“Who is this girl, anyway?” JD asked as he raised his hands up.
“She’s known only as The Huntress.” Eric replied, not taking his eyes off of the woman.
“How’d she find us?”
“The Family has a huge network.”
“Great.” JD felt the charge building up to massive levels. It was quite possibly more uncomfortable than an overfilled bladder. He tried not to noticeably squirm. He had to get it out of him and soon.
Megan looked at the two men. One she had been pursuing for years; the other, while new to her, was considered no less dangerous. A report from Paragon City had been sent to her to be on the lookout for him. Apparently, he was part of a group that was investigating Family activity out east.
“So, RedShift, it appears our little game of cat and mouse has finally reached it’s end. A shame, really. I have enjoyed the chase.” she purred.
The ten musclemen moved closer, clicking their guns.
Unable to withstand the pain that holding in his stored electricity was causing him, JD suddenly erupted with an attack. The massive electrical field enveloped all the enforcers, as well as The Huntress. The men yelped in pain as they were held in place.
Reacting quickly, Eric used his gifts of gravity control, causing the group to be held in place by creating a zone of more intense gravity. The men were slowly pulled to the ground as they were dragged down by gravity’s grip. Megan fired her arrow, which only went a foot before sticking into the floor. The frost emanating from it encased one of her minions.
JD looked around; The Huntress and her group were blocking the front exit. The other patrons had mysteriously vanished.
“Use the exit backstage.” Blind Willie said. “Everyone else has.”
As the pair ran to the exit, Megan could do nothing but glare at them. She shifted her gaze to the old man, who seemed aware of her scrutiny. He laughed, and then slowly faded into nothingness, his laughter a slowly fading echo.
“That was too close!” Eric panted as they reached a relatively safe place under a bridge. Cars drove by, seemingly oblivious to them.
“You’ve met her before?”
Eric nodded, still a little winded from their run. “Shortly after the Invasion. She was a minor hero who became a turncoat. She helped the Family round up any supers they could find, becoming so good at it, everyone started calling her The Huntress.”
JD shook his head. “That’s wild.”
“She captured everyone in my group, except for me. I tried getting them back, but I wasn’t as powerful then.” he shook his head and sighed heavily. “It was then we supers who remained decided that we should go underground. Some left, like Diego. Others stayed and tried to do what good was possible, some just quit.”
“We should probably get going.”
“Right.” Eric looked around. He knew there was a safe house in Chicago Heights, and felt that going there would be the right choice. Besides, they needed to get JD out of here. There was no point in dragging him into a fight that did not concern him.
After the effects of the electrical field and the gravity well had worn off, Megan ran out into the street, looking in vain for any sign of the pair. She cursed her lack of preparation; she should have known that the boy would have pulled a stunt like that, and as for RedShift, his move was equally unanticipated.
Pulling out her cell phone, she made another call.
“It’s me. I need you to go pay Mami a visit. Bring in the girl as well.” she said tersely, and then hung up. A wicked smile crossed her face as she slid into her car; if she wasn’t able to chase them down, she was going to make them come to her.
The safe house belonged to an attractive black woman named Vonda, who regarded JD with unveiled suspicion. She led them to one of the unused, sparsely furnished apartments in the building. JD crashed immediately, exhausted from the day’s events. Eric looked at him enviously.
“He’s lucky. He can get out of this mess and go home.” he told Vonda as they sat at the kitchen table. She had pulled a bottle of whiskey off the shelf and poured it into two glasses. He took a sip from his glass.
“Baby, so can you.” she reached out with her hand and gave his a comforting squeeze. “I’m sure there’s enough supers around to overthrow the Family.”
“What if we fail? You know what will happen then, Vonda. They’ll round up everyone remote connected with us and get rid of them. I will not have the blood of innocents on my hands.”
Vonda’s cell phone suddenly rang. Seeing the lateness of the hour, she knew that it would not be good news coming from the other side of the line.
“Hello?” she asked apprehensively. Her eyes widened, and then started to well up with tears. “Are you sure?……Did anyone make it….? I see….I’ll tell him.” she hung up and looked at Eric.
“Caridad’s house has been destroyed. She’s dead and Marisol is missing.”
“NO!!!” he said in a restrained shout, not wanting to wake JD. “No, no, no!” he pounded the table in anguish, knowing full well who had been behind it.
JD walked into the kitchen, his white lock standing straight up. “What’s goin’ on?” he asked sleepily.
“Nothing, JD. Go back to sleep.” Eric said.
“Can’t. I’m too keyed up.” he hopped up onto one of the counters to sit. “Who called?”
Eric sighed. There was no point in trying to hide it from JD. “Marisol was taken and her mother was killed.”
The news seemed to evaporate any trace of sleepiness that the younger man had. “We have to save her!”
“There’s no point, JD! They’ll probably find a way to switch her to their side and that will be the end of it.”
“You know what your problem is, man? You give up too easy! Every time somethin’ comes up, you just raise your hands and quit! No wonder the Family runs this town! If you’re leadin’ the last supers, you probably got ‘em all scared as you!” JD said, somewhat angered. “Hell, I have faced the walkin’ dead, I have fought with crazed robots, I’ve even battled against the beyond. Was I scared at times? Absolutely! But I do NOT back down.” he turned to Vonda. “Any clue where she might be?”
“There’s a warehouse district by the lake that is rumored to be where they take any supers they capture.” she said, stealing a glance at Eric, who only glowered.
JD grabbed his jacket off the couch. “Great. How do I get there?”
Vonda looked at the boy. He reminded her of her son, who was a little younger when the Family gunned him down for possessing powers. Since then, she had been waging her own private war against them, helping heroes any way she could.
“It’s in East Chicago, off 129th Street. A cab can take you there.”
Seeing that JD was about to take on a Family stronghold single-handed, and completely determined to do so, Eric stood up and told him to wait.
JD turned slightly to face him, his expression defiant. “Why?”
“Let me round up the others.” He looked at Vonda. “Can you part with your guardian for a few hours?”
“I’m sure I can, honey. I think he’s been wanting to do something for a while, anyway.”
Within twenty minutes, seven others had met them on the rooftop. Eric introduced them as JD tried to catch their names. Eric then walked up to one of the gargoyle statues that adorned the architecture. He gave it a push with his foot.
“Hey, Stargoyle! You want to go out?” he asked it.
To JD’s surprise and horror, the statue moved and turned around. Climbing down from it’s perch, it walked over to the others with a gracefulness that belied it’s bulk. It looked down at all of them, eyes narrowed.
“Why have I been awakened?” it asked.
“We need your help to rescue Marisol and Carlos.”
Stargoyle nodded in acceptance of the mission. “We must make haste, then.” it spread it’s huge bat wings over them, surrounding them in complete darkness.
Outside the warehouse, the group made it’s plan: all-out frontal assault. This was going to be a battle for the future of Chicago, and the gathered ones felt the importance of what they were about to do. Eric had told Vonda to try and contact as many other supers she could, as well as rouse any other person she could to help in the fight.
Eric seemed hesitant. This was the first time in several years that the supers would openly fight for the city. They had tried once, but had failed miserably. The Family had the population convinced that the heroes were the ones that had brought the Rikti, and supporting the heroes meant condoning the death and destruction in the invaders’ wake. The Family promised protection and security, which the people, in their fear, accepted. The resulting years brought numerous arrests and executions of Eric’s friends and colleagues. Their faces now flashed before his eyes as he looked over the small group, the only ones he had been able to track down with certainty. They looked at him expectantly.
Sensing his reluctance, JD spoke up.
“My mama always taught me to stand up to bullies, and they would usually back down. The more stubborn ones had to learn that the hard way.” He crackled a little electricity for effect. A slight chuckle ran through the group. Good, he thought, they’re getting relaxed.
“I have no idea how this is all gonna end, I can’t even say if we will win. But if my life is to end, I’d like to know I went out fighting against a bully.”
The small group nodded in agreement. They had waited too long, and too quietly, for this moment. While they could not undo the past, they could certainly atone for their mistake in judgment by hopefully giving the citizens of Chicago a secure future. Even if they failed, they would be able to inspire others to follow their lead.
With very little hesitation, the assault began. The guards at the front gate were overwhelmed by the sight of a ghastly army coming for them. Terrified by the vision, they ran, their illusory pursuers chasing after them. The other sentries started firing off random shots into the surrounding buildings, trying to flush out whoever was there.
One by one, the guards fell. Lighting, cold, energy, waves of darkness; all these things and more slowly depleted their number as the group of heroes fought their way into the complex. When a path had been cleared, their melee combatants, led by a particularly large hero named ChopShop, carved a swath of destruction with rapid blade strikes and brute force. Soon, they made their way into the warehouse.
Megan had heard the commotion outside and had pulled all the remaining guards from their posts. She knew, of course that this last pocket of resistance was coming. She knew RedShift’s loyalty to the Velasquez family was too strong for him to resist helping them. Getting rid of the intruder from Paragon City was going to be a bonus as well. She cracked her knuckles in anticipation, and grabbed her bow.
As the group entered, they were greeted with the sounds of guns clicking. Quickly taking cover, the ten heroes quickly thought out how to face this counter assault.
“Mystere, cover me.” Eric instructed.
The purple clad heroine waved her hand over him, and a slight bubble could be surrounding him. As he stood up, he immediately attracted the attention of the guards, who all started firing at him. Though the sounds of the bullets were distracting slightly, he managed to keep his mind focussed on a way to take care of most of the guards. Feeling the gravitational fields shift around him, he gathered them all together, tighter and tighter until they collapsed upon themselves.
With an ominous noise, a rift in space opened right in the middle of the guards. Unable to resist it’s force, untold numbers of guards were pulled into the wormhole, only to be deposited far away from the building. Eric collapsed, exhausted by the amount of energy required to create it.
Leaving Eric to recover, JD led the charge on the guards. His fists glowing with electricity, he punched and fought his way through the remaining troops. The other heroes were right behind him, all fighting in their own way. Stargoyle’s presence had a terrifying effect on the guards, who would either run from him or were too petrified to get out of his way. One heroine named Skywrath lived up to her name by hurling thunder and lighting upon her enemies, and ChopShop left people looking like they’d been run through a meat grinder.
Up on a catwalk, Megan surveyed the battle. An angry sneer curled her lip; this was not how the battle was supposed to go. Knocking an arrow, she powered it up with her icy energy, and let it fly.
To JD’s surprise, his team was slowly turning to icy statues. The larger members, ChopShop and Stargoyle, were the first. Next was Skywrath, then Ch’ien Lung, the martial artist whose speed rivaled Evan’s. An arrow narrowly missed JD, and he realized who was responsible.
Angered, he launched himself into the air toward her. As he did, he felt an arrow graze his shoulder, followed by bitter cold. Feeling himself being slowly encased by ice, he also realized he was losing altitude, and crashed into one of the few enclosed rooms below.