Chapter 300

                It was a standoff, one that couldn’t last for long. Whatever plan Charles Adair might have had for this day, there was no chance it included several costumed Heroes gathering at the fringes of a sea of Supers in combat equipment, the tension between both groups so thick that it hung overhead, nearly visible through the tight faces and firm grips on weapons. Even from their place further away, off near the tree line, Vince could read the signs of growing escalation.

                “The guards are claiming that this is private property responding to an intruder, and that since no police reports or requests have gone out, the Heroes don’t have jurisdiction to intervene. The Heroes are arguing that there’s been reports of a wanted criminal showing up, here they’re talking about Globe, and the DVA has ordered investigation. None of the guards want to fight the Heroes, but they will, and worse, they know they’ll have to soon. Once Globe shows up, all bets are off. He’s an Armageddon-level Super, no amount of private property claims will keep the Heroes from going after him.” Mary opened her eyes, momentarily turning her attention away from the waves of thoughts washing over her.

                Nearby, Roy finished downing a deep gulp of whiskey from a silver flask. “And until he shows, it’s just a good ole-fashioned dick measuring contest. If things pop off early, are we jumping in?”

                “No.” Alice was at the edge of the forest, eyes unwavering from the crowd gathered near the bunker. “The guards have a significant numbers advantage, but the Heroes are much better trained, and they probably already have reinforcements on the way. Heroes can handle themselves. Our goal is to find, and protect, my mother.”

                “Getting her out will be tricky. There are either a lot of anchors or a few very strong ones blocking off teleportation here, so we can’t pop anyone out.” Mr. Transport looked a tad uncomfortable as he spoke, visibly uneasy about not being able to jump through space on a whim. Alice had been the one to get them the last few miles, flying everyone here at a pace that no one felt fully safe with. To her credit, she’d done the job flawlessly, even putting them down in a tree line with a good view to the scene below. The fact remained, however, not having teleportation was going to make things much harder.

                For his part, Vince was still trying to wrap his mind around everything Alice had told them during the trip. That Globe was innocent came as no real surprise, he’d always known his father wasn’t the kind of man to kill a friend in cold blood. But the revelations about Alice’s own dad were another matter. The mere idea that he’d put all of this together, that he’d been the one responsible for Intra’s death, and that the demise of Chad’s father was supposedly the bedrock on which the Powered-to-Super procedure was built… it was a lot to take in. Much as Vince loved being a Super, and perhaps soon a Hero, he couldn’t imagine he’d have taken the bargain if he’d known what it had cost someone else. There was no way to give it back, though, not that doing so would return Intra to life anyway. The most Vince could think of was to make sure he used this gift well, to honor the loss of the man who’d made it possible.

                Roy, on the other hand, had taken up different concerns. He gave his bat a careful test swing, feeling the heft in his hands. “I wonder if Coach George will be with them.”

                “If he is, you know he’ll be on our side technically, right? No payback for last time.” Mary shot a firm glare over to Roy, making it abundantly clear that she knew what he’d been thinking.

                “Sure sure, he’s starting off on our side. I’m just planning to keep an eye out for any back-stabbing.” Another swing, this time a little harder than before.

                Mr. Numbers was leaning against a tree, unmoving, as he looked out on the crowd. “I suppose it’s too much to hope you’ve gotten any stray thoughts from Globe or his people?”

                “No luck there. I’m guessing he created a shield or something around them to keep thoughts from broadcasting. Makes sense, there’s no way I’m the only telepath here.” With a start, Mary jerked up straight. “Oh no. What if someone down there is listening to us?”

                Barely twitching, Mr. Numbers nonetheless managed to shake his head slightly. “Highly unlikely. Remember, few telepaths can function at higher ranges, especially with so many voices to sort through. Anyone else scanning thoughts is going to be focused on the key points of interest, namely the guards, Heroes, and whatever fighting is happening in the base. We might be noticed, but by my estimations it won’t matter soon. Given the gathering of forces, it seems obvious the plan is to block Globe at the exit. With no one stopping him, it won’t take long for Globe to reach the choke point. The real question is whether the guards will be able to halt his advance before the Heroes catch sight of their target.”

                “That seems like the sort of firefight that could put my mom at risk,” Alice said.

                “From all accounts, Globe is the sort of man who will do anything to keep innocents safe. However, he is not perfect, and people have died in his care before. I won’t make you false promises, that situation will be a dangerous one for both Globe and Shelby.” Mr. Numbers, as usual, was not one to hide the truth for the sake of sentiment.

                Alice’s hands were tightening into fists, a clear indicator that she was about to storm down there no matter who was in her way, when Mary suddenly perked up. “Something’s happening. Something neither side was expecting.”

                In a rush, they all raced to the tree line to look, except Mr. Numbers, who took his time. Confusion and suspicion were rippling off both parts of the crowd as they milled about, Heroes and guards equally unsure of what was happening.

                “It’s the ground.” Mary doled her explanation out with quick words, mind preoccupied by assessing thoughts in real time. “There’s a rumble coming from below their feet, and both sides suspect the other of starting an attack.”

                “Are either of them right?” Roy asked.

                No one had the chance to respond, as before their eyes the source of the issue became visible. The ground bubbled upward in the southeastern section of the bunker, causing the building to rise and crack, revealing even more soldiers inside. The bubble continued, unbothered by the minor inconvenience just as it had ignored all the previous obstacles. Dirt ran and grass flew as the soil was pushed higher and higher, until finally it burst like a pimple on the face of the Earth, spraying more turf and flecks of metal into the air.

                From the hole rose a hunk of flooring, on which stood five figures, with one more laid out. A pair of Razes flanked either side of the platform, with Coach George and Coach Persephone taking the middle positions. And there, in the dead center, carefully cradling a limp woman, was the infamous villain Globe.

                For a brief moment, the world stood silent in shock at the scene. It was impossible to say who took the first shot. Too many people, already instants away from attacking, suddenly had a justified target to go after. It didn’t matter anyway. The first shot was only that by random chance, because it was followed by countless others coming nano-seconds behind it. The sky lit up as an unholy torrent of bullets, energy, and various projectiles were all flung at Globe simultaneously.

                Over such a commotion, it was perhaps understandable that no one on the battlefield heard the distant voice of a young woman screaming in fear for her mother.