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message 1: by Brian (new)

Brian Foster (bwfoster78) | 16 comments A short story I wrote. Any comments/thoughts appreciated.

Wind blasted Samuel Shields through the open door of the Bell UH-1Y Venom.

No amount of videos and briefings could have prepared him for the sight as the helicopter descended into chaos. Highway 183 looked like a selective tornado had strolled down it playing havoc with a crush of vehicles. Some cars lay relatively unscathed on their sides. Others had been smashed into crushed balls of twisted metal with unrecognizable makes. A score sat at the bottom of an overpass where they’d been propelled off a makeshift ramp. One rested, unharmed, on top of a cooling tower.

Worse were the casualties. Mangled bodies bled onto pavement. Survivors cried over fallen loved ones. Many ran. Others staggered.

The Enhanced Hostile was not in sight.

That was good, right? Samuel’s mission wasn’t to engage, no matter how much he wanted to. Clear the civilians. Assist the heroes when they appeared.

As long as he didn’t screw up.

His instructors at officer training school had drilled into him that the men followed lieutenants who led from the front, and Samuel took that lesson to heart. With the chopper still half a dozen feet from landing, he jumped.

The concrete approached much faster than he’d anticipated. Perhaps he’d been hasty. The last thing he needed was to break a leg in his first real action.

His boot-clad toes touched, and he pitched forward, tucking his shoulder and rolling with an “oof.” He bounced back up, thankful for his dad insisting on all those years of judo classes, without breaking his momentum and sprinted. At the top of a hill, he turned. His men followed. Good.

Samuel scanned the surroundings. Protect. Aid. Evacuate.

The EH was out of the immediate picture, but he could return. Was it best to assign the men to form a protective perimeter or to have them all dedicated to aid? The manual said to protect. His instructors would have told him to protect. But they viewing the carnage he was. So many injured civilians. What were the odds that the hostile would return?

While he’d deliberated, his platoon had caught up with him.

“Sergeant,” Samuel said, “establish an aid station at that strip mall. Two-men teams go car to car. Deploy GPS markers where casualties are too severe for immediate evac.”

Rivers—a veteran of more actions than Samuel could dream of—knew what to do, but it gave Samuel something to do and made him at least appear to be in charge. The sergeant rushed off yelling orders as he ran. His men snapped to, nearly falling all over themselves to obey.

Samuel allowed himself a small smile.

A wailing siren echoed off nearby buildings. An Irving PD car charged at full throttle from behind the strip mall, its wheels screeching as it cornered.

Whiskey tango foxtrot! Really? The one thing you didn’t do with an EH in the area was roll in with lights flashing and horns blaring. What was that idiot doing?

Samuel waved his arms frantically to get the officer’s attention. It worked. The car raced in his direction and screeched to a stop right beside him.

“Turn off that siren!” Samuel yelled.

The man didn’t respond. Had he not heard? How could he over the cacophony?

“Turn it off! That’s an order! Now!”

A young man—couldn’t be much older than Samuel’s twenty-three—leaned out the window. “What?”

Of all the ridiculous FUBARed situations. Samuel would get the greenest of recruits fresh for the academy to deal with. “The sound. It’ll attract the hostile’s attention.”

“Oh.” The police officer reached inside, and the siren cut off.

Crash!

Samuel spun. Half of the penthouse of an office building crumbled to the ground. A three-story tall figure emerged from the other side.

Too late. Roads.

The hostile stepped toward them and landed on a Ford F150. The pickup flattened, but he didn’t appear to even notice. Didn’t even stumble. “Flashing lights. Pretty.”

Even at a hundred yards away, the roar of the words hurt Samuel’s ears.

What to do? He had nothing that would even dent Roads. Bullets wouldn’t so much as annoy him. Rocket launchers and sidewinders would barely faze him. If only they had one of the new lasers, but Monte hadn’t been able to develop any that would truly hold up under field conditions.

Besides, Samuel’s orders were clear. Do not engage. Protect. Aid. Evacuate.

He keyed his radio to order immediate evac, but shouts and crying interrupted him. Two voices. A young child and a baby. Where?

Halfway between Samuel and the hostile, a minivan sat wrecked. Its front was smashed like it had been stepped on. No one could have possibly survived in the front seat, but movement showed through the windows in the back.

A toddler struggled to get out of a car seat. Couldn’t undo the straps. Next to him was a baby. The source of the sounds.

Samuel had to do something, but protocol was to pull back. If he didn’t, his men would be put in danger. He could be court marshaled.

But he couldn’t just leave those kids to die. He didn’t sign up to lead an E-HHART to run at the first sign of trouble. The teams existed to keep the populace safe, not the soldiers.

Samuel keyed his radio. “Sergeant, pull the men back.” He turned to the police officer before even getting a response from his NCO. “Get out of your car.”

“What?”

Samuel opened the police car door and pulled the officer out. The man had barely hit the ground before Samuel slid behind the wheel, strapped himself in, and flipped the horn on. His only shot was to distract the hostile.

He stomped on the gas and burned rubber. As he’d hoped, the squealing tires and wailing screech of the siren got Roads’ attention. Unfortunately, the new shiny object only sped the monster. In a couple of footfalls, those kids were going to be toast.

The car shot forward. Samuel weaved in and out of wrecked vehicles increasing speed by the inch.

It was going to be close. Very close.

He made it past the minivan just before the hostile, bringing himself within arm’s reach. Roads stretched for the car, and Samuel darted onto the shoulder of the highway, just missing the outstretched fingers.

He kept going forward, expecting a chase. An enraged roar. Something.

The rearview mirror revealed that Roads had lost interest. Instead, he was staring at the minivan. The crying and shouting must have diverted his attention. Great.

Samuel slammed on the brakes and twisted the wheel. The car power slid into a one-eighty. He hit the gas, hoping the thing had good airbags. Even if it did, the chances of surviving the crash probably weren’t good.

Forty. Fifty. Sixty. The speedometer inched toward seventy.

A sense of calmness came over him. Interesting that it was the summer solstice—a good day to die—but he had a choice. He could simply turn the wheel to avoid Roads or slam on the brakes or any of a million other choices to avoid what was to come.

But Samuel couldn’t. His charge was to protect the civilians, and to do that, he needed all the force he could get. He kept the pedal pinned to the floor.

It was going to hurt. So going to hurt.

The car slammed into Roads’ leg.

Crash!

White filled Samuel’s vision for an instant. The airbag. Pain. His back. Everything hurt.

A roar. Roads stomped his feet. He’d noticed the car at least. A massive hand closed around the vehicle.


message 2: by Brian (new)

Brian Foster (bwfoster78) | 16 comments Samuel groaned. Maybe slamming a cop car into a gigantic supervillain at high speed hadn’t been the best of plans.

Roads’ hand squeezed.

Metal crumpled. Broken shards from the vehicle’s rapidly compressing frame shot into Samuel’s leg and arm.

The vehicle rose, and his stomach lurched.

A giant eye appeared ahead of the front windshield. Whatever was about to happen wasn’t going to be good.

Roads roared again. He reared his hand back. The car, with Samuel and his stomach turning flips, flew.

Well, that was it then. The end of his life. Even if the airbag hadn’t already deployed, nothing could save him from a high velocity plunge. No regrets, though. Not many anyway. Maybe his sacrifice—

Something about the date, June 21, popped into his mind. What was so significant about it?

Energy enveloped him. What the crap was happening? His pain disappeared. The metal sticking into him popped out. The tears in his flesh mended.

He felt … strong.

Power wanted to burst from his skin. He stretched his arms. Where his hands touched the twisted cage surrounding him, the metal bent. Hmmm. Weird. He pushed, just a little, on the door. The slight push tore it from its hinges.

An office building rapidly approached, but Samuel was positive, somehow, that he’d survive the crash. But there were people in that building. What if the car landed on someone? Or flying glass or debris caused injury?

Not good. Gently, Samuel placed his hands against to vehicle’s roof. He pushed.

The car changed course.

Flying. He was flying.

Weird.

Once he had the vehicle aimed at an unoccupied field, he floated from the car and grabbed hold of its frame from underneath, easily lowering it to the ground where it wouldn’t hurt anyone.

Roads stared at him. At least the show had distracted him from the children. But who knew how long before the imbecile giant returned his attention to the minivan?

Alright. Time to see what Samuel’s new abilities could do.

He flew straight toward the hostile. Accelerating. Faster and faster. Much more velocity than the car. Maybe a hundred, a hundred and fifty miles per hour. Hard to tell without a speedometer.

Would it hurt? Would it kill him or Roads? Both? No way to know.

Collision. Pain. Samuel bounced back and plowed into the highway.

A crash. A roar.

Well, he wasn’t invulnerable, but he also wasn’t dead. With a groan, he looked up.

Roads floundering on the ground. He pounded the earth. Buildings shook. Nearby cars bounced clear of the ground by a good foot. His fist hit one of them and crushed it.

Samuel had at least got the hostile’s attention, but would holding it get him killed? One way to find out.

He staggered to his feet. Nothing for it but to do it again. Keep hitting the hostile until one of them gave up. Right?

Hmmm. How did that flight thing work again?

He kind of jumped. Nothing happened. His feet just returned to the ground.

“Up, up, and away!” he shouted, feeling silly beyond imagining.

Still nothing.

“Stay there!” came a voice.

Samuel spun and looked up. A figure in a tight yellowish-brown bodysuit with a silver cape and knee-high boots hit the ground just behind him. A purple blur flew by overhead.

Amber Starr and Starlight. The real heroes had arrived.

“Good to see you, ma’am. 2nd Lt. Samuel Shields, 102nd Enhanced Hostile and Hero Assistance Response Team at your service.”

She cocked her head at him. “Lieutenant, what is your mission?”

“To assist you, ma’am. To remove civilians from the action area, ma’am.”

“Rules of engagement?”

“Uh … Avoid contact with the Hostile, ma’am.” Shit.

“And have you successfully avoided contact?”

“No, ma’am, but—”

“Is there any acceptable excuse for such a royal screw up, lieutenant?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Get out of sight. I’ll deal with you later.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Roads had gotten to his feet. He hit Starlight with a mighty blow. The hero was pushed away but didn’t look too worse for the wear.

Amber Starr spun and stalked toward Roads. The hostile took one look at her and spun. Was he trying to get away?

Starlight buzzed his head.

“Leroy! Leroy!” Amber Starr yelled.

Amazingly, Roads turned toward her looking for all the world like a toddler caught by his mom with his hands in the cookie jar.

“Just what do you think you’re doing, young man?” Amber Starr said.

“Pl-playing.”

Samuel eyed the hostile in disbelief. He’d counted at least two dozen bodies. Women. Kids. Fathers. All just going about their daily business, their lives ended by that … that … giant monstrosity. And he was just “playing?

“What are you doing out of your playpen?” Amber Starr said.

Playpen? That was what she called the high tech containment and detention facility built to house Roads? How many hundreds of millions of dollars had the spent converting the old Texas Stadium for the purpose? Playpen? Really?

“Pl-playing?”

“Young man, you are in so much trouble. You just wait until Glare hears about this.”

“Pl-please, Ms. Amber. Please don’t tell her. I didn’t mean …”

Wow. If Amber Starr intimidated the giant that much, how must he react to Glare?

“Get back to your playpen. Now!”

“Okay.”

“What did you say?”

“Y-yes.”

“Yes what?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

And just like that, the event was over. Amber Starr and her sidekick escorted Roads back to Texas Stadium and babysat him until the Army Corps of Engineers were able to temporarily patch the damage. The heroes and the Army stuck around until everyone was confident that the repairs would hold, and new security measures were developed on the spot for later implementation.

They didn’t even have to call in Glare.

Samuel kept himself busy telling soldiers how to do jobs they were already performing perfectly. Finally, he ticked off one NCO too many. Word got back to the commanding officer, and Samuel was ordered back to base.

He sat on the bed in his barracks in his dress uniform waiting for the other shoe to drop. What was going to happen? No superheroes served openly in the army, and reports of his Conversion had to have made it through channels immediately.

Would he be court marshaled for disobeying orders? Quietly allowed to retire?

How did he feel about that? His dad had served in the army. His grandfather. His great-grandfather had been a general.

But superheroes could directly fight against the incredible threat represented by the EHs. He could do much more as a civilian than as an army officer, considering how squeamish the civilian authorities were about handing such power over domestic matters to the military.

What to do? The long, mostly sleepless night dragged. By the time the summons arrived late the next morning, Samuel had worked himself into a ball of nerves. As he followed the aide to the general’s office, he reflected on the fact that it usually wasn’t a good sign when they sent an actual escort.

His heart pounded. Probably the court martial then.

He’d screwed up pretty badly by disobeying the rules of engagement. The penalty could be anywhere from a light reprimand to a stint in Leavenworth. Or more likely considering his new abilities, serving time at one of the facilities for EHs.

At least it was an aide and not the MPs. Maybe there was some hope.

Should he beg for mercy? The general would surely understand. Samuel had been, after all, trying to save innocents. And no one had gotten hurt because of him.

That was it. He’d plead his case. Sway the general.

When he stepped into the office, however, all his hopes for it going easy on him went out the window. Amber Starr waited with the general.

“Lieutenant, I’m told you handled yourself with uncommon valor in yesterday’s action.”

Huh?

“You did yourself and your unit proud yesterday, Lieutenant.” Amber Starr smiled at him.

His heart pounded for an entirely different reason. Amber Starr—the Amber Starr—had smiled at him.

The general took something out of his desk. A box.

“We rushed the papers through in record speed.” The general opened the box to reveal a shiny pair of captain’s bars. “Congratulations, son. You’ve been promoted, and effective immediately, you’re being transferred to the Institute.”

Samuel’s head spun. A superhero. Wow. Samuel Shields, the superhero, saving the day, fighting evil, and protecting the ladies.

It sounded pretty good, especially that last part.

Ms. Starr took his arm in hers. “So what are you going to call yourself?”


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