The gas cloud still hangs over the stage. The host and guests there are on the ground, either passed out or nearly so. Carbine has some kind of grappling gun in hand. She sprints down the walkway between seats, and aims and fires it at Kid Kelvin. The grappling line hooks into his clothes. She activates the mechanism, and the young super is bodily dragged toward her, out of the gas.
Before William can get into melee range with her again, she’s got a pistol to his head. “Hold it.” Her voice is cold, and ready to crack. “One move and he gets it.”
The young squire doesn’t need any more encouragement. He already remembers the grenade throw, and is mindful of the crowd that’s still evacuating the building. Whatever gets this dangerous woman away from innocents is okay with him.
That’s what a king has to do.
Kid Kelvin is still groggy from the gas. William briefly considers telling him something - “fight back”, “I’ll save you”, anything. But the ice manipulator probably wouldn’t hear him clearly. If only he were awake…
Carbine puts her victim into an arm lock and retreats to one of the side doors. William ignores her, and runs for the stage.
Stingray is still conscious, but can’t move. William drags him several feet away, and props him up. “Nobody can see my face,” he whispers.
What an odd thing to say. Well, okay. “I gotcha, mate. Nobody’ll see. Can you move?”
“Get me outta this thing. Forefingers on neck. Up… up… up… There.” William finds the emergency release switches, and the helmet comes free. Before anything else, he pulls off his own hoodie and drapes it over Stingray’s head. The rest of the armor has a similar quick-release mechanism, and soon Stingray is able to stand. He’s still weak - the EMP shocked him badly - but he can talk.
“The Menagerie disappeared. We got invited to come talk about it…”
William doesn’t care about any of that right now. “Listen, mate. You guys are a team, yeah? You have some kinda… Communicators? Comms? Right? Anything that would survive that shock she gave you?”
Stingray thinks a moment. “Yeah. Yeah. They’re EMP-resistant, on a high band channel. They should be okay…”
William nods. “Kid Kelvin’s out for the count. But you could track 'im with that thing, right?”
Stingray pauses. His wits are slowly coming back to him. “If whoever attacked us didn’t think to take his gear away, yeah. I don’t have any of my equipment–”
William cuts him off again. “We’re in a TV station, mate. If they don’t have what you need, then it’s probably too late.” He looks Stingray dead in the eye. “Can you do it?”
The JHHL super breaks into a grin. “I’ll do what I can.”
While Stingray moves toward the broadcast booth, William talks to his phone. “Call the TV studio’s broadcast booth. Stingray’ll be in there, giving me directions. Can you, y’know, conference him in?”
“I sure can,” comes the voice of AEGIS. “I think. Put you on hold, then push this–” It goes worryingly quiet.
William starts moving, toward the side door Carbine used.
The voice comes back. “–wondering why, oh there we go. Fuck this phone system. Hey, Edgelord, she’s probably heading for the basement. She can get to a subway tunnel or something. Get to an elevator.”
He reaches the elevator shaft and hops down onto the roof of the damaged car, the one that took the grenade blast earlier. There’s a gap near his feet. The elevator door to the basement level is already open. He slides down through the gap and starts running through the corridors he finds there.
“Tell me room numbers,” comes Stingray’s voice. “105… 106… 107…” calls out William.
“Turn left. Run run run, turn right.”
William does as he’s instructed.
He hears voices down the hall, and stops running immediately when he recognizes one of them as Carbine. The other is weak and faint.
“… Your father. Where is he? Where is King Winter?” Carbine is demanding, over and over. “Tell me where he is. Where is he being kept? Is he at this location?”
“… Go to hell, bitch.”
There’s a smacking sound. William creeps forward, and peeks around a corner.
Carbine is squatting in front of Kid Kelvin. Next to her is an open door, beyond which is a subway tunnel, just like the voice speculated. She’s got her pistol out, but isn’t holding it in her hand. Instead, she’s looking at laminated cards. Student ID, learner’s permit. “No,” she says after a moment. “This address is fake. Who helped you set this up? Who’s protecting your father? Where is he? Tell me!”
She raises her hand again, probably to strike him. William rushes forward, sword out.
Armiger is Directly Engaging once again. His Danger is still +0, and he rolls a 7. He chooses “resist or avoid their blows”, and is unhurt. Carbine marks Hopeless, her last condition, and the GM makes an appropriate villain move: “give up without a fight”, interpreting “give up” as “abandon the mission” rather than “surrender”.
Carbine snarls in frustration upon seeing William charging. A practiced motion pulls another grenade from her web, and she tosses it at her feet. The room fills with smoke, leaving William choking and coughing, and rubbing at his watering eyes. He can hear Kid Kelvin likewise struggling to breathe the heavy black smoke, but cannot hear Carbine. She must have gone through the door - but then where? He doesn’t have a way to track her.
Nor, he realizes, does he have a reason.
Once Kid Kelvin has been dragged free, he comes around pretty quickly. “Hey, where’d she go?” he mumbles.
“She’s gone,” William says. He wishes he could have stopped her, could have done something else that would cause her to give up. Would anything have worked? Or would he have had to try using lethal force? He’s grateful he didn’t give chase.
Kid Kelvin touches his ear. That must be the JHHL comms, because he can hear Stingray’s side of the conversation through his phone. “KK! Dude! You okay man?”
“I’m okay. Armiger of the Irregulators is here.”
“Yeah. That guy’s fucking kick-ass. He just owned–” Stingray realizes too late he’s on a conference call with one or more unknowns, including William himself. It’s too late to recover his dignity, but he rallies anyway. “Get on your feet and get back up here. Bring Armiger along.”
“You got it, dude.” Kelvin tries to stand, can’t quite manage, and doesn’t accept William’s offered hand. He pulls it off on the second try, and the two young men start making their way back to the studio.
Tasha Starr has recovered consciousness. She immediately took charge of the situation in her studio, and tried to capitalize on a few key opportunities. Stingray was too cagey to let himself be photographed, and he’s still wearing that peculiar gray knight-themed hoodie. So she settles for Plan B, which is some surreptitious camera work aimed at Kinetica for the late-night fans. Plan C materializes when a young black man in a white undershirt escorts Kid Kelvin out of one of the side doors.
Ratings are always better after a supervillain attack. Iconoclast certainly wasn’t the first, though this one was far more professional (and dangerous). Tasha brushes her suit clean of dust, summons her makeup man with a quick gesture, and considers her next options. Maybe this kid with the sword is part of the JHHL too - or the Irregulators, that other team, even better. Maybe they’ll consent to an appearance? Maybe they have a rogues’ gallery that will attack the show? Perfect.
“Can we get a statement, young man?” she asks, with the camera and boom mike zooming in on Armiger.
“Uh, first, did anyone get badly hurt? Or killed?” he asks earnestly. Well, that’s heroic. Good.
Tasha has already been appraised of the situation by EMS personnel. “Everyone survived, thanks to your quick thinking,” she gushes. “Thank you so much!”
“Alright.” William starts to move on, but Tasha’s hand rests for a moment on his bare and muscular bicep. “Er, just a moment. Is there anything you’d like to say to our audience at home?”
William thinks. He’s not in this for the attention, and he’s honestly not sure what Skinner would say about drawing attention to the Knighthood. But there’s one thing he can get away with.
“I wanna say thank you to my personal trainer, sparring partner, and best friend, without whom I’d be useless. I owe everything to you, and I want everyone to know it.”
He smiles, and waves, letting Kid Kelvin and Stingray take the spotlight again. Right now, he just wants to go home, have JC make him some coffee, and recline into the ridiculously comfortable Has Beans couch. He wants to talk to her about his moves, his weaknesses, and his experience in the fight, and hear her advice. He wants to debrief with Skinner, and see what the severe but effective soldier has to say.
Mostly, though, he wants a burger.
author: Bill G.