It’s Friday Flash Fics time and I’ve totally fallen into a Mutants & Masterminds hole over the last week. It’s a game system from Green Ronin press used to make a superhero tabletop RPG, and ever since I started writing these flash fiction pieces to draw on the world I started with “Lesser Evil” (from The Lavender Menace), the idea of a superhero-themed RPG has been itching at the back of my head. I’ve been working on creating the characters, and wow, this is so much nerd for an introduction.
Anyway. This picks up right where the last episode left off. In order, after the original short story “Lesser Evil,” these stories are: “Terrible Waste,” “Ready,” “All Aboard,” “Out,” and last week’s “Rescue.”
It was much warmer on the other side of Railroad’s portal. Kyle stripped off his hooded jacket and threw it back to the other side, listening. The sounds of something like fighting were coming from the other side of a copse of trees, and he supposed that was as good a place as any to hide a prison.
He moved as fast as he dared, keeping low to the ground as the sky above him started to lighten to something more grey than black. At least it was cloudy, so the sun rising wasn’t too much of a disaster.
Kyle reached out with his other sense, and felt only the finest of morning mist, a weak return on his awareness of water. There were no lakes or rivers nearby, or at least, not within his range. That… wasn’t great. He undid the tops of the two large water canteens he kept tied to his belt, and felt the water inside, connecting with it.
It was better than nothing.
It wasn’t much further before the trees thinned out and he saw a squat, concrete building surrounded by fencing, a single tower on the side furthest his approach.
Where were they? Why hadn’t they come through Jakob’s portal?
A flash of fire answered that question. The light drew his attention; they were pretty far from the detention centre itself, on the other side from where he was looking and almost out of view completely. Cinder and Quantum and Railroad were there in their black night-ops outfits, and one of them was prone, but the other two were upright.
Why weren’t they running? Or flying? Or using a portal?
The last answer occurred to him the moment he asked it: Jakob could only make one set of portals at a time. One in, one out. If he was concentrating on the portal back to the cabin—and since he’d just used it, he was sure that was what he was doing—he couldn’t open another until he let it close.
Was it as simple as that? They were buying time for the detainees to get away?
If it was, he needed to move his own ass back to it, because if they portaled home without him, he’d be stuck here in freaking Texas and the last thing he needed was to be in goddamn Texas.
One of the figures raised a hand and a flare of flame lashed out. So Cinder was one of the upright ones, then. The fire, though, hit something a few feet from where they stood and then curved up and around them, like they were inside some sort of bubble or something.
Kyle reached up and tapped his earpiece.
“You three okay?” he said.
“Kyle?” Cinder’s voice was barely audible over a lot of static. “What are—?” the rest was lost, but Kyle was pretty sure it was some variation on What the fuck are you doing here? Only Jeff rarely swore.
“I can barely hear you,” Kyle said. “It looks like you’re trapped in a bubble? I can barely see you. I’m on the far side of the prison from you.”
Jeff’s response was more or less white noise, though Kyle was pretty sure he heard the words Quantum, prisoners, and portal.
He needed to get closer.
“I can’t make out what you’re saying,” Kyle said, picking his way around the edge of the forest. He kept his eyes open and his sense of water stretched out as far as he could. It felt like it was taking forever to work his way around the side of the prison.
Also, he felt like an idiot for ditching his coat. Red flannel was not a spec-ops look.
“The prisoners made it through your portal,” Kyle said. “So if you’re waiting for that, don’t. By all means portal yourself out of that bubble. Though I’d appreciate you coming back for me.”
More static, but this time he got more words.
“…scatters…Quantum down…Railroad can’t…”
Well, none of that sounded good.
“Still can’t quite hear you,” Kyle said. “But it sounds like Quantum is down and Railroad can’t portal from inside the bubble?”
“Affirmative.” Even with the static he could hear that. Then there was something else, which ended with “…the Patriot…the gate?”
Kyle bit his lip, and sped up. At least if he worked up a sweat, he’d have more moisture to work with. After a few more dashes from tree-to-tree, he caught sight of the front of the building, where a woman in the garish red-white-and-blue uniforms the so-called “Patriot Metahumans” wore was standing, arms reaching out toward Cinder, Quantum, and Railroad. She had the full helmet, too. The air around her, and thin stream that ran between her and the men, shimmered.
Kyle concentrated, trying to get a feel of the moisture in the air near the woman. It was pushing the mist away from her, and it wasn’t heating up the water, exactly, but it was bouncing it around really fast…
He didn’t know what it meant, but from the woman’s stance, it looked like she was concentrating. That made sense.
The other people around her were in the lesser, solid blue uniforms that meant they weren’t metahuman, but they were definitely armed. They were rifles up, too. That was… bad. He scanned the group a second time, still moving, and saw another red-white-and-blue, taller, probably a man. He definitely looked ready, but he wasn’t armed with any weapons, which didn’t bode well for whatever power it was he head.
If he didn’t have a weapon, it meant he didn’t think he needed one. Because he was one.
Kyle made one more dash, and then realized there wasn’t much further he could go. The trees thinned out too much and there’d be nowhere to hide.
He tried the mic again. “I’m about as close as I can get. I see two Patriots.”
“Her field is scattering anything I try to do in here,” Jakob’s voice was tight, even with the wash of static. Kyle had to concentrate to make out his words. “I don’t know how she’s doing it.”
“Quantum tried to phase us through and it knocked him out,” Jeff added.
“There’s barely any water here,” Kyle said, a sick feeling twisting in his stomach. “I could try to run back to the portal, maybe call Mentaliste?” It wasn’t much of a plan. Mentaliste—Solange—wasn’t even particularly near the cabin. Also she was eight months pregnant.
“We’re low on air,” Jeff said. “Partly my fault.”
“Oh fuck,” Kyle muttered. “Okay. Uh.. Okay…” He reached out, gathering all the water from his two canteens into a two foot sphere above him. “I’ve got one hit worth of water with me, but after that, I’m down to mist…”
“I think I can get you more,” Jakob said.
Was he struggling to breathe? Kyle bit his lip, waiting. “How?”
“Outside… isn’t… inside.” Jakob was definitely struggling to breathe.
No time to figure out what he meant. Kyle peered just far enough from behind the tree to see the Patriot and then launched his sphere of water at her with everything he had.
Despite a few warning cries at the last second from some of the blue-clad soldiers, it smacked her on the side of the head and knocked her down to one knee. Kyle felt the same sort of “scattering” effect happen to the sphere of water, and it slipped completely out of his mental control. He stared at the bubble around Cinder and Quantum and Railroad, biting his lip, but it was still there. She still had them.
He reached out for the mist, pulling on it with every part of his strength. If he condensed it enough, maybe he could—
—water. Lots of water.
Kyle blinked, and turned to look at where his senses were pulling him. Above the gate to the prison, there was an open portal. And on the other side, so close the occasional wave was splashing out over the bottom of Railroad’s circular portal…
Kyle grinned. That was the freaking ocean.
With a jerk of his hand and a tug on his power, Kyle sent water flooding through the portal down at the soldiers below. The water slammed into them from above, knocking them in every direction.
“We’re free,” Jeff’s voice was a bit gaspy, but there was no static left.
“That’s great,” Kyle said. “Get out of—”
Kyle snapped up into the sky.
It was like gravity had given up on him, or gotten really, really pissed off at him. He flew up into the sky, tumbling head over heels, and it was possible he was swearing and yelling and he couldn’t even see what was happening he was spinning so fast.
And then, just as suddenly, the upward motion ended and he was falling.
“Shiiiiiit!” he managed, and desperately pulling at all the moisture he could find. Maybe he could gather the ocean water beneath him to at least somewhat cushion his fall?
There wasn’t enough time.
The air changed.
Kyle blinked. One second he’d seen the tree tops blurring past and known he was about to hit the ground, and the next there weren’t any trees and it was cooler. Above him, he saw one of Railroad’s portals.
“On my way,” Cinder’s voice was calm.
Kyle managed to twist in the air, not flipping over and over. There was no sign of the prison and he was much, much higher in the air than he’d been a few seconds ago. And there was a streak of light coming his way.
“Let me know if you need another loop.” Jakob’s voice wasn’t quite as calm.
“I’ll get it in one.”
“Please do,” Kyle said.
Kyle expected Cinder to zoom up and catch him, but instead, he seemed to be slowing down? It confused him at first, before he realized just how fast he was moving himself, and if Cinder had tried to catch him they’d likely both break bones.
“This isn’t fun,” Kyle said. “I am not having fun. For the record.” He had to yell over the sound of the air.
“Noted. I’ve got you.” That calm voice thing was pretty cool, actually. Totally made him feel like everything wasn’t a complete clusterfuck. It was only mostly a clusterfuck.
Kyle dared to look again. Cinder was kind of falling below him, though he was getting closer and closer. So was the lakeshore. They were back at the lake. In Canada. Jakob must have portaled him into the air and then portaled them to the ground and…
“You sure you don’t want another loop?” Jakob said.
“The ground is really close,” Kyle said.
The jolt of Cinder catching him was still pretty harsh, but Kyle managed to wrap his arms around him and hold on as the air around them grew very warm, very fast. The lurch of Cinder adding lift was palpable and threatened to bring up Kyle’s dinner, but it passed.
They landed a few moments later, and Cinder let go.
Kyle took a few steps, just breathing. “What the hell was that?”
“The other meta. He’s either some sort of telekinetic or he does something with gravity,” Jakob had pulled off his mask and was leaning over Quantum’s prone body. “Colin?”
“Ow,” Colin said, in a gravelly voice. “That… hurt.”
Jeff joined the two men. “You okay?”
“Double-double,” Colin said, in what was now sounding like a rather affected voice. “Stat.”
Jeff rolled his eyes. “Of course. He’s fine.”
Colin sat up, a wry grin in place. They helped him stand. “Her force-fields packed a punch.”
Kyle was still sort of just enjoying standing on solid ground. He finally turned and looked at Jakob, who was regarding him warily.
“That was a great trick with the ocean,” he said, because if he answered the question he was pretty sure he’d start hyperventilating.
Jakob smiled. “You said you needed water.”
“You said the detainees made it out?” Jeff said.
Kyle nodded. “Yeah. They should be at the cabin by now. Five of them.”
Jeff blew out a breath. “Good. Let’s go back. Jakob?”
Colin cleared his throat.
Jeff looked at Colin. Colin shrugged.
“I could totally go for an apple fritter,” Kyle said. Colin winked at him.
“Fine. First Tim Hortons. Then the cabin.”
Jakob opened a portal.