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Showing posts with label Skyscraper City. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Skyscraper City. Show all posts

Friday, June 02, 2017 No comments

Hotwire (a new Skyscraper City story!) #FlashFicFriday

Pulse watched in the rear view mirror as the bus pulled up behind his blue truck. He had removed the Harr Electric signage, easy to do when it was all magnetic, and the traffic surveillance system was used to his coming and going downtown at all hours. Good electricians could stay as busy as they liked, and Pulse’s alter-ego Helmut Harr was one of the best.

Several passengers stepped off the bus, brushing by several others impatient to get on. One of the debarking passengers looked around, saw the blue pickup truck, and ambled that way.

Tap. “Got a cycle?”

“I have sixty,” Pulse replied. “Get in. Say nothing until we arrive.”

“Fine.” DeVine was not what one would call a sparkling conversationalist, anyway. He held a leather bag in his lap and watched out the window.

Pulse drove away in front of the bus, then took an indirect route to one of the many parking decks that studded Skyscraper City’s downtown business district. The lots were never empty, even on weeknights, but the upper levels allowed for some privacy.

“Sonic interference is active,” Pulse said at last. “What is it?”

DeVine said nothing, but opened his bag and took out a small netbook. “Here,” he said, tapping the password on the screen. “I left it up for you.”

Pulse looked at the open terminal window, displaying DeVine’s cracking attempt. “City Loan usually doesn’t... vas ist?” He scrolled to the bottom and paused.

Injection begun...
Injection aborted.
Hot Wire says: Don't do that again.
> inject
Injection begun...
TERMINATED

“Yeah. Looks like someone tapped my connection and inserted that,” said DeVine. “Then they cut me off on the second attempt.”

“Someone, or something,” Pulse replied. “Perhaps this ‘Hot Wire’ is a custom network surveillance program they have installed recently. I'll have to look into it.” He started the truck. “Do you want to go back to the bus stop, or shall I drop you a little closer to home?”

• • •

Pulse always kept his tools close at hand. After dropping off DeVine, he turned—not toward home, but back downtown. Something about that warning made him curious. Warmonger was fond of saying, curiosity killed the cat, but Pulse thought curiosity itself was not dangerous, at least if tempered with caution. Furthermore, sometimes one had to put aside caution to trick the enemy.

Thus, Pulse paused in an unlit parking lot, where a bodega had gone out of business some time back. He slapped a chromatic film over the hood and side panels of the truck—depending on the light, it might look yellow, green, or silver—and changed the license plate for a bogus Pennsylvania one. There were ways to trip up the traffic surveillance system, and Pulse had learned most of them. Passing on such things that Warmonger called “intel” indebted the other villains to him, and he would collect when the time came.

In disguise, he turned into the Chamberlain Two parking deck—adjacent to the City Loan offices. This was a calculated risk, but his calculation gave the potential benefits more weight. The corporate Wi-Fi carried out to the deck, and a ferret sent Pulse the passphrase on a regular schedule. He opened his laptop and connected to the network.

Roughly a fourth of the PCs in the office were compromised, and Pulse connected to one at random. DeVine had used the safer method of a cascade of anonymizing relays instead of a direct connection, but no matter. Pulse uploaded the SQL injector to the victim PC and started it.

Injection begun...
Injection terminated.
Hot Wire says, You need to quit while you're ahead.
>

Pulse swore at the prompt, then typed.

> you are not a bot, are you?
you: command not found
Hot Wire says: Go bot yourself.
TERMINATED

Pulse switched his connection to promiscuous mode, which displayed all traffic on the Wi-Fi. He did not have to wait long for the expected probe to hit his laptop. He turned off the radio, then drove away. Whoever this Hot Wire was, it was not a program. He was sure of that.

• • •

Natalie Strand tossed the last candy wrapper in the wastebasket as the IT morning shift arrived.

“Hey, Nat,” one of the guys said, dropping his bag on the desk. “Anything interesting?”

“Just a couple intrusions.” Her voice was flat, annoyed at the nerdy nickname the rest of the department gave her. “Nothing I couldn’t handle.” She was already taking up her purse and heading for the door.

“Yeah. Later.” Natalie did not hear the last. The morons who had let their computers get infested would be whining to the day shift soon enough. The boys could take care of delousing the PCs in between rounds of Minesweeper. This job was not paying her enough to deal with other people—and even with the supposed boost for working night shift, her pay was lower than any of the men on day shift. Having a look at the payroll systems took no effort and offered no risk, but told her nothing she had not expected.

She walked the four blocks to Republic Tower, where Sonny’s Sky-High Deli stayed busy on the ground floor. “Large coffee, real cream and double sugar,” she told the young woman behind the counter. “And a Mortal Sin.”

The counter woman gave Natalie a look she had seen many times: If I ate that, I'd put on twenty pounds. Sometimes, Natalie wished she could put on twenty pounds, just to see what the big deal was.

Taking her coffee and gigantic cinnamon roll, she consumed both with gusto. Work made her hungry. She knew to expect a carb rush for the next two hours, followed by the inevitable crash. But she could look for another job until then. There had to be something out there better than City Loanshark. The boys in the department called it that, and it was one of the few things they all agreed on.

Maybe she would find it, if she kept looking.



If you enjoyed this story (and more is coming), there’s lots more Skyscraper City action in my new novel, Blink! Stevie Winkler thought being able to teleport was cool… at first. As Blink, he’s not sure whether he wants to be a hero or a villain, but he finds that’s a blurry line. And Skyscraper City is home to other powers with other agendas. Blink has three goals: survive, keep Mom from finding out… and maybe get a girlfriend.

Get it at the major eBook stores now!

Amazon: US UK FR DE IT ES JP CA BR IN MX AU NL
Smashwords iBooks Nook Kobo

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 3 comments

Blink has launched!

Skyscraper City’s newest superhero(?) is ready to teleport into your eReaders!

You can get it from all the major eBook outlets right now.

Amazon: US UK FR DE IT ES JP CA BR IN MX AU NL
Smashwords iBooks Nook Kobo

Synopsis:

In Skyscraper City, kids often dream of getting a superpower when they grow up. Stevie Winkler never expected to "manifest" at age 13! Being able to teleport is cool, but keeping it a secret sucks. Professor Zero and some of Skyscraper City's most famous superheroes are training him, but Blink finds the line between hero and villain is often blurred… and Skyscraper City is home to other forces with their own agendas.

Blink has three goals as a teenage superhero: survive, keep Mom from finding out—and maybe get a girlfriend.

But the fun doesn’t stop there! Blink includes a collection of backstories and capers from other Skyscraper City heroes and villains. I have some longer stories in the works, both for Blink and other supers.

Here’s a quick excerpt:

As he penetrated deeper into the alley, he felt something behind him. He stole a backward glance, and saw two shadows detach themselves from the walls. This is just a drill, this is just a drill, he told himself, but his heartbeat quickened. If this was for real, there would be light at at the other end of the alley; he could pop down there, grab the entire fracking garbage can, and pop back to Professor Zero. But this is just a drill, so it would not be quite that easy.

Ahead of him, two more shadows rappelled down the walls while a third appeared to block his way. This one whirled a staff around himself. Blink almost laughed—this was a clich├ęd scene from a bad kung fu movie—but stayed in character. Professor Zero wanted to see how Blink faced off against five ninjas? Fine. He could probably “achieve his objective” (as Captain Heroic put it) without a fight. Pop past the three ahead of him, find the message, and pop back.

“Yah!” Blink and his opponents turned toward the shout. A sixth figure ran his way, from the same direction he had come. With a couple fancy handsprings, he(?) cleared the two guys behind him and came to a stop before Blink.

“A student is in need of help.” It was Ma Ling, the Masked Warrior who had trained him since last summer.

Blink gave her a quick, stiff bow, keeping an eye on the others. “I am always ready to hear, Master Ma.”

“You take those two,” she ordered, pointing to the two ninjas behind them. “I will see to the others.”

“Okay.” Blink faced off with his two opponents, wondering if this was a message from Professor Zero. You will not fight your battles alone. The black-clad figures took “ready” stances.

Blink knew he was still a beginner when it came to martial arts. If he were facing real ninjas (or Masked Warriors playing villain, in this case), he would get his butt kicked. Except for his superpower… glancing around the alley, he spotted a garbage can without a lid. Captain Heroic’s improv lessons took over, and he had a plan.

Pop. He grabbed the garbage can and turned it over, while his opponents whirled to find him. A few bags and chunks of styrofoam tumbled out, representing actual garbage.

Pop. Behind the nearest ninja. He brought the metal garbage can down over the head of his opponent with a clonk, and jumped to avoid the expected sweep kick. The extra weight of the garbage can unbalanced the ninja, and Blink pushed him into the wall, making him bounce back and fall. Blink banged on the garbage can until he heard a heavily-accented “I surrender.” Up the alley, he saw Ms. Ma had somehow taken the staff, and was holding the other two at bay. The former staff-wielder was down, but watching the battle.

But his second ninja was coming for him, fast.

So how did Stevie get a superpower at age 13, when 19 or 20 is the typical age? How did he get one at all? It’s all revealed in Blink, so get your copy now!

Friday, May 27, 2016 3 comments

Stiletto’s Getaway (#FridayFlash)

This runs a bit longer than a flash should—just short of 1300 words—but it’s part of a larger work in progress (16K words and counting). Stiletto has a bit part in Blink’s story, being serialized at WriteOn now, but she’s the main character in this one. This takes place the winter before Blink manifested…



A jet-black rocket on two wheels glided over the streets of Skyscraper City. What little noise it made was drowned out by the roaring and wailing of three police cars in hot pursuit. The bike had no lights; the rider had a night vision display to show her where to go.

“A little tighter than I’d have liked,” Stiletto muttered to herself, snapping the motorcycle around a corner. The back end stepped out, but Stiletto knew to stay on the throttle and the bike jerked upright with a little wiggle. Pegging the throttle out of the turn, she thumbed the voice command switch. “Deploy caltrops.” Above the soft thrum of the engine, she heard the caltrops rattle onto the street behind her. The cops would have to slow down for the turn as well, and so they wouldn’t plow into a wall when their tires went down. Stiletto would kill only if she had no other choice.

Behind her, the lead cop car went into a skid and the other two braked hard, giving Stiletto some breathing room. “Now they’ll call for backup.” Captain Heroic was retired, it was too cold for No Sweat to do his thing this time of year, and the Masked Warriors never did this kind of pursuit. That left the Devis and Count Boris to worry about… but she was almost home free. She blew through a red light, swerving to miss the delivery truck lumbering through the intersection, then took a left at the next block. Two blocks down, she took another left and slowed enough to keep the traffic surveillance cameras from tripping and giving away her position.

A supervillain had to know exactly where she was at all times, and Stiletto was no exception. Twelve blocks would get her to the bridge and then to Riverside North, where she had her lair. And her home. Cops feared to tread those streets at night, but things were more orderly than they thought. That, of course, was largely due to Stiletto. She had put the word out to the gangs long ago: Don’t recruit kids, don’t sell drugs down here, and don’t involve bystanders in your wars. After making examples out of a few non-believers… well, it was a pretty safe place for everyone who belonged there. But between here and home was—

A cop car skidded around the corner, lights flashing. The driver hit the siren as Stiletto hit the gas. Between here and home was two blocks run by the LeFleurs mob. She had little use for mobs—white guys in suits who thought that made them superior to gang-bangers—but they might be good for a little distraction. Behind her, three more cop cars joined the renewed chase. Good. That should make it a fair fight. “Side guns,” she commanded. “Rubber bullets.” The weaponry clicked into place.

A hard right, a left, and now she was in position. “Fire!” The automatic weapons pumped rubber bullets into storefront windows, shattering them and setting off alarms. Mobsters on watch, hearing gunshots and police sirens, responded immediately. Focusing on the traditional enemy, they barely noticed the black motorcycle without lights. A few bullets spanged off her fairing, spending themselves against brick walls and pavement.

In turn, the cop cars skidded to a halt. Cops poured out the lee side of each, returning fire. “Now they have something else to think about,” said Stiletto, with a satisfied smile. “Disarm all,” she told her bike, slowing to a legal speed. “Let’s go home.”

At an abandoned factory along the riverfront, Stiletto ran her motorcycle up a loading ramp. A narrow door swung open long enough for her to shoot through it. She rolled between two sets of uprights; as she shut the bike down and raised the cowling, the uprights came together, clamping the wheels. The entire thing turned around, facing the door for her next caper. This was Stiletto’s hideout, and it was more comfortable inside than it looked. Some dumbass yuppies had tried to gentrify this part of Riverside back thirty years ago, and ended up running back to the white side of town. She owned this building outright, through a few shell corporations, and the defenses kept druggies out.

City Loan, a notorious payday lender with hidden ties to Grimes Financial, had lost about two hundred thirty thousand bucks tonight. They would get half of it back soon enough; she knew several families who were about to have their loans paid in full. The rest would give her secret identity a little free time. “Yeah, you deserve it hon, havin’ to put up with Stiletto most weekends,” she told herself. But for now, all but a couple hundred went into the hidden safe along with her costume.

Dressed in street clothes, she used a pair of night vision goggles to check the perimeter. Nobody nearby. She locked up and emerged into the night.

A few blocks from her apartment—another failed gentrification attempt—she paused. She knew the snick of a switchblade, the click of a revolver’s hammer, the chick-chick of a cocked semi-auto, every sound of every weapon you might find down here. But this was more of a tock sound, like someone doing a really loud tongue-click.

What the hell? she thought. It was pitch-dark here, so she felt no need to hide. Anyone coming for her would be just as blind as she was right now. She put a hand on her own switchblade.

Tock, came the noise again, rattling up and down the street. “Busy night, hon?”

“You could say that,” Stiletto blurted, expecting neither the kindly question nor the woman’s voice behind it. She always tried to put her villain identity away with her costume, but all her mental alarms were blaring. Just another lady, she tried to convince herself.

“Easy, now. You got nothin’ to fear from me,” the voice came again. “I know where you go and what you do. Doesn’t matter to me.”

Snick. Stiletto brought out the switchblade without thinking about it. “Who are you?” she demanded.

“The phantom who sees in the night.” The woman—whoever she was—pitched her voice to make it sound spooky, then chuckled. “You might want to go around one block. The Three-Knees are hangin’ out up the way you usually go. Young woman, walkin’ by herself? Could be trouble.”

“What… this ain’t their hood.” Theirs was Third Street Northeast; they used 3NE as their tag. Calling them “Three-Knee” to their faces would get a violent response.

“Don’t matter. They’re there. And they don’t quite understand how things are done down here.”

“Yeah.” Stiletto worked by cutting one of the violators out of the herd; she couldn’t take on a whole gang by herself. “Thanks for the warning, uh…”

“Don’t matter who I am,” came the answer. “Some things are gone and not forgotten. Other things… well, you ride your ride, hon. I’ll ride mine.” And the presence was gone. Somehow, Stiletto could sense that.

“No. Way,” she whispered to herself. Her aunts had brought her up on stories of the Night Stalker. The phantom who sees in the night, she thought with a chill. It couldn’t be the real Night Stalker; if she was even alive, she had to be pushing eighty. But you heard things, and not all of them were from superstitious old folks. Women and children, warned of danger up ahead in a hood where most of the streetlights never worked. Or rescued. Not all the peace in Riverside North was Stiletto’s doing, when it came down to it.

She took the recommended detour, chewing over the woman’s riddle. Some things are gone and not forgotten. Other things… “are forgotten and not gone?” she asked herself. “Was there really a Night Stalker?”

Monday, October 05, 2015 2 comments

New Blink adventure!

Blink is starting his latest adventure, My Dad, the Supervillain! at WriteOn. Go to writeon.amazon.com, click the drop-down, and start with Part 3. Or start at the top if you need a refresher. 

Updates go live every Monday until it’s done… then we’ll see about Part 4…

Monday, May 04, 2015 2 comments

Blink: Superhero Summer Camp, episode 20 (CONCLUSION)

Blink’s earlier adventures:

Blink
Blink’s First Adventure | 2 | 3 | 4

Superhero Summer Camp (this one): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19



Mom gave him the news at the beginning of Labor Day weekend, Friday after she got home. “Your father and I have been talking some,” she said. Seeing Stevie’s hopeful look, she quickly added, “We aren’t getting back together or anything. But we’re going to communicate better from now on. We’ve agreed that the support payments he missed will go into bonds for your college. Once we’ve caught up on all the bills, we’re going to put more of that money aside for college.”

“That sounds cool.”

“And he really wants to see you, Stevie. I told him it would be okay if he picked you up tomorrow around eleven. You’re seeing Sarika on Sunday, right?”

Stevie paused. That’s right, three-day weekend. No school Monday. “Yeah. I guess that’ll be okay.”


To Stevie’s amazement, Dad showed up at five minutes to eleven. He had never been on time for a visitation before. He had a new car—a different one, anyway. Nothing fancy, but it looked and felt solid. “The old one finally gave up the ghost,” was all Dad said about it.

They said nothing important on the way. Dad stole nervous glances at Stevie, who curled up and watched the road. Back to the state park for more Frisbee, he guessed. To his surprise, though, Dad stopped at the Dari-Freez. “It’s about lunch time,” Dad explained. “Can’t have a boys’ afternoon out on an empty stomach.”

“Can I get the Choco-Peanut Explosion for dessert?” Stevie asked, thinking about the one he had left on the table a few weeks ago.

“Tell you what. We’ll split one. Sound good?”

“Sure.” Truth be told, after last night’s patrol, Stevie could have downed the entire dish and not worried about the calories. He only spent two hours on patrol each weekend, a compromise after tense emails with both Captain Heroic and Professor Zero once they found out, but he stayed busy for those two hours. Holdups, break-ins, even a stalker this time. After he told them The real supers should be doing this stuff, the banks can afford to hire security, not much more was said.

The Dari-Freez was crowded on a holiday weekend. When they finally got to the register, they ordered burgers and fries, since those were ready to go, and found a table. “Your mom said you got to go to summer camp,” said Dad, as they unwrapped the burgers and squirted ketchup onto the paper. “How was it?”

“A lot of fun,” said Stevie. “I guess Mom told you about Sarika.”

“Uh-huh. She showed me the picture, she’s a cutie. First girlfriend and everything. Quite a trip, then?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, enjoy it while it lasts. Your mom said that camp did you a world of good. She said you’ve really grown up. You’ll be a Steve soon, maybe a Steven.”

“I guess.” Stevie shrugged.

“Yeah. Well, don’t be in a hurry to grow up, okay?” Stevie looked up at his dad, surprised, as Dad continued, “I know you feel responsible for your mom, but being an adult sucks. All the responsibility, keeping up appearances…” He sighed. “I’ll tell you more, but not here. At the park, where we’ll have a little more quiet.”

After they finished, Dad went back and got a Choco-Peanut Explosion as promised. They dug in, but Dad let Stevie have the lion’s share, assuring Stevie he’d had enough. Stevie had no problem with that, and left the container empty.

At the park, another surprise. Instead of throwing a Frisbee in the open field, Dad had a disc golf set. He let Stevie get used to how the different discs performed, then they got started in earnest.

“Anyway,” said Dad, as they ambled across the field after their tee throws. “I was starting to say at the restaurant, I got my priorities all messed up last year. I didn’t send the support money because I didn’t have it. But I was all wrapped up in keeping up appearances, being an adult, all that crap. If I’d admitted I’d been laid off in the first place, and was really close to getting foreclosed on… well, it wouldn’t have paid your mom’s bills, but there would have been more understanding. Sometimes, you think you’re ready to be responsible… well, you know what I’m saying. You’re a smart kid.”

“I think so.”

“Fortunately, things got better recently. Here’s your disc. Found a new job, one of those foundations bought my mortgage so they could cancel it, catching up on stuff, yadda yadda yadda.” They threw their discs; Stevie’s stopped short of a stream and Dad’s went over it. “Anyway,” Dad continued as they approached the stream, “I really brought you out here to tell you something. But you have to promise to keep it a secret. You can’t tell your mom. Or anyone else, but especially your mom.”

“You got another family.” Stevie’s voice was flat.

“What?” Dad snorted. “No, it’s not that. I don’t even have a girlfriend. I haven’t even dated since your mom and I split up.”

“Really?”

“Really. I wanted to tell you this last year, but I chickened out. But—you keep up with all the hero stuff, right? Yeah. So you know about this Blink kid. He’s your age, and he even sounds like you. I was a little worried that it might be you at first, until your mom told me you were at camp. But I kept thinking to myself, that coulda been you, and I can’t dodge being your dad anymore.”

“Huh.” Now Stevie was interested. His alter ego had brought Dad back into his life?

“So anyway, I called your mom, and we talked, and I fessed up to my own financial issues. That was a little easier to do, now that I could fix things. That’s something you’ll find out about when you get older, you’re more comfortable about talking over a problem when you know how to fix it. Something… something else, and this is just between us. When you get to be eighteen, maybe a little older, you might find you have some—some special abilities.”

Stevie snorted. “What? Like I’m gonna be a superhero or something? Yeah, right.” He allowed himself a little pride on his delivery.

“Not a superhero, not exactly. Like I said, you have to tell no one. Promise?” Stevie nodded, intrigued, and Dad looked around. Nobody in sight. “I’m—I guess I should show you.”

Stevie’s jaw dropped as Dad hurdled the ten-foot stream from a standing start, then picked up his disc and leaped back. “Son… I’m Jaguar.”

Coming soon: My Dad, the Supervillain!

Monday, April 27, 2015 3 comments

Blink: Superhero Summer Camp, episode 19

Blink’s earlier adventures:

Blink
Blink’s First Adventure | 2 | 3 | 4

Superhero Summer Camp (this one): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18



“Whoa,” said Lashaun, as he and Chris stared at the picture Stevie took out of his wallet. Sarika had taken a picture of them, using the woods around Zero Point as a background, and emailed it to him. Mom, of course, had printed one to put in a frame, but printed a smaller one for Stevie’s wallet. “She’s beyond pretty.”

“Nice,” Chris agreed. “Cool that she lives close enough that you can see her. You got to sit with her at the movie yesterday? Do you even remember which one it was?”

Stevie laughed. “Yeah, it was the new Empire of Space flick. She likes them a lot, too.”

“Beauty and brains! You get a chance to play Wizards at all in that summer camp?” Lashaun waved his Wizards of Stolevan deck. They had come out to the park on a fine late-summer Sunday—partly to play Wizards, mostly to get away from the parents for a while.

“Nah. They had most of our days planned out.” Stevie, in truth, had left his deck at home. He so wanted to tell his friends about what really went on… “Guys, can I tell you something? You won’t tell anyone?” He winced, realizing he was about to tell them way too much.

But Chris smirked. “You kissed her, didn’t you?” Lashaun chortled, waiting for the confirmation.

Stevie sighed, partly in relief. “Yeah. During the part where they show everyone’s names afterward. We were waiting to see if there were any outtakes, but there weren’t. Then…” He waved his hands. It was all true. They watched the credits for a minute, then Sarika got his attention. He didn’t mind at all. It was an awesome first kiss. The second one was great, too.

After the whoops, the high-fives, and the laughter, Chris took a seat across from them on the picnic table. “This game ain’t gonna play itself, guys. Let’s get started.”

Stevie was rusty, but it started coming back to him by the time they finished the first round. As he was getting the upper hand in the third round, they gained a spectator: the high school kid who had picked the fight with Stevie back in the spring. His right hand was in a stiff-looking glove. He lit up a cigarette, fanning the smoke toward the card players.

“Not cool,” said Lashaun as Chris abandoned the table in a coughing fit. “He’s allergic.”

“Oh well,” the intruder sneered.

Stevie pointed at the sign on the pillar above them. “The pavilion’s a no-smoking area.”

“What are you gonna do about it?”

“Me? How’s your hand?” Stevie reminded him.

The high schooler flushed and scowled. He tried to clench the gloved hand, but winced. “What’s it to you? I can kick your butt one-handed. Matter of fact, I think I will.”

Stevie glanced over at Chris, who had his cellphone out—getting video, Stevie hoped. An overconfident opponent, whose right hand was probably still not a hundred percent… no need for a superpower this time, fortunately. “Whatever,” said Stevie, standing up. “Let’s get this over with. I guess smoking really does kill your brain.”

Lashaun and Chris gaped. The high school kid suddenly looked a lot less sure of the situation—the weenie wasn’t begging for mercy or running away—but dropped the cigarette and stomped it on the concrete floor.

Stevie walked into the open, about ten feet from the pavilion, and faced the older boy. “Okay, bring it on,” he said, with all the sarcasm a young teen can deliver. “No trees this time. Show us all what a big man you are.”

He expected the high schooler to charge, but instead he came at a brisk walk. Still, he telegraphed his intended left roundhouse long before he swung; Stevie thought he might have been able to block that punch without training.

The fist came around. Move.

“Holy crap!” Chris shouted, as Stevie responded with a flurry of fists, elbows, and knees. He finished with a sweep, leaving the high schooler writhing at Stevie’s feet. The fight lasted three seconds.

“That’s going on Facebook!” Lashaun gasped.

“No,” Stevie countered. “I got a better idea. Tell you what,” he told the high schooler. “You leave us alone from now on, and we won’t put that video all over the Internet. You don’t want all your friends to see how you get owned by an eighth-grader, right? At least you didn’t break anything this time. Except maybe your big fat ego.” He walked back to the pavilion and sat. “Who’s turn was it?”

“Mine,” said Lashaun, sounding awestruck. “That was… that was totally awesome. Sign me up for camp next summer.” Behind Stevie’s back, the high schooler staggered to his feet and moved on.

“Coolest customer ever,” Chris agreed. “I thought you were toast, right up to when you toasted him. You sure you don’t want to put the video online?”

“Yeah. Hang onto it, though. Just in case.”

“Lucky for Frank he passed,” said Lashaun. “He can’t pick on you so much, now that he’s in high school this year. Finally.”

“He was almost okay after that thing with Blink, though,” Chris reminded him. “Speaking of Blink—Stevie, did you catch that interview? That was amazing. I wish I coulda been there.”

“Wiped out a bunch of battle-bots, and got a girlfriend, all in one day,” Lashaun added. “But your girlfriend’s a lot better looking, man. Too bad she goes to some private school on the other side of town.”

“It’s not so bad,” Stevie assured them. “We email all the time. Mom and I are finally gonna get a new computer next weekend, so we’ll be able to do video calls, too.” He yawned.

“Up late?” Chris asked.

“Kind of.” Last night, after Mom went to sleep, Stevie put on his black hoodie and popped outside. Blink spent a couple hours roaming the streets of Skyscraper City—but not the financial district. The supervillains weren’t bothering normal people, and the other heroes could keep them at bay. Blink walked the neighborhoods instead. He found a burglar climbing a ladder to the second story, and pushed the ladder over, dropping the burglar in the bushes. He used his little Super Soaker on a couple in the middle of a domestic, leaving them shocked enough to work things out. He wrote down the address of a meth lab, then called the cops from one of the few pay phones still standing. All in a couple hours, then he went back home and slept.

He thought of Warmonger’s last DM:

@Blinkss14 I won’t badger you anymore. But the offer’s open, whenever you’re ready.

Ready to switch sides, in other words.

Maybe there was a better way. If Warmonger was right, the heroes were defending villains worse than Warmonger’s whole bunch. Busting an occasional purse-snatcher was cool, but that’s not what heroes usually did.

Maybe Blink could change that.

Monday, April 20, 2015 2 comments

Blink: Superhero Summer Camp, episode 18

Blink’s earlier adventures:

Blink
Blink’s First Adventure | 2 | 3 | 4

Superhero Summer Camp (this one): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17



Blink met with Nixi and Sarika in front of the elevators on level F-2 the next morning, as they had for the last month.

“Oh yeah,” said Nixi. “Cap messed up his ankle last night. I guess it’s just us this morning.”

“I don’t want to go alone,” Sarika huffed, taking Blink’s hand.

“We can go together,” Blink suggested. “All three of us. We know the route by now.”

Sarika scowled, looking between Blink and Nixi. Nixi just smirked, while Blink racked his brains.

“Seriously,” he said at last. “We should go together. That way, your mom can’t say we were out there alone. I don’t want to get on her bad side. She saved my life and all, you know.”

“I guess,” Sarika huffed.

“Let’s take this golf cart,” said Nixi. “The keys are in it.” The look she gave Blink said high-maintenance.


“So what have you been doing this summer?” Blink asked Sarika, as Nixi jogged behind them.

“I’ve been working in the Advanced Research department,” she replied. “We’re gonna take the pieces of the battle-bots you guys destroyed and make new ones. Security can use them.”

“There was something left?”

“Well, you and that villain wrecked the bottom halves, and Mama and the other Devis destroyed top halves. There was enough left to make seven whole ones, and a bunch of spare parts. So we’re dropping everything to get that done this week. We’ll need to reprogram them all, too.”

“You should get Nixi to do that.”

“It’s a different set of skills,” Nixi said from behind. “They’re doing embedded software, and I’m doing web development. I could learn what needs to be done, sure, but by the time I could help, it would be time to go back to school. And the intranet wouldn’t get done.” She chuckled. “That’s why Uncle Zero didn’t have them fix the intranet. I already knew what to do.”

“Yeah.” Blink turned back to Sarika. “That’s this week. What have you been doing the rest of the summer?”

“Captain Heroic has been helping with some gadget designs. I’ve been interning, mostly helping him out.”

“That’s cool.”

“Yeah. Well, Captain Heroic isn’t here to escort me back to that side of the facility, so I guess I can eat breakfast with you.” Sarika gave him a dazzling smile.

“Yeah… uh, that’s great,” he said. “Do you eat meat, though? They serve a lot of bacon and eggs.”

“No, but what about pancakes? I can eat pancakes.”

“Yeah,” Nixi said from behind, between breaths. “We get pancakes.”

“Good,” Sarika replied. “So I’ll eat with you, then I’ll go back to my stuff.”


After breakfast, Captain Heroic and Professor Zero took Blink to a conference room in the public-facing building. “This is a standard debriefing,” Professor Zero told him. “You and Cap both need to describe what happened last night, in your own words. And don’t correct the other one. Each one of you will have a chance to tell your side, okay?”

“Yeah,” said Blink. Captain Heroic nodded; Blink figured he’d been through a thousand of these. The oldest and youngest superheroes described their roles, and both found the other’s stories to have only the smallest discrepancies.

“Okay,” said Professor Zero, “now I need Blink to tell me about his encounter with Warmonger. What was said. Don’t worry about details. I want them all. Start with when you reached the highway.”

“Yeah,” Blink replied, reliving the moment. “There were two eighteen-wheelers parked out at the road—”

“They probably brought the ABAs,” said Zero. “Do you remember any markings?”

“They didn’t have any. I don’t think. So I started walking, and Warmonger stopped and offered me a ride.”

Zero leaned forward, pen poised. “Then what?”

“Well, he said something to get me mad, and he had to stop and pick up the back of his Jeep a few times. Then, he told me—I need to ask you guys something.”

Zero and Captain Heroic looked at each other. “What did he say?” Zero asked, sounding wary.

“Why do you—we—provide free security for the mega-rich people?” Blink asked, trying to keep his outrage in check. “Why is it up to the villains to keep them from eating everyone else?”

“Blink, it’s a lot more complicated than that,” Zero replied. “It’s… well, it’s hard to explain.”

“You’re the genius,” said Blink. “You need to figure out how to explain it. Because I’m not sure I want to be a hero like that. Grimes Financial about threw us out of our house, andand—” he trailed off, sputtering.

“I understand,” said Captain Heroic. “You don’t want to defend them. You won’t have to, though. When you’re active, you can find your own niche. But as a hero, okay? We made a deal.”

“Yeah.”

“What bothers me,” said Professor Zero,” is that Type I superheroes are genetic. That means you have an ancestor with superpowers, and I don’t mean a distant ancestor. Grandparents at most.”

“Huh.” Blink thought a moment. “My grandparents are pretty normal.”

“That’s the point of a secret identity,” said Captain Heroic. “Can you think of anything about them that seems… oh, I don’t know. A little off?”

“Nuh-uh. Maybe if I knew what to look for. Some of the stuff Mom did to keep our house was pretty amazing, though.”

“Mothers are natural superheroes,” said Professor Zero. “But if you think of anything, use the Secure Message app to contact me.”

Monday, April 13, 2015 3 comments

Blink: Superhero Summer Camp, episode 17

Blink’s earlier adventures:

Blink
Blink’s First Adventure | 2 | 3 | 4

Superhero Summer Camp (this one): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16



“Okay, ten seconds. Rudy, be ready to run some of that aerial footage from earlier.” Montana paused, then held up five fingers, counting down each second. “Thank you, Gunnar. Twenty-two ABAs were deployed against Zero Point this evening. No known group outside the military has that many, and there are strict regulations about private ownership. Fortunately, Skyscraper City’s oldest and youngest superheroes were here to defend Zero Point, with some surprising help. Professor Zero, what can you tell us about the attack tonight?”

Professor Zero clasped his hands on the table and faced the camera. “Not much, Montana. I’ve been in touch with our regular security crew, who faced the threat with bravery and skill, by the way. The identification plates they’ve found so far had serial numbers cut away and removed, so there’s no telling who purchased them. Some of the electronics are intact, so we’ll be analyzing them to see if there’s any custom software that might lead us to a culprit. I have to point out, several of the ABAs were crippled, but still otherwise active. It’s making things hazardous for Security as they attempt to repair some of our breached defenses tonight.”

“Thank you, Professor. Captain Heroic, what can you say about tonight’s work?”

“It was a rough night, Montana. We had a couple of close calls. But Blink should tell you about it. He did most of the work.”

“For those of you watching tonight, this is Blink’s first appearance at a news conference. Skyscraper City’s youngest superhero burst onto the scene a few short months ago, helping to thwart a robbery at Grimes Financial. After rescuing a student from a street gang a week later, he has not been seen since. So Blink, you and Captain Heroic saved the day?”

Blink shook his head. “It wasn’t just us, Montana,” he said, his long practice sessions finally paying off. “Nixi here, and Professor Zero, guided us all evening. We’d have been stumbling in the dark if it wasn’t for them.” Next to him, Nixi snorted and Professor Zero gave him a smile. “And we weren’t alone. Warmonger wanted to prove that machines are no match for soldiers, so he switched sides for the evening. He grabbed a hammer and tuned up on like four or five of those battle-bots.”

“Really? How interesting!” Montana did look interested. “But what was your role?”

“Oh. I’d pop—teleport—behind a bot, plant a limpet mine on it, and pop away before it had a chance to shoot. Captain Heroic helped a lot. But then I got tired, and we ran out of mines, and we still had one of those things after us. Lucky for us, the Devis arrived just when we needed them.”

“So you took an active role in the battle?”

“Well, yeah. I had to. This was kind of an emergency.”

“And from what I’ve heard, you performed admirably.” Montana beamed.

“I’ve had a lot of training this summer, Montana. Captain Heroic has been like my mentor. One of the Masked Warriors, too. And Professor Zero, of course. It’s been like summer school, except a lot more fun. I wasn’t expecting to have to use all my training so soon, but at least I know it was… not all in vain, I guess.”

Captain Heroic laughed. “It’s been a pleasure to train him. And to work with him. We’ve agreed that he’ll be inactive now until he finishes school, but he’ll be a great addition to the team when the time comes.”

“I agree, he did pretty well out there,” said Nixi, surprising them all. “He went out and did the job like he’s been doing it all his life. A real professional. It was good to have him on this mission, and to be a part of it myself. Maybe we’ll partner up again some time in the future.”

“I’m just relieved that we got through the night with no serious injuries,” said Professor Zero. “We’ll find out who launched this attack, and we’ll respond. But tonight, we celebrate our success.”

“And you four—and others—have certainly earned it,” said Montana. “We’ll be looking forward to covering Blink in the future, and we’ll have more on this story on Fourteen at Seven, tomorrow morning. But for now, I’m Montana Rack, Channel Fourteen on the Scene. Rudy?” She waited a moment, then took out her earpiece. “That’s a wrap,” she said. “Great job, guys. Cap, can I talk to you in private for a few?”

“Sure.” Captain Heroic stood, and winced at his ankle. “Gonna need a walker if I keep this up much longer,” he grinned. “I’m supposed to be retired.”

“Are you not going to interview the Devis?” Blink asked.

“They don’t do interviews like this,” Montana explained. “Their usual spokesperson is dealing with the issues in town, but we’ll tackle that in the morning show. I suspect there’s a connection to what happened out here tonight. Go get some rest, Blink. You deserve it.” She helped Captain Heroic limp out of the room.

“If Sarika lets you rest.” Nixi gave him an evil grin. “I figure after what I just said, she won’t let you out of her sight for a while.”

“Good work, Blink,” said Professor Zero. “You handled yourself pretty well. Outside, and just now.”

“Thanks.”

“Take Montana’s advice. Get some rest. You’ll be back to classes tomorrow.” He gave Blink a lopsided smile. “I might try to arrange for you and Sarika to have some free time together. Supervised, of course. If you’d like.”

“Uh… sure.”

“Don’t forget to write up the evening in your journal. Everything. Nixi told me her part, by the way, so you need not spare that. And we’ll work on your weaknesses for the next couple of weeks as well. Goodnight, Blink.”

Blink shucked the hoodie and tossed it back to Montana’s intern. “Thanks for letting me use it,” he told her.

“No problem. Sounds like you had a long day.” Sam lowered her voice to a whisper. “Maybe by the time you’re on the job, I’ll be the one in front of the camera. Then it’ll be me interviewing you.” She winked and went back to packing up all the gadgets that are part of a remote TV gig.

Blink shrugged and walked out—and as Nixi had warned him, Sarika was right there. “I think she likes you,” she said without preamble. “But I saw you first. Mom said that when we’re back at home, she can pick you up and we can go to the mall. Maybe see a movie or something.” She grinned, a smile that lit up Blink’s world.

Maybe a hero did get the girls after all. He’d have to figure out how to tell his mom about her, and listen to the embarrassing gush, but that would be okay. “That sounds great,” he told Sarika.

Monday, April 06, 2015 4 comments

Blink: Superhero Summer Camp, episode 16

Blink’s earlier adventures:

Blink
Blink’s First Adventure | 2 | 3 | 4

Superhero Summer Camp (this one): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15



The hallway outside the press room was crowded. One figure detached herself from the crowd and ran to them—to Blink, to his surprise and Nixi’s.

“Blink!” Sarika gasped, taking his free hand in both of hers. “I was worried about you!” She hugged him. He felt Nixi’s smirk behind him.

“I—I’m fine,” he stammered, putting his free arm around her. “I ran out of steam, and Captain Heroic twisted his ankle. I guess I have limits after all.” So much for popping to the beach, he thought.

“But you won. That’s the important thing.” She turned, and waved to an approaching Devi. “Mama! Over here!” Blink stared, and Captain Heroic chuckled, as the woman who had saved them joined Sarika. “This is Blink,” Sarika told her.

“Uh, nice to meet you again,” said Blink. “Thanks for saving us out there.”

“My pleasure,” the Devi said, giving Blink an appraising look. “Have you spent much time with Sarika?”

“Uh, no!” Blink protested. “I’ve hardly seen her outside training!”

“Truly? She has talked so much about you. I thought perhaps you and she were working together.”

Sarika ducked and grinned next to her mother. “I told you we weren’t!” she said. She led her mother away, saying something about meeting at the mall.

“Looks like you’re in,” Nixi said dryly. “Daughter of a goddess? I’m guessing she’s gonna be kinda high-maintenance.”

Blink blushed, and Captain Heroic laughed, as Zero smirked. “Well,” said Zero, “let’s go on in. We don’t want to leave Channel Fourteen with dead air.”


“Good timing,” Montana Rack told the four of them as they entered the press room, Blink and Zero helping Captain Heroic. “We’re going live at ten. Top story! Oh…” Her composure flickered away for a brief moment. “What happened, Cap?”

“I tripped in the dark,” said Captain Heroic. “Hosed my ankle. I’ll limp around for a while, but I’ll be all right.”

“We can work with that,” Montana replied. “Kyle, Frank, let’s shoot them at the conference table. Put the wall behind them.” She ushered them to the seats, as the camera operators hustled to re-adjust. “Zero on the left, Cap on the right, and we’ll put the kids in the middle. Move these extra seats out of the way. Kyle, you stay wide. I’ll stand off to the side, and you frame all of us. Phil, you go close-up on the interviewees. Rudy can tell you which one he wants.”

She put a finger to her ear. “Okay, we’ve got two minutes. No time for makeup, we’ll have to go with what we got. Sam, can you bring some water for them?” The intern hustled over, with four bottles of water, passing them around. Blink and Captain Heroic, who had come straight over from the staging area, gulped down the water; Zero and Nixi drank deeply as well. “Blink, where’s your hoodie?”

“We had to use it for a decoy,” Blink replied, then turned pale. “Oh crap… if Mom sees my face…”

“You can use mine,” said Sam, shucking her black hoodie and tossing it to him. “I’ll need it back, though.”

“No problem.” Blink pulled the hoodie on, keeping the hood over his face. “Now you see me…”

“Definite improvement,” Nixi whispered, giving him a friendly nudge.

Before Blink could respond, Montana slapped her hip and picked up her mike. “Okay, show time!” She turned to face Kyle’s camera, pausing, listening to the audio in her earpiece before continuing. “This is Montana Rack, Channel Fourteen on the Scene, at Zero Point. Our top story tonight is breaking news: this evening, an unknown entity launched an attack on Zero Point, using Autonomous Battlefield Androids, or ABAs. We now go to Channel Fourteen’s expert on military hardware, Gunnar Schutte, for an overview of these devastating war machines. Gunnar?” She paused, then turned to face the interviewees. “Okay, we can relax. We pre-arranged this part. Gunnar will be about a minute, then it’ll be your turn. If you need to adjust your clothes or your seating, now’s the time to do it. Thanks for doing this on such short notice, by the way.”

“No problem, Montana.” Captain Heroic gave her a fond look. “We’ve run Blink through the whole wringer this summer. So far, he’s handled it pretty well.”

“I’ll do better than you, I bet,” Blink whispered to Nixi.

“You just watch,” she replied, giving him an evil smirk.

“Behave, you two,” Professor Zero muttered. “This is important.”

Monday, March 30, 2015 2 comments

Blink: Superhero Summer Camp, episode 15

Blink’s earlier adventures:

Blink
Blink’s First Adventure | 2 | 3 | 4

Superhero Summer Camp (this one): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14



The augmented reality display showed Blink, bent over with hands on his knees, in the fading light of the decoy. “Come on,” he rasped, tossing Blink over his shoulder. He started to toss the bag of mines, then stopped. “Heyyy.” He armed their last four mines, laid them in a row, then jogged straight away from the approaching ABAs.

“I can walk now,” Blink protested.

“Gotta keep moving,” Captain Heroic replied. “Maybe we’ll buy ourselves some time…”

Behind them, they heard two sharp clanks, the limpet mines’ strong magnets catching a bot by the ankles. A few seconds later, the mines detonated.

“About time I got one!” Captain Heroic laughed, setting Blink down. “Nixi. One or two?”

“One,” Nixi replied. “Unfortunately.”

“Can you run now, Blink? We still got one more after us.”

“Maybe we should lay down some more mines,” said Blink, still short of breath.

“I put all four down. I figured we’d have a better chance of nailing one.”

“The last one’s still coming,” said Nixi. “You need to keep moving. Maybe it’ll turn back.”

“Roger.” They got moving. Nixi used the display to point them toward the road. Behind them, the ABA kept coming, picking its way through the trees that slowed its pursuit. Blink picked up the pace as his wind came back, but the battle-bot continued to gain on them.

“If we had another decoy…” Captain Heroic muttered.

“Any chance you got a lighter?” Blink asked.

“Hey, yeah. I had it in case Nixi’s remotes didn’t work. You got something in mind?”

“Yeah.” Blink pulled off his hoodie and hung it on a tree branch. “Light it up.”

“Nice improvisation. Good to know some of what I’ve been teaching stuck.” Captain Heroic held the lighter to the cotton-polyester garment until it caught fire. It blazed up, and they hustled away, veering toward the road.

“That worked,” Nixi told them. “For now, at least. It’s at the hoodie, but it’s just standing there and shooting it. I think it’s going to wait for your decoy to finish burning up, then it’ll come for you again.”

“Let it,” said Captain Heroic. “We’re at the road.” They crawled under the hedge, then crossed the road and crawled through on the other side. “That should slow it down.” They doubled back, jogging a little faster now. Behind them, they heard the ABA crash through the hedge. They picked up the pace.

Then Captain Heroic fell with a strangled cry.

“What?” Blink rasped. “Are you okay?”

“Crap. It’s my ankle. Keep going.”

“No way. I ain’t leaving you here.” Blink grabbed an arm and hauled the old hero to his good foot. “I’ll pop us back to the staging area.”

“You can’t! You’re already worn out. You don’t know what it will do to you.”

“Even if I pass out or something, that’s better than letting you get shot up.” Blink wrapped his arms around Captain Heroic and hoisted him. The staging area, he thought. I need to be there now.

Nothing happened. The bot drew closer. “Oh crap,” Blink breathed.

“Go! Run for it!” Captain Heroic insisted. Nixi and Zero echoed the sentiment in his headset.

“We’re not dead yet.” Blink looked at the approaching ABA in the display. “Hey. Maybe it’ll get confused if I move off.” He edged away from Captain Heroic, watching for any reaction. The bot slowed for a moment, turning toward Blink, then back to Captain Heroic, then continued toward the fallen superhero.

“No, you idiot! This way!” Blink picked up a rock and threw it at the battle-bot. He heard the missile clang off its armor, and threw two more. Again, the ABA stopped, as if assessing the situation, then turned back to Captain Heroic.

It’s over, the old superhero thought, watching the ABA loom larger in his display. I had a good run, though. It raised an arm, tipped with a machine gun—

Twin beams of energy stabbed down at the android, hurling it backwards. It slammed into a tree, then attempted to return fire. But as it shot, the energy beams blasted it again, vaporizing the bullets and melting the ABA’s armor. It ground to a halt in a shower of sparks.

Blink looked up, and saw a woman riding a sparkling rainbow. A golden cape billowed behind her. “The League of Devis!” he crowed. “Just in time!”

“Are there any more of those?” the Devi called down, her accent reminding Blink of Sarika’s.

“The rest are at the conference center,” Captain Heroic replied, pointing the way.

“Then I will join my fellows there. Be well!” She flew away.

“That was too close,” Blink muttered, helping Captain Heroic up again.

“You’d better get used to the phrase ‘in the nick of time,’ my friend. You’ll be hearing it a lot when you’re on active status.” Captain Heroic threw an arm around Blink’s shoulders. “Good thing I put you through all that conditioning, you can hold me up. Let’s get back to the staging area. The Devis can finish off the rest of the bots.”

“What about Warmonger?” Blink asked, then they heard the Jeep rev up. It crunched into the hedge as Warmonger turned it around on the narrow lane, then zoomed away.

“I guess he’s okay,” Captain Heroic winced as he forgot to stay off his bad ankle, and put some more weight on Blink.

“Warmonger tweeted you again,” Nixi told them. “He says, ‘I ran out of juice and the stupid hammer broke. Cavalry’s here anyway. See ya in the funny papers.’ Whatever that means.”

“Get on back here, you two,” said Professor Zero. “I’m sure Montana Rack wants that interview more than ever.”

to be continued…

Monday, March 23, 2015 3 comments

Blink: Superhero Summer Camp, episode 14

Blink’s earlier adventures:

Blink
Blink’s First Adventure | 2 | 3 | 4

Superhero Summer Camp (this one): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13



“Guys,” Nixi said in their headsets, “Uncle Zero says the reinforcements are delayed. There’s been a big uptick in activity in town, and a lot of them are tied up. But Count Boris and a few of the Devis are breaking off and getting out here as soon as they can.”

“In other words,” Captain Heroic said, “we’re on our own. A retiree, a rookie, and a villain who temporarily switched sides.”

“What about Ma Ling?” Blink asked.

“Her skills aren’t geared toward fighting ABAs.” Professor Zero’s voice sounded distant; perhaps he was leaning over to speak into Nixi’s mike. “She’s helping us out where she can, and the security team is holding off the assault so far. The screen says about half the remaining ABAs are investigating the decoys. Tac is recalculating, but I’m sure it’s buying us some time. Get back in the fight, if you’re ready. We need all the help we can get right now.”

“Stay a little left,” Nixi reminded them. “Keep the decoys between you and the ABAs until you get a visual.”

“Roger,” said Captain Heroic, jogging along with little effort, like he and Stevie had done every morning. But now it was Blink running alongside, having no trouble.

Gunfire and a hollow clang resounded beyond the decoys. “One of the ABAs stopped moving,” said Nixi. “But it’s still up.”

“Warmonger probably kneecapped it with my hammer,” Captain Heroic chuckled. “I guess we need to get moving if we’re going to stay ahead.”

“Let’s do this,” said Blink. He scanned the woods ahead; the augmented reality display shaded the flames of the decoys and showed the ABAs moving closer. “Is it clear behind the closest one?”

“Yeah.” Nixi got that excited tone again. “Go get ‘em.”

“I’ll take one mine at a time,” Blink told Captain Heroic, hoisting a limpet mine. “Now you see me…” He disappeared, popping in behind the nearest ABA. It whirled to face him, and he threw the magnetic mine at it and popped back to his partner. “Two, one—” The flash preceded the explosion by about half a second, and Blink grinned. “That’s how we roll!”

“Confirmed down!” Nixi said, as they heard gunfire and another clang. “And it looks like Warmonger kneecapped another one.”

“I hope he’s okay,” Blink breathed.

“He will be,” Captain Heroic assured him. “He’s a survivor.”

“Tac reassessment in,” Professor Zero told them. “The decoys bought Security another twenty-five minutes, even if the remaining seven ABAs turn and rejoin the main force right now. Every one you guys take out gives us three more minutes.”

“Roger,” said Captain Heroic, handing Blink another mine. “Nixi, what’s the best one for Blink to take out next?”

“Third from the right,” she replied. “It’ll be clear in a few seconds. Ready… now!”

Blink was gone and back in two seconds; the mine detonated in two more seconds. “Boom-chaka-laka!” he yelled.

“Hey! Kid! Cap!” they heard, then Warmonger joined them, puffing and still clutching the hammer.

“You’re hurt!” Blink cried, looking at the gash on Warmonger’s arm.

“Just grazed. But I need a fresh tankful of that teenage wrath. Don’t worry about the ABAs, even your mom shoots better.”

Instead of the intended anger, Blink laughed. “Nice try.”

“Yeah, well keep an eye out for Captain Grabby-Hands there.”

Blink heard Captain Heroic draw a sharp breath, and Warmonger sighed with relief.

“Imply a straight old fart is gay, pisses ‘em off every time,” said Warmonger. “Okay, gotta run. You’re ahead four to three, right?” He sprinted back to the battle.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Blink. “I know you’re not gay. One of my best friends is, though. Only time I’ve been glad to get friend-zoned.”

Captain Heroic doubled over in a belly-laugh, and Nixi giggled in their headsets. In the distance, they heard Warmonger whooping in delight as he pounded another ABA.

“What’s next?” Blink asked Nixi.

“Either of the two on your right. They’ve reached the decoys, and they’re turning around.”

“Okay, this one’s a two-fer.” Blink held out both hands for mines.

“Don’t get cocky,” Captain Heroic warned, but gave Blink two mines. “Maybe we can keep them occupied if we get closer, though.”

“Okay. I’ll meet you at the decoy line.” Blink disappeared. Seconds later, two mines went off. “Six!” he yelled, as Captain Heroic jogged to meet him.

“Two headed to Warmonger’s position,” said Nixi.

“Warmonger!” Captain Heroic bellowed. “Incoming!”

“Incoming yourself!” Nixi shouted. “The other two are headed for you guys!”

“I need a rest,” Blink puffed, somewhere in the dark.

“Crap! You overdid it!” Zero grated through Nixi’s mike. “Break off and get out!”

“I got him!” Captain Heroic shouted, sprinting toward the decoy line.

Monday, March 16, 2015 3 comments

Blink: Superhero Summer Camp, episode 13

Blink’s earlier adventures:

Blink
Blink’s First Adventure | 2 | 3 | 4

Superhero Summer Camp (this one): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12



“Okay, I’ve got you on the map,” Nixi said in his headset. “Follow the road for now, up toward the conference center.” That was the building he had popped out of just over an hour ago… but he could be mad at Nixi later. There was hero work to do. This is what he had trained for half the summer.

“Yeah.” Blink took the road in short pops, covering ground faster than he could run.

“Whoa,” said Nixi. “The three closest bots broke off and are heading your way. Every time you blink up the road, they change course.”

“That means they’re using infrared,” said Captain Heroic. “They’re following your body heat. Blink, if you’re willing, we can change tactics. Temporarily, anyway. Go ahead and take out those three, then come on back.” He explained what he had in mind.

“Cool,” Blink said, when he understood. “It’s getting dark, though. I can’t see much.”

“Flip down the glasses,” Nixi replied. “It’s an augmented reality display. It’ll show the position of the bots.”

“Awesome.” He flipped the lenses over his eyes, and the bots showed up as tiny red dots. “Still a ways away.”

Boom, he heard ahead of him, and one of the bots disappeared from the display. “What was that?” Blink asked.

“One of them stepped on a mine,” Zero replied. “None in your area to worry about, and your transponder will keep them from detonating on you, but be careful. Just remember, the bots will open fire if you’re close enough.”

“Yeah. Two to go.” The bots were red streaks in the display now. He moved in with short pops, trying to keep trees between himself and the enemy.

“Clear behind them! Go!” Nixi sounded excited.

“Now you see me…” he muttered, taking a limpet mine in each hand. He popped directly behind the one on his left. Up close, they were intimidating, ten-foot steel giants with machine guns for arms. Blink slapped a mine on its back, then popped away before they could react. As they spun to where he had stood, he popped behind the second one and mined it. Another pop took him back to the road.

“Clear!” he shouted. A second later, the mines detonated. “Owned your asses!” he yelled, pumping a fist.

“Good job,” said Zero. “Just remember, your mike is open. How are you feeling?”

“Okay.” Truth be told, Blink was too excited to feel any fatigue or embarrassment. This was like being in a video game, but for real.

“Good. Come on back, and we’ll get the decoys deployed.”

The decoys were one of Captain Heroic’s improvisations: towels, soaked in diesel fuel from the backup generators, wrapped in plastic bags, and tied to iron bars. Blink carried four, Captain Heroic eight, and they hiked into the woods and planted them at Nixi’s direction.

“How is this going to work?” Blink asked, jamming one of his decoys into the soft ground.

“If the bots are programmed to check out heat sources,” said Captain Heroic, using a two-pound hammer to drive the bar in further, “they’ll turn this way. Hopefully, a few of them will step on the mines between here and there. More important, we might get enough of them to break off the attack to buy some more time. Nixi has remote lighters set up in these things. She’ll set them off once we’re clear.”

“Okay.” A few minutes later, they drove in the last one and headed back to the road. As they climbed into their golf cart, they heard a motor and saw lights approaching. “That sounds like Warmonger,” said Blink, squinting. “Yup, that’s his Jeep.”

The Jeep stopped, and Warmonger stepped out. “Hey, Cap,” he said. “You know we got a truce for the night, right?”

“Yeah,” Captain Heroic replied. “How did you get over the blowout strip? You’ve met Blink already, I’ve heard.”

“Special tires. You think I’ve never seen a blowout strip?” Warmonger eyed his old enemy’s hands. “Hey, is that a hammer? Can I borrow it?”

“What for?”

“To bash some robo-heads in, natch. Boots on the ground beats bots on the ground, every time.” Captain Heroic shrugged and tossed him the hammer. “Thanks. Hey, kid. Is he your baby-sitter?”

Blink’s anger flared up, and Warmonger grinned. “Yeahhh. That should do it for now. Where’s the action?”

“That way.” Captain Heroic pointed into the woods. “The bots are programmed to check out infrared sources, so we have a dozen flares planted down that way. They’ll go up in a minute. You can probably use them for cover.”

“Yeah, that’ll work. You guys take out any, yet?”

“I got two,” Blink replied with some pride.

“Alrighty. Time to catch up.” Warmonger sped into the woods, faster than Blink had ever seen anyone run.

“Whoa,” said Blink. “I thought only Jaguar could run that fast.”

“When he pisses someone off, like he did you just now, he can do all sorts of things. That’s why he hates facing off against the Masked Warriors. Those guys never lose their cool.”

Friday, March 13, 2015 9 comments

DeVine (#FridayFlash)

Here’s a peek at one of Skyscraper City’s supervillains. If you haven’t been reading all along, don’t miss out on Blink: Superhero Summer Camp (link to first episode); new episodes drop every Monday. Or hit the Skyscraper City link for other related stories!



From a distance, Gethsemane Church shines like a jewel on Skyscraper City’s northern edge. Crystal spires catch the sunlight, gleaming like a beacon and blinding unwary motorists at rush hour.

The grounds are no less imposing nor less beautiful. Exotic and native plants grow in ordered harmony across twelve acres of prime real estate. A wide expanse of lawn, manicured as finely as any country club’s fairways, provides a natural space for outdoor events. Even the sprawling parking lot, big enough for a thousand cars, has plenty of shade and greenspace. The impious often say that Gethsemane is a shrine to its High Minister, Charles “Chuck” Worley. But it’s hard to argue with success, and Gethsemane is success on steroids.

Image source: openclipart.org
But even Rev. Worley would say that there are two gems in the tiara that is his church. One is the replica of its namesake, the Garden of Gethsemane, where the Savior Himself prayed for deliverance. The other is indoors, the Arch of Living Vines over the pulpit, reminding the faithful of the parable of the vine. (These vines are not grapes, and bear no fruit, but that minor quibble is lost on most.)

On this Tuesday afternoon, the sanctuary is almost empty—except for one man at the Living Vine. Snick go a pair of clippers, and a long length of vine drops to the floor atop a growing pile of clippings. Anyone watching Philip Klor at work would be horrified, but Klor insists on working with nobody nearby. He does his job well (and cheaply) enough that Worley tolerates this one quirk. Nobody else could complete his vision of an arch of vines over his pulpit, after all.

With the arch thinned out, Klor reached out and focused. Slowly at first, then gaining speed, the vines grew. On both sides, the vines stretched up the chicken wire that formed the Arch, thickening and leafing out. In minutes, the chicken wire was hidden by lush green, growing exactly where it needed, with not a single leaf out of place.

Klor hopped down the ladder and strode to the back of the sanctuary to check his handiwork. “Lookin’ good as always,” he muttered. Returning to the risen area around the pulpit, he stuffed the clippings into a bag and fed the planters a generous helping of fertilizer and mulch. Automatic systems, more of Klor’s handiwork, took care of the watering part.

Sauntering out to the prayer garden, he looked around. That chump Worley often brought his own chumps out here to shake more money out of their pockets, but today he had the place to himself. He checked the place out, willing a few of the plants to try a little harder, to get a little greener. As always, they responded. The pay was crappy, and Klor often daydreamed of walking out and burying the grounds in kudzu behind him, but he did his job. It was—no pun intended—excellent cover for his real work.

Tucked away behind a holly hedge was the caretaker’s cottage. Gethsemane provided him with living space, but he had to pay rent out of what little they paid him. Not to mention the ten percent “tithe” they withheld from his meager paycheck on top of taxes… but this megachurch was not Klor’s sole source of income.

Not by a long shot.

He deposited the clippings in the mulcher system behind the cottage, then went inside for a shower. Minutes later, clean and refreshed, he sat at his computer. His Internet link went through the church’s network, which was constantly monitored for signs of impropriety, but there were ways around that. Accessing his cover site, a botanical database, he hopped on the anonymizing relay and went to town. Or, to be more precise, Twitter.

Party at my place Friday, one tweet offered. There were several replies from accounts he followed, chatty cover aliases, offering to bring drinks or snacks. He chimed in with his own reply.

The supervillains were planning something big. DeVine meant to be a part of it.

Monday, March 09, 2015 3 comments

Blink: Superhero Summer Camp, episode 12

Blink’s earlier adventures:

Blink
Blink’s First Adventure | 2 | 3 | 4

Superhero Summer Camp (this one): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11



“Still looking for him,” Captain Heroic said into his headset. “I’m taking another sweep of the Sim Room, just in case he was—crap! He just popped in! Blink!” He sprinted across the Sim Room to the doors, where Blink doubled over and sat on the floor. “Where the hell have you been, kid? Professor Zero’s turning the place upside down looking for you, and now we got a situation outside!”

 “I know,” Blink puffed. “I saw Montana doing her breaking news thing. I totally forgot about the interview. Kinda got tied up with personal stuff.”

 “Are you okay? How far did you teleport?”

“You know the Dari-Freez by the freeway exit? They had it on TV.”

“Cripes. That’s like eight miles. How did you get there?”

 “I popped out to the road and started walking. Then I got a ride. From Warmonger.”

 “Warmonger?” Captain Heroic looked horrified. “How is he mixed up in this?”

“He says he’s not. And he might switch sides for the evening.”

“Oh, that’s reassuring. What else did he tell you?”

Blink’s breath came easier, and he scrambled to his feet. “It can wait. But I got some questions for you and Professor Zero a little later. The aerial shot showed the attack-bots—Warmonger called them ABAs—and he said there’s about two dozen.”

“Pretty good assessment, from one glimpse. But that’s his thing.” Captain Heroic led Blink down the hall, back toward the parking deck.

“What are the bots doing out there?” Blink asked.

“Making a mess, mostly. Security is slowing ‘em down, but the tac software says they’ll breach the conference center in about twenty minutes. After that, whoever is running the bots will need about five minutes to realize it’s a facade. Not good.” Captain Heroic pointed to one of the golf carts, and they climbed in. “Staging area’s set back from the entrance.” He let the cart wind up, not letting up on the pedal; the breeze flipped Blink’s hood back and blew his hair around. “Only thing slowing them down so far are the mines and Security’s heaviest weaponry. We shut off the active defenses, they weren’t doing any good and the noise was getting to our people.”

Near the other end, he braked hard and slewed the cart sideways in front of several others. “Just in case we need to run for it,” he explained. Golf carts bracketed each end of the staging area, with folding tables and several laptops in between. A whiteboard hung on the wall, somehow.

Professor Zero was here, with the Masked Warrior woman Ms. Ma, several security peeps—and, to Blink’s surprise, Nixi was hunched over one of the laptops. He spared a second to glare at her back, then the Professor rushed forward. “The timing could have been better to have a personal moment, Blink, but we can worry about that later. Right now, we have a major situation. I’m sure Captain Heroic already briefed you.”

“Yeah. Two dozen ABAs. I came back as soon as I heard.”

“He was pretty worn out, after an eight-mile teleport,” said Captain Heroic. “I guess he discovered his distance limit.”

“That’s something else we can worry about later. For now, we have to figure out how to destroy those things out there. They can’t jam our comms inside the hill here, but outside we’re basically blind—”

“Our Internet link is up!” Nixi yelped. Seconds later, the iPad in Blink’s bag chimed as the laptop next to Nixi started displaying data. “That’s the radar and surveillance!”

Blink dug through his bag and pulled out his iPad. There was a Twitter message from Warmonger: @blinkss14 I got Pulse to interfere with the cyber attack, at least for now. Tell the Zero I want a crack at the ABAs. He shrugged and showed the screen to Professor Zero.

“Things just got a little more interesting,” said Professor Zero, pulling out his cellphone. “And more manageable.” He poked at the phone for a minute, then pocketed it. “Well, reinforcements are on their way, and Warmonger is on our side for the next hour or two. I’m sure he has his reasons. We can’t wait until he or the Devis arrive, though. Unfortunately, the only portable weapon we have in the arsenal that will damage an ABA are the magnetic limpet mines, and we have to be close enough to put one on them.”

“Easy,” said Blink. “I take a mine, pop next to a bot, slap the mine on, then pop away.”

“I might be able to improvise a mine launcher,” Captain Heroic added. “If one gets close enough, I could shoot one.”

“I don’t know if there’s time for that,” said Zero. “I hate to say it, but it sounds like Blink’s plan is the best one. I’ve already sent for a crate of limpet mines.”

“Give him a headset with a transponder,” Nixi suggested. “Now that we’re not blinded, I can mark him on the map here, and tell him where the closest bots are.”

“Blink, are you willing to do this?” Zero asked.

“Sure. I can pop away from anything that’s giving me trouble.”

“You need to keep tabs on yourself,” said Captain Heroic. “If you start getting fatigued again, you need to get out. I expect you’ll have some fatigue issues, if you couldn’t even stand up after your last teleport. You’re rested now, but you won’t be a hundred percent.”

“I’ll be okay,” Blink replied. “Let’s do this.”

They heard another golf cart approaching from up the hall. “That’s the limpet mines,” said Zero. “We’ll alert Security to your presence on the battlefield.”

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