Holding Out For A Hero, Part Two: Into The Breech

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April, 2011

Detroit, Michigan was no stranger to superhuman battles. From the infamous “Car Crusade” of the early 1960s, through the chaotic days following the New York Disaster, from the Antihero insurrection of the late 1990s to the global war against Rex Mundi of 2010, Detroit had seen more than its share of front line battles between world-be world conquerers and defenders of the peace.

Very little, however, compared to the scene now facing the townsfolk as they left their houses for work this morning. The Justicar Memorial Freeway was backed up to the city limits, as surprised and frightened people pulled onto the shoulder to stare at the downtown core. Rising over the centre of the city, a spiralling tower of spun glass arched, fountaining down to spill into the streets. Prisms caught the morning sun, sending scattered rainbows dancing across the faces of onlookers.

Within the shadow-speckled open stairwell of the city's new municipal centre, opened just a few months earlier after the destruction of the previous one in 2010, Mayor Jonathan Hammond struggled helplessly in the grasp of a pair of silver-and-bronze gargoyles, who effortlessly marched him up the steps to the roof. Puffing up his chest as much as he dared, the mayor spoke with accentuated bravado, his reedy tones sounding thin to his ears as he caught his first glimpse of the woman currently redecorating his city. “I don't know who you are, but you're insane if you think you can take over the city. Turbine and Shatterdrive will…”

Across from him, the woman raised a silvery hand to her golden lips, with an indulgent smile. Her hair, shimmering like spun emeralds, hung perfectly down behind her, every hair in place despite the violence of her entrance, and her dress was as black as midnight. As she spoke, the mayor shivered at the beauty of her voice, every syllable dropping like a note from the finest flute. “Your words are amusing, but I must argue.” She gestured lightly, to the scene behind her, and the mayor stared as the sun rose to catch the rooftop in stark relief. Two figures in matching steel-grey uniforms were bent over on the roof, on their knees, eyes raised towards the sky. Turbine's slim figure and Shatterdrive's bull-like physique were swathed in glass, and as they stared upwards at the sun, they wept shimmering tears that flowed into a pool of glass before leaping up into the air to form the dome now covering City Hall. “Turbine and Shatterdrive have fallen to me.”

The mayor hesitated for a moment, staring at his champions. “I'll just… I'll go and get the key to the city for you.” He said weakly.

“A good thought. Do that now.” She agreed.

Hundreds of miles away, in a well-equipped room, a man sat in his chair and watched the scene unfolding on his monitors, as news agencies across the country became aware that something exceptional was underway. He smoothed his suit with one hand, absently gauging its shade of brown against that of his chair. A mite too similar, he reflected ruefully. He would have to stick with black in future emergencies. His other hand absently turned a quarter from finger to finger, the coin dancing across his hand as though it had a mind of its own.

Ahead of him, a pair of suited agents worked furiously, their fingers flying over the keyboards. One of them, a young woman, turned to him with an apologetic look. “Director-General Lee on Line 3 for you, sir.”

“Thank you, Meredith.” The man smiled, tapping the speakerphone button on the side of his chair. “Director-General, how nice to hear from you so immediately. Isin't technology wonderful?” He said in a rich tenor.

“Stunning.” He smiled at her terse reply. “I assume you've seen the news, Oliver.”

“Oh, absolutely. Rather an ingenious piece of work, actually.” Oliver said. “A recombinat spellthread based on metaphysical connections between the city and its defenders, if I don't miss my guess. Quite elegant in its simplicity, and far beyond the power she'd be able to manage without the help.”

“I don't need the details.” Director-General Lee cut him off. “Every second that we waste, people could be dying.”

“Oh, on the contrary.” Oliver reassured her easily. “The spell relies on the continued life of the city's defenders to operate, and it's not liable to cause serious injury to anyone else. Besides, my silence will, sadly, not get our jet to Detroit any faster.” He glanced idly at his watch. “Which, in case you're curious – and I somehow suspect that you are – will happen in about ten minutes, depending on air currents once they hit the city limits.”

Over the line, Katy Lee, the director-general of the Superhuman Enforcement Agency, let out a quiet breath that Oliver suspected she hadn't realized she was holding. “Can you handle this?” She finally asked.

“The team is already deployed, briefed, and ready to move in.” Oliver said.

“That wasn't exactly my question.” Director-General Lee temporized.

Oliver flipped the coin around his fingers, closing his fist on it, and set it gently down beside him. “I'm hurt, ma'am. Do you not trust me?”

“Oliver…” She said warningly. He laughed.

“Yes.” He said. “We can handle this. You just sit back and enjoy the show.” He gestured to the agents in front of him. “Jason, could you possibly patch our systems through to HQ so that the Director-General can follow our soon-to-be legendary exploits directly, rather than waiting for the news to pick up what's going on?”

“Of course, sir.” Jason turned his attention to his console, typing quickly.

“You're certainly confident.” Director Lee said.

“Always, ma'am.” Oliver answered. “Now, was there anything else? I should probably prepare for the pre-mission briefing. It is, as you seem rather aware of yourself, our first major operation – and in front of the world's cameras, no less. I want to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch.”

“That important to you?” Katy asked with a laugh.

“Critical.” Oliver said, his levity vanishing.

There was a short pause over the line. “Right, then.” Director Lee said. “Carry on, Director Henry.”

“Thank you, ma'am. Good watching.” With a press of a button, Oliver logged off. He looked over to his subordinates, and smiled. “Meredith, patch me through to the jet.”

“Yes, sir.” Meredith said with a smile, then gave a thumbs-up. “And we're live.”

Oliver returned her gesture, and then turned his attention. “Alright, folks. The boss is breathing down our necks, there's a city under serious threat of magical conquest, and we're operating without prior field experience.” He smiled broadly. “I expect you're all very excited.”

“Oh, just thrilled.” A sarcastic voice echoed through the room, followed by a soft 'smack'.

“What Roland means is, we are fully prepped and ready for drop.”

“Thank you, Piper.” Oliver smiled. “We are go in six minutes. Current time in Detroit is 8:51 on my mark. Please synchronize.” He paused, glanced at his watch, and then added. “Mark.”

“Thank you, sir.” Piper said. “We won't let you down.”

“Oh, I know that. I wouldn't have chosen you if I thought for a moment that you would.” Oliver said with a smile. “Take her down, Magisters.”

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