy Overwatch? Hostile two down. The plaza is evacuated but three hostiles remain. One is in a sniping position. What is the ETA of backup?”
Nothing. Same as before. With a sigh I realized that I was still on my own, only now I could hear sirens in the distance that sounded like they were heading my way. Ok, one hostile was with the van, one was the sniper and one had ghosted. Thinking about the lessons Fox and Captain Williams had drilled into me I realized that the ghost was the one that was the most dangerous so the other two had to be dealt with, and dealt with quickly. Everything else was just a distraction. If my assessment was right the sniper would try to protect the getaway vehicle now that the assault team was decimated while hoping to get me clear for a kill shot. I needed to get the van and driver off the board so I could deal with the sniper. Time for a stupid plan.
I peeked out from my vending machine cover to make sure I got a good look at where the van and the driver were before ducking back just as a bullet smashed into the decorative brickwork lining the area. Ok time to test the power of stupidity. I rushed out of cover holding my cape over my face and chest stretched taut like a shield. The fabric was bulletproof and I remember my instructors always saying to shoot for center mass so I took that to heart and tried to cover as much of myself as possible. Sure enough two bullets rattled my arms as I flew across the plaza. They both hit my fabric shield and thankfully the fabric held. Right as I was about where I judged the van to be a quick percussion of hits splattered against the fabric and I could see spots where it was starting to tear. Changing my plan on the fly I dropped my good shoulder and just slammed straight into the van.
Fun fact, I’m not just more durable than your average person I’m stronger too even though I spend most of my time trying not to use it. I hit the van with enough force that it crumpled around me a bit before slamming up and over on its side. I heard a yelp from the van and zipped over to find the driver pinned by his leg. The simulation was damn good because the driver looked up at me and said, “My leg. Please…please help.”
“Sure,” I said as I kicked the gun away. Reaching down I picked up the van just enough to slide the hostile out and then cracked them upside their head knocking them out. Time for the sniper. I launched into the air making sure to throw off some random bursts of energy as I did so and leaned into my flight ability and getting to the sniper’s position as fast as possible.
I can move pretty damn fast when I want to in the air, and in perfect conditions I can get up to speeds of a little over two hundred miles per hour. According to Dr. Rokker, I haven’t reached my top speed yet as my abilities are still developing, so once I lined up on the building where I had last seen the sniper I was there in a couple of seconds.
I came in hard and I was definitely letting my emotions run a little hot because I blasted the entire balcony as I came in blowing out the patio doors and windows and throwing glass into the interior of the apartment. I realized belatedly that I didn’t know if the apartment was occupied and that there could have been civilians inside along with the hostile. I let my anger get the better of me and cursed silently for the mistake. My heart raced as I scanned the interior quickly, and I found the sniper crawling toward the door of the apartment and fortunately nobody else. My blast had caught them trying to relocate and the concussion had thrown them off their feet. No wasting the chance I flew in and blasted the hostile with an energy blast which should put them down long enough for backup to get here and help with clean up and containment.
I quickly activated my communicator to do my due diligence in reporting to Overwatch and said, “Star to Overwatch, hostiles three and four are down. Hostile five is in the wind. I’m out of position and heading back to Delta One’s position. Now would be a great time for some backup.”
Launching back out of the busted apartment I raced back to the thrift shop just in time to catch a figure jump to the thrift shop roof from an adjacent building with the fluidity and grace of an acrobat. No doubt this was Fox. I got you this time, I thought as raced to catch him off guard. I came in fast on his back shoulder hoping to just tackle him right off the roof before he could see me coming but amazingly he twisted out of the way at the last second and threw an elbow jab into my ribs sending me off balance and into the roof with a crash.
I rolled with it as best as I could but it was still a mess as my leg absolutely screamed at me and my shoulder which had been feeling a little better was back to letting me know it was also angry. Coming out of the roll…flop…whatever, roughly facing Fox on one knee I realized that he had drawn his weapon and was siting down on me. My cape was caught under me so I got as compact as I could in a crouch behind my knee and put my forearms up to cover my face and core.
Fox quickly proved true to his word about not taking it easy as absolute fire blossomed all along my arms as fox emptied his clip into me. I was in agony but didn’t have time to worry much about it as suddenly he was on me before I could clear the tears of pain from my eyes. He snapped a kick right into the side of my head which I just slightly deflected by the grace of already having my arms up in a defensive position. The force of the kick threw me down to the roof and I managed to roll and get my hands up for a quick strobe of my energy ability hoping to catch him by surprise but quick as lighting he had slid off to my left causing me to catch nothing but air.
As he moved Fox was lining up another strike and while I didn’t hit him with my energy ability it gives off light so the quick flash was just enough to trigger the lenses in his mask to darken for a second which caused him to hitch in his strike. I took that moment to roll away to my right and try to get airborne. As I jumped to get airborne Fox jumped into a roll and used the momentum coming out of it to spring into the air grabbing my cape and slammed me back to the roof with a crack.
Pivoting with the grace of a ballerina he put himself directly over the top of me with his foot on my cape to pin me down and pulled his XM18 from his back holster and pointed it at the star logo on my chest in one smooth motion.
Evidently, you can beat the ever loving crap out of me but you can’t beat the snark out of me because even though my brain was real fuzzy around the edges and I hurt almost everywhere, I looked up into Fox’s mask and sassed, “What’s the matter? Can’t monologue with the mask on? Isn’t this where you tell me I can’t win and to give up?”
“No,” Fox replied and pumped four shots in quick succession right into the star on my chest. I screamed and curled into a ball as pure fire radiated through my chest. All the other pain was nothing compared to the agony that I was feeling at that moment, but a small angry part of my brain was screaming to get up and move. A little angry ember that was rapidly exploding into an inferno. I trusted Fox, how could he do this to me? How could he be so cold was running laps like a race car through my head.
“Screw you,” I choked out despite the agony and I twisted around and up into a crouch reaching back at the same time and ripping my cape free from its clasp. Fox jumped back in surprise while training his gun on me but this time I wasn’t going to give him time to shoot me and shoulder faked to the left before moving right as much as my bad let would let me. Unbelievably he followed my movement like he was in my head. It was uncanny, nobody moves that fast, and neither enhanced speed nor telepathy was one of his abilities so I had no idea how he was doing it.
At that moment though I was too mad to care. I had to get him off of me so I continued my momentum backward and threw my arms out like a baseball umpire signaling safe throwing out an energy wave, and I’ll be damned if Fox didn’t almost dodge it as he dropped back like he was doing an aggressive limbo but he wasn’t quite fast enough. The wave clipped him in the mask and his gun hand causing him to get rocked back away from me and as he fell he lost his grip on the gun. I spun away and got into the air but Fox had already rolled away from where he was thrown and had drawn the sword from the sheath on his back. I couldn’t see his face behind the cold expressionless mask he wore and I couldn’t help but idly wonder if there was a story behind the mask or if he was simply just leaning into his code name. Regardless it was damn effective as the eyes were just lenses and the details of the mask gave you a vague impression of a Japanese kitsune. It was sleek but slightly sinister and unsettling.
“Star, backup thirty seconds out,” my earbud crackled back to life at that moment with Overwatch providing the update I’d been waiting for. I didn’t bother replying though as getting distracted right now was a sure fire way to lose the fight but at least now I knew that I had to ONLY hold another thirty seconds against Fox who had pretty much smacked me around at this point. My abilities were my only advantage so it was time to press it. I shot off a blast and Fox dove out of the way so I started to shoot volleys at him and he danced through them somehow until he made it to the stairwell door on the other side of the roof that provided access to the roof from the inside of the thrift shop and broke my line of site.
Dammit. I raced to where I’d last seen him slip around the corner ready to blast him off the damn roof when suddenly he was behind me and a line of burning agony traced a line across my back as Fox slashed me with his sword causing me to flinch and jump away from the contact. This of course was his plan all along as he spun out of the slash and ran toward the edge of the roof closest to the entrance to the thrift shop. As breathed through the pain I realized Fox knew he was out of time and was going for the girl when he didn’t even look back at me and jumped over the side of the building.
I groaned and flew after him dropping over the side of the building and speeding to catch him which I managed to do right before he got to the door. The sirens blaring in the background were very close now adding to the madness this training session had become.
Fox of course managed to duck and pivot my grab attempt so I put on the air brakes just in time to get snap kicked in the ribs but this time I wasn’t going to be moved. Making sure to keep as much pressure off my let as possible I stood my ground and blasted a shot at Fox. He dodged it by just slightly moving off its trajectory and fired off an upward slash with his sword, but this time I read his move having trained against him hundreds of times. It was a move combination he liked to use when using batons and staffs.
I swung my forearm over and blocked the sword away hitting the flat of the blade and with my other hand I blasted him point blank. Both the sword and Fox went flying in different directions and this time he must have been stunned because he landed roughly about twenty feet away. It was the first time I hadn’t seen him move fluidly but he was already getting back to his feet. I need to end this before someone got hurt…more hurt if I was being honest. I rushed to him and grabbed him by the front of his uniform and yelled, “This is over! Surrender or I will be forced to do whatever is necessary to incapacitate you. You’ve lost.”
Fox’s mask tilted a little as I held him off the ground and in that cold emotionless tone he said, “Did I?”
“What? All of your team are down and you’re in no position to do anything.”, I growled into that mask I was quickly growing to hate.
“My orders were to bring the Delta in if possible or to liquidate the target to take them off the board. We can’t allow competitors to have such a valuable asset,” he said.
Looking behind me in a panic I realized I’d missed a detail in my rush to get to Fox and that was the round device blinking a countdown stuck to the door. “Oh, no” I whispered and flung Fox across the plaza. I didn’t even glance to see how he landed as I acted on pure instinct and adrenaline and flew as fast as I could to the door. Not quite sure how to remove the device or if it would trigger if I touched it I smashed the lock and grabbed the door and pulled it as hard as I could a ripped it off the building. The LED on the device immediately started a frantic strobe and I knew I was out of time. I jumped the door away from the building and I had time to register a ‘Bang’ right before the world went white and then black.