The crime lull after SXSW was temporary. The bad guys took a day or two off, then went right back at it. TakeDown and I have been running ragged again.
Since the Protectors put their third headquarters here, Austin has enjoyed the lowest crime rate of any city in Texas. We also had to endure occasional attacks by powerful villains like Lord Vile or the Defilers who tended to target the super-groups specifically, but most of the time, The Protectors had turned this into a peaceful and pleasant place to live. I don’t know where all of these super-bads were coming from.
Yesterday, TakeDown and I bagged and tagged a super-powered gang trying to rob the local museum during a travelling display of ancient artifacts from Thailand. Some fancy sword that looked all glowy to me, but perfectly normal to TakeDown was apparently their target. They didn’t get it. We got them instead. But we both got beat up doing it, and might have broken a few priceless things here and there. I’m glad they don’t bill us for collateral damage.
As we were doctoring our wounds, hidden from others inside a SWAT van, I asked TakeDown why he wasn’t a Protector. He told me it was because of his power. He was mainly a gadget guy. While tazer gloves and glue grenades are cool, and very effective against human criminals, they weren’t so effective against supes. His only real super-power, other than good night vision, was that he could be just a bit stronger and faster that any one single opponent.
It seemed like a pretty impressive superpower to me. That meant if he fought me, he’d be stronger and faster than me. He’d beat me. He could take on N-Rage, the Protectors powerhouse with the mechanical clawed hand, and win. He could defeat a lot of the most powerful Protectors like Liberty, or even Iron Angel!
TakeDown told me that was true, but only if he went up against one of those heroes alone. If say, N-Rage were a villain, all he would have to do is put a weak henchman in a fancy suit in front of TakeDown, get him to focus on that opponent, and TakeDown’s own powers would make him only slightly stronger and faster than that weak henchman.
That was one heck of an Achilles’ heel. And, his power was useless in a lot of other situations, like fighting Mr. Flame. Being a little stronger and faster doesn’t help when your opponent’s main ability is hurling fire, not punching things. And TakeDown had no defensive powers, just some customized military body armor.
“So, the Protectors don’t think you’re good enough?”
TakeDown grinned at me like I’d said something funny. “I never asked them. Austin is my home. I’ll fight to keep it safe as long as I’m breathing. What the Protectors or the Alliance do or think?” He shrugged. “Not really my business.”
Like I said before, TakeDown is good people. If I ever needed an example other than my dad of what a hero is, I didn’t need to look any further.
The would-be museum robbers were on their way to jail in time for me to make my dinner date with Jack and Fafnir. We ate on the patio at Chuy’s, enjoying the beautiful spring weather for just a few quiet moments before my shift started at midnight. Fafnir works as a travelling Renaissance Festival performer. He’s been working the Sherwood Forest Faire an hour east of Austin for the last month. Next Sunday is the last day, and he’ll be moving on. I’m really going to miss him.
Vlad’s still stalking me, btw. He was up on the roof of a nearby building, but I’m getting pretty good at ignoring him. I wonder periodically, though, “Does he have a day job?” “Why is he even in Austin?” I’ll have to ask him eventually, I guess.
When TakeDown called, I excused myself, and walked a few feet away where I could hear better. Fafnir and Jack kept right on talking like old friends.
They stopped talking when they saw my face.
The cops had received a message, anonymous except for Vile’s emblem at the bottom. The message claimed that there was a bomb set to blow up the Mansfield dam. That would dump all the water from Lake Travis, Austin’s main water reservoir, into LakeWay, the wealthiest section of town. The message said that the bomb would go off in 13 hours, and the Protectors were the only ones who could stop it. Another bomb was set to blow the next dam, just as the water hit and it was overloaded. That would flood downtown, the financial district, and all of the homes along Lake Austin. If those bombs went off, it would be as disastrous for Austin as Hurricane Katrina had been for New Orleans.
Thousands of lives would be lost and the property damage would be economically devastating.
It would take the Protectors’ jet about 12 hours to get back from Japan. The message claimed they were being generous by giving the Protectors an hour to make up their minds what really mattered to them.
The message said, “Heroes who only seek the spotlight are no heroes at all. If what the Protectors care about is protecting, they will return. If not, Austin will pay the price just as other cities already are paying.”
There had been a lot of controversy over the Protectors and the All American Alliance heroes all leaving the US so publicly at the same time. Several cities were under martial law, but the Protectors and the Triple A guys still showed no sign of coming back.
I know the Japanese folks needed help, but did the Protectors have to take everyone? Even the Protectors’ reservists and part-timers had left for the high profile disaster, leaving their normal duties undone. Police all over the country were suffering casualties, trying to fight super-powered criminals that they normally wouldn’t have to face alone. The crime rate in the US had tripled since the heroes left a few weeks before.
The Japanese are a very capable people. They were rebuilding entire roads in days that normally would take months. Things were still looking pretty bleak there in parts, but a lot of folks here in the US felt like it was time for our guys to come home and take care of business, and let the Japanese heroes take it from here.
Takedown and I had done what we could in Austin, but really, all we were doing was holding back the tide by the skin of our teeth. The local cops were stepping up and handling a lot of the lesser powered supers as well. Apparently, Vile thought our efforts were just keeping Austinites from realizing the full impact of their heroes’ abandonment.
Lord Vile had issued an ultimatum, the Protectors had to come home, or let their city be destroyed.Dee Dragon