Mission Log #257

By: Josh Klafter

Team: The Protectors of the People

Team ID: 6264545

Team Leader: Sensori

Mission Log # 257

RECORDING STARTED:

    Every team has that one mission, the unforeseen disaster waiting to happen. It’s inevitable in our line of work. If you don’t believe that, you must be new here. For all you hotshot rookies who think you’re the best thing since sliced bread, here’s what’s in store for you. You get cocky, you go in arrogant and come out crippled. Crippled by a clear defeat, or the loss of innocent bystanders, is one thing. Crippled by the loss of a team member is entirely another.

    To the council, I apologize for the delay in this recording. With the funeral this past Sunday… no…  I’ll be honest. I’ve been delaying the inevitable of this recording out of fear. This log will be the hardest I’ve had to record yet, but, without a doubt, the most important. I hope this will serve as a lesson in caution to all the other career heroes in New York... no... the world. I hope you’ll bear with me through this log, and be patient if I find myself tearing up. The message is too important.

    Ok, here goes nothing.

I had gotten a lead from my buddy Paulie Ramirez down at the Nassau County Police Department. He believed that a group of registered villains had moved into a small house in Franklin Square, a family-centric residential area under his jurisdiction. While he had their location, what he didn’t have was a bite, a warrant to get him through the front door. Of course, that’s when you turn to registered heroes.

     I saw this as nothing but a small-time gig, checking out the house, seeing if there’s anything suspect about the fucks living there, and taking them down to the station if anything goes awry. So rather than take my whole team, I grabbed Connie… oh, excuse me, registered hero alias: Force of Nature… and Brickbreaker. We even grabbed a couple of beers at Pig n Whistle down on 36th before hopping on the LIRR (we didn’t want to use up any of Force of Nature’s stamina in the off chance we would need it later).

    After about an hour on the train we found ourselves at the front door of a small home, as nondescript as any of the others. The neighborhood was silent, as you would expect from a family town at 11:30 on a Saturday night. However, the first thing I noticed walking up to this house was that the front room’s light, though dim, was clearly on. When you’re surrounded by completely darkened houses on all sides, you notice this. The two cars in the driveway didn’t do them any favors in concealing that they were home. Strike one.

    KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK “Global Heroes Alliance open up,” (standard procedure).

    No answer. Repeat, no answer. This would have deterred me if I didn’t know better. I gave the third obligatory knock and announce, but no one inside budged. Wiggling at the doorknob, it gave me no resistance, and the front door slid open. Strike two. I should have known right then and there to turn back, but I was naive, buzzed, and, to be honest, looking for some action.

    As the three of us tiptoed our way into the front den, we immediately noticed the room was empty. I used my difference to track all of the five occupants of the house down to the bedroom at the end of the hall. Motioning for my teammates to follow, I took the lead as we snuck our way down the narrow, darkened hall. The only thing illuminating the way was a dull, yellow light leaking out from the farthest door. Seconds later we found ourselves in front of it.

    “I know what this looks like, probably just a family getting ready for bed, but be ready regardless, we never know,” I whispered to my teammates.

    Looking back, that was the first wise thing I had said all night.

    Three, two, one, and we burst into the bedroom.

    In front of us was only a bed. At its center, in a mess of blankets and pillows, lay a little boy. The face of this boy will never leave me for as long as I live. His long, blonde hair drooped down over his peachy, smiling face. Remember how he looked, I beg you. Surrounding him were four adults, all of whom dawned the black, striped brand of a formerly-incarcerated villain on their necks. All of whom except one, Paulie Ramirez. Strike three.

    “Wait,” I remember audibly taking a second to process what was in front of me.

    As soon as I understood, I acted.

    “FORCE, GET OUT OF HERE, NOW,” I screamed, pulling out my staff.

    She understood immediately, and hurtled herself through the window ahead, forcefield on, of course. This sent shattered glass raining down on all of us, but that wasn’t much of a deterrence; the fight had already begun. I hated myself for even thinking I wouldn’t need my staff, but thank God I brought it. Brickbreaker’s fists were locked and loaded, so I was still confident we could take them at this point.

    His voice, I remember it vividly.

    “Please, stop fighting…”

It was meek, timid even, but its power was unquestionable. All four of them, including Ramirez, stopped what they were doing and moved back into their positions at the side of this kid.

    It was at this point that I realized we were dealing with a mission way over our ranking. I’m going to try my best to recall our conversation, for the sake of finding this bastard, but... I’m not in the best frame of mind and may be forgetting the exact wording.

    Kid: Ah the Protectors of the People, here at last.

    Me: What do you want, who are you?

    Kid: I guess you could call me a fan. I admire your team’s work.

    Me: Are you hurt, are you in danger? (ugh… so naive)

    Kid: Especially you Sensori. Your passion, your energy, I could really use that.

    What happened next really is unexplainable, but I’ll try my god damn best. It felt like the weight of the world crushing down on me. I could hear Brickbreaker shouting my name, feel him trying to shake me, but it was so... minimal. My senses were muffled, the pressure was killing me. My vision was blurred, but I could see the kid glowing, illuminated in an orange, yellow tinge. Only then I realized that this glow was flowing from me to him.

Then it happened. Brickbreaker threw himself in front of the glow, pushing me away from its grasp. I immediately felt the relief, my lungs clenching, gasping for missed air. I turned just in time to see him floating feet off the ground, spasming, shaking, and screaming. Sparks were bursting from his body; I’d never seen anything like it. Suddenly, the boy shrieked, the aura stopped, and Brickbreaker crashed down onto the carpeted floor, steam oozing from his body.

Before I could even attack the kid, Brickbreaker roared, shot up, and grabbed me in his arms, hurtling us down the hallway and out the front door in a manner of seconds. Down the block I saw the familiar purple energy of Force of Nature’s difference; she was ready to teleport us at a moment’s notice.

The face she made when she saw us racing toward her… God. She burst into fuckin tears, I couldn’t bear it. I looked up and saw, for the first time, what really had happened to Brickbreaker when he saved me. His skin… or lack of… was ripped raw, blood gushing at a rate I had never seen in my entire time as a career hero. He roared through the agony he must have been experiencing… I’m sorry… I’m sorry. Give me a minute here.

    RECORDING PAUSED (66 seconds)

    RECORDING RESUMED

    He didn’t make it back to the city, whatever life he still had left him in the portal.

    If any of you were at the funeral… you would already know that I didn’t make it out of this either… not really. Whatever this kid did, whatever this kid took from me, he succeeded. I’m a cripple… A FUCKIN’ CRIPLE!
    RECORDING PAUSED (153 seconds)

    RECORDING RESUMED

    I may not be able to walk, or fight... or use my difference. But I still have my mind. I won’t stop until this kid… if he even is a kid… is buried in the ground. I hope this log will give the council the ammunition it needs to declare a level 10 threat. No hero is safe… no different is safe. Together, we can stop him. Divided, he’ll take us out one by one, until he’s the only one of us left.

    … Stay safe heroes.

RECORDING ENDED

Book Spotlight: Double Life

By: S. Usher Evans

For my first ever book spotlight, I’d like to introduce you to the captivating world of Razia. By day, she’s a droll scientist that studies and records planets. By night, she’s the galaxy’s only female pirate, and a damn good bounty hunter. Of course, she struggles with proving herself in a man’s world, while trying to balance her day job. What ensues is an enthralling tale about a young woman going after what she wants most in the world, while slowly building herself along the way.

So, I first discovered this book at Florida SuperCon almost four years ago. I was looking at releasing my own book at the time and was scouring the author tables for advice about what to do.

Enter: S. Usher Evans.

She talked with me for about an hour, detailing how she went from having a sturdy day job, to pursuing her dream of being a full-time author. (Spoiler: she’s been incredibly successful at it. Check out her website and her books here)

Of course, after our lengthy conversation, I wanted to buy one of her books. And she directed me to Razia. I had been going through a tough time with books then, finding a lot of YA work dull and predictable. So, when she told me the protagonist was in her early twenties, and therefore not subject to falling into the tropes and clichés of YA, I was sold.

Some sci-fi novels are difficult to comprehend, are dry, and plain. This is not the case for the Razia series. Sush’s writing is descriptive and enjoyable. The characters are relatable, the world is imaginative, and everything feels attainable. You can understand exactly what the characters are doing, though their technology is foreign to us. The banter is witty; the dialogue reads like real people having real conversations. Nothing is stilted.

This series is a great read. But if sci-fi isn’t your thing, Sush has an incredible array of books to choose from, in a number of different genres. Give her a chance. You will not be disappointed.

Polaris (2015)

By: Mindee Arnett

Following the events of Avalon, Jeth and his crew of teenaged mercenaries are on the run. There’s been some familial revelations along the way, which are making it difficult aboard the ship. When caught between a rock and a hard place, Jeth turns to the last person he’d thought he’d work with: an ITA soldier. However, he soon learns that everything in space comes with a price.

Guys, when I tell you I devoured these novels, I seriously devoured them. I don’t know if I could speak higher of Avalon and Polaris. The twists and turns are truly unique. The characters are brilliant. The world feels alive! Read these books. For real.

Avalon (2014)

By: Mindee Arnett

This YA sci-fi follows Jeth Seagrave in his endless pursuit of buying his parents’ ship back from the mob boss he reluctantly works for. When he and his merry band of teenaged mercenaries stumble upon some heavy tech everyone in the galaxy desperately wants, Jeth runs the risk of losing everything he cherishes, including himself.

This novel was a breath. of. fresh. air. As opposed to the standard, it’s up to a bunch of sixteen-year-olds to save the world, Avalon focuses on this small part of the galaxy, on Jeth’s world. Should he fail, there would be catastrophic results, sure, but the world would keep spinning. I devoured these novels. Everything about this world was well-crafted, and the characters were engaging and believable. They’re clearly teenagers, but they’ve also seen some stuff. It was a great balance. Definitely read this book.