Tales from the World of Scarlet Shield

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Green-Lightning
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Tales from the World of Scarlet Shield

Post by Green-Lightning »

Kenzie Meets Jen, Part 1

July 12, 2014
12:03 pm
Redford, Michigan

It was the usual summertime lunch rush at Crispy Cluck and Kenzie was glad she had gotten there before the crowd so she could claim her favorite corner booth. The fast food place had been a big part of Kenzie’s life for as long as she could remember, giving her fond memories of time with her family. As she got older, the family time mostly gave way to hanging out with Liz. They had spent countless hours at that booth talking about boys, school, boys, whatever mystery Kenzie was helping Liz solve that week, boys, their hopes and dreams and, well, boys. Kenzie and Liz had been best friends since they were little. They told each other everything; no one but Kenzie knew just how strong Liz really was, and Liz was the only person Kenzie told when she found out she could fly and create force fields a couple months ago, as well as when she made her first appearance in costume as Scarlet Shield five weeks later.

Kenzie nibbled on a drumstick and washed it down with a sip of root beer as she read an old issue of Metas magazine. She loved the Cluck’s fried chicken even if it was a little greasy, and they had Gramps’ Root Beer, her favorite brand. She was trying not to eat too fast, though, because she didn’t want to finish before Liz got there. Liz was helping her father, a private investigator, with a routine case that morning, but she and Kenzie had made plans to meet for lunch.

“Hey.” Kenzie looked up from her magazine to see a girl about her age standing at the table’s edge, holding a bag of food in one hand and a cup in the other. “Can I sit with you? There aren’t any empty tables.” Kenzie’s first thought was to notice how pretty the girl was, which surprised her. She normally didn’t give much thought to what other girls looked like but this time she couldn’t seem to help herself. The girl was a little taller than Kenzie, probably around five and a half feet, with a slim figure hidden under baggy clothes. Her straight blonde hair was nearly shoulder length and her bangs were combed back, but it was the girl’s heart-shaped face that held Kenzie’s attention. Fair-skinned with lips that formed a natural pout – the bottom one sporting two piercings – a cute button nose and almond-shaped hazel eyes made it hard for Kenzie to look away.

“Um, sure,” she replied, her cheeks turning slightly pink as she forced her eyes back to her magazine.

“Thanks,” the girl said as she took a seat. If she had noticed Kenzie staring, she didn’t let it show. “I won’t take long, I promise. I’ll be gone before whoever you’re waiting for gets here.”

“Wh-what makes you think I’m waiting for someone?” Kenzie asked, looking up again.

The girl gave her a wry smile. “You’re barely touching your food. That means either you don’t feel good or you’re waiting for someone to show up and eat with you. You don’t look sick and, come on, a cute girl like you sitting alone here with all these boys around? Yeah, that’s not happening.” Indeed, there were several teenage boys sitting at the nearby booths and tables; Kenzie recognized many of them from school, though she didn’t know all of their names. Some of them were casting furtive glances at the two girls in the corner as they whispered among themselves.

“...I’m waiting for a friend,” Kenzie admitted.

“Must be some friend,” the girl said between bites of food, “if she can keep the guys away even when she’s not here.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kenzie asked, her brows furrowed in irritation.

“It means they respect your friend, or they’re afraid of her. Or maybe both.”

“Oh. Um, yeah, she does kind of scare the bullies at school.”

The girl smiled. “My kind of person.” Pushing her food aside, she laid a folded napkin on the table in front of her. “Do you have something to write with?”

Kenzie, would-be girl reporter and member of the school newspaper staff, never went anywhere without a memo pad and at least one pen or pencil. She got a pen out of the backpack laying next to her on the seat and slid it across the table. The girl picked it up and quickly wrote something on the napkin. “I’m new here and I don’t know anyone yet.” She slid the pen and napkin across the table to Kenzie. “I like you, you’re nice. I’ve gotta go, but call me sometime and maybe we can hang for a while.” Kenzie picked the napkin up and looked at it while the girl put her half-eaten meal back in the bag. On it were written the name Jen and a phone number. The girl, Jen, stood, ready to leave. She picked up her bag and cup, then took a drink of soda through the straw. “Later.”

“Uh, yeah,” Kenzie said as Jen turned and walked away, “bye.” To her surprise, Liz was walking toward the table with a tray in her hands. Kenzie had been so focused on Jen that she hadn’t even noticed when her friend arrived. “Hey,” Jen said to Liz, upnodding at her as they passed each other. Liz, nearly half a foot taller than the blonde, glanced down at her. “Hi.” Stopping for a moment she did a double-take, then looked at Kenzie curiously as she continued to her destination. “Who’s that?”

Kenzie watched, awestruck, as Jen walked out the door. She held the napkin out for Liz to see and said softly, “She thinks I’m cute...”
Last edited by Green-Lightning on Sun Jan 17, 2021 8:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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The Kids Are Alright, Part 1

Post by Green-Lightning »

May 28, 2004
Montgomery, Alabama

“Not so fast, Projectionist!” ten-year-old Cindy Rose, in her costumed identity of Dynamic, shouted from the entrance to the bank. Vicki, nine years Cindy’s senior and in her Fyrebyrd persona, looked at her speedster little sister as if she had just bitten into something sour. “Did you really have to say that?”

Cindy shrugged. “It was the first thing I could think of.” She turned back to the scene in front of her: the geeky teenager who called himself the Projectionist, along with six gun-toting mobsters he had called up from some old black-and-white movie, had the bank’s customers and employees cowering in a corner while they worked at emptying the vault. One of the bank’s guards was with the others, disarmed, while the second guard lay unconscious on the floor a short distance away.

“You’ll never take me alive, coppers!” shouted the young villain, looking straight at Vicki as he did so. With a grin he added, “I've always wanted to say that!”

“And you do, Irwin,” Vicki rolled her eyes as she replied, “every time we do this.” The girls had figured out early on that the Projectionist was really Irwin Lipschitz since he didn’t seem to have enough sense to wear a costume, or even a mask. “Will you just give up this time, or is it gonna end with my fist in your face like it always does?"

Ignoring Vicki’s question and paying no attention to Cindy, who was too young to spark his interest, the Projectionist waggled his eyebrows at the older girl. “Have you finally decided to agree to be my girlfriend, Hot Stuff, or are you still playing hard to get?”

“Omigawd,” Cindy drawled, wrinkling her nose. “Not this again. Ew. Can we just get this over with already? It’s almost time for my second ‘tween-lunch-and-dinner snack.”

“Boys!” the Projectionist called out, not waiting for Vicki’s answer. Maybe he had a little more sense than they thought he did. “Protect me!”

"Sure t'ing, boss," one of the thugs said as they aimed their guns at the girls, getting ready to fire.

“I'll take the three on...” Vicki was saying something but Cindy wasn’t listening. She was already making fast work of three of the thugs. In almost no time at all they were lying unconscious on the floor. She watched them fade away, as the Projectionist’s summoned minions always did after she knocked them out. Knowing that her sister wouldn’t have any trouble with the other three, Cindy turned toward the Projectionist himself. In a flash she was standing directly in front of him.

“Wanna give up now?” Before the villain could react, Cindy heard Vicki’s voice calling from her left. “Cindy, help me!” She looked in the direction the voice had come from, only to see the crowd of frightened people looking on. “Over here!” her sister's voice cried from her right. “Help me, please!” Again, Cindy turned to look in the direction the voice came from, and again her sister wasn’t there. “Hey!” Vicki's voice called out once again. “What are you doing?”

Cindy, confused and getting angry, turned once again toward the sound of her sister’s voice, to see Vicki standing over the fading forms of three unconscious black-and-white thugs. “You were calling for help,” she said, “but when I looked, you weren’t there.”

“Whatever,” Vicki replied in irritation. “And now Irwin’s getting away. Go get him before he–” The sound of a nearby jet engine drowned out the rest of what Vicki had to say. Cindy was immediately outside, with Vicki following as closely as she could, in time to see a fighter jet taking off down the street as cars quickly pulled up onto the sidewalks to get out of its way.

“Great,” Vicki said as she glared at her little sister, “we’ll never catch him now.”

“Wanna bet?”

“No, don’t!” Vicki shouted, but it was too late. Cindy was already gone, a blue, black and yellow afterimage stretching down the street and out of sight. A moment later she heard twin sonic booms just outside of town as her sister followed the jet. “I’m in so much trouble when Dad finds out ‘bout this.”

***
Detroit, Michigan

“C’mon, kid,” the convenience store clerk said, his voice a mixture of irritation and boredom. “I ain’t got all day.”

Sam tried her best to smile disarmingly at the clerk as she checked her pockets yet again for more change. “Hold on, I got this. Really. I do.” She had come to the store to pick up some snacks for the next round of card games with her dad and had found herself thirty-two cents short of what she needed for what she had picked out, but didn’t want to put anything back.

“Look, kid,” the clerk said, making a supreme effort at keeping his patience and mostly succeeding as Sam heard the door open and close behind her. “You don’t have the money for all this. You’re gonna have to put someth–” The clerk’s jaw dropped as he looked past Sam.

“Hands in the air!” a nasally voice shouted. “This is a stick-up!” Turning, Sam almost laughed at the sight of the tall, lanky boy. He looked to be about her age – that is, around fifteen years old. He had short, dark hair and glasses with tape holding them together at the nosepiece. He was dressed in a black, sleeveless, knit vest over a short-sleeved button-down shirt, brown pants that were about an inch too short and white socks with black dress shoes. Flanking him were a pair of heavy weapons cyborgs straight out of a Battlefield Andromeda movie. “I want all of the money in your safe! Now!”

With a laugh the clerk said, “Boys, Halloween isn’t for another–” but quickly shut up when one of the cyborgs aimed his weapon and blasted the cigarette rack behind the clerk. “Right, the safe,” he said as he quickly turned and ducked behind the counter.

“What the–” Sam’s exclamation was interrupted as the door flew open. A blue, black and yellow blur quickly surrounded the would-be robbers, who were all unconscious in a matter of seconds. The blur came to a stop in front of Sam, revealing itself to be a girl who appeared to be about five years younger than her, with big blue eyes looking at her through the eye holes of a mask that covered the top half of her face, red hair pulled back into a ponytail and a pair of goggles pushed up onto her forehead. She wore a blue and black superhero costume, the two colors separated by zigzagging yellow lines and a matching belt. Even standing still, parts of the girl’s body blurred at various split-second intervals, as if she were having a hard time slowing down. The girl smiled and seemed to be saying something but was speaking too quickly to be understood.

“Whoa, girl!” Sam said, laughing. “Slow down!”

“Oh, sorry,” the girl replied. “I’m Dynamic. Who’re you?”

“You sure are,” Sam said with a wry smile. “Sam Dunham.”

“...Sam’s a boy’s name...”

“Sam’s my nickname. My real name’s Samantha.”

Dynamic opened her mouth to say something, then frowned and looked back at the empty floor behind her. “Hey! Where’d the Projectionist go?”

Sam rolled her eyes. “And you thought ‘Sam’ was bad?”

“But why didn’t I hear him sneak out?” Dynamic looked at the door, which hung open, half off its hinges from her entrance. “Oh.”

***
I really have to start using tougher minions to rob banks, Irwin thought. The thugs he had called up from an early Blue Bowler serial episode had been enough to handle the customers and security, but they didn’t stand a chance against Fyrebyrd and Dynamic. Fyrebyrd wanted Irwin – every teenaged girl wanted him and he knew it – but she hadn’t let that stop her from beating up the thugs, and Dynamic was too young to fall for his obvious charms. Irwin had managed to avoid capture long enough to call up an Air Force fighter jet from the 1983 movie Aces vs. Aliens and use it to leave the heroes far behind. At least, he thought he had. He hadn’t realized that Dynamic was fast enough and stubborn enough to follow him all the way to Detroit.

He had fled the bank empty-handed and needed money, so he tried robbing the convenience store. There was even a pretty girl there who hadn’t been able to hide her desire for him. But Dynamic had shown up and ruined that, too. Luckily, she had pulled her punches – maybe she wasn’t immune to his animal magnetism after all – and the girl distracted her long enough for him to sneak away. Outside now, a safe distance from the store (he hoped), he called up the time machine from 1991's Anywhen But Here. He climbed aboard and set the controls for exactly ten years in the future just as a by-now-familiar blue, black and yellow streak shot out of the convenience store and headed straight for him.

“You’re not going anywhere!” Dynamic proclaimed as she came to a stop in front of the time machine.

“That’s what you think,” Irwin replied, aiming a blaster out of the 1978 low-budget movie Galactic Convoy that suddenly appeared in his hand at her and firing. Dynamic, taken completely by surprise, was hit in the chest by the blaster’s beam and dropped to the pavement, unconscious. Suddenly a sneaker-clad foot knocked the weapon out of his hand and sent it spinning out of reach.

“Surprise, loser!” The girl from the convenience store grinned down at him from her perch atop the back of the time machine. Irwin didn’t have time to invite her to sit on his lap as they traveled into the future together. Dynamic was a tough girl; Irwin wanted to be gone before she woke up. He pushed on the lever that sent the machine forward through time. Though the machine didn’t physically move from its place in the parking lot the effect was similar as it began to accelerate through time, causing the girl to lose her balance and fall backward. “Gah! Help!”

***

Cindy lifted herself slowly – for her, anyway – off the pavement and looked up to see Sam fall from the time machine as it began to shimmer. In less than the blink of an eye she was behind the machine, leaping to grab the rail that ran across the back of it even as she wrapped an arm around Sam’s waist. She held on for dear life, to both the machine and Sam, as the sun’s movement across the sky accelerated. Day became night became day, faster and faster. Things continued like this until Cindy found out that bar she held on to wasn’t as strong as she’d thought it was, snapping under the pressure of her grip. The girls tumbled from the time machine to find themselves... right where they had started, apparently. Or maybe not; upon closer inspection, Cindy noticed that some things about the convenience store had changed. She also noticed differences in cars, clothing styles and other things that reminded her of a certain four days of her life when she was eight years old.

“We’re not where we’re supposed to be,” she told Sam, who was still gathering her wits about her.

“What do you mean?” Sam asked. “We’re right in front of the store.” Faster than anyone around could see Cindy ran into the store, grabbed a newspaper, ran back out and handed it to Sam. “Look at the date.”

“Holy...” Sam muttered as she looked at the paper, which was dated May 21, 2014. Turning her attention back to Cindy she asked, “All right, what do we do now?”

“I know someone here,” Cindy replied. “She might be able to get us back home.”

“Wait, you know someone here?” Sam was trying to wrap her head around the idea of a ten-year-old superhero knowing someone who lived in the future when, without warning, Cindy grabbed her and took off. Newspaper pages went flying everywhere and Sam’s scream could be heard trailing off into the distance as they headed toward downtown.

To Be Continued...

((Adapted from writing I previously published as “The Kids Are Alright” at https://standonline.guildportal.com (which no longer exists) on May 22, 2014 and a section of “With a Little Help from My Friends, Part 2" at https://silverage.guildportal.com (which also no longer exists) on December 21, 2014. References to Champions/Champions Online lore, as well as a character belonging to another player who had given permission for that character’s use at the time, have been changed or removed for the sake of establishing continuity separate from Champions and Champions Online.))
Last edited by Green-Lightning on Sun Jan 17, 2021 10:20 am, edited 2 times in total.
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The Kids Are Alright, Part 2

Post by Green-Lightning »

May 21, 2014
Detroit, Michigan

Traveler felt sorry for the owner of the car she was forced to hide behind as four Demon Knights shot the other side full of holes. At least no one’s in it, she thought. Hopefully it’s insured against superhero battles. Not that the Demon Knights were supervillains; they were just a bunch of thugs with some high-tech weapons and lightweight body armor. Traveler, on the other hand, was a superhero, so it counted.

A superhero without powers, she silently noted with a wry smile. She had just used up the last of her energy reserves to get home from an Earth that she never wanted to go back to, so it would be several hours before she could use her powers again in any meaningful way. Unfortunately when she appeared near the Renaissance Center she interrupted the gang members while they were doing something they shouldn’t be doing. She assumed they were, anyway, because when weren’t the Demon Knights doing something they shouldn’t be? She hadn’t had time to find out for sure, though; as soon as they saw her they started shooting. It was a good thing that she hadn’t turned her force field belt off yet, at least. If she had, she would probably be lucky if she made it to a hospital. It was only a matter of time before their blasters turned her hiding place to Swiss cheese unless she could get a few lucky shots in with her own smaller, more powerful blaster – a gift from a friend in the twenty-fifth century. Her powers weren’t the only thing that needed to recharge, though; the blaster and belt would need to soon, as well.

The sound of blaster fire stopped suddenly, replaced by shouts of surprise from the Demon Knights. Traveler rose up from behind the car, ready to take a shot or two and quickly duck down again. Luckily she didn’t have to, and her heart leapt when she saw a familiar blur making short work of the thugs. Cindy always shows up when I need her most. Then the blur came to a stop and Traveler’s smile turned to a frown as she felt a moment of confusion. That was definitely Dynamic but she was too short – too young – and her costume wasn’t right. It sported her old colors – blue, black and gold – and the bottom half of her face was uncovered, as were her legs from her knees to just below her calves. But she had been wearing a white costume with gold trim that covered everything except her eyes and hair for the last couple weeks, since the Luminary had made her its host and healed her after Cicatrix nearly killed her and left her paralyzed from the neck down. And she hadn’t worn goggles or kept her hair in a ponytail since she was–

Traveler mentally kicked herself; she couldn’t believe she’d forgotten that this was the day. And there’s me, she thought as she watched the preteen speedster mostly succeed at walking at a normal pace back to the teenage girl she had brought with her. Traveler got her cell phone out and made a call. “Hiya, sweetheart... yeah, they’re here. She just took out the goons for me... They’re looking over here now...” With a smile and a wave she started walking toward the girls. “Okay,” she continued into the phone, “see you when you get here. Love you... Mmbye.” She ended the call and put her phone away just as she reached the time-lost youngsters.

“Hi there,” Traveler said cheerfully, then focused on young Dynamic. “It’s good to see you again. You’ve grown some since last time. How old are you now?” She already knew how old this Dynamic was from living through events the first time as Sam, the teen, but she remembered her older self asking.

“I’m ten,” young Dynamic answered. “Is old me gonna be here?”

Traveler couldn’t help but laugh a little at the girl calling her older self “old me”. “I just talked to her and she’s on her way. She should’ve been here alr–” A sudden gust of wind blew everyone’s hair around. Traveler smiled and walked over to the where the adult Dynamic landed, dazzling with her golden hair and pristine white costume trimmed in glowing gold and matching starburst chest emblem.

Young Dynamic’s jaw dropped. “I can fly in the future? Cool!

“Hey, hon,” Dynamic said to Traveler as they held each other close for a moment, mask-covered noses touching.

“What took you so long?” Traveler asked with a smirk.

Dynamic shrugged as they let each other go. “Cat in a tree in Nashville.” Then she turned her attention to the girls. Sam stared blankly at the two of them for a moment – Traveler knew she already had a suspicion that they were the same person – before looking over at the younger Dynamic. The costumed girl wrinkled her nose in faint disgust at the show of affection by the adults. “Ew.”

Dynamic chuckled at her younger self. “Believe me, you won’t feel that way in a few years.” She glanced at Sam and winked, bringing a slight blush to the girl’s cheeks, then turned back to Sam’s adult counterpart. “Right. So, the MeRTs should be showing up ‘bout now...”

As if on cue, two black vans labeled DETROIT POLICE and METAHUMAN RESPONSE TEAM arrived on the scene. Each van disgorged a team of five officers in body armor and armed with weapons designed for fighting metas. The leader of one team approached the heroes as the rest surrounded the Demon Knights.

“Come on, girls,” Traveler said as she and the older Dynamic turned to face the officer. “Let’s tell them everything that just happened. Then when we’re done we’ll get some lunch and figure out what to do while we wait for the Projectionist.”

To Be Continued...
Last edited by Green-Lightning on Tue Jan 26, 2021 11:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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The Kids Are Alright, Part 3

Post by Green-Lightning »

May 28, 2014
Detroit, Michigan

“...And there he is,” Traveler said to the others as a shimmering light appeared at just the right place in the convenience store’s parking lot, “right on time.” The heroes had been on the scene for less than five minutes.

“Whoa,” young Dynamic said, impressed. “Is knowin’ stuff like that one’a your powers or somethin’?”

“Not exactly,” Traveler said. Unlike Sam, who had figured out right away that she and Traveler were the same person, her companion from the past had been too busy examining everything else around her at blinding speed to really think about it.

“You can come out now, Irwin,” the older Dynamic drawled, turning to face what seemed like empty space.

“How’d you know I was here?” the Projectionist’s adult counterpart asked as he removed a cloak of invisibility that he had gotten from a cheesy 1980s fantasy movie.

Dynamic nodded in the general direction of the teenaged Irwin, who seemed to be struggling a bit to get out of the time machine. “Same way we knew he was gonna be here.” Then she motioned toward her own younger self. “I’m standin’ right there, remember?”

“Oh,” the villain murmured, looking over at the costumed preteen in dismay as she stuck her tongue out at him. “Right.”

“Look,” young Dynamic said, scowling, arms folded across her chest, her left foot a blur as it tapped the ground at super-speed, wearing a shallow hole in the pavement, “can we just beat these two up an’ get it over with? A week here is way too long an’ I really wanna go home.”

Sam watched this then, smirking, looked over at the adult Dynamic. “You do learn some patience, right?”

“Sort of,” Traveler, her expression matching the one on Sam’s face, answered for her girlfriend.

“‘Least some things haven’t changed.” The older Dynamic looked from Traveler to Sam and back, her eyes giving expression to the smile hidden behind her mask. “And I’ll have y’all know I’m extremely patient. Y’all just can’t tell ‘cause I move so fast.”

Even with her knowledge of events – imperfect as it was, based on ten-year-old memories – Traveler was unprepared for the deep, booming voice that spoke next. “Halt, evildoers!” Turning suddenly, she saw the source of the voice standing majestically next to the adult Projectionist, his fists on his hips, orange cape moving ever-so-slightly in a gentle breeze. Large and imposing, the man wore a light blue mask and bodysuit with orange and white accessories. On his chest was a large, white exclamation point inside what looked like a word balloon similar to the ones used in comic books, except that it was a bright orange color.

Who’s this guy?” Sam asked.

“Cap’n Spectacular,” the older Dynamic answered. “He was a hero back in World War Two. They made a movie ‘bout him in the nineteen-fifties an’ a cartoon in the ‘nineties. This one looks like he’s from the movie.”

The two Projectionists simultaneously pointed at their opponents and commanded the movie hero, “Get ‘em!”

“You betcha!” the imitation Captain Spectacular answered. Before he could do more than take a step, however, a ten-year-old speedster was running circles around him, punching and kicking him so fast that only her older self could see her as anything other than a blur.

“You’ll have to do better than that, villain!” Captain Spectacular said, looking from left to right and back as he tried to keep track of the girl’s location.

“We’re not the– oof!” Young Dynamic had been so focused on hitting the target of her attacks that she failed to notice when he suddenly dropped to one knee and made a move to block her. Running into his outstretched arm knocked the wind out of her and she fell to the pavement, stunned.

“Gotcha now, you little miscreant,” the cinematic Captain said as he wrapped a large hand around the girl’s ankle. “Here’s how we deal with delinquents like you where I come from.” He swung her around once like a shotput and let go. Sam watched, shocked, as her new friend went flying toward the horizon.

“I got her,” adult Dynamic said to Traveler. “Y’know what to do.”

“You know how to beat these guys?” Sam asked as the older speedster flew off in a streak of gold-trimmed white. “How can I help?”

“We keep them busy until the others get back, then let them handle it. And try not to get hit.”

“That’s easy for you to say! You’ve got powers, I don’t!”

Rubbing his hands together as if to dust them off, Captain Spectacular turned to face Traveler and Sam. “Who’s next?”

“Look,” Traveler said as she sauntered toward him, “can’t we talk things over? Hero to hero?”

“We could,” the Captain said warily, his hands clenched into fists, “if I was talking to a hero.”

While the two heroes talked, teen Projectionist sidled over to Sam. “How about me and you catching a movie after this?” He leered at her, waggling his eyebrows, but she ignored him.

“What are you waiting for?” the adult Projectionist asked angrily. “Just hit her!”

“Yeah,” his younger counterpart added, “do it already!” This earned him a glare and a muttered “Moron” from Sam. “...What?” he asked Sam, looking as if he were trying to convince her that he wasn’t doing anything wrong, which caused her to roll her eyes and look away in exasperation.

Captain Spectacular looked from one Projectionist to the other, then back at Traveler, who smiled disarmingly at him. “Do I look like a villain to you?” she asked as he raised a fist, ready to throw a punch. “Come on,” she continued, “I mean, really, there’s no need for violence.”

“Stop trying to confuse me, villain,” the big man said as he swung at her, his fist passing through empty air where her head had been a moment before. Glaring, he looked around to see Traveler standing between the two Dynamics. Sam, who had been standing next to the younger Projectionist a moment before, now stood next to young Dynamic.

“I really don’t wanna fight you,” the older, white-clad speedster said in a low, even tone belying the anger that seethed just below the surface, “but if you’d hit her, you probably would’a killed someone very important to me. You probably would’a killed the kid, too, throwin’ her that far.” Her muscles tensed, ready to take action as she continued, “So instead’a pickin’ on them, why don’t you try takin’ on someone a little closer to your weight class?”

The Captain raised an eyebrow. “You don’t look like you’re any tougher than the others, but it’s your funeral.”

“You heard her!” the older Projectionist yelled, pointing at the women. “Don’t just stand there, you idiot! Get her!”

“Yeah,” the younger villain added, “what are you waiting for?”

“Omigawd,” preteen Dynamic muttered, rolling her eyes. “What a bunch’a losers.”

With a snarl the movie hero charged Dynamic, who kept her speed in check as she ran toward him. When she was within range, Captain Spectacular launched a large fist at her chest. To his surprise the woman dodged him easily, causing him to lose his balance as his hand unexpectedly passed through empty air. Even more surprisingly, she didn’t take advantage of his vulnerability to attack. Instead she just waited while he regained his balance and turned to face her again. “We can do this all day if you want. I really don’t wanna fight you but I’m fast enough that you’ll never hit me, either.”

“That just makes you a coward,” said the Captain as he charged at her again.

“Seriously?” she asked as he took another swing at her. Vanishing in a blur, she was suddenly behind him, tapping him on the shoulder. “Hey, I’m over here. As for bein’ a coward, or a villain for that matter, would I stick ‘round an’ refuse to fight you? What’s the point of that?”

“You’re trying to humiliate me,” the movie hero said as he made another attempt to land a punch on his much faster opponent. This time, rather than dodge, her hand shot out to catch his fist, stopping it cold. “It’s not... going to happen,” he continued, strain showing as he pushed against her open hand.

“I’m not tryin’... to humiliate you,” Dynamic replied, straining as well as she fought to hold the slightly stronger hero back. “I’m tryin’ to make a point. My friends and I... don’t wanna fight you. I think y’know that, too. You’re holdin’ back, or I wouldn’t’a been able to stop that punch the way I did. But what ‘bout the other two? They’re the... unh... ones tellin’ you to attack us.”

The blue-and-orange-clad assailant relaxed, unclenching his fist as he lowered his arm. “You have a point.” He turned to look at the two men. The teen was standing next to Sam again, to her obvious dismay, while the adult was several yards away from the rest of them, trying to sneak off while he had the chance. “Hold it right there,” he said as he floated majestically, arms crossed, to the older one and landed in front of him. “Prepare to face justice.”

Irwin smiled weakly at the bigger man. “...You wouldn’t hit a guy wearing glasses, would you?”

“No, I wouldn’t,” Captain Spectacular said as he removed the villain’s glasses. “But you’re not wearing them now.” Irwin tried to back away but the hero grabbed him by the shoulder with his free hand, stopping him. He raised the hand holding the glasses until it was even with Irwin’s forehead, then flicked him between the eyes with his index finger. Irwin’s head jerked backward from the impact, his eyes rolled up into his head and started to fall, unconscious. Captain Spectacular made no effort to catch him, prompting Dynamic to rush over and do it herself, gently lowering Irwin to the pavement.

“Your writers sure didn’t give you much compassion, did they?” she asked, a hint of irritation in her voice.

“Writers?” the Captain asked, confused. “I don’t understand.”

Several feet away, the younger Irwin glanced nervously at Sam. “So, uh, about that movie?”

“Does this answer your question?” Sam asked, grinning, as she kneed him in the groin. The boy’s eyes bulged and he fell to the ground and stayed there, lying in the fetal position, moaning and whimpering.

“Was that really necess–” Captain Spectacular started to say as he took a step toward Sam and the fallen teen, but faded from view mid-objection.

“Well,” Sam said, “I guess we know which one of them thought him up.” She nudged Irwin with the toe of her shoe. “Hey, you okay down there?” Her question was answered with another whimper, causing her to look at the others and shrug with an innocent smile. “I didn’t think I got him that hard.”

“He’s a wimp,” young Dynamic answered.

“An’ he always will be,” the older Dynamic added as she hefted the unconscious adult Irwin over her shoulder.

“That really shouldn’t have worked,” Traveler said.

“Yeah,” the older Dynamic answered, “I know. Best guess I got is, Irwin’s control wasn’t as good when he was younger an’ the Cap’n from the movie was too much hero for him to handle.”

“Why didn’t old Irwin help him, then?” young Dynamic spoke up.

“Probably ‘cause he remembered that we won an’ he didn’t think he could change that. He’s not as dumb as he looks.”

“Um...” Sam began, approaching Traveler as young Dynamic picked the teenaged Projectionist up and, mirroring her older counterpart, threw him somewhat carelessly over her own shoulder. He groaned again, then whined when his knuckles rapped against the pavement. “When do I get my powers?” Sam looked expectantly up at Traveler, who remembered the excitement she had felt at knowing she would have powers and the hope that she would tell herself exactly when they would manifest.

“Soon,” was all Traveler said in reply. She knew it wasn’t the answer her younger self wanted, but she also knew the girl had enough sense not to press the matter.

“It’s time to take ‘em back,” Dynamic stated as she motioned toward her preteen counterpart, who had begun to blur slightly as she fidgeted. “I know someone’s really anxious to get home.”

***

May 28, 2004

Traveler and Sam stood in the convenience store’s parking lot in the exact same places where they had stood less than a minute before, ten years in the future. As soon as they had arrived Traveler stopped time for everyone in the immediate area except herself, Sam and ten-year-old Dynamic; a young couple, leaving the store, were frozen mid-exit. Dynamic, with teen Irwin in tow, was most likely at least two counties away already on her way back to Montgomery, leaving the time traveling hero alone with her younger self. The two young women looked at each other silently for a moment as Traveler waited for the questions she knew were coming.

“So she, like, dyes her hair blonde?” Sam was having a hard time reconciling the thin, fidgety and impatient preteen she had hung out with for the last week with the woman that girl would become over the next decade, and whom she seemed destined to fall in love with. Traveler remembered that the thought had been mind-boggling and a bit disconcerting. Sam would spend several days trying to imagine what the woman looked like behind her mask before eventually letting other things take priority.

“Not quite.” Traveler knew that she shouldn’t tell her younger self too much. One thing she didn’t need to know yet was that Dynamic would become the host to an alien energy being and that their symbiotic relationship would not only save Dynamic from spending the rest of her life as a quadriplegic, but make her one of the most powerful heroes Earth – their Earth, at least – had seen.

“And you two are...?” Sam blushed as she asked the question.

Traveler, smiling softly, nodded once. “Uh huh.”

“And when you get back to the future, are you gonna...?”

“Maybe. It depends on what Cindy needs to do. But–”

“Cindy?”

“Yeah, that’s her name. But don’t let her know I told you. When you meet her again it won’t be long before she tells you herself.”

“Right. So, when you’re together...”

“We’re pretty predictable, I guess. Usually it’s dinner, dancing and going someplace we’ve never been to before where we can have privacy – the Amazon rain forest, the Himalayas, Australian outback, places like that – and, um... enjoy each other’s company for a few hours, then watch the sun come up.” Traveler smiled brightly as she added, “Being able to teleport and time travel really helps with that.”

Sam spent a moment letting that sink in then grinned. “Cool. When do I meet her again?”

“Look,” Traveler said, “I’ve already told you more than I should’ve. It’s your future, after all. For you, it hasn’t happened yet, so you’re not supposed to know any of it. Besides, I have to get back and stopping time like this is a real drain on my energy reserves. But before I go...” She pulled a dollar bill from the top of one of her gloves. “Here, you’ll need this. I made sure it wasn’t too new.” She handed the dollar to Sam. “I brought us back to a little less than ten minutes before you get to the store.”

“That’s why the guy gave me a funny look when I got here,” Sam said as she took the bill. “Sweet, thanks.”

“Don’t take too long. Like I said, you get here in less than ten minutes, so I suggest you be gone before that and take a different way home.”

“Be gone before I get here. Got it, weird as that sounds...”

“You’ll get used to it,” Traveler said with a chuckle. “Speaking of being gone, I’ll see you in ten years.” She blinked out of existence, as if she had never been there, leaving Sam alone. The teen hadn’t even noticed how quiet it had been until the sounds of the world around her came back as time resumed its normal flow: birds singing, nearby traffic, the couple talking to each other as they left the store. She smiled brightly at them as they walked past, and they smiled back at her. Then she turned and, opening the door, walked into the convenience store, still smiling as she wondered what adventures the future held for her.
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Green-Lightning
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Kenzie Meets Jen, Part 2

Post by Green-Lightning »

July 12, 2014
10:27 pm
Redford, Michigan

Scarlet Shield and Midnight Blue sat on the roof of a building across the street from a strip mall, their feet and lower legs dangling over the edge, munching contentedly on burgers and fries from Burger Czar as they took a break from their nightly patrol. Though they preferred Crispy Cluck’s chicken, Kenzie Jacobs and Liz Karras had been regulars there since they were small children and were known well enough that they didn’t think going to the Cluck in their costumes was a good idea.

“So,” Blue said as she chewed a bite of her burger, “are you gonna call her?”

“...I don’t know,” Scarlet answered hesitantly, hoping the darkness hid the pink in her cheeks that accompanied the warmth she felt. “Should I?”

“Don’t ask me. You’re the one who can’t stop thinking about her.”

Scarlet had just shoved some fries in her mouth in an effort to delay having to say anything else when she noticed movement inside Enrique’s Electronics, a store in the strip mall that had closed for the day more than an hour earlier. She pointed toward the store as she quickly chewed the food and swallowed. “I think I just saw a light moving around through the window over there.”

Blue looked at the storefront window for a moment. “I see it too. Let’s go check it out.” The duo quickly crossed the street and approached the store. The door was closed but the lock had been broken none too subtly. Blue opened the door quietly and went in followed by Scarlet, who was surrounded by the soft red glow of her force field.

There were two figures in the store. The smaller of the two looked like he couldn’t be any older than the teen heroes about to confront him. He was Scarlet’s height, if that, and skinny. His costume was familiar, though, mostly dark green trimmed in yellow and pink, with a large yellow H on his chest, a smaller one on his forehead and a pink and purple zebra-striped cape. The larger figure was a robot that looked like it had been built using parts found in a junkyard. The top of its head was a miner’s helmet with a lamp – the source of the light they had seen – and it appeared to have a large power button in its lower abdomen. That can’t be real, Scarlet wondered as she looked at the robot, can it? How could someone smart enough to build a robot be dumb enough to put an on/off switch there? In one hand the villain held a canvas bag, which he was busy stuffing electronic devices into when he noticed them. Uncertainty and defiance fought for control of his masked face as he looked from one hero to the other. To her dismay Scarlet couldn’t help but notice that his gaze tended to linger on her slightly longer than on her friend.

“Minion,” the villain addressed the robot as he somewhat clumsily drew a strange looking gun from the holster on his right hip and aimed it at Scarlet, “I-I’ll deal with the, uh, the p-pretty one, you take the other one.”

“Query:” the robot responded, its voice a synthesized monotone, “which-one-is-the-other-one?”

“The tall one,” the villain said with a sigh. “The tall one is the other one.”

“Wow,” Blue said to Scarlet, glancing at her with a raised eyebrow and a wry smile. “That’s two in one day.”

“Oh my god,” Scarlet whispered, facepalming and shaking her head slightly.


“W-wait, what?” asked the villain, seemingly confused by Blue’s comment while simultaneously blushing from embarrassment as if he knew exactly what she was talking about.

“Query:” the robot interrupted, preventing that possible conversation from continuing to Scarlet’s relief, “where-do-you-want-me-to-take-the-tall-one?”

It was the villain’s turn to facepalm. “Don’t take her anywhere. Just... just start hitting her and don’t stop until she falls down and doesn’t get back up.”

Blue frowned at the villain as the robot advanced on her. “Well, that was rude.” She closed the distance between herself and the robot, dodging a punch when she was within range of its metal fists and responding with the heel of her hand against its chestplate, causing the robot to take a step backward. “You’re the expert on metas, Red. Who are we dealing with?”

“I don’t know,” Scarlet replied, “I think he’s new. The costume looks kind of like one worn by a couple guys who called themselves the Heckler. The first one was a hero who died, like, thirty five years ago. He, um, insulted people...”

Blue stared at Scarlet incredulously. “Really? Insults were his power?” Minion took advantage of the momentary lapse to hit her on the side of the head. “Hey!” she yelled, punching the robot on its faceplate and knocking it to the floor.

“Yeah, I guess that’s where the name came from? He didn’t last very long. The second one was a villain in Arizona who could make people smaller and weaker – not real small or anything, just, like, about five feet tall – and weaken their powers by touching them. He disappeared after getting hurt in a fight with the Protector Alliance about twenty years ago, I think.”

“Enough with the history lesson,” the villain growled with as much menace as a mouse trying to sound tough while the robot got back to its feet. “Yeah, I’m the Heckler. Minion and I are leaving and there’s nothing you can do to stop us!” As if to prove his point, he fired a warning shot from the strange-looking gun at Scarlet, leaving a scorched spot on the wall a few feet to one side and knocking several display items from nearby shelves. Scarlet flinched and let out a small yelp. She knew her force field was bulletproof but had never had an energy weapon fired at her before and wasn’t sure if her powers were a match for one. She recovered quickly and responded with a series of low-powered force bolts from her hands, which struck the floor near the Heckler’s feet and forced him to take a couple hasty steps backward.

“Minion?” Blue asked as she pressed hard against the robot’s power button with her open hand. “Do you mean the robot that I just turned off?”

“Shutting-down,” the robot said, confirming that Blue had indeed turned it off. Slowly the light in its eyes and the lamp on its head faded to darkness and the robot was still.

“Wow,” Blue said, not bothering to hide her surprise. “That worked? Who’d be dumb enough to– never mind.” Scarlet quickly moved to stand next to her as she turned to face the Heckler. “Now, Heckler, what was it you were saying about leaving?”

Several minutes later Scarlet and Blue watched from a distance as a Wayne County Sheriff’s Department MeRT hauled the Heckler, hogtied with phone cord, and his dormant robot away while the store’s owner, who had arrived in response to a call from the company responsible for the store’s security system that included a silent alarm, yelled at the villain in what Scarlet thought was probably Spanish.

It’s a good thing some people still have landlines, Scarlet thought, and that Liz knows how to tie knots. “Our first supervillain,” she said to Blue.

“Yeah,” her friend answered with a sigh. “Kind of a letdown, really.”

“I definitely wouldn’t call him if he gave me his number.”

Blue turned to face Scarlet, looking at her quizzically. “You were thinking about Jen the whole time, weren’t you?”

“Wh... what makes you think that?”

“He was obviously interested in you, just like it sounded like Jen is. But you made a point of telling me that you won’t call him. You didn’t say that about her, so I have to think that maybe you want to call her.”

“But I don’t like girls, not like that!”

“Kenzie, I saw how you looked at her at the Cluck, and she’s been on your mind nonstop since then. Maybe you don’t like other girls like that, but you seem to like her like that. Call her. See what happens. She’ll probably end up being just another girl and you can go back to thinking about boys.”

Scarlet’s shoulders slumped. “All right,” she said, sounding nervous and a little dejected. “I’ll call her.” She reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out her phone.

***

10:49 pm
Detroit, Michigan

Oni looked around in grim satisfaction at the dozen Demon Lords scattered throughout the warehouse, unconscious or wishing they were. A drug dealer had reluctantly named the location as the source of his product when she none-too-gently pressed him on the subject and there was easily enough evidence there to send the people working at the warehouse to prison for years. She had let them have a chance to give up peacefully but, in all honesty, she was glad they tried to fight. “Tried” being the operative word. Even then she’d gone easy on them; they would all be able to walk to their jail cells when they got out of the hospital. This time.

She winced a little as she gingerly touched a spot on her left bicep that was a slightly darker shade of red than the skin around it, where one of the gang members had managed to hit her with a glancing shot from his blaster. That’s gonna sting for a while when I change back. Leaving the warehouse and finding a secluded area where she was less likely to be spotted by passers-by, Oni took out the burner phone she kept for such occasions. She was about to dial 911 to anonymously report the criminal activity when her smartphone began to ring. She put the burner away, took out her other phone and looked at the screen. The source of the call started with “313", the area code for Detroit. The only local person who had her phone number was the girl she had met during lunch at the fast food place. Smiling, she answered the call.

“Hey... I’m glad you called... My voice? Sorry, I’ve got something stuck in my throat, just a minute...” She made a show of clearing her throat for the girl’s benefit as she instantly transformed. She shrank from nearly seven feet tall and muscular to a slender five foot six inches; long white hair shortened, turning blonde; red skin faded to a fair complexion; the yellow irises of her eyes turned hazel as the sclera changed from black to white; horns disappeared; her black and yellow fighting outfit morphed into the baggy clothing she had worn earlier. Leaning against a nearby wall, the oversized, heavy-duty shamisen that served her as both an instrument and a weapon changed with her, becoming a somewhat beat-up looking but serviceable electric bass guitar. “It’s gone now,” Jen said, her voice an octave higher than Oni’s. “So, first question: What’s your name?... Kenzie. I like it...”
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Re: Tales from the World of Scarlet Shield

Post by Davies »

This is really good stuff.
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Green-Lightning
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Re: Tales from the World of Scarlet Shield

Post by Green-Lightning »

Davies wrote: Tue Jan 26, 2021 7:38 pm This is really good stuff.
Thank you, I appreciate the compliment :D
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Kenzie Meets Jen, Part 3

Post by Green-Lightning »

July 13, 2014
3:23 pm
Redford, Michigan

Kenzie wanted to eat but her nervousness made it hard to do more than nibble. She was back in her favorite corner booth at the Cluck, sitting across the table from a girl she had only known for one day but who made her feel things that she didn’t completely understand. Sure, there were girls who liked other girls that way, she knew that and was fine with it, but she wasn’t one of them. At least she hadn’t been until she met Jen while sitting right there at that table. Part of her was scared to death by the feelings, which she had only had for boys before, while part of her hoped that the previous day’s meeting had given her another reason for the booth to be her favorite.

“You’re picking at your food,” Jen noticed. “You did it yesterday, too. Is something wrong, or do you always eat like that?” The lunch rush had been over for a while but dinner was still a couple hours away. Other than herself and Jen the only people in the place were the employees, who were too busy doing their jobs in preparation for the coming evening rush to pay them much attention.

“What? No!” Kenzie replied, a little louder than she meant to. “No,” she repeated, more quietly.

“No, there’s nothing wrong?” Jen asked, leaning forward a little to rest her chin and cheek on her hand with her elbow on the table. “Or no, you don’t eat like that?” The girls were completely focused on each other, ignoring the ring of a bell and greeting from an employee as someone entered the building.

“N-no,” Kenzie insisted, flustered, “there’s... there’s nothing wrong. I just–”

“Excuse me, ladies,” a voice interrupted, “but you’re sitting at our table.”

Kenzie looked up, wide-eyed, and saw the last three people she wanted to see right then. Damon Whitaker was the center for Township High’s varsity football team and the school bully. At six feet, three inches tall and around 350 pounds, he was the biggest boy at school and he loved to throw his weight around, figuratively speaking. With him were Tony Giacomo and Bart “Giraffe” Dolby. Tony was also on the football team, a defensive lineman who was only slightly smaller than Damon. Giraffe got his nickname because he was as tall as Damon and skinny, with a neck that seemed longer than it really was because he was so thin. Unlike the other two, who both wore Township High letter jackets despite the summer heat, Giraffe’s denim vest sported Demon Knights colors and insignia. Damon and his flunkies had terrified Kenzie before her powers manifested, even with Liz around to stand up to them most of the time. She was still afraid, but for a different reason. With her powers came the secret of her dual identity and the fear of having to choose between defending herself or protecting her secret. Except that it wouldn’t just be herself she was defending, but Jen as well. If she could only stall for time while she tried to figure out what to do...

Jen seemed completely unimpressed by the trio as she glanced up at them. “Are you sure this is your table?” she asked. She gave the table a quick once-over, lifting first her plate then Kenzie’s to look under them as she did, and added, “I don’t see ‘Dumbass’ written on it anywhere.” She looked up at Damon, smiling innocently. “You must have confused it with another one.”

“Oh boy,” Kenzie muttered.

“Dude,” Giraffe said, “you gonna let her get away with that?” Damon held a hand up to silence his companion and returned Jen’s smile.

“I’d be offended by that but you’re new here and obviously don’t know who I am. Besides, you girls were nice enough to buy us food.” He turned his attention to Kenzie, reaching down to take a thigh from her plate. “So, pipsqueak...” He took a bite of the thigh. “Does your girlfriend know you’re cheating on her?”

“Liz isn’t my girlfriend,” Kenzie whispered, worried that he would think she was talking back to him if she said it too loudly.

“What was that?” Damon cupped his free hand behind his ear. “I didn’t hear you.” He took another bite of Kenzie’s chicken.

“So you’re deaf as well as dumb,” Jen answered before Kenzie could say anything else. “She said Liz isn’t her girlfriend. I’m kinda surprised she’s not though, really. I haven’t even met her yet but she’s gotta be a better choice than any of you.”

“Jen,” Kenzie whispered frantically, “what are you doing?”

“Pipsqueak,” Damon said as he glared at Jen, “there’s not enough food here for all three of us. Why don’t you go buy some more while we teach your new girlfriend some manners?”

“Maybe it really is true,” Jen said with a smirk as, keeping her eyes locked on Damon’s, she stood up, “those who can’t do, teach.” With a sneer, Damon turned to face her.

“That does it, bitch!” He reached out to grab the front of Jen’s shirt, but she was ready for him. She easily sidestepped his outstretched hand then kicked him hard between the legs with her steel-toed boot. With a grunt he dropped the stolen piece of chicken and fell to his knees, clutching himself. She followed up on the kick by hooking the forefinger and index finger of her right hand into his nostrils and yanking upward with as much strength as she could muster.

“Ow-ow-ow-ow, by doze!” Damon whined as intelligibly as he could with both nostrils being yanked on from the inside. “Stahb id!”

“Hey!” Tony yelled as he made to lunge at Jen, and Kenzie saw a chance to help without giving her secret away. Unnoticed by either Jen or the bullies she created a small force wall in front of Tony’s feet. The “wall” was actually more like a speed bump but it was enough to make Tony stumble forward, past Jen, before falling on his face at the feet of an employee who had walked over to find out what all the noise was about. Kenzie looked and, seeing who the employee was, smiled. She knew everything was going to be all right.

There were only three people at Township High who could intimidate Damon: Liz; Mr. Stottlemeyer, the football coach; and Cory Tedford. Cory was six feet, nine inches tall, which made him taller than anyone else at the school, student or faculty. Like Damon he was a center for Township, but he played basketball rather than football. Rumor had it that before Kenzie and Liz started going to Township Damon had picked a fight with Cory, which didn’t end well for Damon. He was a natural leader who knew how to defer to others when necessary, surprisingly graceful for someone of his height and displayed a sense of kindness and humility that was rare among the jocks at Township. And not only did Cory work at Kenzie and Liz’s favorite fast food place, but Kenzie was certain that he was a big part of why Crispy Cluck was Liz’s favorite. (Kenzie wasn’t as certain about it, but she thought that the amount of time Liz spent there might have been part of the reason why Cory picked the Cluck to work at, too.)

“I think you can let him go now,” Cory, clearly amused by the situation, said to Jen as he offered Tony a hand up. “Is everyone okay over here?” Tony batted Cory’s hand away and scrambled to his feet.

“Yeah,” Jen answered as she let go of Damon’s nose. “We’re good. Aren’t we...” she glanced at the name sewn onto the front of the bully’s jacket before finishing, “...Damon?” Jen looked at her fingers, grimaced and was about to wipe them off on the front of Damon’s jacket when Kenzie handed her a napkin to use instead. She cleaned her fingers off as well as she could with the napkin, then dropped it into the garbage can next to the booth.

“You broge by doze!” Damon wailed through his hands, which covered his face from his chin to the bridge of his nose.

“Oh, stop whining,” Jen chided him. “It’s not broken. It will hurt for a while though, hopefully a lot. Serves you right for taking Kenzie’s food and trying to manhandle me. Be glad I went easy on you.”

That got a chuckle out of Cory. “It’s a good thing they’re leaving then, isn’t it?”

Damon glared silently at Cory for a long moment then turned to Jen. “I’b gudda ged you fuh dis!” Looking at Kenzie he added, “Bode uh you!”

“If you try,” Cory countered, “when school starts I’ll make sure everyone knows a girl who weighs about a third as much as you kicked your butt and you couldn’t even lay a hand on her. But, if you leave them alone, we won’t tell anyone. Will we, Kenzie?” Kenzie quickly shook her head, confirming that she wouldn’t tell anyone.

“Bud she addagged be!” Damon whined. “I’b da bigdib here!”

“Look,” Cory stated, “I saw everything that happened after you walked in the door. You came straight over here and tried to make them give up the table. You took a piece of Kenzie’s food and threatened her friend when she stood up to you. When you tried to grab the front of her shirt, she defended herself. Now like I said, if you leave now and leave them alone then no one has to know this happened. And if protecting your cred isn’t enough reason for you, then remember what Liz did last time you threatened Kenzie.”

Tony and Giraffe glanced at each other nervously and Damon’s eyes widened to a nearly comical degree. “Come od boyz,” Damon said and strode quickly toward the door, wincing as he poked gently at his red, swollen nose. Tony and Giraffe scrambled after him.

Cory watched the trio of bullies until they had left the building before turning back to the girls. “Do you want another piece of chicken?” he asked Kenzie as he crouched down to pick up the thigh that Damon had dropped.

“Oh, no thanks,” Kenzie answered with a smile, “I’m really not that hungry.”

Cory dropped the chicken in the garbage can. “All right.” He turned his attention to Jen. “Will you be at Township this year? I have to warn you, Damon won’t forget what you did and he’ll do everything he can to make things hard for you there.”

Jen shrugged. “I’m not sure what I’ll be doing yet, but thanks for the warning.”

Cory nodded and looked at Kenzie again. “Will Liz be in today?”

“I don’t know. She’s helping her dad with something and doesn’t know when they’ll be done. Sorry.”

“Well,”Cory said with a resigned smile, “maybe tomorrow, then. I have to get back to work. Take it easy, you two, and be careful when you leave.”

Kenzie waited until Cory was out of earshot then whispered excitedly, “Oh my god, that was so cool! And scary. I was so sure Damon was gonna hurt you. Where did you learn that thing with the nose?”

“I saw it in a comic book once,” Jen said nonchalantly as she sat down again. “Some of the places I’ve lived weren’t the greatest, so I had to learn how to protect myself from morons like them. Who were those losers?”

“School bullies. They’re, like, junior Demon Knights, so they think they can do whatever they want.”

“Demon Knights?” Jen asked. “What are they like?”

“They’re the local gang.”

“Local, like, here in Redford?”

“No, they’re the only real gang in Detroit. They work for this guy named Jordan Kinkaid.”

“Kinkaid, as in Kinkaid Industries?”

“Yeah,” Kenzie sighed. “Everyone knows they work for him but no one can prove it. The police have been trying to for years.”

“I’ve seen that name everywhere since I got to town.”

Kenzie nodded in confirmation. “They’re involved in almost everything that’s legal in town. Rumor has it that everything illegal goes through Kinkaid, too, which is why the Demon Knights work for him. But no one can prove that, either.”

“And you know this how?” Jen asked, curious.

“It’s on the internet,” Kenzie replied. “Anyone who wants to can find it.”

“But why do you want to?”

Kenzie shrugged. “I read everything I can find about superheroes. The local ones spend a lot of time fighting the Demon Knights, so it’s hard not to know about them.”

“I see.” Jen nodded in Cory’s direction as he wiped down the front counter. “And what about him? He’s got the hots for your friend Liz, doesn’t he?”

Kenzie nodded. “Uh huh.”

“How does Liz feel about that?”

“I think she’s the only person who doesn’t know. She’s too busy worrying that he’ll find out she’s got this huge crush on him and she’ll embarrass herself.”

“Oh, really.” Jen smiled mischievously. “Maybe they just need someone to play matchmaker for them.”

“You wouldn’t...?” Kenzie stared at Jen uncertainly.

“Maybe...” Jen gave Kenzie a wry smile. “But I don’t really know either of them, so probably not.”

Kenzie allowed herself to relax somewhat. “Oh, good.”

“Speaking of Liz,” Jen said, somewhat changing the subject, “remember yesterday when I said that she sounded like my kind of girl?”

Kenzie nodded.

“I lied. I’m more into the shy, quiet type, really.” The cool confidence Jen displayed while facing down the trio of bullies and discussing Liz seemed to desert her as she mostly looked at the slim, meek girl across the table, doing her best to avoid more than the briefest eye contact. “So, uh, I was wondering...”

Kenzie waited quietly, both afraid and hoping that Jen was about to ask her out, with no idea how to answer if she did.

“...if, um...” Jen continued, her nervousness seeming to increase, “if you wanna go see a movie sometime, or something...”

“Yes,” Kenzie responded immediately, before she even knew she was saying it.

“Really?” Jen looked as surprised by the answer as Kenzie felt.

“Really,” Kenzie answered with a blush and a shy smile as she realized that yes, she really did want to go see a movie with Jen. The only girl she had ever wanted to go anywhere with alone before was Liz, but Liz was her best friend. This was something completely different, something she hadn’t even imagined feeling about a another girl before. The pink in her cheeks darkened slightly as she started to imagine it now. She pushed the thought from her mind, focusing on the moment at hand. “I’d like that.”

A slow smile worked its way across Jen’s face until it was a grin that reached from ear to ear. “Cool.” It dimmed somewhat as she looked at the plate of food in front of her. “I want to eat, but I should probably go wash my hands first. There’s no telling what that guy’s got in his nose.”

“Good idea,” Kenzie said as Jen got up and headed to the restroom. Kenzie’s mind raced as she watched the other girl walk away. She’d been asked out on a date, and said yes. It would be her first date. It was with another girl. She didn’t know how she should feel about it, but she knew how she did feel: scared, elated, nervous, agitated, overjoyed. Part of her was afraid of what Liz would think, even though Liz had talked her into calling Jen, and part of her didn’t care what Liz thought. She found that feeling unnerving, because she had never not cared what Liz thought about something before. But most of all, she couldn’t stop thinking about Jen. She had a vague feeling that this girl she had only met the day before, who made her feel so many wonderfully conflicting emotions, was going to be one of the best things to ever happen in her life.
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