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The Red Rook - Chapter 7 - Powers Containment and Control

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You don't get to choose what piece you are, only how you play the game...

You'd think that being stronger and tougher than everyone else at Centurion High would go down in the plus column. And it had, as far as the athletic crowd was concerned. Enough that the jocks forgave Penny for her preference to hang out with a small clique notorious for being hardcore board-gamers and role-playing eggheads. But it seemed like a small consolation.

Maybe it's because Penny just wants to be appreciated for her brains rather than her brawn. Or maybe she hangs out with the nerds because of Michael. Michael—her childhood best friend and the boy-next-door—certainly appreciates Penny for her smarts—and maybe, sometimes, she wants him to appreciate her for more than that. Penny's been spending a lot of time with Michael recently, helping him to take up his dead father's superhero identity. Besides, despite Michael being a straight up genius, he's "common sense" challenged.

If that wasn't enough, Penny's superhero mother has ramped up her passive-aggressive campaign to convince Penny to take up the mask and start crime fighting; her two younger sibs—almost as strong and tough as Penny—are superhero crazy; a series of mysterious attacks seems to be targeting Penny directly; and her other best friend is dating Michael. (e)

Back to Chapter 6

Chapter 7: Powers Containment and Control

I’m going to (mostly) skip over the Dispenser versus the Demolition Squad battle. It will come up again, I promise, but if you really want the gory details, you’ll have to get them from Michael. Besides, I wouldn’t want all the work he put into documenting it go to waste.

One thing I would like to note though, is that during the fight, I never thought of Michael as the Dispenser. It was always Michael-as-the-Dispenser. Of course, the bottom band of monitors had shown camera views pointed away from Michael, which probably helped in preventing my shift of thinking. Only through the longer range cameras mounted on the drones did I actually see the white-suited figure of the Dispenser. And it was Michael’s voice over the radio comlink, not the vocoder distorted one that the Squad heard.

When it was over, Michael stood over the prone Chainsaw, his breath a ragged sawing over the radio comlink. Despite sitting in the command chair and watching the whole thing on the monitors, adrenaline was surging through my system and I had to take a long moment to bring my breathing under control. While I took slow, focused breaths, I continued to scan the bank of monitors for threats, but they only showed the ravages of the just concluded battle in gray-browns of the enhanced light filters. Chainsaw’s blade arm, severed just above the elbow, lay several feet from the cyborg. His normally gleaming Tonka-Toy–yellow armored body was dulled by scratches, dents, and copious quantities of goop that had slowed and ultimately disabled the chainsaw blades encircling his cyborg body.

The street surrounding Michael looked like some sort of bizarre sculpture garden created by an obsessive fan of the Dispenser. There were more than fifty life-size Dispenser decoy-balloons, each in one of a dozen or so action poses. Closer to where Chainsaw sprawled lay ten or twenty deflated, burst, or otherwise destroyed decoys; the result of Chainsaw’s rampage in search of the real Dispenser.

In the distance, the sound of sirens were approaching. The chatter on the police bands was mostly of superhero and supervillain sightings.

“Mind if I do away with the ‘Dragon’s Teeth,’ Michael?” I radioed. “Don’t think we’ll be needing them anymore.”

“Good idea,” Michael radioed back, his voice was more calm than his suit’s telemetry reading of his raised heart rate implied. I would have expected there to be some note of triumph in it. “It’s a little creepy being surrounded by so many copies of the Dispenser—of me.”

With a dawning sense of accomplishment, I sent the signal triggering the micro-charges at the base of each of the balloon duplicates. With a snapping pop, they disappeared into clouds of confetti and ribbon like strips designed to confuse radar and other sensor systems. It was an appropriately festive punctuation to the end of the fight.

I punched up the Powers Containment and Control Division as Michael used his camera zoom to examine Chainsaw. Apparently satisfied with the state of the chemical bindings, he started limping towards the purple-and-gray figure of Wreckingbar. Just beyond the prone cyborg, Bang Galore glared at him from inside what amounted to a giant plastic bag. Not sufficiently suicidal to use her bomblets, Michael had trapped the red-and-silver harlequinesque figure in a transparent cling-wrap bubble, like some sort of life-size toy at the county fair. I bet she was regretting not carrying a pocketknife.

When the PCC Division hotline connected, a young man’s voice said, “It is a Federal crime to impersonate a registered Super.”

Apparently the PCC dispatcher was in a bad mood. Not surprising, I thought. The hotline must be ringing off the hook tonight. “No ‘Hello, what supercriminal can we detain for you today?’” I said, still watching the monitors.

Michael kicked the seven-foot length of titanium-and-steel bar away from its namesake’s gently twitching body. He zoomed his camera in on Wreckingbar’s head. The exposed portion of the cyborg’s magnified face filled the screen. It was flushed red, an intricate network of scars creating a craggy moon-scape across his chin and cheeks. In the middle of each cheek, creating a startling contrast to the red and pink of scar tissue, there was a white square of a wake-me-up patch that Michael had used to overload Wreckingbar’s biological parts with super-caffeine.

“Who is this?” the young man said. “You’re not the Dispenser.”

I suppressed a wave of irritation at being treated even worse than a sidekick. “Just a moment,” I said in a syrupy voice.

Michael rolled Wreckingbar over onto his stomach and started to apply a disposable plastic handcuff strip half-an-inch thick. “I’ll connect you to the registered super.” I cut the circuit over to Michael. “I’m getting the bureaucratic run around from the PCC, Michael, despite the fact that I’m calling from a secure line that no one else would use. You’re going to have to shoot them your G.I.D.”

“Great,” Michael said, sounding irritated. “You’d think they would have better things to do than card you. Patch ’em in.”

I made the connection. “I have the Dispenser on the line.”

“But he’s dead,” the young man said.

“Not anymore,” Michael said. He sounded tired but resolute even through the vocoder. “I’ve forwarded my G.I.D. and JASON ID. I authorize—um—my Tactical Coordinator to do what she does. Coordinate.”

There was a pause, then, in a voice swollen with incredulity, he said, “Yes, sir, I’ve verified your identity as the Dispenser.”

I cut the PCC operator out of the comlink and said, “Thanks, I’ll try and get you a priority pickup. It’s not like they’ll need a detention unit for the Robotic Horde. But there’s a lot of other activity.”

“Hey, I appreciate it. I hate interfacing with bureaucracies,” Michael said.

After taking a moment to compose myself, I cut the PCC operator back in and said evenly, “Thank you. Could I have your name please?”

“This is Dispatch Officer Williams. Whom am I speaking with?”

“You can call me…” What? I thought. “T.C.,” I said. Oh, that was clever, my sarcastic streak added. “We need a MPC Unit immediately.” I gave him the address.

“Who or what has the Dispenser captured, T.C.?”

“The Demolition Squad. I’ll patch you into the street monitors.”

Dispatch Officer Williams gave a long, slow whistle while I assume he looked the scene over. “All in nice neat packages, I see. Good job, Dispenser!”

“He’s not on the line anymore, but I’ll pass your assessment on to him.”

“Oh.” He sounded disappointed. “I’m dispatching an MPCV with a squad of PCC detention techs. Sorry, but that’s all we have available right now. The rest are working the Nova Genesis Plaza and a few other containment sites.”

“Thanks,” I said. “E.T.A.?”

“Ten minutes at the outside, probably eight. They’re scrambling now.”

“Excellent. I’ll pass that along to the Dispenser, Dispatch Officer Williams.”

I cut the connection, wondering if every Tactical Coordinator got such condescending dismissiveness from the PCC. Spending an hour watching a super’s back and giving them tactical advice in the heat of battle would disabuse them of that attitude.

Continued in

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