Wearing The Cape: Villains Inc.

 
Episode One: Preemption
Chapter One

Before the Event, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical, and biological, remained beyond the reach of terrorist organizations. Terrorist attacks by individuals, although explosive-enhanced, could only be perpetrated against soft targets.

 

The Event has changed everything; now super-terrorists can strike anytime, anywhere, and even assault or
stand off
conventional military forces.
 
Worse, Verne-type
superhumans
are often capable of making more exotic weapons of terror.
 
Some, particularly of the save-the-world
ecoterrorist
flavor, are highly motivated to do just that.
 
A perfect example is the Godzilla Plague.

 

Sir Arthur Moore,
War in the Heroic Age

 
 

“Nuts!” I swore when the
godzilla
came over the harbor wall.

 

Beside me the Bees, their eyes wide as saucers, watched it pull itself up. Lake-water poured off of its sides.

 

Then Megan snickered. “Nuts? Is that seriously the best you’ve got?”

 

That—and the screaming crowd—broke the spell for Julie and
Annabeth
. It was a beautiful spring day and I’d had no duties, so all three Bees had dragged me to Navy Pier for Chicago’s first warm weekend. Things were getting better, but after the last four awful months they were still in “Don’t let Hope mope” mode.

 

So of
course
it was our turn.

 

The creature splashed into the harbor, rocking ships as it half-swam, half-waded towards the pier, and the Bees clustered in around me as the rest of the weekend crowd turned into a fleeing mob. News-footage of the other attacks hadn’t really prepared me for how big it was, and I fumbled in my bag for my
earbug
.

 

“Hope?”
Shelly queried when I got the
earbug
in.

 

“I’m on the pier!” I responded, reaching out to grab
Annabeth
when a rude man and his date shoved her out of their way.

 

“You’re there? Cameras just caught it—how fast is it coming?”
My BFF and Dispatch wingman, Shelly sounded calmer than I was.

 

“Not fast, but—” Behind me the park music died. Looking back, I saw the Ferris wheel jerk to a halt, cars swinging. My
earbug
snarled and popped, but—
thank God
—didn’t die too. “The critter’s electromagnetic pulse field is working, just like the ones that hit Tokyo and New York!”

 

“Is there somewhere you can change?”
Lei
Zi
broke in, cool as ice. I looked around.

 

“We’re outside the Grand Ballroom, and I don’t have my Astra costume under my shorts—I’m not Clark Kent!”

 

“Rush is bringing your gear to you. Find somewhere private.”

 

I relayed her message and Julie pointed to an abandoned kiosk. “There!” she yelled, and I pushed for it through the mob as the Bees hung onto me. We reached it and I started stripping; I didn’t like Rush, but I had faith in him. The Bees formed a human curtain, blocking the sight of anyone coming around the kiosk, and Rush arrived in a blur of red motion. He thrust a black bundle into my hands.

 


Gottagocheckthebuildings
,
makesurenobody’s
leftbehind
!” he said, pausing long enough to wink at Julie before disappearing. Kicking my shoes away, I finished pulling off my summer shorts and top, thankful again for my decision not to update to the spandex and
pleather
bodysuit Andrew had designed for me. Even done completely in black, my classic high-necked, long-armed, micro-skirted costume still made me look like a figure skater in a cape, but it was easy to get into.

 

Except for the half-mask and attached wig; when I turned around Julie gave the mask a straightening tug before grabbing my discarded stuff. A roar of ear-splitting decibels filled the air and the pier shook. “Time to run screaming,” she said.
Annabeth
gave me a quick hug. “Wax its ass,” Megan
snarked
, and they ran for it, racing down the pier after the retreating crowd.

 

I watched them run before launching myself into the air.

 

“Shelly?” I said. “Keep an eye on them?”

 

“I’ve already tagged their cell-phones—if they stop moving I’ll know. The team is on its way.”

 

That was the best she could do; I put my worry away and turned to the crisis at hand.

 

“We’re on an inland lake!” I yelled to be heard over the monster’s roar as I got some altitude. “Tokyo and New York I understand—how did a
godzilla
get here?”

 


The Teatime Anarchist’s future-files say
godzillas
were dropped as eggs all over both hemispheres from 2003 to 2015, in deep water.
 
Once hatched, they stayed out of sight till reaching their full 300 foot length and laying a few eggs of their own. Then they zeroed in on the nearest source of temperature or pollution spikes in the area.
 
It’s probably attracted to the runoff from the Chicago River and the heat pollution from the nuclear plant
.

 

“You think?” No cars moved in the streets as I looked down—engines killed by the EM pulse.

 

“Every other cape in town is on their way.
 
The police are responding with their EMP-hardened unit, but it’s going to take time to get it together and out to the pier.”

 

“They should have invested in some airlift!” I looped around and came in low, mindful of its primary reported weapon: a jet of high-temperature hydrogen plasma.

 


Leaping lizards
,

Shelly whispered.

 

The monster heaved itself onto Lakeview Terrace at the end of the pier. It looked like someone had asked the wizards of Hollywood to make a “thunder lizard,” and they’d delivered by slapping a T-Rex and an alligator together and inflating it to impossible size.
 
Scales colored shades of green, it looked really striking. If you got past its teeth.
 
Its big, big teeth.

 

I shook it off. I didn’t have to worry about getting crunched—chomping on me would be asking for extreme dental surgery. Its super-heated plasma attack was my problem; I could take a hit from a tank shell, but the
godzilla’s
breath could melt steel. Fortunately, the bad experiences of others also told us it started on big stuff first; anything smaller than a bus wasn’t likely to attract its attention and rage.
 
Unless that small something attacked, of course.

 

As I dropped down it opened its mouth and bathed the Grand Ballroom in a jet of laser-intensity flame. The building exploded into burning wreckage, and I felt the wash of heat.

 

My
earbug
buzzed and popped as I flew closer, looking for stragglers.

Astra, have you made contact yet?”
 
Lei
Zi
called through the interference.

 

“I’m there,” I said, voice thankfully steady.
 
“And it’s ugly.”

 

She laughed dryly.
 

Your first priority is civilian extraction.
 
Let it burn the pier to the waterline if it wants—look for anybody unable to get out on their own.”

 

“On it, chief.”
 
With Atlas gone, Blackstone had recruited Lei
Zi
to be our new field leader. Ex-army, she made a good replacement for Atlas but for this I didn’t need her reminder. “Rush?” I called.
 
“What’s the
sitch
?”

 


TheGrandBallroom
iscompletelyclear
,”
he returned, talking so fast his words ran together like machine gun bursts.
 

Theyweregetting
readyforaneveningevent
.
Workingonthe
FestivalHallnow
.”

 

His super-speed
evac
left me free to take care of the outside, and I forced my eyes away from the
godzilla
. Looking down, I scanned the pier-side boats: tour boats, floating restaurants, and a couple of tall ships with furled sails—most full of weekenders trying to escape. It didn’t look…

 

I saw the first splash and others followed, pushed right through the gangplank ropes by the panicked crush trying to get off the boats.
 
Finding the little boy in the water, I fished him out and handed him off to his hysterically grateful mother. Dropping back down for more swimmers flailing about in Chicago Harbor’s chilling water, I retrieved all but one—an athletic guy who waved me away and struck out for the lakefront on his own.

 

Overhead, the rest of the city’s flying capes began arriving. Thank God.

 

With a bone-shaking roar, the
godzilla
started on the Festival Hall.
 
A couple of jets of flaming breath had it burning nicely. I hesitated.

 

“Rush, are you clear?”

 


It’semptynow
.
 
Acoupleofinjuries
Ihadtohelpalong
butwe’reahead
ofthemonster
.”

 

He was right; most of the weekend crowd had cleared the pier, fleeing through the parks. But behind us the streets were full of dead cars. Out of sight the city was full of people trapped in dead elevators, high-rise residents trying to get down to the streets and out, hospitals full of people going nowhere fast. Most Chicagoans could get out of the way, but not all of them.

 

We couldn’t let the critter off Navy Pier. I wished Atlas was here.

 


We’re arriving now,”
Lei
Zi
informed us. Sighing my relief, I spotted them. An A-class
electrokinetic
, Lei
Zi
flew herself as well as
Quin
, Seven, and Galatea by electrostatic levitation. Riptide’s flying waterspout came right behind them. Dropping down to meet them, I couldn’t help laughing as Lei
Zi
landed the beat-up truck she’d commandeered and they all piled out; somewhere a
groundkeeping
crew was missing its wheels.

 

Lei
Zi
saw my grin and ignored it.

 

“Dispatch says we’ve got eighteen fliers on the scene,” she said. “Another fifty or so Crisis Aid and Intervention heroes with good support powers coming in. Only half a dozen are even close to this creature’s weight—all the rest can do is help evacuate.”

 

Listening to the
godzilla’s
scream as it flailed away at the burning hall, I couldn’t help but agree.
Quin
and Galatea peeled off to help the retreating civilians along.
 
Both could take down normal opponents, even street-level villains without blinking; to the
godzilla
they’d merely be crunchy.

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