Saturday, June 30, 2018

Steel and Shocks: An IDIA-TSS Crossover Fanfic

Allo, all! June Doings! and my mid-year book roundup should be posted sometime in the next week, but before then, have a fanfic. This was written for C.B. Cook's fanfiction/fanart contest, based on my thought that obviously the two superhero universes she's worked on— IDIA and the Teenage Superhero Society— had to come together eventually. It's not the best piece I've ever worked on, but I had fun with it. Also, cookies for anyone who realizes what the villains are a reference to. (For the record: they're well aware of who they're referencing, and are doing it 100% on purpose, mostly because they get as much of a kick out of it as I do.)

Steel and Shocks: An IDIA-TSS Crossover Fanfic

I’m sitting on the back deck, savoring the last of a strawberry popsicle, when Lannis’s voice bursts into my head. Art park downtown! At the new statue! Emergency! Now! Masks on!

I pulled the popsicle stick from my mouth. What? What’s happened? No answer; Lannis has pulled out already. I jump up and dash back into the kitchen. “Mom, Lannis called! Gotta go!”

Mom looks up from her cookbook. “TSS business?”

“Yeah. I’ll be careful, don’t worry. Bye!” I give her a quick hug and then head upstairs. I need my costume, and then . . . Darn it, how far is the art park? I can’t take the car . . .

I throw on my costume— leggings, tunic, boots, cape, mask, taser in a belt pouch— finishing moments before Saxon— no, sorry, Watcher; she’s masked up— appears in my room. “Ready?”

“Yeah.” I grab her hand. “Do you know what’s going on?”

“No clue. All I know is that there’s a lot of people screaming.” She shrugs, and the world blurs and vanishes. Seconds later, it reforms, and we stand with our backs to a tall hedge in the Foundry City Art Park. The hedges encircle a pebbled open area with a statue at the center, the latest in a series that’s been installed around the city. This one is a series of stacked silvery bubbles, pretty cool-looking.

Significantly less cool-looking are the crowds running, screaming, away from the statue, not to mention the three people that they’re running from. One of them, the one standing on top of the statue, is literally on fire all over, and he— no, wait, she— is shooting fireballs at the running people. Another, a young teen boy with hair dyed dark blue, is floating in midair, creating an ever-widening cyclone of stiff winds around the statue. The third, a broad-shouldered woman whose skin looks like it’s made out of scale-textured metal, isn’t doing anything yet— but somehow, she’s still the most intimidating of the three. I gulp. Oh, great. Legit Big Bads.

With all the chaos, I don’t realize for a few moments that not everyone here is running for their lives. Nightfire’s circling the statue, redirecting the fire-girl’s attacks back at the wind-manipulator and the metal woman. One woman, I’d guess she’s about Starlight or Lannis’s age, actually has a pistol out and is shooting round after round at the supervillains. She’s not hitting anything, as far as I can tell, but I can tell where some of her bullets are going, and they’re so far off-target that one of the supervillains must be interfering. And there are another two girls, my age, helping to evacuate the civilians. Both of the girls are wearing masks along with their street clothes, one red and feathery, the other shimmery and blue. They don’t look like any supers I know, but I guess that doesn’t mean much.

I finally spy Lannis— Clarity, rather— further along the hedge and run towards her with Watcher close behind. “Clarity! What’s going on?”

“I don’t know.” Clarity’s face is screwed up in concentration. “Nightfire and I were here for the dedication ceremony, for the statue you know, and all of a sudden, these three just showed up and attacked. I’m still working on getting into their heads to find out why.”

“Oh.” I wonder if I should do something, but no one appears to be hurt, and I don’t have any offensive powers. “Is Starlight coming?”

“She’s on her way.” Clarity pauses. “Oh. More people are here.”

She points, and I look. Sure enough, two new guys just appeared near the statue. One looks almost as intimidating as the metal woman: as big as she is, wearing a leather jacket, a grey mask, and a look that says you’d better not mess with him. The other guy is about my age, with fudge-brown hair and a glossy black mask.

Leather jacket guy doesn’t hesitate. He starts towards the metal woman, who grins— and keeps grinning even when he puts out a hand and sends her flying back into the statue. She’s not injured; she just picks herself up and launches herself at him.

Clarity’s not talking, and I still can’t do anything to help with the fight— I really need to buy a good Glock, or learn martial arts, or something— so I join the other two girls my age in evacuating the remaining civilians. There aren’t many of them, but a few have been hit by fireballs that Nightfire couldn’t redirect. I heal those and then return my attention to the fight.

With no more civilians to target, the fire-girl is focusing all her attacks on us supers, and Nightfire’s deflecting them all back at her and her team. Starlight’s arrived— finally— and she and leather jacket guy have teamed up against the metal woman, now without her metal skin. I can’t see Watcher or the younger guy, but bursts of light keep exploding around the wind-manipulator. The woman in the leather jacket has abandoned the fight in favor of discussion with Clarity, so I head towards the two of them, hoping for new instructions. Across the way, I see the other two girls doing the same.

We’ve only gone a few steps when leather jacket guy manages to throw the metal woman at the statue again. This time, however, she flies up before she hits it and flips over the top. I hear her hit the ground on the other side, but she doesn’t reappear. Instead, the statue shakes and then a single piercing note stabs my eardrums. I shriek and cover my ears. The fire girl throws her head back and laughs, pumping her fist— only to be hit by a fireball from Nightfire, a burst of metal projectiles from leather jacket guy, and an explosion of light from who-knows-where all at once.

She topples off the statue, hits the ground, and lies still.

“Dragonsbane! No!” The wind-manipulator whirls in mid-air, ignoring the attacks now turned on him, and shoots a swirl of blue-glowing wind at the fire-girl. It hits and surrounds her with the same blue light. “Healing breath of the heavens, restore my friend!”

Ok, that’s super weird. But weird or not, it works. Dragonsbane gasps, opens her eyes, and then pushes herself back to her feet to continue her attacks. I dash the rest of the way to Clarity. “Did you find out anything?”

She shakes her head. “Not much. Their minds are partially shielded; I can’t figure out how. I know they’re part of a larger group, though.” Clarity gestures at the woman in the leather jacket. “This is Data; she knows more.”

Data nods. “They call themselves the Izado. Their group just started making trouble earlier this year; they got on our radar because the metal-skin one, the one Anvil and your Starlight are fighting, used to work for FOE. Their goal seems to be to eliminate all supers who won’t join them. Unfortunately, that includes everyone here in Foundry City.”

A yell pulls our attention back to the fight. Dragonsbane just hit leather jacket guy— Anvil, I guess?— with a wave of flame. He staggers back, obviously in pain. The metal woman lunges forward inhumanly fast, grey rippling over her skin. She punches him, one-two, a normal fist to the jaw and a metal one to the burned area. Then she turns and launches herself at Starlight.

Starlight starts to dodge, but fast as she is, the metal woman is just barely faster and tackles her with a steel shoulder to Starlight’s ribs. Starlight hits the ground hard with the woman on top of her. The wind-manipulator, still in the sky, whoops. “Get ‘em, Steelscales!”

Dragonsbane aims another ball of flame at Anvil, but Nightfire deflects it so it shoots towards Steelscales instead. She catches it with a metal fist, which starts to glow red-hot. Then, with a grin, she punches down at Starlight. Starlight just barely twists aside, and the woman’s fist grinds into the pebbly ground.

“We have to do something!” I can’t believe that Starlight seems to be losing. I mean, yeah, I’ve discovered since meeting her that she’s more human, more fallible than she seems. But she should be doing better than this. Shouldn’t she? Then again, if she’s already taken several hits . . . Please, God, let her be all right.

The flames around Dragonsbane die down, revealing a wild grin and spiky hair with pink-dyed tips. “Steelscales! Wingwinds! We’re done here; let’s go!”

Steelscales scowls. “Don’t tell me what to do.” But she vaults off Starlight anyway and runs for the exit. Dragonsbane dashes towards another. Wingwinds starts to fly in a third direction, but before he can get far, I hear a familiar yell from the sky. Wingwinds drops abruptly like something’s fallen on top of him.

Watcher appears on top of Wingwinds, clinging to his shoulders. “Hey!” she yells at Anvil. “He’s got metal on him. Pull on it; help me out here!”

He groans but reaches out a hand anyway. Wingwinds drops faster than before, though he struggles and tries to shake Watcher off. Finally, he hits the ground with a smack and a moan. “Owwwwww . . .”

Watcher sits up on top of him. “Hey, Clarity, I got one of their guys. You want to interrogate him?”

“I will, thank you.” Data steps forward. “I’m Data from the International Defense and Intelligence Agency. IDIA for short. We’ve been tracking the Izado for several months now, and when we heard they were planning to strike in Foundry City, we came to investigate. We didn’t expect an outright attack just yet or we would’ve brought more combat-oriented members.” She glances at me. “You’re Remedy, correct? Their healer?”

“Yes.” It takes me a minute to get the hint. “Oh. Yeah. I’ll go do that.” Starlight’s sitting up, one arm wrapped around her ribs, but she still looks like she’s in pain, and Anvil’s laying there like he doesn’t really want to move. I don’t exactly blame him.

I head to Starlight first and crouch beside her— by now, she’s less intimidating than Anvil. “What do I fix?”

“Broken rib. At least one.” She moves her arm as I place my hands on the injured area. “Advice for you. Avoid fighting metal people hand to hand. It’s unpleasant.”

“I don’t really plan on fighting anyone hand-to-hand, but I’ll remember that.” I finish and stand up. “Ok. You’re good. You’re sure nothing else needs healing?”

“No. Save your power.” Starlight stands, wincing despite her words. “Go help Anvil. I’m going to have a talk with these newcomers.”

“Right. Ok.” I glance after her as she goes. She’s obviously still sore; if she was any other member of the team, any other person in general, I’d find an excuse to hug her and sneakily heal the rest of her injuries. But Starlight doesn’t do hugs, especially not surprise hugs— I know from experience— so I’ll just have to trust her.

I move on to Anvil and wince when I see the bright red burns all over his face and chest. His steel grey mask has escaped damage, somehow, and his leather jacket is only scorched, but his t-shirt is a tattered, blackened mess. I kneel next to him. “Hi. I’m a healer. I’m going to have to touch you to heal this, ok?”

Anvil nods. “Go on. Medic back at headquarters does the same thing.”

They have a healer too? I wonder if I could meet her, or him, whichever, but now’s not the time to ask. I gently place my fingertips on the burns and pull the power through me into the injuries. The burns disappear from the middle outward, not even a scar left behind. “Ok, face next.” Those heal faster since they’re smaller. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”

He shakes his head and stands, offering a hand to help me up. Good grief, he’s tall. “I’m Anvil, by the way.”

I take his hand and use the opportunity to send a little extra generalized healing power into him, just in case. “Data told me. Nice to meet you. I’m Remedy— sorry; I should’ve said that earlier.”

“Remedy, huh?” This is a new voice. I turn to find the shorter guy— who’s still taller than I am— standing nearby. He flashes a grin. “Want to join IDIA? We could use another healer?”

“Ummm . . . I, uh . . .” How are you supposed to respond to that?

Thankfully, Nightfire jogs over and comes to my rescue. “Remedy already has a team, sorry. We’re the Teenage Superhero Society. Who are you anyway?”

“I’m Blaze.” He gestures to the two girls I saw earlier, who I now realize are identical save for their masks. “These are Jazz and Pop. Jazz has the blue mask; Pop has the red one. You’ve already met Anvil.”

Before the conversation can go any further, a yell bursts out from the direction of our leaders and captive. We all turn just in time to see Data and Watcher fly backward into the hedge. Wingwinds rockets into the sky. “Who can hold the wind? No one, that’s who! Winds of the western sky, lend me your speed!” With that, he flies away so fast he leaves a breeze in his wake.

I dash towards the group left behind. “Is everyone ok?”

Watcher picks herself up and dusts off her jacket. “I’m fine.”

“We both are, but not for long.” Data stands and heads towards the statue. “I was able to read him and learn the Izado’s plans. This statue and four others around the city hold superpower-neutralizing devices. In an hour and a half, all five will release a blast that will turn every super in the city into ordinary humans. This attack was simply a cover so they could activate this particular statue, the control for all the others.”

I gasp. So do several others. Nightfire doesn’t. “So what? We just destroy the statues. Problem solved.”

“Unfortunately, no.” Data reaches the statue and starts inspecting it. “We can and should eliminate the other four. However, destroying this one will cause the others to go off early. And even one is enough to severely weaken everyone’s powers.”

“So we evacuate everyone?” Pop suggests. “Or, all the supers, anyway?”

“How?” Clarity shakes her head. “We don’t have a way to contact all the known supers quickly unless Starlight has one that she’s not telling us about. And even if we did, there are supers who haven’t revealed themselves publically yet, and we have no way to warn them. Maybe I could broadcast a telepathic message to the whole city, but then everyone would panic.”
“Agreed. Evacuating everyone in time is impossible.” Data glances at Blaze. “Blaze, go get Volt. Wingwinds implied that there’s a computer element to the device; she’ll know how to help with that.”

“On it.” Blaze salutes and disappears. Apparently, he’s a teleporter like Watcher.

I raise my hand. “I don’t know about disabling anything, but I might be able to delay the blast. I can slow down time around this statue to half, maybe even quarter speed. Then we’d have twice or four times as long before the others go off.”

“Unless the others are on their own timers, in which case they could all go off while we’re still standing here.” Nightfire circles the statue a few times. “There’s got to be a transmitter in here, at least. I don’t know about a computer. Does this thing open up?”

Blaze reappears, along with a tall girl whose purple mask matches the dyed ends of her hair. “Here I am. What’s going on?”

Everyone tries to explain at once until Data yells for quiet and recaps the entire episode in a few short sentences. When she finishes, Volt nods determinedly. “Well then. This is doable. Data, did you get anything at all from Wingwinds about how this works?”

Data shakes her head. “Nothing. Apparently, Steelscales designed it.”

“Figures.” Volt sighs, and she and Nightfire go to work.

Data turns to the rest of us. “While they work, we need to destroy the other devices. Then we can mitigate the effects if we fail here. We’ll split into three groups: one here, two others each destroying two statues. Anvil, you’ll lead one team. Starlight, will you take the other?”

Starlight nods once, her face giving no clues as to how she feels about Data taking charge like this. Data goes on. “Jazz and Pop, one of you should join each team and stay in touch with one another. Clarity, I understand that you’re also a telepath. I’d appreciate if you stayed with me and kept tabs on both teams.”

“I can do that.” Clarity manages a smile— not that you can see it since her costume hides the bottom part of her face, but it shows around her eyes. “Anyway, someone has to keep an eye on Nightfire.”

Nightfire glances up from the statue to roll her eyes at Clarity. Both Clarity and Data ignore her. “Watcher, I believe you’re a teleporter, yes? You’ll join one team; Blaze will go with the other. That leaves Remedy.”

I know I’m not really useful in this situation. I don’t have offensive powers, I won’t be much help in destroying the statues, and I’m not a mindreader or a teleporter. Even so, I can’t help feeling like I’m a kid getting picked last for the dodgeball game again. “I guess I could just stay here and . . . um . . . stand guard or something?”
But Data shakes her head. “Go with one of the teams. The more people we have out there who know the city, the better. If another group needs your powers, someone can teleport you there.”

Anvil speaks before Starlight can. “I’ll take her, Jazz, and Blaze.” He looks at me. “I hope you have some idea where the other statues are.”

“They’re probably the other four in the series.” I glance at Starlight. “Right? I know where all of those are, more or less.”

“That seems logical, yes.” Starlight considers. “My team will take the one by the museum and the one on North Central.” She beckons to her team— Watcher and Pop. “Let’s go.”

“Right. See you all later.” Watcher grabs both other girls and they disappear.

Blaze grins. “Come on, can’t let them finish first. Remedy, where are we going?”

“Um.” I search my mental map. “There’s one near the corner of Franklin Avenue and Madison Street. Is that good enough?”

“Perfect. Grab on.” Blaze holds out his hands. I take one, Jazz grabs the other, and Anvil places a hand on Blaze’s shoulder. Lights and colors flash around us. The next moment, we're standing in an alleyway, looking out on Franklin Avenue.

I duck out and glance back and forth. “To the right, I think.”

Anvil steps out after me. “Lead the way.”

I do, hoping I remember correctly. Apparently, I do because a few minutes later, we find another silvery statue, this one shaped like a sphere with a lot of swirls growing out of it and twining together as they reach towards the sky. Anvil studies it a moment, then reaches out one hand. The statue trembles a moment, then implodes in on itself until it’s nothing but a lump of metal no larger than a bowling ball. The few people who had stopped to admire it look around in confusion, but they don’t seem to notice us.

Anvil tucks his hands back in his pockets. “Easy enough.”

“Great!” Jazz pauses. “Ok, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that Volt and Nightfire got the first statue open and found the control panel for the device. The bad news is that the control panel is, for some reason, connected to the internet. And Data touched the control panel.”

Blaze groans. “Oh no. So she tried to download the internet again.”

“Basically. She’s out cold.” Another pause. Jazz scowls. “More bad news. Volt and Nightfire found a timer. We’ve only got fifteen minutes left.”

“What?” I exclaim, unable to hold it in. “But we were supposed to have an hour and a half.”

“Apparently Wingwinds lied.” Another pause. “On the upside, Pop’s team got their first statue too. Pop’s gushing over how Starlight apparently just turned the whole thing into gas. Now they’re heading to their next statue.”

“We’d better hurry too.” Blaze holds out his hands again. “Where to this time, Remedy?”

“Furnace Street. Near the bank.” I frown, taking Blaze’s hand. “I think. It might be Forge Street. I always get those two mixed up.”

“Guess we’ll find out.” Blaze does his thing, and we reappear in another alleyway, this one directly across from the bank.

I peer out at the street. “Oh, good, I was right. And the statue’s right there.” I point. This one is kind of a cross between a flower, a tree, and firework, still in silvery metal but with edges painted gold and purple. It’s a shame we have to destroy it. “Can you crush it from here?”

“Yes.” Anvil reaches out, but before he can do anything, something launches itself off the roof of the building beside us and lands on top of him. He goes down with an “Ooooffff.” Steelscales rolls off of him and comes up on her feet, a smirk of triumph on her face.

Anvil picks himself back up. “I didn’t think you’d be back.”

Steelscales lunges forward, fists flying. “Like I’d let you ruin all my hard work, idiot. I’m here to stop you.”

None of her blows connect. Instead, she skids back— Anvil must be pushing on her dozens of piercings and metal accessories. Then he pulls a handful of small metal pieces and shoots them at her like a hail of bullets. “Why bother? The device will go off in less than fifteen minutes. As soon as it does, you lose your powers just like the rest of us.”

Steelscales spreads her arms. As soon as the first pieces of metal hit her body, her skin ripples and turns to silvery metal. “Do I look like an idiot? When I devised the power neutralizer, I made sure I found a way to shield myself from its effects. How else was I going to test it without accidentally getting rid of my own powers? I’ll be fine, but—” She launches herself at Anvil again. “You? You’re going down, and so is every other super in Foundry City.”

Anvil doesn’t reply, just pushes his hand forward again. I guess he’s trying to throw her back like he did before, but instead, she rockets up, flips over his head, and tackles him from behind. “Just give up already. Tell you what, if you surrender, I’ll let your friend teleport you and the rest of your crew out of the city. You can run around playing Superman a little longer.”

“I am not— going— to lose— a fight— to a girl— made of— metal!” Anvil manages to roll himself and Steelscales over so he’s on top of her. He pulls her arm away from his throat, then pushes himself onto his knees.

Steelscales launches herself back up and grabs his neck again. “Yeah, keep telling yourself that. Meanwhile, I’m going to crush you.”

Anvil grunts and pushes himself to his feet. I bite my lip, watching. We need to do something, but what? It’s a miracle that Steelscales hasn’t taken out the three of us already.

I feel a touch on my arm and hear Jazz’s voice poking into my head. Blaze is keeping us invisible. He does light manipulation, not just teleportation.

Oh. That makes sense. Can we use that somehow? I know my powers still won’t do any good. My taser, though . . . if she’s made of metal or has metal skin or whatever, she’s probably vulnerable to electricity, right? And if I can sneak up on her while I’m invisible.

Oooh. Good idea. Jazz again. Hold on. She’s silent for a minute, then: Ok. Blaze, you hold onto Remedy and both of you sneak up behind Steelscales. Then, Remedy, you get her with the taser and grab her, and Blaze, you teleport all three of you back to Data and Volt.

Got it. I pull out my taser and make sure it’s ready for use. Blaze grabs my shoulder. We both break away from the wall and creep towards Anvil and Steelscales.

As we get closer, Steelscales glances back. “What was that?”

Oh no she heard us. I grab Blaze’s wrist with one hand and lunge forward, jamming the taser against Steelscales’ bare shoulder, and pull the trigger. Electricity arcs between the two prongs and all over Steelscales’ body. She jerks and spasms, unable to control her movements. Anvil pulls free and turns around.

I drop the taser and grab Steelscales’ shirt. “Blaze! Now!” Light swirls around us, almost blinding this time. Then we’re standing by the statue once more.

I let go of Steelscales. “Got her! How long do we have left?”

“Only a few minutes.” Clarity steps forward, peels off one glove, and carefully puts her fingers against Steelscales’ forehead. She winces, and her face twitches. Then she pulls back and announces, “Try 10-r-o-e for the password.”

“10-r-o-e. Ok.” Volt taps furiously on something half-hidden by this side of the statue. “I’m in! And now . . .” She presses a few more buttons. The statue lets out a high-pitched whine, followed by a few cracks and muffled explosions. Volt grins proudly. “I sent a deactivation signal to all the devices, then ran the self-destruct command on this one.”

“Well done.” Data, who’d been lying next to the statue, blinks and sits up. “Blaze, take Steelscales back to headquarters and put her in a cell, one with the power dampener turned on. Then find Trav and come pick up the rest of us.”

“Your wish is my command.” Blaze salutes at Data and grins at me. “Nice meeting you and your friends, Remedy. We should get together again sometime. Tell the others I said bye.”

“Nice to meet you too. You know where to find us.” I smile and wave as he disappears, taking Steelscales with him.

Data stands shakily and turns to Clarity. “Thank you to you and your team for your help. We couldn’t have pulled this off without you. And while I understand that you’re not interested in joining us, Blaze has the right idea. We should try to meet up again and discuss how we could potentially work together.” The corners of her mouth curve up like she’s holding in a laugh. “But next time, we’ll try to leave the supervillains at home.”

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