Alloy has this awesome heroic image of herself leaping out of Big Bill, diving toward the purple sphere of liquid, bravely facing death and saving the day…! Unfortunately, the jet deploys pontoons and soft-lands on the lake, then taxis over to a barge where the Drivers are standing.
Alloy and the Animal hop out and take stock. There’s people dressed like paramedics here, administering saline IVs to the sweating trio. How long have they been here, doing this? She tries to catch a glimpse of the Drivers’ faces, but she’s interrupted by a guy with a clipboard.
“You are the American team?” he asks urgently.
“Yeah. Uh, Alloy, Animal, and Big Bill.”
“A pleasure. I am Esteban. I am part of the ERU.”
“Emergency Response Unit. We are part of the Red Cross.”
Alloy cranes her neck to spot the Drivers again. “You guys evacuating the people on the lake too?”
Esteban shakes his head. “No, we do not have the resources ourselves. Vehicles are on the way, I am told. The Bolivians are trying to get the Peruvians to assist, but there is some kind of political difficulty.”
“Cool. So uh, what do I do?”
“What can you do?”
Alloy realizes this is going to be one of those times she has to take initiative and be responsible. She’s still not sure how she feels about those times. Usually A10 just bosses the Irregulators around and Telekinetian makes some kinda smart suggestion, and the rest of the team does it.
Okay. There’s a device at the center… We gotta shut off the device… it’s surrounded by the Devil Molecule…
“Alright, I’m gonna swim up there and turn the thing off,” Alloy says.
Esteban goes pale. “You have not seen what the Devil Molecule does to flesh, have you,” he says in a shaky voice.
Alloy doesn’t need this kind of negativity in her life, especially right now. She pushes past Esteban and approaches the Drivers. For the first time, she can see their faces. Sunken eyes, sweating brows being mopped by Red Cross personnel, gazes focused on the huge ball of purplish liquid they’re holding up with their powers. They’re giving their all. I have to as well.
She walks under the shadow of the sphere, and holds out two cupped hands. “Hey, can you guys let a little go, just a little?”
For the first time, the Drivers seem to acknowledge her presence. One spares a glance at her, and Alloy feels shocked and a little ashamed at the relief on his face. I’m promising a lot here. Sure hope I can deliver.
Esteban takes the time to translate Alloy’s request into Spanish, and the Bolivian superhero nods quickly. He replies in rapid-fire, something which Alloy doesn’t understand but recognizes isn’t Spanish, and Esteban in turn has to take a moment to make sense of it.
“I’m sorry, my Aymara is not so good,” Estaban finally reports. “He says they will let a little out, and you had better be ready to catch it. He also says you are an adventurer in the sky. I don’t think that’s quite what he meant. I don’t understand the idiom.”
“It’s okay, I get the idea.” Alloy gives a thumbs-up to the Driver, then readies herself. “Okay, let’s do it.”
A small gap in the Drivers’ levitation field opens, and the purple goop comes out. Come on powers, don’t fail me now, copycopycopycopycopy–
The purple splashes down, and it burns for just a moment.
Alloy feels like she’s on fire. She struggles to contain it, pushing back against the Devil Molecule trying to take her over. It wants to transform her into more of itself, and it will, it will, unless she masters it.
She falls to the deck of the barge. Several paramedics rush toward her. She holds out a purple-hued hand, urgently. “No! I got this. I got this.”
She can’t use that hand, not right now. She struggles to rise, using her two bare feet and her one free hand. Esteban is keeping his distance.
He’s seen what this stuff does. Now that I can feel it, I respect it a lot more.
“Big Bill!” she shouts. “I’m ready!”
She did not expect to see the jet plane transform.
A giant robot hand reaches down for her, to the shock of everyone else here. She clambers aboard, careful not to touch him with her cursed hand. She sees an enormous human face, made of something that’s not metal but definitely not flesh, smiling at her. Hey, teammate.
“Drop me in the top of the stuff!” she calls. Big Bill lifts, and carefully angles his hand. Her descent is part slide, part jump, and for a moment she’s in free fall.
Now everything is the Devil Molecule. She feels like she’s in a deep fat fryer. It’s not painful, not any more, but definitely terrifying. There’s death, all around her, just waiting, and she’s got maybe an inch of space between herself and the stuff.
Where are you? Where are you? Come on… She peers around, spots a dark blob at the center, starts swimming for it.
There’s a problem here. She feels when she reaches the device. It’s about the size of a tool box. But she can’t see it clearly. The purple stuff isn’t opaque, but it’s definitely dark in here.
Oh, and she needs to breathe. Her lungs tell her about that little detail.
She grabs hold of the device. She kicks, hard. Kicks again. Kicks more. Come on, swim practice, what good were you if not for this? Gradually, slowly, she gets closer to the top. She can see the details on the device, see the controls, and it’s labeled in Spanish. Of course.
She’s not buoyant, not like this. Absorbing the Devil Molecule’s properties makes her want to stick to the rest of it. That’s not good. Maybe she can toss the device out, maybe that’ll help. She feels herself drowning, even as she tries to push the gizmo above the surface–
She spots a weird tentacle looking thing reach down, and press a button on it.
Immediately the purplish liquid around her freezes up. She’s lucky she’s got a grip on the device, because she’s now dangling in midair, holding onto it for dear life. On the other end, the Animal in squid form has a grip on it too, and is holding onto Big Bill’s pinky finger.
The Drivers are all taking a much-needed recovery. Esteban is seeing to them.
The UMSA conference call is still going on. They talk a lot. Alloy gets the gist. Turn off the device, and you neutralize the Devil Molecule. Makes sense. I mean, how was the villain gonna get it out here to set it off, if he didn’t have a way to do it safely? And everyone’s safe.
Alloy has a chance to look at herself in the gorgeous waters of Lake Titicaca. Most of her hair is gone, taken by the Devil Molecule. She’s wearing a spare Red Cross jumpsuit, and covered in a blanket. Her wallet is toast, and she’s out $36 in cash. But she herself is okay, and more importantly, she saved the day.
“You know, shaving my head could be a good look for me,” she tells the Animal, now in the form of a capybara. The rodent eyes just look placidly back at her.
“What? I’ll just grow some of it out, but shave the rest.” She turns her head this way and that, looking at the water and trying to gauge her next aesthetic move.
She looks up. “Hey. Big Bill! You got parents?”
“That’s a tough question, honestly, Ms. Alloy.”
She considers. He’s basically a robot jet plane, right? Yeah, that makes sense. “Well… say that you had parents at home that you had to go back to. How would you tell them you were gonna shave your head and keep it that way?”
Big Bill scratches his own robotic head. “I don’t really have hair, so… I guess I’m already kinda shaved? In a way? I mean, I got my Flannel shell, and that’s got hair…”
Alloy gets the feeling everything is going to be complicated with this guy. “Okay okay good enough. I’ll just make it happen.”
Big Bill gives a gigantic thumb’s up, and Alloy returns the gesture. Who cares if she’s bald, or partially bald? You only live once.