All of the Protectors packed their gear and flew in their government provided jet to Japan to help after the earthquake and tsunami. Even a bunch of the adjuncts and part-timers went. I’ve seen the devastation on Youtube and on the news. I know they’re needed. The Japanese heroes are doing the best they can, but they’re overwhelmed. I’d seen some sort of radiation absorbing hero get blown to bits on the news just the other day, when an explosion happened at one of the nuclear power plants. I know my healing venom in particular could be a huge help. White Knight called the hospital where I work to try to talk me into going with them.
I told him to take a long walk off a short pier.
If the supes had just slipped off quietly, it would have been fine. I might even have been convinced to go with them. Remedy’s an amazing hero, but his healing abilities have their limits. My gift could save a lot of lives over there. The thing is, the Protectors left in front of all the cameras. The president announced, “We are sending our greatest heroes to aid our friends in Japan.” Made a big production about it.
Even the All American Alliance heroes went, while their corporate sponsors talked about how they were citizens of the world economy, etc. It’s good PR for them, and they do a lot of business in Japan.
So, every criminal, super-villain, and low-life on this continent now knows that the heroes that normally keep them in check are all on the other side of the world. Peachy.
Not everybody went. Some of the independents saw the writing on the wall like I did, and stayed behind to try to pick up the slack. I didn’t don tights or anything, but when I saw TakeDown on a live news report trying to fight off three super-villains at once, by himself, I realized I couldn’t just sit on the sidelines anymore. These guys were robbing a bank in broad daylight, and just walking over the cops, not three blocks from my apartment. I decided to keep my wings under wraps, so I had to run over there, but the fight was still in full swing when I arrived.
A big guy with disproportionately long arms, and a lot of body hair that reminded me of a gorilla was holding TakeDown in an arm lock while some jerk with porcupine spikes all over his body was seriously messing him up.
I got the spikey guy around the throat with my left arm, making sure only my scaly parts got close to him.
TakeDown broke free of the arm lock by dropping to the ground and slinging the gorilla over his head. Stoically ignoring a half dozen spines sticking out of his less armored arms and legs as well as his armored torso, he tossed a glue grenade at spike-boy’s legs. That took him out of the fight, I thought. But he drew back and did this motion at me like he was throwing a baseball. I put my left arm up to cover my face out of reflex, and it was lucky I did. About ten of those spikes stuck in my favorite denim jacket, and I felt them scritch against my scales. I had to pick three more out of my hair later. Only one hit flesh. It stuck in my neck, just above my collarbone, and went in about an inch. Burned like fire. I yanked it out fast, and the nasty thing was barbed. It ripped a hole as big around as my pinky.
Can I just say, OW! That hurt. Really hurt. Being hit by a car was more fun.
I punched the guy in the face, the one place where he had no spines, and he went down like a tree broken by a hurricane, his feet still glued to the ground.
Porcupine’s buddies saw what was happening, and the next thing I knew I was bouncing off a car door, and pieces of the pavement were flying all around me. One bit of concrete cut me over the eye, and blood ran into it. I had to keep blinking to see what was going on.
This guy with spikey blue hair was holding his hands out like an anime magician in TakeDown’s general direction. TakeDown was like a red and black streak as he leapt out of the way just before a big crater appeared in the pavement where he’d been standing, and concrete chunks went flying.
That gave me a bit of a clue as to why I was lying against a tire, and there was a hole six feet away where I’d been standing just before.
Well, okay then.
I got up, dusted my butt off with my hands out of reflex where I’d been sitting on the ground, and wiped the blood out of my eye.
The guy who knocked me on my butt was aiming his hands at TakeDown again, who had gotten jumped, and was fighting hand-to-hand with the gorilla-looking fellow. They were both moving like greased lions, but it looked to me like TakeDown was getting the better of it. The blue-haired blaster was going to hit TakeDown from behind.
“Hey!” I shouted at Blue-Hair. “Try that again when I’m looking, jerk!”
So, of course, he did.
He aimed his palms at me, wrist touching wrist, fingers curled around a ball of wavy light distortion. I almost stood there a half second too long, just watching him fascinated, as he warped thin air into something that hit like a wrecking ball.
At the last possible moment, I jumped. I didn’t want anyone to see my wings, so I couldn’t flap to assist and make it up a couple of stories, but I can still jump like a pole-vaulter, without having to mess around with a pole.
I landed on blue-hair’s chest. He went whumf when he landed on the ground, then coughed, gasped and choked. I put a tennis shoe on his throat, and held him down. “Aim those hands at me and I’ll practice my clogging,” I told him.
He was too busy trying to breathe to answer.
I checked on TakeDown. He had the big gorilla in an arm lock and slapped a cuff on him faster than I could blink.
TakeDown thanked me for the assist while he was cuffing the blue-haired guy, and Spike.
Once the criminals were cuffed, my brain shifted gears to EMT mode, and I started checking the six inch long needles sticking out of TakeDown’s arms and legs. The spikes had bounced off his knee pads, and shin and forearm guards, stuck harmlessly in his torso armor, but his upper arms were bare, and his thighs only had black and red spandex over them.
“Don’t those hurt?” I only had one, and it had been like a red hot poker in my skin. There was some kind of acid or irritant on the surface of those things, no doubt. I couldn’t imagine how he had kept fighting so effectively with those things buried two inches deep in his flesh.
He grinned and grimaced at the same time, “Like heck.” Yes, he actually said heck. TakeDown works with kids a lot.
I told him they were barbed, and would rip flesh when they were removed. He said he’d go to the hospital to have them removed.
I almost said something then, but didn’t.
The special police van showed up, and the armored SWAT team took custody of the super criminals, and offered to drop TakeDown at the nearest ER.
TakeDown was no Georgian. He was a working class hero who showed up and took the punches to protect the rest of us. While the glory hounds went to the high profile, world-is-watching location, he stayed here to protect his home town.
I made a decision, and told him to stay while the SWAT van left. I took him around the corner, out of sight of the crowd that had gathered.
He followed me, even though he was starting to limp from the pain. I guess helping a guy stop super-bads a couple of times earns some cred.
I told him I could pull the spikes out, that it would hurt like a word he wouldn’t say, and rip flesh, but I could do something afterward that would make the pain go away almost instantly, and the wounds heal completely with no scars within a day. Or, I could give him a lift to the hospital, and he could have them removed surgically, under anesthetic. And, he’d be in the hospital for a week or more when we needed him on the street, and probably lose muscle and be badly scarred.
“That’s quite a choice,” he said. But he opted for quick pain and quick healing. I’d have made the same choice in his shoes. I had, actually. The hole above my collar bone and the gash over my eye had already started closing up. By tomorrow, you wouldn’t be able to tell I’d been hurt. Somehow, my venom seems to transfer that healing ability to other people.
We yanked out all the spikes as fast as possible. I left the one in the crook of his arm till last. It was right in the vein, and I knew it would bleed when I yanked it. As soon as I pulled it, I put pressure on the wound with my thumb, and bit him, with the back of my head toward him so he couldn’t see the fangs. I gave him a full dose, then pulled back. And watched the blood flow stop, and the wounds start to close.
He nodded, and asked me, “Are you some kind of vampire or something?”
I had gotten a mouthful of his blood when I bit him, which tasted pretty good actually. “No, not exactly.” Old Bram Stoker wasn’t that far off the mark, though. “Look, don’t tell anyone about this, okay? Especially White Knight.”
He raised his eyebrows at me, but his wounds were visibly better. “All right. Your healing secret is safe with me. But there was a camera crew out there. Your fighting abilities aren’t exactly secret anymore.”
Camera crew. Right. Of course. That would be how I saw that TakeDown was in trouble on the news. And naturally, they were still filming while I fought spike and blue-hair, so, now I was on the news.
So much for my promise to Ma to keep my head down.
TakeDown looked sympathetic, even though he didn’t know why I didn’t want my abilities broadcast. “You’re not going to be able to hide anymore.”
“Well, if I can’t hide, I might as well help.” I gave him my cell number and told him to call me. Until the Protectors got back from Japan, I’d be his backup.
For the first time, I felt real fear. I was going to have to go home and tell Ma about this.
I would have much preferred fighting a few more super-villains.