Part 29

by CM Towns

   Erica sat on her bed, fiddling with her tablet when there was a knock at her door. She got up and walked toward it, double tapped with two fingers the part of the door at face level. A screen appeared and she saw Jessie outside. Erica clicked the control panel to open the door and Jessie walked in. She looked around, clothes and magazines on the floor, no pictures or posters. Jessie watched as Erica went back to sitting on the bottom bunk.
   “I hope you disciplined Frank and Elijah and the others,” Erica said.
   “For what?”
   “For what? Letting MC and Viridian go,” Erica responded in a frustrated manner.
   “How am I suppose to discipline them? Say they can’t go out with their friends? That they can’t go out to the city? Or should I take away their allowance? Araminta and April both homeless, Elijah’s rich, and Frank’s family wasn’t swimming in cash anyway,” Jessie countered.
   “They let two criminals go,” Erica stressed.
   “Two people who were probably being manipulated by a mysterious sorceress. They did bad things and should go to jail but MC would probably be killed by some angry prison guard, his gauntlets disappearing from lock up and sold to some future enemy. Viridian would fare better in jail, and probably be forced into some sort of military outfit. Renate decided to take the hit, and she’s going to have it hard. Mateo and Charm are supposedly dead-both suffering stab wounds to the heart,” Jessie listed, “Besides, I’ve seen to it that the pair are secured, away form causing trouble in the US of A.”
   “Those two could still cause us problems.”

   “You’re about to give me a lecture on teamwork?”
   “No, I’m about to ask you if you really want to stick around here? April said that when you two paired up and fought Teiwaz you showed potential. Based on Araminta, Frank and Elijah’s observation when you were brainwashed you could be trouble. So you got the skills, but you ain’t got the head for it. Way I see it you have to be all in. If not, get out,” Jessie said and pointed to the door.
   “All in? How do I get all in? I just want to-” Erica shook her head, “You can’t understand.”
   “I don’t care what your point is because the only point that matters is the deal we made. So… Are you all in or not? Arturo was injured and wanted in. Araminta was hit with a spell that made it tough for her to use her powers but she kept helping by healing and transport. Aamil got a big brain tease with big visuals and dropped states away. The only reason he didn’t come back hard is because he knew he was emotionally compromised and would put the team in jeopardy. You had Charm tell you that you were not good enough. Had her taunt you and mock you and you let it break you,” Jessie continued.
   “I’m not good enough!”
   “You ever say that again in my presence and I will slap you.”
   Erica looked at her wide eyed. Surprised by that statement.
   “Are you all in, or do we have to get our telepath friend to mindwipe you so we can return you to the boarding house where they keep all the other superhumans who don’t know what to do? So we can keep doing what we do, and you can do whatever you want without remembering the important details?” Jessie questioned.
   Erica looked down and the floor.
   “I’ll try,” she whispered.
   Jessie turned to leave and at the door she added, “We expect improvement. We’re fighting for our country, the world. You have to accept what we need you to do.”
   Erica did not respond, she just listened as Jessie left and the door slid close behind her.
   Moments later Jessie walked into the war room. There Kid Victory, Araminta, Sally, Elijah, Reed and Frank awaited.
   “You said you had a mission?” Kid Victory asked.
   “I do. I think,” Jessie said.
   “So what is it? Follow up on your Teiwaz trail?” asked Elijah very interested in that prospect.
   “No. The Teiwaz situation involves more stealth and surveillance tactics. Besides we still need to filter through the data we got. No-this is in regards a theory about Charm,” Jessie said.
   “She’s dead. Doe sit matter?” Reed asked.
   “She probably faked? Her and Mateo taking knives to the heart? Not her,” said Araminta.
   “Yeah. Our sorceress is still out there,” Frank said.
   “No. I don’t think Charm is the mystery wizard. I think it was Mizer in disguise,” Jessie said.
   “Serious?” Kid Victory asked and Jessie nodded.
   “I also think I can find her,” Jessie said.
   “What?” Sally responded. She moved toward Jessie and grabbed her shirt, “You know where Mizer is!”
   “I have a few ideas where she is and with the branding I can pick up her presence.”
   “You know damn well why I haven’t! You’d have rushed in there! You would forget all your training and discipline and rush into a losing fight just to get a shot at her. On top of which, Mizer isn’t like anything we have faced! They have ever faced! If Charm really was her, she took out a chunk of our team easily! Easily! I wasn’t going to risk our team!” Jessie shouted in response.
   Sally took a deep breath. She knew Jessie was right but it bothered her.
   “How can we find her?” Kid Victory asked.
   “Mizer likes two story homes with a beachfront view. That’s her taste. If she really is screwing with us she has to be not too far away. Obviously not in our state but I believe Virgina and Maryland are possible options. After your thing in France thing I put a call into AHM to look at beachfront properties in those areas. Owners and ones that were available,” Jessie said.
   “So we get close, you tingle, then we start fighting?” asked Frank.
   “We confront. Fighting Mizer is… In this case would be more dangerous. She will make the home a territory which means-“
   “Mizer would be more dangerous than Charm was in the Detroit conflict,” Elijah finished.
   “You okay, Araminta?” asked Jessie.
   “I do not like the idea of fighting her. You can just feel the power emanate off her. Its almost choke inducing,” she answered.
   “She needs to go down,” Sally said.
   “But we can’t bring the whole team which is why its us discussing it,” said Reed.
   “Yes. Myself, Sally and Reed have the power to bring the fight. Antoine and Elijah got the nerve. Put Araminta and Frank as something of defense and we have a shot at defense and that’s all we’re going to have. Slim though,” Jessie said.
   “We have to do this. Even if its just to confirm her involvement, we might be able to get an inkling of what she has planned,” Sally said.
   “But if Jessie’s right-this would be a losing battle,” Frank said.
   “I guess we vote,” Kid Victory suggested.
   The vote was 5 to 2. Araminta and, surprisingly, Kid Victory voted against. There was a discussion briefly about getting Kate’s opinion but even if she voted it would not effected the outcome. The group got suited it up, left April in charge and took the Tuskegee-1 out. They flew to the first couple destinations, hovering while Reina Titán took a closer look to get a feel for their target. The third brought them to Ocean City, Maryland. Upon flying above Reina had that slight burn on the brand Mizer gave her and after a little while they hovered above a two story white home, not on the beach but rather close. The team put the flier on auto as they all joined on the street in front of the house.
   “You sure?” Kid Victory asked and Reina nodded.
   “Any territory should be able to give off an aura of power to the magically aware. I can feel a trace but it could just be the city’s magic is strong here. However if Reina feels it more strongly, then the brand is connecting her here,” Red Sprite said.
   “So how do we approach? I mean-its possible she is not even here but this is one of her safe houses,” SubHuman said.
   “Excuse me!” Monster shouted at the kids on the street gathering to watch, “Have you ever seen the woman who lives here?”
   The kids looked at each other and shouted they had not.
   “We could ask the neighbors,” Elijah then suggested.
   “We could but something tells me they may not answer,” Araminta said.
   “This is all you,” Kid Victory said to Reina and Red Sprite.
   Red Sprite walked up to the door with Reina behind. Sprite knocked and waited for a response but not long before hitting the door with a blast of fire that reflected back into her.
   “No lies, partner, but you kind of deserved that,” Titán said helping her up.
   “At least we know somethings here,” SubHuman said.
   “Move,” Huntsman said raising his gun.
   “NO!” Reina Titán shouted.
   “Why not?” he asked.
   “I’m sure that won’t work,” Kid Victory replied.
   “MIZER!!! COME OUT!!! COME OUT AND FIGHT!!!” Red Sprite shouted.
   “You think that’s going to work?” SubHuman asked.
   “GET OUT HERE!!!” Red Sprite shouted again.
“You do not need to shout,” Mizer said from the second floor window, “I was just getting dressed to greet you.”
   The window expanded into a large opening and a stairway formed at Mizer’s feet. She walked down with a yawn and then stood before them.
   “I am surprised to see you all here. A little a heads up next time, I would have prepared snacks,” she joked.
   Reina Titán restrained Red Sprite, pulled her back before she got into Mizer’s face.
   “Charm,” was all she said.
   “A little too obvious, huh?” Mizer replied.
   “I don’t like to lie to any of you. I did it to further my plans.”
   “Your plans? You disguised yourself as a runaway to trick a bunch of teenagers to attack banks and cops and lawyers to further your goal of being the almighty? Can you work us through that because it’s hard to really see how that connects,” Mr. Monster said.
   “Manipulating and controlling people is a hobby of mine. So is mindless destruction. However some were meant to disguise my ulterior motives. The banks had safe deposit boxes with me taking gems and jewels and tokens. Other targets allowed me freedom to move and gave access to information. I would give you specifics but I prefer you to figure them out yourself,” answer Mizer.
   “Then you disposed of Mateo and the girl whose face you took,” SubHuman assumed.
   “The girl was already dead. I kept her fresh for the duration of my disguise, that way her body would be fresher upon discovery. They’ll realize soon enough that she had been dead for months. Mateo was a sacrifice needed to accomplish a spell,” Mizer explained.
   “So whats next?” Kid Victory asked and Mizer smiled to that.
   “Whats next is we shoot her! We beat her down and finish this!” Hunstman shouted.
   “Agreed,” Red Sprite said.
   “You are in my territory. It extends beyond the walls of this home into all the homes nearby. The reason you have not heard sirens is because the phone lines and wifi has been cut in close range. Now look to the houses-” Mizer pointed around and the team saw the walls doors and windows disappear, and then all shift into windows. People inside were screamign and running as fire broke out.
   “-I can burn them all easily,” threatened Mizer.
   “You have made your point,” Kid Victory said.
   “Have I?”
   “We’re not going to fight. We’re going to leave.”
   Mizer smiled and a wave of her hand and everything was back to normal.
   “It must sting. Frustrate and anger you. You have won countless battles but have not won a single war. The King is beyond your reach. Making moves politically, commercially, illegally but you can not figure which one is which. What to jump on. The thread that can bring him down because he has clout and killing him won’t do much. The Teiwaz prove time and time again to be able to quickly repair and move on. You close down facilities crafting bombs and yet their plan for invading the United States is still on the books. You think your recent victory slowed them? No. Sooner than you expect they will strike.
   “Then there is me-untouchable in my domains. Manipulating you, others, to get the goods I need for my chosen path. To become a true God. one that rivals the entity that created the Wise Masters. You want to take a swing but know the collateral damage that would entail. You know my power which is why you chose this classic team rather than risk any of your rookies because of what I could do to them. When we finally face off it will be I who choose the battlefield and the time of conflict. It will be every single one of you I deem interesting enough to stand before me,” Mizer finished before a laugh.
   “The Guard-the worlds premier superhero unit and yet the villains roam free,” Mizer mocked.
   Red Sprite chewed on her anger, it was growing hot and she knew it would burst if she did not get out of there. The Tuskegee landed on the street and most everyone backed up beside Kid Victory, Red Sprite, and Reina Titán.
   “Something to say, Victory?” Mizer asked.
   “For the last few weeks I been thinking about that. Not winning wars. People keep bringing it up. Not just you. I promise we’ll work on that. You have a good day,” Victory smiled with the thumbs up, before he turned. He walked by the two ladies. Red Sprite looked at Reina before walking away. Mizer smiled at her as the Tuskegee lifted off the ground. Reina Titán levitated and flew behind their ship, Mizer on the ground watching them head off. Her machinations spinning in her head. Counting down the days until everything would be perfect.