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Dr Archeville

Unbalanced: Harrier & Miss Americana's Oct 2010 Vignette

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October 31st

Damn Good Heroes

The dead were rising, here and there and everywhere, and in an isolated part of Lincoln, something even worse was happening. An Omegadrone had taken to the sky. As the animated dead shook the locked iron gates of the Lincoln Municipal Cemetery, Harrier hovered overhead, his jetpack burning a brilliant red and black, thinking fast. _They crave the flesh of the living: the innocents. I must make sure they don’t escape._ With a roar of burning fuel, he flew over the heads of the moaning zombies, landing inside the cemetery's walls, and fired repeatedly into the mass of zombies, the powerful bombardment exploding several. Just as he’d hoped, the attack got their attention, and the mass of Lincoln zombies turned on the lone Omegadrone in their midst. As the mob turned, Harrier snapped his pike to melee combat mode, the blade buzzing like a dentist’s drill with focused energy. Only belatedly did he realize what else had happened: his heavy footfalls, or his blasts, or even just the scent of life leaking through his armor, had triggered another rising. A rising of _all_ the zombies. There are more of them than I thought.

High above the city, Miss Americana was struggling to conceal the panic that she felt. This was not the magnitude of hero work that she had signed on for when she’d decided to leave cyberspace for Freedom City IRL. Now there were zombies everywhere, and freaky things happening, and she didn’t even know where to start, or what to do, or how to help! Part of her was tempted to fly back to the basement and just lay low, if not give up entirely. But she had the power to help, and she’d promised herself she was going to start a new life. She couldn’t give up now. Just as she made that resolution, her attention was grabbed by a mass of zombies mobbing a familiar figure.

Harrier moved with a cold, mechanical precision, striking at the zombies at every turn. Sever the legs. Destroy the brain. Sever the legs. Destroy the brain. He’d fought enemies who had to be destroyed in ways like this before, and was calling on all his experience in combat to stay calm as the stink of rotting flesh splattered against his blank faceplate. I am not in the arena. They are not proles. I am in Lincoln. I am defending the neighborhood. He ignored the screams of the imaginary crowd of proles in ihs mind, and concentrated instead on destroying zombies. It was easier than it might have been: they didn’t scream like the living as he sliced them in half, then stabbed deep to destroy the brain, slowly walking backwards as an ever-growing mass of them swarmed all around him. I must distract them. I must.

“Harrier!” Miss A called, swooping down into the fray, lasers shooting from her hands in a brightly colored shower. “You look like you could use a little help!” She stayed just out of reach of the zombies, picking them off one after another with pointed gun-fingers, like a little kid playing Wild West duel. “Are you okay?”

“Yes.” He stepped forward and drove his pike upwards into the brain of a particularly large zombie, then flipped the blade around and fired a blast through the doors of a nearby mausoleum just as its angry occupants pulled it open, destroying a half-dozen unquiet dead at once. “I appreciate your help. There are many of these things here. If they escape the walls,” he added, “they will assault the neighborhood. The police presence has been called off the streets to other positions. The people are alone.”

“Well then,” she said with perfect confidence, at least on the surface, “we just won’t let them escape the walls.” Spreading her fingers wide, she beamspammed the crowd of zombies, knocking down a score of them all at once. “The people aren’t alone as long as the heroes are still working. Do we know if anyone’s trying to find the source of all this and stop it?”

“I have intercepted radio transmissions to that effect.” He joined her in ranged firing, picking off zombies in the rear of the crowd to let Miss A concentrate on the ones close by. “But the traffic is very heavy.” He felt a rumble in the ground beneath their feet, and his featureless armored face looked down. “There is a battle underground as well.” For the moment, at least, the number of zombies rising seemed to have tapered off, and they were left with the crowd in the cemetery with them. One severed head bit him on the ankle, its teeth breaking in a moment before an irritated Harrier bisected it with his energized blade.

“Do we know if those things are contagious?” Miss A asked, looking at Harrier’s leg with some concern. “Or is that just something from the movies?” She was a bit worried about the idea of Harrier being able to intercept radio transmissions, but the ones she broadcast were so well scrambled, even if he could pick them up, she was sure he couldn’t decode them. To give her laser time to cool down, she picked up a zombie and threw it at its fellows, sending all of them crashing hard into the wall of a mausoleum.

“My armor was unbroken,” replied Harrier, cocking his head as he studied the faint scratch marks on the surface of the Terminus steel. “I have been exposed to biological agents of a similar nature before,” he added shortly, opting not to fill in the blanks. No one wanted to hear about those. “As long as my armor is activated, I am shielded against organic attacks.” A fast burst of rapid-fire into that mausoleum’s flank caused a further collapse, pinning the zombies down as he picked them off one by one.

“Good to know,” Miss A told him. “I think we may be stemming the tide here. I wonder if every cemetery in the city is emptying the way this one has. We could have our work cut out for us. Behind you!” she called suddenly, as a couple more zombies lurched out of the ground just behind the ex-drone. She drilled one with her lasers just before it could leap on Harrier’s back and go for his neck.

Under another wave, Harrier returned to combat mode. Miss A had noted that he didn’t talk, and didn’t react to much as he fought, simply striking and blasting, over and over again, zombie parts coating the black, spiked metal of his armor. Luckily, the zombies were hideous enough that it wasn’t too bizarre watching an Omegadrone tear through the ranks of humanity. Suddenly, after one last great double-bombardment, he spoke. “It is unlikely this animation will overcome the superheroes of Freedom City. They have overcome greater threats than this before.”

“Your mouth to God’s ear!” Miss A called back, using precision strikes to pick off zombies in strategic places, bottlenecking their fellows and keeping Harrier clear to do the mass waves of destruction the Omegadrone was almost disturbingly good at. “We can hold out, at least, as long as someone is working on cutting off the flow. Given the age of Freedom City, the number of graveyards present, and the probable number of bodies in each cemetery, we could be fighting all night and not finish with them.”

“It would take significant orbital bombardment to destroy that many ground-bound targets,” agreed the former Omegadrone as if that sort of thing was the subject of conversation of normal people. “The civilizations on this planet would need some hours of work to construct devices of sufficient amplitude. But the local champions defeated an Invasion.” He put capital letters on the word while speaking aloud, and Miss A was smart enough to know what he meant. “They will deal with this without the need for significant firepower.” He was about to say more when flashes of light caught his attention, and he cocked his head, turning his whole upper body to see a small group of people inside an apartment complex overlooking the cemetery. They were taking pictures; pictures of himself and Miss A. “They must have witnessed our struggle on the ground.”

“It’s all right,” Miss A assured him. “Just keep doing what you’re doing, we’re almost done with this cemetery. If there’s any bad publicity for you about this, which is unlikely, we’ll just spin it. That’s why it’s good to have friends with the ear of the media.” She gave him a quick wink, even as she tucked her arms and dove, her super-speed and strength bowling over an entire line of zombies like dominoes.

They were at the work for hours, the two of them finding it easier to fight together than alone, gradually clearing away more and more of the walking dead from the streets of Lincoln. This wasn’t a neighborhood of the rich and powerful, or the young and beautiful, this was a working-class neighborhood full of people who needed heroes. And for a little while, at least, the gorgeous Miss A and the scary Harrier gave them exactly that. As night fell and the neighborhood got quiet, Harrier caught police signals from elsewhere in the city. “The dead are beginning to retreat. If they are mindless, then the tide has turned.”

“Thank God.” Though Miss A was possessed of superhuman speed and a tireless body, she was obviously slowing down, her reaction time growing slower and her shots more sporadic. “I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. It’s like rollout day on a new server.” She seemed to shake herself, drawing herself upright once again. “But in any case, we’re here till it’s over and done with. Hopefully, that’s very soon. I owe whoever’s stopping them a drink.”

“Yes,” agreed the Omegadrone, the tip of his power pike glowing in the dark like a gigantic lit cigarette. “It has been a long day.” He seemed fatigued, but not particularly traumatized by the legions of corpses they’d destroyed that day. He cast a look over at Miss A, as always his face hidden, and then at the neighborhood beneath their feet, the two of them both having taken to the air to patrol as the initial wave of monsters had died down. “I had heard that some of the dead who returned spoke, and had minds of their own. It is better that we encountered none here.”

“Yeah,” Miss A agreed with a sigh. “What we got is bad enough.” Eventually there were no more zombies to fight, and only the most dedicated or paranoid of heroes continued searching through the city for any that might not have retreated. Miss A spiraled down to land, her turns a bit drunken from exhaustion. “I’m going home now,” she told Harrier. “That was good work tonight. We’re pretty damn good heroes.”

Several nights later, a story about sightings of a heroic Omegadrone battling the zombie hordes made the back pages of the Freedom City Herald. Murdock neatly taped the cut-out pages to his wall, and remembered Miss A's words. Maybe I am. Maybe I am, at that.

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