Jiminy Cricket - The Sea Support Line

Chapter 1

“Today European Union announced a new strategy to deal with the recent refugee crisis. Called Oversea Refugees’ Support Line (ORSL), it will be formed by a line of bases built on decommissioned oil platforms in the middle of Mediterranean Sea. Those bases will be commissioned by transnational specialized NGOs personnel to triage and help people to get into Europe with everything ready to get asylum status at European countries.

The initiative, however, hadn’t passed out without critics: far-right politicians said it was a shame to deploy NGOs that ‘certainly will open Europe for the terrorism and globalism’, while some far-left said the ‘ORSL plan is to send people back Africa without even a bread’s morsel’.”

CNN News

“Alright, Altayr, gave those cables to Andre connect them to the antennae.” said the somewhat chubby boy, passing some cables through a small hole in the platform.

“Roger, Joshua.” said the Tunisian boy, flying outside the platform, some meters over the sea. That was easy for the former refugee, as he was an Atlas breakthrough, someone with the traditional super-heroic powers as people thought on them before The Event: flying, super-senses and superstrenght. In fact, Altayr chose his capename Djanni based on the strong Djinn from the Arabic mythos. Joshua, otherwise, was a Mastermind, with more mind-enhancing and will-bending powers. His Pretty Please! power could call people conscience and heart, making them doing what he wanted. Because of this, and as a Disney fan, he chose himself the capename Jiminy Cricket.

Albeit they both are underage, they were capes for Herós Sans Frontières, and so they were sent to help implementing the ORSL solution.

“I still don’t see why we should do all this.” said Eileen via Earbug, his friend, while double checking some cargo deployed by helicopter. “Why not just leave this for Sea Patrol? After all, is their work.” she said, while doing some of her magic to levitate the cargo crates from the helicopter to the platform ground. As Joshua and Altayr, Eileen was also a Cape, in her case a Merlin, someone that controls magical powers. She could fly and shrink into a little Tinkerbell-like form, but she chose to stay into a bigger size where she could work better her magic, as many of this equipment was sensible. As a ballerina that turned into a cape during a Nutcracker presentation, Eileen took as capename the character she was performing at the time, Sugarplum.

“The idea behind ORSL is to provide a kind of safe haven for people that are trying to get into Europe as refugees and, at the same time, provides a place from where troops could be deployed to fight pirates and other scum that attacks on the Mediterranean.” said the dandy nearby her, that was using a torch to oxy-weld some new antennae over the control room. Even on the hot and humid Mediterranean weather, Andre would wear for sure the same outfit of his personal hero and heroic namesake, Alberto Santos Dumont: formals with black tie and trousers, starched shirt and the iconic fedora hat, now added with a leather apron and gloves for the weld working, his steampunk goggles turned black to avoid the worse from the oxy-weld hurtful lightning. Albeit a Verne, a kind of super-science hero, he was not like Iron Man, his super-tech all steampunk based and themed: lots of brass and steam and so could be saw everywhere. But even with all this, his super-tech was still super: the oxy-weld he was using was small as a big beer can, but powerful enough to cut and weld big steel plates, like the one from the control room.

“So,” said Eileen “we’re being used as a kind of border police for European countries? This sounds so fishy!”

“I agree.” said the Japanese men, on a blue overall suit, white baseball cap and a pair of old-fashioned 80s mirror-shades. In his right arm, a big clock-like device could be seen. Seiji was a policeman from Keichisou, the Tokyo police, until he undergone a strenuous test and training to be a kind of after Event new police force: the so-called Twenty-First Century Police Force, capename Soldaire. Doning his Vernetech SolArmor, he could be as fast and strong as an A-Class Ajax, and could also use all kind of tactical support provided by a computer system on it, all the intel being shown on a HUD in his helmet.

However, he couldn’t use it all the time: using the SolArmor was really strenuous for the body, having a time limit to be used before health risk. And albeit this time limit being long enough, it would be better for them that Seiji doesn’t used the SolArmor by now, doing the leadership he normally does. And leaders normally feel when something is not right. “I don’t think this is the only reason they asked Herós Sans Frontières to support the ORSL project. Even giving us the platforms as bases, looks like that, at least, there’s some PR on all this. By showing the pubic that there will be breakthroughs here, specially those from HSF, they could avoid any PR backlash by deploying troops on the ORSL platforms.”

“So, the cabróns from the local government are not at all on this support to refugees thing.” said a man with a yellow and black mask that remembered a lot a stylished face of a badger. Juan, normally called by his capename Hufflepuff, was taking some of the big crates and unloading them, specially those from UNHCR, as their payload were heavier. “They are pushing things on us, and if everything goes okay, they take the profits. And if everything goes to the dogs, we’ll be the ones to be blamed.” while taking one of the crates. As a Luchador, he was almost as strong than an Ajax, but slimmer, leaner and more agile than one. And there was the Kayfabe, or, as Hufflepuff calls, La Passion por La Lucha, the kind of feeling that pump up their powers. Boastful, Hufflepuff have anyway a good smile for kids and so. It was very rare to see Hufflepuff without his mask, though: some says that a Luchador who loses his mask lose his powers with it, at least temporally.

“That’s what I fear” said Seiji, while checking some of the hardware before people install it. “But this will not happen if I can do something on it. At least, not in my watch.”

“We need to think on our own job.” said the other guy helping to unload the crates from the helicopters. Irish looking, red haired, and too much freckled for his age, Richard ‘Ric’ McInroy, capename LionHeart, was now part of the fixed roster for the Herós Sans Frontières. But, until some years before, he was a convicted guy transfered to the HSF, as previously known as The Bronx Shoulder, an Ajax that gave too much problems for NY Police. As an Ajax, he was super-strong and super-tough. But he had some smiling face for his friends and for kids. The only thing that could denounce him as a convicted under parole was the small bump behind his neck, where was implanted a small Vernetech chip device that generated a small signal that could be traced if he tried to get away from his parole, as if. “No matter what the Big Kahunas think, we should just do our job nice and smooth, and the rest can just go to Hell.” he said, while placing the crates into a elevator, to be deployed at the warehouse.

“Let us forget this. There’s lots of work to be done and supplies to be brought. And the distance from mainland is enough to tire even our best Atlases. Even Kuntur could not bring all we need from the mainland, crossing half the Mediterranean.” said other of the team guys. Kabba Bangura, callname Cabby, is a Paragon, someone that had gone almost as perfect a human being can be without superpowers. In fact, Kabba can drive or pilot anything that has a motor. Kabba was transfered from Roque Santeiro refugee camp, where Jiminy’s team were, to the team as a reinforcement after the ORSL project HSF agreement. With him, came also other three reinforcements: Dr. Lesley Dimantas (capename Squirrel Girl), Robert ‘Bob’ Nsele (capename Panther) and Josephine ‘Josie’ Nondaba (capename Kilimanjaro). With another Paragon, Leon Leclerc (capename Cajun), and the Bolivian Atlas Jose Marti Poma (capename Kuntur), they were the team deployed by HSF at ORSL 1, the first of the ORSL bases, into a decommissioned oil platform.

“Alright.” said Andre, finishing the antennae welding and plugging the cables Altayr passed him. “Joshua, turn the comms on.” said him via Earbug

“Roger.” said Joshua, turning on some keys and hitting some commands into a keyboard at the communication room. After setting some knobs, he took the radio mic and said. “Herós Sans Frontières BP1, here is ORSL 1, QRA Jiminy Cricket, QSL H5F1Q, QSS 402.005. Basic deploying on schedule, emergency deploy for recommission done. QSL? Copy!”

“QSL, Jiminy Cricket. BP1 here. QRA Geppeto, QSL H5F1J, QSS 405.230. QLB 5 by 5. We’re on you ORSL 1. Copy.” said the other side of the talk. QRA Geppeto was the radio-amateur callname his father took. As Joshua was Jiminy Cricket, his parents took callnames based on Pinocchio, his father being Geppeto and his mother being Figaro, the black cat owned by Geppeto (and after that, by Minnie Mouse).

“Copy. We’ll get back Italy for resupplying before everything is ready. We’ll give news as soon we finish recommission the platform. Over.” said Jiminy, finishing the connection.

“I don’t know why you’re still using this radio crap, Jiminy. Quantum-Links are way better than that.” pouting the little fairy “in front” of Joshua. And the weirdest thing is: normally only him could see her.

Capename Blue Fairy was a weird adding for the team roster. Some weeks before, Joshua was kidnapped by a really bad guy called Alsyf Alayat, the Sword Verses. A Mastermind like Joshua, he was instead trying to raise an army against Roque Santeiro people, calling them Zindiq, heretics, or Kafir, infidels. He would be killed if it wasn’t the intervention of Teatime Anarchist, the one who people believed was THE Super-Villain. In fact, he was doing what he could to avoid a dictatorship and totalitarian state rise in US and that could grew all around the world, and he tried to push things to avoid this agenda, against his evil quantum twin called Dark Anarchist.

And Joshua was part of this, his death potentially bringing problems for T.A.’s agenda. To avoid it, T.A. gave Joshua a bioseed, a special 22nd Century Vernetech device that “seeded” his mind with a Quantum Link to a 22nd century computer. In this computer there was the quantum mirrored personality of a girl that killed herself, jumping to death while origin chasing. Shelly Boyar was her name, and Blue Fairy was the third “active” copy of her personality. One of the other works for Chicago Sentinels as the “remote operator” for the Gynoid Galathea built by Vulcan, and the other acts into the Ouroboros Project, part of Kahle Conspiracy, as Shelly Boyar, “resurrected” thanks to Ozma’s Wish Pills, based on a wish done by Astra.

As a Quantum Ghost, normally Blue Fairy could only talk and be seen by Joshua, but by “downloading” her temporally into some special Vernetech devices she could interact with others.

“You know that this radio can operate into a triple-failure circuit: it even has a small internal battery that can power it under the direst situations so we can ask for help. Besides, calling help via Quantum Link would be a problem, as there’s only three other people we could ask for help using it: Astra, Shelly and Shell. And this could be a problem into a real time action.” said Jiminy, after finishing the basic communications setup, while getting out to the main level in the platform.

“I know, you boring kid.” giggled her, putting her tongue out “But, where are you going now?” said her.

“I’ll go with Cabby back the mainland.” stated Joshua “We’ll take more supplies to bring back, mainly food and other basics. And I’ll copilot the helicopter.”

“What?” gasped Blue Fairy “Who was the smartypants that had that idea?”

“Seiji.” said Joshua, shrugging “As a Mastermind, my powers are not too much combat focused. So, he think that I should train on all things for supporting the team: piloting helis and boats, radio operation, electronics… So, I’m training to take my heli pilot brief. Cabby is training me. And, need to say, with the Mastermind powers, this is easy peasy.”

“Cheesy!” said Blue Fairy, while he sat at the copilot “But I understand.”

“Alright.” said Kabba “Ready for the next lesson? Now you’ll take this off by your own. I saw your training into the simulator, and you did well, but now is real life. Remember: there’s at least 200 meters until the sea, and a crash would not be good at all.”

“Right.” said Joshua, gulping a little. He now is more accomplished with stressful situations, but he still doesn’t like them. So, he thought a little “Blue Fairy, don’t talk to me until I take this off, unless things goes dangerous, okay? Need to concentrate myself on this.”

“Roger!” said Blue Fairy, before getting out of his sight into a POOF! of virtual pixie dust.

Joshua put the headset over his ears and started the procedure.

“Turning on pumps… Fuel and Oil pressure okay. Turning on the turbine and the engine. Activating Gas Producer, NG getting up… Temperature operational… Engaging power, raising NG… Propellers on operational rotation… Lift off!” said Joshua, reciting each step like a kid doing the A-B-C.

The helicopter start to get out of the helipoint and started to get away from the platform, until all Joshua could see only the waves of the Mediterranean Sea below them.

“Good work, Joshua. Need only to double-check some things during the takeoff, but you did well… Think you can go till Malta?” said Kabba

“I think so.” said Joshua

“Okay. I’ll observe you doing the piloting and, if there’s any problem, I’ll take over command, alright?” said Kabba “Let’s go!”

And this way Joshua had gone until Malta, to take some extra cargo for their new home, the ORSL 1.

Chapter 2

“To be fair, the ORSL 1 base was a weird place to live: an old decommissioned oil platform, we took at least one week to do all the main job to make it habitable again. It was smelly and moldy, and it was difficult to put everything nice again, but some time after, we are almost as good there as at Geneva or Roque Santeiro. And the Vernetech Dumont put on it make things even better: we grown the base for our use until we could even get below the sea! We could even see the fish!”

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

As the base was not that big, it was like being back Roque Santeiro’s Barracks. In his quarters, Joshua lived with Altayr, Eileen and Lesley.

It was when the sun rose and they could see the sea. Joshua yawned and looked through the window to see the seagulls and waves.

“Alright, Joshua!” said Blue Fairy, showing into his sight dressed on pyjamas, even a sleeping cap over her virtual hair “Rise and shine.” she said, while everyone woke up.

“Okay.” said Joshua, yawning. “And now?”

“Now, for shower. And don’t be a whining kid: Altayr is already woke up.” said Blue Fairy

“Altayr is doing the Fajr praying, he should be.” said Joshua, looking for Altayr, his mattress pointed to an specific direction and him doing, silently and discreetly, the first of the five prayings of the Salat, the Muslim mandatory prayings. He got to the bathroom and took a shower while Altayr was finishing the prayer. As soon he got out, Altayr finished his prayer and Eileen and Lesley had woke up.

“Alright, Joshua.” said Altayr “School today?”

“Only afternoon.” said Joshua “I’ll have some breakfast and then I’ll need to go for some supplies with Cabby. I need to take hours piloting to get my pilot brief so Soldaire and Cabby are pushing me to fly as much as I can. After getting back, I’ll have school and then some extra lessons for my radio operation license by Dumont. And you?”

“School now, then patrol with Kuntur and Dumont and fighting training with Kuntur, Cajun and Hufflepuff. And Qu’ran studies with my father and some Imam from England.” said Altayr.

“And you Eileen?” asked Joshua, while he saw her getting back from the shower while Lesley gone to it.

“I’ll work at my final essay for the post-grad now, and then work with Lesley on triaging the refugees we rescued yesterday and then some Arabic class.” said Eileen.

“And I’ll work all day, and tonight I’ll read some of the new papers on breakthrough and refugees psychology.” said Lesley.

“Okay… Think everyone will have a full day.” said Joshua, a little down “Sometimes I miss the Roque Santeiro time, when we did everything together.”

“It’s temporary, sport.” said Eileen “We’re all working hard to recommission ORSL 1, and all the ORSL project. As soon things goes calmer, we’ll have shifts and so and then we can work back together.”

“Alright.” sighed Joshua, while dressing into his Jiminy Cricket costume, the simpler one, without the weapons and armor from his flying costume Iron Cricket. After put the costume, aside the hat and mask, he gone for a breakfast at the cafeteria, where the cater was all by LionHeart. Today he did pancakes and some bread and egg, coffee and milk and so. They all ate together and talked a little before each other going for their work.

Cabby was on his “costume”, so to speak: a military fatigue, with a straitjacket and a belt with two pistols, a dog-tag over his neck with some Leonean charms. He was checking some of the things at a big helicopter into a kind of parking lot for the helicopter, just below the platform main level.

“Hey, Kabba.” said Joshua.

“Now, kiddo. I know this is just a simple thing, but a mission is a mission, so let us do this fair and square. Alright, Jiminy Cricket?” said Kabba, smiling

“Oh! Right, Cabby!” said Joshua, or better, Jiminy.

“Alright. Today we’ll bring some big provision crates, so we’ll need to use one of the big helis. We’ll take the Mi-26T2.” said Cabby and Jiminy gasped.

In his training, since he came to ORSL, he was flying as much he could and also training in the simulator, but he only had flown real life small helicopters, like the AS355-NP Écureuil 2, nicknamed Twin Squirrel. The Mi-26T2 was the biggest helicopter all the world, and even with Atlases all around, this helicopter was still useful, because his speed and cargo capacity.

“Any problem?” said Cabby.

“No… I think I can copilot.” said Jiminy.

“In fact, I’ll copilot: I want you to be the pilot.” and that made Jiminy gasping even more “I did the pre-flying check and I’m just waiting the heli to be fueled. I have the flight plan here.” said Cabby, showing Jiminy a small clipboard with a flight plan, that Jiminy just skimmed very fast, understanding it fast thanks to his breakthrough-powered mind.

“Okay.” said Jiminy breathing heavily to calm down from the pressure he was feeling.

“Jiminy, I know you didn’t flown the Mi-26T2, even in the simulator, but we need to take the last supplies very soon: there’s a weather report for strong storms coming, and we need to be ready. Some the supplies we are bringing are vernetech materials Dumont need for reinforce the ORSL 1 enough to support the weather changes here at the Mediterranean. The plan is to go straight to Italian HSF base at Siracusa, take a time while the cargo is loaded and the heli refueled and then straight back. Maybe you’ll be late for school today, but hope there’s not too much time lost. However, the weather can change very fast and we could need to take a detour or even landing at Malta for a time. And this is not the only problem: we have a report from Interpol and Italian Sea Patrol of sky pirates in the region. Dumont had adapted our heli so we just need one pilot and the other could take a .50 machine gun the deployed, but I hope things are easy and we don’t need them, anyway.” said Cabby

Sky pirates: people that undergone breakthroughs with flying powers and gone rogue, or people that bought vernetech ways to fly and use them to rob airships and their cargo. They are a bigger menace on the Chinese States, but in the Mediterranean they are a pesky nuisance also. Djanni and Kuntur had already defeated some of them easily. All the contact with them that Jiminy had, however, was via intel and After-Action Reports he read or written.

“Alright. We’ll have any support into an emergency?” said Jiminy

“I believe so, we can ask for help. We are not to engage into combat, understood?” said Cabby, while they were getting into the big helicopter. A parking system took the helicopter from his place below the platform top and lifting it, while Jiminy did the starting procedure, double checking each pass while the big turbines and rotors were activated. So, as soon they got outside, they were ready for takeoff. Jiminy pushed the control lever, while pulling the power lever, so the power could be applied under the rotor and turbines, and the helicopter got away easily.

“Nice smooth takeoff, Jiminy. I little bumpy, but good for a first time with this big guy.” said Cabby. His “power”, so to speak, as a Paragon, was his driving and piloting skills: as far a thing had a engine and wheel or lever, he could pilot it easily. “Now, let us follow the plan as I did, right?”

“Right…“ said Jiminy “Blue Fairy, could you help me?”

“Oh, captain, my captain.” said Blue Fairy, showing herself on a kind of Navy uniform.

“When Cabby says next destination, could you plot a line into my line of sight?” he said.

“Sure. Easy peasy!” said her.

“Now, Jiminy, 400 knots NNE to our next reference.” said Cabby, and Blue Fairy heard it also via the quantum link she have with Jiminy’s brain and sensorial neural circuits.

“Route traced.” said Blue Fairy.

“Called your little cyberpixie helper?” said Cabby, and Jiminy nodded “This is very useful, but try to focus on the real instruments.”

“Alright.” said Jiminy, looking for the instruments.

“Cheapskate!” said Blue Fairy, putting her tongue out for Cabby, but only Jiminy could see her: as she wasn’t downloaded on some visual device, she only appeared into Jiminy’s visual field as an image the Quantum Link produced into his brain.

“Blue Fairy, Cabby is right: but a help is always welcome.” said Jiminy, looking to adjust the helicopter, until the compass would be in the correct place and the line Blue Fairy did was straight in front.

“Nice. Now… It’ll take at least one hour on this. Lock the autopilot and maybe you can take your French lesson.” said Cabby smiling, while Jiminy hitted a button in the panel and started with another to hear the French lesson.

The flight was a good one and the weather helped, so in somewhat two and a half hours they were at HSF base at Siracusa, and they took a meal while the Mi-26T2 was refueled and the supplies loaded to full cargo hold.

“The flight back home will be slower, because all our cargo.” said Cabby, hitting some keys on an epad where he was doing the flight plan back ORSL 1 “And looks there’s a chance we take a big rain in our way back ORSL 1. The Mediterranean weather is a mess, need to say.”

“Maybe we should ready some alternate routes.” said Jiminy, that took away his tails for a moment, as Siracusa was very hot. “This could help.” he said, taking a sip of his cold milkshake.

“I’ll put some alternate routes, so be ready to take action if needed. I think you can do well with your Bellax Analytica and with Blue Fairy help.”, said Cabby, looking for the small holoprojector Jiminy had placed over the table, while they rested and he did some class on Chemistry.

Blue Fairy was “downloaded” into it: this way, she could be seen by everyone and talk straight directly with them, as if she was a kind of cybernetic pixie. All that Jiminy needed to do is to touch a device time enough so she could do the job of “downloading” herself into it. She didn’t need Jiminy to touch the device again to be “uploaded” back Jiminy’s mind: this was taken by granted by the Quantum Link system that was the base of everything Blue Fairy.

“Now you want my help? You cheater!” said Blue Fairy, smiling, to Cabby “But it’s okay.”

“Okay.” a guy using green overalls with HSF logo on it said “The cargo had been loaded on your helicopter and it was refueled. I think this is the last cargo for the ORSL 1 recommission. We’ll talk with Geneva and ORSL 1 for more stable schedules for ORSL 1 resupplies. And I think that this kid can help us, if he was good enough to pilot a helicopter this big by himself.” said the man, looking with a smile for Jiminy, that was not too much a kid anymore. Being now twelve, he grew a lot and lost some of the childish chubbiness, but now he was a little gangly on the walk, and he was still using his costume like something straight from Disney Magic racks.

“Alright.” said Cabby, while he and Jiminy finished their refreshments and get into the helicopter. They could saw, while sitting in the pilot and copilot spaces, that the cargo was put into the helicopter: some big crates full of supplies.

“The voyage back will be slow.” said Cabby, looking back “We are too much heavy, most of our power being used just to push everything. And there’s also the chance of storm in the way.”

“I think I can deal with this if you need.” said Jiminy

“Sounds sensible. Better you use Bellax Analytica all the way: remember, there’s some nasty gossip about sky pirates. The flight plan was done to avoid as much as possible the bad weather, but maybe we should think on the issue: IMHO, between sky pirates and a storm, I go for a storm any day.” said Cabby, while they started the power-on and liftoff procedure, Cabby and Jiminy hitting buttons and pushing levers and seeing the instruments until the big helicopter got out the ground and they gone to the Mediterranean Sea.

The first hour was okay, even both of them trying to not talk too much: the weather computer, receiving information from the same system airplanes uses real-time, was showing the storm just tangentially in the route Cabby traced and inputted into the flight computer system.

It was when Jiminy felt the same weird tingling when his Bellax Analytica engaged, when he foresaw something creepy:

“Cabby, sounds like we’ll have company soon. I know the radar doesn’t show anything, but…“ said Jiminy.

“I understand.” said Cabby “Hope you’re wrong, but better safe than sorry: which side? or both?” said Cabby

“Looks like they’ll go port side. They are coming from someplace from Tunisia or Algeria.” said Jiminy.

“Okay… I’ll take one of the turrets. Stay on pilot. If we have a situation, as soon I need to open fire, call ORSL 1: certainly there’s someone ready for action there.” said Cabby, pulling a little VR helmet-like device: a vernetech deployed on the heli by Dumont, when engaged turned the lever on copilot (Cabby’s) seat a control for one of the twin .50 turrets put as a defense system below it. There wasn’t too much ammo, just less than 100 rounds of bullets each: the idea was just buy time until the cavalry arrive.

“You’re right Jiminy, they are coming, I don’t even need the radar. I have them on visual, somewhat 10 knots from us.” said Cabby

“Changing route through the storm!” said Jiminy “Blue Fairy, trace me the route: 10 hours, 440 knots.”

“Roger!” said Blue Fairy, showing him the line. “Hope this one is not a nasty one.”

“Sounds like.” said Jiminy, seeing the black clouds and the blur made by the rain “I’m rerouting the heli to just get into the storm enough to make them lost our scent.” said Jiminy, when he felt the first impacts of bullets hitting the heli.

“There’s ten of them: at least four of them fliers by themselves, at least one of them a B-Class electrokinectic, the others two C-Classes Atlases and an C-Class aerokinetic. The non-fliers are using ‘commonplace’ Vernetech ornithopters. Heavy weapons: they think we have Ajaxes or Atlases here.” said Jiminy, when he hit the comm button for ORSL 1 frequency. “ORSL 1, Transport 2, Jiminy Cricket here. We have tangos on our port side, less than five knots. We’re under attack and request help.”

“Here’s ORSL 1. Soldaire here. Sugarplum and Kilimanjaro are a go! Hold the transponder engaged no matter what. Djanni and Kuntur are a go ASAP. Hold your situation.” said Soldaire, while Jiminy could hear the BUDDHA-BUDDHA-BUDDHA from the turret

“Cabby, are you safe?” said Jiminy

“I can held myself, if you need to push on.” said Cabby.

“I’ll try to gain some speed.” said Jiminy, focusing his Bellax Analytica on the helicopter flying and pulling the speed lever as far he could.

“Jiminy, take care, don’t push too much!” said Cabby.

“I’ll do!”, said Jiminy, leaving the hand as soon the speed was okay, when he gasped!

“Cabby, be ready for a Charlie Foxtrot!” said Jiminy


“They’ll try to flank us! Some of them were flying low and now they are coming from the star side!”

“What the…“ said Cabby, when they felt a strong hit, the heli shaking a little, Jiminy didn’t believe he held the control.

“RPG!” said Jiminy, holding the control lever like he was riding a wild horse in a rodeo “We didn’t lost a shaft by luck, as it didn’t hit us straight, exploding in the air thankfully, but we were hit just by the shockwave, very luckily.”

“We should not take this for granted!” said Cabby, controlling the turret. “I don’t think I can hold them too much. Be ready for a crash landing if needed: better alive than dead. Take us out of the storm it would be safe.”

“Right!” said Jiminy, pushing the lever to get away from the storm, losing the cover.

“Alright… I’ll make them pay dearly to blown us!” said Cabby.

The combat was intense, and even Cabby making two of them fall in the sea, they were hitting the heli hard.

“C’mon Sugarplum, where are you?” said Jiminy, trying to not follow the ways where his Bellax Analytica showed the helicopter down and/or each of them being shot strong by the pirates, but even with his training he was starting to despair, and even Blue Fairy tips on what to do are doing little to avoid this.

“Jiminy, the cavalry had come!” said Blue Fairy, when he saw two bolts of energy crossing the sides of the heli, hitting some of the attacking forces.

He could see Sugarplum, that was not on Tink mode, but into on a cloud blue costume, pointing the wand to the tangos Jiminy could see below him. He could hear a strong BOOM, like the air was pressurized below them, and he could feel the aftershock sent by Sugarplum attacks.

“Jiminy, go! We can stop them.” said Sugarplum via radio

“No way! We’ll help.” said Jiminy, pushing the engine lever to a halt position, making the helicopter stops all of nothing.

“Hey, Jiminy! Be calmer next time!” said Cabby, while Jiminy hit the autopilot to ensure the helicopter would stay on position.

He could see the lighting bolts getting from Kilimanjaro’s hands. A very impressive woman, she left her tribe, the Nondabas, that she should be leading as successor after her mother and grandmother, Mabinty and Masseray, passed away during an attack by the Undying Caliphate some months before. But the people from her tribe disbanded, joining other tribes, and she had now responsibility for only two people, the brothers Sawie and Senesie, the last one a B-Class Merlin Jiminy and the others helped to avoid goes crazy during a drug induced psychotic breakthrough and was now living in ORSL 1.

“No, Cabby. They brought us the Foxtrot, now they’ll dance!” said Jiminy, taking his hand to the same VR device Cabby was using.

“No, Jiminy, Cabby is right!” said Blue Fairy. “Let me do this: I can engage the VR system, just touch it time enough I can configure myself!” said her “Focus on take all of us out of this and back ORSL 1!”

“Alright.” said him, sighing, while just touching some of the contacts on it.

He knew the weird feel when he “downloaded” Blue Fairy on other devices. Normally, he could “download” her to any device with wireless connections to let her go loose. But the helicopter was all wired and shielded, so he needed to do this via some device. He just waited time enough until he hear her voice via radio, like she was somewhere else.

“Alright. Deployed! Let’s go!” said Blue Fairy, when he felt the other turret being engaged.

Jiminy pushed the hand back to the handle and disengaged the autopilot, pushing the helicopter back front, while he could see Kilimanjaro and Sugarplum doing some shots against the sky pirates, and he could see Kuntur and Djanni going to join Sugarplum and Kilimanjaro.

“We should slow a little…“ said Jiminy

“No, this will only ease things for the tangos.” said Cabby “Trust on them, they know the drill…“

“Maybe I should too…“ said Jiminy meekly.

“They trust you know your drill.” said Cabby smiling, below the VR headset “Make their trust worthy, and trust them.”

“Alright.” sighed Jiminy, when he heard Djanni saying something on the radio

“Jiminy, open the cargo bay. The tangos are down or flew away.” he said

“Alright.” said Jiminy, hitting a button while the cargo door was opened, and they entered the helicopter on flying. “Let us get back ORSL 1.”

Everyone could see Jiminy was uneasy while he was doing the After Action Report: he was almost the clerk of the team, and for him doing this was like breathing after all the time at Herós Sans Frontières.

“Bees on your bucket, short stuff?” said Sugarplum, looking for him, in the small desk at his bedroom where he was filling the After-Action Report.

“I’m not too much short anymore, you know.” said Jiminy, albeit being the shortest of the team, even Djanni being bigger than him. “I’m pissed off on being treated like a kid in field.”

Sugarplum looked to him.

“Look: first of all, you need to understand that your powers are NOT FOR COMBAT AT ALL. All times you engaged combat, you were defeated or needed to be saved somehow or had gone very hurt.” she said “I know you want to be useful on field, and you are more than you think.”

“I’m not so useful…“ said Jiminy

“I know what are you thinking on. You’re still thinking on the events from your last time at Newark.” said Sugarplum.

Last time (at all, if you ask Jiminy and his family) he got back his birth city, Newark, he was asked to give an anti-origin-chasing talk for his former school colleagues. He then was attacked after the speech by some of the bullies that almost killed him, making him passing through breakthrough. They also undergone breakthrough during a riot at the youth detention center, and Jiminy had to fight them to avoid civilian casualties. They came to ‘tag’ him and get a kill on for them as a way to build a fame as Super-villain. He was very injured and, even dropping one of them and convinced the other to help him, he was almost killed. In the process they damaged the school foundations, making it go down, and just the help of Presto, the one of them that defected to help Jiminy, avoided lots of fatalities.

But more than the body injury (reduced for some scars from leaf-made cuts), the worst ones were the injuries in his mind: he could deal with being almost killed by a very powerful super-villain as Alsyf Alayat, the Sword Verses. He still could not cope being almost killed by someone his own age.

“Not just this… Looks like all time I get into combat, I got injured.” said Jiminy, frustrated.

“I know.” said Sugarplum “I can’t say this will be easy for you to deal with, but you need to remember…“ she said, doing the Rock-Paper-Scissors gesture.

“If you’re scissors,” said Sugarplum, doing the scissors gesture “you need to fight paper, not scissors or rock.” she complemented, doing the gestures with her pretty hands “Fighting scissors is difficult, as you did when you fought Alsyf Alayat, as your powers as similar and so difficult to fight each other. But fight rock is totally impossible: he’ll almost certainly break you 100% of the times. I understand that you felt yourself useless on that time at Newark. But, in fact, you weren’t: you gained time and survived, and even saved Presto from get into the same fate of the others, to go for Detroit SuperMax, after he helped you saving the people in the school.”

Presto was one of your attackers: a B-Class Merlin, his powers were based on invoking and using powers from Dungeons & Dragons game. And, Jiminy looked after, it was a big source of creepypasta if brought to real life. Now he was under a parole back to Hillwood Academy, while the others are in a prison for super-villains. The fact he helped to save people was put into accord to allow him get back Hillwood instead going for a Juvenile ward at Detroit SuperMax.

“I know you had no option beside fighting: they came looking for you, and you felt that you could be dead. But now… You’re with us. You’re our scissors. You can’t win just with scissors, but we can’t win just with paper and/or rock. You need to find the best combination.” said Sugarplum, looking for Jiminy: she knew normally he took out his Cricket-shaped half-mask while doing the After Action Report, but now he was on it, and she knew why.

He was crying.

“I just…“ sobbed Jiminy, tears starting to form in his eyes.

“I know… You want to be useful. Cabby said me what happened, and I know that he and Soldaire retorted you when you got back ORSL 1.” said Sugarplum, holding his hands. “But look: you need to understand that Cajun, Soldaire and the others, when teach you combat skills, they expect you can survive a situation, but not win it. Your powers are more useful when helping others to extract the 110% of what they could do. This is the scissors, this is your power. None of us can win alone, and I need to say fortunately: if you ask me, as soon you think you can solve all kind of situations all by yourself, you’re just a itty bitty tad to go super-villain.”

Jiminy took his mask, and Sugarplum took a little handkerchief from a pocket from under her tutu and petticoats and passed it to Jiminy.

“Sorry… I… I just don’t know…“ said Jiminy, while using the handkerchief to dry his tears.

“It’s okay: you had a lot in those times. You’re still a kid, and you want to prove yourself, even more that you’re growing into a teenager, so you felt frustrated when you start to see and feel your limitations. But this is part of being adult: to know that (a) you’re not self-resilient and (b) you’re not alone.” said Sugarplum.

“Thanks, Su… Eileen.” said Jiminy, somewhat breaking a kind of cape social protocol: you normally don’t use a cape real name when he’s on costume, even if you know it.

“That’s okay, kiddo.” said Sugarplum, when they heard someone knock the door. It was Dumont

“Jiminy, Sugarplum, I just finished an important thing, and the supplies you brought, Jiminy, were critical for this. Want to take a look?” he said, and Joshua nodded, putting back his mask.

They got until a place where one of the original spars were. Those spars were reinforced with a net made of carbon fiber and graphene nanotubes, made by Dumont and a task-force of Vernes, using the physical structure from the spar as a vine scanders a liana or other trees and structures to hold itself. The original spar was now almost empty space that the same task-force was reinforcing for turn it into useful space, for more accommodations and supply stores. In the one Dumont brought them, there was a elevator, like those from shoppings, althought real big.

“Alright, let’s go.” said Dumont, hitting a button, and they felt they were going down… And down… And down…

Until the could see the elevator getting into some water that was in the spar, and then, sometime after, going transparent, when they saw they where under the sea. Jiminy could not avoid go WOW, looking the vibrant sea life all around, with all the fishes and octopuses and mantas and stuff, even some small sharks passing near and there.

“They can’t get in: this is glassluminum, a vernetech alloy, stronger then carbon fiber and graphene, and more foldable. And, even better, transparent and almost without ecological impact. ORSL 1’s ecological footprint is very low.” said Dumont, proudly, when they saw on a side a big block of something like concrete that was connected to a place below them.

It was when, after 3 or 4 minutes on the elevator, they gone somehow 750 meters below the sea line, at the sea bed, and the elevator connected himself to a door. He needed to wait a little, and they could hear some kind of pressure system engaging.

“Just correcting the pressure to avoid an explosive decompression.” said Dumont, when the door opened to what looked like a very hi-tech base, that could not be humbled by Chicago Sentinels’ Cave. There was still lots of empty space, but the Star Trek-like design and all the equipment that was placed on it showed that things were really super-tech, as all Vernetech should look.

“Sorry not talked about this with you before. This was a classified project from Herós Sans Frontières, part of ORSL project. We call this Atlantis.” said Dumont, looking for Sugarplum and Jiminy amazed faces.

Chapter 3

“Project Atlantis was a classified project in the time: even I didn’t knew all the details from it then. The idea was, via Vernetech, to create a submarine infrastructure in deep waters. The experiment was the basis for other deep water bases used all around the world by CAI teams that needs to work into places with too much ocean nearby, like Fiji, Japan and, obviously, nearby the Mediterranean Sea.”

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

The “official” event for Project Atlantis was small: as a classified project, they could not disclosure the details at the time. But there was some capes and even non-cape officials from UNHCR and HSF, including Jiminy and Djanni’s parents. It was incredible for Jiminy that some of the Chicago Sentinels came: Vulcan, the team Verne, was one of the minds behind Project Atlantis with Dumont.

“As soon people talked about the ORSL project, and EU accepted the recommission of ORSL 1, we implemented Project Atlantis, as an extra base for Herós Sans Frontières.” said Vulcan “Your numbers are really big: at least 150 fixed capes, beside all the volunteers from around the world. Looks like Geneva base was a little cramped, or so Dumont said me.” he said smiling “And the idea behind Project Atlantis was also good to look as a way to deal with convicted super-villains. We are into a surge of super-villainy recently, and the recent resurgement of The Ascendant and his breaking into Detroit SuperMax are making us looking for alternatives on how to deal with all the super villains in the system.”

“And how Project Atlantis could help on this?” asked Jiminy, that was drinking some soda and eating small tuna sandwiches, their parents taking some finger food and wine or sake.

“You see: deep water and the oceanic Benthic Zones are still a great problem for sea operations, the real Final Frontier. Even with all the resources that can be exploited on the sea mantle, using just ‘normal’ tech for doing this exploration is not only costly, but very dangerous. And even for breakthroughs, trying to get down the deep waters is risky: by doing it, even A-Classes Ajaxes or Atlases risk their lives, as even this level of power can be not enough to cope with the abyssal pressure and the absence of breathable oxygen that far below the sealine. There’s some Metamorphs that can go this below by turning into fish and other water creatures, but even they need to change in the meantime into some of the abyssal creatures that are able to cope with the pressure and absence of air, and this is also risky, because a failure in the shape-shifting could result into instantaneous death.” said Vulcan

“So, by creating something like this Project Atlantis somewhere in the Benthic Zones, you could insulate the worst criminals into a hostile environment.” said Mr. McCarthy, after eating some sushi “But, why not doing this on space? The technology for it is somewhat common and already dominated. And with Vernes, we could build space prisons easily and cheaply.”

“But there’s lots of Atlas and other capes that could cope with the void vacuum, hold their breath time enough to resist the oxygen absence, deal with the almost zero kelvin temperature, cope with the hellish temperatures and friction in the atmospheric re-entrance and so. And there’s a risk component: think on Iron Jack, one of our reserves. He’s a Metamorph that can change his body into cast iron. If a villain with his powers goes to a space prison, he could just do some impulse and turn himself into a denser material than the prison walls to easily break it away, and this would be bad enough, because the prison could blow because the catastrophic depressurization.” explained Vulcan

“Then, without friction, he would gain more and more speed, by the acceleration and inertia, and with so he could gain even more momentum and kinetic energy. The denser material would, at least theoretically, allow to him to cope the re-entrance and so. And, if you think that the median human has 110 pounds of mass, and almost all the Metamorphs could change his mass, or at least 90% of it, into another kind of matter, you could have at least a Hiroshima-like explosion, beside the radiation, as soon he hit the ground, thanks all the kinetic energy gathered in the process that would be dissipated in the hit. Think this getting into Chicago, New York or San Francisco. It would be a catastrophe for sure. A hit in the sea could create a tsunami big enough to heavily damage coast cities” said Vulcan, which made the McCarthys gasp

“In the sea, the water could be a really discouragement factor. Bruce Lee was right to see water as a versatile, strong and deadly element: some megatons of water with lots of pressure is enough to deal with even the worst A-Class Ajax/Atlas villain, even Ultras being somehow manageable. Even considering our hypothetical Iron Jack-turned-evil scenario, the water pressure and mass would hit him pretty hard as soon he broke the prison. He would be not able to resist a re-arrest, even more as there was ways to detect soon, as he would be exhausted with coping with so much punishment the water would deal on him.”

“And so, water could be a easier way to contain them.” understood Jiminy

“But where you would deploy this SuperMax?” asked Mrs. McCarthy

“The Project Atlantis is still under a test: this base is the first prototype, built by Herós Sans Frontières, Chicago Sentinels, UNHCR and lots of countries as a proof of concept. The economic viability is still being put into accord… but we already had some results and it’s promising. We are into talks, classified of course, to do this somewhere into international waters in places like the Atlantic or the Ring of Fire. Some studies are even considering explore the Mariana Trench, as it’s very deep, 11 thousand meters.” said Blackstone, coming around, lifting discreetly his hat. As always, he was a kind of dandy, but those who underestimate him because this normally pay dearly: his stage magic based powers are strong, and he was an US Marine before the Event, a great intel specialist, and one of the last founder members of the Chicago Sentinels. And as an extra factor, beside him, he was with Seven, the super-lucky hero. His power was officially the enhanced serendipity: almost all time, if he wanted, he got it.

“How are you, Mr. and Mrs. McCarthy, Jiminy?” asked Blackstone, smiling

“We are fine, thank you Blackstone.” replied Jiminy the cumpliment by lifting his hat. With Blackstone, Seven and Vulcan, there was also The Harlequin, discreetly sassy on her party dress; Chakra, into her half Indian half Gypsy clothes, and Astra, that left her big bell-shaped mallet, Malleus, behind. “And thank you for all the help you gave me last year. I would be dead now otherwise.”

“Shelly and Shell are the ones you should be thankful for, Jiminy. And Blue Fairy also, as she was the one who alerted us where you were after all.” he said “But you’re a good kid after all, and we need more kids like you, as a new generation of capes is coming. And need to say for you, Mr. and Mrs. McCarthy: I liked what I’ve read in ‘Superdads’.” said Blackstone, looking for a pocket from where he took, by his stage magic, a hardcover copy of the book.

Superdads: Parenting kids, breakthrough or not was the book Jiminy’s parents written based on the experiences on raising him, with extra opinions from other breakthrough parents and psychologists and other specialists. It was a New York Times Best-Seller and had raised some money for HSF and awareness on how to deal with breakthrough children. There was the fair share of criticism, sure, but it was okay for Jiminy as lots of people liked it.

Blackstone showed it like he wanted it signed and while Jiminy’s parents signed the book for Blackstone, Jiminy’s Earbug beeped.

“I’ll left you for just a minute, excuse me.” said Jiminy, getting a little away, before hitting the Earbug. “Jiminy here.”

“Jiminy, Soldaire here: we have some information about a big schooner-like boat in the middle of the sea, nearby Algerian sovereign waters, already into international waters. Looks like the kind of people we need to rescue after all, here in ORSL 1. But the weather there is a mess, and there’s a chance they sink before any Sea Patrol boats, Algerian or otherwise, get nearby.” said Soldaire, that was on duty in the Control Room, so in the Dispatch.

“Right. Just a minute.” said Jiminy, looking for his parents and the Sentinels. “Sorry, I’m on duty today: need to answer Soldaire’s call.”

“It’s okay, sweetie.” said Mrs. McCarthy, kissing him in the cheek, which made Jiminy blush. “Just do your job fair and square and take care and we’ll be okay with this.”

“Alright.” said Jiminy, going for the elevator and hitting back the Earbug “I was talking with Blackstone and my parents, I just could not leave them out of nothing.”

“It’s okay.” said Soldaire “The radio comm says they’re really overloaded, with at least 100 people.”

“What?” said Jiminy, and he looked that Djanni, Kuntur, Sugarplum and Dumont were going too.

“I already deployed Transport 2 in action with Cabby and Kilimanjaro. They are going first to start the rescue and double-check the weather. You’ll go with Transport 1 for support and deploy the rest of team. Simple drill: we’ll send you at the site. Kuntur and Sugarplum will be the ones to rescue anyone in the sea. Djanni and Dumont will take the ones in the boat. Cabby and you will hold the helicopters only high enough so they can use the platforms we built to put everyone in the helis. As soon you finish it, get back: the sea is troubled and they are in the middle of a storm.” said Soldaire, while they were going back to ORSL 1 via the elevator.

“Alright. Any tangos or potential ones?” asked Jiminy

“AFAIK, no.” replied Soldaire “Anyway, it’s better to act with caution: all the terrorist nuts nearby are trying to take a tag on us and take ORSL 1 as their possession.”

“Right.” said Jiminy, getting out the elevator straight to the helicopter.

Transport 1 was a Mi-171A2, a little smaller than the Mi-26T2 he already flown out, but still a big helicopter.

“Okay, everyone in the back. I’ll pilot and Blue Fairy will help me.” said Jiminy, getting into the pilot post, activating the basic avionics and radio putting the headset over his head, his hat in the copilot seat. “Soldaire, Jiminy here in the Transport 1. Starting the liftoff procedure. Need the coordinates for the target.”

“Sending you.” said Soldaire, reciting the coordinates, while Blue Fairy, that was in her Navy uniform, heard it also through her Quantum Link.

“Right!” confirmed Blue Fairy, while Jiminy hitted the coordinates into the flight system “Tracing Route.”

“OK. Sounds this will be a rough rodeo if the intel is right.” said Kuntur. “Jiminy, I think you know the gig.”

“I know it. And I have Blue Fairy as copilot.” he said, while touching the headset time enough to “download” her into the helicopter autopilot system. Then he finished the liftoff process

“So, take us there.” , said Sugarplum

“Alright. ORSL 1, Transport 1 departing!” said Jiminy, pushing the levers to liftoff the helicopter.

The helicopter got the right direction and some time after they could see, as a little point in the horizon, Transport 2, the Mi-26T2, being piloted by Cabby.

“Transport 2, Transport 1 here.” said Jiminy “We have you on visual, and we can see that the weather is rough. What can you say?” asked Jiminy

“Transport 1 here.” said Cabby in the radio “It’s a rough weather here: storm and big winds. I took Kilimanjaro with me, but even her can’t stop the rain enough. So she’s doing her weather control to reduce the risks, specially the thunder and strong winds ones.”

“Right.” said Jiminy, passing forward the information for everyone.

“Dumont,” said Kuntur “do you still have that Faraday Cage-like jackets you built?”

“Yup!” said Dumont

“So, we’ll put them on the refugees. Me and Djanni could stand a thunder direct hit, even getting hurt. You and Sugarplum, take care. Kilimanjaro will do her best to hold the weather condition stable enough to be safe, but be alert.” said Kuntur, pushing some pallets and mounting the caddy to hold the refugees to be brought to the helis.

“We’ll start with Transport 2 as it is bigger, and so we can ensure more people be rescued.” said Cabby. “Then we’ll load the Transport 1 and we’ll get away together ASAP.”

“Right!” said Jiminy, and they got into the place, just a little below and nearby the Transport 2. “I’m getting down a little to ease things.”

He was 10 meters above the water, and the sea was really troubled.

“I’m opening now. I can’t get down anymore: the winds and the waves could hit us and throw us in the sea!” said Jiminy, hitting a small button and opening the helicopter back. The winds crashing against the inner walls made Jiminy finch a little while holding the control lever to make the helicopter stable. “Go go go!”

The other capes got out: Sugarplum did some charms to avoid everyone and the caddies being wet, while Kuntur and Djanni got down to rescue the refugees.

“We are from Heroes Without Borders team at ORSL 1 base. Please, evacuate the boat orderly. Women and Children first. Follow the orientations from our capes and we’ll rescue you. Nous sommes des Héros Sans Frontières équipe à la base ORSL 1. S’il vous plaît, évacuer ordonné le bateau. Les femmes et les enfants d’abord. Suivez les orientations de nos caps et nous vous sauverons. nahn min ‘abtal bila hudud fi fariq ORSL 1 qaeidatin. min fidlik, ‘iikhla’ alqarib almunazama. alnisa’ wal’atfal ‘awla. atabae tawajuhat min alruwuws ladayna, wanahn sawf ‘iinqadh lakum.” said Jiminy, using the megaphones at the helicopter, and he could see everyone being put with some of Dumont’s jackets that worked also as life jackets.

“Blue Fairy, on radar and comms. Anything weird, say me. I need to concentrate on hold the helicopter attitude. Not too easy with all those winds, and the shafts are not giving all the power thanks the water and low air temp.” said Jiminy.

“Aye aye, sir!” said Blue Fairy, while Jiminy could see via the camera the first refugees being sent to the Transport 1.

“Alright, we are okay…“ said Jiminy. when he felt something tingling on him.

“Everyone, be ready! Looks like we have some tangos coming.” said Jiminy, looking for the radar.

“I confirm tangos!” said Blue Fairy via Earbug

“Alright! Sugarplum, Dumont, hold our position. Jiminy, make Blue Fairy take the turret on Transport 1, I’ll take Transport 2’s.” said Cabby.

“We had already put 40 of them on Transport 2.” said Djanni. “One of them talked me they are 90, inclding the already rescued. ETA for the tangos, Jiminy?”

“ETA 180 seconds.” said Jiminy

“I think we can rescue the last ones before the tangos came. Hurry up, Kuntur!” said Djanni

They brought the caddies back and rescued another 40, 20 of them into the Transport 1.

“There’s blankets and some hot drink for you to heat yourselves in the rack at the left side. Please, take them and hand them out to everyone. Il y a des couvertures et de la boisson chaude pour vous chauffer dans la grille sur le côté gauche. S’il vous plaît, prenez-les et distribuez-les à tout le monde. hnak albitaniaat wabaed almashrubat alssakhinat balnsbt lk litaskhin ‘anfusakum fi alrafi ealaa aljanib al’aysur. yrja ‘akhadhaha wataslimuha ‘iilaa aljamie.” said Jiminy, making his French and Arabic lessons pay their profits, and he looked everyone taking the blankets and the thermos with hot cocoa that were deployed before they got out.

“Jiminy, ETA for tangos 30 seconds!” stated Blue Fairy

“Djanni, Kuntur, speed this up!” commanded Jiminy “Cabby, take Kilimanjaro and Dumont and get out!”

“I’ll gain some seconds, kid!” stated Kilimanjaro.

An ex-villain, now a HWB cape as part of her parole, Josephine ‘Josie’ Nondaba was a weather controller: she could change the weather and use it also for things like flying and shooting thunderbolts. She started to make the sea even more troubled just after Djanni left the last ones, sending some thunderbolts in the air nearby.

“I can’t do too much more!” hurried Kilimanjaro “Hurry up!”

“Alright! Did it!” stated Djanni

“They are coming!” shouted Dumont, when they saw a RPG being shot. Sugarplum did a small swish with her fairy wand and put a magic shield in front of them where the RPG exploded.

“Go, Jiminy, Cabby!” said Sugarplum. “Kuntur, Djanni, Dumont, Kilimanjaro, let us make those tangos get away!”

“Right! Blue Fairy, back to me! Provide me radar intel and a traced route back ORSL 1! Need to focus on piloting!” said Jiminy, when he saw the small fairy-like quantum ghost “showing” herself “into” his eyesight.

“Aye, aye, captain!” said Blue Fairy, the line pointing general direction.

“Djanni, Sugarplum, protect Transport 1! Kuntur, Kilimanjaro, on Transport 2!” said Dumont “I’ll give you cover!”

“Be ready to get out!” said Kilimanjaro “I’ll undo the weather control… Be ready!”

Kilimanjaro did a move and Jiminy felt the storm intensifying.

“Let’s get out, Jiminy!” said Cabby, when they started to hear the bullets flying.

“Hold yourselves! Tenez-vous! eaqad ‘anfusakum!” said Jiminy, pulling the shaft lever for full power, after closing the door. He could hear the refugees somehow scared on the reaction. “Blue Fairy, any chance you could do a radar like those on video-games into my line-of-sight?”

“Well, I can.” said Blue Fairy “But I fear you get too much information to focus, so you lose the focus on either piloting and helping the others with your Bellax Analytica.”

“I had worst before… You don’t know how much I felt at Nondaba village during an information oversurge that send my Bellax Analytica amok. But less talk now!” said Jiminy

“Okay, but if it goes overload, ask me to disengage ASAP!” said Blue Fairy, making a gesture and making the radar shows into his line-of-sight, on bottom-right of his visual field.

“Everyone, they have big weapons, probably lots of RPGs!” said Jiminy “Sugarplum and Kilimanjaro, use your powers to provide defense. Dumont, use the flares on Demoiselle to meddle with the RPGs’ electronics. Djanni and Kuntur, go for them. If needed, ram them!”

“Right, Jiminy!” said Sugarplum, and he saw her doing some magic on the helicopter back. He could see the RPGs launched exploding into the defense barriers lifted by Sugarplum and Kilimanjaro, or being take off course by Dumont’s flares.

“Jiminy… They’re using torpedo boats!” said Djanni “And there’s at least six or seven tangos each boat. Looks like that also at least one breakthrough per boat.”

“Alright!” said Jiminy “Don’t try to do the Super-Man by throwing the missiles back them, they activate on touch. Deal with as much of them you can, but safely! Cabby, full power forward!” said Jiminy, pulling the lever even more forward

“Jiminy, slow down! You’ll stress the turbine. There’s a chance of a blast, and losing it or the shaft would result into a crash.” said Cabby, and Jiminy brought back the lever to the safety power level.

“Right!” Jiminy said, hitting the radio button in the control lever “ORSL 1, we need reinforcements. Six torpedo boats, at least 50 tangos, estimated BT-ratio 1:5” BT-ratio, or Breakthrough Ratio, was the number of breakthrough per common tango.

“Roger!” said Soldaire “Squirrel Girl is taking my post. I’m getting there with Seven under Transport 3. Bring the tangos to the Inner Defense Line.”

The Inner Defense Line was the region from half an nautical mile radius from ORSL 1, and was accorded as a kind of extra-national sovereign line for Herós Sans Frontières.

“Everyone, we have to get into IDL. ETA 300 seconds from now!” said Jiminy.

“We’ll need to hold those tangos for FIVE freaking minutes?” said Sugarplum

“And the weather is growing worse. Looks like they have their own weather manipulator. B-Class like me, or even A-Class.” said Kilimanjaro.

“On it, Kilimanjaro! Dumont, help Kilimanjaro! Djanni, Kuntur, go for the boats! Sugarplum, use your magic to destroy the boats’ engines. Blue Fairy, get into the turret system!” said Jiminy

“Jiminy, I’ll go too far away from my computing capacity.” said Blue Fairy “If you want me on the turret, I’ll need to take either the radar or the route tracer off.”

“Take the tracer.” said Jiminy “And engage the system. Focus on disable their boats engines and to drop the fliers. No Havoc Protocols, still.”

“Aye aye, sir.” said Blue Fair, when Jiminy touched with his right hand a XLR connector for the copilot, “downloading” Blue Fairy. The turret engaged and started to shoot the boats.

“Go on!” said Jiminy, when they saw the weather going cleaner.

The reason was just coming.

Seven was piloting Transport 3, a Mi-8 helicopter, and they could see Soldaire into his SolArmor, holding a kind of high-tech energy bazooka on his shoulder, locked to the Mi-8 by a magnetic air hook from SolArmor on a base reinforced by Dumont.

“The cavalry is coming!” said Jiminy

“Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful!” screamed Djanni in the comms.

“Anyone need some help?” said Seven, nonchalantly on the Mi-8, and they could see also Blackstone, Chakra and Astra on it.

“I’ll reinforce your defenses now.” said a suave voice into Jiminy’s head, and he knew it was Chakra, the Tantric Merlin from Chicago Sentinels, that was maybe into the Mi-8, working via Astral Plane.

“Sugarplum, Kilimanjaro, help Djanni and Kuntur!” said Jiminy

“Right!” said both of them

“Astra, would you please do the honors?” said Blackstone

“Right!” she said, jumping from the helicopter and flying straight like a missile against one of the torpedo boat, that gone like a BOOOM! and exploded into smithereens.

“Jiminy, Cabby, stick to the plan and go forward. Italian Sea Patrol was already alerted and they are a go for extra help.” said Soldaire, taking his bazooka-like weapon and shooting a bolt of solid energy, that exploded another of the boats.

“Right!” said Jiminy, while the others got and engaged into the combat. “Full power on!”

Jiminy pushed again the thrush for the turbo-shafts over operational power. Cabby understood.

“How much we have until ORSL 1?” said Jiminy

“ETA 90 seconds until IDL!” said Cabby

“Right! Let us go!”

The turbo-shafts screamed like Cerberus, the three-headed dog from Hades, but Jiminy took confidence on his Bellax Analytica and push over.

“The tangos are disengaging!” said Sugarplum “One boat rescued some of then and departed!”

“Don’t follow them!” said Soldaire “It was enough. Let us get back ORSL 1.”

“Jiminy, it’s over. Disengage the full power!” said Cabby.

“Right.” said Jiminy, giving a whew and pushing back the lever back to operation power. “ORSL 1 in line of sight! We are at IDL.”

“Alright.” said Dumont

“ORSL 1. Here are Transports 1 and 2. Some rescued refugees for processing with us.” said Jiminy

“Roger, Jiminy.” said Squirrel Girl, via radio “Welcome back.”

He engaged the autopilot and gave a weak smile and took a breath.

“That was intense!” said Jiminy

“In fact… Too much intense…“ said Blue Fairy “Why the Caliphate was so eager to kill those refugees?”

“Beside the wrong idea of Jihad?” said Djanni “They are murderers, murtadd that thinks they are working for cleansing the world for the Mahdi. They doesn’t need a reason to kill: for them, they are Zindiq, heretical to be killed.”

“Well… We did our job right.” said Cabby “It’s enough for me.”

“For me too.” said Jiminy, while they could see the two heliports: the one for Transport 1 and the other for the other helicopters. “We’re back home.”

Chapter 4

“The ORSL project had lots of critics, and some of them sensible: to be fair, recommissioning oil rigs as a kind of island for refugees sounds like a good idea, but just SOUNDS LIKE. In fact, wasn’t the Vernes, people would be cramped as sardines there: think that they were good for 2 or three hundred workers, and now needed to be recommissioned to receive, sometimes, 10 times this on civilians, beside all the crew, heroes, corps AND infrastructure. I don’t believe this would be even possible pre-Event.”

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

Joshua got out the meeting room he was using as class room: it was his last High School test, on Biology, and he also had another batch of French and Arabic classes. He got to his room and to the shower.

“How it was the test?” said Eileen, getting back.

“It was okay. Think I had graduated High School now.” said Joshua, in shower “But need to say, sometimes I feel I’m lacking something.”

“In fact, you are. The experience on the college, dealing with classmates and so, bullies and friends, the good and bad.” said Eileen “You had the High School curriculum and the content, but, for good and ill, you hadn’t the experience. But there’s no way to see if this is good or not.” said Eileen. “But now, let us focus on what we have to do now. Are you going for triaging?”

“Yeah, just taking a shower before getting into costume.” replied Joshua, while getting out the shower and drying himself. Then he put himself into a fresh costume and finished by putting his mask.

The refugees were triaged into a special group of rooms that were built at the sea line level, that was grown into all directions to make it almost half mile sided. They had almost finished in the triaging and was sent via boats to Italy and then for other European countries. The last ones were People of Interest for Herós Sans Frontières or other organizations, either by history and situation.

While Jiminy was getting down to the refugee center, Squirrel Girl came to him.

“Jiminy, can I ask you a favor?” she said, wagging her squirrel tail back and forth with anticipation, like she was a little puppy.

“How can I help you?” he asked, while he saw she had some of the refugees profiles with her.

“We found this girl that maybe have some good intel about the Caliphate, specially related with those people kidnapped from Roque Santeiro. And any intel we can obtain can help. I think you understand this is a stain at Roque Santeiro Diana wants to clean ASAP. “ she says, passing Jiminy a folder with the girl’s profile. “We think that, either your powers, skills and even age can make her open herself to you.”

“So, you want me to Pretty Please her to provide us the intel?” asked Jiminy

“Your discretion. I just don’t want to break her up. She looks very panicked by all what happened with her. Looks like some of the refugees you rescued were Caliphate runaways and defectors, which could explain the attack. So, we need to work them as much we can to milk all possible intel.” said Squirrel Girl, while Jiminy took a look into the folder.

There was some information they already gathered: she was a Libyan refugee at Roque Santeiro and her name was Wahiba Cissé. She was listed as one of the 50 girls kidnapped by the Caliphate during the first attack against Roque Santeiro. She had given no more information about how she get away from the Caliphate into that schooner: according the profile, looks like she had some kind of memory loss.

“Alright. Think I can do this.” said Jiminy.

“Thanks. This will help us to talk and process the last refugees. I think there’s more people coming, and we need to finish the ORSL deployment. ORSL 2 to 4 are already online, but 5 to 7 are still under recommission. Soldaire want us to help them.” said Squirrel Girl “Now, she’s on Room 4.”

“Alright.” said Jiminy.

Interview Room 4 is one of the 10 Interview Rooms where some POI under the refugees were sent to be interviewed more accurately by the capes or UNHCR personnel. Jiminy got into there and saw the girl: she was as young than himself and even more smaller, dressed into a kind of local vest and looked worried all around.

Jiminy read the profile and started to talk.

“Ms. Cissé,” he said, talking in Arabic, as she’s more comfortable on speaking it according the profile “I’m Jiminy Cricket, from Herós Sans Frontières. I think you know where you are and why you are here. Sorry if my Arabic is not good enough: if you want, I can ask for a translator if I’m not clear enough.”

“No… Your Arabic is good for a non-Muslin.” said Wahiba “I’m at ORSL 1, the first base in the newly created ORSL line. I’m being processed to be accepted as a refugee at Europe.”

“Exact. Looks like you had been before at Roque Santeiro, and was kidnapped by the Caliphate… We need to know all we can on how you evicted yourself from them.” said Jiminy

His Bellax Analytica engaged just at this time, when he felt someone trying to get into his mind.

It was that girl!

“Why are you doing this?” gasped Jiminy, trying to protect his mind from the sheer power of her, looking for her. She doesn’t looks like the frighted fugitive she looked before: there was rage and fanaticism into her eyes.

“Murtadd, this is our Jihad. We are the new Seif-Al-Din, risen by the Sword Verses Alsyf Alayat.” she spat, trying to use her mind prowess against Jiminy.

“She’s a Mentalist, at least B-Class!” thought Jiminy, hitting the button on his Jiminy Cricket-shaped crest to gave a red alert on his position

If she was an Atlas, Jiminy would be at real trouble. But as a Mentalist, her attacks were based on trying to exert her will against others. And Jiminy had a great mind and will as a Mastermind.

“No chance to Pretty Please! her, at least by now!” he thought. He was feeling her getting into his mind. “So, this is your game? Trying to get into my mind?” said Jiminy, a little worried. “You want to undermine my will, by trying and find my fears?”

“You are as clever as said, Jiminy Cricket, but you have no chance against me.” said the girl “I’ll bring you Allah’s Justice that you avoided when you killed Alsyf Alayat”

“He was meanie with me, with all of us from Roque Santeiro. And he was killed by someone his side’s action: that Suleiman guy invoked a demon, Valac, and he almost killed us all in the process.”

“You’re lying, as always Zindiq like you do.” said her, forcing even more her will against his. “I feel your fear. I can smell your fear: you’re as weak as a girl, a meek murtadd girl.”

Jiminy snapped, when that girl pushed his memory back to the alley where he almost died.

“Do you want to see my fears? Okay, but as someone said me, sometimes Allah (SWT) punishes us by granting us our wishes!” said Jiminy, doing quite the contrary he should do.

Normally on a mind attack you should fog and close your mind as much as you could. A common technique, teached to them by Chakra and Ozma, capes from Chicago Sentinels that worked with mental powers, was mind chanting something to create “noise” so a mind attacker could not read or mess with his mind. In that moment, while the girl tried to attack Jiminy’s mind, he was mind singing Give a Little Whistle from Disney’s Pinocchio to protect himself from the invasion.

It was when Jiminy, feeling their mind connection, inverted the attack: he gave her as much of his memories he could, at once, forcefully pushing his worst memories for her.

He gave her at least 4 years of bullying and spanking. The memories with Derek Kwazani. The power overload at Nondaba Village. Fighting against a crazy Senesie under a psychotic breakthrough. The attacks from the now super-powered bullies, either Kyle and after that by Razorleaf, Ballistic and Presto.

And the earthquake, the aftermath of it, the Humanity First attack, the house he lost, the process.

All the suffering he could remember, all his fears, all his pain, he pushed against her into only a mind blast, condensing all of it into a split second.

It was what he needed.

He felt her forced mind link being broken, as her mind was blasted by the memories he sent to her mind, and she screamed in pain, her hands into her head. Just at that time, Squirrel Girl and Djanni came into the room to both of them.

“Djanni…“ said Jiminy, still disoriented, sitting back in the chair to avoid fall in the ground like the Wahiba girl did “Hold her… Looks like she was a sleeper agent! Maybe a victim from the Sword Verses.”

“What?” said Djanni, holding the girl “She was under a hypnotic suggestion from that murtadd?”

“Sound like!” said Jiminy, panting “Put her under a Sandman.”

Djanni putted a sandman bag over her head and closed it, inducing her into a sleep.

“What happened, Jiminy?” said Squirrel Girl

“I’ll talk soon. Just give me an Aspirin and my cocoa thermos.” he replied, while they give them what he asked, the Aspirin coming from a first-aid kid nearby.

He shoved the Aspirin down and gave a big gulp on the cocoa to put himself back on his feet.

“And now…“ said Squirrel Girl

“Looks like she was targeting breakthroughs with any kind of mental power.” said Jiminy “I believe she suffered a breakthrough under the Caliphate. I felt some of her feelings when I inverted the attack: hate and fear. I feel that they made really really bad things with her, and she didn’t undergone a psychotic breakthrough just by sheer luck.” he said, taking another really big gulp on the thermos, almost emptying it. “She was trying to put me back in the worst moments of my life, locking me into my mind… Maybe she would try something else after getting fully into my mind. But I gave her some of her medicine: I pushed all my worst memories to her on just a blink… It was too much for her.”

“She looks really flinched.” said Squirrel Girl “Shouldn’t you take lighter on her?”

“If I did, I would be killed or rendered under her control.” said Jiminy “I had to solve this fast and sound.”

“Okay.” said Squirrel Girl, looking through the Sandman bag “Looks like she’s having a hell of a nightmare!”

“Maybe she’s fighting something.” said Djanni

“Looks like she’s trying to overcome the post-hypnotic suggestion. The pain she suffered by Jiminy attack loosed the Sword Verse’s ties.” said Squirrel Girl “Jiminy, can you help me? As soon Djanni removes the Sandman, use the best Pretty Please! you can against her to make her calm down and goes sleepy, and to her hear only my voice. I’ll try to remove the post-hypnotic suggestion. I want you and Djanni nearby all the time, right?”

“Right!” said Jiminy, Djanni nodding while slowly removing the Sandman.

Jiminy could see the suffering face of the girl but he could not go weak, as soon Djanni removed the Sandman.

“Pretty Please!, calm yourself down, Ms. Cissé. Rest yourself and trust us.” said Jiminy, with the best studied Pretty Please! he could, all the words and voice tone studied to do the effect.

They looked to her and she looked a little angry… But she felt herself drowsy.

“Now, Ms. Cissé, Pretty Please! listen to my friend Dimantas here and only to her. Everything will end well. Rest and hear only her voice by now. Soon you pain will be over.” said Jiminy

She looked even more calm and drowsy, when Ms. Dimantas, into a rare all human form, started to talk into a good, studied, tone “You can only listen my voice now. You feel yourself bathed into a so good feeling, you feel yourself now so good, so calm, so comfy, so relaxed, that you’ll go to sleep when I snap my fingers and you’ll only hear my voice and only when speaking to you.” she said, and then she snapped her fingers, which made Miss Cissé goes limp like a ragdoll, closed eyes, but into a kind of alert state that scared Jiminy.

“Hypnosis doesn’t work as people think, making people sleep, but by putting the person into a high alert mind-frame, one that normally he only listen the hypnotist, in fact, me. Weird thing: looks like she understand English enough. I didn’t thought on this before: she should had some difficult on understanding the hypnotic triggers… But whatever. Normally I would work a little more before doing this, but there’s no time for a full gig, so I’ll need to somewhat MacGyver it. Think this will work, but I’m not 100% certain.” said Lesley to Jiminy and Djanni, and then she looked back to the girl “Now, Ms. Cissé… I want you to talk with us on everything that happened since you were kidnapped at Roque Santeiro.” she said, while taking a recorder from her utility belt pocket and hit the record button.

And she talked about how she was kidnapped, and put into a dark SUV, and how she and other girls were sent to a Caliphate camp, where almost all of them were systematically raped by the Caliphate men, one of them tried to rip her breasts out. It was when he menaced her and was raping her that she had her breakthrough, pushing all the pain she already had against him, rendering him almost crazy, and then she was brought to Alsyf Alayat, that used against her the Sword Verses, turning her into a sleeper agent to be sent by the Caliphate and to be used by the Caliphate men. She was trained as a suicide bomber but was not to be used as that, and her “mission” was to enter into Europe and work a cell with another Caliphate man in Italy, the same one that raped her into her Breakthrough, that got there before, and to whene she was took “as wife” under Caliphate’s authority. She then started to cry, a lot. Djanni and Jiminy were very uneasy, but Squirrel Girl look to them.

“It’s alright… Now she almost had the post-hypnotic suggestion removed… She’s crying now because she’s scared, as she remembers somehow what she had done under the Sword Verses.” said Squirrel Girl

“Never saw this before.” said Jiminy, feeling queasy “This made me feel bad for her.”

“Don’t.” said Squirrel Girl “She’s relieving herself. I’ll just finish remove the suggestion and wake her up back on her own mind.”

She then looked to the girl and said.

“Now, Ms. Cissé… I’ll start to count from 10 to 1 and when I finish, you’ll wake up, refreshed and freed from the post-hypnotic suggestion you were put under. No matter how and which triggered you, you will not be under it anymore, as you’re freed from it, and they don’t influencing you anymore. 10…“ said Squirrel Girl, starting the countdown. When she came into 1, she snapped her fingers and Ms. Cissé woke up, astonished.

“Alright, Ms. Cissé. We know what happened with you. Don’t worry, you did no damage to us and you’re safe here at ORSL 1.” said Jiminy, on Arabic

“What?! I… Attacked you?” she said, and started to cry “Sorry… I didn’t…“

“It’s okay. You weren’t on your mind when you did it.” said Jiminy

“We need to talk dearly about all you could say for us about the Caliphate, from where you were and about the other girls.” said Djanni, into his perfect Arabic “First, however, let us go pray for Allah the Most High and praise his forgiveness, now that you are free from their hands, and then we’ll take a meal and talk, right?”

She gave a meek smile, while Jiminy and Squirrel Girl took some carpets and putted it, pointed them to Mecca, so Djanni and the Wahiba woman could pray.

After that, Wahiba talked all her history.

Chapter 5

“The basic concept of a Breakthrough Camp is that you put people under death risk, but a controlled one. This sounds like a good idea: if you can control the circumstances, why not try to push people hard enough to trigger a breakthrough, but under a safe environment? This could provide Armies with the now so needed Atlases and Ajaxes and other breakthroughs for the modern battlefield, mass producing them, right? However, no matter what, this is a oxymoric concept: breakthroughs are a SURVIVAL triggered instinct and so there’s no safe environments for this. There’s still no data backing this, as all the information about breakthrough camps are classified, but the concensioury theory is backed by some recent events: breakthrough camps are potential nightmares, and by pushing people hard like in the military conditioning and putting them under a so big mental stress, there’s a incredible potential for psychotic breakthrough.”

Dr. Lesley Dimantas, “On Artificially-triggered breakthroughs: Origin Chasing, Breakthrough Camps and their consequences”, World Health Organization

Two days passed after Wahiba event, and things were a little low in ORSL 1: as her situation had gone to worse after the attack against Jiminy, her refugee status was denied. However, as part of a super-powered organization, Herós Sans Frontières adopter her as part of their roster, at least by now, by putting her as part of their sidekicking program, and that helped her to have a Safe Haven at ORSL 1 as a refugee from the Caliphate. They found that Wahiba had already a good control on their mind powers: she just needed to master it and learn on how to use it under the law and the Rules of Engagement.

“This is good and bad news.” said Lesley, as the breakthrough specialist “Good, because she had a good training in the time she was under the Sword Verse. Bad, because this means that the Caliphate has some breakthrough camp, or at least some kind of training camp.”

“Wahiba, what could you say us about this?” said Seiji, as always dressed on his best police uniform.

“I don’t remember too much: my memories on the time I was under the Sword Verse are fuzzy and foggy.” stated Wahiba, dressed on new, clean clothes “To be fair, I know how I can do somethings, but I can’t remember were I learned them. For example, I can’t remember how I learned a too good English.”

It was true: in two days, after the post-hypnotic trigger removals, Wahiba showed lots of knowledge beside her mind-powers as a B-Class Mentalist, like a very good English and Italian and how to use some pistols and do other personal defense techniques.

“Well… The good news on this all is that Wahiba is no more under the Sword Verse: our experience at Roque Santeiro says that, after the triggers are removed, the Sword Verse victims had a fuzzy, foggy memory on the events in the time they were under it. This is coherent with hypnotic trance situations, and so it was not that weird.” said Lesley.

“And now, could I get back my family at Roque Santeiro?” asked Wahiba.

“It’s not that wise by now.” said Seiji “At least until we are 100% sure your powers are under control, we could not just allow you to go away and put people at risk. We’ll just double check things and then, after you take your CAI certification and we know your powers are okay, you are totally free to get back Roque Santeiro and to your family if you want.”

“And?…“ was saying Wahiba

“Your powers?” said Altayr “They are yours, as Allah provided them to you by reasons only Him, as The One Who Knows All (SWT) knows. If you just choose to go and be a good woman on your community and never use again those powers, it’ll totally up to you.”

“Altayr is right, Wahiba.” said Joshua “Everyone can choose what to do with the powers received during the breakthrough, as long you don’t do bad things against others. Each of us had been under critical situations on our breakthroughs and it’s fair to choose what to do with the powers. I almost had been lynched to death by some bullies. After getting comatose for 6 months while recovering from the damages, just saving myself by using my Bellax Analytica to find someone to bring me back my parents, I chose to put those powers under service for others as a way to thank God I was alive.”

“He’s right.” said Lesley “I remembered my breakthrough was just 3 or 4 years after The Event: I was in the field, working at time with Doctors Without Borders as a psychologist into a war-field at Tanzania, and there was a big animal stampede. I had slipped on my foot just in time to be stomped by some of the big beasts. It was when a hippo passed over me, because I was a meerkat at the time. I ran to the team and tried to say what happened: took me good two weeks until they understood I was now a Metamorph, and this only happened when I turned into a skunk, so stinking mad I was at time.”

“So…“ said Wahiba “Everyone was at big risks?”

“Yeah.” said Lesley. “Breakthroughs are survival mechanisms every human being have, and they are triggered under stressful circumstances as a way to survive them. There’s some very rare breakthroughs that achieve them naturally or under good, epiphaniac circumstances. Otherwise, the road to breakthrough is too much nearby the road to death.”

“Understood.” said Wahiba, when everyone heard a alarm all around.

“All the capes on their positions. This is not a drill. Repeat: all capes on their positions. This is not a drill! This a Yellow Situation alert!” said the pre-recorded voice, into a monotone, synthetic, robotic voice.

“Let’s go!” said Lesley, while all of them start to run for their positions, and they saw Wahiba. “It would be dangerous to left her behind, even with the post-hypnotic triggers lifted.”

“She come with me…“ said Joshua

“Fat chance, short stuff.” said Eileen “We don’t know how they could had influenced her, even she now being freed from the Sword Verse.”

“Another reason for her to be nearby some of us.” said Richard “If she still has any post-hypnotic suggestion on her, it would be better to be nearby, so we could contain her. And also, it would be harsh to put her on a cell just because. It would be that kind of Minority Report pre-crime thing we should avoid. What you say, Jiminy?”

Joshua looked for Wahiba and did a little concentration on his Bellax Analytica and then he looked positively.

“I think she’s clean and clear to get with us.” he said

“Alright. She goes with you.” said Eileen, smiling even being outvoted “Let’s go!”

They split into three groups in a corridor. Jiminy and Wahiba got front into an elevator, while the others split themselves into two groups.

“Dispatch, Jiminy here. I’m getting there. I’m with Wahiba Cissé, a civilian to be held safe, but civil. Copy?” said Jiminy via Earbug.

“Copy. Jiminy, Soldaire here. I’m getting into with Team 2 on a heli. Get to Dispatch. Cabby and Cajun will be our pilots.” said Soldaire

“Copy. I’ll be in a jiff there.” he said, lowing his Cricket shaped mask, and for the first time Wahiba looked for him as Jiminy Cricket for real.

They got into a small room, and two UN Berets gave them passage.

“Wahiba, stay here.” said Jiminy putting her into a chair while he got for the Dispatch chair and logged into the systems, opening window after window, three big screens with all the maskcams and tactical maps he needed to do his job as a Mastermind.

“Dispatch, this is Transport 1 departing. Cabby piloting. Team is: Djanni, Kilimanjaro, Squirrel Girl, Panther, LionHeart.” say Cabby

“Dispatch, Transport 2 departing. Cajun on pilot. Team is: Soldaire, Sugarplum, Dumont, Kuntur, Hufflepuff.” said Cajun

“Transports 1 and 2, Dispatch here. Jiminy Cricket on it. Support is Blue Fairy. Deploying her for IDL system.” said Jiminy, touching a spot to allow Blue Fairy to deploy herself into IDL defense batteries. “Sounds like some tangos are getting nearby ORSL 1, and they are too much nearby IDL. No need for Havoc protocols by now, but be ready, as sounds like they want to bring the Foxtrot. Maskcam everyone, and non-lethal weapons until further notice.”

“Roger…“ all of them said, when Jiminy looked to the weather controls and the cams from the helis.

“Everyone, be cautious! There’s something is fishy on the weather.” said Jiminy

“Confirm here, Jiminy! A weird fog is getting nearby…“ said Cabby

“There’s no fog! The weather system shows clean sky.” said Jiminy, when they felt the first attacks

“They are doing some mojo, I can feel it!” said Sugarplum “Illusory Magic! They have some supernatural breakthrough, and they’re powerful, at least on this mojo. Need to find them!”

“Working on it! Djanni, Kuntur, drop Hufflepuff and LionHeart on some of those boats. Dumont, on Soldaire. The others, rock and roll on them.” said Jiminy, passing intel to them.

It was when he looked and Wahiba was silently into a kind of mediation.

“Wahiba…“ said Jiminy, when he heard her voice into his mind.

“I think I can find him via Astral field. Let me try it.” said Wahiba’s voice into Jiminy’s mind.

“Alright, I’ll try to get time for you. Blue Fairy, what can you do to gain time for Wahiba and the others?” said Jiminy

“Not too much: the IDL is for self-defense, not long-range attack… I think I can try to give some called shots, but nothing bigger than this.” said Blue Fairy, without showing herself, as she was “deployed”. She started to attack with the weapons in the system.

“Okay. Do the best you can.” said Jiminy “Everyone, give Wahiba time to work to find this supernatural guy…“

“I found him: he’s in a big boat a little after the first line.” said Wahiba’s voice.

“Found it! Get back, they can have someone with your type of power there.” said Jiminy, looking into a tactical map and clicking some point and hitting some keys into your keyboard. “Tagged the tango on the map, put the intel on your maskcams as a pointer. Kuntur, Squirrel Girl and Djanni, go for it. Kilimanjaro and Sugarplum, support them. Dummont and Panther, help the others to break the tangos line! Bring them the Foxtrot!”

“Roger!” said everyone, getting into the action

“The guy is protected by some breakthroughs.” said Wahiba, still into her Astral form “None of them supernatural, thankfully. Sounds he’s B-Class: he can create that illusion, but needs to stay concentrated to hold it. The other guys sounds like Ajaxes and at least one Verne, with a weird bow.”

“Okie-Dokie!” said Djanni, flying to the guy. “Kilimanjaro, Sugarplum, send some gust of wind against those guys!”

“Roger!” said both, using their powers to make wind to hit the Illusory guy protectors. Kuntur, Djanni and Squirrel Girl got on it.

“Have a funny and effective idea!” said Djanni “Kuntur and me will fight the rest of the rabble. Squirrel Girl, he’ll be all yours!”

“What should I do?” said her, with a bird-like voice tone as she was now an albatross.

“Do your worst, you’re the Metamorph here. If it was me, I would get near enough and turn into a really small critter and run all around his shirt to break his concentration and then I would use my powers to give him a lesson he would never forget.” said Djanni, giggling. Jiminy gave also some kid giggle on his own before got back serious.

“Alright, sounds a fun idea. Just give me time.” said Squirrel Girl, while Djanni and Kuntur removed the guy guards. “Let’s go!”

She turned herself into a white mouse, getting into the guys shirt. “alkhuruj manya, ‘ant alfiran laenat!” they could hear him screaming, trying to remove Squirrel Girl, that run around him, breaking his concentration and making the illusory fog fade away like a dream.

“Now, everyone! Bring them the Foxtrot! Squirrel Girl, knock this guy out! Djanni, Kuntur, acquire him!” said Jiminy

“Roger!” said both, while Squirrel Girl got out the man’s clothes.

“Yuck!” said her, back to her human form, only using his preferred weapon, a skunk’s tail, turning to him “He stinks so much I don’t think my aroma will make him get even worse.” she said, and then she sprayed the guy straight in the face. She took her tail, gave a whiff and said “No… I think this will do. Although I don’t get queasy on my own stink.”

While the guy was puffing, trying to breath fresh air without the cloud of skunk stink, Djanni gave a dash and blasted against the guy, taking him out of it and giving a punch on his stomach. From the utility belt everyone used, he took a pair of the special Blacklocks for supernatural users made on Fake Orichalcum “Alright, target acquired!” he said, taking him to the helicopter.

“Look like he was the boss. The other are retreating. Dispatch?” said Soldaire, after shooting a guy unconscious.

“Don’t pursue. Acquire the tangos left behind and bring them to processing at ORSL 1.” said Jiminy “I’ll write the After-Action Report after having some talk with them. I want everyone with me.”

“Can I get into this?” said Wahiba

“No… You’re not…“ said Jiminy

“I know that I’m not officially part of your team…“ she said timidly “But maybe I can help somehow.”

“Soldaire…“ said Jiminy, while everyone was back into the helis

“I think we can use some of the knowledge on the Caliphate Wahiba have. Until we clear her, however, she’ll only get there with someone else.” said Soldaire

“Alright.” said Jiminy, while waiting for the guy coming back

Chapter 6

“People criticize Herós Sans Frontières for accepting into their rosters some of the undesirable breakthroughs in the world. In my team itself, we had LionHeart, Panther and Kilimanjaro, all of them convicted under parole, in LionHeart’s case a life sentence. And we have Djanni, a refugee kid. And me, a kid that should be at Whitlow or Hillwood or other super-kids school… And there’s lots of similar cases on HSF rosters. But, in fact, we can’t spare any hero. For our work, any hand we can put on it is an extra hand to help it. Obviously, all of them is double-checked and so, and HSF faces the responsibility associated on having so uncommon heroes on their rosters. But, as by our motto, Super-help for super-needs also applies there: many of them just wanted a better way to use their powers, and HSF provides them”

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

“So, let us made this straight: you knew were Wahiba was and used her as a bait.” said Soldaire for the man in front of him.

“You’ll never…“ said him when Jiminy didn’t waited

“Pretty Please! I know you want to kill yourself and us if possible. Don’t! We are not your enemies! You’ll be treated well and everything provided to you while detained here will be halal. But we need you to help us: those girls could, and probably are, in the same position than Wahiba was, being raped and raped.” said Jiminy

“They are our wives. If you experience rebellion from the women, you shall first talk to them, then deserting them in bed, then you may beat them.” said the guy

“This is haram!” screamed Wahiba “You know it: you are distorting The Prophet’s words (PBHU). As always, you’re abusing on Verse 34, Sura 4. But in truth I say, Sura 3, Verse 195, that Allah the Merciful states: ‘I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female, you are equal to one another…’ Rape is never about sex or law, it’s about power. They disgraced me! And used me.”

“So…“ said Jiminy, while Djanni consolated Wahiba on her sadness “You know about it, right?”

The man gasped: in his gloating, he didn’t noticed he fell under Jiminy’s Pretty Please! “Sihr!”, he screamed. Jiminy knew what this means: “Sorcery”

“No… Breakthrough.” said Jiminy, calmly

“Enough.” said LionHeart, snapping his fingers “I don’t have too much patience for wannabe villains that f%$k it up with women lives. I killed myself at least a dozen of those wannabes. One more into the account would be just some therapy.”

“No way, murtadd. Allah is merciful…“ he saw, when LionHeart just punched the table, blasting it into smithereens.

“Allah can be merciful with good-for-nothing guys like you, but I’m not.” shouted LionHeart “If you don’t start to spill it out, I’ll f#$king smash your head to a pulp, capiche?”

“Menaces will not take us forward, murtadd.” said the guy

“Not if I put some bacon on your food or even some drops of bacon fat on your water!” replied LionHeart, which made everyone there gasping, Djanni looking very badly for LionHeart.

As part of the cooking team for ORSL 1, LionHeart was the one responsible for making the food for the team. And he knew enough about Islam to know that they would never eat anything that even came in contact with pork and so. The fear of conpurscate his soul by eating haram food would be enough to press him.

Jiminy gasped: it was harsh, but his Bellax Analytica was showing him that it could be effective.

“Pretty Please!, sir. We are trying to be civil with you, but we need to you to show some civility also and give us something to compensate. You were acquired. If you be civil and pass us the information we need about the Caliphate training camp, I’ll ensure you’ll be treated well on all your needs.” said Jiminy

“How you know about…“ said the guy

“… the camp? Wahiba was too much well trained for whatever mission she would had in Europe.” said Soldaire, into his SolArmor, but without the helmet: this way, he could exert some of the benefits on it with an indefinite time. “So, it’s just a matter-of-fact to know she had on a kind of training camp. And also, we know that, after Wahiba had undergone breakthrough and the post-hypnotic suggestion by Alsyf Alayat, she was there, to be trained on self-defense, weapon shooting, and all she needed to build a terrorist cell at Italy, maybe resulting into a suicide attack.”

“So…“ said Hufflepuff “Are you ready to talk? Or you’ll risk to cross my friend Corazón de Leon’s wrath? Believe me, you’ll not want to bet you own soul to damnation just to see how far he could go. Violadores are one of the few things that made him go mad enough to even think on try to violate his own parole.”

The guy crossed eyes with LionHeart, and the steel and fire of the wrath in LionHeart’s eyes was like almost burning him.

“Alright!” said the guy, looking away from LionHeart, worried, and Jiminy smiled as that the bad cop/good cop thing had worked, with a little Pretty Please! help “But I want all my food halal, and not served by this crazy guy.”

“No problem:” said Djanni “I’ll double check everything. I’m already an Imam here. So, I’ll make sure all your food will be halal.”

“So… Let us get business, now that you are okay with all this.” said Soldaire “First of all, about the people the Caliphate abducted from Roque Santeiro last year: where they are?”

“Many were brought to justice: they were killed, brought to justice under Allah. Only the kids and women were spared: we need Mujaheddin for the Jihad. But all the men were killed.”

“So, you know that you are under capital punishment by international law for multiple manslaughter and genocide.” said Soldaire “But we are not the ones to judge you: if you will get this, it’s up to the International Criminal Court. Let us stay on the topic: and the women and girls? And the camp?”

“They are at Sudan, nearby the desert, in Darfur…“ said the man

“Alright… Darfur… Always a powder barrel, even pre-Event, but seems legit: with all the mess on the Caliphate War and Eretz Israel, they had come below the radar.” said Soldaire “Now, I want you to say everything you know about the place: troops, numbers, main guys, all the stuff. Everything you can remember. And I’ll remember you this is being recorded and will be used by ICC as part of your prosecution. If you are collaborative enough, you can take some benefits, or at least avoid a capital punishment.” said Soldaire.

And the guy started to spill the beans, while Jiminy, Djanni, Wahiba and LionHeart got out the room.

“You should not took that harsh with him, LionHeart.” retorted Djanni “Say you kill him, not to put him under haram! We were lucky he reconsidered, but this kind of murtadd could try something really nasty after being confronted to be under haram, even unintentionally!”

“Sorry, Djanny, but I was being business when saw I don’t have patience with women-abusive guys. In my Bronx Shoulder’s time, I had really killed some guys that tried to abuse woman. This is one of the reasons I’m under a life sentence, you can check this on my profile. My own mother was abused by my so-called stepfather, the guy that ‘cared’ for her while my father was dying on a heart stroke. He took me as a sissy because I loved my mom… Until he tried to kill her, I’m already a breakthrough, and I hit him hard enough so he could no more get nearby my family. Six-feet under no more a problem, if you understand what I mean.” said LionHeart “And all the times I was a bouncer in nightclubs, I always protected those who are being abused, either women or LGBTQ+ people. In fact, it was just into one of those times that I was acquired by police.” said LionHeart, talking his story.

“I was in my work as bouncer at a club, as always, and a guy was trying to rape a woman. I thought ‘Easy, just a good-for-nothing punk that is high on meth and wants to have some so called fun and is a big of piece of shit to get laid with a woman as people should’. But the problem is that this guy was a rising star as a super-villain in one of the local gangs, a B-Class Atlas with also some Laser Projection powers, A-Class as a whole. I had hit him hard from the start, and even thought I killed him, but the guy just gave a maniacal smile and came to fight me, shooting lasers, crazy for a tag against the famous Bronx Shoulder… Our fight brought the local Super-Police to action, and the rest is history. What I can say is that I avoided the escalation as much as I could, but that guy deserved to be killed, I had the satisfaction to just see his empty eyes when I snapped his neck like a twig. It was when I offered my wrist so the police could put the Blacklocks on me.” he said, and Jiminy noted on how much old LionHeart’s face had gone, how tired he looked, and how scary he could be.

“Sorry kids… I didn’t wanted to show you this side of me.” said LionHeart, getting back his normal stance

“It’s okay.” said Jiminy

“Yeah!” said Djanni “And, if he was so extreme under the Shar’ia, he should know that, if you killed him, you would be fair.”

“But this is not how we should do things. We comply with international law, not Shar’ia or Leviticus law.” says Squirrel Girl “I understand your rage, LionHeart, but next time please contain yourself.”

“I’ll try.” said LionHeart, meekly.

“And about this guy, what we have?” said Jiminy, trying to exchange topics.

“He’s a B-Class Illusionist: a Merlin with some discreet powers.” said Squirrel Girl “His name is Afeef Nagi, 32, and if his history is true, he was part of old Lebanon Army during the Caliphate War and was nearby Tel-Aviv enough to feel the power of the atomic bomb. I think this triggered him the breakthrough, so he could survive the nuclear dust by pushing it aside with his magics. He and his family were expelled from Lebanon as part of Eretz Israel and he swore vengeance against them: his parents died in the diaspora while he got to Karthoum and some of his comrades at the Lebanon Army came into contact with what would became the Undying Caliphate. He was in the action against Roque Santeiro, and he send the women and kids to a camp somewhere in Darfur. We can’t take any action, however, until we confirm the intel.” said Squirrel Girl when they saw the anxious faces of them.

“And maybe we’ll not do it even after that.” said Soldaire, while some of the MaxBerets took the man to send him to a cell “We have a mission on ORSL that is more important than exert revenge. We’ll do our job and send the intel for the big kahunas on LDS and UN, and they choose what to do.”

“I would want to go there if I could.” said Wahiba

“You’re not a military cape and not a CAI-trained one.” said Soldaire “If you want to help you and your people, I can say we can have a use on your talents as Mentalist here in ORSL: extra communication lines and intel gathering capabilities are never enough. This is what I can do by now for you.”

“I accept this: I don’t want others suffering as I had.” said Wahiba

“For me it’s okay: I’m just waiting the red paper to be solved to put you as sidekick on our team. But we need a capename for you…“

“Marjanah!” said Wahiba “She was a Slave for Ali Baba, and saved him from the Forty Thieves in the story in the 1001 Nights. I thought on Scheherazade, but is so obvious. And Ali Baba recognized her loyalty and his son fell in love by her and married her in the end.”

“Alright… Marjanah. I’ll send everything for HSF ASAP. I just need the papers that UN are readying for you as a Stateless, so we can put you under our responsibility and perhaps try the refugee status for you at Switzerland, HSF HQ. Are we okay?”

“Yes!” said Wahiba, or better, Marjanah, happily.

“Sorry about all this, kids.” said LionHeart, meekly “I lost myself.”

“No problem, Ric.” said Jiminy “We know this… But maybe you need to clean his mouth with soap.” he giggled a little

“Yeah… And Djanni… Sorry about…“

“No problem… As Jiminy said, we know you lost your mind.” said Djanni which made LionHeart give a small meek smile.

Chapter 7

“If you think a CAI team life is like what is shown on The Sentinels, I’m sorry to be the one to break your illusions. We fight villains, sure, but this is exception, not rule. There’s few really powerful villains I had fight, like Derek Kwazani and Alsyf Alayat. The biggest problems we deal with normally are things like natural disaster or humanitarian catastrophe. And the red paper: sometimes I wanted to have more super-villains and less bureaucracy to deal with.”

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

“Thank you by coming with me, Joshua.” said Richard, on the plane, with a special tracking device in his ankle, two guys behind them with some special Vernetech laser weapons.

“It’s okay: Soldaire was called to have a talk with the Warriors and Protectors in Japan about HSF, and if more muscles got out ORSL 1 it would be a problem. And for me it’s okay to get with you to your parole officer.”

Richard McInroy, capename LionHeart, formerly known as The Bronx Shoulder, was a special case in many levels: as convicted by manslaughter, he was under a life sentence, but he was given a parole and put under Herós Sans Frontières. He had a Vernetech tracking device implanted under his neck to be used if he tried to run away. But he never showed any will to run away, even when he should: he was the only one that didn’t directly worked into the black-op to extract him from Alsyf Alayat’s grasp and so he also didn’t fought Valac, the Goetia demon invoked by a deceased Merlin from the Caliphate, because he didn’t wanted to break his parole.

LionHeart normally talked with his parole officer monthly via video-conference, but he was obliged by the parole terms to at least once yearly to get an in-real-life encounter with him. Joshua then was asked to be the one the go with him to New York for it: even being underage, as a CAI-Certificated breakthrough, he had legal power to escort a “criminal under parole” to his parole officer under the terms of LionHeart’s parole. It would be easy: just leave him at a previously accorded police district where he would encounter the guy and then take him back some hours after.

“And about that Presto kid?” said Richard, while they where adjusting their belts for the landing. “I heard he had applied for sidekicking at HSF.”

Carlyle Galatas, capename Presto, was part of the bullies that made Joshua undergoes breakthrough. However, he was there because of peer pressure: he worked against the leader of those who attacked Jiminy after his talk at Newark, Razorleaf (real name: Jonathan Leaf). Thanks this, he was put under a parole that allowed him to get back Whitlow and then finish his schooling. He then got under Hillwood, but he wanted to go for sidekicking at Herós Sans Frontières.

“Look that the big guys liked the idea of putting people under parole into HSF. They approved Presto as sidekick for our team: ORSL is a very important project, and we need all capes we could put into it. I’ll escort him back ORSL 1 with us.” said Jiminy, while they saw JFK airport growing and felt the wheels touching the track. Then, they got ready to get on.

Joshua had lots to do while waiting LionHeart does his talk with his parole officer: he got back to HSF NY HQ to give some papers and disks for archiving and to talk about Presto. He was received by the local clerk, a woman called Cynthia Williams:

“Hey, Jiminy, long time no see!” she said

“It was really a time, Cynthia. We were really busy with ORSL 1: I had no time to get to Disneyland Paris and so. Think last time I had on any Disney Park was just after the process.” said Joshua

Joshua was put under court, accused of attempted manslaughter, because an attack some Humanity Firsters did against his former home at Newark. During it, he shot a guy with the laser part of his Jiminy Cane, in his hand and leg. The process was somewhat easy to be won, as he did everything fair and square, and his After-Action Report was put under the scrutiny of lots of people, including Chicago Sentinels’ Blackstone. But it was a time that Joshua would like to forget: without his house, his tree-house sanctum and with all pressure on him and his parents, he was just a pinch to freak out.

“So, I believe the ORSL archive data is with you, including the last After Action Reports.” she said

“Yup.” he said, taking from his side a Pinocchio-themed mailbag, and from it taking a set of Digital Tapes. “All our last 6 months at Roque Santeiro, including Alsyf Alayat actions, and all the missions under ORSL 1, even the resupplying ones. Everything fair and square.”

“Wow, such a nice boy we have here.” said Cynthia, making him blush: she knows he was the, unofficial clerk, and he double-checked all the After-Action Reports for his team. “Alright: I’ll ask the guys to load the data on our systems and then give you the tapes back. It will take a time, so do you want to have some lunch?”

“I’ll go soon: I just came to see Presto. Think he is now officially under HSF, as part of his parole on the Newark High School. I’ll take him and them we’ll get and take LionHeart from his parole meeting and then, back to ORSL 1.”

“Yeah, I know: but Presto is still in some red paper, and the tapes will take some time to be processed and loaded at our systems. I think you should at least eat something.” said Cynthia.

“Okay.” he said

While a guy, who looked like a common clerk, took the Tapes and gone with them to a room, Cynthia ushered Joshua to the internal restaurant: HSF had a internal restaurant because all the superbads that wanted to tag the HSF heroes. He saw lots of the capes that used NY HQ as headquarters for their operations for HSF.

“Callisto!” said Jiminy, looking for a woman into a psychedelic painted costume, like a tie-dyed leotard, a purple domino mask over her face and a kind of electric rainbow painted hair, that Jiminy still doubt it was a wig or her hair.

“Heiya, Jiminy!” said Callisto, an A-Class photo-kinetic.

“Hey, Marie!” said Joshua, while taking a tray and putting on it a plate, a fork and a knife “How things are on Honduras?”

“Same, same… Being so near that Narcos nuts from Mexico is a bore. And now there’s the ultra-right guys that are forming militias, some of them origin chasing. Lesley don’t hear us, but if those nuts just killed themselves on origin chasing I would be glad, but some of those morons are really undergone breakthrough. Last one was the common Ajax, but the ones that doesn’t deserved the name: strong as the original, but smart… quite the contrary. C-Class, but enough to being inconvenient and try to pull us out… But not enough to do the thing.” she said, while they were going to the cater “Heard you had took some Caliphate dumb-os some days before.”

“Yeah.” said Jiminy “They tried to ‘tag’ us at ORSL 1, but we had an extra help: one of the girls that they abducted from Roque Santeiro. She’s now a sidekick for us: A-Class Mentalist, and very smart, she had undergone breakthrough on her time with the Caliphate , and then she put under a suggestion by that Alsyf Alayat guy and trained by them to do some terrorist job at Europe, but got into us before. Now she’s clear, and she chose the capename Marjanah. She’s a good girl.”

“Heard of. Those Caliphate bastards are the worst: I hate them as much as the Narcos or the Militias. Need to say: if we were like those pre-Event comics, with super-villains that only had some henchmen to deal with, I would love. Those morons uses people as meat-shield. They are even worse because they though on themselves as the new Castro or Stalin or whatever, but they are just a bunch of good-for-nothing guys.” said Callisto “I can respect a real real Cause Villain like Seif-al-Din or Alsyf Alayat, because I can understand, even not agreeing with them: they have motives, many of them somewhat sensible. Those Narco morons are just bullies.”

“Agreed.” said Jiminy, when Cynthia looked to him and said:

“Take some veggies, Joshua!” which made everybody laughs, and Joshua blushes.

“Okay…“ he said, taking some veggies.

Some after he sat and started to eat, he saw Carlyle getting into the restaurant: he was dressed into a brand-new costume, like Presto from the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, his belt changed to the default utility belt for CAI-certified capes. He wasn’t using mask: as part of his parole, his Presto identity was just a Private one, the only protection being a wig changing his hair from his normal black to auburn and his new rounded Vernetech glasses that worked as Maskcam.

“Hey, Jiminy!” said Presto, looking for him

“Presto!” said Joshua, when he came with food tray

“It was nice Herós Sans Frontières accepted me at their sidekicking program: things were starting to grew nasty at Hillwood.” he said while sitting in another chair.

“How?” said Joshua.

“You see: I was convicted by attempted manslaughter. So, the other capes-in-training looked to me as just a little better than a real super-villain. But I realized how much on me was just poise. I tried to look cool, to be with the so-called cool kids, like Kyle and Jonathan… Never thought before on this, even after what we did with you. It was in front of that situation at school that I thought really on what I was doing: was I really ready to throw my future in the bin?” he said “And I though that I would not do this. I had to accept myself. As I said, things were not easy at Hillwood: people started to bully me, even the nerds being reticent to accept me, they only looked at me as a D&D Dungeon Master, what I used as a way to have some social contact. I held myself, and it was when Grendel came and talked with us: him and Ozma are the most known alumni from Hillwood, as they are now part of Chicago Sentinels.”

Joshua agreed: he knew from some time before both Grendel and Ozma, part of the Young Sentinels, the young super-team supported by the Chicago Sentinels. They were part of the heroes that somewhat rescued him when his old-time main bully, Kyle Montague, tried to attack him at Metrocon.

“He said that we always pay the price for our choices, but we should pay the price and only it, and people should not make other’s burdens even heavier, because they can be already heavy enough…“ he said, eating a little, “and we should just be judged by what we did now, not by our past. I chose then to ask for sidekicking training at Herós Sans Frontières, and they approved it. Just finished to register my definitive capename and my crest.” he said, proudly, showing the badge with a green magician hat on it, like the one he was using over his head. “And when we’ll go?”

“Just let us finish the meal and take LionHeart back…“ said Joshua, when his cellphone called. He looked worried, as it was his “hero line”, the number used when he wasn’t on Earbug like that time. “Jiminy Cricket…“

“Jiminy, it’s me, LionHeart…“ LionHeart said, with a tired and worried voice “We need your help ASAP!”

“What happened?” he said

“We were attacked: some punks with very powerful weapons. My parole officer was kidnapped!”

“What?! Just a minute!” said Joshua, looking for Cynthia “I need to put my costume: LionHeart’s in trouble. Presto, I want you to come with me. Callisto, if you can help…“

“Sure!” said Callisto, while everyone was leaving their half-eaten meal behind. Not a uncommon vision at HSF: they always were Super-Help for Super-needs, and almost all HSF permanent heroes lived under that effigy.

“You can use the dressing room just beside the restaurant entrance.” said Cynthia

“And I need to borrow a Ecureuil heli.” he said while getting to the dressing room, taking his bag with his spare costume. “I’ll take Presto and Callisto and deploy them as near LionHeart we can.”

“Are you sure?” said Cynthia

“I have a helicopter brief that allows me to pilot a Squirrel.” said Joshua, while getting into and dressing hastily. As he did this so much in his life after breakthrough, it was almost like Superman: in just 5 minutes he was ready.

“Alright! Let me just double-check things.” said Cynthia for Jiminy, as soon he put the Earbug “Okay, sounds everything okay. Granted you authorization: take the NYH 02 at the garage. The boys there will be waiting you with everything pre-flight ready. Dispatch will update you with any intel needed.”

“Right…“ said Jiminy, getting out, and looking for Callisto and Presto. “Presto, if you wanted to know what is a cape life, it’s showtime.”

“Roger…“ said Presto, going with them.

Chapter 8

“I had lots of enemies, but one of the worst one was Alsyf Alayat. Even after his defeat, his powerful Sword Verses, the post-hypnotic trance he laced on people, had worked his way in more than an action. I don’t know how much sleeper agents he made and how many is everywhere… But sometimes I still have nightmares with him. About other villains, normally I could deal with them. But always there’s one or two that surprised us on his fierceness or recklessness.”

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

“Nevada-Yankee-Hotel 02 to ATC. Jiminy Cricket on the lever. I’m getting nearby the lockdown airspace. Asking for access granting. Copy?” said Jiminy. He was with Presto at his side and Callisto on the back, near the door, ready to jump. Her photo-kinetic power allowed her to fly as long there was light: she used photon winds as propulsion, and also made a kind of board where she surfed the light, so flying in the sky. But sometimes she preferred to stay in the ground or in vehicles, as when she was flying she was vulnerable because some limitations on how much light she could bend to do her mojo.

“Copy. Colonel Masters here. I don’t know what the f$%k they wanted with this friend of you, but he messed with the wrong people. NYC airspace is at a total lockdown, even the capes needing to be authorized to flight. You are okay. But need to say that’s weird to see a 13 year old kid like you piloting a helicopter.” said the man by the radio

“Occupational Hazard.” said Jiminy, and this made the man at the other side laugh “How is LionHeart?”

“Not good: those guys knew what they wanted to do and what they would need to deal with. He is alive and in a whole piece, but he’s still flinched. Are you taking him?” said Colonel.

“Can you open a space in some junction I can touch down the heli? The streets per se has not too much space and there’s no clear heliports nearby.”

“I think that I have a space: take the next junction and go there. My boys are cleaning the space for you.”

“I promise it will be super-fast.” said Jiminy, going there.

He never did a touchdown on a so cramped space, beside at simulator, but he had a good help, albeit a little pesky.

“Right… Right… Come on… Now just get down…“ said Blue Fairy, dressed into a airport marshaller uniform, pointing some sticks.

“Alright… I can do this!” said Jiminy, trying to not yell with her.

“Sorry… I…“ said Blue Fairy, when Joshua said meekly

“I’m to be sorry… I don’t like when things goes this overboard.” said Jiminy, when the helicopter touched the ground and he shut it down.

“We’ll just stay as much as needed, right? We need to free traffic ASAP.” said Jiminy for Presto and Callisto

“Right.” he said, going for the building where LionHeart and the parole officer.

Or better, on what remained on it.

There was a big hole in the wall, debris all around, police officers and even people on custody being treated by the EMT teams. LionHeart was into a stretcher, with a no-friends face.

“Are you okay? What happened?” said Jiminy, really worried, when looking on all the stretches and spots over LionHeart body. He was on civil, as by the parole terms.

“I still want to know.” said LionHeart “Looks like those guys were against Darius, my parole officer. I just noticed a weird flash in the streets by the window, and looked: it was a guy on those ninja costumes, holding an RPG, just beside a black van. I just had time to take him from the way and receive the worst on the hit. I just blacked out a little after the guys coming into the room.”

“Breakthrough?” said Jiminy

“Can’t say, didn’t saw…“ said LionHeart, when some officers came.

“I think you’re Jiminy Cricket. Officers Jefferson Papalliounous and Suzan McDaggert. Call me Jeff and her Suzan.” said the officer, bald headed with black beard and a beak nose followed by the woman, that looked strong and very beautiful on green eyes and a flame red hair. “She’s my partner, and she’s a B-Class Ajax. She is one of the officers that follows LionHeart’s parole.”

“Thanks. Those with me are Callisto, a HSF cape that came on help for us, and Presto, our new sidekick.” presenting the officers to the other capes. Joshua was trying to not thinking on assuming front-line command of a team, even a improvised one. “Do you job now, freak later.” he thought “What you have? Any cameras?”

“Some local security cameras got some images.” said Suzan, pushing a small device, while LionHeart sat in the stretcher. It was a small video player, with a flash-drive on it.

“Blue Fairy, be ready to try and see all you can and use any information source you can provide us.” he thought

“Roger!” she said, after changing instantly to a police officer costume.

They started to saw and there was the van, and some guys getting down from it, going to the café next, taking some Starbucks lattes. Some minutes after, one of them, on a ninja costume, got down and pushed fast the RPG launcher. The warhead was already armed and he should be really strong: just needed to catch it and put it over his shoulder like it was a towel and pressed the button for the shoot. It didn’t took more than half a minute. He dropped the launcher and got at the van, while two guys, using some ornithopters got and took a man in the room, leaving LionHeart behind.

“I think I have some clues, Jiminy!” said Blue Fairy “Ourobouros Files register this event as part of a plot to try outlaw capes once and for all, even in police forces.”

“Alright, and…“ thought Jiminy

“Darius Menard is a first-time cape supporter: in fact, he and his family were passengers in the plane Atlas saved first time at all during The Event. He turned into a police officer and was into Bronx Shoulder acquiring operation. When he saw that Ric tried to avoid casualties, he put into his report this, and this was a crucial proof to allow Ric to be under a parole, not at a SuperMax. He is a first-time breakthrough supporter, and is a breakthrough laws specialist.”

“Anything about the tangos?” thought Jiminy, when the officers looked to him

“Kid, anything…“ they started to say, when Jiminy shooed them and said

“Please, I’m trying to think and see if I can have anything.” said Jiminy “Have something about the tangos?” he asked for the guys, while thinking “Blue Fairy, just a minute.”

“The van was stolen, and looks like the guys are smart enough to not show their faces. But what we know is that they gone East Side.” said Jeff “And what you can say?”

“Nothing too much… But they had internal knowledge.” said Jiminy “They came prepared to deal with an Ajax. A HEAT RPG warhead is not like buy a Nintendo. One of those is really big investment. What you can say about this Darius guy?”

“Breakthrough supporter.” said Suzan “He is a pro-Mask, he even gone to a law course to prove his point, saying how in his vision, the Mask question doesn’t violate any legal problems about testifying in the court. Need to say, Jiminy, he is a first-time supporter on your case against those Humanity First nuts. This make us think if our tangos are an anti-breakthrough militia.”

“Maybe.” said Jiminy “But they are not against use Vernetech: they had ornithopters. And where were the Super-Police from this district.”

“This is the problem: this is a special no-breakthrough district. Need to say that is the most moronic idea all the time. The ones who had it will be IgNobel nominees for sure. We have super-criminals, we need super-police.” said Jeff.

“Alright… LionHeart, is that the place where you normally have parole meetings, right?” said Jiminy

“Yeah.” said LionHeart, flexing a little his arms to see for spraining and so. “He was always afraid about his security.”

“Well…“ deducted Jiminy “Looks like they had internal intel. But we need to deal with we have now, and we think later on the no-breakthrough thing. Jeff, Suzan, put all speedsters and flying capes from the police you can to search East Side. If you have any Metamorph that can change into aquatic animals, put them at the East Side for action. I think they are trying to get away. LionHeart, how are you?”

“Hurted and sore, but I’ll live. The shooter was either a Star Wars Stormtrooper or wasn’t trying to hit us directly. If so… Maybe the question would be the biggest piece of both of us you would find” said LionHeart. RPGs, specially HEAT ones, had enough power to put an Ajax like him down easily. “Need just to put my costume.”

“Okay… I’ll give some support from air and also try to find him. And forget the costume, LionHeart, we have no time and we don’t know what they want for real. So, you go CAI under Civil! I take the responsibility!” said Jiminy

“Be careful, Jiminy. Sounds like those punks are business.” said Jeff

“We are too. As we say: they brought the Foxtrot… Now they’ll dance.” said Jiminy, getting back to the heli

“Why didn’t you said about the intel?” said Blue Fairy.

“How could I say them: Hey, look, I have this cyber-pixie into my head that can access a database from the Big Bad Teatime Anarchist and she saw that those guys wants to put New York City against breakthrough once and for all.” thought Jiminy, while they got back to the helicopter.

“So, the only thing we know is that those punks are going to East Side?” said Callisto

“There’s lots of hiding places there: even The Event destroying lots of the warehouses there, there’s still too many of them.” said LionHeart

“Any gang?” said Jiminy

“Not of anti-breakthrough people. Maybe those are some radical dissidence from Paladins or something else.” said LionHeart, while getting into.

“Let me see something before we go.” said Presto, doing some magical passes “Where are those guys? VISION!” he said, closing his eyes…

“They are… I can see… I hear something about the Statue of Liberty… And cleansing… And a new American Age.” said Merlin, opening his eyes. “looking they will try to do something with that guy and then run to International Waters. They want to publish some manifesto… They look like totally anti-government.”

“And, if I’m right,” said Callisto “They’ll do it at the Statue of Liberty.”

“Any group that could be doing this?” said LionHeart

“Maybe some crazy nuts like the Pure God Work Fraternity.” said Jiminy, remembering the KKK-wannabes that attacked him when he was just visiting a partner on a clown school at a hospital. He fired the engine back and then talked to radio

“Nevada-Yankee-Hotel 02 to Dispatch. We are going for the Statue of Liberty. We have a hunch that the tangos are going there.”

“Dispatch here, Nevada-Yankee-Hotel. Don’t engage the tangos, as they have a hostage.” said someone on Dispatch

“Here is Jiminy Cricket, with LionHeart, Ajax, under Civil; Callisto, photo-kinetic; and Presto, a Merlin sidekick.” said Jiminy “Our plan is try to get ahead and wait the tangos there. I believe they are using some boat, maybe even a sub, to get at the Statue of Liberty. Don’t engage them until there: they have HEAT weapons, enough to almost drop our Ajax LionHeart dead. Just track them. I’ll need free airspace.”

“Airspace’s still in lockdown, Nevada-Yankee-Hotel. You have freeway. Godspeed and good luck.” said Dispatch

“Thanks.” said Jiminy, cutting the radio off “Hope they doesn’t see us!”

“I can assure this!” said Callisto, holding her hand in the helicopter door, when Jiminy started to feel like he was under a kind of spell or something like this “I’m changing the refraction factor on all the matter external of the heli: they will not see us. I can’t warrant they’ll not notice a kind of flick in the sky, but it’s the best I can do by now.” she said, holding the door. “I need to hold the power up, though, I can’t help too much otherwise by now!”

“Great, Callisto.” said Jiminy, pushing the power lever and flying as fast he can “Blue Fairy, any route you can give for us?”

“Straight ahead!” said her “To the second star to the right, and straight on till morning!”

“Stop clowning around, Shelly!” he said “We have a big problem here!”

“Sorry Jiminy.” she said

“Don’t go over-pressured.” conseled LionHeart, looking for Jiminy

“We need to deal with this now… Or they’ll do something with that parole officer and this will not be good at all.” said Jiminy.

“I know… But the last thing we need is you pushing yourself too hard. We need you 100%, not 1000%.” stated LionHeart.

Jiminy thought on what he was doing…

“Sorry everyone…“ said Jiminy

“It’s okay: being the leader is not easy task.” said LionHeart “Focus on the situation, stay calm, stay sharp, and let us help you.”

“We are getting nearby the Statue… Looks like the tangos are already there!” said Jiminy, as the saw a submarine next it.

“They noticed us! RPG!” yelled Blue Fairy, when Jiminy just put the lever enough to just get away from it.

“Callisto, you’re our flyer. Go on them while I land the heli. Presto, magical support for Callisto! Defensive magic on your discretion! LionHeart, be ready for rock and roll!” commanded Jiminy, pushing the lever to do the fast landing he trained so dearly with Cabby at the simulator, and he did it nice and smooth, while Presto already ready some magical missiles he shot as soon he got out the heli, hitting one of them straight in the chest.

“They have the higher ground, and our only flyer is Callisto.” said LionHeart

“And the SPAT team will take time, according what Blue Fairy passed me.” complimented Jiminy

Superhuman Powers and Tactics, SPAT for short, is the main tactical team New York City used. Differently from CAI-teams, SPAT are more focused on crime-fighting and public security than in crisis resolution.

“Alright. Callisto, any symbol or something that identify them?” said Jiminy via Earbug, while Presto shot some extra Magic Missiles.

“Something Nazi… With the Stars and Stripes, stylished under the Nazi colors.” said Callisto

“Shucks! The Pure God Work Fraternity!” gasped Jiminy.

“Those morons again?” spat LionHeart

“Looks like. And, if they are now strong enough to have internal intel on a place like police, certainly they are growing popular.” said Jiminy.

“Jiminy, SPAT said we have just the time until they arrive to deal with things, and then they’ll bring Havoc Protocols!” said Blue Fairy.

“Okay.” said Jiminy for the others “We have somewhat ten minutes, or SPAT team will arrive and hell will break loose for sure.”

“So, let us deal with them.” said LionHeart, snapping his fingers, ready for action.

Chapter 9

“The Statue of Liberty action was something really, really, stressful: they knew we could not act straight against them without consequences. They gloated themselves as Freedom Fighters, heroes from common people. However, in the end, they were nothing more or less than terrorists, no better then the Caliphate guys. But we needed to fight them without dance the Foxtrot, as soon as possible.”

LionHeart, “Life under a Super-Parole”

“I’ll try to gain time: Presto, go as support for LionHeart. Callisto, get out. I’ll try to negotiate.” said Jiminy

“Roger!” said Callisto, while LionHeart and Presto run, avoiding machine gun shots and Jiminy got back to the Heli. He turned on the speakers, and he took the radio mic.

“Hey, you!” said Jiminy, getting out the Heli. “If you wanted to deal with us, you should go for us! Didn’t you learned? Pretty Plea…”

It was when Jiminy felt his Bellax Analytica engaging just a split second before a HEAT powered RPG being shot against the helicopter. He rolled away and just felt some of the shockwave from the blast, that turned the helicopter into half a ton of melting steel scrap.

“JIMINY!” LionHeart screamed.

“I’m okay!” he shouted, tumbling in the ground, avoiding the machine gun shots, his Bellax Analytica showing him where they would hit some split seconds before. “They are not for talk. And my Bellax Analytica shows they want to go full power against us. So, we’ll need to fight our way through them to rescue. Rules of Engagement still applies until otherwise, though. We’ll deal with them. Specially you, LionHeart, as you’re under Civil, stay compliant on this!” said Jiminy “Setting the Cricket Pistols for stun. Every one, ready yourself. Sounds like they are prepared to deal with any kind of capes, including Ajaxes. We don’t want to escalate things, but at the same time we should not play naïve with them! LionHeart, Callisto, on front to tackle them out of way as fast as possible. Presto, as much defensive spells you can do! Non-lethal attacks if you need! Drop as much of them unconscious as you can. I’ll be nearby you to help! Go go go!” commanded Jiminy, running nearby Presto.

They started to climb the Statue’s stairs up, fighting the Pure God Work Fraternity’s minions: they were good armed, but they doesn’t had combat experience, and even Callisto and Presto being working with Jiminy on a emergency, they were powered enough and know enough the basic strategy to deal with those small fish.

In the past, as a chubby kid, Jiminy would be panting, but he had already lost some of the kid chubbiness, albeit he wasn’t still a Mr. Universe. Now he was able to deal with running and so, readying himself to shoot, using either his Bellax Analytica and some training he did under Soldaire and some guys from Scotland Yard and BKA, or Bundeskriminalamt, the Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office.

“Need to say, Jiminy, Soldaire would be proud!” said LionHeart, punching some guys, while Jiminy shot other guys almost on a one shot, one down ratio, with his Crickets on stun.

“Right…“ said Jiminy “But let us try to recover Mr. Menard ASAP… Sounds they had really precise and up-to-date intel about your parole. They knew about me, so, unless some of them are fanatic breakthrough data hate-readers, they had intel about who were going to be your HSF escort as parole.”

“Okay… Let’s go! Blue Fairy, had you saw all those guys? Any intel?” asked Jiminy

“Beside being 4chan supporters, right-wingers and out-of-closet incels… Nothing. They are not catalogued at TA’s Future Files or Ourobouros Files, so they are small fish. But I have a hunch: I got some intel looking on some Dark Net sites, with a little help from my sisters, and got some intel on the Pure God Work Fraternity. And their big kahunas are more or less linked each other.” she said int Jiminy’s head

“Seems legit. Any potential leader or target we should be wary on?” thought Jiminy

“There’s a guy… Curiously, he lived in Newark last year, until the earthquake: Joseph Smith Williams, Jr. His father died during the super-heist spree at The Event aftermath. He was a cop and was killed by a super powered bank robber called Shaytan, or at least one of the 4,237 morons that got under this name until now. Our Shaytan killed Joseph Smith Williams, Sr. when he was on duty on a bank robbery some days after The Event, before the capes being deputized. He literally ran through him: C-Class Metamorph, Ajax and Speedster, A-Class as a whole. Somewhat a small fish for breakthroughs, but a hell of a big fish for common cops. He could run very fast, change his arms into metal blades and literally splitting people in two using both his speed and the Ajax strength to sushi people with his metal blades. Gross!”

“So Joseph Smith Williams, Sr was a cop and was killed by a crazy breakthrough. And the son?” said Jiminy

“The son got to Army, and to SEALs, but seeing he would never be in the same league of the MaxSEALs, the new super-powered elite military, he grew disgusted and turned into a survivalist tutor, teaching shooting and martial arts. It was when he became a Paladin , leaving them some time after to create a militia against breakthroughs. He posted into some forums that they should be more active after the action they did last year that you stopped.” said Blue Fairy

“Any personal grudge between him and mr. Menard?” thought Jiminy, while they still were halfway to the crowd.

“Indeed… Mr. Menard was listed under a blacklist/target list for the Fraternity. As a vocal cape supporter, and as a cop, he was saw as part of, sic, ‘a corrupted system that thrown out the REAL Americans for the globalist swines.’ To be fair, a lot of balderdash, and the only thing I can say without needing to soup my mouth after. They were under an event about Breakthrough police enforcement some months ago, and things just didn’t got rough because people intervened, they almost getting into a fistfight.” said Blue Fairy

“Alright… So, there’s a personal component on all this. Okay… This changes everything.” said Jiminy, when there was just some stairs left.

“What we should do?” said Presto

“Callisto, Presto…“ said Jiminy “I don’t think we can negotiate with him, at least without bring his henchmen down before. So, first of all you use some light powers to whiteout them enough we can knock them out. Then… I’ll see if we can do something about it.”

“Right!” said Presto and Callisto, readying some light powers and going up the stairs.

Jiminy could only see the flashing lights they shot and hearing the screams. He gulped, thinking he did a disaster, but entered the Statue’s crown, shooting some of the henchmen with his Cricket pistols, stunning them enough to make them get down. LionHeart punched some of them to knockout, when Jiminy saw Mr. Menard and a guy, using the same uniform he saw the year before, the same Nazi pastiche he dealt before. He had an AR-15 on his hand and he was pointing it to Mr. Menard. Jiminy pointed his Cricket pistols and said.

“Down! It’s over, Williams! SPAT is coming!” said Jiminy

“You’re dumb, kid! SPAT can’t do anything here. This is a federal site!” said the man. gloating to catch Jiminy offhand

“He’s right!” gasped Blue Fairy “NYC police can’t do anything here without federal authorization. And I don’t think Touches Clouds would give an authorization now: only if things escalates Himalaya-level she would give in.”

“No matter.” said Jiminy “You are the one who kidnapped and is putting someone under a gun. This is enough for attempted manslaughter!”

“Pfah!” said the guy “Manslaughter? He’s not a man for a start! He’s part of an oppressive system! He’s a dog of corrupted guys that didn’t did anything against the real danger, the so-called capes, before anything! Capes are just chicanos or negroes that use the so-called capes to do their mess!”

“Are you sure? Do you know me?” said Jiminy, taking out his mask “I’m the kid that stopped you last year!”

“So, you’re the pesky kid that send Maurice to jail.” said the man, with a smirk “So, let us see: first of all, drop your weapons, including the ones on your gloves, and your cane. And the brick with you, I want him under Blacklocks.” said him, throwing a pair of Blacklocks. “This is non-negotiable: don’t do that, and the brains of this guy will decorate here.”

“Alright.” said Jiminy, dropping his weapons and removing his gloves. He looked for LionHeart, that gave him a little frown, but nodded. He took the Blacklocks and, even being very heavy for him, he put it on LionHeart’s wrist.

“Okay… So… What you want?” said Jiminy

“And no powers: no magic, no lights, no Pretty Pleases, no nothing.” said the guy

“I can only talk about us.” said Jiminy, while he thought “Blue Fairy, send this to your sisters, and if you can, to HSF and SPAT.”

“Right!” she said, now dressed as a camerawoman, with a video-camera over her virtual shoulders.

“Not that easy! I know you have contact with Dispatch. Make clear that if someone from SPAT came here, you all will die!” he said, pushing a detonator. “They came, it’ll be a signal that the government gone corrupt to the core, and America had already be invaded by the globalists! So this statue would be a rotten symbol, and should be destroyed!”

“He is totally nuts!” said Blue Fairy. “Should I send this for SPAT?”

“Yes!” thought Jiminy “They need as much intel we can provide on the situation!”

Jiminy focused on his Bellax Analytica and the situation was grim, almost all the futures resulting on Mr. Menard, or him and his team, or both being killed. But he saw a potential way. It would be a dangerous gambit, though, specially for him… He trusted his power, and he trusted his experience under this kind of situation, including his first encounter with the Fraternity and the time with Alsyf Alayat.

“Hey… He’s not useful for you… I’m a more useful target!” said Jiminy, and the others gasped “You can have me, if you want, but Pretty Please!, release him!” he said, using his Pretty Please! on a calculated, trained, non-chalantly tone to pass over unsuspected on his talk. Jiminy knew that he needed to play with the guy’s anti-cape prejudice: a target like Jiminy would be a juicy morsel than a common cop, and a safer one. Even that guy knew that, as soon he killed a cop, he would be hunted by all the good capes, vigilantes and cops, supers or not.

“Okay, come here! You, you piece of shit, just get out!” he said, pushing the Menard guy in front, but the weapon still pointed for it.

Jiminy was almost to use the Pretty Please! to deal with the guy, but he forgot one of the Bellax Analytica caveats as a power: it was not a fortune telling power, but a future evaluation one.

He can’t foresee too much the moves from other people if he expands the future time slice he can foresee. And he needed to see if HE could be able to deal with the man, but he forgot to foresee the others’ actions.

As soon he was pushed, Mr. Menard run back to grapple the guy. He was surprised enough to not shoot immediately, but things escalated quickly.

As soon Mr. Menard got near, the guy brought the gun back, but LionHeart was already advancing against the guy, while both Callisto and Presto were working some shields to protect all them. Just a split second before the guy could target either LionHeart and Mr. Menard, LionHeart launched himself against hte guy, what made the guy freaked out enough to shoot against LionHeart, that fell in the ground, screaming. Mr. Menard got back, avoiding the shoots, using the cover LionHeart provided to run back.

Jiminy run fast enough to take back the Cricket pistols and gave some shots, two of them straight the guy head. He saw the guy falling like a potato bag…

“Jiminy!” shouted someone and she looked around. It was Suzan the Ajax cop.

“Jiminy, go for LionHeart!” shouted in his mind Blue Fairy.

Jiminy got till there: LionHeart was screaming, bleeding. Even an A-Class Ajax, the depleted uranium shot, even into the shoulder, provoked lost of punishment. Jiminy run into his pack for a special patch that could stanch the bleeding and relieve the pain for some time until a EMT came.

The cops came and looked for the guy and then for Jiminy.

“Jiminy Cricket, it’s sad, but we need to say: you’re under arrest on manslaughter!” said Jeff the cop

“Wha…“ was saying Jiminy, when he noted what he did.

He shot the guy dead, parts of his brain out of his head splattered all around.

The overload of things for his brain to process made Jiminy puke out beside LionHeart, trembling and almost freaking out, when Suzan came and put the Sandman bag over his head, making him go asleep.

Chapter 10

“We are weapons, in the end. All breakthroughs are weapons. This is an inconvenient truth. Our powers can always result on deaths, in a way or another, by action or inaction. No matter if we kill by our own hands, or we kill indirectly, by shooting or saying to shoot. Sometimes, I think that for us, Ajaxes and Atlases, it’s easy to deal with this fact: we can kill by our own bare hands, so we need to deal with this dark truth all time. Other breakthroughs, like Vernes, Merlins and so, tends to suffers on this even more, as their actions normally can be used without so big fatality risks, so they doesn’t need to deal with this fact all the time. But when you see a kid dealing with the fact he killed someone, even on duty… It’s a heartbreaking thing.”

LionHeart, “Life under a Super-Parole”

Joshua was sat into the cell: even he having no super physical prowess, he was put into a super-cell. He was with a emaciated pale face, red eyes on crying, dressed into a default white shirt and orange pants for prisoners. He didn’t ate or slept too much. For him, worst than being on jail was to deal with the fact: he killed someone. Even a criminal, even trying to save people and not escalating people, a kill was a kill.

“So you’re Joshua McCarthy?” said someone outside the Vernetech force-field that somehow was used in the cell. He nodded meekly looking for the one that asked.

The man outside had a big, rounded belly, like Santa or Friar Tuck from Robin Hood for Joshua. He was using the typical Catholic Cassock, and had a little smile. He was holding a small brown paper parcel on a hand and an opened pack of Double Stuffed Oreos at the other. A local guard, that Joshua knew was a B-Class Ajax, opened a space in the Vernetech cell energy field, by hitting some buttons at a panel.

“Can we talk a little?” said the man, entering the cell

“No problem.” said Joshua, a little contemptuous, when the man came and sat in the other cement haddock in the other side of the cell, while the guard closed the cell again.

“To be honest, the one who asked me to came said you were a cheerfully little boy.” said him

“Who are you? And who sent you?” said Joshua, a little more contemptuous. Jiminy was totally out of the mood for anything in the last days, so he was not too much for talking.

“I’m Father Nolan, from Chicago’s Saint Christopher’s Church. The one who sent me said you’re Catholic and that you were feeling really bad, needing help. The one who asked me to be here can’t be see, but always looks for you.” said the man

“And, there’s the tip, it was not Jesus!” said Blue Fairy, giggling. For the last four days, after the arrest, Joshua didn’t talked with Blue Fairy. He used his call to ask HSF NYC HQ to ask someone to go with Presto and LionHeart back ORSL 1 and to update everyone on his situation. He didn’t even talk with his mother and father, as he knew that, as soon NYC HQ passed the information about Joshua arrest for Soldaire, he would pass it for his parents.

“Alright… So it was you, Blue Fairy.” said Joshua, sighing.

“Now, don’t be mad with your little cyber-angel. She asked for some help, as she knows you are really down.” said Father Nolan. “As she’s connected with their sisters, Shelly Boyar and Shell, she asked them help. It was, in fact, Shell that came to me and ask for help.”

“Sorry… I don’t want to be rude and so, but unless you’re a lawyer there’s nothing you can for me do by now.” said Joshua

“I’m the one to be sorry, but I really have help to you.” said Father Nolan “You see, I also forgot to say that I’m the Chicago Sentinels’ chaplain. Unofficially, of course.”

“I understand this, but…“ said Joshua, when Father Nolan stopped him with a small gesture.

“I know what you can do and what you had done: in fact, I’m really impressed with your history, being so young. Henry was a wise man to provide me some reports on your powers and actions and background. I know what happened at the Statue of Liberty…“ said Father Nolan

“So, you know I killed someone… You know I’m a…“ said Joshua

“You’re not a murderer.” said Father Nolan, suave “I’ll just ask a question: how did you feel when discovered it, that the man you tried to stop was killed?”

“I couldn’t believe I killed him: you see, I thought I set my pistols to Stun, as by our protocol, not to Hurt or Kill… I… I…“ tried to say Joshua, but it was when he snapped. He started to cry like a kid.

“I know…“ said Father Nolan, hugging Joshua “You see, being friends with Blackstone is an honor and a privilege, that come with some responsibilities. When Shell asked me help, she downloaded a copy of the action video Blue Fairy sent to them for me to see. From what I saw, I think you were trying to gather intel and register your action.”

Joshua nodded.

“Then, you tried that gambit to exchange yourself on Mr. Menard, right?” said Father Nolan, and Joshua nodded again. “If I understood, you used that power you call Bellax Analytica to find a way to reduce casualties and still acquire that crazy Fraternity guy, right?”

“Yeah… But… How could I…“ said Joshua

“‘But He said to them: “It is not yours to know the times or the moments, which the Father has set by his own authority. But you shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit, passing over you, and you shall be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.”’ This is Acts 1:7-8, and it was said when the apostles and disciples asked him when he would free Israel from the Roman oppression. But they didn’t understood that there’s nothing to him to try to anticipate things and to force God to do their wishes and change Fate. Here, eat some, you’ll fell yourself better” said Father Nolan, showing him the Oreo package. Joshua took one and start to nibble, meekly.

“By what I saw, you tried your best, but things had gone havoc. Maybe you failed in the worst moment. This kind of thing happens with everyone. It’s not pretty. It’s never easy to deal with. But happens. You should not blame yourself on this: you are trained on this, and very well, as far I saw, but you are imperfect as everyone.” he said

“But when I fail, people can die! I was remembering all the actions I had and how near on them people were to die. My failures don’t result in damages only! People can. die.” said Joshua

“But how many people had died? And how many would die if you didn’t acted…“ said Father Nolan

“This is no excuse.” said Joshua “I killed someone!”

“Yes… But… Remember that Our Lord Jesus had died in The Cross, with two criminals, and He pardoned them.” said Father Nolan “I think that he would pardon you because, and I hope I’m not wrong, you didn’t liked to kill, right? I can say you don’t accept the it was my job trump to relieve your conscience on what you did, even this being right. Am I right?”

“Yes… I try to sleep, but… I can see my hands in sleep… Blood red!” said Joshua, crying again, and again Father Nolan hugged him

“Hush, hush, boy… It was nightmares. It’s okay to have nightmares, as long you either don’t let them consume you or you don’t revel on them.” said Father Nolan, again looking for him

“Sometimes, people need to do things they don’t want. Sometimes, things goes havoc. That guy was playing a dangerous dance with you, and unfortunately things had gone south. But you are not guilty on blood, at least under Our Savior, because you didn’t want to do it, you didn’t like it, you didn’t revel on death. ‘The thief does not come, except so that he may steal and slaughter and destroy. I have come so that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.’ From John, 10:10” said Father Nolan.

“I understand, but…“ said Joshua

“It’s okay, Jiminy Cricket.” said Father Nolan, talking his capename while Joshua was on civil “It was like Astra when she dealt with Seif-Al-Din. She didn’t felt okay with that. She knew that, even killing Seif-Al-Din, this would not bring back Atlas, Ajax, Nimbus. And she didn’t revel on killing. I heard somewhere that the worst on the first kill is when people starts to relativize death, as there was people that deserves to be killed. ‘You have heard that it was said to the ancients: ‘You shall not murder; whoever will have murdered shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, that anyone who becomes angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment. But whoever will have called his brother, ‘Idiot,’ shall be liable to the council. Then, whoever will have called him, ‘Worthless,’ shall be liable to the fires of Hell.’ Again, this is Matthew 5, 21:22. And, I need to say, this also applies to those who thinks some people deserves to die, no matter what.” he said

“It’s not from now, but from sometime, that people mismatch Justice with Vengeance. And I see that, in those, the Buddhists and Hindi have some reason, because Jesus came to do this: to break the rage cycle, the vengeance cycle. ‘You have heard that it was said: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil, but if anyone will have struck you on your right cheek, offer to him the other also. And anyone who wishes to contend with you in judgment, and to take away your tunic, release to him your cloak also. And whoever will have compelled you for one thousand steps, go with him even for two thousand steps. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and you shall have hatred for your enemy.’ But I say to you: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. And pray for those who persecute and slander you. In this way, you shall be sons of your Father, who is in heaven. He causes his sun to rise upon the good and the bad, and he causes it to rain upon the just and the unjust. Therefore, be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.”’ Again, this is Matthew 5, 38 to 41 and 43 to 45 and 48.” said Father Nolan

“Looks like you memorized the versicles you needed to talk with me.” said Joshua, smiling meekly

“Occupational hazard… And now we have you back to your own.” said Father Nolan, looking for the smiling Joshua “In fact, I knew you understood this: God didn’t gave you powers to kill, but to protect. But we are all imperfect, and we always can fail in the worst times. I know that failures when you are a cape can result in casualties: remember, I’m Chicago Sentinel’s chaplain, so I was the one that did the funeral mass for Ajax, Atlas, Nimbus. I became spiritual counselor for Astra and, between us, to all of them eventually, even Chakra, that is a Hindi. And when Jesus says “Therefore, be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect”, he wasn’t saying this on if you are not compliant with Father’s perfection, you’re going straight to Hell, but as Look: I know that you’re imperfect and seeking perfection is a big of a burden. Do your best, improve every day and don’t look aside. He hopes we do our best and we don’t revel on the evil and on death. Like Yoda says when Luke Skywalker says the Dark Side being stronger: “No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.”” said Father Nolan

“I don’t know why this…“ said Joshua

“It’s easy to be tempted to deal with problems by trying to tackle them down as fast and strong they doesn’t problems anymore.” said Father Nolan “But this is the catch: they still are problems. You didn’t solved it, you didn’t coped it, you just shoved it aside, probably with even more resentment, anger…“

“That leads to hate…“ said Joshua

“That leads to suffering.” replied Father Nolan. “Looks like you’re not just a Disney fan kid.”

“I heard this a lot and saw Star Wars.” said Joshua

“Now… You know you’ll need to deal with the consequences of your actions, but I’m here to say you that things will get well somehow, and that you shouldn’t be that grumpy or despair on situations like you are now.” said Father Nolan “You killed a man: this is a fact. Maybe you did some great mistake, and you’re suffering on your heart on this. But, by what I saw and by what we talked, I can say, and that is the point, you don’t revel in killing. You still have your conscience, that little Jiminy Cricket inside you that says that killing is wrong, PERIOD. No buts, howevers, anyways. Killing is killing is killing. Remove this from you, remove THIS Jiminy Cricket, and you’ll be no better than Seif-Al-Din or Alsyf Alayat or any of those guys that thinks that, after the breakthrough, they gone the Nietzschean Übermensch, the Super-man, beyond Good and Evil, forgotten and bereft from all morale and ethics to others. I don’t know you, but I would not like to live on a world Might is Right would prevail.”

“I understand… This is the danger of nihilism.” said Joshua

“Now I understand what they say about your powers: you have a great mind, being sage beyond your age. But in heart and soul, you’re still a kid, and this make you suffer. But suffering is not the end. Jesus suffered at the Golgotha, in the Cross, as a man in fear, screaming for God why He was forsaken in this pain and suffering, but in the end of his human, earthly life, he just said: ‘It is consummated’, as said in John 19:30. This will pass, and you’ll be healed, and you learned, and you’ll grow better in all ways thanks this experience. The nihilist would say, and pardon my french, f%$k off, because for him suffering is a sin. But we understand that suffering is the bitter on the sweet of life.” said Father Nolan, when the Ajax guy came, using some kind of earbugs: Joshua knew they were special Vernetech against his Pretty Please! and other kinds of audiotory suggestion powers.

“Sorry, Father, but your visit time is almost over. Please, I need you to leave.” he said.

“Alright, I almost already finished.” said Father Nolan to the Ajax. Then, he looked back to Joshua “This little parcel is some dibs I brought you from the Sentinels to cheer you up. Don’t worry, people had already screened them and is all okay. And… I need to say that this is difficult for me, but… Take the Oreos. I liked them a lot, to a vice to be frank, but looks like you need them more than me now. And… Could I finish my visit here blessing you?” said Father Nolan

“Sure.” said Joshua, going into his knees, when Father Nolan said, laying his hands over Joshua’s head.

“Our Lord, help this small son of you in his troubles, free him from his burden and pardon his sins, so he can get back to action and help people with the Powers You Conceded Him for Your Glory. In the name of Your Son and Our Lord Jesus Christ.” said Father Nolan

“Amen.” both of they said, and they finished praying “Our Lord”.

“Thanks, Father Nolan, and thank everyone at Sentinels in my name.” said Joshua, while Father Nolan crossed the Vernetech force-field and he he sat back in the haddock, a lot better than the visit started.

He opened the package and saw some trinkets: a go board that was a gift from Shelly/Shell/Blue Fairy, a deck of cards branded with Blackstone crest, a copy of the Holy Bible and a small Scapulary (Father Nolan’s gift, of course), some sweets and an almost mint-state copy of Wizard of Oz, 1st Edition, with a dedicatory by Ozma saying “don’t let the Nomes to take you down. Kindness is a powerful weapon, in the correct times and rightly used.”

He took some of the Oreos and sat, starting to read the Wizard of Oz book, trying to relieve his mind from the Revision Board that would be soon.

Chapter 11

“Any superhuman action that resulted in casualties or fatalities should be subject of a Review Board. The Board would be compounded by the involved cape(s) team leader (or his superior, if he is also subject of the Board), a local CAI-team representation, a local government representation, a superhuman registrar representation and a society representation, the last one being a breakthrough of recognized knowledge on the issues of the Board and untarnished reputation. They should review either the After Action Report and any and all proofs and testimony related to and then communicate the results to the cape(s) under the review, also communicating all the results to the local law enforcement and justice bodies.”

Interpol’s protocols for Review Boards and After-Action Reports

Jiminy was already bathed and dressed into his costume, ready for whatever would happen with him. It was three days since Father Nolan came to the district where Jiminy was acquired, and in the meantime his parents and Sugarplum came to there.

“They put your action under a Review Board, and they are reviewing it. Hope everything goes well: if they see you had done things wrong, they can even revoke your CAI license, even permanently. So, it would be no more Jiminy Cricket.”, she said, worried.

Jiminy was already ready, just waiting for his escort, as the Review Board would happen at the same building. It was when his parents came, with Sugarplum and two SPAT members, and he also saw Seven with them.

“Mom, pops!” said Jiminy

“Alright, darling!” said his mother “Everything will end well.”

“OK, Jiminy.” said Seven “We’ll need to put some locks on you. It’s protocol.”

“Okay.” he said, when the Ajax guard granted Seven access.

Seven came and put the handcuffs on Jiminy’s hands.

“Okay. Let’s go.” said Seven, in a non-chalantly tone, like he was going to Disneyland’s Splash Mountain, not to a Review Board that could remove from Jiminy all he did in the last three years or so.

They got an elevator and into a big room. He was in front of the Review Board:

“Review Board for the After-Action Report # HSF-20XX-19302, subject for the Action involving the kidnapping of Darius Menard by the Pure God Work Fraternity that resulted into the death of their leader, Joseph Smith Williams Jr., by Joshua McCarthy, capename Jiminy Cricket. After-Action Report filled by the same Jiminy Cricket. This Board Members are: Seiji Shirou, capename Soldaire, as Jiminy Cricket’s team leader; Lieutenant Suzan McDaggert for the New York City Police, as local CAI representation; Agent Elijah Williams, from the Department of Superhuman Affairs, DSA, as government representation; Eleanor Sinclair, from Herós Sans Frontières, NYC HQ, as superhuman Registrar representation; and Henry Roix, capename Blackstone, from Chicago Sentinels, as society representation. As clerk, Willian McIntyre, from NYPD.” said the little guy with a salt-and-pepper hair and a face of a clerk.

Jiminy looked for the board, all of them in their best clothes and costumes. Soldaire just undone his helmet, but he was under his SolArmor also.

“Let us start to review the operation from the beginning…“ said Blackstone, that was the one chosen as speaker. They looked for all the things he talked with everyone, even with Blue Fairy (that was listed as a Netrunner cape, which was REALLY weird), and double-checking all the action. Everything was smooth until it came to the Statue of Liberty.

“Jiminy, why didn’t you left the action command for capename LionHeart, as he was more experienced as a cape than you?” asked Agent Williams.

“Sir, LionHeart is a cape under parole. In fact, as quoted in the Report, all the action started when Mr. Menard was kidnapped, and he’s LionHeart’s parole officer. By putting him under command, we would risk being questioned on the fact he’s a convicted criminal under the system. Any problem, no small we had, would be put under a severe scrutiny.” said Jiminy

“No more than what is happening now. However…“ said Blackstone

“And about he acting on a CAI Under Civil situation? Why didn’t you gave him time to gather his costume?” asked Suzan

“As the tangos had a hostage, I thought we could not expense more time than needed. As LionHeart has no need of equipment, putting him on CUC could save us precious time.” said Jiminy

“Let us stay on the topic… You set your Cricket pistols to Stun, right? The Maskcam is clear on this.” said Blackstone, continuing the Report analysis.

Jiminy was hearing all of the report, growing tense as the event that called the Board was near and near.

“So, you had him under gunpoint.” said Williams “Why didn’t you shot straight on that time?”

“Sir, I knew, by Blue Fairy intel gathering, that Mr. Williams, Jr and Mr. Menard had a grudge. He would shot for sure the hostage as soon I started to push the trigger. In fact, that was what my Bellax Analytica shown me.” said Jiminy

“Alright. And you did the gambit, by offering yourself as hostage instead of Mr. Menard. What you had in mind?” said Blackstone

“I thought on stay with my Bellax Analytica engaged, just waiting a breach on his defenses or a moment of naivety on him to put him down. In the worst case, I at least would save the hostage.” said Jiminy

“However, your Bellax Analytica didn’t showed Mr. Menard going against Mr. Williams, Jr. Why?” said Suzan

“Ma’am, my Bellax Analytica is a power that depends on two factors: time depthness and details. I chose to expand the time depthness so I could see if my gambit would warrant the hostage safeness and freedom.”

“By doing, this, however, you lost details. And, if I understood correctly, this means you didn’t saw Mr. Menard getting back and trying to attack Mr. Williams, Jr.” she said

“Yes, Ma’am. It was when this gone Foxtrot. To try to protect Mr. Menard, LionHeart put himself as meat-shield for him, even Mr. Williams, Jr armed with a AR-15, depleted-ammo gun, standard anti-Ajax weapon. I had gone and shot him as a way to neutralize him as a Tango.”

“Had you changed the Cricket pistols settings?” said Soldaire

“No… I didn’t!” pleaded Jiminy

“Because, and this is important here, the Cricket pistols telemetry shown a setting change before this shot, from Stun to Kill.” inquired Soldaire, looking incisively.

As most super-weaponry or weapons used by capes, the Cricket pistols had a kind of telemetry registry that shown every setting change and shot fired into a memory system on it. This was always made as an accountability on the weapon use.

“I didn’t changed the setting! I swear!” pleaded Jiminy again, starting to freak out.

“In fact, I believe him.” reassured Blackstone “By what I read about the Cricket pistols, there would be no way for him to exchange the settings without consciously go and change the setting. This, in fact, is a good thing, as it acts as a safeguard to recklessness action. And the Maskcam doesn’t show him looking to the setting system, what would mean he would change settings.”

“Sure.” said Soldaire “The Cricket pistols are designed similarly my own SolPistol. You can only exchange settings by looking and turn the settings on, as a safety mechanism.”

“But…“ said Eleanor.

“Sounds like we have a mystery here, but one simply solved.” expressed Agent Williams. “While processing the acquired Fraternity members, we found a C-Class Telekinetic on them. He even tried to remove the Blacklocks, but wasn’t able to. But, by what I saw, it would be sensible to think that that guy used his telekinesis to change the Cricket pistol setting. Even it being a Vernetech pistol, almost one-of-a-kind, thinking that pushing the setting knob all the opposite position would result on the setting going from Stun to Kill.”

“But why?” said Suzan

“They had the interest to provoke an anti-cape feeling on population, so they could get into a way as Saviors of Country.” said Blackstone “We have the intel collected by Shell, and this is classified by now, of course, but we know that the Pure God Work Fraternity is a dissidence from Humanity First, but more nationalist than racist: they are against non-US breakthroughs. Mr. Williams, Jr. specifically expanded their targets to those that worked with the government, that they think is lenient against their primary target of foreigner breakthroughs, and international NGOs. LionHeart and Jiminy Cricket looked like a good side effect on their vendetta, as they works to Herós Sans Frontières.”

“And why they would kill their own leader?” said Suzan

“By creating a martyr. Crazy breakthrough kid kills American good citizen. Put this headline on the correct groups on Internet and slow cook things: it is obvious that they would use Mr. Williams, Jr., quote-unquote, martyrdom as a way to show that breakthroughs that are not part of good citizenry are evil. As a matter of fact, some ultra-nationalist used to have a periodical called The Good Citizen, between 1913 and 1933. This kind of speak, easy and emotional, are staple on any system of disinformation and fake news, specially those focused on extremist or fascist philosophies. It’s not unlike the speaks from both sides at Cold War, or like some of the speaks from the Caliphate and, shame on us, our own government sometimes does.” said Blackstone, as easy as he was lecturing everyone into trivia

“So, the guy saw Jiminy taking back the gun and exchanged the setting to kill his own leader?” said Soldaire

“Maybe…“ thought Suzan “Or he just changed the setting waiting for someone of his own take the gun or that Jiminy could kill some of his own as friendly fire. No matter what, he tried to somehow profit on the situation and thought that messing with the Cricket pistols would be a good way to do this.”

“So…“ said Blackstone “We could say that Jiminy hadn’t on purpose killed this man.”

“This is clear…“ said Agent Williams “But it is still a kill: there’s lots of social pressure to give Jiminy some punishment, even more the guy being a ‘common’ person, not a breakthrough, killed by one.”

“However, take his CAI certification, even temporally, would be overkill.” said Soldaire

“On the other side… if we just left Jiminy run free, people will call us lenient, and those crazy nuts like Humanity First or Paladins would go for our throat! No matter security forces, justice or capes.” said Suzan

“I think we had discussed this before…“ said Blackstone “And as the senior member of the board, I think I have the best solution for our situation.” he said, looking for Jiminy

“As you didn’t purposefully killed that man, the manslaughter accusation will be dropped and you will not be judged in the Court. Also, your CAI certification will not be revoked by now. However,” said Blackstone, looking very serious “I believe, and I think that my Board fellows agrees, that you were reckless on take action, and you should had waited for more intel. We know that they had a hostage, but the fact is that you were reckless, even more taking action as team leader being so inexperienced as a cape. I don’t want to just suspend you, as we are also under social scrutiny: this review board will be validated by NYC Justice. So, your CAI certification is on hold, with all implications on this, by the next three months.” said Blackstone, and everyone gasped.

Jiminy was no strange to be under the knife with his CAI Certification: last year, he suffered a trial on attempted manslaughter. But that time, he was put on bench because of the PR. This time things were really serious. By having his CAI-Certification on hold means that he couldn’t even be in the bench: it was even worse than being put as a sidekick or on bench because, on both situations, he could act as a cape in emergencies. Having it on hold means that he couldn’t act even on a serious catastrophes, even if his own life was in danger.

“After the three months hold, your CAI-certification will be revalidated via an Action Test, to be held under the Chicago Sentinel’s Dome. The terms of this action test will be determined and send to you later. This Board will be the revalidation Board for this effect. If you fail to achieve the expected levels, your CAI-certification will be revoked, but, if Herós Sans Frontières still wants you as cape, you will be allowed to restart the CAI-certification process as a sidekick, after at least another 6 months period.”

This would be really harsh, thought Jiminy: he could be turned into a sidekick again if he fails the revalidation!

“Everyone agrees? Jiminy?” said Blackstone

“I have no talk on this. I agree.” said Jiminy, resigned, while the Board agreed with this. Jiminy was so hopping mad if he was another kind of kid he would snap now and swear everyone in the room, but there was nothing he could do by now.

“So, let us sign everything.” said Agent Williams.

Jiminy tried not to think, and he signed his documents as best he could, almost on autopilot, but their parents and Sugarplum, while their own signing everything (Sugarplum was chose as Board testimony), looked and could see the frustration on him. Blackstone also looked, but he tried to be as a dandy as he always was.

After they all got out of the room, Blackstone came to him:

“I know you’re frustrated… I’m this frustrated too… But we need to deal with all the external pressure on capes. This is not just PR or so: the anti-cape movements is growing and they’ll try to put us against the corner. This could be enough to deal with this by now.”

“I understand… Although I wouldn’t say I’m liking it.” said Jiminy

“I would not ask you for this.” said Blackstone, smiling “But, and I have big hopes on this, you’re a clever good kid, and in three months you’ll be back to action. If you want some advice, take at least a week to put your hair down: you had under big pressure and stress for too much time. Even me would not be able to deal this all, and I’m an ex-SEAL, intelligence specialist, beside my powers.”

“And I’m just the pesky hero-playing kiddo.” said Jiminy, sighing

“Beside the hero-playing, the rest is true. Because you never played hero, You always was a hero.” said Blackstone, smiling, while his mother and father got to him. “After that, study all the procedure manuals you can and ready yourself and train more your powers. Beyond everything, be ready and stay focused.” said Blackstone, when Seven came to him “Now, if you excuse me, mr. and mrs. McCarthy, Jiminy.” said Blackstone, lifting the hat.

“And now?” said Sugarplum “As you’re on hold, you’re not even part of our roster.”

“Money will not be a problem.” said Mrs. McCarthy “We used Joshua’s wage to pay the Geneva house’s mortgage and we have our work, he would be not at need.”

“But he can’t use the communications lines with ORSL 1 or HSF.” said Sugarplum “He’s like a civilian now, and civilians can’t contact ORSL 1 via the comm lines! How he’ll prepare himself for that Revalidation Action Test?”

“Well…“ said Jiminy, while he had the handcuffs removed and his bag with civilian clothes that was held since his acquiring was returned to him “Look I’ll need to deal with this all alone, at least until the revalidation test.”, he sighed while getting into the cell one last time to change into some civilian clothes.

Chapter 12

“The Revalidation Process was something that really stressed me out: as I was on hold, I had no way to practice. I was neither considered a sidekick. I saw and read all CAI procedure manuals I could put hands or take from Internet, from Chicago Sentinels to Herós Sans Frontières to Interpol to Japan Superhuman Self-Defense Force. I couldn’t train, so the best way to ready myself is to gather all knowledge I could, focus on tuning my powers on other ways and then hope for the best.”

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

“Joshua, it’s Seiji on the phone.” said Mrs. McCarthy “And come on. Time for dinner!”

“Right!” said Joshua, in his room at the second floor. He got down and took the telephone. “Jiminy.”

“Jiminy, it’s Soldaire.” said the man at the other end of the line. “How are you?”

“Okay, or as far I can be now… Trying to see the glass half-full: I don’t think I had this time with my parents since the time after the Process last year, or even before breakthrough. But I’m still worried with the Revalidation.” said Joshua, trying not to show his frustration

“It’s just about this I’ve calling you: they send me an email with the Revalidation Test terms and I’ve already approved. I forwarded it to you and I want you to look them and confirm it ASAP, because of some of the caveats on the test.” said Soldaire “I’ll be there also, as I’m part of the Board.”

“Okay… I’ll look it after dinner.” said Joshua, calling the call off and getting into the dinner room on his home at Geneva, Switzerland.

“What Seiji wanted with you, Josh?” asked Mr. McCarthy, while he and his mother placed the table and he finished him some fish and rice.

“It’s about the Revalidation Test. They sent me the terms for it… Think I’ll study it after the dinner: sounds like they need me to answer it ASAP, maybe they need me to know if I need some asset or so.” said Joshua.

“Alright. So, let us eat, and then you can go.” said Mrs. McCarthy, while they sat for eating.

After the dinner, Joshua took a small thermos with some chocolate milk and got it back to his room. After a quick shower, he put some of his Jiminy Cricket pyjamas from Disney and fired the email system on his common laptop. After logging in, he saw the email from Soldaire. He looked it and saw that it was in fact a forward one from blackstone@chicago-sentinels.cai.

He saw that there was a document attached on the email, that he downloaded and opened, starting to study it. After some minutes, he closed it and stored a copy encrypted into his special Asimov-powered flash-drive. He then created an email and sent it to Soldaire and Blackstone with some information they asked him about on the document. He got to the bed, and looked to his costume, neatly placed in a hanger, like a prized item, thinking on if he’ll be Jiminy Cricket after the revalidation, or he’ll need to get everything from scratch, getting back to basics.

And then… He got to sleep.

A week later, he got with his parents to Chicago, to the Chicago Sentinels Dome, the big dome that was the base of the Chicago Sentinels. On the main gate of it, there was The Harlequin, an old time circus artist that turned into a living doll when she almost felt to dead at Cirque Du Soléil during an acrobatics show. She was under her traditional harlequin costume and mask. The weirdest thing is how glossy she looked around: it was like a living Barbie.

“Hello Jiminy, Mr. and Mrs. McCarthy.” said her, and people started to look those guys that The Harlequin was receiving. They should be capes, or at least one. Joshua could feel some flashes from cellphones and photo cameras, making him blush, while The Harlequin shook hands with them. A guy or another, cape nerds for sure, pointed him, and they know that, even he on civil, he was Jiminy Cricket. She continued to talk while ushering then into The Dome.

“I think we had saw each other before, but I never gave you my real name: I’m Jacquin Torres, and I’ll take you to where will happen your Revalidation Test, Jiminy. Mr. and Mrs. McCarthy, there’ll be some seats you can see him, but I need to ask you to avoid comments during the test, as you’ll be nearby the Revalidation Board.” she said, while they get in “Tom, these are the McCarthys, and they’ll have full guest clearance until further notice, alright?”

“Ma’am. Sirs.” He said, taking some glances on the McCarthys and looking into their bags.

“Also, provide them some guest room. Even in the worst case, I think they could be given a day into it.” said The Harlequin

“Yes, ma’am.” said the Tom guy, with a Droopy voice, while she conducted them to the elevator, while acting as a kind of tourist guide for them, until they got into the elevator. Jiminy could see it’s not the “normal” elevator, but certainly one exclusive for the Chicago Sentinels: she looked to a kind of iris scanner and the elevator came. They got into the elevator and start to get down.

“We have lots of acquired artifacts that we need to ensure they’ll be safe: the Dome is build to resist anything up to an Omega Attack. Even launching a nuke wouldn’t be enough to compromise the Dome’s structure enough to create security breaches. And we like to make this clear.” she said, while the got out the elevator, she ushering through the corridor until open form them a special room, that looked like a big family room from some of the high-level Disney hotels, at least in comfort.

“You’ll take the night here after the Test. Things going okay, there’ll be a little happy hour after the test. Jiminy, I think you brought your costume.” she said, and Jiminy nodded. “I want you to be ready in at most half an hour. All the assets you asked for the test, including your new costume, are ready, and you’ll be presented to them at the right moment. Are you okay?”

“Yes… I think I can do it.” said Joshua

“Right. I’ll be back soon. Be ready.” said The Harlequin. While Mrs. and Mr. McCarthy unpacked their clothes, Joshua got to the bathroom to ready himself, taking a shower and after drying himself going for his bedroom, were into a big cardboard box was his new costume.

He dressed carefully, looking for all the gizmos and checking everything: he chose to get into his normal Jiminy Cricket costume, a fresh one with an extra gizmo he asked Dumont to do. He never tested it, though, and he hoped things would not go wrong in the worst time.

“Son, are you okay?” said Mr. McCarthy, while Joshua got Jiminy.

“As okay I can. There’s nothing too much I can do, though. I’ll do my best and hope things goes okay.” said Joshua, or better, Jiminy, while finished to put his costume by placing his cricket shaped mask and Top Hat. He got out the bedroom and his parents looked to him. Her mother came and adjust his scarf cravat, when they heard a knock knock on the door.

“Jiminy? It’s time.” they heard The Harlequin saying, and they opened the door.

“Now, let us go.” said The Harlequin. They walked through a corridor until The Harlequin knocked another door. A guy that looked like the Tom guy from the entrance opened it, and Jiminy could see it was a kind of amphitheater, where his Revalidation Board were.

“Now, Mr. and Mrs. McCarthy, please. You can see all the Test from here, but I’ll ask you to avoid comments during the test.” said The Harlequin

“Go on, son. Everything will be alright.” said Mr. McCarthy, while Mrs. McCarthy just lifted his mask a little and kissed him in the cheek.

“Okay.” said The Harlequin. “Let’s go.”

She take Jiminy to an elevator and she get into a special room with him.

In the room were already into their costumes Djanni, Presto, Sugarplum and Marjanah, into a generic sidekick costume, a white jumper with an overall and a dark green domino mask, a common hijab over her hair and a niqab being used to somehow hide her face and provide her with a secret identity.

“Jiminy, are you ready?” said Presto

“As ready as ready I could be.” said Jiminy

“Doesn’t sound too confident for me.” said Sugarplum

“Alright.” said The Harlequin, explaining the revalidation test “Some of our roster will fight against you while you’ll try to do a rescue mission to test Jiminy’s capabilities.” she said, passing some Earbugs “Those Earbugs are into a special frequency: only you and the board will hear your talk. Obviously you will not be able to hear our side comms. Our roster will be under a kind of ninja black costume, so you couldn’t identify who’s who to difficult your planning. And, Jiminy, an order from Blackstone: Blue Fairy should not be consulted during the test. And I know she can see and hear me, I’ll make it clear: you’ll not join this one, right?”

“Cheesy!” said Blue Fairy, on a costume that remembered a Japanese preschooler, putting her tongue out.

“Alright, Blue Fairy. We know that I need to do this by my own. And, I need to say, they’ll have by sure Shell or Shelly at their side somehow to see if I not get for you.” said Jiminy

“Okay…“ she pouted, getting out of Jiminy line of sight.

They saw the door opening and what’s looking like a big basketball court. The intense white light was already there, and there’s some flags over the other side. He could see four people on black ninja like costumes, and using black masks.

“Welcome, Jiminy Cricket,” said Blackstone via the speakers in the room “to the Sentinel’s Danger Room, where we train some joint tactics for actions. As a Mastermind, your Revalidation Test will be focused on your tactical skills, but you’ll be also attacked and your combat skills will be also looked upon. If you look around, you’ll see that’s some black ribbons. Each ribbon represent a hostage for our ‘villains’. Your mission is simple: you need to rescue as much of the hostages from our villains in 20 minutes. Bonus points if, after the Test, you identify the capes that are our villains now, and points will be taken for each of your roster that fall in the combat. The villains have orders to not take easy on you, to take you out for sure if they have the chance. And, to turn things even more interesting, I’ll be the Supreme Overlord commanding my own minions. As you can see, there’s four minions against five heroes… But will you be strong enough to defeat my Legions of Doom? BWAHAHAHAHAHA!” said Blackstone, when a counter showed over the room.

“This was really cheesy!” pouted Marjanah

“I believe that he always wanted to say that.” replied Presto

“Don’t worry. We’ll deal with them.” said Djanni.

“For sure.” said Sugarplum

“Be ready… As soon the counter starts to run, they’ll came to us.” said Jiminy.

The counter started to blink, and them the countdown started.

It was in a blink that one of the “villains” flew against Marjanah, trying to knock her out, being avoid by Sugarplum that made a special shield that made him get back.

“Atlas-type… Sound like Astra… Or maybe Shell?” thought Jiminy, starting to coordinate the actions. “Marjanah, Presto, reinforce our defenses. Sugarplum, magical ranged attacks at your discretion. Djanni, go for the hostages and tag all the tangos in the way!” commanded Jiminy, using his Jiminy cane to show them what to do

“Roger!” replied everyone, when Jiminy felt his Bellax Analytica almost screaming.

He tumbled aside just a second before someone him the ground… Leaving a small crater in the ground where he hit.

“Yikes! Ajax… Maybe Metamorph. The worst is that they all are using black clothes, turning them almost undistinguished.” thought Jiminy, when he felt his Bellax Analytica engaging again. He felt a small bullet crossing the side of his face, the needle point almost touching his skin below his mask.

“Okay… Sounds like we have the unknown Ajax/Metamorph, Astra/Shell and maybe… Artemis! She’s a kind of Supernatural cape with Vampiric powers, but she fights with guns: maybe she has some narcotic ammo to knock us out as soon we are hit!” thought Jiminy, when he felt some cloud solidifying and a small pistol almost getting nearby him, a needle passing through his costume when the gun was fired. Jiminy took his Cricket pistol and started to shoot, running through the room.

“Presto, help Sugarplum and use your Magic Missiles to split them! Marjanah, think one of them is a Vampire-like supernatural: use your mind-blasts to attack her where she’s vulnerable!” said Jiminy, running.

“Right!” said them

“Catched one of the hostages, but this pesky Atlas is difficulting things to us!” said Djanni, avoiding the Atlas attacks.

“Sugarplum…“ said Jiminy

“Sorry, hands full. Looks like the Tango other side is a Mentalist like Marjanah, but very experienced. She’s helping the Ajax and I’m trying to debuff him as much as I can.” said Sugarplum

“Alright: Cricket Wings engaging!” said Jiminy, hitting a small button on his shirt wrist. His tails opened like insectoid wings.

The Cricket Wings were created by Dumont based on his Demoiselle and were part of his Iron Cricket costume, a combat focused costume he used during Derek Kwazani acquiring operation, and Jiminy asked Dumont to put them on his common tails. He took off and flown to nearby a place where there was some “hostages”, taking the black piece of cloth, while the flying one was getting nearby. Jiminy set the gun for Hurt and shot. He could hear the Atlas giving a yelp and flown down a little.

“How much hostages we have?” said Jiminy

“I took one!” shouted Djanni

“Me too!” replied Sugarplum

“Getting near another, but I need help!” exclamed Presto

“Marjanah?” questioned Jiminy

“That Mentalist is very powerful, skilled and experienced! I’m in trouble to fight her in the Astral Plane! I’m doing my best, but I can’t help you by now!” exasperated Marjanah, still not accomplished on this

“Presto, I’m going to…“ say Jiminy, when something tackled him, making him get down in the ground.

It was the Ajax.

He felt some pain, but had time to roll his body outside the danger, still holding his cloth, and getting in his feet.

He noticed a Tango getting nearby thanks Bellax Analytica. He noticed a Tango getting nearby thanks Bellax Analytica. He took his Jiminy Cane and hit him with the Taser, which made the tango scream and fall.

“Alright…“ he said, when he felt his leg wrongly…

“I dropped one of them, this is good news. Bad news, I’m with a sprained ankle!” said Jiminy.

“I’m going to you!” said Marjanah, doing what looked like a teleport “Presto, gain me a minute or two!”

“Roger!” said Presto.

Marjanah got out the guy and lifted Jiminy’s trousers leg.

“Look like you really sprained your ankle this time.” said Marjanah… “I could make you some magical healing…“

“No…“ said Jiminy “Everyone, take the hostages to me. Marjanah and Presto, I want you to make our defense. Sugarplum, Djanni, you’ll rescue the other hostages!”

“Roger!” said everyone

“I’ll expand as much I can my Bellax Analytica and help you!” said Jiminy, focusing.

He had trained his Bellax Analytica in the time he was on hold, and now he could preview between 2 to 5 seconds on actions. Time enough to turn his power useful in combat.

Sugarplum, Djanni and Presto gave him the cloths

“Four hostages and we still have some time. Go go go!” said Jiminy, looking that there’s passed 5 minutes

The problem is: the more “hostages” they took back, the more the tangos difficulted their lives. It took 7 minutes to rescue another 2 hostages, for six.

“We are growing tired!” said Sugarplum

“Presto, change places with Sugarplum!” said Jiminy, almost beet red, sweating a lot. He never focused so much in battle on his Bellax Analytica, when he thought on a risky business, and the sprained leg didn’t help

“Sugarplum, Marjanah! Leave me now with the hostages!” ordered Jiminy

“What? But…“ replied Sugarplum

“I know, they’ll came to me… And this is what I want!” countered Jiminy

When Sugarplum and Marjanah got away, they started to come. Jiminy lifted using his Cricket Wings and flew away.

“C’mon…“ thought Jiminy, shooting the tangos with his Cricket pistols and Tesla Arc Gloves and flying away. “This needs to work!”

Seven minutes after, he heard what he wanted to!

“Jiminy!” said Marjanah “We rescued the remaining hostages! Come back! Me and Sugarplum will give you support!” said Marjanah

“No! Stick to the plan!” said Jiminy, when he felt the tangos came to them

“No!” said Jiminy, taking his hand and loading his Tesla Arc Gloves “Sugarplum! Shield on max!”

“Roger!” said Sugarplum

Jiminy shot the Atlas straight in the chest with an all-out shot to stop him. Then he felt his Bellax Analytica alerting for a mind attack by the tango Mentalist, but he felt Marjanah came to him, and Presto did a good Magic Missile shot to take him down.

It was when the countdown zeroed and a bell rang.

“Alright… Sounds you did okay for us. But let us see: Jiminy, who were the Capes that were your tangos?” said Blackstone

“Think that the mentalist was Chakra… There was also Artemis… And I think either Astra or Shell… The only one I didn’t recognized was the Metamorph/Ajax.” he said

“It was a little cheat I did.” said Blackstone “He’s Iron Jack, one of our veteran reserves. He can turn his body into steel, so growing extremely massive and hitting people hard. In fact, by surviving an attack of him without being an Ajax or other combat-focused cape is an honor, Jiminy.”

“I think that this is enough.” said Soldaire. “Harlequin, please bring Jiminy and the others back us. I think we’ll have a decision as soon they arrive.”

“Alright.” said The Harlequin “I think you did well. Are you okay to walk?” said her, looking for Jiminy’s ankle and help supporting his body while he supported his weight on the Jiminy Cane as always.

“Just limping… Think I fell over my knee after Iron Jack’s attack.” said Jiminy looking to him “Are you alright?”

“I’ll live.” he said “Being hit by electricity is a bad thing, but I’ll survive. Clever idea: as I’m metal, electricity is a bane for me.”

“And now I see why Blue Fairy like you so much.” said a voice a little robotic behind him “I’m Shell, one of Blue Fairy’s ‘twins’. In fact, I just ‘don’ the Galathea suit as a ‘remote operator’, if you understand.” said Shell, shaking her robotic hand with Jiminy.

Harlequin ushered all of them for the same room his parents came before the Test. They entered and he saw the board, Soldaire on his best Keichisou uniform instead of his SolArmor. Blackstone had a pokerr face and looked for everyone:

“We had saw your actions, Jiminy Cricket. You still had sometimes gone reckless on some moments. If our ‘villains’ had gone really all out, maybe you could be defeated. They had orders to shoot or rip the ‘hostages’ cloths if they were rescued and they had a chance: this would be a person being killed.” said Blackstone, and Jiminy gulped.

“However, you acted as a great leader on this action: we did the Test setup on purpose, by not allowing you to take your original team’s roster best guys for your Test team. All of you,” said Blackstone looking for all of them “did very well, putting aside your common lack of combat experience. I like how you used Marjanah to fight Chakra back in Astral Plane and she reported me that you, Marjanah, is a great Astral fighter. Presto and Sugarplum, you did a good job on supporting the team, even considering the lack of super-combatants on it. Djanni, you technique still lack some polishing, but you remembered me Astra or Atlas on their beginning. And you Jiminy, you did what you could, under pressure, even more after being hit by Iron Jack. You didn’t falter and I think that you improved your Bellax Analytica during the time on hold.” said Blackstone.

“So…“ said Agent Milligan, DSA representative “We are glad to say that your CAI-Certification was revalidated and, as the Revision Board for the After-Action Report # HSF-20XX-19302, we grant back to you, Joshua McCarthy, capename Jiminy Cricket, you CAI Certification, and with it the authorization to act as Cape under Herós Sans Frontières Situation 2 Team 10 roster, represented here by the team leader Seiji Shirou, capename Soldaire. We acknowledge this by giving you back your Cape Crest.” said Agent Milligan, while Soldaire took a small dark green button with the Disney’s Jiminy Cricket head silhouette.

After Soldaire pinned the crest back on the chest of his tails, Jiminy Cricket touched it like a very dear charm or amulet. He would never admit, but he tried all the time to not think if he could lose this crest. He just came back to reality when Djanni gave him a so strong hug that almost left him without air or unbroken ribs. Sugarplum, Presto and Marjanah joined them, while he felt his Top Hat going to the ground and everyone there cheering and applauding him.

“Now…“ said Blackstone “I think that you all are hungry from the effort you did on the test. I think we can get to our dining room for some fun and a happy hour. I believe that Grendel, Crash, Megaton and the others had just bought the last copies of Just Dance and Street Fighter. However, I think you’ll want to take some bath before, to be more refreshed.” he said, and everyone chose to take a bath before.

The fun and games were good, after being too much pressured on his test.

And Jiminy could say that the food tasted incredible. The taste of relief.

Chapter 12

“We came back ORSL 1 in two days. Sure, we had lots of gifts: books, tools, supplies, even some videogames. But a hero’s work never ends, someone said, and sooner than ever we discovered this.”

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

“Jiminy, get out there!” said Sugarplum, when the weather suddenly changed to a furious torment.

“No! We need to evacuate the refugees to Atlantis before the torment came. And the others are on a rescue mission in the middle of this torment. They need me!” said Jiminy… And he were looking for all the systems, seeing the screens for all the intel: radar, weather, comms, all the things. “We need to light out things for them, so they can get back ORSL 1. They need some visual reference even with the flying instruments”

“I go…“ said Sugarplum

“NO!” shouted Jiminy “Trying to fly will be dead for you! The ormstorm is strong and the winds fast: you can’t fly into this weather. I’ll go for the lighthouse. Stay into the evacuation!” he said, running from the control room.

Just a split second after he got out the control room and got down the stairs to the platform deck, he felt a bout of wind and ran to hold himself into a steel bar fixed into another structure, locking a hook on his costume into it to avoid the bouts of wind.

It was what saved him: the bout of wind grew so strong that he saw the control room being blast away like Dorothy’s house.

“Sounds like our control room had gone to Oz, Sugarplum.” said Jiminy

“Alright! When we get out of this, we just need to ask Ozma to bring it back to us.” said Sugarplum nonchalantly, which made Jiminy give that childish giggles he givess sometimes and he felt ashamed of.

“I’ll go to the lighthouse!” said Jiminy

“Take care: this doesn’t look like a natural weather change.” said Sugarplum

“I will.” said Jiminy, running throught the platform, using his Bellax Analytica to foresee bouts of wind, waves and water puddles that could make him trip. This would be fatal: he would be thrown in the raging sea, and even he survived the fall, there was the water and the sea.

It took some minutes until he got to the lighthouse, that was stronger than the control room, made with lots of steels pillars and so. He got up the ladder, avoiding the worst bouts of wind and entered the lighthouse.

“I’m in. I’ll light the lighthouse and then I’ll go for the emergency war-room. You go for Atlantis with the refugees and so. I’ll get there as soon I can, with the others” said Jiminy

“Alright! Good luck and godspeed!” said Sugarplum, when he felt his Earbug goes mute, as Sugarplum was going down the sea via the elevator for Atlantis.

“Jiminy, I’m looking for all intel I can about this with my twins!” said Blue Fairy, dressed as the Morton Salt Girl, virtually wet from the tempest. “But it was a so sudden change that they are dealing with this as a possible Ultra Event.”

“An Ultra weather-controller? That would be good other places…“ emphized Jiminy

“Yeah, but here they are just trying to damage the ORSL line.” said Blue Fairy

“What is known about the other ORSL bases? And about Transports 1 and 2?” asked Jiminy, while filling the generator tank with some diesel from a small gallon.

“The other bases were already evacuated, and they are under a better situation. Sounds like the worst is on us, and the others are finishing the rescue they did. I sent the intel for them that we are offline until further notice via our twins. Sounds like Blackstone is not happy to see Shell being used as telephone girl.” she said

“He knows we need this line as much as possible AND I’ll use it as much as need. No more, no less.” said Jiminy, while puffing a little after igniting the diesel generator with an old-time flintlock. “Yuck! This stinks!”

“But helps!” said Blue Fairy, as they saw the light being lit. “Alright. Engage the rotation engine and let us get out here!”

“Alright!” said Jiminy, pushing some levers and running back to the ladder.

He soon was out, and a wave hit him for good, only being fixated to the ladder by his costume hook avoided him being in the sea now!

“Are you okay, Jiminy?” asked Blue Fairy

“My Hat had gone away, and my tails are almost going also, but I’m okay. I’ll let it go: better lose the tails than the neck.” said Jiminy, when another bout of wind take his tails. But he was able to get out the platform and close the trapdoor to external world.

The normal lights were out, but the red lights from the Code Red were blinking all around. He was trained on all this, but this didn’t mean he felt better, still feeling queasy. He ran as fast as he could, as the platform was being shaken like a rubber duck on a bathtub where a kid was into tantrum to not take his bath.

He ran to the door he wanted and put a keycard into the lock and waited until it lit green. As soon it did, he entered and, while taking his gloves off, he started to engage some circuit breakers and starting everything. This room was not as equipped the one that gone to Oz, but had what he needed, and was supplied by a vernetech battery made by Vulcan.

Jiminy took away his soaked waistcoat and shirt:

“You’ll get a cold, Jiminy!” said Blue Fairy

“There’s the same chance to by staying with all those wet clothes!” he said, also taking away the mask “No need for all this. At least I’ll do things comfy!”

“Alright!” pouted Blue Fairy “But when you take another penicillin shot, I’ll say ‘I warned you!’”

“Hope we’ll be alive to you say this!” said Jiminy, taking a headset and looking for the systems. All of them old-fashioned, but he was trained on them as part of his support training.

“Transports 1 and 2, here’s ORSL 1.” said Jiminy, via radio “Jiminy on it!”

“Jiminy!” said Cabby, obviously one of the pilots

“Dieu Merci, Jiminy Criquet!” said Cajun “We thought you were dead or ran to Atlantis!”

“The main control room had gone to Oz. But I will not need to walk the Yellow Brick Road. I lighted the lighthouse and I’m in the backup control room.” replied Jiminy

“Alright!” said Soldaire, on the comms. “Any tangos?”

“No… Although Blue Fairy said their twins are looking into the web for intel. Sounds like an Ultra Event.” replied Jiminy

“Seem legit…“ said Kilimanjaro “This weather change is not natural and is not something I could achieve at all. I doubt even that Nagi guy would be able to do this, at least as fast.”

“We had the refugees rescued, but we need to get there… And with this wind, as soon we touch the place, there’ll be a chance a bout of wind throw us in the sea!” said Cabby

“Let’s us try the new magnetic locks Dumont built into the platform… I’ll open the platform and left it just a little down. You engage the maglocks as soon you touch down and I’ll bring you back inside. You evacuate everyone to Atlantis. As soon both transports are down, I’ll disengage and we get to Atlantis.” said Jiminy

“The best plan we can work by now!” said Dummont, while Jiminy saw the heli getting nearby by the radar and transponders.

“Okay, you’re into IDL, this is good news.” said Jiminy

“Any bad news?” said Cabby

“Beside the weather, nothing.” said Jiminy, working some buttons “Engaging the platform first for you, Transport 2. Transport 1, do the orbit in the meantime. Don’t try to stay still in the air: the bouts of wind will throw you in the sea like a ball of paper!”

“Alright.” said Cajun, while Transport 2 touched the ground and the maglocks did his job, by holding the helicopter still while he was brought below the platform to the “garage”, another platform closing over them

“Now, be ready to get down, Transport 1. When touch and lock, full shutdown!” said Jiminy

“Alright!” said Cajun in the helicopter.

“Dumont, be nearby if the system fails. Maybe you can MacGyver something.” said Jiminy

“Right.” he said.

It was when the Transport 1 touched and the maglock engaged, or at least on one of the skids.

But the other skid had not been fixed, and a bout of wind just made the helicopter fell aside in the platform while it was retracting, bringing back the helicopter, the main rotor blades being blasted of its mast, just the platform retraction saving the people in the helicopter of being hurt from the blades’ debris.

“Everyone okay?” said Jiminy, his heart almost going out

“We are okay.” said Kuntur. “Beside the damages in the heli, and some small bruises, we’re all okay, including the refugees.”

“I’m getting there as soon we finish here.” said LionHeart

“I’m going too.” said Jiminy, getting out the room

He ran to the Transport 1 “garage”, while LionHeart and Djanni pushed the helicopter back on their skids.

“Alright. Everyone, Pretty Please! follow our capes instructions to get orderly to a safe place! S’il vous plait suivez nos instructions de capes pour être ordonné dans un endroit sûr. aljamie, yrja min fadalakum aitibae ‘iirshadat alraas ladayna lilhusul ealaa makan amin.” said Jiminy, while they run and put everyone into the elevators to Atlantis.

Jiminy got with his group and Djanni with them.

“Are you okay, Jiminy? You’re almost naked.” said Djanni

“My clothes were all wet. I thought it would be better to just take them off before I got a… AAAAHHHH… AAAAAAHHHHHHH… A-TCCHOOOOOO!!!!” he said, and he sneezed

“I warned you!” said into a singsong chirp Blue Fairy, still as the Morton Salt Girl, but his umbrella closed.

“And I said I would be glad to hear you say this… A-TCCHOOOOOO!!!!” said Jiminy, while they got down.

“I think we all need some hot shower, dry clothes and good hot cocoa.” said LionHeart, on another of the elevators, while they got down to Atlantis.

Things were not that good, though. After a hot shower and a new costume, Joshua felt himself very sore, his muscles sore and painful for some reason. Also, he could not speak too much, his throat sore and fever was growing on him. Dr. Lesley Dimantas looked for him and asked for some exams. The Vernetech provided the results very fast:

“Well… Well… Not too good news, Joshua.” tutted Lesley, while Joshua got over an hospital bed in Atlantis’ Medical Wing “Sounds like you had a very bad tonsillitis, combed with a strong cold thanks the rain. Your immunity was a little low recently thanks to the stress thanks to the stress and you got some bad viruses that made your tonsils grow inflamed.”

“But… I’ll be okay, right?” rasped Joshua, trying to speak the better he could with the sore throat.

“We’ll start with some antibiotics, adding it to the penicillin you already took, and look on how things will evolve, while the extra exams will show us what what really caused the tonsillitis. For now, I’ll put you on a liquid diet: basically juices, soups and broths. No solid food to avoid pain and maybe some hurt that could make things grow worse. Maybe tomorrow or the day after you’ll be able to deal with some purees, porridge and other mushy food…“ said Lesley “I’ll avoid the tonsillectomy, the tonsils surgical extraction, as I don’t know if there would be impacts on your immunological system, and as you’re a breakthrough without healing powers and that deals constantly with refugees that, unknowingly by them of course, can be vectors for all kinds of infections and so, doing anything that could compromise your immunological system would be a bad idea. Don’t talk too much until your throat got okay.”

Joshua nodded.

“I’ll ask Richard to do a good strong soup, that reinforce your immunological system: I want to avoid put you on strong antibiotics, this will be last resort. We already entered meds on you with the penicillin shot I gave you before. We’ll enter with some oral antibiotics also, so we can use weaker antibiotics on injections and on the drip. As I don’t know what kind of virus we have here, I’ll ask everyone that came here to talk with you using masks and gloves. Looks like a common viruses or bacteria, but I don’t want to take chances: Atlantis is an insulated environment, a cross contamination with a weird virus could be an incredible bad issue. I hope we have good news soon.” said Lesley, while turning on the TV, a weird cartoon called Masha and The Bear on it, and getting out the room.

“Wow! Sounds like really bad news.” said Blue Fairy

“I know you want to play the ‘I warned you’ card.” thought Joshua: the great advantage to talk with Blue Fairy is that he didn’t need to really talk, as she was linked straight to his brain via the Quantum Link. He just needed to think on what he wanted to talk. This made talking with her even better now, as he doesn’t feel pain.

“Yes, I wanted, but… Tonsillitis is horrible! I remember when I had some of them: it was really painful. I just never complained because it was more or less thesame time that Hope, Astra, had cancer.” said Blue Fairy

“Astra had cancer?” thought Joshua, abashed

“Duh… Do you think that, because you had undergone breakthrough as a kid, everyone else had? Hope wasn’t always Astra, you know. In fact, we could say that my original self, Shelly Boyar, didn’t saw her friend undergo breakthrough. We know about this because the Future Files and because Shelly and Shell had searched for this information when they were activated into Astra’s mind, more or less like I did with you. And this information was downloaded back on T.A.’s database, and so I could access it.” said Blue Fairy

“Wow…“ said Joshua “Never thought on this.”

“I know.” said Blue Fairy “But let us see that cartoon in the TV. Looks fun how that girl looks like she’s on a Red Bull overdose!” she said giggling.

Joshua was always felt weird on hearing Blue Fairy laughing into his head, but it was good on those situations where he was all alone. He always thought, and he knew Blue Fairy knew about it, that she was what allowed him to cope when he was kidnapped by Alsyf Alayat, the Sword Verses, a Caliphate nut with the same kind of powers of himself, although the Sword Verse, his Do as I said! power, was really stronger than his Pretty Please! as he even could put some Post-Hypnotic Suggestion on others, like he did with Marjanah.

Some time after, Richard and a small man with a brunette hair and a Mexican face came with his dinner. For some reason, he was familiar for Joshua.

“Hey, Pepito Grillo, sounds like you got really sick.” said the man, and it was when he recognized the voice.

“Hufflepuff?” he tried to scream, but that resulted only on a rasp whisper and Joshua coughing in pain because of the tonsillitis, and Richard came and making Joshua drinks some water.

“Don’t talk by now.” said Richard “Medical orders. Lesley said me to bring you some reinforced food and I did a kind of soup. Some ideas from Andre, some from Juan and them we made a good something that could help you.” said Richard, while Hufflepuff pushed the table for the bed where Joshua was, while Richard put a tray with a salver over it. Removing the top of it there was a steaming hot bowl of a good smelling soup.

“I did it using some ideas from Andre, from some kind of Brazilian soup called canja, by using rice, potato and Peruvian parsnip. And we put some powerful spice from Mexico and some chili con carne on it, as Juan suggested.” said Richard, while Juan lifted the bed head so he could eat the soup.

He took a spoonful of it and almost cough: he did a gesture indicating it was too hot.

“Richard said you it took chili con carne. And good chili con carne is always very hot.” said Juan, the brunette man, while Joshua took a gulp from a glass of water. “That was what my abuela gave me when I had any kind of cold: a good broth made with lots of chili con carne.”

“Okay… Just cool it out a little.” said Richard, while Joshua did it.

The next spoonful, a little cooler, got down easily, without hurting more Joshua’s throat. He smiled and gave a thumbs up, showing that it was really good.

“Liked it? We are glad. We know that maybe your health had gone to the dogs thanks to all the rain and cold winds you took outside.” said Richard, and Joshua gave a small shrug.

“Too much difficult to express yourself without talking?” said Juan “Maybe Blue Fairy could help you.”

“Hey! I’m not his translator.” said Blue Fairy, although no one could hear her.

Joshua did a gesture showing his hand and then he pointed the TV.

“Oh, yeah! You should need to touch the TV so you could download Blue Fairy.” said Juan “And, as you’re all sore, maybe today this could be not a good idea.”

Joshua nodded, and then he pointed Juan’s head and made a gesture like someone wearing a mask

“Oh, my mask? You see… As a Luchador, I avoid as much as possible show myself without the mask, so people doesn’t associate me me to Hufflepuff me. In fact, I’m both, but as Hufflepuff I’m more than myself to everyone else. But I forgot my other masks were with my dirty clothes, and so I have no masks after my own being so wet. I put it to dry a little into my room, but until it dries, I have no access to my powers as a Luchador, as I’m without La Passion Por La Lucha. If a enemigo saw me this way, I could not affect him or even no one, but as things are more okay here, I chose to take it away and be just Juan Acierdo for some hours. Need to say that’s a little weird for me, as I’m Hufflepuff almost 24/7/365.”

Joshua’s eyes went wide and Juan understood the question: “Aren’t you afraid? You have no powers now!”

“Beside the refugees, no potential tangos could get here: remember we are at least 750 meters down the sea line, over the sea mantle. So few breakthroughs could get here without any kind of support, I think we are safe by now.” said Juan

Joshua nodded while taking the food.

“You were very courageous, Pepito Grillo.” said Juan “The tempest was really strong: if you didn’t light us the way, we would had lost ourself in the rain, and probably we would crash in the sea as soon the fuel ran out, and probably we would die. We couldn’t see a nothing in front of us. And also you had gave us all directions and had the idea on to get into the platform and bring the helicopters in ASAP. I can’t imagine how you walked on all this.”

Joshua gave a small nonchalantly look, like he was saying “I was just doing my job.”

“But now you’re this sick.” he said

“Occupational Hazard.” said Joshua by looking, while finishing his food. He finished the soup and they brought him a glass of chocolate milk as dessert.

“Alright, let us go, or Lesley will come and kick us out your room. And she can do this as a Metamorph.” said Richard, while they got out the room.

“Never saw Hufflepuff without his mask… I say, for real: all I know about this is based on information I gathered on your mind before show myself to you.” said Blue Fairy.

“He have no power without his mask, and, by what I read about his Power-Type, if the mask is destroyed or if he’s shown on civil to big crowds, he can lose La Passion Por La Lucha, and with it his powers, even forever. Because of this, for a Luchador cape, a Lucha de Apuestas is a big business, as the prize for the winner is the mask of the loser, that the winner could do whatever he wants to do, even destroy it, making impossible to recover La Passion Por La Lucha.” thought Joshua.

“Wow… Sounds like big business… So, the idea is that he could walk as civil without being noticed by others…“ said Blue Fairy.

“Yup…“ thought Joshua “And this is why he’s almost all the time with his mask, even in shower: as we could be called to action fast, he could not be naïve enough to be unprepared, and for him, being unmasked is being unprepared.” thought Joshua, when Dr. Lesley entering his room and she said, smiling.

“Good news: looks like your tonsillitis is from a well known bacteria. We’ll stay with the antibiotics for some days and see. If the evolution in four days is not enough, I’ll ready everything for the tonsillectomy. Looks like that tango doesn’t want to let us get up for sometime: there was still the torment over us, but beside the control room there was no significant damages for ORSL 1. By now, we’ll stay here at Atlantis, until we can go up. Sounds like some tangos are readying themselves to try to tag us and claim ORSL 1 for them,” said Dr. Lesley and she continued when he looked for Joshua face of anticipation “but you’ll NOT. GET. IN. ACTION. You’re on bench by medical orders. Rest and be good for get back. Don’t play naïve with tonsillitis: any -itis disease is an infection, and ill-treated infections could result on a sepsis, and this would be REALLY. BAD. NEWS.” she said, and Joshua gulped, which made a little pain in the throat.

“So, I’ll ask Wahiba to change your medication: she was ready as a campaign nurse. Maybe she could even get into Red Crescent if she doesn’t want to stay with us after her sidekick.” said Lesley “Now, take some sleep. Tomorrow, I want you to avoid talk still. If you want to, you can ‘download’ Blue Fairy in the TV to help you… But now, sleep. Pip pip.” she said, getting out the room while Wahiba got with his new medicament flask.

And, just a little after Wahiba got and exchange the medicament flask, Joshua dozed off.

Chapter 13

“The tangos were persistent, but they suffered a lot: as soon the others got over back ORSL 1, they pushed them back hard. I didn’t took action, because the tonsillitis wasn’t healing that fast and I was very sore and had fever. But some time after, I was healed enough to get back the cape.”

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

It was a good sunny day. Which was good, as Joshua was still recovering from the tonsillitis. After the Ultra Event, they had pushed back the tangos that tried to invade ORSL 1. However, they didn’t discovered the Ultra that did all that mess. In the meantime, he needed to repair the damages ORSL 1 suffered.

Joshua was into a dark green combination of shirt and overalls, working on the replacement for the Transport 1’s main engine, that lost his main blades and damaged both engines in the last rescue.

“How are you doing, Joshua?” said Kabba, who was working on it with him.

Joshua gave a thumbs up: as he was still recovering from the tonsillitis, he was avoiding to talk. he discovered that his Pretty Please! is voice-dependant. So, with his voice still rasping and hoarse and his throat still sore, he was down on his Pretty Please! as power. This way, it was better for him to help on other things, like repairing ORSL 1 damages.

“Now… Let us see how things are.” said Kabba, while Joshua finished to screw the engine close. He also put some oil on the places it was needed. “Alright, back now, Joshua!” said Kabba, while they looked to the engine. Kabba just fixated it in a special test platform, connected some test equipment, and both put some ear protectors before Kabba gave the engine power on.

The Kerberos’ howl the engine gave was familiar for Joshua, after all the time piloting helicopters, going to and from Siracusa and Malta, bringing supplies and sending refugees and so. Kabba looked satisfied also.

“Sounds like our little baby here is okay. Let us wait just a little more, but as far I looked, the engine is correctly built.” said Kabba.

Jiminy gave that look on “Why not bring this thing assembled?”

“We need to be as self-dependant as possible, so the equipment maintenance should be our own. We’ll only send equipment to others if they need some regimental inspections, like the helicopters. Otherwise, all the maintenance and inspections will be on our own as much as possible.” said Kabba, when they heard Wahiba into their minds.

“Everyone, come to the conference room. Sounds like we have some intel on the tangos from the Ultra Event.” she said.

“Right, we are going.” said Kabba, while shutting down the engine. “Later we can ask help for Altayr or Ric to assemble this one in the helicopter. Let just remove the worst on the oil and dirt and get on. Seiji hates to be left waiting people.”

“We discovered some intel about that tango from the tempest.” said Soldaire, as soon everyone sat down in the ORSL 1 “war room”, where he was showing the intel he received “He also interfered on lots of operations on a region nearby Darfur where UN and LDS suspects is the main Caliphate site.” he finished start to rolling out a presentation.

“This is Yussuf Al-Hadq, and we still are gathering some intel on him. But what we know is that he was born at Romania as a Coptic Christian, but he had converted to Islamism and gone radical very fast. Some of the gossips and intel we are digging about him says he lost his family into a black ops from Romanian’s government and that was what triggered his breakthrough. He gone totally psychologically broken, after suffering this black op and being discharged with dishonor.” said Soldaire

“And this is the kind of situation that people that want to enlist people against governments and other cultures likes…“ said LionHeart “Say a doctrine, religion or philosophy, and I can say you a, pardon the french, son of a bitch that wants to take this kind of people, broken and fragilized, to use as cannon fodder for their own causes. Saw that a lot in Bronx: Left, Right, Christian, Islam, Fascist, Socialist, you name it.”

“You’re right, Ric.” said Soldaire “He had converted to Islam and then radicalized: initially, he worked with Red Crescent and helped a lot, but it was when he had gone under a certain Imam called Saladin Al-Hadith that worked as a Caliphate recruiter and indoctrinator, and then he had radicalized.”

“And so he gone against other religions and so…“ said Djanni disgusted “Those murtadd are the worst.”

“Well… From the lose of his family to re-emerge as part of the more important Caliphate guys it took 3 years. Beside being an Ultra weather manipulator, he’s a incredible strategist and a incredible combatant: before the black ops, he served as a special operations officer for Romanian army, passing through all kind of bad times you can think in his life, from the falling of the Iron Curtain to the Event to China secession to the Caliphate War.” said Soldaire.

“Do you know anything about him, Blue Fairy?” thought Jiminy, while seeing Blue Fairy, dressed into a blue-colored Sherlock Holmes costume.

“The game is afoot, Jiminy. I’m trying to get all intel I can, but the Future Files are murky on this topic. I’m doing my best, and my twins are helping, but I’ll need time.” said Blue Fairy.

“Right…“ thought Jiminy.

“Looks there’s an Asimov that is double-crossing the Caliphate by leaking information about it. The data is still small and unprocessed, but looks like he had gathered lots of intel and is leaking it as soon is safe and checked on truthness…“ said Soldaire “How he’s doing this undetected is a mystery. There’s some talking about he being a TRON, an artificial entity created by a Verne that achieved consciousness on his own. He uses the capename Hudhud…”

“The Hoopoe that shown Suleiman, Peace upon him, about the Queen of Saba, Bilquis, and his sun-worshipping apostasy. It was when Suleiman asked her to see the truth and accept Allah, which she did after seeing Suleiman’s wisdom.” said Djanni, as a kind of trivia.

“So… Looks like this Hoopoe wants to show us something rotten on Caliphate, like the original did about the sun-worshipping.” said Kuntur

“And what you have?” asked Panther

“Lots of intel…“ said Soldaire “But Interpol and LDS are still working them to confirm or deny their validity. So, I’m still holding this on until we have things more confirmed.”

Soldaire took a sip of a glass of water, and then restarted.

“Looks like the Caliphate structure isn’t that centralized as everyone thought: they are more a concept than an organization. They have cells all around the Mediterranean countries, and they are expanding to places as far as Indonesia, Vietnam and the Nordic countries.” said Soldaire “And they are not to fight a ‘conventional’ war: they noted that they would lose this way.”

“So… They’ll go for a kind of world guerrilla war?” said Sugarplum “That’s insane!”

“We agree, but sounds that, for them, this is a valid way to deal with their, quote-unquote, cleansing the world from the apostasies and heresies to the to-soon coming of the Mahdi. In fact, the same old kind of balderdash since always. Crusades had done this, fascism had done this…“ said Soldaire

“We could lose hours lecturing each other on all this.” said Marjanah, first time with her “official” costume, as he had into a simple domino mask and overall suit into his revalidation, a common hijab over her head. Now she was using a dark green tank top and pants with a veil-like hijab covering her hair, a niqab on the same color covering his face, leaving only her eyes out and a pair of Fake Orichalcum Janbiya daggers on her wrist with her standard toolkit every Herós Sans Frontières cape wear and should learn to use before taking the CAI-certification. He could see also her Crest: some lines that formed a kind of shape into Arabic style, like a fox or a fast wind, with Arabic text that he could recognized as Qu’ran’s Sura 3, Verse 195. “But this doesn’t change the fact they use the Holy Qu’ran, with Allah the Most High (PBHU)’s words, for hate. And this would not be.”

“We need to be alert, also.” said Soldaire “We have some intel that says that the ORSL line, specially ORSL 1, are on their list of Alpha priority targets. This explains the intensity they pushed us last time. No matter what, we should not allow them to get into the platform.”

“And this take us to the logistics: Transport 1 is crashed under repair. Transport 2 shouldn’t be used for supplies. And the other two helis, 3 and 4, are small ones for patrol and small deliveries. Our supplies are dangerously low: we’ll soon get into emergency levels.” said Sugarplum.

“We still have the boats if needed, but we’ll need to work it smoothly: a sea like the one in tempest, and it would be doom for anyone on them.” said Dumont.

“Maybe we should haste the helis maintenance. How things are, Cabby, Jiminy?” said Soldaire, but looking for Jiminy.

Cabby looked to Soldaire “Jiminy is still recovering from the tonsillitis, but I can say that we are ahead on the schedule. We just finished to assemble the main engine and we are to build it back to the helicopter. We just need to finish then the tail reassembling and give some check before a test flight.”

“Okay… Do it ASAP!” said Soldaire “Reconstruct our defenses and repair our equipment is Alpha Priority.”

Joshua and Kabba worked hard on the Mi-171A2, Transport 1, and two days passed until everything was ready. The new Vernetech avionics were deployed and they had a new kind of avionics and weaponry for both Transport 1 and 2. The Transport 1 was deployed at the platform, as they would do a Test flight.

“Okay… Altayr, I want you to help us and be ready to take us if we need to jump out the helicopter.” said Kabba.

“Right.” said Altayr.

“And, Joshua, I want you to be the copilot.” said Kabba, looking for Joshua, that was finishing to recover from the tonsillitis, so he gave a thumb up. “If at anytime you see things is growing dangerous with your Bellax Analytica, please alert me before it’s too late. If you’re still with problems with your voice, I think that Blue Fairy can help us.”

“Alright.” said Blue Fairy although no one could hear her beside Joshua

Joshua nodded and got for the copilot position, touching the contacts “download” Blue Fairy into the system. Kabba sat into the pilot seat.

“Nervous?” said Kabba.

“A little.” whispered Joshua, while fasting the seat-belts.

“As soon I start the takeoff procedure, use your Bellax Analytica as far you can.” said Kabba, starting the takeoff procedure.

Things started as okay as ever, but when he was almost to give full power to takeoff, Jiminy felt something and passed the information through Blue Fairy into thinking speed.

“Kabba! Stop now! Something is wrong with the Main Rotor Blades!” said Blue Fairy, and Kabba slowed it down a little and get out the heli.

“Altayr, can you see anything?” said Kabba

Altayr concentrated a little, using his super-duper-vision and hearing, he saw something:

“Looks like the main rotor dome is a little loose. The blades are vibrating. Just a little: I can just notice the vibration and the weird sounds of it because my super-senses.” said Altayr.

“This vibration would make the dome collapses, so the blade basically would fly off the dome and so we would have no power or sustentation for the helicopter. It would fall like a rock in the sea.” said Blue Fairy.

“Humm. Joshua, cut the power off and shut it down.” said Kabba while running to the warehouse to catch some tools.

He came and asked Joshua for help while fixating correctly the main rotor. As soon they finish, they started again, asking Altayr to see if everything is alright.

“It’s stable!” said Altayr

“It’s right!” whispered Joshua “My Bellax Analytica shows no problem!”

“Alright, taking off.” said Kabba, making the helicopter got up just some centimeters. “Now, testing the tail rotors.”

He moved the lever to push it star side and port side.

“Nothing, Joshua?” said Kabba

“Nothing.” he confirmed.

“Nothing here too.” said Altayr “I’m using my super-senses and the tail is stable as rock!”

“Now, let us try a small flight, just to the IDL and back again.” said Kabba, pushing the lever to the sea direction, Altayr starting to flight aside.

It was a quick flight, and then they got back. Kabba did some check on structure and saw nothing that would displease him.

“Okay… Everything sounds nice!” he said, satisfied. “Think our Transport 1 is back.”

“So we have some need on supplies.” said Seiji, that got nearby “Go for your costumes while I’ll send the list for Siracusa. We were operating on emergency levels. And I don’t want to be catch off guard in a potential attack.”

“Roger!” said Kabba and Joshua, running to put themselves ready.

Chapter 14

“All the mess about that guy made some crazy guys got out of the radar. We are not like the people in comics that have that kind of super-power to be ubiquitous and know everything. We are limited, as are our resources…“

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

The Red Alert was alarmed everywhere. Jiminy just recovered himself from the tonsillitis and was doing some training on the boats when he heard Soldaire on his Earbug:

“Jiminy, get back! We have a Code Red for the ORSL and for all the CAI and SPAT teams in the Mediterranean!” said Soldaire

“What?” said Jiminy, maneuvering the boat so fast that Cabby wasn’t sent out in the sea just by sheer luck.

“Hey Jiminy!” said Cabby “Take care when doing this kind of maneuver.”

“We are on a Code Red. Soldaire just said me.” said Jiminy, pushing the power lever to the max. “Alright, we are a go, Soldaire!” said Jiminy in the Earbug.

As soon Jiminy and Cabby got there, they found Sugarplum, Djanni, Presto and Marjanah waiting them.

“Okay, let’s go!” said Jiminy

They got into the meeting room at ORSL 1, where the others were seeing some maps and TV news in the screens.

“Alright… That’s a weird situation: there was an Earthquake that almost turned the Hagia Sophia at Constantinople into shambles, and also affected the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Also did lots of damage at Constantinople State and some regions of Kurdistan, but didn’t was detected just a little far away from that points, somewhat 100 kilometers or so. This is an physical impossibility, so for sure this is an Ultra Event. Almost immediately the Caliphate had said it was not their work. Well, I don’t think they would try to destroy a mosque, but there’s something fishy on all this.” said Soldaire

“Could they be lying?” said Jiminy

“I can’t see…“ said Djanni “The Mosque is an important Sunni mosque, and many on the Caliphate are so.”

“In fact… Even the shi’a would always respect the Sultan Ahmed Mosque as holy ground.” said Marjanah

“So…“ said Jiminy “Even with a pinch of salt, should we take this as truth?”

“Sounds like.” said LionHeart “But… In this case, there’s a third force acting all around… This sounds no good at all.”

“Whatever… We’ll have not too much time to speculate.” said Soldaire “We are into Code Red, Alpha Priority situation, defined by Herós Sans Frontières. Sounds like many people lost their homes and are potentially getting away. Some of them even trying to get into Cyprus and Italy via Mediterranean. So, ORSL line is on a lockdown: no one getting in without previous granting. In ORSL 7 will be established a triage site, and they’ll need all the cape support needed. However, we can’t weaken the ORSL defense. We chose to send just some of you to help there. In fact: Sugarplum, Jiminy Cricket, Djanni, Marjanah, Presto, Squirrel Girl, you’re the ones to be sent from our team. Sugarplum, you’re the team leader for this, as beside Squirrel Girl, you’re the only adult of the team. Your mission is to provide support at ORSL 7: they were just recently commissioned, and they are still a very small site.”

“Right!” said Sugarplum

“So, you’ll take Transport 4, the Twin Squirrel, to get there. They would have no space for other helicopter, anyway. I think you’ll need to stop at ORSL 3 and ORSL 5 before getting there.” said Cabby “Jiminy, you’ll be the pilot. Presto can work as copilot, as he have some basic piloting training.”

“Roger!” said Jiminy

“Now, go for your rooms, take what you need and go.” said Soldaire

“And is what you really need.” said Jiminy “The Twin Squirrel has not too much space or cargo capacity.”

“I can go by flying, if needed.” said Djanni

“No way.” said Jiminy “Too much tiring. Spare you strength for the action. I think we need all strength we need.”

“Alright. Go go go!” said Sugarplum

Everyone got to their rooms: they knew the drill. They should take some costumes, maybe some civil clothes for off-duty time, all needed equipment, including the standard rescue belt all HSF capes uses and so.

Jiminy closed his bag and got to the Transport 4, their AS355-NP Ecureuil 2, and opened the cargo place and put his bag on it. Then he started to look the helicopter to check if everything’s okay, while the others came to the helicopter garage.

“Everyone, put your things on the luggage compartment.” said Jiminy

“Roger.” the others said.

“Jiminy, I’ve calculated a main route and some alternatives. Avoid to get too far from continent: just go more to the sea when approaching the legs. I’ve calculated the extra routes and marked all our friendly posts in the African Mediterranean seashore. Good news is that the weather will be good all time.” said Cabby “I’m transferring all the data for your epad, and Dumont installed some new vernetech HUD on Transport 4 recently.”

“Okay. Pre-flight check okay, all green.” said Jiminy, going for his position as pilot. “Presto, in the copilot seat.”

“Right!” said Presto, sitting on the Jiminy other side.

“Everyone, get up!” sighed Jiminy “Starting the departure procedure.”

Everyone got up, even being a little cramped, specially because Squirrel Girl’s tail

“Hey, we don’t need this tail here!” said Djanni

“Oh, pooh!” pouted Squirrel Girl, shrinking her tail

“Now, everyone, there’s some videogames the Chicago Sentinels gave us when I was revalidating my Certification. Play some Mario Kart to pass time, okay?” said Jiminy

“Never thought I would be retorted by a kid.” said Sugarplum, smiling, taking the small bag with the games below the seats

“Alright… Let’s start. Presto, double check me.” said Jiminy, pushing the pilot headset

“Right.” said Presto, taking out his hat and putting the other headset

“ORSL 1, Transport 4, readying for departure. Do the de-parking procedure while we do the departure checks.” said Jiminy Cricket

“Alright, Transport 4.” said Cabby, that was the responsible for the system.

It was as smooth as it could be: in few minutes, the Transport 4 had departed for his 6-hour flight.

“Are we nearly there yet daddy?” said Djanni, mocking a spoiled kid

“No, Djanni!” said Jiminy, frustrated. He was taking a small rest, while Presto was piloting the helicopter. He was sore and tired and had not any time to have fun.

“Calm down, Jiminy.” said Sugarplum

“Sorry… I’m really tired. Never pilot that much, even putting on account the stops for refuels and food and go to bathroom.” said Jiminy

“Alright… Think we are almost there, right?” said Marjanah

“Sounds like: the map is showing we are getting nearby. And the fuel is below a third.” said Jiminy

“There it is, right?” said Presto, pointing a place in the sea with his empty hand.

There was another recommissioned oil platform. It was a bit smaller then ORSL 1, but the flag with the Herós Sans Frontières’ banner on it could not be mistaken.

“Alright… It’s there!” said Jiminy, when he pushed the radio button “ORSL 7, here is ORSL 1 Transport 4, calling for arriving procedure. Copy?”

“Copy. Go for frequency 455.840, encrypt level 1.” said someone in the other side.

“Roger.” Jiminy said, setting the radio with the encryption mode and frequency determined.

“Here’s Jiminy Cricket, from ORSL 1. With me are Djanni, Atlas; Sugarplum and Presto, Merlins; Marjanah, Mentalist; Squirrel Girl, Metamorph. We are sent to reinforce ORSL 7 after the Hagia Sophia’s Ultra Event, as asked for by ORSL 7 to ORSL 1.”

“ORSL 7, here. Prop here. I’m the team leader. Thank you for the capes. We asked also for some medical supplies.” said the ORSL 7 leader, and Jiminy recognized the voice: Prop was one of the guys who saved him in the first time he crossed with the Pure God Work Fraternity people.

“We had.” said Squirrel Girl “We brought some emergency supplies.”

“And as soon we deploy the team, our heli will be able to transport some supplies from Cyprus and from ORSL 5 and 6. We are under an AS355-NP Ecureuil 2, so we don’t have too much cargo by now. We chose to bring ourselves and some emergency supplies from your list. But the helicopter can be adapted easily to deal with cargo.” said Jiminy, while approaching.

“Roger. Go for the main heliport. We’ll bring you inside via parking system.” said Prop, while Jiminy was flying over the heliport. He touched down the Ecureuil 2 and some local Berets connected some hooks to hold the helicopter to the parking system. Jiminy started to shut down the engines while they were brought back.

As soon they arrived at the helicopter park, he saw again Prop: big and, albeit American-born, cut as an English guy, he was a B-Class Atlas, weaker than Djanni, but very experienced. He also played rugby at college, and he had his breakthrough during a game that happened just in The Event. As he was a Prop in The Game, he chose it as capename.

“Nice to see you again, Jiminy.” said Prop, shaking hands to everyone, while two Berets started to unload and refuel the helicopter “Soldaire said me you would get soon. I didn’t believed when he said me you were the one piloting the heli, but need to say it’s a nice surprise to see you able to do this.”

“Nice to see you also, Prop.” said Jiminy “Those are the capes ORSL 1 could send by now: Djanni, Presto, Marjanah, Squirrel Girl and the team leader Sugarplum”

“Nice to see you.” said Prop, shaking hands with everyone “Now, I’ll show you the quarters and then we’ll talk our situation.”

The quarters were somewhat below the platform: ORSL 7 hadn’t an Atlantis-like extension and so it grown in the sides of the lianas from the platform, all the extensions connected to the lianas. In one of those extensions was their rooms:

“Two rooms for you: one for boys, other for girls.” said Prop. “Hope they are okay: we are not as big as ORSL 1, so things here are a little cramped.”

“It’s okay.” said Sugarplum “It’ll be three for room, think we can go comfy enough.”

“And think there’ll not be too much time for sleep.” said Prop “We need you ASAP, as there lots of refugees, some of them casualties from the Ultra Event. And we are in need of supplies: ORSL 5 and 6 will be our proxies for supplies.”

“Okay… Squirrel Girl, I want you to be with me to see about the refugees. Djanni, Marjanah, with me to see for security improvements and work with internal security. Jiminy, Presto, as soon Transport 4 is refueled, go for ORSL 6 to bring some supplies. Looks like we’ll need as much of it as we can.” said Sugarplum

“Roger!” said everyone, joining their functions even without some rest

Chapter 15

“From that time up, I lost track on how much I flown. It’s weird to say this, because I’m a non-flyer breakthrough, but after four days I could start the Transport 4 almost without looking.”

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

After some days, ORSL 7 situation was more stable, supplied on all it needs. Jiminy passed almost all the time between ORSL 7, the HSF base at Cyprus where some of the donations and supplies for ORSL 7 were, and ORSL 5. The Transport 4 was adapted quickly as a transportation helicopter, removing all the seats for passengers and leaving all the back as cargo space, as the AS355-NP, the Twin Squirrel, with its the maximum load of 2,800 kg, allowed them to bring over 1 ton of cargo per travel. As he as the pilot and Presto or Djanni as copilot were slim, they could bring lots of supplies.

It was an exhaustive time for Jiminy, that flew there and back again a lot, at least two supplying missions every day. He took Presto as copilot so he could either relieve himself occasionally and offer some in-field training and flying hours for Presto.

“This is a bore.” said Presto frustrated, while taking the helicopter a little after they take off for another resupply mission, going to Cyprus “Thought we would fight super-villains and so.”

“This is not Sentinels show. In fact, even the real Sentinels doesn’t fight super-villains on a frequent basis. Normally, we capes show ourselves as symbols of power. And, in Herós Sans Frontières, we are also symbols of hope: remember that we are” said Jiminy, showing the Herós Sans Frontières crest, with the motto of HSF “super-aide pour les super-besoins, super-help for super-needs.”

“Yeah… But…“

“But you thought that we would use our powers to fight super-villain over super-villain. It’s normal: the films, shows and comic books show this as a cape life. However, a cape life is more about helping people as far you can than about kick butts.” said Jiminy, while they are getting nearby the Cyprus HSF base.

They got down and took a meal while waiting for the heli being refueled and loaded with the supplies.

“How are things, Sargent Pearson?” said Jiminy

Sargent Allyson Pearson was the Cyprus HSF base commander. After some time at US Army, she chose to discharge herself from it and gone to HSF after too much wars and so. A Caliphate War veteran, she came back to Cyprus as volunteer and took the commanding station after the former commander retired.

“Tense, Jiminy…“ said her “After that Hagia Sofia mess, almost all military troops from everyone in the Mediterranean gone Code Yellow, ready to action. As Cyprus is an independent country, but with a love/hate relationship with some of their neighbors, like what was left of Turkey when Constantinople state rose, Kurdistan and Greece, people here is tense with the chance of an attack.”

“Do you think Greece could try something?” said Presto

“Better safe than sorry, kids. War is always part of international politics: we are not ready yet to deal with things without a big stick, even speaking softly between each other… We are all reflexes on the past politics: Monroe Doctrine, Cold War… We were made by those.” said her, when they hear a BOOM! somewhere nearby.

“What was that?” asked Presto, worried

“We’re under attack!” said Jiminy, using his Bellax Analytica “Someone is trying to bring us the Foxtrot!”

“Caliphate?” shouted Allyson

“Doesn’t look like.” replied Jiminy “No identification, 100% breakthrough, the weakest C-Class!”

“What?” gone flabbergasted Presto

“Forget it!” shouted Sargent Pearson “Leave this to us! As soon the heli is refueled, go away on emergency takeoff!”

“No chance!” said Jiminy “Looks like they are looking for any weak spot to get in! Let us at least help before the heli is ready!”

“Okay.” said Sargent Pearson, when the sirens started to wail.

They could hear the BUDDHA-BUDDHA-BUDDHA from the military weapons, but they saw lots of guys coming.

“Presto, be ready for defensive spells, as strong as you can!” said Jiminy “Look out for Speedsters!”

“Roger!” confirmed Presto, concentrating himself

Jiminy felt his Bellax Analytica engaging like a Danger Sense when a guy came to him, very fast. He had time to ready himself and, using Savate techniques and his Jiminy Cane, he dropped the guy as fast as he ran against him, a good kick and the taser on Jiminy Cane being enough to drop the guy.

He heard another guy screaming when some of Presto’s Magical Missiles were shot against him.

“Dropped one, but they are strong! Shot other four, they didn’t felt it.” said Presto, doing some magical gestures “Warding us!”

“Okay!” said Jiminy, setting the Cricket pistols for Stun “We’ll help the capes here!”

“Havoc protocols?”

“Not yet!” said Jiminy. “Use the Magical Missiles: they are weaker than other attacks, but provide us with the direct hit to stop Speedsters or Teleporters.”

“Roger!” said Presto

They continued to fight and dropped two other guys, Jiminy’s training on Savate paying the profits. They were making their best to resist until the heli to be refueled.

But they didn’t counted with some old skeletons from them.

A rain of leaves were shot directly against both Jiminy and Presto. Both rolled out, but felt a vacuum sound which made them split. Jiminy also dodged a heated energy blast.

“What?” thought Jiminy, feeling something wrong by the power combination

“They! Here? What the …“ said Presto

They looked to their attackers: Kyle Montague, Razorleaf (real name: Jonathan Leaf) and Ballistic (real name: Sturm Williams)

But they looked stronger than they were before.

“How they…“ thought Jiminy.

“Long time no see, shrimp.” said Kyle “Now… Less talk more action. Me, Razorleaf and Ballistic came for a tag, but never thought we would be so fortunate to find you two little goody two-shoes!”


“Shut the f$%k up, shrimp. I’m Fusion now.” said Kyle, or better, Fusion

“Blue Fairy, anything?” thought Jiminy, trying to multitask his actions

“Bad news. This kid is registered as a very powerful super-villain on the Future Files and Ourobouros Files. On some realities, he got even Omega!” said Blue Fairy

“And about the others… They look stronger! A-Class at least!”

“In fact, they are. And this is weird, because the Files doesn’t show them so powerful….”

“Jiminy!” said Presto, using one of their Fireballs against Ballistic, that Teleported himself away from the attack. Razorleaf used his vines to attack Jiminy, that dodged again the attack. Fusion shot some plasma energy, but both Jiminy and Presto dodged.

Problem is: they were split and would be ready to be flanked.

And the inexperienced Presto felt the worst: Razorleaf made an explosion of sharped leaves pass through Presto, even his reinforced cape uniform being not enough to stop him to being badly hurt!

“PRESTO!” screamed Jiminy, seeing Presto screaming and falling in the ground, his Bellax Analytica confirming the real damage. Jiminy then put the Crickets back his tails and prepared to use the Tesla Arc Cannons on his hand. His first target was Razorleaf, but his Bellax Analytica showed him that Ballistic was trying to get behind him.

All he needed was his Jiminy Cane.

He unlocked the Taser full discharge mode and hit Ballistic straight in the chest after rolling aside. The electrical discharge was so strong that even he being now a B-Class Ajax, he felt spasms and started to have a seizure.

“Not enough to kill, but enough to take him out!” thought Jiminy, when he felt his Top Hat being hit by plasma, a smoke smell coming from the burnt tips of his hair.

“Okay, shrimp!” said Fusion “Now… It’s you against us… Do you think you can Pretty Please! us? Fat chance! I’ll crisp you to bacon, fat sissy!”

If it was Jiminy Cricket from Metrocon, Jiminy would be froze now again.

But not this Jiminy Cricket.

Razorleaf attacked with leaves again, while Jiminy ran away from Presto. He rolled from the attack, when Fusion get nearby. He almost hit Jiminy with his plasma beam again, but Jiminy was now experienced on combat.

“Need to say: I fight a A-Class Atlas and survived. I fight a Seif-Al-Din wannabe and survived. It’ll not a bunch of bullies that will drop me down!” said Jiminy

“I’ll broke Presto neck, if you try anything!” said Razorleaf, getting near Presto with his vines almost getting nearby his throat.

Jiminy reaction was to give two shots with the Cannon and dropped Razorleaf, in pain. But this was enough to make Fusion hit him with some fire blast, enough to make his tails burns and his Cannon connections haywire, shutting down as a safety protocol placed by Dumont.

“Now… Let us see if you can go without those gizmos.” said Fusion, while Jiminy thrown away his tails and, with them, his Cricket pistols.

Fusion started shooting Jiminy with lots of small fireballs made of plasma, making him getting away, avoiding the attacks by just. Jiminy them got and run with the Jiminy Cane, sacking the swordcane from the cane hilt and hitting a clean hit on Fusion’s chest as soon he got nearby, making a small trail of blood getting out Fusion. He tried to counter with a big plasma shot, but Jiminy rolled away, putting aside and giving another good hit against Fusion side.

“I’m not the kid you punched almost to death, Kyle. I’ll bring back Presto with me and you’ll get back to Hague or Detroit SuperMax, where is your place.”

“I’ll never get back that place!” said Fusion

“I would hope so: Cyprus has capital punishment for villains gone rogue under his territory. If you are acquired by Cyprian forces, this will be your destiny. Cyprus has no extradiction accord with US.” said Jiminy

“All I need to do is kill.” replied Fusion, shooting Jiminy again. And again Jiminy rolled away.

Jiminy ran to a place, while Fusion shot him again and again, but no shot hitting Jiminy.

It was when Jiminy got what he wanted. His Cricket pistol.

“Do you think this can make something against me?” said Fusion, his voice exchanging into something from Hell while he was turning himself into a plasma body “I’m SO. MUCH. MORE. THAN. YOU. sissy. I always was, and always will be! I’ll kill you, and kill that raghead kebab carpet kisser of friend, and that little Tinkerbell, and everyone that remember you. Your parents? Dead! Your friends? Dead! Your team? Dead!”

“You did the only thing you should not do…“ said Jiminy, changing the Cricket pistol settings “Menace my parents and friends.”

He started to shoot the plasma balls, while Jiminy run for his life.

But it was when he stopped, noticing Fusion was losing his power.

“You’re tired.” said Jiminy “Your power is consuming you. Stay too much on this, and you’ll burn like a candle. Stop now, and we’ll be nice.”

“The f$%k I’ll.” said Fusion, when he shot a bigger plasma shot.

Jiminy counted with this, his Bellax Analytica showing the broken defense.

He gave a straight shot in Fusion’s head.

It was enough: the thin laser blast passed through his head and he fell like a rotten fruit from the tree, getting back his human form. He ran to put the Blacklocks on him and Razorleaf, Ballistic frozen in the seizures induced by the taser. Then, as fast he could, he looked for Presto.

He was a bloody mess, and Jiminy gone really worried.

“Dispatch, cape down on my position! Jiminy Cricket with a fallen cape, capename Presto! We need rescue ASAP. Massive loss of blood!” said Jiminy.

“Alright, we’re with a Speedster getting there!” said Dispatch “Any tangos?”

“Three, all down. Two on Blacklocks, one with taser induced seizures, B-Class Ajax.” said Jiminy, while taking the Vernetech first-aid kit part of his mandatory utility belt. “Starting first aid: I’ll need some help.”

“Roger: just a minute, we are hands full.” said Dispatch, while Jiminy took away Presto’s costume rags, and opening his shirt: he had lots of wounds into his chest and arms, and he started to close as fast and good as he could all the wounds over Presto’s body. He cleaned and closed all the wounds he could, when someone got nearby.

“Okay, Jiminy Cricket. Let this for us now and care for yourself. The tangos are getting away…“ said the speedster, while a man aside, with a Mediciéns Sans Frontières badge over his arm started to check Presto for some vein to punction him. He took a small flask and put it some medication on a drip for Presto.

“A Vernetech med from CADUCEUS we are testing: a synthetic blood replacement. Not good enough to replace a real transfusion, but enough to avoid him going into a shock that could send him into a real bad situation.” said the medic “And you?”

“Hurt, but I had worst before.” said Jiminy. “They gone stronger somehow: I fought those guys in the past and they weren’t as powerful as they are now.”

“Forget it by now. Our people is collecting the garbage. Care yourself.”

Jiminy looked his arm: he had some blisters starting to form over the burns Fusion provoked. He took a faucet and opened it to place some water, also passing over his head and so. Jiminy saw Presto being put into a stretcher when an Atlas came to take him with some harnesses.

“How are he?” said Jiminy, trembling.

“Not too good: he lost lots of blood. This is the bad news.” said the medic, with made Jiminy trembling even more “The good news is he’s out of life danger, at least by now. He’ll need some blood transfusion and we’ll take a look on all those wounds, so he can get back to his best: he’s unconscious by now, and maybe we’ll induce coma so his body can have sometime to readjust itself. However, you did well to call us as fast you could and to treat the wounds you could. Now, we’ll treat him: the guys will provide you some meds to treat yourself, and a place to take some sleep. Maybe tomorrow you’ll get back ORSL 7.”

“No… I’ll stay here until Presto is okay.” said Jiminy, while the Atlas took Presto to the local hospital for treatment.

“Alright… By now, talk with people at ORSL 7 and take some sleep. There’s nothing you can do by now.” said the medic, while the Speedster took him and they zipped away.

Chapter 16

“Seven days was what was needed to Presto heal the worst on his damages, being comatose during them. After that, he took some extra days for double check… I didn’t wanted to get back, but there was nothing to do.”

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

“So…“ said Jiminy, back on ORSL 7, talking with Sugarplum

“I’ve on the interrogatory for those three at Cyprus.” said Sugarplum “They said they were here for some diversion… They were paid by a guy to bring some havoc to Cyprus’ HSF base. If you remember that Cyprus is now part of a humanitarian corridor for Europe and part of our supply lines, trying to disrupt it would be interesting for some terrorist.”

“Problem is:” talked Dr. Lesley “Their profiles doesn’t match their power: I asked for intel to HSF NYC HQ, and they send me those kids profiles from Detroit SuperMax: they had evicted it when The Ascendant done that Prison Break at the SuperMax. Their power level doesn’t check with what we saw on your Maskcam and on the damages Presto suffered… They all were listed as B-Class, except that Ballistic kid, that was listed as C-Class Ajax with Jumping, in fact, teleporting capacities… But they were stronger: A-Class certainly.”

“And we took some extra information with Chicago Sentinels, and crossed with some of the intel Blue Fairy provided us.” said Sugarplum “Looks like The Ascendant used his breakthrough power on them, as his power involves improve or demote, at least temporally, others’ breakthrough powers. The Sentinels registered that Astra lost temporally her Atlas powers after being kidnapped by the Ascendant.”

“What kind of power is this from this guy?” asked Djanni “Supernatural?”

“As far we know, not.” said Sugarplum “Sounds like a new, undocumented power set… Looks like Mentalism, but it’s not like anything on Barlow’s, and there’s no records enough to make a registry or even a more comprehensive evalution on his power. After Cyprus attack, the Sentinels and DSA chose to pass forward all intel they had on him that would not be treated as classified to all CAI teams around the world. Soldaire received himself a copy of the report, and passed me it. But I think there’s nothing we can do by now, except wait for more turbocharged super-villain and do our best.”

“And how is Presto?” said Jiminy

“I’m okay now…“ said Presto, entering the conference room. “Albeit below my costume I’m looking like a mummy. Squirrel Girl just changed the bandages and now I’m cleared to get back if needed.”

“Great!” said Jiminy

“Presto, I want you on the bench for a week.” said Sugarplum “You need to learn more on self-defense: relying only on your magic, no matter how powerful it is, is dangerous, as shown on the event. I asked one of the capes here to give you some Jeet-Kune Do basic classes during this week.”

“Can I join him?” said Jiminy “Maybe this could help us. At least, Presto would not be alone on training. I know how much boring is this from my time with Cajun.”

“As far you stay on his duty of resupplying… But… They chose to cut the Cyprus line while things goes tidy. ORSL 5 and 6 are now our supply routes, and they are the ones sending us. I think this will do: I’ll talk with Colocation.”

Some hours after, both Jiminy and Presto were at the improvised Dojo on ORSL 7 academy. The tatami were the same used on other martial arts practices, but in a corner there was a photo of Bruce Lee. Either them and Colocation, a slim and otherwise common Chinese-looking cape, were on civil, beside the training clothes: Presto on some comfortable clothes from Hillwood P.E helping holding his bandages. and Jiminy on his aide-moniteur integrale, the clothes of a Savate auxiliary instructor, aside the gloves. She, otherwise, was into a Kung Fu like clothes, with a red and white belt that she tied at the front, on traditional style. She bowed to them, that replied accordingly.

“‘Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water.” she started lecturing, looking to Bruce Lee’s photo “Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.’ This is one of the most famous quotes of the Jeet Kune Do creator Bruce Lee.” said Colocation “You may know him from old martial arts flicks, but he was more than an actor or a fighter: he was a philosopher, majored on it at University of Washington, studying all he could about how to fight and, above all, how not to fight. This is one of the his quotes I love the most: I could say it saved my life. Understand what he wanted to say with ‘Be water, my friend’ showed me, even before my breakthrough, a way to fight.”

“Now… I’m Susan Ma, capename Colocation.” said Colocation, or better, Susan Ma “Here you are not the capes Jiminy Cricket and Presto, but Joshua McCarthy and Carlyle Galatas, and above all, I’ll be your Sifu, your mistress. Did you understand?”

“Yes, Sifu.” said both

“Nice… You both has some discipline: this is good. From tomorrow on, I want you to be on Jeet Kune Do uniforms: I asked Sugarplum to provide it for you and they are coming with today’s supplies. I want you to be always clean and presentable: Jeet-Kune Do is about flexibility, but is also about respect and discipline. I know you both has some fighting skills, but you’ll start from the very beginning. Don’t think that you’ll become masters so soon: I took good five years to become a licensed Sifu, and even since I learned lots of new techniques. Sifu Lee praised flexibility and adaptation: it’s said he even incorporated ballet moves and boxing flinches on his martial arts skills. Because, he says, the other martial arts systems gone rigid around the attack/defense formulae.”

“What do you think made Sifu Lee see this?” said Susan

“Because, Sifu,” said Joshua, after thinking a little “a real fight is not conventioned?”

“Right.” said Susan “For teaching, the attack/defense formulae, kata, are useful and important, by teaching the student why each move is done and what kind of move would blow or intercept the opponent move. The Wax On, Wax Off thing. It works for someone without any previous combat experience, like, I would say, 70% of people. But in real life, the first thing someone will do is to go away from the formula: if you know that I’ll block your punch to my belly with my arm, why should you punch me to my belly? Why not to feint and give an elbow blow, or maybe a hand chop, or even give a step and kick, or… You know, hit me where my defenses are open. But, at the same time, I could ready a kick to give against you and so…“

“And here came the ‘Be Water, My Friend’: eastern cultures, specially Chinese and Japanese, focus in Five Elements, instead of the Four from West. Three are common: Fire, Air, Water. Earth, we could say, are split into two others: Metal and Wood. But why Water was so important?” asked Susan

“Because, Sifu,” said Carlyle “water is flexible and destructible: anyone that saw a Typhoon or even a flood could see how much some damage tons of water could do. But, at the same time, water can go through any small slit.”

“Correct, Galatas.” said Susan “‘Water, as life, finds a way’, my Sifu always said. This was the very first thing he said for me, and the very last one: I was training with my Sifu before I would help him teaching others, when the Event happened. In the Chaos of the Event, we thought on go help people, when a bunch of neo-nazi came to try to destroy our Dojo. We thought we could deal with them peacefully, but one of them just came and stabbed my Sifu with a big hunter knife. I became water, a tsunami. It was then, in the stress of the Event, I’ve gone breakthrough. I jumped to this guy, teleporting to the front of him into a blink of an eye, and punched it. I certainly did even more than breaking his sternum: I collapsed his solar plex chakra, his heart exploding into his chest like a bloody balloon. The others tried to run, but I jumped again and gone to them, messing with their chakras to make them goes unconscious while the police came… But this didn’t saved my Sifu: even using my recently developed Dragon powers, trying to stabilize either the damage he suffered and his Chi flow, he lost lots of blood and died.”

“But as he said, “Water, as life, finds a way”. I was his heiress on the Dojo, and Prop and the others came to form the Guardians for our city, in the same model of Sentinels. With time, the team grew and recently it grew enough we could go overseas, as we were all Herós Sans Frontières reserves. When ORSL 7 was commissioning, they asked for capes, and here we are.” she said

“Well… Enough chit-chat: let us start with some calisthenics.” she said starting the strenuous training session.

And there it was: they started to train the basic punches, kicks and so. And they trained lots of defenses.

“Jeet-Kune Do means Way of the Intercepting Fist. Focus on this: your fist needs to intercept the attack. Your eyes needs to intercept the attack. You need to intercept the attack. No get ready, no postures. Like water. Water gave no warning when explodes. Water came from the skies suddenly, break the waves in the shore without alert. This is water as destruction. But water also goes into all the little cracks, even crossing the microscopic space into earth, to grow into a water veil. This is water as life.” said Susan, while they trained their own punches and kicks and all the techniques.

In three days, both Joshua and Carlyle were trained in the basics, trying to develop the stop hits and straight punches. Both were tired and somewhat frustrated, but it was when Susan came to them.

“Three intense days and you had understand the basics.” she said “You are into a good way. Specially you, Carlyle: you had no contact before on martial arts, just the self defense training for the CAI certification. I’m not here to teach you all the Jeet-Kune: after all, Jeet-Kune is hybrid and based on the idea of each one has his own capabilities, and so should be martial arts. The basics are the basics, as a punch is a punch and a kick is a kick. However, after you learn the basics and mastered it, you’ll need to start to develop yourself in other ways, looking for new techniques and skills on other sources.”

Joshua and Carlyle continued by the other three days, and it was when Susan said that the last day would be a exam to see how good they learned.

“Normally it would took three months, but you were dedicating yourself on this so much I think we need to see how much you improved. Let us see how you learned the basics.” said her next day, both of them showing her what they learned.

It was impressive: albeit a kata exhibition was normally a no-no in Jeet-Kune Do, they did it as a way to show how much they learned. And it was impressive: fast, precise, simple. Susan looked satisfied.

“There’s lots of improvement to be done. You’re green and beginner. But you did very well in only one week: you learned the basics and improved it for your own styles. Carlyle looks someone stronger, but Joshua compensates being faster. None of you is better, but none of you is worse, than the other. This is Jeet-Kune Do, to adapt the basics for their own in the same framework: your techniques are similar because they follow the same framework, but they are unique because you adapted it for your own.” said Susan, offering them the new yellow-white belts, that they changed in front of her and the others from their team.

However, the red alert sirens shown then the time they would be needed came

“Code Red! Code Red! We have a situation, an aftershock at Hagia Sofia! Code Red!” said the system.

“Presto, Jiminy, put yourself under costume. Jiminy, be ready to transport us to Hagia Sofia. In the meantime, everyone goes for your basic kits. Djanni, take Jiminy and Presto’s. I’ll help.” said Sugarplum

“We’ll check the information. Take a shower, go into costumes and we’ll provide you intel as soon we could. Your rendezvous will be at HSF HQ at Constantinople!” said Colocation

“Roger!” said everyone, while Jiminy and Carlyle gone for shower.

Chapter 17

“The Hagia Sophia aftershock was something we didn’t expected: it was stronger than the original event. Presto was still finishing to heal his wounds against Fusion and his gang. But we needed to go, it was your job after all. So, in fifteen minutes, we were at the ORSL 1 Transport 4, going to Constantinople.”

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

ORSL 1’s Transport 4 just arrived at HSF base at Constantinople, an old Turkey military airport decommissioned and recommissioned as base by HSF. Squirrel Girl stayed at ORSL 7 as support: they knew the worst cases would be delocated to ORSL 7, either via helicopter and via Atlas capes. In their place came Colocation and Split/Second: one of the weakest spots on Jiminy team was not have someone able to deal with Speedsters, something just compensated by Presto’s Magic Missiles that hitted his target by sure, even slightly, but enough to slow down Speedsters for the rest of the team.

“Alright, let us see the situation.” said Sugarplum “We’ll take some transport and establish a forward post at the city. Otherwise, this will be like Newark some months before.” she said, when the local commander came.

“Commander Bahadir, HSF, ma’am” said the man on military fatigues, an old-fashioned one that still had on it an old Turkish flag. “The earthquake was again at Hagia Sophia, but this one was even more powerful, 8.0 on the main site. The temple had not collapsed just by Allah (SWT) will, but there’s lots of damage and casualties. There’s still people below debris, our teleporters and other capes working hard to detect and rescue them.”

“Alright… We’ll help: we need two SUVs for transport our teams. We’ll try to find some place we can use as an outpost for first aid and triage. The worst cases we’ll send here and to ORSL 7 for help: we have a surgery team and capes ready for the job there.” said Sugarplum

“All the local mosques are open for us: we just put a Red Crescent flag in the SUVs.” said Bahadir.

“Right!” said Sugarplum, while came two white SUVs, ready for them with the Red Crescent on it. They split the team into both of them and loaded them with their kits and some extra supplies Djanni flew from the heli.

“Jiminy, Presto: establish our outpost where you find it’s good. You know the drill: do the comms first, ASAP with ORSL line. The others, for the rescue. Marjanah, looks for people under the debris with your Astral form. Djanni and Split/Second, help on cleaning the debris. I’ll be on first care and contact with NGOs.” said Sugarplum, while stopṕing the car in front of a local restaurant that looked a little better, without cracks and too much debris. They entered and the owner was cleaning things a little.

“Sir, we are capes from Herós Sans Frontières.” said Djanni, talking Turkish “I’m Djanni, and those are my fellows. We need a place to establish an outpost to attend the survivors and the needed. Could you help us lending your restaurant? As soon everything goes better, we’ll take our things and leave.”

“Right, right… I see you’re from Red Crescent, so at least some of you are with Allah (SWT). That’s okay for me: anything you need, just ask me.” said the man

“Alright. Mister, those are Jiminy Cricket and Presto. They’ll start to deploy our things, while the rest of us will go look for survivors. Could you help them? Me and the others are going to rescue people under the debris.” said Djanni

“They speak Turkish?” said the man, and Djanni made the question in Arabic for the others.

“No… But I speak some Arabic.” said Jiminy “I’m Jiminy Cricket, sir.” he said, doing the salaam

“Looks like you’re infidel, but a very well educated one.” said the man, smiling, replying the salaam “I’m Kaan Erbakan. You can do what you need.”

“Alright:” said Sugarplum, on English “Jiminy, Presto, Alpha Priority on comms and emergency room setup.”

“Roger!” they said, while the others got back to the SUVs after Djanni unloaded a small crate inside the restaurant

“Is that woman your leader?” said Kaan

“Yes, mister. She’s capename Sugarplum” said Jiminy, as Presto didn’t speak either Arabic and Turkish “She’s very competent.”

“Looks so, if all of you trust her.” he says “Alright, what you need me first?”

With the help of Mr. Kaan, they built the communication station, using the Vernetech transmitters and antennae supplied in their emergency crate. They contacted local Police and Dispatch and started to act with them. They also built a small base on Mr. Kaan restaurant, that was helping people providing some Doner Kebap, slices of lamb into bread.

Djanni started to bring people to the outpost, where Presto and Jiminy could help with triage with other people. Some of them were okay, just scared and dirty: a moist water towel to clean themselves and a samovar of tea helped them to be back on their own feet again, and then they could go for some of the emergency accommodations at local schools and mosques. Some also receive small hygiene kits, water bottles and small packages of crackers and biscuits.

Others, however, needed to be treated: the smallest cases, being scratches and bruises and other small damages, were dealt by Jiminy and Presto, as both of them, as part of basic CAI-training, where also EMT trained. Jiminy even could do some stitches on those who had small damages, using the Skin Stapler part of the CAI kit.

There was, however, those who needed special care, and for this a team of Red Crescent and Mediciéns Sans Frontières doctors used a room ready by Presto and Jiminy as a special surgery room, at least to stabilize those who were on real serious conditions.

One of them, however, needed to be transported to undergo a more serious surgery, as the local hospital were totally cramped.

“Jiminy, Presto, Split/Second and Colocation, you will transport him as soon the doctors finishes to prepare him for transportation. You need to go for ORSL 7: a medical team is prepared to ready him and do the surgery as soon you got there with him, as they already have all the information on the situation. Colocation will go with you, as she has special EMT training.” said Sugarplum “The Transport 4 is already prepared: you’ll take this guy with you. Go and come back as soon you came: you’ll be refueled there as soon you touch and loaded with some critical emergency medical supplies. Get back as soon you are refueled and loaded. Be cautious with potential new breakthroughs and scroundrels that show on those times. I can’t free Djanni, we need him here because his Atlas strength. And if it wasn’t a serious case, I would not left Colocation too: her teleport power is crucial.”

“Alright.” said Jiminy and Presto, getting into the SUV they came, that was soon adapted into a makeshift ambulance.

“This is a mess.” said Presto “Where’s all the doctors?”

“Hands full, as almost everyone else.” said Jiminy “It’s commonplace on this job.”

“Understood.” they said, while they helped the doctors to put the stretcher into the SUV.

“Right.” said Colocation “Split/Second, you’re in the wheel. Jiminy, want you into the passenger seat, Bellax Analytica all the time. Me and Presto will be beside the doctors, to protect and help them till we get at the base. There, Split/Second and the doctors will get back and it’ll be with us.”

“Roger!” Jiminy said, seating and fastening the seat-belt, readying himself by engaging Bellax Analytica to see the route they were going and just that.

“How many time you can foresee?” said Colocation

“After all the training I did, I think 10, 15 seconds, when totally focused on this.” said Jiminy

“That will do… Any weird things, say in the Earbug. Split/Second is trained to drive using his Speedster power engaged, so he can use this to avoid some problems. We need a smooth travel, right?” asked Colocation

“Right.” said Jiminy

“So,let’sgo.” said Split/Second, already into Speedster mode.

The first two minutes were okay, until Jiminy said

“Wait! There’ll be someone crossing there, maybe a new breakthrough.” said Jiminy

“Bad one?” said Colocation

“Can’t say, unless we stay into our way. If we detour, we can go safe, but never know.” said Jiminy

“Detouringbettersafethansorry.” said Split/Second, turning the car.

“This is common? People under breakthrough in places like here?” said Presto

“Yup. Breakthrough is a survival instinct. Being triggered on places and situations like this one is very common.” said Jiminy, when they got near the base.

And Jiminy screamed:


Some guys came to attack the SUV with weapons, trying to shoot them and/or rob the SUV.

“Jiminy, Split/Second, go! Presto, with me!” said Colocation, touching Presto.

“Roger!” said Presto, while Colocation teleported them out of the SUV.

“Full on pedal, Split/Second!” said Jiminy

“Roger!” he said

They got into the base and ran fast until they got to the heliport where ORSL 1 Transport 4 were.

“How are things, Colocation?” said Jiminy on the Earbug.

“Easy peasy. Small fish. Go for the heli and ready everything ASAP! We’ll join you as soon we deal with this rabble.” said her

“Roger!” said Jiminy, running for the helicopter “Split/Second, help the doctors to put this guy in the heli while I do the check and start everything!”

“Okay!” said Split/Second

Jiminy sat into the pilot position, and touched the XLR contacts

“Blue Fairy, be ready. I’ll download you into the electronics. If we need, I want you to work the HUD and turret!” said Jiminy

“Okay!” said Blue Fairy, with a shirt with a logo of Hagia Sophia, like she was a tourist, going to the system.

Jiminy made all the checks while Split/Second and the doctors transfered the guy, with lots of damages and a leg into a weird angle, that was sedated into a coma, connecting him to the support systems and devices in the helicopter.

“Jiminy, you’ll need to go fast and smooth.” said Split/Second, out of his speedster mode.

“Right!” yelled Jiminy, as he almost couldn’t hear Split/Second, with the helicopter engine engaged. Colocation came with Presto, that had a sore eye.

“Are you okay?” said Jiminy

“Okay.” said Presto, getting into the copilot place, while Colocation sat in the medic post. “They had the worse, believe me.”

“Presto was really good in combat: he used his magical shields like Doctor Strange or something like that!” said Colocation proudly, while the doctors finished to connect the helicopter’s monitoring devices and oxygen tubes on the guy and closed the door, getting away from the helicopter back to the SUV with Split/Second when he gave some small taps in the door, showing it was closed.

“Alright: takeoff!” said Jiminy, pushing the power lever to get away. “HSF base, Constantinople: ORSL 1 Transport 4 on emergency takeoff. Jiminy Cricket on the lever. Destination ORSL 7”

“Roger!” said the tower. “We are calculating a route…“

“No need for: we have our means. Just stay with us until we got into ORSL.” said Jiminy

“Roger!” said the tower

“Blue Fairy, route to ORSL 7, as fast and straight you can.” said Jiminy

“Roger!” said Blue Fairy.

And then, they flow as fast they could.

They took the fastest route Blue Fairy calculated, and Jiminy pushed the speed as fast as he could, but avoiding bumps in the helicopter to avoid extra wounds on the man they were transporting.

And it was when Jiminy felt his Bellax Analytica acting as a Danger sense

“Presto, shields all around the heli, NOW! As big as you can”

“Roger!” said Presto

It was just a split second after Presto ready the shield, they felt a small bump from the air delocation made by a rocket exploding middle air.

“Sky pirates!” said Blue Fairy “And lots of them!”

“Any badges?” asked Jiminy

“No… But looks Caliphate!” said Blue Fairy

“Use the turret to shot them to the water: their ornithopters have parachutes. Don’t engage even more them. Presto, be our defense: your discretion in magics. Colocation, be ready for shoot as I’ve said for Blue Fairy. I’ll push over the heli!” said Jiminy, forcing the power lever for extra speed.

“Right!” said Presto, opening the copilot door and using his hands to invoke some Magic Missiles.

For Presto, Magic Missiles are a staple for some reasons.

First, even being weaker, he didn’t need to focus on the target: they were a pursuing weapon. Even A-Class Speedsters or Teleporters could be hit by them as soon they were locked on the target.

Second, they are a extremely viable way to neutralize tangos without killing. Like he was doing now.

The Missiles targets were not the tangos, but their ornithopters: by shooting them, he made them fall, making them use their parachutes to save themselves.

He cleaned part of the worst rabble, the common criminals and some of the weak breakthrough. But still there was two or three of them, one of them strong enough to hold an RPG launcher with them while flying.

“I can’t use my Missiles again! Exhausted my supply!” said Presto, tired

“Leave this to me.” said Colocation, putting a parachute “Jiminy, Presto, no matter what happen, stick to the plan.”

“What will you do?” said Jiminy

“Just see…“ said Colocation, taking a pair of brass-made Vernetech tonfa from her belt and Teleporting.

“What the…“ said Presto, when he looked “She’s using Jeet-Kune against them in the air!”

Colocation was a Teleporter, but was also a Dragon, which allowed her to fight them. But they never believed she could use martial arts in the air. But now they could understand better Sifu Ma, and how much they underrated her.

“What kind of water she is now?” asked Presto, looking her kicking a guy and teleporting just a second before fall with the guy she kicked to the sea.

“A waterfall.” said Jiminy, smiling, when he looked to Blue Fairy, that was shown in the HUD “Blue Fairy, what you have about this man we are transporting?”

“I’ll check the Files.” said Blue Fairy, going into a POOF.

Fast, Colocation got back to the heli with a little BUMP.

“Okay, the rabble is out.” said Colocation, fastening herself back. “I don’t know who is this guy, but looks like those guys wanted him dearly dead or alive… Likely dead…“

“Had put Blue Fairy to see for him. She has access to certain files that provide us intel from time to time.” said Jiminy

“Blue Fairy?” said Colocation

“Long Story… Let things cool down and I’ll explain.” said Jiminy, when Blue Fairy got back, dressed as a cheesy Sherlock Holmes gender-swap cosplayer.

“Jiminy… I have good and bad news…“ she said, pushing the pipe to her mouth

Jiminy finished the arrival procedure at ORSL 7, and a team of doctors and capes came to them.

“Alright, the surgery room is ready.” said one of the Doctors “We take from here.”

The capes and HSF operatives started to refuel the heli and put the needed medical supplies crates and boxes.

“Wow…“ said Squirrel Girl “So this was one of the Caliphate big kahunas and he defected them some time before the earthquake?”

“Yeah!” said Blue Fairy, again “downloaded” into a holographic device occasionally Jiminy Cricket uses to make her visible for others “Samet Mardin, 24, one of the main non-breakthrough guys in the Caliphate. He has a major on Engineering at University of Constantinople, and also had some formation on the Hanafi madhhab, a common school of jurisprudence under Islam at the old Turkey, now Constantinople. He wasn’t a warrior, at least no more than anyone on mandatory military service, but he was a good orator. Ourobouros and T.A files lists him as a target, but not for neutralization: looks like he’s too much moderate to be someone ready to explode himself. However, he knowledge on Engineering make him someone that potentially develop plans for destroying buildings?”

“So, is he a POI?” said Colocation

“Yes… But he was low-profile, so no intervention from CIA or others.” said Blue Fairy

“And where he was doing?” said Presto

“Well… He was at home after some time with the Caliphate: he have woman and two kids there, none of them linked to the Caliphate. Looks like he decided to defect the Caliphate during this time.” said Blue Fairy

“Well… For now, Mr. Mardin is a patient and we’ll heal him.” said Squirrel Girl “Send this intel for Sugarplum. Find his family and, as soon things calm down, bring them here. This could ease any information we could extract from him.”

“Roger!” said Jiminy, while they saw all the supplies loaded at the helicopter

“Okay. Go back and explain what is happening now.” said Squirrel Girl “Soldaire will be called also. If you can, see if Marjanah know him from the time she was under the Sword Verse” she said, referring to the post-hypnotic trance one of the worst villains they crossed with, Alsyf Alayat, was able to put people under.

“Okay.” said Presto, while Jiminy fired the helicopter engines back.

Chapter 19

“The Hagia Sophia situation was a big mess: an Us vs Them combat is already a messy, bloody thing, but when you split things in a multi-front situation, things grows even worse. And that was a times that even Sun Tzu would be worried.”

Seiji Shirou, “The Art of War and the post-Event situation strategy”

“So… The thing grew really worse on the Caliphate?” said Seiji, via video-conference, with Jiminy

“Yeah… I was in the interrogatory, and Mr. Mardin confirmed us that the Caliphate is fracturing itself into factions. At least three big groups are now developed: one, that Mr. Mardin was/is part of, is working to get back to legality and try to dispute their agenda as part of democratic forces and are about to become a political party, and were holding conversations with local governments for this. The second is what we know as the Caliphate, that still wants to make Shar’ia a legal system and to expel or kill non-Muslins and enemies. They are also against work with zindiq or murtadd, in fact with foreigners. And them came a third faction is one that are not against work with foreigner and non-Muslins as far this help them to advance their agenda, even hating them.” said Jiminy

“And this group somehow got under The Ascendant’s radar?” said Seiji

“Looks like: sounds like The Ascendant offered support for The Caliphate, by triggering some breakthrough and raising the power of the breakthroughs they already had. With this, the third faction is growing into power and co-opted the second one against the moderates, pushing a pogrom against them.” said Jiminy

“And then…“ said Seiji

“There’s lots of guerrilla fights at the Balkans, specially in places like Kosovo, where the Muslin communities are bigger.” said Jiminy. “The Caliphate fracturing is a big problem, right?”

“For sure: fighting a big strong group is a problem… But fight three groups as strong the first one is a bigger mess: the big kahunas on UN and LDS are freaking out. The Ascendant is almost to turn into the big menace since Acar, the Caliphate founder. And the biggest problem is that he always works via proxies: in Chicago, he got some super-villains and super-duds like some of The Crew, and now he’s working via The Caliphate.” said Seiji “Fighting via proxy is a dirty, but effective, way to fight, as Cold War proved: neither USSR and US suffered the pain Korea, Vietnam, Latin America, Afghanistan suffered. The political profits on this were all cashed by the big countries, and the costs were all externalized for the developing nations, the so-called Third Nations. The Ascendant is a result of The Event AND of the lessons we didn’t learned on the Cold War.”

“And about us?” said Jiminy

“By now, nothing changes: we’ll be ready at ORSL 1. You and the others will stay at ORSL 7 until Code Blue is back. Stay on your job: everyone is going well, by what I’m reading on the After-Action Reports. I’ll also talk with Sugarplum for extra intel for the team leader. By now, stay on job and we’ll deal with The Ascendant later. Over.” said Seiji, closing the video-conference connection at ORSL 7.

“Well… Let’s go back Constantinople.” said Jiminy for himself, while he got back to the Twin Squirrel, where Presto was already waiting him.

“How it was with Soldaire?” said Presto.

“He is worried.” said Jiminy, while looking Presto turning on the helicopter “Super-villains are always a problem, but The Ascendant is a big problem, the biggest since The Event now that Teatime Anarchist and Seif-Al-Din are deceased: you saw Fusion, Razorleaf and Ballistic. They gone stronger than they were before, and that was obviously an artificial grow. Think now that you could turn people superpowered at whim. This is the biggest problem on The Ascendant: he can give or take powers on anyone, and this would be a dangerous power balance shift. There is very few limitations on his powers: looks like he need to have a non-hostile target, as he needed to knockout Astra before blocking her powers.”

“And how could we take him down?”

“By now, there’s nothing we can do.” said Jiminy, shrugging, while Presto took of the helicopter “The only thing is that The Ascendant can’t change powers and also can’t apply his power against himself. So, he could not turn himself into an Ajax, Atlas or something like this out of nothing. This means he’s a ‘common’ human for damage”

“So, he could be killed by a common bullet?” said Presto, looking a little disappointed

“As easy as any of us.” said Jiminy “In fact, beside Ajaxes or Atlases, few other breakthroughs is really super, if you take the old comics as reference. We just have our ways to avoid or cope damage: I can precog bullets or attacks. You and Sugarplum can use magical shield and healing. Dumont has armor under his formals and so on.”

“Alright.. But if we could find him, we could just put a bullet on his head and it would be over?” said Presto

“Yes… But I don’t think that would be that easy to take him down: I believe he have some security principles. But, anyway, he’s not our problem.” said Jiminy

“Why not? He could create other Ultra tangos like the guy who did this to Hagia Sophia.” said Presto

“Yes… But there’s CAI and SPAT teams enough doing their job trying to find him… I heard that even some Ultra Mentalists are trying to find him, but no one found him yet. And, to be fair, I think we need to do our job, and it is help people at Constantinople and then back to ORSL 7 for some more time and then, back ORSL 1.” said Jiminy

“Okay…“ said Presto, when they saw Constantinople

The worst on removing debris and deal with the fatalities and casualties had gone. Constantinople was now Code Yellow, and that means that the CAI teams were working on shifts for finishing the cleaning work and so. Sugarplum was looking for her epad when Jiminy came.

“Oh, sorry, Jiminy.” she said when they both almost crashed on each other.

“No problem. Looks like you’re with lots of problems. What’s happening?” he said

“Is that Mardin guy: he passed some intel on some guys, most of them ready to defect the Caliphate, and they want to negotiate with LDS and UN a way to get out and get into the next elections.” she said

“So, they really want to put their agenda under democratic scrutiny. They are not radicalized?” said Jiminy

“No… In fact, by the interviews LDS conducted on a classified site, they are really reasonable. They have their religious practices and agenda, but they aren’t too much different of the right-winged guys in home. In fact, when you think on those morons from Pure God Work Fraternity, these guys looks really sensible, and this is a thing.” said Sugarplum

“And what’s the problem?” said Jiminy

“As they want to negotiate, LDS needs to create a security structure, and they had put us into this one… But we can’t put our full power on this one: we still have some problems here, so we can’t put the best ones, and we are short of bricks and hard hitters, as we have only Djanni… And I’ll need him as translator…“

“Can I help? I had learned some Turkish, and I speak Arabic and some North African dialects. I can be the translator and help with my powers…“

“Sounds good: this can free some hands for security. Okay… I think we can solve this one.” said Sugarplum.

A week after, Jiminy was into a room with some guys, some of them on traditional desert clothes, other on suits. He was looking for one of the main guys on suits, a UN pin on his tie. Jiminy was focused on his translation job.

“So… Mr. Mardin, I think those are the ones you said are leaders of a group into the Caliphate that are ready for giving away the guerrilla war against Constantinople and other places in North Africa, Maghreb and Middle East, right, for going legitimate and work on democratic ways?” said the man

Jiminy did his job by translating and then translated back the response

“He confirmed and says those are some of his comrades at the Caliphate: Emarat Wassef, one of the main engineering guys; Samer Abo Hassoon, a tactician from the Sudan front; Marwan Alshamandi, part of the propaganda; and Mounir Fakhry Al-Yousif, from the politics.” said Jiminy, presenting the guys

“So… Let us start talking about this: I believe you have some intel. We already took the flash-drives, papers and notes you brought us and they are being availed by our guys. So, let us discuss some terms.” said the UN man

Jiminy needs to work his best with his powers: some of the topics on this all were really sensitive, things like Eretz Israel and the situation of the Diaspora after the Caliphate War. Once and another Jiminy needed to use his Pretty Please! to avoid the escalation on the negotiation. But, otherwise, everything was going okay.


Jiminy felt something wrong: his Bellax Analytica engaged out of nothing.

“Everyone, be ready!” he said.

It was when he heard a BADOOOM and the room trembling, some of the MaxBerets in the place helping everyone going safe.

“Jiminy!” said Sugarplum “What is this?”

“Someone is looking for those guys. Sugarplum, go on and help them get out. They are the target.” said Jiminy

“No way I’ll leave you behind…“ said Sugarplum, when they heard the ceil collapsing, and Jiminy being below the debris.

“JIMINY!!!” screamed Sugarplum, and this was the last thing Jiminy heard before passing out…

… except someone saying: “So, this is the Jiminy Cricket the Boss want to talk with.”

Chapter 20

“When captured by the Ascendant, I was on one of the most terrible situations I had: I think that, at least for 4 years, I couldn’t remember what was REALLY to be caught off-guard…“

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

Jiminy woke up, full of pain into what looked as a camp barrack, without his hat: the hot, dry weather shown him he was no more at Constantinople.

“Looks like a tango took me.” thought Jiminy “Blue Fairy, any intel?”

It was when Jiminy started to panic: he didn’t heard the small, familiar voice on his mind.

He tried to focus on his Bellax Analytica, but he couldn’t see the now familiar “shadows” of anyone or anything passing around.

“What is happening?” he shouted

A voice on some speakers started to talk

“You’re our prisoner. Don’t try anything weird if you want to stay alive.” said the voice, with a thick Arabic voice “You had your powers removed, by Allah’s (SWT) honor, by one of your own, Zindiq.”

Jiminy froze.

“You have some time to undress yourself and put the clothes on the box on your left. There’s water on the gourd nearby the entrance. No talk with anyone… I believe you understand what happened!” said the voice

Jiminy understood.

He had fallen under The Ascendant’s hand. And on the Caliphate ones, by proxy.

“Engaging Emergency Protocol Aleph-One!” said a synthetic voice on the helicopter speakers.

“What is happening?” said Presto, that was sat into it, while everyone was put the guys safe on the bulletproof SUVs.

“Presto!” said the now familiar voice of Blue Fairy “God, or better, The Teatime Anarchist be glad! Something happened with Jiminy!”

“We know… But I thought you were with Jiminy.” said Presto

“The Aleph-One protocol is something I hid even from Jiminy. Never thought I would need to use it.”

“And what is this?”

“No time: ask Sugarplum to be here, now!” said Blue Fairy, with a tense tone on her voice.

She were there in moments, including all the ORSL 1 team at ORSL 7.

“What happened with Jiminy? We just found his hat over the debris… Why you’re still here, Blue Fairy?” said Sugarplum “Jiminy downloaded you?”

“No, and this is bad news: Aleph-One protocol was something the Teatime Anarchist put on my programs as an emergency. On laymen terms, I can download myself automatically into the last device I was downloaded if, for any reason, Jiminy was cut from his Quantum Link access.” said Blue Fairy

“Is he dead?” said Djanni

“No… And this is the good news: if he was dead, I would not engaged Aleph-One. The Quantum Link would be broken, and I would be irremediable ‘dead’ also. Albeit he was cut from the Quantum Link, it is still operating, so it is still connected to Jiminy’s brain, and so I’m here.”

“Too much confusing…“ said Presto

“I know, and I’m the one made by T.A. And, before you talk, I’m not Shelly or Shell or even Shelly Boyar, the original one. Each of us has, or had, her own mind, although we share some knowledge, personality quirks and so.”

“Alright…“ said Sugarplum, trying to not freak out “So, Jiminy wasn’t just kidnapped, but somehow unlinked from you, at least temporally. So…“

“This mean that, somehow, they messed with his mind, cutting him from access to certain areas…“ said Blue Fairy

“His powers!” said Squirrel Girl “Bellax Analytica! Pretty Please! And, on some level, you, Blue Fairy!” she said

“This means…“ said Djanni

“Jiminy is under the Ascendant’s hand! And the Caliphate!” said Sugarplum “And, unlike Alsyf Alayat’s time, he’s under his own, and without his powers!”

“I’ll pass this to Soldaire.” said Sugarplum “I know it will be difficult to ask Soldaire for an authorization for an extraction: all Blue Fairy affair is classified, and we would need to reveal her to perhaps have an authorization. I’ll try to ask for information, before we do something.”

“We should do something now!” said Djanni

“No chance!” said Sugarplum “Unless we go supervillain, there’s no way to try to rescue Jiminy by now: it would be a war declaration against the Caliphate, and we all know how this would end.”

“But…“ said Djanni

“We’ll find a way to take Jiminy back. But we’ll not give those nuts a reason to fight us back. Not in my watch, anyway.” said Sugarplum

Jiminy had already received some food and allowed to get into toilet and take a bath. Those guys were rougher than the ones with Alsyf Alayat, and now he doesn’t have his powers for some reason, or better, thanks the Ascendant. Now he needed to be double careful on dealing with them.

It was when, while he was sat into his small bunk bed on the tent they put him as a prison, two guys with scimitars and AK-47s at the door, a guy came into. He was dressed into a big desert walker set of clothes, some Lawrence of Arabia-ish clothes and using a kind of pair of glasses over his eyes. Jiminy couldn’t distinguish him from anything he remembered from his breakthrough-powered mind (the only thing The Ascendant could not block from him), but he look someone Caucasian, or at least not someone from the region.

“So, you’re Joshua McCarthy…“ said the guy

“And you are The Ascendant.” said Jiminy, noticing who was this guy

“You’re right.” said the guy “I have nothing against you, Jiminy Cricket, or Herós Sans Frontières, per se. In fact, I like you somehow: you’re not that kind of crime-fighting heroes from the old time comics, but you’re more like public service.”

“But you’re not trying to play fair: on this one, you’re even worse than Alsyf Alayat. And why you took me? And why blocking my powers?” said Jiminy

“Think this as a safety measure: I would have problems with you using your powers, but those guys outside would kill you as soon as they noted your Pretty Please! But, as now they saw you had no powers anymore, they chose to allow you to stay alive, at least by now.”

“And why you are working on this for them?”

“What do you think about Eretz Israel?” said the Ascendant

Jiminy knew enough about Eretz Israel, even more that half his time on Herós Sans Frontières was dealing with the consequences about it.

“I think that all of this was a great problem and that people should discuss more and kill less.” said Jiminy

“For a kid that killed someone in the past…“ said The Ascendant

“I know… And I think on and regret this all the time.” said Jiminy

“Even now? Had you thought that all breakthroughs are, in fact, a source of power?”

“This is fact. After all, ‘a breakthrough…” was saying Jiminy, when The Ascendant said

“…is a natural response against a stressful or life-threating situation’. The Barlow’s yadda-yadda. But I’m not talking on this. Breakthroughs are a real power, and no matter what, they can be exerted for political things. The original Caliphate was an example: it was a Breakthrough that manipulated the military and political forces against Israel that time. And Israel fought back.”

“Monroe Doctrine?” said Jiminy “And what about The Nuke?”

“No one knows what really happened on Tel-Aviv: what is known is that it was a dirty bomb, and that it destroyed Tel-Aviv, that now is forbidden zone, and it will be for the next 30 years.” said The Ascendant

“And do you believe that the Israeli did this?” said Jiminy

“This is what I want to ask you, Jiminy Cricket.” said The Ascendant. “And remember you’re being monitored.”

“So, his idea is to make me killed by the Caliphate as an enemy warrior after saying that it was one of them, but also to turn me against Israeli guys if say the other way. Seki”. thought Jiminy, thinking on the go situation where playing could result in defeat “Great trap… Nice try, The Ascendant.”

“What I can say is that was a humanitarian crime, no matter who did it. I think the one who did this could also be a lone wolf, to be shunned to anyone that has the minimum of civility, and also think that, no matter what happened, we have the here and now to do what we can to help the people who suffered on all this. And this is my mission as a Herós Sans Frontières cape. This was the decision I did after almost being killed by bullies, after six months under a coma, in that hospital bed.” said Jiminy, calmly, and he was happy to see that he catched The Ascendant red-handed on his intentions.

“Well… Looks I could not suppress your breakthrough-powered brain totally.” said The Ascendant “Looks like I found a limit on my powers…“ he said before stopping abruptly.

“No need to stop… After what you did with Astra this was an open secret.”

“Maybe I should had killed Astra… Maybe I shall kill you to avoid this secret to leak… Maybe not…“ thought The Ascendant.

“I know your philosophy.” said Jiminy “Read your profile enough: you think breakthrough is a way to ‘natural’ selection for a new kind of mankind.”

“So, you know…“

“…you can trigger the breakthrough on those who you want, and enhance or suppress breakthrough powers.” said Jiminy

The Ascendant looked a little worried.

“Sounds like it’s the first time you are taken off-guard.” said Jiminy

“Yeah… To be fair, I like this. You see, I believe we are somewhat likewise: we work into the realm of soft powers. You see, the lion’s share of all breakthroughs are based on hard power: Ajaxes and Atlas can destroys things by their own hands, like Dragons also. Merlins and Mentalist can kill people manipulating subatomic energies or other invisible ways and so. But you, and me, we don’t need to kill… Killing is dirty and counterproductive, you know: we can extract the better of everyone, just pushing the right buttons and turning the right knobs. We are soft power. This gave us an edge to go off-radar for the big bricks, but we are shunned on what we can do, until we do.” said The Ascendant

“And now… Why working with The Caliphate?” said Jiminy

“I just made the same offer I did for everyone else: power, no strings attached.” said The Ascendant “Yeah, I know about all the events involving Grendel and Ozma, and I know you know both of them and their breakthroughs. But I noticed it was very counterproductive to just let people develop powers that way. What we need now is to give power and let nature works…“

“So, you believe evolution is based on power? Just by that?”

“‘Survival of the fittest’, as said by Darwin.” said The Ascendant

“But even Darwin recognized that ‘fittest’ was a environment-based feature. So, someone on a certain environment can be extremely fit and could be on trouble on another just some kilometers away. Australia is one the greatest examples on how this idea of stronger equals fittest is nonsense: Australian native fauna has lots of problem to live outside Australia.”

“And how could you solve those problems?” asked the Ascendant

“No simple answer, unfortunately: believe me, I would love to have some off-the-shelf answers, it would make my life so much easier… But, in fact, we are humans, and our variety is what, in my opinion, turned us so important, if so, in nature. I know that this brought war and problems, but I read somewhere that those are our world’s birth pain… And…“ said Jiminy, feeling a heartache “This is why I became a Herós Sans Frontières cape: because I could not accept that people suffered what I suffered on that alley years ago. I don’t believe in Might makes Right. And if this is the fate of the world, I’ll fight it until I die, but I’ll not be part of this.” he say

The Ascendant could see his look: he was a still a kid, had some tears on his eyes, but has a powerful voice and a determination that was not part of his powers.

“You’re somewhat a marvel.” said The Ascendant “Hope they allow you to live…“ he said, while going way from the tent, leaving Jiminy thinking by himself.

Chapter 21

“I still believe that the tango taking Jiminy was not just because he is the least-powered one of us, but because they fear his power: he can call upon your conscience, and lots of things would be difficult or even impossible to be done if you think too much on the odds and/or consequences. This is an incredible power, and give this to a kid just turn things even worse for the bad guys.”

Andre “Dumont” Macedo, “Histories from the Demoiselle - My Breakthrough Memoirs”

Just 24 hours passed until Soldaire called everyone for video-conference:

“Alright.. Just had a video-conference with the LDS and HSF big guys and they decided The Caliphate had gone too far, crossed all the lines while brought The Foxtrot and decided to go to a scorched land strategy.” said Soldaire “LDS and UN had a meeting some hours ago. They’ll go for Darfur Caliphate guys…“

“Great…“ was saying Djanni

“But we’ll not be allowed to get with them.” said Soldaire “And I had some report on this: it will be a storm operation. They think they already had intel enough for a suppresive action against them.”

“But… Jiminy is without powers! He’ll be killed for sure!” gasped Sugarplum

“I hope not…“ said Soldaire, and everyone could see he was tired. “I said them they had one of us hostage, and they said they’ll do their best to rescue Jiminy, but I don’t know… I already talked with the McCarthys to prepare them for the worst…“

“Let us think positively.” said Marjanah “Jiminy is smart: even without his powers, he is experienced by what you talked about him.”

“But… With Freaking Ascendant with the Caliphate it’ll be a blood bath!” said Squirrel Girl.

“Yeah… And it’s The Ascendant presence there that made the UN and LDS forces choose for an all-out attack now.” said Soldaire “There’s a chance to catch some big fish on the process.” said Soldaire.

“But…“ said Djanni

“I was outvoted.” said Soldaire frankly “In fact: we from HSF was outvoted. Some of us will be delocated for nearby Darfur to give help. I asked Diana for it, and I think Prop and Colocation will be on it. I asked to put some of you, but they decided it would be risky. Hufflepuff and Kuntur will be there for us…“

Hufflepuff and Kuntur were two of the main Bricks from ORSL 1 team, beside LionHeart, Soldaire and Djanni.

“To finish, let us hope for the best and be ready for the worst…“ said Soldaire “Off..”

Djanni looked worried

“He’ll be saved, Djanni. Believe in Allah The Most High (SWT). Even he being an infidel, Allah will be with him, as he is one that always worked for and by peace. ‘We have appointed a law and a practice for every one of you. Had God willed, He would have made you a single community, but He wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good. Every one of you will return to God and He will inform you regarding the things about which you differed.’ Surat al-Ma’ida, the fifth Sura, Verse 48. Jiminy had done lots of good… Allah The Forgiving (SWT) will relieve him on his suffering. For us now is to pray for the best.” said Marjanah.

“Thanks… I was a fool…“ replied meekly Djanni

“No, Djanni… You are someone fearing for his friend.” reassured Marjanah “But this is just the kind of time we need to trust Allah The Forgiving (SWT) even more, as He Is The One Who Knows All”

“Maktub.” said Djanni

Some days after, Jiminy was dressed on the same desert clothes he was forced to use since the time he came there. He was given a fast tour all around, to show him he could not escape, even if he had his powers: there was almost a battalion of the Mujaheddin, the fanatic warriors there, places and places full of warriors in training. He saw then something to save in his memory: into a big tent there was a lot of women, many of them just a little older than himself.

“They are our wives.” said the one who conducted him, with the AK-47 on his hand “They are war spoil for us.”

“From Roque Santeiro?” asked Jiminy in Arabic, avoiding English to not cross this guy

“Some… Other from some stray groups we took in the desert.”

Jiminy thought on reply about the man dead, but he remembered he could not precog the guy reaction without Bellax Analytica.

He could not believe how much he felt naked without his powers.

It was when, while he was eating that day, he heard a siren calling attention, and some distress everywhere. He heard voices exclaiming “The Crusaders had come!” in Arabic, Berber and other Northern African idioms.

And one of his guards came to him:

“Come with me, now!” said the guy, on an accented english.

“What…“ Jiminy was saying, when he saw a FAL rifle pointed to him.

“No talk…“ said the guy, and looked worried and angry, showing him the point of the rifle

Jiminy just got out the tent, and he saw that all the men were going to the front. The guy touched his back with the gun point, showing that he would be pushed to the battlefield…

And it was when he heard a small whistle, and his experience made him made a movement getting out the way. The bomb shrapnels got the guy straight into the chest, Jiminy alive and unhurt just by experience and sheer luck.

He just looked to the guy in deadly pain and asked:

“Your name?”

“Ahmed Nader Maroun…“ said the guy, surprised by the last gesture of charity, when his eyes gone opaque, devoided of life.

Jiminy closed his eyes, did a small prayer for him, and looked around.

“A probability window!” he thought, taking the rifle and the ammo from the fallen Mujaheddin and running to the opposite side.

He was walking fast, avoiding the most the way the other Caliphate Warriors were using. He didn’t need his Bellax Analytica to remember the site structure: his memory was enough.

He got and walk through, looking for the women tent and for a way to get away there. He knew there’s two choppers somewhere, and he could catch one of them with some luck.

As he got to the women tent, they looked for them. Some of them were really scared:

“The camp is under attack. If you want to try to run, it’s time.” he said in Arabic.

“Who are you?” said one of them

“No time to waste now: I’m a friend, so to speak.” said Jiminy “Take your clothes, water and let us get out of here.”

The women start to run with small bundles of clothes and some canteels of water.

It was just when Jiminy start to hear the screams “yuhribun mae alnisa’!”

“Let’s go!” said Jiminy, using some of the tactics he learned at the BKA, using the auto-fire mode to make some suppresive fire, forcing them to take cover, even the rifle being so heavy and provoking recoil enough to almost make him fall, had he not prectice in the past at BKA.

They were going to the place were the helicopter was, when they found some Mujaheddin and they start to shoot. It was when one of the woman look for them worried and, for some reason waved her hands like she was doing some belly dance to them, sent a small sand storm against them, making them cough and go blind, while the others ran away screaming “Djinn!”. She looked worried for some reason.

“Who are you?” asked Jiminy

“Mirian Cissé” blurted the woman, flabbergasted

“First things first: how you did this?”

“Don’t know!” said Mirian “I just thought on the stories and did like Scheherazade!”

When Jiminy saw the women going for them, he said:

“Just knock them out. Take weapons, ammo and water, but no kills! Let them here, LDS will deal with them.”

The five Mujaheddin were knocked out.

They got nearby the heliport.

“Now, Mirian, let us take those guys away. We’ll take the helicopter, and we try to run away.”


“I was trained as a helicopter pilot. I’m from Herós Sans Frontières cape. Jiminy Cricket is my capename.”

“Alright!” said Mirian, locking on the ammo from her rifle.

They started to shot and pushing those guys away, and Mirian used her recent breakthrough power to push those guys away using their sand attacks.

“Alright!” said Jiminy, when all those guys had ran away, and they gone to the helicopter. “Let’s go!”

Jiminy sat into the pilot seat, Mirian on the copilot.

“I miss you, Blue Fairy.” said Jiminy

“Blue Fairy?” said Mirian

“I’ll talk later… If we survive this.” said Jiminy, starting the helicopter and simultaneously doing some Morse Code into a greeting LDS frequency.


“Hope they find the message.” said Jiminy, while lighting the motor on…

“We have a message on greeting frequency, sir. Morse code, small power.” said one of the man in the command center

“What?” said the man “Who would use Morse Code into our greeting frequency. And small potency means it came from the theatre.”

“Right… The message says JIMINY CRICKET. IN THE HELI. NEED COVER.” said the man with the radio

“Jiminy is there! And alive!” said the man with the big Andine costume.

“Yeah… But we can’t take this for sure.” said the commander to the guy “This can easily be a trap. We can’t put any afford on this.”

“And leave Pepito Grillo for death? Fat chance, señor.” said the other guy, dressed into a Lucha Libre costume

“Commander Williams,” said the black, statuesque woman, in military fatigues and holding a big and heavy spear as weapon “can you lock the signal? And send back the message in Morse Code USE ORSL 1 FREQ.”

“Lt. Matheusź?” said the Commander.

“Sir, the signal is from somewhat 3 clicks from here, 10 hours.” said the man “I’ll send the message back, ma’am, but I…“

“Don’t worry with us.” said Diana, looking for the other HSF capes there “Our mission here is to rescue our cape Jiminy Cricket, acquire the rogue breakthrough The Ascendant and fight the Caliphate, this order. We’ll not interfere on your main mission of acquiring the site and neutralize the tangos.”

“Hope so.” said Commander “If you interfere, you’ll be considered tangos as much the Caliphate guys.”

“Believe us… We don’t want to mess with you.” said Diana, while the communication guy send the message back.

Jiminy heard the Morse Code message getting back and had a smile, while the rotor got speed

“ORSL 1 frequency!” said Jiminy in english, while taking the walkie talkie. “They are coming for help us!”

“What?” said Mirian

“We’ll have help!” said Jiminy, in Arabic. “My friends are getting here.” he said, while adjusting the frequency.

“ORSL 1, LDS forces, Jiminy Cricket here!” he said on english “I have some Caliphate hostages with me on a MI heli… Looks like a Mi-38”

“Right.” said the potent woman voice.

“Diana!” said Jiminy. “Take care: The Ascendant is here.”

“We know: if possible, he’s a designated target.”

“We need a safe pass… We’ll takeoff now!” said Jiminy, when he looked for the instruments, showing he’s on operational speed.

He started to take off, when he felt a bump trying to push him down.

“Look out!” said another woman, and they felt some heat.

Jiminy looked outside, and there was a guy very strong with weird flames around him, big and bold. And somewhat away:

“The Ascendant!” said Jiminy, trying to avoid roll over “He upgraded this guy!”

“What we should do?” said one of the women

“Miriam, shoot some sand on him!” said Jiminy

“Right!” she said, and shot the sand…

But it wasn’t effective: the flames on the guy turned the sand into micro-glass

“We’re in trouble here!” said Jiminy to the walkie talkie. “If you want to help, we need your help NOW!”

“We’re a go, Jiminy!” said Diana “Stay on your position!”

“We’re doing our best!” said Jiminy, when the guy turned a little more the helicopter. “Hold yourself!”

One of the woman screamed, and pulled her hand to protect herself from the flames that the men was trying to push into the helicopter.

It was when they felt the heat reducing!

“What is happening?” said the woman, looking her hands glowing into a blue light, looking like sucking the flames.

“Breakthrough!” shouted Jiminy “Think on push the flames back to the guy, or better, against him and the man behind it!”

“Okay!” replied the girl, and the flame that gone from the woman hit the guy on the side.

But it was a blue fire that, by the pain reaction the guy had, was really hurtful. The Ascendant had time to get away, but this broke the amplification he did and he ran away.

“Let’s go!” said Jiminy, controlling the helicopter and flying away as fast he could, with the guy run behind them, shooting flames. “Close the doors!”

The women closed the helicopter doors and they felt some of the flames crossing aside them.

“Jiminy, we have you on visual!” said Diana

“Diana, The Ascendant had evaded, 6 hours on our direction… This tango we have on our tail looks like an Ajax/Pyrokinetic. Total A-Class, upgraded by The Ascendant. Take him as Ultra or even Omega!”

“Roger… Just get away: you have rescued people. Let the tango for us.”

“Okay.” said Jiminy, pushing the heli

Diana could see the Helicopter get over herself. She changed to the LDS frequency.

“Diana here: don’t shoot the heli that just crossed us. I repeat: don’t shoot it. It is one of us!” said Diana

“Roger.” said Lt. Matheusź “Sending it a route back safely our side through the accorded frequency.”

“Right. We’ll drop this monster.” said Diana, switching the comms back HSF frequency

“Need to say, muchacha, it’ll be easier said than done.” said Hufflepuff

“¿Amedrentado, Hufflepuff?” said Kuntur

“Me? ¿Hufflepuff, Hijo del Estupendo Tolot? ¡Kuntur, nada me amedrenta! I’m afraid of nothing, Kuntur!”

“No time for bravado, you two.” said the British-American guy, using a green jersey with a kind of antelope on it, a H and a rugby ball ove it also as a Cape crest. His head had a scrum cap used on rugby, his teeth protected by a black mouth-guard. “Let us drop that thing down and get home.”

“For sure.” said the Chinese woman with him, holding a pair of brass tonfa, with some sparkles of electricity getting out. “Now, let us go.” said Colocation, giving the honors by attacking first.

She used her teleporting and gave some kick, that made some of the flames getting away from him, him being hit straight in the side.

“Okay… Sounds like my powers are somewhat effective to him.” said her.

“Let now to me!” said Prop, running ready to tackle the guy, but he had just pulled him away with his arm.

“Prop!” said Colocation

“I’m okay!” said Prop.

“My time.” said Diana, hitting a button on her spear. “VENTO GÉLIDO!”

She threw the Vernetech spear that hit the guy in the shoulder and sent a bout of frozen air.

“Alright…“ said Diana “Looks like this will do with the flames: Kuntur, Prop, Hufflepuff, he is all yours.”

Prop ran back and held him on a tackle like lock, passing to his back.

“Let’s go!” said Kuntur, going like a missile and hitting the guy straight in the chest, making him lose her breath, when Prop broke the hold.

“Now, Hufflepuff!” said Kuntur, getting back and tagging his hand.

Hufflepuff looked for the guy and said:

“¡Usted está condenado! ¡Yo, Hufflepuff, Hijo de Tolot, le daré tu condena!” he said, running to it and punching him again in the same spot Kuntur did. The guy tried to reignite his fire, but it wasn’t successful, and Hufflepuff took him.

“¡És hora de tu condena! ¡EL TÉJON VOLADOR!” he screamed, throwing him to the air.

The guy tried to protect himself from the attack, but it wasn’t successful, when Hufflepuff locked his throat with his powerful legs, and he smashed him into a lariat in the ground.

The guy was stopped.

“They are coming!” shouted Kuntur, that was flying over everyone, looking around. Lots of Mujaheddin from the Caliphate where coming. Then they looked for the Zindiq that were there, and for the guy in the ground, knocked out.

“Alright.” said Diana, in Arabic “I’m pissed off enough to kill at least two or three of you morons if you give me reason.” snapping her fingers. “So… This will be simple: I’ll count to three. Everyone here after that will be tangos to be neutralized. Each of you that shoot against me will be considered a target to be took down. So… One…“ she started to count

On three, some smartyguys stayed, and Diana took one of them to use as a baton against other four. Hufflepuff throw one of them against a small group that was running away. Kuntur flew around and used his arms to pull some of them out of the way, while Prop tackled a lot of them, breaking their lines like if he was on a rugby game, and Colocation used her combination of teleporting and Jeet-Kune Do to drop the remaining rabble to the ground.

“Diana here.” said her in the Earbug “We cleaned this sector. Where are you, Jiminy?”

“Already in the command center.” said him “Need a ride?”

“It would be good, thanks.” said Diana, almost smiling with her ivory white smile, her afro hair shining with the sweat from the fight “Need to say, I need to thank those Mujaheddin: it was so good to do some anger management with those guys. I was so pissed off with those guys since Roque Santeiro attack it was good to kick some asses.”

“Alright: there’s still some fuel for a there and back again travel.” said Jiminy

Jiminy was being checked by a LDS doctor for his condition after his debriefing, while talking with the others.

“So, The Ascendant took you just to talk?” said Diana

“I don’t know: maybe he wanted to use me as guinea pig, or needed to take me to prove what he could do to the Caliphate.” said Jiminy “Anyway…“

“And in the chaos you got away.” said Prop

“Yeah… But need to say that I had help… Those two girls, including Ms. Mirian Cissé, had breakthroughs in the right moments. And the others were very helpful too.”

“Right…“ said the LDS doctor “You’re cleared to go. Please wait a minute while we get some clothes for you.”

They were getting out, after Jiminy dressed some soldier clothes (obviously baggy for him), when he saw Mirian Cissé getting out from another medical tent.

“Hey, Ms. Cissé…“ said Jiminy, and she looked to him “By chance: have you a parent named Wahiba?”

“My sister! My elder sister!” said her “But… How you…“

“Long story. But good news, you’re going to see her back.” said Jiminy “We are with her!”

“Lo, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful!” she said, crying “She was taken forcibly as a wife in my place. She was raped a lot…“

“I know…“ said Jiminy “She had a horrible story. But now, she’s better, and she’s a cape, a breakthrough like you.”

“Cape? Breakthrough?” said Mirian

“She has powers, like you and me and some others… We’ll talk better when getting back to her.”

“But how?” said her

Jiminy thought a little and saw that the Commander of the operation was there:

“Sir, please, have you a time? I want to ask you a favor.” said Jiminy.

The man looked for him curiously. And he would grew even more curious and even flabbergasted on the favor Jiminy asked him.

“I still can’t believe you asked this for them.” said Diana, smiling

“Well… It wasn’t like I wanted a gift: we could take this as war spoil. Salvage rights, you know.” said Jiminy, on the lever of the same helicopter he got from the Caliphate.

“This will be way cool in ORSL 1, you know.” said Kuntur.

“I was just thinking on this.” said Jiminy, when he felt something weirdly familiar growing on him.

“What’s happening?” said Kuntur, noticing Jiminy

“Just… Pretty Please!, Kuntur, could you give me a chocolate milk?” said Jiminy

Kuntur ran to the rack and took a thermos, when he noticed what happened.

“Your powers! Are they back?” said Kuntur

“Yep… At least my Bellax Analytica and my Pretty Please!” said Jiminy, when he felt another good presence, a giggling one. “Blue Fairy!”

“Hey, short stuff, long time no see.” said the small Fairy, in the same costume he saw her in the first time.

“You can’t believe how much I missed you.” said Jiminy

“I can see… Remember: I can read your mind somewhat.” said Blue Fairy

“Cheater.” said Jiminy

“How this is happening?” said Hufflepuff.

“Think he didn’t push too much on me: as my powers are not for direct combat, he took me as a kid.” said Jiminy “Well, being small and meek has some advantages sometimes…“ he said, and everyone laugh.

It was when they saw the HSF base at Constantinople.

“Home sweet home, Jiminy!” said Blue Fairy.

“Home sweet home, Blue Fairy!” said Jiminy “Constantinople HSF Base, Jiminy Cricket with the Darfur HSF team and some Caliphate hostage rescued.”

Chapter 22

“I lost my powers for just some days and I really felt myself naked. Being back into the field with my dear friends was a relief.”

Jiminy Cricket, “From Dress-up to save up: an underage breakthrough story”

Some days passed while Jiminy and the others finished their job at Constantinople, the Hagia Sofia situation now back to a Code Blue situation, some international Crew teams working to rebuild the collapsed buildings. There was two girls with some mild Sword Verses post-hypnotic suggestions in the rescued ones, but Squirrel Girl undone them and they were free to get back Roque Santeiro for their families. Mirian stayed, with the other breakthrough woman, to reinforce ORSL 1 team as sidekicks while learning to control their powers. Scheherazade (real name: Mirian Cissé) was a sand projector/kinetic, B-Class at least. The other girl, that choosed the capename Lahab (real name: Khadija Rezgui), was a thermal projector that could suck and redirect flames and other sources of heat at will. She was not a kinetic, so she needed a source of heat, but as long as she had something to provide the heat (in extreme cases, living things), she could project it away in many ways.

“Two good powers for our team.” said Soldaire via video-conference “And is very cool that Scheherazade and Marjanah are sisters.”

“Yeah.” said Jiminy “And we rescued many of the people that were alive from the Roque Santeiro attack.”

“Sure…“ said Marjanah “But I think this is not the last time we heard about The Undying Caliphate and The Ascendant.”

“I don’t think so.” said Sugarplum “We still didn’t find the Ascendant and some of those guys he certainly gave or upgrade powers: the Ultra weather controller from the ORSL 1, the Terrakinetic that did the Hagia Sofia earthquake…“

“But this is not for us…“ said LionHeart “We already have our mission at ORSL 1.”

“Yeah…“ said Presto “But how we’ll take those helis back home?”

“Presto, I believe you took your helicopter brief, right?” said Jiminy.


“So, you take Transport 4 and I bring our new Trasport 5.” said Jiminy

“Right… Just because we have a smaller autonomy than you” said Presto, sneering

“I’ll have the bulk of the things to bring back ORSL 1, including the rescued women. And you’ll go more confy, as just Hufflepuff and LionHeart will go with you.”

“Right, right.” said Presto, laughing

Back to ORSL 7, it was time to farewells.

“Thanks everything, Jiminy.” said Prop

“Just doing my job, Prop. Hope you have a better time. And if you need us, just ask.” said Jiminy

“Stay training, Presto.” said Colocation “Remember you need this to be better for your team.”

“Yes, sifu.” said Presto, while putting his headset.

“Right, Blue Fairy.” said Jiminy “Give me support, while LionHeart give support for Presto.”

“Aye, aye, Sir!” said Blue Fairy, while they started the helicopters

“ORSL 1 Transports 4 and 5 departuring.” said Jiminy “On levers, Jiminy Cricket and Presto.”

“ORSL 1 Transports 4 and 5, ORSL 7 here. Godspeed.”

“Thanks… Out.” said Jiminy, while both the helicopters were in the air.

“Now… Six hours until home?” said Presto

“Yep.” said Jiminy. “Lucky the weather is good: normally we would never do a thing like this, but it’s necessary. Blue Fairy will help us both. I’ll go straight to ORSL 1, deliver everyone, and encounter you at ORSL 3, to split the remaining cargo and passengers.”

“Alright.” said Presto

“And maybe I’ll bring Cabby with me: he can help us a lot.” said Jiminy “If I knew what would happen, I would bring Cabby with us.”

“No one could think all this would happen.” said Djanni “By now, we need to get back, take some time to relax a little and then… Back to action and our life.”

“And you, Jiminy?” said Sugarplum “I think you want get back some time with your parents.”

“Right… And need to look for my University grads.”

“Thinking on what, Jiminy?” said Squirrel Girl

“I was thinking on a major on Law, with minors on IT, Electronics, Languages, Politics, and Philosophy.” said Jiminy

“WOAH, kid!” said Sugarplum “Easy! You’ll not have time for all this! You’re taking a too big of a bite on this.”

“Hey, I’m 15 and already finished college.” said Jiminy “I can take my time. Besides, all this will help us in the field, and this will be easy peasy with my mind. In fact, all this Ascendant thing shown me that my brain is what I have to cherished the most, as my intelligence and memory were breakthrough-amplified, but they are my own now…“

“Yeah…“ said Sugarplum

“Hey, you boring kid! Don’t fawn over your so mighty brains and stay looking forward. There a storm forming!” said Blue Fairy.

“Alright… Just 10 degrees and we are out of the way, by the avionics.” said Jiminy “Let us go back home.”

“Yes.” said everyone, happy to a mission accomplished.

The End?
Saiba Mais (58972 palavras...)

Jiminy Cricket - Operation: SANTA

Chapter 1

“Sometimes, the best gifts are those who came from out of nothing.”

From Jiminy Cricket’s Journal

Jiminy was looking himself at the mirror at Herós Sans Frontières Booth at Metrocon for another time.

“Jiminy, you’ll not get more handsome.” said Blue Fairy (real name: “Shelly Boyar”)

“I just want to be in my best look.” said Jiminy Cricket (real name: Joshua McCarthy)

“It’s just a public award. Get there, give some words, take the award, get out.” giggled her, with a handsome Blue Fairy like dress.

“I’m just a little nervous.” said Jiminy when his best friend came.

“Alright, Jiminy, it’s showtime.” said Djanni (real name: Altayr Bashir Tahan), giving a small slap on his shoulders. A really small slap: if Djanni gone full power as the A-Class Atlas he was, his superstrenght would make Jiminy’s shoulder into pulp, his shoulder blades turned into smithereens.

“Fact, sport:” talked them Sugarplum (real name: Eileen McRae) “you are one the best PR trumps Herós Sans Frontières have. And this award is just PR.”

Jiminy was dressed on a new, formal Jiminy Cricket costume. In fact, he was almost like a Disney Jiminy Cricket cosplayer, as the conscience clothes: black tails with green pants, white formal shirt with a red waist-coast over it, a yellow cravat around his neck and down back his waistcoat. Black shiny shoes with small yellow gaiters, a blue Top Hat with an orange ribbon around the hat’s brim. Over the tails handkerchief pocket, a small pin with his crest and a Herós Sans Frontières crest.

Now 16, Jiminy Cricket was a little more like an adult, albeit a little gangly: below his Cricket faced mask there was blue eyes and a blonde hair. Now an experienced cape, Jiminy Cricket was a Mastermind, a rare kind of breakthrough, and even more rarer on “the good guys”: his powers were Bellax Analytica, a kind of future evaluation/precognition power that allows him to somehow “see” the immediate future, at least for the most potential ones, never more than some seconds; Pretty Please!, a kind of behavior-changing power that allows him to make people does what he wanted, as far they could do it somehow and it wasn’t something violent; and a powerful mind, that easily could learn and remember things. Thanks to the last one, he speaks at least 8 languages (4 of them fluently), pilots helicopters and was on a International Law graduation with lots of minors.

However, he was still a teen, even with all cape experience (5+ years as a HSF cape, even underage), and like all teens, he was a little nervous.

“Let’s go, Jiminy.” said the team leader Soldaire (real name: Seiji Shirou).

Their team, and almost all them, got to the great hall, somehow like Oscars, red carpet and all, and almost as crowded as them: lots of cape fans with cosplays and boards, cheering and screaming as each of the biggest teams passed by, even the small teams like Jiminy’s being saluted with cheers and applauses. Screams for the big stars capes like Seven, Chakra, Astra, Blackstone, Rook, Baldur, Vulcan, Euphoria and SaFire could be heard all around, baffling some anti-cape protesters like the Paladins and Humanity First.

Jiminy and his team sat on their chairs at the big Theater next to Chicago Convention Center where the National Certified Aid and Intervention Conference Awards would be revealed to the public. Jiminy was chosen to receive an History and Service Honor Award in Herós Sans Frontières’ name for the services they done all around the world on calamity places and humanity disaster situations, pairing with other NGOs like their alma mater Mediciéns Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), United Nations’ High Comissioneer for Refugees (UNHCR) and World Health Organization (WHO). The prize was being given as a reward for the ORSL project deployment: Oversea Refugees’ Support Line was a line of bases in international waters to help on dealing with the immigrant flux the best way for everyone. Even with their critics, the project was giving fruits, as saw on the recent Hagia Sofia earthquake.

Jiminy could see that, as always, the awards were disputed between the hosts from Chicago Sentinels and the Hollywood Knights, both being the most famous cape teams thanks their PR and merchandising machines. The Excellent Protectors also had received an awards, which made them came from Japan for a presentation show during the Awards, and the weird and now deceased Remarkable Ronins had also received an honor award.

It was fun, and for real it was the first time he saw the Awards (the last time he was at Metrocon, he lost the Awards as HSF had closed their booth earlier after a rogue super-villain attack against them). It was when they stopped the normal awards and he could see The Harlequin going to present the Honor Award.

“Now, it’s really common for people to see us capes as a glamorous lot, with all the costumes and fights and dealing with VIPs and so. But there’s lots and lots of capes that are working out the loop, dealing with all kind of bad situations. Even now, almost 20 years after The Event, their consequences are still there, some wounds still bleeding, need to be cured. Even without the destruction provoked by super-villains and, to be honest, by Superheroes trying to stop them, there’s still problems to be dealt with: earthquakes, typhoons, storms, floods, avalanches, and all kind of natural catastrophes. There’s also the political turmoils that make people evades their countries, their homes, their loved ones, to flee away from political or ideological persecution and violence.”

“And lots of capes are almost literally in the mud, working 24/7 to help those so helpless that even those who should care for them couldn’t, as their hands are already full. We believe that, without those real life heroes, The Event would be even more catastrophic for humankind that it was, being potentially apocalyptic.”

“This year National Certified Aid and Intervention Conference’s History and Service Honor Award goes to…“ said The Harlequin, opening the envelope with the name “Herós Sans Frontières!”

Every cape in the Theater started to clap their hands for them. Jiminy lifted and went to the stage: beside his team, he could see some familiar faces, like Diana, Corin, Squirrel Girl, Prop and Colocation, people that he knew from his tours at Sierra Leone at Roque Santeiro and his newer base at ORSL 1. After he received the small trophy and shook hands with The Harlequin, feeling the rubbery sensation of her rubber hands, he got to the pulpit to give his speech.

“Thank you very much. I will try to talk not too much, but I want to say how much Herós Sans Frontières was important in my life and in some people everywhere.”

“My breakthrough was, like with many of you, on a death risk situation. The presenter, The Harlequin, had almost died when she fell during a trapeze show at a Cirque du Soleil show, her body bouncing as it turned into rubber to avoid death. Myself, I was beaten almost to death by bullies and just avoided it by making them to stop using my Pretty Please! power in the eleventh hour, and using my Bellax Analytica to find a escape route and help before I bleed dry, almost all my bones broken, what made me gone comatose just a little after came home. Going to HSF, even so young at 11, was a way I found to put this gift, and I believe it was a gift, even so painfully received, into service.”

“Since my first mission tour at Roque Santeiro, I saw lots and lots of suffering: people that arrived there so weak and thin that looked like empty scarecrows or, even worse, almost like real-life skeleton models. Kids without parents, they lost into war-stricken places. Parents without kids, grieving their deaths for diseases and violence.”

“But I found some of my best friends in the field: for example, my teammates Djanni and Marjanah had their breakthroughs under dire circumstances, and now are working with us. The smile of children when I clowned as Spotty. Some people that received for first time under their lives good medical care, even receiving top-notch Vernetech drugs for diseases that kills people like flies at Africa. All this made me see the sweet on my work at Heròs Sans Frontieres, as much I saw the bitter.”

“To be fair, I have not too much to add on what The Harlequin said: she basically gave my speech.” Jiminy said, and people gave some laugh on the unintentional joke “What I can say is: Herós Sans Frontières will be always here, to help people in the direst circumstances. To be, as by our motto, super-aide pour les super-besoins, super-help for super-needs. Because this is exactly what we do: help when the needs are really big.”

“I’m thankful Herós Sans Frontières allowed me to speak in their name: I know many of you are HSF reserves. You understand what I’m talking about: many of you contributed with precious time, money and resources to gave us, the fixed HSF rosters, support, training, and vital resources we put into service in the direst situations. Not direst as in super-villainy situations, although I had myself tagged at least two or three super-villains. But direst as in the absence of the barest necessities, being in places where clean water and morsels of food are worthier than gold and fame. I believe that putting our powers in service for those who are in the biggest needs is a mission that all capes from HSF accept through and through.”

“To finish, I want to thank my teammates and all Herós Sans Frontières capes, fixes or reserves: you deserve as much, and in many cases even more than myself, to be here, representing this paramount post-Event organization. I also want to thank all the non-cape HSF personnel: clerks, pilots, soldiers, even the donation teams. You help us doing your jobs, and relieving us of the daily quid-pro-cod, so we could do the difference. So, in the end, you also does the difference. I want also to thank my parents: I still remember my mom’s face when I said I wanted to do this, not what people thought would be a saner, better way, by going to Whitlow, Hillwood and so. It was a blind shot, for sure: I almost died many times, but they stayed at my side. To finish, I want to thank you all, because this award shows us that we have your back. And I need to say: you can trust Herós Sans Frontières if some catastrophe happens. We are super-help for super-needs, after all. If a catastrophe is so big that even local CAI teams has not the numbers or resources to deal with it, you can believe that you have our backs.”

“Thank you very much.” said Jiminy, and people clapped hands, while The Harlequin ushered him to the backstage for a reception.

There was lots of people there: many of them capes, on their best social costumes or suits, but there was also common people, like journalists, reporters, cameramens, VIPs and the capes’ families. Jiminy saw his parents, Djanni’s and Sugarplum’s, talking with some people: looks like they joined a kind of Superhero Parent Support Group, and his parents were talking with Astra’s ones about contributions for a new edition of Superdads.

It was when Jiminy saw a guy into US Air Force formal uniform. He looked as an officer and had black hair and gray eyes. He looked around, trying to read people. It was when he looked to Jiminy and his team and approached them.

“Jiminy Cricket, sir. Major Thomas O’Mahoney, USAF, sir.” he said, saluting them before shaking hands. “It’s an honor and need to say I thought your speech tonight very inspiring.”

“Alright… Sir.” said Jiminy, replying the salute. “How are you?”

“Well, I’m okay… But I want to talk with you and your team: we need some capes for a mission. Something very important. I can assure,” said Major O’Mahoney, looking the worried faces of the parents there “that has no special danger, but we need capes that could, although their reputation, go under the radar and low profile. Unfortunately, there’s lots of classified information for this mission, but I can say it’s a very important one.”

“Sir…“ said Soldaire “I understand you have your needs, but we need to know what is happening if you want us to help.”

“I can say NORAD needs you… But we’ll understand if you don’t accept this. Let us do this way: we have a flight on O’Hare Airport ready to take you to NORAD at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. You go and hear our needs, no strings attached: if you hear us and you say no, it will be no. The only thing we’ll ask you is to hold any intel about this classified no matter what: in fact, just my superiors have clearance to disclosure intel about it, I don’t know all the details to be sure.” said Major O’Mahoney.

They looked each other:

“Well, we are in bench now.” said Hufflepuff “And if we can’t help, we’ll just get back ORSL 1, as we would anyway.”

“For me sounds okay.” confirmed Sugarplum

“Do you have no problem with our roster? We have capes that are officially under Refugee citizenry’s or under parole.” asked Soldaire. Marjanah, Djanni, Scheherazade, Lahab, Presto and LionHeart were all under those conditions.

“I don’t think would be any problem: albeit it’s classified, I know that the mission has no national-security intel on it.”

“Okay… Think we can at least spare some hours for you.” said Soldaire, while they took some finger food.

“Alright… I’ll wait you 0000 sharp at O’Hare. No need of anything: just a change of clothes. If you don’t accept the mission, we’ll bring you back. Until then.” said him, saluting them and getting away.

“Weird thing…“ said Jiminy “NORAD needing us?”

“What is NORAD?” asked Djanni

And, while finishing eating at Metrocon, Jiminy explained about NORAD.

Chapter 2

“NORAD’s mission, in the post-Event world, became also control the airspace for the presence superhuman assets and threats. To do this, NORAD, with the support of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), started to enforce the main flying capes to use the same flying alert devices airplanes are used. To this NORAD has their own team of flying superhumans to deal with unauthorized or just unidentified fliers that can put North America Airspace in danger.”

NORAD brochure

Jiminy just got into the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, NORAD base. The clearance procedure took some time, specially because the team had lots of special cases: to be fair, if they had been strict into “law-abiding American citizen” rule, only Sugarplum and himself could get into.

“We’ll take an undisclosed way here, avoiding all classified sites. Please stay nearby myself or other NORAD personnel and stay identified all the time.” said Major O’Mahoney.

Their IDs had only their cape-names and photo mugs of their faces as capes, masks included. It was difficult to make Hufflepuff give his real name: as a Luchador, as much people knows about his real character, less power he had. But as soon all the information had been put on CLASSIFIED files and only the one that would take his mugshot without mask would see him that way, he complied with it.

They walked a little around the base: there was lots of training rooms, for all kind of things, and some rooms full of clerks and people looking for maps and analysing intel. Some were on civil clothes, some into military fatigues or even on full field soldier apparel, Jiminy noted. Curiously he also saw people with Canadian flags over their desks.

“NORAD is a joint organization with Royal Canadian Air Force to protect the North American Air Space. We are doing this even before the Event, and now that we have flying people all around, we need to be double safe: the last thing anyone wants is a flying nut invading our airspace to do nasty business, or even Astra crashing against a plane because no one saw.” said O’Mahoney.

It was when they got into a section a little…


The door had some festoons and small packed gifts decoration on it, and the logo on it looked like NORAD’s one, but in green… Christmas green?

“Sir, could we…“ was saying Jiminy, when O’Mahoney looked to him

“Just a minute, Jiminy.” he said, passing a card to unlock the door. As the green light lit, he ushered Jiminy’s team into the room.

It was like a Dispatch room, but…


They are a little nearby the Holidays, but people are really festive while doing their jobs. Festoons and mistletoe all around: this last one made Sugarplum shiver a little, as mistletoe is a powerful all-purpose magic bane. A big real pine tree totally decorated, with balls and toys and even a Mickey Mouse decoration nearby the star, was in a corner. People was dressed with some festive trinkets on their clothes: there was a guy with a full military apparel using a reindeer antler over his head, and there was a girl using some elf ears that was being held by her telephone headset. He heard the girl saying: “Yeah! Of course Astra knows Santa! Didn’t you saw Sentinels Christmas Special episode?”

The room smelled on peppermint, cinnamon and hot cocoa: Jiminy could see a big pot full of hot cocoa, and a small marshmallow dispenser nearby. It was then they saw a guy that was under common officer military clothes. As O’Mahoney salute him, they noted that this guy was the big one.

“Sir, I bring to you the HSF Situation 2 Team 10 capes.” said O’Mahoney.

“At ease.” said the man. “I’m Colonel LaSarte, NORAD Santa Tracker commander.”

“NORAD Santa Tracker?” asked Jiminy

“The Santa Tracker started before The Event, at 1955, when Sears misspelled a telephone and, instead to send kids to hear Santa, send them to Colonel Harry Shoup. He didn’t like it at first, but with time it became a tradition at NORAD to ‘track Santa’ at Chrismas.” said Colonel LaSarte “But… We need you dearly. Come with me.”

They got into a meeting room, where they saw some folders with NORAD logos, all with CLASSIFIED on it.

They all sat over their chairs and then LaSarte started.

“Well… Looks like cliche, but there’s no other way to start it: Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

Chapter 3

“Sometimes is difficult to understand the infidels… To associate a pagan symbol to Isa’s, Jesus’ birth, Peace with Him. However, albeit The Event means that the Mahdi’s coming is near, we never know when this will happen. And it’s weird to discover that some of this paganism is real.”

From Altayr Tahan’s journal

“What?” said Jiminy, a little skeptic, a little dreamy.

“Yeah… I know this sounds crazy… But in fact there’s a Santa Claus.” said LaSarte

“What’s next?” said LionHeart, with a cynical sneering “Easter Bunny? Paul Bunyan?”

“I don’t know about Easter Bunny, but I would not discard it. About Paul Bunyan… I heard he made his HQ nearby Wisconsin, but he doesn’t work openly as he wants some privacy.”

“And what about all this Santa tracking stuff?” said Soldaire “I always thought this was a kind of joke to make kids happy at Christmas!”

“It was, indeed, at least before the Event. But now… Bloody hell, you were with freaking Ozma!”

And it was truth: the self-declared Queen of Oz, Ozma had the behavior and powers to uphold her declarations about being the real real Queen of Oz, not a delusional girl. And Jiminy just enjoyed some afternoon tea with cookies and scones with her a few hours before at Metrocon!

“Okay… Let us clarify things for those who doesn’t know: we had NORAD Santa since 1955 till now, passing by The Event. But until there, it was just a joke, a white lie, a small prank for make kids happy at Christmas, as Mr. Shirou said.” continued Commander LaSarte

“It was when, at 24th December in The Event year, some of our allies on Australia detected an UFO. Not the alien one thing, but anyway something not identified in the air. The first coincidence: the UFO got into their airspaces somewhere nearby Christmas’ Eve, local time, staying for just some minutes at most. Second, it run very fast, impossibly for a baloon or drone or something like else. However, as the Christmas Eve was getting nearby at our local time, ready to become midnight from Christmas Day, more reports came from our allies: all of them reporting the same very very fast UFO, with consistent time under their airspace. Even in China, North Korean and Iran it passed through, we discovered after the Wars that imploded those countries after The Event made some intel about the time leak.”

“That UFO was not totally unidentified, however. There was an identification prefix on the radars, like an aircraft displays, albeit it exchanged based on the country: in some french countries it shown Papa-Nevada-Oscar-Echo-Lima, on others, those Portuguese and Spanish speakers, Nevada-Alpha-Tango-Alpha-Lima. But when it came into our airspace, it shown itself as Sierra-Alpha-Nevada-Tango-Alpha”

“SANTA! On the phonetic code!” said Jiminy “And the others are P-NOEL, from Père Noël, Santa Claus in French, and NATAL, Christmas on Portuguese and Spanish.”

“I could say that night was a nightmare, according my predecessor. We had gone red alert, and some planes just tried to intercept this UFO when they got into our airspace, like almost everyone else did, even Atlas taking his time… And what you think they saw?”

“There was reindeers included?” sneered Dumont, that was a little quiet “They really know how to fly?”

“They know? They overcome our aces easily: before they could lock any of the missiles, they sprinted all around! With an impossible velocity and without inertia, doing maneuvers even Atlas could not follow on and he tried! But anyway, this event gave us some food for thought, when we received the photos from some of our UATs that did the surveillance on the aftermath. There’s some in your folders.”

They could see that there was photos of a big sleigh, red with gold and green details, pushed by nine reindeers, the one in front with a shiny bright red nose. And in the conductor seat…

“Yes, Virginia… Here’s our Santa!” said LaSarte “And, before you ask, no, those photos were not manipulated, and all the involved soldiers pledged, under oath, that they saw what we are showing you, and that they were not hallucinating or under intoxication. Also, some of your allies had similar images, as he had the nerve to allow being photographed at some of the main landmarks around the World: Eifell Tower, Tokyo Bay Tower, Pisa Tower, The London Eye,The Pyramids, China Wall, Stoneheng, St. Stephen Tower Burj Khalifah ,Over the Liberty Statue, Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil…“

“So… You had Santo Clós on your radar, and they made your better systems and staff as fools, right?” said Hufflepuff “Okay… But what we have to do with all this?”

“I’ll came to it soon, Mr. Hufflepuff. Sometime after, we came with some intel about who would be Santa and where we could find it. And he came into contact with us.”

“Suing you for trademark infringement on SANTA?” joked Dumont “That would suck hard.”

“Not a joke at all: he just wanted to make himself known and to announce to us his mission of bringer of hope for kids. We took the information he passed us and sent a team of capes to check it, and crossed it with files on all intelligence sources we could. The only one alive from this team is Blackstone: all the others had already died into other actions, including Atlas and Ajax. If you look into your binders, there’s the After Action Report of this. Need to say, this is classified intel, I can’t provide this for you.”

Jiminy took his own and used his super-powered mind to speed read it while skimming and take some first guess information, and read it better while Commander LaSarte continued.

“So, first of all, we confirmed Santa’s story and real identity.” said LaSarte, activating the big screen and showing two photos: the left one from a plain looking guy, with some German/Swede traces. The right one couldn’t be described otherwise except as Santa.

“This is our Santa: Sven Carlsberg, at the Event 20, now 38. Previously a clerk at a bookstore at San Francisco. UCB major on English Literature, post-grad on Classical Literature, was in The Event time on a Ph.D on fairy tales and legends. Single, no criminal records, not even a DUI, except two parking fines. He said that, during The Event blackout everyone had, he felt pine and peppermint smell and heard the noise of little bells. Some weeks after, when the commercial air flights were restated, he received an envelope with a map, a flight ticket to Rovaniemi, on Finnish Lapland, and a small note saying: ‘We need you, Santa!’“

“So, our Santa is a Breakthrough.” said Dumont. “Not surprisingly: you could even imply him as a Verne or Merlin or something likewise. And/or have people with those powers under him.”

“But there’s more.” said LaSarte

Jiminy could see under his visual field Blue Fairy dressed like a judiciary note-taker

“What are you doing, Blue Fairy?” said Jiminy

“I’ll cross-referencing this intel and LaSarte’s history with the Future Files as soon this ends. This doesn’t look like fishy, but it’s better safe than sorry.” said her

Jiminy got back to Mr. LaSarte

“After arriving Rovaniemi, he found a guy called Bernhardt that shown what him a Santa Suit, very luxurious. They got a sleigh to Christmas’ Village. We can’t trace it in the map, as it is so near North Pole that the compass spun around like a top.” he said “When he got at Christmas Village, he saw lots of small and pudgy people with Elvish looks.”

“Santa Helpers…“ said Sugarplum

“Yes. They were readying everything for the Christmas Journey, when Santa got everywhere to deliver his gifts. It was when Bernhardt revealed himself as a Santa Helper and explained all about Christmas Village and how Santa disappeared when The Event happened: looks like they always existed, but they were not ‘anchored’ to our reality, until The Event. And Sven was the last potential Santa they fount: some of the others had turned themselves into Santa Helpers, some just get back their lives, aside those that thrashed or burnt their mails, taking those as a very elaborated prank.”

“And how he became Santa?” said Sugarplum “I know that you could change magically someone complexion, but it would be illusory. This image looks so real, it’s like he gone old at least 50 years in less than some months, or even days!”

“I’m just getting there, Ms. Sugarplum. It was just when he asked Bernhardt how he would became Santa. Santa Claus is not a person, so to say: it’s more like a title. There’s only one Santa at each time for real, but it was not like the first Santa ever was still there. As soon Santa became sick or too much old or tired from being Santa, he should retire as Santa and find a substitute, someone to replace him by, Bernhardt’s words, sign the Santa Clause, assuming Santa’s Mantle, as they call becoming Santa. When there’s a Santa Claus, just what is needed is some kind of special contact, like in a hug or a hand shake, in the right moment when the receiver understand that he’ll become Santa and is voluntary on this. This transfer the Santa Mantle from Santa to the new Santa, the old Santa retiring as an old man that would live some years, a decade or two, before dying as anyone else. However, when there is no Santa for some reason, the person should don the Santa Suit, as Carlsberg did. As soon he donned the suit, magically he became Santa. I think, and all the evidence points to this, that this was like a breakthrough, by providing him with the powers that are expected of Santa.”

“So, the so called Mantle is a breakthrough trigger…“ said Soldaire.

“For sure… And this brings us to nowadays and our problems.”

“As I said, after we discovered about Sven Carlsberg, or better, Santa, we established protocols on what to do, dealing with all issues on him. One of them is about the SANTA callsign on his sleigh. We could not let any crazy guy use Sierra-Alpha-Nevada-Tango-Alpha callsign out of nothing, this could be a big national security blunder! However, at the same time we just can’t fly and try to take down someone using Sierra-Alpha-Nevada-Tango-Alpha: how could The President of United States came on TV and say US killed Santa?”

“To solve this, we developed a validation protocol: during the year, Christmas’ Village get into contact with us on variable, previously negotiated, intervals. The time between the contacts get nearer as the year goes, until they got daily after Thanksgiving. During the week before Christmas, they got half-daily and so.”

“And the problem is… Recently Christmas’ Village ceased the contact. We don’t know what happened, but some surveillance satellites shown there was some kind of problem in the region… There is no real way to get photos there, because, as we said, we believe that Christmas’ Village is an extra-reality pocket anchored into our world since The Event. The fact that even our best Vernes weren’t able to do anything that can be used to survey Christmas’ Village is somehow a response for this.”

“So…“ said Jiminy “You need us to go there and see if there’s everything okay and discover why they didn’t looked for the SANTA protocol. But why us?”

“You are unaligned with governments or government agencies, as part of a transnational, global NGO. Any military operation on this place could raise some unwanted and undesired flags: it would be like look for the governments of Finland and Sweden and say ‘hey pals, we don’t believe you can take care for Santa, let us do the job’. And with all that happened last decade, this would be a real problem.”

“And so… If something happens with us…“ said LionHeart “The Government will deny everything.”

“Yes… Imagine how chaotic things could be if Santa’s existence would be revealed: do you think that Seif-Al-Din would not try to kill him if he knew about it before? And what about those nuts from Undying Caliphate? No offenses on your muslim friends, but I know that they think Santa is a paganism, a haram.”

“No problem…“ said Djanni, a little uneasy “But what about other terrorist guys, like One-Landers or even some of those Christian extremists nuts like The Zealot that works in Ireland or The Twelfth from Great Britain?”

“You have a point.” said LaSarte, accusing the attack “However, back to the mission: this is why there’s no reference on Santa or even other Christmas Spirits like the Santa Helpers into Barlow’s Guide to the Super-Humans, to preserve their secrecy and, by this, the children’s innocence. In fact, I think there was no reference of those kind of breakthroughs anywhere: I don’t saw an Easter Bunny there, although there’s The Rabbit.”

The Rabbit or better Le Lapin (real name: Christien Mileux) is a B-Class French Metamorph whose power is to become any kind of cartoon. He also has access to cartoon physics, violating somehow the laws of physics, under certain limits: he could not become as strong as an A-Class Ajax or Atlas, although he could eat some a ton of TNT and nothing bigger then an almost ultrasonic BURP happens with him after the explosion. He acts on many teams, like a lone wolf with some feet on vigilantism and cause super-villainy. As a side effect, he was always on a cartoon form or another.

“So, LDS had came to a conclusion: Santa wants privacy, and he’s inoffensive enough to be left this way by now. We know that he got away during the year for some ‘field research’. I believe it’s all that Nice or Naughty thing. This is also good for children and for our society. And we left him alone as far he comply with some rules, especially on driving that goddamn sleigh.”

“Ok. So to the mission: what about supplies?” said Sugarplum “If I understood, he lives into an extra-reality nearby Lapland, and on this time of the year there will be frostbiting cold! We need some supplies.”

“No military grade things, sorry: this is classified, even some people over my clearance level doesn’t know about this. And as you’re civilian, offering military grade things is totally verboten. What we can do, anyway, is provide some basic supplies and money enough you can deal with it.”

“HSF knows about all this?” said Soldaire

“Yeah… We tried other HSF teams in US and Canada… But they were all with small fish breakthroughs, and they always talk to take the fixed teams. And we heard about you from some very special asset…“

“Blackstone!” said Jiminy

“Exact. As an ex-US Mariner and intel specialist, I believe he recommending you is something to be put under consideration.”

“And about support?” asked Dumont

“There some HSF capes at Rovaniemi this time of the year, because the hunters and people that lost themselves into the Arctic. Unfortunately, no heavy-hitters: we are hoping this stays as an investigation mission. A combat one would demand lots of cooperation with Finland, and I can’t trust 100% we would receive help.”

“Okay… And how we’ll discover where is Christmas Village? If all you said is truth, we could lost ourselves in the Arctic, running into circles until we become ice-cones.” said Jiminy

“There’s a way: we’ll lend you something that Santa gave us.” said LaSarte, taking a small red box, with green ribbons all around. As he opened it in front of the team, there was a kind of old-fashioned looking device, like a pocket watch, made of brass. As he opened the device lid, they could see a weird looking compass, that had a kind of fifth cardinal point, a little aside from North.

“This is an special compass that Santa gave us via Blackstone on Santa’s first contact: this is called Christmas Compass. We still don’t know how it works: our guys from Vernetech had tried to reverse engineering this and they FUBARed two other of those without making any discovering except that he works also like a compass and has some kind of unknown Vernetech. This is the last one we still have, so please take care.”

“For sure they wouldn’t reverse-engineer.” smiled Sugarplum “This is Vernetech, but there’s also magic on it. I can feel it, even without which tradition was used on it. Very clever, even being dangerous: do this without knowing what to do, and there’s a chance to blast everything on smithereens.”

“A Vernetech/Enchanting combo?” said Jiminy astonished “I don’t think that even if Vulcan and Ozma could not do this, and they are some of the most powerful Verne and Merlin I know… Besides you two, Dumont and Sugarplum.”

“Thank you, Jiminy, but Sugarplum is right.” said Dumont “Mingling magic on Vernetech is like mixing matter and antimatter: they both exists, they both operates under some rules, but mix both the wrong way and you can do all kind of weird, dangerous thing.”

“We hadn’t know about this magic…“ said LaSarte “My bad… However, back to the mission: the compass doesn’t spin like a top when nearby the North Pole, but he points to a ‘fifth cardinal point’, showing the direction you need to take. We had made the experience as soon we took it, and a team of our boys got Christmas Village using it.”

“So find the Christmas Village will be easy.” said LionHeart “But I believe that the problems will start as soon we arrive at Christmas Village.”

“Do you have any photo on it?” asked Soldaire

“No aerial ones, sorry, and the ones he have on ground doesn’t give any useful intel for this mission.” said LaSarte.

“Well… Sounds a complicated one. But, this is good news, looks like we will have no need for any of our heavy hitters if we accept this one. This could allow us to stay under ORSL 1 with part of the team and do this one with the other.” said Soldaire

“Can I give a suggestion? I think Dumont, me, Sugarplum, Djanni and Marjanah could be the ones.” said Jiminy

“Sounds good: a heavy hitter for backup, Verne and Merlin for the Christmas Compass if things goes Foxtrot, and a Mentalist for some Astral plane help. I don’t think that Scheherazade and Lahab would help, as their powers are most useful on places with a warmer weather.” said Soldaire.

“I want to go too…“ said Scheherazade “I know that, under Islam, this Santa is haram. But he’s also hope for some kids to have some happiness, I know it. And after what I suffered, and my sister too, under the Caliphate, I could not leave this behind. And… Maybe my powers would work with snow too…“

“Like it was a kind of ‘cold sand’?” said Jiminy “Sounds good… However, Soldaire is the Team Leader and he is the one with the final word.”

Soldaire looked to everyone.

“Okay… We accept this and will include Scheherazade for the roster Jiminy suggested, but under two conditions: (1) we want to have a satlink with them as much we can and (2) if we believe that, at any time, they are under risk, we may treat this mission as compromised and so we can call them back home.” said Soldaire, looking to LaSarte “My guys, my rules.”

LaSarte could see Soldaire’s face, his helmet removed from the SolArmor suit, the Super Powered suit that provides him superpowers. With the helmet, their powers would be greater, but it use is strenuous to the body, so he had a time limit for using it, of 30 minutes with at least 3 hours cool-down between uses. But, aside his powers, LaSarte could see a commander, worried with their capes… And, even half of the team being underage, and foreigner, and under parole, they are loyal to him and he to them. He can appreciate this, and his needs are dire.

“So… Super-aide pour les super-besoins?” said LaSarte going to Soldaire and shaking hands “I can live with this, even if this cost me a Martial Court.”

“How many time we have to ready ourselves?”

“No more than 72 hours counting by now. Christmas Eve is getting near and we need to have some time to put a plan B if things goes Foxtrot.” said LaSarte.

“Okay… Sugarplum and Dumont, you’ll be the Team Leaders on this operation. The others, be ready for any fight but avoid them as possible. Stay alert and go safe.” said Soldaire

“We’ll give you a ride back Chicago and then you’ll can take a ride with Herós Sans Frontières. We have intel of a flight from HSF to the Chinese States getting to Rovaniemi for some capes and donations. I can think that you can find your way after that, and also,” said LaSarte, giving the Christmas Compass “I think you’ll need this.”

Jiminy could give a better look to the Christmas Compass: the fifth Cardinal Point, pointing to Christmas Village, was a Christmas pine tree.

“Alright, we’ll do.” said Jiminy

Chapter 4

“I think that, after all, there’s no one better than other one under Allah (SWT.). Anyone that says otherwise is crazy, delusional, or ill-intended. Even under the Ummah there’s people ill-intended: I know this on my own body, my own soul, that suffered and was abused. My mind was taken, my will taken, by those who took the Allah’s gift for their hate-mongering. Curiously, it was the infidel that had pity and freed me from that burden, so I could used this gift that costed me so much on Allah’s work of peace and unity.”

From Wahiba Cissé’s memoirs

“Alright, everyone had double checked for your supplies and tools?” said Dumont, as they were getting out the HSF transport at the Rovaniemi airport, that was almost took by the Arctic snow, the track being cleaned by a snow-tower

“Yeah… But… Here’s freezing!” said Djanni, pushing his jacket to himself as much he could

“Let’s get into the base. For sure there will be a hotter place.” said Sugarplum, ushering all of them to get into HSF base fast.

Rovaniemi was the main city at Finnish area of Lapland, its Swedish counterpart being Kiruna. The place was beautiful, but there’s lots of snow on this time of the year, as the Sun didn’t stayed over the sky for too much, which made the lights be more subtle and diffuse, thanks the Earth’s tilt.

They rushed to the base to avoid as much the cold as possible: even with the jackets everyone had, the weather was unforgiving cold, so much that Djanni, Marjanah and Scheherazade were freezing. They got into the base and found it was empty.

“Where are everyone?” said Djanni, running to the shower, while Jiminy was looking the living room.

“There’s something on the board there.” he said, while looking. “Is written on many languages: I believe Finnish, Swede, and a weird one I don’t understand, and there’s also French and English. It says: ‘We had gone for a rescue mission nearby North Pole. Call…’ I don’t know what or who is this name, I can’t even read this… ‘For help.’”

“Metsätäja.” said Blue Fairy, using an ugly Christmas sweater and reindeer antlers over his head. “You can pronounce it Meti-shtiah. Finnish for Hunter. Looks like he’s the backup cape on the bench. And the weird idiom is Sami, from the local Lapland indigenous tribes.”

“Okay… Call this guy, Jiminy. I think we need some warm bath after all this cold.” said Djanni, while Marjanah and Scheherazade got into the woman’s bathroom. “There’s two weird rooms next the bathrooms, like another bathroom without shower or bath-tube.”

“They are saunas.” said a man that came into with the flight pilot and copilot. “I think you were looking for Metsätäja. Well, I’m the one and only.” The man looked like Oaken from Frozen, strong, big and chubby, with a strawberry blond hair, a bushy seal-like moustache and a freckled face that looked to Jiminy like a oversized 8 years kid that gone into a very strict bodybuilding diet and exercise program. “If you want to get warm after the snow, take a good shower and then I’ll go with you to the sauna. This will warm you enough. There’s towels in the bathrooms, so you can preserve your modesty. I believe Mariya is just getting back, she can show the girls’ sauna. I read about you as soon HSF Chicago contacted us. They sent us your profile, so we are somewhat ready for you.”

Some minutes later, Jiminy was taking a good time on sauna, the hot air being a good alternative for the freezing Laplandish winter outside the base.

“So, you are into that crazy hunt to Santa for NORAD.” said Metsätäja “Hufflepuff is a great friend: I worked with him some times at Kosovo and he talked about your mission. In fact, I know a little this and that about Santa. And, to be fair, by your look, you would not survive your first night at Lapland’s wildernessby your own. You have no equipment, no knowledge, no nothing.”

“And why you are being so aggressive?” said Djanni, contemptuously

“Because you are nice guys that doesn’t deserve to die into the Lapland whiteness.” replied Metsätäja, smiling “As beautiful nature can be here, it can also be unforgiving: wolves, foxes, bears, and all kind of wild predators lives there. And if you think your Atlas super-healing would help, one of the last ice-cones we rescued was a C-Class Ajax. He fell into a rift straight in the water, below the ice line, and froze to dead before he could regenerate his broken arm.” said Metsätäja nonchalantly. “And, to try to look for Santa, you are either the nicest or greediest people. If the latter, the nature will deal with you. If the former, for sure you’ll find the way. But, if you want my help, I can turn things easier, as I know Lapland as my hand.”

“Sounds a good idea for me.” said Dumont “It’s HSF protocol to work with local capes as they know the place better than us… But I never heard about you.”

“That’s ok.” said Metsätäja “I’m a Paragon, and normally we are overlooked by Barlow’s: just the most powerful are listed, like Roulette. I’m just a guy that hunted reindeer here in Lapland, and developed a bundle of techniques as tracker, hunter and animal enchanter. Believe me: I could tame the most wild horses, and even calm down a raged elephant. I don’t have any superpower, however: I hear the animals like you, I’m not Dr. Doolittle. However, I could somehow feel what the animal wants and needs to be at ease and can use this to achieve confidence with it and make them do what I want.”

They got out the sauna to the dressing room and after dressing some lighter clothes, Metsätäja served some cold cuts as dinner.

“Reindeer: don’t worry, an Iman friend of mine prepared it under halal.” said Metsätäja

“Thank you, Mr…“ said Djanni trying to say Metsätäja’s name

“You can call me Mylläri. My real name is Albearta Mylläri. Metsätäja is my callname, like your capenames.” said Metsätäja.

“But…“ said Jiminy, looking for the cold reindeer cuts with sauce and potato on his plate “I believed you liked reindeers. How could you serve us reindeer meat?”

“I like them… You need to understand that here in Lapland, they are more than meat source: they are transportation, clothes material, milk providers, even friends during the Winter nights. Reindeers are for us what camels are for berbers and horses for the Apache indians and mongolians, partners and part of culture. In some places, when you are born, there’s a reindeer foal next to you. This is why I became this weird Paragon: normally, people associates paragons with the Super-Normal concepts from the old fashioned comics, like Hawkeye or Robin, but Paragons could be also people like McGuyver. We are not supers, but we are the nearest of a hero someone could be without a ‘for real’ breakthrough. The good news is that we don’t need to pass through the stress you guys did.” said Metsätäja, while they took their reindeer dinner, Jiminy including.

“Before we go,” he demanded, while they were eating “I need to say for you: as soon we get into the Arctic wilderness, I’m boss, right? I say run, you ask how fast. I say jump, you ask how far. I say hide, you go hide quieter than a mouse.”

“Okay.” said all of them.

“Well… First, for clothes: I don’t think you have any coldproof costumes, and, to be fair, those would only hinder you. I asked my partner here Mariya, the one that got with the girls at their sauna, to buy some essentials: clothes, food and tools, things like GPS and so. You can leave your things here, I’ll put them into a safe. Just take any weapons or tools you really need. We’ll get into some hours: tonight you’ll sleep here. Tomorrow morning, or so to speak, we’ll take some breakfast and go: I’ll go with Ávgos, my reindeer, and Maryia’ll take you with a reindeer pushed sleigh at least till our first stop on the Arctic wilderness. There you’ll go into a crash course on reindeer riding with a friend of mine: they are somewhat like horses, and they are better than anything in the Arctic, even than snowmobiles.”

“Alright.” said Djanni, looking for his clock.

“Time for a prayer?” asked Metsätäja

“Right…“ said Scheherazade, while they got their praying carpets and looked into their cellphones for the right direction to Mecca.

“No problem at all: I saw other muslim capes doing the Salat. If you want some privacy…“

“No, I’m okay.” said Djanni “We did this lots of time with Jiminy and the other looking, that’s not a shame.”

“Okay… So, do your prayers and we can call a day. Sleep early and well. We have a lot of snow to cover to get to Santa.” he said, while Djanni, Marjanah and Scheherazade started their prayers.

Chapter 5

“So many breakthroughs believe that, after becoming super-powered, they became all-mighty. But Nature always comes to Darwin Award those guys. God bless it.”

Comments from Metsätäja for PowerStreak, a Finnish superhero magazine

A week after, they were hosted in a reindeer farm almost literally at Lapland entrance, ready to get into the Arctic per se.

“Lapland is a geographic region that take parts of Finland and Sweden. We are at Finnish Lapland.” said Metsätäja “There’s lots of places like this one here, reindeer farms conducted by Sami people. Good saunas, reindeers, and Sami huts, what you could ask more about here?”

It was truth, Jiminy thought.

They arrived at the end of the first day, when the farm owner, an old friend of Metsätäja, provided them some place to stay protected from the unforgiving cold and chilly winds: rustic huts, but warm enough to be comfortable, with big beds with mattress made of reindeer hide. There was five days of reindeer riding training and five nights of exchanging stories at the fires on the main Sami hut, eating reindeer meat and other good, savory foods and lots of sweets. All of them were getting a little more pudgy thanks this so caloric diet:

“That’s good.” said Metsätäja “This helps you to avoid cold. Skinny people suffers a lot here.”

It was when they bade farewell for the farmer and to Mariya, all on reindeers, getting back to the wilderness.

The next day, they were some miles away, but now the icy winds were making they go slow, and all the snow in the air making them see nothing, even using snow masks and so.

“We should stop and camp now!” said Jiminy, using the Earbug to be heard over the chilly and fast winds “It’s dangerous! We can’t see nothing!”

“Look for the compasses, Jiminy!” said Metsätäja

Jiminy saw the compasses he had with him, and he could see that the common compass was spinning like a top, while the Christmas Compass was locked on front.

“We are nearby!” said Metsätäja “We’re already somewhere next the magnetic North Pole! This is why the compass is spinning like a top”

“How much we need to go?” said Jiminy “Less than some hours? It’s nonsense to stay going forward if not, even more with this blizzard.”

“I believe just some hours, four or five at most. I think we’ll arrive before the sun goes down.” said Metsätäja.

“But there was no forecast for blizzard today.” said Marjanah “We checked!”

“Yeah… But Lapland’s weather is capricious somehow…“ said Metsätäja.

It was when Jiminy felt something: his Bellax Analytica rang into himself.

“Something is coming! I can feel it! Tangos are coming!” yelled Jiminy

Djanni was already to get out his reindeer, when he felt it was uneasy. Djanni took a whiff in the air and said “Something dead… There’s a small stench of necrosis!”

Metsätäja yelled

“RUN! GO! Don’t try to fight them!” said Metsätäja, as they saw some weird guys mounted in ash sticks flying to them

“What are those things? They look like people, but with snow white faces!” said Scheherazade.

“They are Cold Hearted, children that the Ice Queen took and turned into undead servants! They are cruel and callous! Don’t try to fight them: the Arctic is their home, they have lots of power here!” said Metsätäja.

Metsätäja and the others made the reindeers run as fast as they could, but they could see the Cold Hearted flying fast, as the blizzard had no effect on them. It was when some of them passed in front of Jiminy’s reindeer and made it goes rampant, prancing crazily in the air and bellowing a very scary warning, throwing Jiminy out of it, making Jiminy falling on the cold snow in the ground, hitting his head on something below the snow.

“Jiminy!” said Djanni, turning back to rescue Jiminy.

“Djanni, no!” said Marjanah

“We need to get back!” said Metsätäja. “Jiminy’s with the Christmas Compass!”

They got back and circled Jiminy, Sugarplum readying some wards while Dumont pointed his Tesla Arc Cannons to the weird, sinister tangos. Djanni was already unmounted from the reindeer, looking for Jiminy.

“How he is?” asked Metsätäja to Djanni

“Unconscious. Look like he hit his head on a stone below the snow. This is the bad news. Good news, he’s alive and not critical.”

“Okay…“ said Marjanah “Worst news: those guys are really undead. I can’t read their minds or see their souls in Astral plane. So, they are only animated corpses almost without free will..”

“So…“ said Djanni “Let us tackle them out of our way.”

It was when he looked they were outnumbered 3 by 1!

“What do you want?” demanded Scheherazade

One of Cold Hearted got in front of the others. They could see that it was the leader, and now they could see that the black vest shirt they were using were opened in the chest, showing weird icy heart shaped pendants in their sickly corpse blue ribcages.

“We want the Christmas Compass.” said him, with a cold, callous voice, that made Djanni flinch a little.

“Yeah? So you don’t want us to find Santa.” replied Marjanah

“This is not your problem, muslims. I know you never believed Santa. You take him as haram. And we could help you to cleanse this sin.” said the creature, giving a small smirk.

“Do you have no feeling for kids all around the world?” said Scheherazade

One or two of them gave a little flinch, but Metsätäja said:

“No, Scheherazade. They are called Cold Hearted for exactly this reason: their hearts were frozen on their last heartbeat. They feel nothing, except the compulsion to do what their cold leader, the Ice Queen, demands them to do.” he said, taking a big hunt rifle.

“Let them to us.” said Djanni, while Dumont, Sugarplum, Marjanah and Scheherazade got aside Djanni. “We’ll stop those guys. Get Jiminy and go for Christmas Village. Bring help: we’ll need it ASAP!”

“Sure…“ said Metsätäja, while taking Jiminy and putting him over Ávgos.

While he was mounting the reindeer, one of the Cold Hearted tried to get to him, just to be hit straight in the face by Djanni

“No way you take Jiminy, murtadd.” said Djanni, while Ávgos galloped and ran, bellowing before go, Metsätäja holding its reins over Jiminy unconscious body.

And the fight started.

Djanni pushed two of them, using techniques he learned with Kuntur, LionHeart, Hufflepuff and Prop, the bricks of his team and of teams he got into contact, but he was hurt by one that used a kind of ice made rapier.

“Ouch! This really hurts!” said Djanni

“Looks like their weapons are magically reinforced to deal damage enough to hurt Ajaxes or Atlases.” said Sugarplum

“Sugarplum, don’t fly.” said Dumont “This blizzard is getting stronger. Fly will be death!” he completed, while shooting his Tesla pistols on them.

“They feel nothing!” said Scheherazade using some snow as she would do with sand, turning it into a small rain of glass-like shrapnel. “No matter how hard we hit them, they just keep coming. It’s like a nightmare!”

“Let me see something: Bel, tighearna an tine, tabhair do bheannachtaí ar mo lámha!” said Sugarplum, shooting some flames from her hands to two Cold Hearted. One of those flames exploded straight into the heart-like pendant in the chest of one of them, making him go back and fell in the ground, defeated. “That heart shaped pendant: it’s their weak spot!”

“Alright!” said Djanni, going and punching one of them straight on that spot. He felt the crash of ice, but soon he felt something warm, somewhat gooey and very familiar, on his hand. He looked to his hand and felt some disgust, as there was a very familiar red liquid on it: “Blood! Those icy pendants are their hearts, frozen!”

“Exactly!” said Dumont, shooting some of them with a bullseye’s precision “This is their tragedy: they are beyond rescue. The kindest thing we can do to them now is to kill them fast and painless, making their hearts beats one last time.” said Dumont, his bullets hitting the open chest of the Cold Hearted he shot, exploding their frozen hearts like bloody balloons

“No way!” said Marjanah, using his mental powers to enforce a shield to avoid some attacks “There should be a way to rescue them.” she said, raising a field on sheer willpower to avoid being hit by them

“If there is,” said Sugarplum “it’s out of our power by now. Even I, with my glamour, could not undo this magic without know what did it.”

“I…“ said Marjanah

“I know you don’t want to kill, Wahiba.” said Scheherazade, making the snow become a sharp wind against the Cold hearted “but there is no way under our power to undo this evil magic. For those guys, unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do, beside a clean kill.”

“Maktub, Mirian.” sighed Marjanah, saying her sister name as she did hers before, shooting one straight on the chest with a small pistol.

Djanni was attacked by two of them and they made some vicious cuts on his left arm with their ice rapiers and some claws like nails, making him scream in pain, falling in the ground.

“I’m going for you Djanni! Everyone, give me cover!” said Sugarplum, using her fireballs against Djanni’s attackers, making them get back enough they all could encircle Djanni and Sugarplum, shooting as much Cold Hearted they could, their ice barriers avoiding the enemies attacks.

Sugarplum looked to Djanni’s arm: it had took an icy tone and was cold by touch.

“Looks like they hit you with some vicious magic in that rapiers and their claws.” said Sugarplum, taking her fairy wand from her utility belt “Let me see if I can at least block it, to avoid it get through your body.” she said, passing the wand and doing some mojo. “Looks like I stanched whatever magic they used on you to spread over your body, this is good news. Bad news is I can’t heal this by now.”

“Okay…“ wimped Djanni, getting over his feet “Let’s go!” he said, going to fight even knowing his left arm was death numb.

“C’mon, Metsätäja!” said Dumont, looking for his pistols, now depleted from bullets, the Cold Hearted come and come “We can’t hold them forever!”

It was when they heard bells ringing, and the bellows of reindeers and woof of dogs. They could hear a war cry, and see people on garish colored clothes, with brass-made blunderbusses that launched thunder and bows that looked like children toys throwing all kind of arrows, some of them that explodes on contact, other that follows those they where targeted upon, all of them hitting the Cold Hearted straight in the heart. A Cold Hearted ran away while those weird guys got nearby the group, one of them going to Djanni.

“Nice you have a Merlin on your team: the magic she did helped to avoid the Cold Heart infection to grow into you.” he said, taking some weird tools and looking for his arm “I’ll give you some first aid so you can move your arm again, but we’ll do something to allow you to heal yourself at Christmas Village.”

“Lo! Allah is forgiving, merciful.” said Djanni, exhausted, when he looked to the guy who was taking care for him. He had a kind face, more or less like his, from Mediterranean stock, but with a petite button of a nose, big, rosy cheeks and pointed ears. He also looked a little smaller and pudgy than he could expect, dressed into green pants and yellow jacket.

“Who are you?” asked Djanni

“I’m Saleh, and I came from Lybia. Now I’m a Santa Helper like those with me, living in Christmas Village to preparing everything for Christmas.”

“And Jiminy?” demanded Sugarplum, worried

“The boy is okay.” said a woman, dressed into a big burgundy flower dress, a belt holding it on her body, boots helping her to walk in the snow. “I’m Susan, and I was the one who looked for your kid. The reindeer got scared with the Cold Hearted and threw your kid in the ground. Just a concussion: he’ll wake up soon, and sounds like there was no extended damage. Now, let’s get back Christmas Village, before the Cold Hearted came back again. Looks like they knew about your demand and tried to stop you. And we need to treat this guy that was hit by the Cold Hearted’s blade.”

“And where is this Christmas Village?” said Scheherazade, while the blizzard stopped, and all they could see was the Arctic night, with the Northern Lights over them… And a village of cottages in the horizon, painted on garish colors, with very bright lights everywhere.

“That is the Christmas Village, ladies and gentlemen.” said one of them, into what looks like a Renaissance set of clothes, on dark green, the only one on not so garish colors. “I’m Bernhardt, Elf-in-Chief, and I welcome you to Christmas Village, under the Old Traditions and Laws, in the name of Santa Claus.”

Chapter 6

“[REDACTED] was a incredible place. It was sorry I didn’t saw it when I arrived there: I was unconscious after [REDACTED]. So, the first thing I saw there was the infirmary.”

From Jiminy Cricket’s Journals

Jiminy started to open his eyes.

“Hey, Jiminy, wake up!” said Blue Fairy

“Good to hear you, Blue Fairy. I know I’m not dead or power-blocked.” thought Jiminy, when he felt a big ache “OWWIIEE!” he whined when he tried to get up. He still feel ashamed on his uses of terms: it was like he was still an eight years.

He opened his eyes and looked all around and the colors and smells could not be described other way by Jiminy beside festive. He looked around and he noticed he was on some kind of magical wing and a small woman was coming for him.

“Hold still, kid… I’ll lift a little the head of your bed, so you can see things and we can talk. Don’t move too much: you had a very hard concussion and passed out, and we don’t want this to grow bad, right?” said the woman, with a little sing-song voice. He could see she wasn’t exactly high, but it wasn’t small, also, looking like she was a common size woman shrunk to a 14 years old size.

She was slim and used a very festive set of clothes under the doctor’s white overcoat: green waistcoat over a white shirt, red skirts that gone to the knees, with white petticoats, green pantaloons and white and red striped thighs, a green pair of socks and a pair of green velvety elf boots, with upturned points. She was using a green headdress with white laces on its hem. Her face was a little olive, looking somehow Latino, but she had green bright, almost electric, eyes, almond brown curly hair on pigtails and blushed cheeks that gone almost to the blushed petite nose. On the side of the head, pointed ears were with her stethoscope into them, when she took it out and put it around her neck.

“Are you an… Elf?” said Joshua, while she adjusted the bed, putting Jiminy into a seated instance.

“We could say this way, but we prefer to be called Santa Helpers.” retorted a little the woman “My name is Melissa, although people here call me Milly Milkyway, because I like too much hot cocoa they gave me this name.” she said, taking two big mugs and filling them with hot cocoa from a big white porcelain samovar-_like pot. _“Want some marshmallow? Cinnamon? Or just sugar?”

“A little bit of marshmallow, thanks.” said Jiminy, when he looked that he was on a new change of clothes: a big, red, onesie with REAL gilded big buttons “Where are my clothes? Where I am?”

Melissa gave a giggle “Don’t worry: your reindeer gone rampant with the Cold Hearted, dropping you in the snow and Metsätäja took you and run to here. As I said, you had a concussion when you fell from the reindeer, and your clothes were so filled with snow and soaked with cold ice that there was a risk for frostbite. So, we changed your clothes and send it to dry. We’ll provide you a proper costume as soon you get better. We know enough about you to do it. And, about where you are: you’re at Christmas Village.”

“And my friends?” demanded Jiminy, trying to lift again, when he felt the pain in the head again “OWWIIEE!!”

“Here, take this and stay calm, kid: you’ll feel better soon.” she retorted, passing Jiminy the big earthenware mug, almost a tankard, full of hot cocoa “As soon Metsätäja arrived, he left you with us and took people to help your friends against the Cold Hearted. Lots the people had gone: fighters, healers, everyone. And they took some Toy Soldiers and Nutcrackers to help the fight against the Cold Hearted.” she said, gently pushing Jiminy back to the pillows. “Stay calm and rest a little: you had a big of a concussion. Reindeers are greats, but they are terrible when gone rampant. Lucky you were not kicked by one of them: saw some D-, even C-Class, Ajaxes with some very nasty wounds after being hit by them.”

“Thanks:” said Jiminy, sipping a small sip of the hot cocoa “Yeah, this is great stuff.” he smiled, putting the mug a little below his nose, smelling the hot chocolate perfume before taking another gulp on the hot brewage, that gave him a much needed heat from the inside.

“We work hard here, so we like to appreciate those small, fulfilling comforts. And what about that little cyber-pixie on you?” said Melissa.

“How do you know…“ was saying Jiminy.

“The TA has, or had, a network of supporters all around our time. Santa is one of them. He gave us some instructions on how to detect people with quantum links, and as soon you arrived, the Alert Bells rang showing you had one with you.” said Melissa. She then pushed what looked like a big snow-globe, a little small than a fortune teller globe. “Just touch this: you can download her to this one, so we can talk normally.” explained Melissa

“Are you okay with this, Blue Fairy?” thought Jiminy, while he saw her changing into something like Cindy Lou from The Grinch.

“Well… In for a penny, in for a pound.” she said, while Jiminy took the snow-globe, feeling the weird sensation when she “downloaded” herself somewhere else.

“At least is a big place here.” said Blue Fairy

“Woah, such a cutie thing!” said Melissa “Sorry, but after we sign The Christmas Help Clause, our Santa Clause, looks like grew into us a fondness on cute, cuddly things. So, are you his cyber-pixie? Another ‘Shelly Boyar’ quantum copy?”

“Yeah, but I prefer to be called Blue Fairy… Although I’m more like a Red Fairy now.” said Blue Fairy, curtsying for Melissa.

“Well, looks like you’re a good one: so this is why ‘Shelly Boyar’ appears three times on the Nice list…“ said Melissa “Now, let me look this bump.” she said, taking the bandage around Jiminy’s head, which made him cringe some times, when she passed her hand over the bump.

“Go easy with this. It hurts.” cringed Jiminy.

“Don’t be such a whining boy.” retorted a little Melissa, finishing removing the bandage “Okay, looks like a little less swell. I’ll gave a look with my MedSpecs and see if there’s anything worse. If not, I’ll redo the bandage and then we’ll double check you before we can clear you out by now.”

She took from a pocket in her overcoat something that looked like a weird brass pince-nez, like the ones Dumont used as Mask-cam occasionally, putting over her right eye and giving a small tap on it before started to look around Jiminy. He could see a small blue-ish light getting out the pince-nez while she looked around his head, specially on where the bump was.

“Alright.” said her, giving a small tap on the pince-nez with the fingers and taking it out, before putting it back the overcoat pocket “Nothing on the MRI or X-Ray. Yeah,” said Melissa, when looking Jiminy’s face “this is a little Vernetech I built after becoming Santa Helper. With somewhat half a billion kids all around the world, and as much gifts to be built, packed and stored during the year, we don’t have too much time to spare with people on the bench, so dealing fast with accidents like broken shins and burning hands is a sine qua non demand here. So, I did those MedSpecs: MRI, X-Ray, ultrasound and other exams in real time, and also can measure some body stats by itself, like temperature, heartbeat and so. This way we can improve and speed up treatment, avoiding to have helpers in the bench.”

“Nice trick.” agreed Jiminy, while Melissa took and put some iodine and Merthiolate on the bump “Ouch! It stings and hurts”

“We do some things old school here, sorry.” said Melissa, while putting it with some lint before bandage the curative back again “Now, it will hurt a little while I finish the bandage to make everything to be on the correct place. I believe that the guys from dressing and seaming team we’ll bring you a good costume to dress after we double-check you.”

She finished the bandage and asked Jiminy to get out the bed, give a small walk, and turn left and right.

“No wooziness? No pain? Just a sting, maybe?” asked her, and Jiminy shook his head “Okay, looks that wasn’t that bad, but just for sure don’t run, do sudden moves or too much effort for some hours. Also don’t use your Top Hat and mask: the bandages will be forced against your head and this would only make things painful for you. Just put the costume, no need for the mask here: there’s no bad people here in Christmas Village, at least for kids in the Nice list.” said Melissa, while some Santa Helpers come with a small parcel that Melissa gave for Jiminy.

When Jiminy opened the parcel, it was a version of his own costume, but very… Festive: yellow waistcoat, red cravat scarf, white starched shirt, dark green pants and tails with red sleeves, with gilded buttons and some red on the clothes hem. His black boots now were dark green, with some small bells on it. The mask was as by his common design, but they put a red collapsible Top Hat and a checkered black and red casquette with white details on the hem instead of his classic green Top Hat. On the cravat scarf, as all around his waistcoat and the brim of tails and casquette, there was Christmas textures, like reindeers, snowflakes and pine trees, and there was a big mistletoe shaped gilded pin to hold the cravat on his shirt. Melissa closed the curtains around the stretcher so he could have some privacy. He saw that the shirt sleeve had some green embroidery, his initials J. McC. on it. It was like it was a Victorian Caroler version of his own costume

“Comfy?” asked Melissa

“Well… Not what I normally dress, but really liked it. I’ll use this casquette: looks more comfy.” said Jiminy, finishing to dress himself, just placing the casquette to hide the bandages around his head, and then he opened the curtains, revealing himself.

“Woah… A really handsome guy we have here!” said Blue Fairy, and Melissa nodded.

“Alright…“ said Melissa, when they heard some bells… A little festive tune. “Looks like your friends were successfully rescued. Let’s go receive them.”

Djanni and the others got through the Christmas Village walls and looked around. Djanni was being supported by Dumont, as his left arm was still numb and unable to move.

“Why you lot are dressed so garishly?” said Sugarplum

“If you are lost in Arctic, this is the only way to be found, to use the most garish colors you can. Neutral or pastel colors blends easily with the snow.” said Saleh, that was walking with the others, while the Santa Helpers were cheering for the team that get back.

“Where’s Jiminy?” asked Dumont

“He’s okay.” said Metsätäja. “He was unconscious when I got back with support for you, but didn’t looked a so big concussion that he would not be okay now.”

Then they were conducted to the Entrance of the main building at Christmas Village.

“This is where we do our main job:” pointed Bernhardt “There’s some R&D that, as they’re dangerous, we do in some of the chalets outside. And also there’s some houses and support structures, like kennels for snow dogs from local villagers and Rovaniemi people that help us, and of course the reindeer’s stables, but the bulk of everything in the Christmas Village is done in the main building.”

They opened the door, and they could see Jiminy, on his new Christmassy costume and so. Melissa looked Djanni’s arm and run to him.

“Jiminy!” shouted Sugarplum, running to him and hugging him “Glad you’re okay!”

“Ouch!” said him, when she touched the bump “This bump is still hurting…“ he whined, when he looked to Djanni “What happened with Djanni?”

“He was hit by a Cold Hearted’s ice rapiers and some bad juju had get into him.” replied Sugarplum, looking worried “I did my best to stanch whatever was there, and that Saleh guy did some things to improve things after, but looks like the thing is really vicious.”

“It’s a Cold magic curse: lucky you did the First Aid… He would be dead otherwise.” said Melissa, worried, looking for Djanni’s arm.

“Milly, can you do something?” said Saleh

“Let me see.” she said, taking the MedSpecs and looking his arm “Look that the sword’s magical venom was refrained in the arm, this is the good news. We’ll need to do some exsanguination to remove this bad stuff. Could some of you help us?”

“I’ll do.” said Dumont

“Me too.” demanded Jiminy

“All of us or none at all.” said Sugarplum “Besides, I want to see what is this juju. Know about magic is my job, after all.”

“Okay… Let’s go to the infirmary.” said Melissa

When they arrived, they could see Saleh taking a brass salver with some surgical instruments from a rack while Melissa put Djanni on one of the stretchers. The tools were all made of silver or aluminum.

“Silver surgical instruments. The best for magical surgical procedures.” said Melissa “Now, Djanni, we can’t put you under anesthesia thanks to this bad magic, and this will hurt. So, be brave and hold still.”

“Go on… Maktub.” said Djanni

They unceremoniously ripped the left arm of Djanni’s costume, and they all could see that he skin was really really whitter than normal for Djanni’s olive skin.

“His arm is almost frozen: the infection had gone really far, we can’t just remove the contention magics by now.” diagnosed Melissa, looking the skin color and temperature on touch, using a latex medical glove to give some small taps on Djanni’s infected arm, reading some information with her MedSpecs. “Saleh, we’ll need to excise and exsanguine as much as possible the bad blood from the arm. This will help to remove the curses from his arm.” she then looked for Djanni “Which is your blood type?”

“B+” said Djanni.

“Someone else is?” asked Melissa “This is not common under Santa Helpers unfortunately.”

“I am.” said Jiminy

“Well, it’s not advisable to take blood from a so young person, but… Desperate measures demands desperate procedures… Milly, call Rhonda and Will and prepare Jiminy for the blood donation. I think one unit will do.” said Saleh, while Melissa made Jiminy sit on a reclining stretcher and got to an old fashioned wall telephone “I’ll do the exsanguination… We need to remove all the bad blood and with it the evil magic, before either the magic spreads or Djanni’s arms goes necrosis. Hope we don’t need Jiminy’s blood, but better safe than sorry, and before Djanni got into shock we hope we have the bag ready.”

“How?” said Dumont “Preparing blood for donation is not that easy, it needs to be checkered against some diseases, filtered, sterilized and stuff.”

“We have some Vernetech for this, Dumont.” said Saleh, while two elves came with some weird machines, that looked like a steampunk brass-made dialysis machine, and put it aside Jiminy’s stretcher “Now, please, let me do my work. Milly…“

“Rhonda and Will just arrived and we are preparing Jiminy.” said Melissa, while the blonde haired Rhonda punctioned Jiminy and connected him to the machine, a blood bag on the other end of it started to be filled red with Jiminy’s blood. “This will purify Jiminy’s blood, put it on a correct temperature, and ready it for transfusion, so we could take the unit and put it straight on Djanni, non stop.” They looked for Dumont, that was flabbergasted, and then Melissa said “We can give you some blueprints for those if you need. Think this will be very useful for your job.”

Sugarplum was looking for Djanni and saw that Saleh sterilized and skillfully made an excision on the internal side of Djanni’s left forearm with the silver scalpel, which made Djanni cringe, he using all his will to not cry or swear. Saleh put a large brass bowl below the point where he cut Djanni’s arm.

“Calm down, kid… I know this special, Ajax-ready, scalpel hurts, but if we don’t do this, you can die… Or worse.”

“Worse?” said Sugarplum, while looking a thick dark red fluid getting out Djanni’s arm, that didn’t look exactly as human blood, and rose some vicious colored vapors when touching the brass bowl below Djanni’s arm, hissing as it was some kind of acid.

“The Cold Hearted uses this vicious magic to ready victims to be put under their Mistress’ will. Those hurted by them are put into a kind of hypnosis and then took and turned into new Cold Hearted by the Ice Queen. If we left this magic untreated, he would be irreversibly under her will by now. Lucky you did that First Aid, as improvised and rough it was. It was a great job for a first time, even more because you didn’t know what exactly was happening.” said Saleh, passing a cloth mask to Sugarplum, that she put on around her face “Avoid to smell those fumes, they can have vicious effects too.”

“That is a really bad juju.” said Sugarplum.

“It is a really very evil Sikr.” said weakly Djanni “I’m getting a little drowsy.”

“Stay just a little more with us.” said Saleh, worried. “Milly, how it is there?”

“Almost done!” shouted her “Just some seconds and the blood unit will be ready. Will, ready Djanni. Use the special scalp needles for Ajaxes. The hit arm may had lost some of the super resistance, but the other, where you’ll punctured, has full resistance.”

“Roger that.” said Will, an auburn guy with a very freckled face, using red pants and a heavy yellow sweater with green waistcoat, taking a needle and, fast and skillfully, putting it into Djanni’s arm. “Access ready!”

“Alright.” said Melissa, looking while the blood bag was finishing being filled with Jiminy’s blood. “Ready here. Rhonda, put the blood unit on him.”

“Roger.” said the other Santa Helper, taking the blood bag from the machine.

The blonde Santa Helper put the bag on an infusion holder, while Saleh was massaging Djanni’s arm to make the last of the bad blood to get out him, and Melissa took another hot cocoa mug and some cookies for Jiminy, who looked a little drowsy.

“Take and eat those to recover some strength and not pass out.” said her, after removing the needle from Jiminy. “Avoid move this arm too much or too fast for some hours, your arthery is a little hurt and can open if you go too overboard.”. Jiminy nodded while looking for Saleh finishing Djanni’s treatment.

“Okay…“ said Saleh, when the last drops of the dark fluid got out Djanni “I think we did enough. We now can lift the magics we did. How are you, Djanni?”, he asked while either him and Sugarplum did some magic gestures to lift their magics

“A little drowsy and hurt, but otherwise okay.” he said, while Saleh stitched and placed some bandages where he cut Djanni’s arm and massaged the arm to make the blood pass through it back “Never found something my Atlas powers could not heal.”

“This is the problem: this thing is a Trojan Horse. He counts on the body healing capabilities to spread itself around your body. For you it would be even worse: you would fall under the Ice Queen evil magic very fast, it wasn’t your friend Sugarplum’s help.”

“Thanks, you all. How are you, Jiminy?” said Djanni

“With a bump in the side of the head and now a little weak by the blood donation, but I’ll live.” said Jiminy, reassuring “I had worst before.”

“Now, let you all take some rest: we’ll provide some clean clothes and a good bath, as your clothes are filthy and you are a little smelly.” said Saleh, which was truth: they had not how to take baths or change to clean clothes in the middle of the Arctic. “Then we’ll provide some food. The two boys will stay here for monitoring. Tomorrow, you’ll talk with Santa.”

Chapter 7

“[REDACTED] was a really a big place. After we get next day to take some breakfast, we took at least 1 hour on a tour there before we got with [REDACTED].”

From Jiminy Cricket’s Journals

Next day, Jiminy and Djanni woke up in the infirmary with the smell of hot rolls, hot cocoa with some cinnamon and sweet rolls, that Melissa brought to them into small silver trays.

“Now you two, eat and I’ll check you. Think that I can clear you from infirmary now, but better safe than sorry. Djanni, your new costume is ready so you can dress yourself after you eat.” she stated, and it was a need: they were dressed into green onesies for the night.

They took their breakfast, took a bath on the big china made bathtub in the infirmary (reinforced for Ajax/Atlas use) and dressed into their costumes. Djanni liked the “Christmas Version” of his costume: red with gold embroidements and white socks, it had a aluminum blade on a sheat in the belt. He looked for himself and approved.

“Looks like he knows about us all.” said Djanni “It’s weird, because Allah (SWT) is the only that knows all.”

“Santa knows enough to do his job, no more or less. It’s a lot, to be fair, but it’s not like he’s all-mighty or omniscient. He can look this way because he can infere things based on what he knows.” replied Melissa “We know, for example, that you are a nice guy, your name is Altayr Bashir ben Zayn Tahan and you’re muslim”

“Wow… That’s a lot.” said Djanni

“As I said, Santa knows a lot of things, but not all things.” she recalled “He can say if you were Nice or Naughty, but not why. This is up to you and your parents.” she reassured “Santa can only give the gifts for good kids… And some very weird surprises for those naughty kids that deserves.”

“I saw also there’s people from all around the world, like Saleh.” said Jiminy “How you deal with this? For example…“

“I know what you want to say, Jiminy: Saleh is a muslim, like Djanni. So, how he does his job as a Santa Helper? It would not be haram? But, in fact, we all learn very fast we need to be… How can I say… Above and beside religion, in the worldly sense, of the hard, cold, stone-engraved institutions with their norms and Commandments and so. We need to understand that we have a bigger responsibility, with kids around the world, specially those totally, utterly bereft: think on those kids that has no parents, no family, no hope… Many times, Santa is their best, last hope for some happiness in a cold, cruel world: if you see someone killing your parents for an ideal, no matter it’s called God, Allah, or Peace, how would you cope with this, when Divinities, Prophets and Principles are used as excuse for the very things they are against to? How would you feel about this? For those forgotten kids we live. If this is haram, many of us chose to live with it.” said Melissa, while checking both the kids, when he looked to Djanni.

“I know what are you thinking, Djanni, but sometimes we need to think on that Cherokee tale that says inside everyone’s soul there are two wolves fighting non-stop for dominance: one is evil, greedy, full of hate and rage and envy and prejudice and false pride; the other is good, full of joice, peace, justice, humility, empathy, benevolence. The one that will win, in the end, is the one you feed more. If you feed evil, no matter how good you think you had done or you are yourself, it will be always evil, and evil will win.” emphasized Melissa, while finishing to check Djanni’s arm.

“I think I understand…“ acknowledged Djanni

“You understand because you are someone that feeds the good wolf the most. There are, on all faiths, those who feed most the evil wolf, and by doing this, distorts the beliefs for their own means: Self-Al-Din, as Zealot, as The Twelfth, as The Paladins… No matter what… They all have more in common they believe they could. As we have with you from Herós Sans Frontières. It’s easy to think we are in the ‘good side’, but we need to put all your actions and thoughts at the light of the Truth, to discover which of those wolves we are feeding in the end. For this, religion is good as a principle and a way to measure our actions. But, if you think your religion makes you better than everyone else just because, you are feeding the wrong wolf. No one is better or worse from anyone else per se, or because something external them, like religion or philosophy or nation or anything like this. In the end, there is our actions and thoughts that shows the world which wolf we fed more. As said by Jesus, ‘each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers’.” continued Melissa, while finishing Jiminy bandage. Then she giggled and said “But you are both from the Nice list, so you understand this.”

“Yeah…“ agreed Djanni “Thinking now… I can’t see this as haram. You help people, and this is Allah’s (SWT) Commandment. If people do haram by idolatrizing you, it’s not your fault, as you never asked them for this.”

“So… As now we agree on those things…“ acknowledged Melissa “Why not encounter your friends at their room and look for Santa?”

All the team was dressed into very festive versions of their costumes: Dumont had his traditional Fedora replaced by a Top Hat with some mistletoe on its brim, which curiously made him look like a Dickensian caroler, while Sugarplum now was on a violet set of clothes as by Sugarplum Fairy from The Nutcracker ballet, and Marjanah and Scheherazade was into maroon colored versions of their costumes, with embroidements on gold and brown.

“You are very handsome, everyone.” said Jiminy, when looking for their friends, while they started to walk with the Santa Helper guide, going to Santa’s Room.

“You two also…“ agreed Sugarplum “How are you?”

“Better now.” reassured Djanni “Still a little sore, but when put against how I was yesterday, I’m as good as new.”

“Good to know.” said Dumont “The bad news is: for some reason, all the radio comms to the outside are blacked out here.”

“How do you know?” asked Jiminy

“We tried to contact ORSL 1… No signal. Need to say: Soldaire will never admit, but he certainly is having kittens now, I know him enough. For him, the mission had gone Foxtrot times over 9000. Losing contact with an advanced team like us is one of the first signals of a Foxtrot.”

“Do you think this can be a real Foxtrot?” queried Jiminy, while some Santa Helpers with weapons escorted them from a corridor to a big red and gold door, where a Santa Helper dressed as a page took and opened the doors.

“To be fair, Jiminy, we’ll discover it now.” commented Dumont, while the page brought them into the room and announced.

“Jiminy Cricket, Djanni, Marjanah, Scheherazade, Sugarplum and Dumont, this is Santa Claus. Santa, those are the Herós Sans Frontières team sent by NORAD.” announced the page Santa Helper.

“Thanks, Lawrence.” said the man in the throne, looking for a weird piece of parchment, that looked like a mix between parchment and e-pad. “This is my Nice and Naughty list. I look it some time and another to see if there’s some special case: maybe a nice kid on a very dire need, or a naughty one that really need some lesson. Those cases I take on my own, readying everything by myself. After all, good gifts are those you need, not exactly those you want.” confided Santa

“Now… I believe that you had not risked your lives to cross the Arctic snow just to learn about my Nice and Naughty list.” declared Santa “And looks like you came sent by NORAD.”

“How do you know?” asked Djanni

“Well… I’m not all-knowing, but I know enough to infere a thing or another. It’s on the job description, on that part about know who had been bad or good.” chuckled Santa, with a weird but good chuckle, those given by a cherished uncle before he gave you a hug or a lollipop. “And I know that people on NORAD are worried about me and the SANTA protocol.”

“Yes, Santa.” reported Sugarplum “They are worried that you could go rogue or had any problem…“

“Well… I know that this is what Colonel LaSarte said for you, but I know him better, and he did that to reinforce his superiors’ orders. He knows I would never double-cross them without a REALLY serious reason, and they didn’t gave me one.” reinforced Santa “But, if fact, we had a problem… For some reason, all our external communication links are broken.”

“I noticed this.” stated Dumont “I saw that our comms are somehow compromised also: even my Vernetech devices are offline. Could this be a fluctuation on the energies that hold Christmas Village on Earth?”

“No… We tested this for fluctuations with our devices and everything is under standard levels.” disclosed Santa “We didn’t searched more because we need to ready everything for Christmas Day, as it gets nearer and nearer. I will risk myself if need too… But now I believe you can help us to find what’s happening.”

“So… Looks like this was intentional: something is blockading the communications between Christmas Village and external world, so to speak. Had you tried to find the blockade signal generator?” queried Dumont

“No…“ assured Santa “As I said, we have a priority, of readying everything for Christmas. This year things gone even more difficult, with all the new toys, and some of the older Helpers, that worked with the previous Santa doesn’t have the skill or knack to deal with those.”

“Well…“ stated Dumont “I think we’ll need to find the generator.”

“But if this generator is not an external one, as we can suppose, it could only be put here by a mole, so Christmas Village has someone from your enemies inside. In fact… Do you have any enemies?” asked Jiminy

“Well… There’s those guys, the so-called Night Blizzards…“ remembered Santa

“Night Blizzards?” questioned Jiminy

“Those guys are the worst.” said someone else. When they looked behind, they saw it was Metsätäja, that came with Bernhardt. He was dressed as an Santa Helper, in dark green and red, a green Santa Hat over his hair, a short toy-looking sword into a sheath on his belt. “Sorry I didn’t said you before, but I’m an habitué here, so I already have my own quarters and clothes and can go almost everywhere. But, about the Night Blizzards: they are the nearer we have of a super-villain team on Lapland. They do lots of attacks against the Sami people and on Laplandish cities either on Finland and on Sweden. People wants to catch them hard as they rob houses and kidnap kids.”

“And who are they?” asked Jiminy

“They, like Santa, are from the so-called Ur-Type, representations of myths and legends from past that couldn’t be placed on other types. They are called Christmas Spirits, like Santa himself and the Santa Helpers and Snowmen and Nutcrackers and so. But they are evil, really REALLY evil. The Cold-Hearted are part of the Night Blizzards, their minions so to say. The big guys are called Krampus, The Grinch and The Ice Queen.”

“Like by the myths?” checked Sugarplum

“Exact.” assured Santa “You see: there’s dark anywhere there’s light. Those guys are the dark here.”

“And who are those guys.” asked Scheherazade

“The Grinch is a guy that build Vernetech that does some nasty job, by replacing some of the toys I deliver for some very nasty toys, the so-called Rowdy Boys Toys: no matter what, with lots of explosives and sharp corners and blades and all kind of nasty stuff to hurt and maim kids.” rasped Santa, on the most un-Santa-ish behavior they could imagine “There’s at least two breakthroughs that were registered thanks those things, and two girls in coma after a doll attacked them and cut their bellies.”

“That’s horrible.” shuddered Marjanah

“And he’s the most rational of them. The Krampus is a monster, but he’s a smart one: he prays on the naughty kids. Every year he does his best to take at least two or three of them. What he does with them… I can only speculate, and nothing he could do could be good…“ confirmed Santa “Some legends says he devours them to the bones, growing bigger and stronger and meaner with them. Others says they turn them into lieutenants, smaller versions of himself, monsters to attack other kids. And there’s even worst things that legends says.”

“Like the Cold Hearted?” questioned Jiminy

“Some say that Krampus gave those kids for The Ice Queen…. Not that she needs: she herself does the dirty job of kidnap kids and, by ripping open their chest and make their hearts grew colder without letting them getting into shock, making their hearts goes frozen in their last heartbeat, so creating the Cold Hearted. She’s jealous on me: she thinks that I took her thunder by being a symbol of hope in the dark times of Winter.” snorted Santa

“But… How they could put someone here?” mused Jiminy “If I understood, all the Santa Helpers undergoes a kind of breakthrough like yours, is this right, Santa?”

“It’s right, Jiminy…“ assured Santa “They take the Santa Helper Mantle, sign their own Santa Helper Clause when joining our ranks.”

“But… And their families?” inquired Marjanah “They would never forget their families: they have any contacts?”

“Some have, yes, although is common to people here to reduce external contact with their families, for their own safety.” noted Santa “We give some vacancy time during the year, except by the Holiday times, so they could visit their families”

“Do you screen them?” asked Sugarplum “I believe that you looks for someone under a profile: I can’t see a bully becoming a Santa Helper.”

“To be fair, we do some screen and, although he have some cases of former bullies becoming Santa Helpers, it’s not that easy and they really proved themselves redeemed and ashamed from their past. We screen for their competence, personality and behavior.”

Jiminy was thinking.

“Jiminy…“ said Blue Fairy on his mind when he shooed her

“Just a minute … I’m thinking a little. Trying to use my Bellax Analytica.”

While they were talking, it was when Jiminy had an idea.

“Santa… There’s Helpers that deal with some kind of hard maintenance: things like cleaning, energy supply maintenance and so, right?” asked Jiminy

“Yeah, for sure. There’s lots of energy we use.” said Santa

“And any Helper that recently joined their ranks? With big families outside or very linked with them for some reason? Without other social connections, perhaps?” asked Jiminy

“For sure!” said Bernhardt “Leon! He’s the newest Helper and was in the maintenance until some days before. I took a check on him and he has a sister called Amelia. Their parents died just a little before The Event and we discovered him after some investigations we do on potential Helpers: Nice list for at least 5 years, no more than two consecutive years on Naughty, if most, and on a situation where we can help him and him could help us. He just completed a major on Arts and just got out the fosterage house as an adult. But… I can’t see him as the mole for the Night Blizzards. He does his job very very good and looks like a good chap.”

“There’s one way to check him…“ said Jiminy “But I need to say, I will not like it.”

Chapter 8

“People think I like to use my Pretty Please! at whim, as I can make people does things I need them to do. However, no matter how subtle I do this, this is still a will-bending power, one of the kind of powers that, in the comics, are more associated with villainy than with heroism. And this still make me go queasy.”

Jiminy Cricket, “A Living Conscience: some musings from a life Wearing the Cape”

Jiminy and the others got into the big warehouse were the gifts were built: lots and lots of levels with lots and lots of working tables, with all kind of supplies and tools, with lots of Santa Helpers working together to build all kind of toys: the smell of cotton and fabric from dolls and teddies mingled with the smell of plastic and SMD solder paste from those who were building perfect replicas of videogames, Made In China logos and all.

“This is incredible.” reckoned Jiminy “But how can you make those pass as by… You know…“

“The, quote-unquote, real thing?” non-chalantly said Bernhardt “We have our ways, and even the biggest industries moguls wouldn’t like to be in Santa’s Naughty List. But let us focus on what we need to do. Leon is somewhere near.” said Bernhardt, when they saw a small group of Helpers doing some classic board games like Chess and Trouble. One of them, with a strawberry blonde hair and a little smaller than the others, looked to Bernhardt and the others and did the worst reaction.

He ran.

“Not that easy, chap.” said Djanni, flying over the balconies.

However, there was too much toys and things that messed around, and Leon used this and his knowledge of Santa’s Workshop to difficult things. He pulled a doll from big pile of dolls and teddies against Djanni, that needed to dodge the toy avalanche. Sugarplum shrunk herself to get away, while the others got away as soon Scheherazade did a small wall of sawdust to hold everything. Dumont engaged his Demoiselle and got nearby Djanni.

“Where he is?” growled Djanni, angry.

“He knows the place.” stated Sugarplum, while following the genral direction and looking for Leon “And here’s gigantic! We’ll lose ourselves here. We’ll need to improvise. Djanni, you go front as far you can. I go left and Dumont go right. We’ll circle him by the air. Show Jiminy your Maskcams, so he can focus on Bellax Analytica to find him. Marjanah, if you can help using Astral Plane, it would be great!”

“Alright.” said Dumont, flying as Sugarplum said. “Jiminy, now is with you: use your Bellax Analytica to make us reduce the circle on him.”

“Right… Sugarplum, on your right!” said Jiminy, when he saw Leon on Sugarplum’s Maskcam

“Okay!” confirmed Sugarplum, getting nearby, which made Leon run away on Dumont’s direction.

They were doing this, working and closing the circle on Leon, until he was cornered. He looked around, fearfully, when Bernhardt hold his arm, while Jiminy and the others were getting nearby.

“Wait, Leon… We need to talk for real!” he said seriously

“I don’t know what you want, Bernhardt. I didn’t did anything wrong!” panicked Leon

“Didn’t you? Maybe you’re a mole for The Ice Queen and this is why we are without comms with external world.” accused Bernhardt

“No chance! I would never betray Santa!” denied Leon, panicking

“He’s not telling the truth, at least not completely.” blurted Marjanah via Astral plane “I can feel his lie on the Astral Plane.”

“Let me see this Bernhardt. You don’t need to play that harsh with him.” affirmed Jiminy

“Okay.” said Bernhardt “But if Leon try any funny thing, I’ll deal with him.”

Jiminy looked to Leon.

“So… You really would never betray Santa? Pretty Please!, don’t lie. You’re one of the most recent Santa Helpers at all, and you’re the only one that could do this, as part of the maintenance team…“ said Jiminy, pushing into Leon his Pretty Please! power.

He could see him trying to avoid the compulsion to say the truth, his face writhing in pained faces. Jiminy never saw anyone resist so much his power, even Marjanah and Djanni under the Sword Verse, until he couldn’t resist anymore and snapped:

“Sorry, Bernhardt! I did it! It was my fault! They knew about my sister! The Ice Queen blackmailed me! If I didn’t did that, they would catch my sister and turn her into a Cold Hearted! I could not let this happen!” he wailed, crying, his will almost broken, which made Jiminy goes queasy: he still felt this way when he noticed how powerful his Pretty Please! is.

“Are you insane? Working for the Ice Queen and don’t talking about this with us? If SANTA protocol is not engaged, Santa can be declared a tango on Christmas Day and could be attacked by jets and other capes! What you had in mind?” raged Bernhardt. “You know I’ll need to take this to Santa…“

“Pretty Please!, Calm down, Bernhardt… You bully Leon doesn’t help us.” said Jiminy, making Bernhardt go calmer.

“I’ll see, but there’s a great chance to take this to Santa.” retorted Bernhardt, when Blue Fairy got into Jiminy line of sight, still like a Cindy Lou.

“Jiminy, found some intel about this Amelia and know where she is: I don’t know why, but my Quantum Link can counter whatever is doing this electronic blockage. Amelia McNish, age 15, living on Saint Paris Orphanage, student at Martin Luther King High School at Chicago, just have Leon as family and vice-versa. What we should do?” said Blue Fairy “I hacked some school cameras and looks like there’s some Cold Hearted hidden around nearby, shadowing her, ready to catch her if this thing fumbles.”

“Could you put Shell and/or the Chicago Sentinels on this? No need to talk about the mission: say you had some intel on creepy guys stalking a girl. Just enough to make things goes coincidental. If possible, talk them to take her to The Dome for some days, until things cool down.” queried Jiminy “If they ask details, make sure to reveal just what they need to know.”

“Roger: I’ll talk with them ASAP.” said Blue Fairy, disappearing with a POOF.

“Leon,” said Jiminy “I think I can help you, but we need to know what happened: how they discovered about you, and about your sister, and what they talked with you. Also, we need to know all you know about this thing.”

Leon, still shaken, looked to Jiminy: “Pinky Promise?”

“Pinky Promise. Cross my heart and hope to die.” assured Jiminy, gesturing on his own chest “Now… How they discovered about you?”

“I was contacted by some Santa Helpers at February in Chicago, as soon I finished my arts grad. They talked me about Santa and so, and about my name being in the Nice list almost all my life. They gave me a ticket for a flight to Helsinki and from there to Rovaniemi, and then there I got here, and they talked about what I would need to do. I believe that it was in Rovaniemi the Ice Queen noticed me: I was so naïve and full of myself, after having said in the orphanage I would be always a hamburger flipper, talking in the hotel and restaurant about Christmas Village…“ mumbled Leon

“Okay…“ said Bernhardt, calmer now “You were really naïve, but it wasn’t your fault, at least not totally. The recruiters should had said you to stay low profile and not say a thing about Christmas Village, even this being an open secret on Rovaniemi. And it was good: we now know there’s some informants in Rovaniemi for the Night Blizzards. And…“

“Well, after I signed the Clause, I was sent to Rovaniemi for bring some supplies till here, and I was blasted away from the sleigh by a wind while going there.” said Leon “It was when I was took to The Ice Queen’s Castle, and she said that she knew about my sister.”

“Seems legit: if we have our information sources, they have theirs.” concluded Bernhardt “And?”

“She demanded me to place that box into somewhere. She didn’t said what they would do, and said me to not open it. She suggested me to put it nearby the energy generators, as that thing would need some energy.” said Leon

“And you heard her? And didn’t talk about this with us?” menaced Bernhardt, which made Leon cower.

“Pretty Please!, Bernhardt, calm down. Leon was coerced. Stress out him even more will bring no good.” said Jiminy, using his Pretty Please! to make Bernhardt go calmer.

“Okay, Jiminy, but I’ll send this to Santa.” retorted Bernhardt.

“I heard enough, Bernhardt.” said Santa, getting nearby “And I agree with Jiminy: even being Leon’s fault, stressing him out will bring us no good. Now, Leon… What was that thing, and where you put it. Trust me: if something happens with your sister, I’ll take this personally.”

“Jiminy, Astra and Shell discovered those Cold Hearted and dealt with them easily, with Grendel and Megaton’s help. They got that girl and put her securely on The Dome.” beamed Blue Fairy “Looks like they coincidentally were nearby that school as we were talking and saw those creepy guys and dealt with him.”

“Great!” bursted Jiminy, when he explained as they looked to him like he was crazy “I passed the intel about your sister to Chicago Sentinels and they dealt with the Cold Hearted. I have my ways, for sure.” said Jiminy, on a tone that came to Santa and Bernhardt as a way to show he passed the intel via Blue Fairy. “They took her to the Dome, and almost no one can get into there without they know. She’s safe by now.”

Leon was almost crying.

“Calm down, Leon: you did a big mistake… But everything will be end well.” assured Santa “Now… After she gave you the box, how she made you get back?”

“She send me back to Rovaniemi and I lied about find my way back there to the others. I hid the box into some supplies I would bring to the warehouses and put it nearby. And just connected the power source: I didn’t knew anything on what was that or what that did, I still don’t know what that thing is. It was two weeks ago.” said Leon

“And exactly since then, we had our communications with the world outside blockaded.” stated Santa, and Leon gasped, dawned on what he did “I think you understand you brought us a lot of trouble. But I understood you took a bad decision based on a good motive, so no punishment will be given. However, now we need you to undo the ill you did, or at least help us.”

“I’ll show you were I deployed that thing.” said Leon, meekly “I’m really sorry.”

“No time to be sorry.” retorted Bernhardt “We need to undo this thing, so we can engage the SANTA protocol and avoid Santa to be declared a Tango when crossing the sky at the Christmas Eve.”

And they got to the energy center.

Chapter 9

“Okay… So you believe that Verne heroes live the glamour of building things all the time. Well… There’s times were people think on Verne like a kind of Hyper SWAT team.”

Andre Macedo Luiz, “Histories from the Demoiselle - My Breakthrough Memoirs”

They got down an elevator to a place many meters down the main building structure, were they saw a kind of special boiler for energy generation, red with some green fake wreaths around.

“This boiler provides all energy for Christmas Village.” explained Bernhardt “For redundancy, there’s a small nuclear generator on another place, but it’s a link we use only in emergencies or programmed maintenance windows.”

“Well…“ inquired Dumont “Looks like a perpetual motion design, right? It’s Vernetech for sure, but it would demand an Omega to do this. Or at least an army of powerful Vernes with more or less the same paradigm.”

“Neither us can violate 3rd Thermodynamics Law.” said Santa, while they were walking through all the infrastructure “What this does is to provide almost all energy we could generate using this machine. Maximum Potency efficiency on 9 digits, for 99.9999999%, with very small carbon footprint and without radiation. This use di-deuterium and di-tritium oxides to provide maximum energy efficiency. This is good because here in Arctic there’s lots of those oxides, the so called heavy and super heavy water. We are even studying Helium-3 and some hyper-rare Vernetech-produced isotopes, like quatrium, Hydrogen with 4 electrons and He-4, for other energy supply sources”

“Nice idea.” marveled Dumont, taking his small notebook and Montblanc pen for some sketching.

Leon got on somewhere behind the main boiler.

“Here, below the boiler.” said Leon, pointing the place where he put it.

“It’s very thin.” said Dumont, looking down the boiler “Sugarplum, can you go Tink and push it outside?”

“Hope there’s not too hot there.” she said, removing her shawl and shrinking Tinkerbell size.

She flew and started to push

“This thing is heavy… And I need to push it with care: this is made of brass, so it is very hot. I’m using some magic to cool this thing, but it will be difficult.” she said, panting, via Earbug

“OK…“ muttered Dumont, taking some leather gloves and an apron from the utility belt he bring with him “Push it until I can take it. You just need a little more.”

She finished to push and got off. Jiminy passed her a bottle of cold water as soon she grew back.

“It was hellish hot there. I almost fainted by heat.” she panted, while drinking a little of water and throwing a little over her head.

“Okay… Let us see…“ looked Dumont, taking a small set of tools from his utility belt and opening it in the floor. “This looks like Vernetech… But has to work on some physical base, otherwise it would not do its job.” he said, while mounting a screwdriver to unbolt the box.

Jiminy was looking to it when he felt something on his Bellax Analytica:

“Dumont, DON’T…“ he shouted, but it was too late.

Dumont finished to unbolt the screws and open the box lid.

And a very audible CLICK could be heard. And smaller clicks on a rhythm.

“It’s a trap!” cursed Dumont “I was so naïve. If it was really that Grinch guy that made this, he would have some counterfeature to avoid it to be shut down and/or to give some punishment for those who would try.”

“Can you disarm this?” worried Sugarplum

“Maybe…“ hurried Dumont “No countdown equals no idea on how near we are from a BOOM. I can see some explosive bars, like C4 but certainly Vernetech, so bad news… And a control circuit. But have no notion on how disarm this. Jiminy, I’ll need you here.” he said, trying to maintain his cool.

Jiminy got nearby

“Now, I need you to look as far you can on your Bellax Analytica… If, at anytime, you see it would be better to take a plan B, we’ll run away and do the best, right?” asked Dumont

“Right. Let’s go….” said Jiminy

Dumont started to look for places and take some cables here and there to shutdown the bomb…

It was when…

“Stop, Dumont!” shouted Jiminy “This is impossible to be disarmed: it will explode in some seconds!”

“Can I fly this out?” asked Djanni

“I think so, but you’ll have at most twenty seconds…“ Jiminy was saying, when Djanni took the bomb and flown away with it as fast as he could.

“Djanni, NO!” cried Marjanah.

Djanni flew over the elevator tube and got out the warehouses, running through the windows and thrown the bomb away.

It was enough, but barely.

The big explosion could be heard everywhere at Christmas Village. All the windows were blasted by the shockwave, that thrown Djanni back through a wall, blasting it and throwing him into a big pile of toys. Santa, Bernhardt, Leon and the others gone for where Djanni crashed.

“Djanni!” shouted Sugarplum “Are you okay?”

“Not… Too… Much… Hurts a lot!” moaned Djanni, while they could see Djanni’s legs on weird angles, like a weird ragdoll thrown away by a kid into a tantrum.

“It was a hell of explosion. It could had blasted Christmas Village out of map!” dawned Jiminy

“Leon…“ chastised Bernhardt

“I didn’t know about that, I swear!” meeked Leon, almost crying again

“He’s saying the truth.” said Santa “This was one example of The Grinch Rowdy Boys Toys.”

“That was terrible!” gasped Scheherazade “How is Djanni?”

“Not that good…“ pondered Sugarplum, checking him while some Helpers brought a stretcher and all EMT utensils and material they had at hand “He’ll live, for sure, but he had a big concussion and broken legs… He’ll recover fast, but he has no fight condition by now…“

“Advanced Team, this is ORSL 1…“ said something in Dumont’s pocket with Soldaire’s voice

“ORSL 1” said Dumont, after taking a brass made walkie-talkie like thing “This is AT. Dumont speaking…“

“Wow, what a scare you gave us… What happened?”

“Santa had been electronically blockaged. When we tried to deactivate the device, a bomb had been activated. Djanni thrown it away and we avoid the worst scenario, but he is really hurt by now. He’ll go to the infirmary here.” related Dumont

“Things are growing risky…“ speculated Soldaire “This is growing compromising… Abort now…“

“No way, Soldaire!” shouted Jiminy “We had made this far, we need to finish it. There’s lots in game!”

“It’s an order!” stated Soldaire “It’s too risky for you…“

Jiminy felt something again tingling on him

“No need to think on this, Soldaire. Things had already gone Foxtrot… There’s tangos coming!” shuddered Jiminy

And the alarm trumpets were called.

Chapter 10

“When we fought at [REDACTED], we thought it would be an once-and-for-all show-off. How wrong we were.”

From Joshua “Jiminy Cricket” McCarthy’s memoirs

They could see people readying themselves at Santa’s Village: almost everyone stopped to build the toys and gifts and took weapons or evacuated for safe rooms.

“Not now, Leon!” growled Bernhardt, when he saw Leon taking some of the weapons that were being given in the Armory “You did enough. When we disarmed the tamper, the Night Blizzards discovered. Now they are trying to attack us.”

“I know you don’t trust me… In fact, neither I would trust myself now. But I want to redeem myself. This was all my fault.” confessed Leon

“Sure it is!” growled Bernhardt, taking from a rack a blunderbuss and a sword that, albeit looking a toy weapon, had a very real silver blade.

“Enough, Bernhardt.” talked Santa, getting nearby “He had enough, and he understood that he done a really big mistake. No need to stay on this stance. You’re too near from bullying him for no good reason. Stop now.”

Bernhardt looked angrily to Santa, but then he felt ashamed…

“Sorry, Santa, but…“

“I know, Bernhardt, I know…“ began Santa “Since from before The Event, you are the Head Elf, the one that is responsible for Christmas Village when I’m, or better, Santa is out. However, you need to remember that lots of those Santa Helpers are not as experienced as you: they, like me, have at most 17 years, give or take, as they are now. And Leon has just some months as Helper and had just his sister as family outside, it was a too big of an ordeal for him. He failed it and with this put us all on a big danger, but he has the right heart. I know that Highway to Hell is paved on good intentions, but we have no time for fight each other.”

“Alright…“ affirmed Bernhardt “Leon, you and some other elves go for the Safe Room and protect Santa.”

“Roger.” confirmed Leon “Looks like this will be a big fight…“

“In fact…“ said Marjanah “I think there’ll be fight enough soon: they are coming. Jiminy… How much of them?”

“I can’t say for sure, but the numbers are more or less even. However, they looks like more experienced and ruthless fighters.” gulped Jiminy, while looking to the horizon, seeing the enemies coming

“So…“ mused Dumont, looking for his guns “They are going all-in. And we are without our main brick, as Djanni is on the infirmary”

“Looks weird, like they planned this all…“ guessed Sugarplum, when the enemies came

And the fight started: Sugarplum and Dumont were the main attackers, as Djanni was in the bench. Marjanah and Jiminy helped by coordinate actions with everyone else, while Scheherazade used her ice storms (like the sand storms she could do in the desert) to barricade them, reduce their numbers and split their troops so the others could flank them with the Helpers.

“Damn it!” cursed Dumont shooting two more Cold Hearted “They just come and come!”

“We need to hold them: Bernhardt is evacuating Santa to the safe room…“ shouted Jiminy, when again his Bellax Analytica tingled. “Things are growing even more Foxtrot! The Grinch and Krampus are here!”

“Oh, crap!” whined Sugarplum.

“What we can do now?” asked Scheherazade “They are powerful! And we already hands full with those hordes of Cold Hearted!”

Jiminy thought and then stated:

“Dumont, you and Sugarplum deal with The Grinch. Marjanah, you, Scheherazade and me on Krampus!” addressed Jiminy

“Are you crazy, Jiminy?” shouted Sugarplum, while fire-blasting another Cold Hearted. “He will turn you into mincemeat!”

“This is the best way to deal with them, or at least what Bellax Analytica is showing me.” shrugged Jiminy

“Alright,” sighed Dumont “But I believe that someday your Bellax Analytica will kill us all.” he said, giggling, going for the green weird monster it was The Grinch…

… leaving Marjanah, Scheherazade and Jiminy to The Krampus, the big dark monster they could see.

But even before they saw, they could smell him…

“Yuck, he stinks!” grunted Jiminy.

“Indeed, he smells like Jahannam’s brimstone and fire.” admitted Marjanah

“What we do?” asked Scheherazade.

“Be ready, but no matter what, don’t attack first… Hope the legends are truth.” answered Jiminy

“Legends?” questioned Marjanah

“Forgot about your muslim background, but even on christian, Santa believing places, Krampus legends are a little less known. But we have not too much time to talk now. He just came.” pointed out Jiminy, when the smell grew strong enough to almost make them go sick.

It was like rotten food and sewer and unclean bodies that rolled in the floor of a pigstill, all mixed. Krampus also was holding a big, old, filthy sack. They could see her bloodshot red eyes, that looked more like a goat or wolf ones than a human being’s. His hands were big and somewhat clawed like a wolf, while his feet was hoof-cloven like a goat. His pelt was of a kind of dirty dark gray, like it was never washed.

“So…“ said Krampus, on a weird small rumble that looked like a distant thunder. “The big ones sent kids to fight me.”

“They didn’t sent us: we’ve volunteered to.” shouted Jiminy, on a humble but defiantly tone.

“Three kids!” he boasted, laughing like a rumbling volcano. “Three kids! This is what they have for me?”

“Yeah.” declared Jiminy, on the same humbly defiant tone “Three Nice kids!”

Jiminy’s affirmation made Krampus stop his bravado and look shocked.

“Yeah, I know about you, Krampus!” said nonchalantly Jiminy “Read enough about you before even becoming a cape: you don’t touch those who are at Santa’s Nice List, and you know whose that are.”

“Are you sure about this, kiddo? If you’re wrong, I could just slash you three with my claws like a sword slashes a piece of paper.” provoked Krampus, showing his claws, almost touching Jiminy’s face, which made either Marjanah and Scheherazade tense themselves

“No, Marjanah, Scheherazade: he is provoking you to attack him without a fair reason!” said Jiminy “This will take you from Nice List, and this will make you fair sport for him.”

Krampus grunted.

“Sounds like I said the truth, right? You can’t attack us by now: we are in Nice List. So we are out-of-bounds for you.” said Jiminy, hands akimbo.

It was not that easy, though: on his mind futures and more futures raced each other, second after second. Only his training and experience avoided him to get into fetal stance, rolling and screaming. He was focusing himself on what to do to avoid see the potential futures where he and the girls were being gruesome killed.

“You’re right.” sighed Krampus “Maybe I should try my best against those two girls…“

“… but if you do this,” tutted Jiminy “you give us free pass to attack you without going out the Nice List, and you don’t want to do this… This would be counterproductive for you.”

Jiminy looked around and saw Bernhardt armed with his bow putting Krampus under his target.

“No, Bernhardt… I want to do this without shed blood.” warned Jiminy

“It’s freaking Krampus!” shouted Bernhardt “If he attack you, he could kill you like if you’re a duckling.”

“I know…“ stated Jiminy, fearfully “And is just because this I don’t want a fight.”

Bernhardt looked to Krampus, and it was when he noticed.

Krampus was thinking.

Bernhardt downed his bow.

“Why you think you could make me let you go without shed blood, you knowing I crave for blood?” roared Krampus, breathing the smelly breath against Jiminy

“Because” exposed Jiminy, avoiding to cough after breathing that stinky breath “I know you’re cunning: you don’t want to be hurt or risk being killed. And you want to be overlooked as the left hand of Santa, the one that punishes the Naughty kids. And I can see you don’t like the other Blizzards.”

“You’re right.” nodded Krampus, giving a weird kind of smile: ugly, weird, but truth. “You’re clever. Those Blizzards are a bunch of morons. If it wasn’t the meat, I would just shove off those two.”

“Meat?” asked Jiminy, almost knowning the answer

“You see: I crave for flesh and blood. Young flesh and blood: Naughty kids are like venison for me. They are delicacies that sometimes is so short and difficult to find…“ announced Krampus, a thick, black, gooey tongue licking his lips on a devious way

“So… They provide you with this… delicacy.” cringed Jiminy, trying to maintain his pose under all that pressure

“Right. Those sweet morsels are my bread and wine.” answered Krampus

“But the Blizzards use you as muscle against Santa, and the Helpers are not so tasty, right? They somewhat bought you as muscle and pay you on this… Delicacy.” stated Jiminy, trying to be as much nonchalantly he could

“Yeah… And they are so haughty and mighty, but in the end I’m the one that do the heavy job.” hissed Krampus

“Well…“ smiled Jiminy “I don’t want to be eaten… And you can’t eat us as we are in Nice List. If you do, you’re fair sport now and forever for Santa and the Helpers. And you want to have your pelt. We are under a standoff… But… If you just go away, I assure you I’ll not go against you, and you’ll have safe way away from here: no one will try to get you, at least by now.”

“Do you think you can negotiate your way out?” roared Krampus

“Well… Bernhardt is with that bow, ready to shoot those silver magical arrows on his quiver. He also have that Vernetech blunderbuss, and my friends here Marjanah and Scheherazade could knock you out and even kill you as soon you bite myself. Well, when I think I would die before this, it’s small consolation, but at least it would be a payback you would have for my blood. If you are so crazy to take me, go on, but if I was you, I would be patient and hope I put myself on Naughty List, so I would be fair sport for you. And you can only do this by staying alive, which you’ll not if you try to attack me.” smirked Jiminy

Jiminy knew this would be a nasty gambit: last time he did something like this, he unintentionally killed a bad guy, and this time he could kill himself.

“Alright!” rasped Krampus “But remember, Jiminy Cricket: if you just put a finger, a tad small finger, out of the Nice List, I’ll do my best to find you and crave my teeth under you, to taste your juicy, sweet meat.” he finished, while turning his back, showing his filthier, stinker back for them

“If you can…“ murmured Jiminy Cricket, while the big monster started to get away, disappearing on a mist made of snow.

The others looked to Jiminy, that was static:

“Are you insane?” retorted Bernhardt “Trying to negotiate with Krampus? You’re lucky to get away with this alive, even luckier he agreed with you. He’s a monster, a goddamned child devourer! And with all that, you stayed that cold facing him that nonchalantly naïve?”

There was not too much Jiminy could answer Bernhardt. He thrown up, the adrenaline rush going down and bringing him back to reality, shaking.

“Jiminy!” ran Marjanah for him, holding him while he puked out. Scheherazade and Bernhardt got nearby.

“I tried my best to hold my composture…“ said Jiminy, weak, and barfed out a little more before continue “You see, Bernhardt: Krampus is cunning. From the way he talk, act, and move, all he does is intimidate. It was made to make us run or fight him. Either way he would remove us from the Nice List. Since the beginning, a fight was a no-no.”

“And why you said Dumont and Sugarplum to leave Krampus to us?” asked Scheherazade “We almost did nothing.”

“We needed to stand up against him: not play under his rules.” said Jiminy, cleaning the rest of vomit from his mouth with a handkerchief “By stand up, we reinforced his own rules: he would never, EVER, try to eat a kid from the Nice List. He can do this at whim, of course, but by doing this he would be putting himself as a fair target under Santa and any good people. And he is, in the end, a bully: clever, cunning, but a bully. And trying to survive against bullies without getting into their game was my life until I undergone my Breakthrough and even after.”

“Are you okay?” said Bernhardt

“Just weak and shaken: it was risky, really risky. Neither when I fought Alsyf Alayat or The Ascendant I was under so big a risk.” said Jiminy “It was really crazy, but better than send Sugarplum and Dumont to fight him: they would be dead by now.”

It was when they heard some screams from the Christmas Village, and an explosion, and a chackling glee over the Northern Lights…

Meanwhile, Sugarplum and Dumont got the other way to engage The Grinch:

“Hope Jiminy knows what he was doing… Challenge freaking Krampus is a big stuff. If he fails, he’ll be turned into sushi very fast, and Marjanah and Scheherazade with him.” talked Sugarplum, while they avoided some shots from a group of Howdy Boys Toy Soldiers, part of the Grinch’s Howdy Boys Toys.

“He’ll do…“ assured Dumont, shooting a wave of aluminum needles from his Tesla Barrage against them “We need to stop patronize him as a kid: he’s still the Disney lover we knew, and still has the same nice heart, but he’s now, more than ever, an Herós Sans Frontières cape. He can deal with the challenges that life put for him, even this being Krampus. Remember his Bellax Analytica: he would never go that way if the odds were not with him.”

“Hope so… Now, let us focus on our tango. I’ll go Tink: try to make him focus on you… I’ll try to do something to disable him soon: by what Santa said us about him, I think he has some explosives with him, and if so, I’ll try to launch him to the sky with them.” detailed Sugarplum

“Roger.” confirmed Dumont, while he saw Sugarplum going Tink, shrinking to a Tinkerbell like size: she was lighter and smaller, so a strong wind could blast here, but she was also faster and harder to see, which covered the defense.

They flown to the green furry little monster, with a bandoleer and an utility belt with two pistol holsters, from where he took two old-looking pistols, as pirate pistols, and shoot a kind of laser, making Dumont goes and take evasive maneuvers. He also gave a shot to where Sugarplum had gone, making her doing evasive maneuvers and growing back.

“Yeah… Two goody two-shoes to be a prize for me! This will be so fun!” he gleed maniacally, taking what looked like a firecracker from a belt and throwing it in the air.

“Sugarplum, your eyes!” shouted Dumont over the Earbug.

It was by just, but they avoided the Rowdy Boys Firecracker’s effect: they could, even with closed eyes, notice some of the bright, flashbang-like, light. But this gave for Grinch a chance to shoot Dumont straight in the arm.

“Dumont!” screamed Sugarplum, when Dumont fell in the snow, the Demoiselle straps bursted by the laser shot from Grinch, that cackled maniacally when saw the Brazilian Dandy Caroler falling in the snow.

“You big son of a bitch!” snarled Sugarplum, taking her fairy wand “Debruana, máthair na gaoithe, caith mo naimhde as dom!” she shouted, shooting a powerful blast of air from his wand, pushing Grinch through.

She took the time she gained to look for Dumont: he looked unconscious, and his Demoiselle was some meters over them.

“He’s alive… That’s good news. But I’ll need to finish that green ball of shit fast: we need to look Dumont for a concussion, and I need to take him out of the snow to avoid a frostbite.” she thought, when she saw Grinch trying to tackle her, cackling while using a kind of steampunk firecracker on his back, like a weird jet-pack.

Sugarplum shrunk to avoid the attack, and Grinch had gone up, positioning himself on the same height Dumont previously where.

“Do you think you have power enough to win me, your moronic little Tinkerbell? NO CHANCE! I’ll break each bone of you and put you to dance on red-hot iron ballet shoes, until you will pray for people say ‘I don’t believe in fairies’, so you can die fast!” he said, gleeful.

Sugarplum took her wand and whispered “Badb, mná na claidheamh, cuir do bheannacht orm chun olc a chosc.”

It was when she flew still on her Tinkerbell mode.

“Your moron! Do you think you can avoid my attacks being small? Take that!” he cackled, shooting plasma from a rifle.

But Sugarplum just evade the attack and grew back on his back, her wand now turned into a kind of magical lightsaber.

She cut throught the firecracker, making Grinch scream when it explode in white hot flames.

“I noticed your firecracker/jetpack thing is basically a white phosphorus made propeller. As soon I opened it, it just got into your skin like napalm. Who will want to be disbelieved now, you freaking bastard?” said Sugarplum, when he fell in the snow.

“Lucky for you I’m not like your lot, but believe me how much I would love to toast you to a crisp if you give me a chance.” said Sugarplum, when she looked to the Grinch, that looked now a small, pitiful green thing, full of fear and pain. “Now, if you want to save your carcass, leave Lapland NOW. And if I know that you gave another of those goddamned things for a kid and that made them hurt, no God, or Gods, or any Superior Force will stop me to find you and grind your freaking green face into a grinder until it became two pounds of mincemeat, capiche ? So, get out of my way, if you prize you pitiful skin!”

The Grinch ran away, when Sugarplum got down and looked for Dumont, that started to wake up.

“Let me see how you are.” said Sugarplum, doing some magics to heal Dumont a little. Her healing magic still needed some work, but were good enough for first aid.

“Ouch… Looks like that Krampus guy hit me hard. I’m feeling pain all around myself!” whined Dumont

“Bad news: you’re bruised all around your body. Good news: the snow had absorbed a lot of the worst from the fall. Let me help you to get up and I’ll shut the Demoiselle down so you can recover it for repair later.” she assured, giving a hand for Dumont, that took it.

When she flew and shutdown the Demoiselle, as soon it fell in the snow, they heard some screams from the Christmas Village, and an explosion, and a chackling glee all below the Northern Lights…

They ran back Christmas Village, when they saw the Cold Hearted, the Rowdy Boys Toys and all the tangos getting back.

“What was that?” asked Jiminy

“Don’t know… And doesn’t look good!” said Dumont, that MacGyvered a repair on the Demoiselle so he could fly back the Christmas Village.

They could see a big hole in the ceiling of the Christmas Village’s Main Building, lots of Helpers containing fire and saving toys, dolls and everything that they could.

“Could it be…“ worried Sugarplum

“No, not Leon…“ assured Jiminy “He was not under a post-hypnotic trance: I would detect it.”

In fact, they ran to a place where a big brass door was blasted to smithereens. Bernhardt looked down, white as a sheet of paper, looking to the ground: in the floor there was Leon, his blood splat all around the room, being treated for a multitude of wounds by Saleh and Melissa, a big cut through his chest. Djanni was nearby, with a worried and angry face.

“How he is?” asked Sugarplum “Anything we can help?”

“Critical: it was the Ice Queen. I can have all hands and wands on this.” said Melissa, trying to focus herself on his fallen friend, not looking for Sugarplum, that came to help “We are doing our best, but I can’t say if he’ll pass through it. She slashed his guts like it was a piece of paper: the only good news is that her Cold Hearted magics are ineffective on us Helpers, as we are immune to some kinds of bad magic. Bad news: I could not put him on anesthesia… Only local ones.”

“That attack was a diversion, a ruse.” dawned Bernhardt “Santa! It was her objective since the beginning!”

“Yup. As soon she blasted here, almost all the Helpers with us had been knocked out,” reported Leon in pain, crying and wimping while in the floor, all the Helpers and Sugarplum over him doing his best to hold him stable “only me on fighting condition. I ran against her, trying to do something, and she slashed me. Before I faked unconsciousness, I could see her taking Santa. This is no good: she wanted Santa alive, and I can’t see any good reason for that.”

“Take a rest, Leon. I was wrong about you… You did your best. Now recover yourself and don’t die.” said Bernhardt, while Melissa finished the first aid for Leon and put him under an anesthesia, helped by a sleep magic done by Sugarplum.

“I could not foresee this ruse!” gasped Jiminy “I don’t believe my Bellax Analytica failed!”

“It was not your fault, Jiminy.” assured Djanni “No one could foresee this: she put so much people and variables on this thing that only an Ultra, or even an Omega, Jiminy Cricket maybe would be powerful enought to foresse this. And even if you had saw this, it would be too late: I was just starting to recover from the explosion and I heard this attack. I tried to get here, although could not run thanks the pain, and I just saw the Ice Queen getting away: I couldn’t fly and try to shadow her, even more seeing Leon all mauled like a chicken.”

“It would be a bad idea, anyway.” said Bernhardt, while Melissa and Saleh put Leon on a stretcher to be sent to infirmary “Fighting the Ice Queen alone would be foolish, not to say suicidal: she’s strong and fierce and mean.”

“How are you now, Djanni?” asked Sugarplum

“Still hurts, still limping, and I couldn’t exert all my power, but otherwise okay. And you?” said Djanni

“This crazy kid negotiated his way out a fight with Krampus!” exasperated Bernhardt, with a meek smile. “I would never thought on this one: I would just blast him with my laser blunderbuss as much as I could.”

“This would be dead: he was strong enough to be a problem to everyone here, maybe except Djanni.” retorted Jiminy “He is really strong and dangerous. I never felt so much fear than when looking him, and I had fight Alsyf Alayat and had been under that Kwazani guy and under the Caliphate… Without my powers.”

“Dumont had a big crash, but he’s not too bad. We should avoid push him, though: his Demoiselle was damaged by The Grinch and is not 100% operational.” said Sugarplum “I’m okay, just pissed off enough to kick that hellish cold Madonna’s butt very, very hard.”

“I’ll be okay, just can’t engage big fights except on the direst necessity.” said Dumont, massaging his arms and legs “I’m sore all around, and this is a bore.”

“She left this behind!” shout Bernhardt, with a parchment, written with a flamboyant calligraphy on a silvery ink. “‘Santa is mine now! Surrender yourselves and become my thralls! There’s no hope for you! Winter is mine!’”

“She wants to do something really bad with Santa!” dawned Jiminy. “And killing will not be enough.”

“She wants… The power of the Santa Clause!” dawned Bernhardt “She wants to destroy the Santa Mantle and absorb its power!!”

Chapter 11

“If you think that all fights ‘for the world’s fate’ are public, like in the old TV shows, you’re wrong, just like that, sorry to disbelieve you. In fact, the real fights for world’s fate are rough and dirty, done in the backstage, without public disclosure or witnessesses. Laws, sausages, fights for world’s fate: you should never watch any of them being made.”

From Joshua “Jiminy Cricket” McCarthy’s memoirs

Morale was really low at Christmas Village that time: Santa was kidnapped by the Ice Queen, Djanni and Dumont were hurt enough to be not either 75%, even more 100%, Leon was on another surgery, Bernhardt was pushing himself, trying to make people finish the first response on all the chaos, and Jiminy and the others were trying to trace a plan, counting with Bernhardt, Metsätäja and all available Helpers.

“Okay… What we know about Ice Queen?” asked Jiminy

“One: she’s a bitch.” spat Sugarplum

“Language, miss.” retorted Bernhardt “Here is a Christmas symbol for good children and good behavior, not a place for pottymouths.”

Jiminy almost did one of the childish giggle he does time after time, but he looked and saw that Sugarplum would turn him into a mouse if he tried.

“Okay, and…“ stayed Jiminy

“Technically, she’s a Christmas Spirit with some Merlin on it. B-Class, almost A-Class, on both. She’s as a whole an Ultra, almost Omega.” said Metsätäja, that was cleaning his sword.

“I found some Intel into TA Future Files.” said Blue Fairy, that was now under a Santa Helper suit, holding a clipboard, looking everywhere, “downloaded” in the Snowball Melissa gave them. She gave some taps in the clipboard and a small holographic screen shown over the Snowball.

“Her real name is Agnetha Förkylning, 25 and, sorry about this Bernhardt, Sugarplum is right: she is, was and will ever be a bitch. She used his position as heiress of one of Sweden richest families to bully everyone around her. It was when some girls from her college thought she needed some ‘humility lesson’ during her debutante ball, and contracted some thugs to do the dirty job. Things had fast gone south and they killed five people including Agnetha’s parents, when they took and raped her while revealing all the plan, and this was what triggered her breakthrough. Those guys became her first Cold Hearted… Ugh! It was really gross, graphic, and totally R-rated.” she shunned.

“So, she was a victim that become the oppressor.” assured Bernhardt “Nothing new in the sun.”

“But there’s more: she took the girls, killed their parents in very gruesome and graphic ways in front of them, before turn each of them into Cold Hearted. While running from authorities, she came to Lapland and found an Ice Circlet that turned her into the Ice Queen, beautiful beyond human comprehension and unforgiving like Lapland’s blizzards. The only thing between her and world domination was Santa, as a Spirit of Cheerfulness and Hope even under a so unforgiving weather like Lapland that was anathema for her, his Ho! Ho! Ho! a challenge she could not stand for.”

“And so, she created the Night Blizzards as meat-shield for her plans.” stated Bernhardt “Very clever… Callous, inhuman, but clever…“

“If what you’ve said is truth, Bernhardt,” started Sugarplum “he’s alive, but will not be for too long. Tomorrow is December 21st, Yule, Winter Solstice. If she wants to do something, she’ll need to do it till them. Otherwise, the magic will not work, as far I can see.”

“There’s not too much to do, so.” stated Jiminy “We need to go and invade Ice Queen Castle and rescue Santa. And, to be fair, we should do it literally kicking her door.”

“This is crazy!” exasperated Bernhardt “Go and invade Ice Queen Castle going front is full retard.”

“And this is why this is the plan with better chances of success.” talked Dumont, nonchalantly. “She’s haughty and mighty, she need to be. On her mind she’s a survivor, like almost every breakthrough. From the rape to now she saw herself as a tragic heroine and as the predestined queen of the world. And, as she has no empathy, she only understand power as a feature of those like herself. She can’t see others being bold enough to try this…“

“If we siege her, perhaps we can find a way to invade the Castle without going front…“ said Djanni hopefully.

“I don’t think so… She’s paranoid.” stated Jiminy “The only advantage we have now is that, whatever she wants to do with Santa, she’ll be hands full.”

“So…“ concluded Scheherazade “If we want to have a chance, we need to strike her front and we need to strike now!”

Everyone looked to Bernhardt.

“This is crazy, but you’re right: there’s nothing else we can do, except wait her do whatever she wants to take Santa’s Mantle and undo the Santa Clause, even forever. And I could say I can’t and don’t want to imagine a world without Santa and with that crazy bitch overpowered…“ Bernhardt blurted

“He’s a pottymouth!” said with a sing-song voice Blue Fairy, which made Bernhardt go beet red and this made everyone laugh… Which made the mood go a little less blue than was.

“I have some conditions, though:” demanded Bernhardt “First, all of you will go armed and armored, NO EXCEPTIONS! We’ll provide some weapons for you if needed. Second, if things get really dangerous, you get back ASAP. Third, even if things go risky for Santa, you’ll not take unnecessary risks. Am I clear?”

“Right!” said everyone, and Bernhardt gave a smile.

“Now… If she wanted to see what is Nice guys fighting for real, we’ll show her. And sometimes God punishes us by giving us exactly what we wish for.” he finished off, while everyone got to the Armory.

Jiminy double checked his weapons: he had now a new Jiminy Cane, in red brass, the green Jiminy Cricket head with a taser and a laser beam, that Dumont made in just an hour with the Santa Helpers’ help. Inside, the same Fake Orichalcum blade. He had also a pure silver made rapier, on a green and red sheath. Two pistols on holsters on his waist and two new Tesla Arc Gloves on his hands.

“Need to say… I don’t like being weaponized.” stated Jiminy

“Neither us.” said Bernhardt “But the Ice Queen is bat-shit crazy: if she can, she’ll kill you without giving a damn.”

“It’s for your protection, Jiminy.” stated Dumont. “We are on a situation where we don’t have full power. Me and Djanni are into a sub-optimal condition, Sugarplum will need to deal with bad magics, Marjanah and Scheherazade will be our support with you. In fact,” emphasized Dumont “you’ll be our field leader.”

“WHAT?!” blurted Jiminy

“We can’t protect you anymore, Jiminy. This is the time to grow. Not grow up: Peter Pan is right and grow up is too much overrated. But to grow in confidence: your powers are really, really useful when you are in your best mind. You analysis capability always give us an edge no one could take out when you’re on your best shot. However, you’re a kid no more, and today will be one of the worst missions we even had. We are a reduced team, almost without big hitters and ranged attackers, as both Djanni and me are hurt. You’ll be even more important, even more to say us when retreat on a big Charlie Foxtrot.” looked Dumont into Jiminy eyes while saying

“Okay… But…“ was saying Jiminy meekily

“No but’s, short stuff.” retorted Sugarplum “You’re able: heck, even without your powers you rescued thirteen girls, including Lahab and Scheherazade from freaking Caliphate and took a Mi-38 heli as war spoil for us. You need to understand: you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

“So, am I a Pooh bear?” said Jiminy meekly.

“Well… In fact, you still look cute as a button.” she giggled “But we’ll trust you’ll do your best shot. And you’ll trust us to do what you need us to do. And we’ll rescue Santa and kick that spoiled woman butt very very hard. Right?”

“Right!” assured Jiminy, putting his Top Hat and his Mask.

“So, let’s go.” said Dumont, when they started to get to Ice Queen Castle.

As Djanni wasn’t 100%, neither him or Jiminy was flying, but mounted on reindeers, and Jiminy could see Bernhardt and Metsätäja at his sides.

“We’ll cover you!” said Bernhardt on his Earbug. “On Christmas Village Dispatch is Charlie, our best strategist. Our mission is to throw ourselves into a clash fight against the Cold Hearted to open a way for you. Your mission is to get into Ice Queen’s Castle and rescue Santa. Any other engagement is secondary and should be avoided.”

“Jiminy,” talked Metsätäja “you and your team need to advance, no matter what. We’ll work to open the way. Then, we’ll do our best to avoid any tango outside to get inside after you. Inside, however, you’ll be at your own.”

“Jiminy, Soldaire here.” he heard the slightly Japanese accented English from Soldaire “This is a big issue, and I’m sorry you are on your own there: it would not have time, ways or team to send there. All I can say is good luck and remember…“

“Super-Aide pour les Super-Besoins… Super-Help for Super-Needs.” said Jiminy “And I can’t see a more super-need than this one: if Santa falls… I can’t and I want not to imagine.”

“So, focus on your mission and go!” commanded Soldaire, with his trained Japanese officer voice.

“Ryoukai! Roger that! Out!” confirmed Jiminy, closing the external comms.

“Now, Jiminy, anything you can say by now?” asked Sugarplum

“Sugarplum, go Tink and try to avoid the attacks: don’t attack, but take as much images so Blue Fairy can work a map or at least some draft of blueprint. Dumont, you and Djanni go and open way the best you can. Scheherazade can help you. If you can help Sugarplum or Dumont on Astral Plane, Marjanah, go for it, but avoid risks: the Ice Queen is clever and have some Astral traps and other nasty things. Go safe and, if there’s dangers, get back.” commanded Jiminy

“Roger!” they all confirmed, when they started to see the Cold Hearted.

“And remember to avoid their blades: they are cursed with that Cold Heart curse, and you saw what they did with Djanni.”

“Okay! Let’s go!” said them.

Djanni was now ready and started to chop Cold Hearted after Cold Hearted, exploding their frozen hearts into its last heartbeats. They were on a very difficult combat, as the reindeer was uneasy with the undead faint of necrosis.

“Go forward as fast you can!” shouted Metsätäja “Reindeers are perceptive and fierce when put against the undead or unnatural. You need to pass by the Cold Hearted and cross the Ice Gate before that go wild!”

“Menköön! Tallokoon! Menköön!” said Jiminy, commanding his reindeer to run fast against the Cold Hearted. The reindeer started to ram the Cold Hearted, his antlers blasting the heart-shaped ice pendants.

They ran and ran for some minutes, Cold Hearted after Cold Hearted being hit, until they could see something.

“Look, in the Northern Lights!” said Jiminy, looking the Northern Lights turning blood red

“This is haram!” screamed Scheherazade “It’s like someone was opening Jahannam’s gates!”

“Indeed, it’s really evil Sikr!” spoke Marjanah in Astral Space, his body limped over one of the reindeers. “She’s doing something with Santa, I can feel it!”

“It’s like she’s trying to corrupt Santa’s Clause!” shouted Sugarplum “We have not too much time!”

“Let’s go!” commanded Jiminy, when they crossed the Ice Gate, just some moments before the Cold Hearted could finish to close the gate. Jiminy got away the reindeer and then they run.

Chapter 12

“There’s all kind of powers in the new world: there are those who are with Ummah, doing what they can under halal. And there are those that don’t excuse yourselves on being haram. Fortunately, Allah the Most High (SWT) allow us to see under the disguises of evil for those who are into haram: if you think that there’s a kind of lives that deserve more than others, you’re under haram.”

Altayr Bashir Tahan, “Musings on the Holy Q’uran and the Event, from a Breakthrough Muslim”

“Sugarplum… Which route?” asked Jiminy

“Straight… I can’t go too much forward!” said Sugarplum, fearfully.

“Me too!” talked Marjanah “This is a big haram, I can feel it!”

“Marjanah, get out the Astral Plane. Help in the Defense: you, Sugarplum, Scheherazade, you stay here.” said Jiminy “Dumont, you and Djanni with me.”

“Roger!” said everyone

“Good luck!” cheered Sugarplum

“Fee amaan Allah! May Allah protects you!” blessed Marjanah, when they got forward.

“Are you really afraid of her, Sugarplum?” asked Marjanah

“To be honest, yes: she’s weaker as Merlin them me, but his power as a whole is bigger than mine!” said Sugarplum

“And we should not help them?” asked Scheherazade

“To be fair, their powers are so different that they can bring the fight to an unexpected arena for the Ice Queen… At least I hope so. Anyway, there’s Cold Hearted coming. Let us kick some asses!”

“Subhaan Allah.” said the sisters, before they started the fight.

“Alright, Jiminy.” talked Dumont “Now, what you can foresee?”

“She has no Cold Hearted there: she believes that anyone that would try to invade would not get kicking the front door.” stated Jiminy, looking forward via Bellax Analytica

“Good…“ spat Djanni “We’ll fight and defeat her soundly.”

“Now, forward! Whatever she’s doing, she’s doing at the Castle’s main room!” shouted Jiminy. “And it’s a real dark magic!”

“Sugarplum would be useful here.” stated Djanni

“Not exactly: Sugarplum’s powers are on the same arena. And looks like the Christmas Spirit side reinforces the Merlin side: she as a whole is qualified as Ultra. Now, we need to bring the fight for another arena.”

“Right: we’ll play sente, she’ll play gote.” said Djanni, remembering a time where Jiminy said this

“But this time, she’s on sente. We need to take sente back.” concluded Jiminy, when they arrived into a big room, so white that almost blinded Jiminy.

And blinded Djanni.

“Jiminy, I’m blind!” screamed Djanni

“Me too!” confirmed Dumont

“Shucks! Whiteout!” cursed Jiminy, while his eyes was adapting for the whiteness overload. “Try to take cover!”

They split to find places to cover, when they felt some rays getting out trying to hit them. Jiminy heard some yelps.

“Dumont, Djanni, how are you?” asked Jiminy

“I was hit!” shouted Djanni “My left arm and leg are now frozen!”

“Me too!” talked Dumont “Not so bad, but my right hand is frozen. I can’t operate Demoiselle and use nothing at all by now!”

“Okay…“ said Jiminy, trying not to panic “Hold your station now: I’ll engage her and try to gain time until you recover!”

“She’ll kill you!” shouted Djanni

“If we do nothing now, she’ll kill Santa and take his Mantle and this would be really, really bad!” stated Jiminy, pushing his blades. “Try to recover fast… I’ll gain time.”

“Good luck, Jiminy. May the Force be with you.” blessed Dumont.

Jiminy counted until three and opened his eyes. Now he could see the wall in front the pillar where he took cover. Everything was white, but not calmly white like on a hospital, but painfully white, as white as white can be, almost hurting with the light that it shone by itself.

“Okay… Blue Fairy…“ thought Jiminy

“This will be difficult.” stated Blue Fairy, looking like a Christmassy version of a Macross strategist.

“I know… I don’t think I can do the job… So, I want you to record and send this all for Soldaire, Dumont, Sugarplum, Bernhardt and for Chicago Sentinels. If need too, send also for the Kahle Conspiracy, I think they know about Santa. To be fair, send to everyone you can and believe is a good idea. And a rule: if I’m to die, break the Quantum Link between us and go for Shelly/Shell to try find someone else.”

“No way I would do this, you spoiled brat!” pouted Blue Fairy “One: it’s impossible. Some of my processing, and not only for interfacing and presentation, are done on your brain. A very small part, for sure, but enough to make sure that I could not stay stable, and so ‘live’, without it. And second: we are partners in crime! Don’t ask me to split from you. The time I was into Aleph-One protocol was the worst I had, and I don’t want that happen again!”

“Okay… But all the rest, do as much as you can.” thought Jiminy, somehow happily “Do not intervene, unless I’m under life risk: I’ll need to use Bellax Analytica almost 100% of time and I can’t lose concentration.”

“Get out, your pesky flies.” spat The Ice Queen, with a pert, arrogant tone “You are in MY dominion, and this is NOT YOUR FIGHT! Get out now, and maybe I’ll be generous and let you live. Stay, and you die.”

“I heard enough!” thought Jiminy.

Jiminy got out, but his two unsheathed blades crossed over his chest, into an obvious salute stance, being ready for combat. The Ice Queen blasted a shot of white energy against him, that he parried and dispersed with the darker blade, the one made on Fake Orichalcum.

“To be fair, this is MY FIGHT too. I’m Jiminy Cricket, from Herós Sans Frontières. Our motto: Super-aide pour les Super-Besoins, super-help for super-needs. And I can’t see no one in bigger need than Santa now.” he said, when he saw the man in the white table, as painful white as everything else.

Santa was totally naked over a marble white table, shackled on it. His Santa Suit was in torns, thrown everywhere. He was cut in his chest. But the worst is that Jiminy could see that Santa was not looking like an old, but full of energy gramps. He looked sullen and emaciated, his belly without the jiggling filling, but looking like an empty flesh sac. This was signal of only one thing…

Santa was dying.

“Too late, brat. I’ll be the only Sire in the Winter. I’ll be the only power. No more Ho! Ho! Ho!s. Winter will be unforgiving and destructive and dark, and those who not revel on my power will be killed or become my Cold Hearted servants, like that other brat almost became.” gloated The Ice Queen, shoting again the white energies against Jiminy, that used his blades and his Savate and Fencing and Jeet-Kune Do training to avoid the attacks.

“I know about you, Agnetha… And I can’t say how much you had suffered. But I can say you are not different from those who almost killed me, that saw himself above others. You became a Queen bereft of kindness and happiness. I could had been someone like you: I could had wanted to make that bullies burn in the alley. I still remember some dark things that tried to coil into my head, to convince me to kill them under fire, under gravity, under thunder. But I just wanted them to leave me alone and let me live in peace.” said Jiminy “You, however, wanted to be someone to be feared. I can’t say I’m not sorry, I would be a liar to say this way, but I need to say that you’re not above all kids I saw at Roque Santeiro, ORSL 1, Hagia Sophia, and even the little Sally I helped to birth at Newark. So… I have no choice but stop you.” lamented Jiminy, presenting both blades in salute.

The Ice Queen cackled like a crazy:

“You! A kid! A freaking kid! Do you know what I just made with Santa? I’m taking powers that should be mine! And I can see through you… You’re meek. Weak! You was kicked almost to death because you was weak, and you almost was killed by your bullies other two times because you still think on good and bad. Smell the coffee, brat: might MEANS right.” she spat, sending two more cold energy bolts against Jiminy.

One of the bolts was parried, but the other cutted Jiminy’s mask, hitting his cheek, making him yelp, a cold feeling on it, that was replaced by the warm blood that got through a paper wound. His mask, cut in the binds, fell in the ground, and then Jiminy risen his face.

“Be water my friend. En garde!” shouted Jiminy, running against The Ice Queen.

She just made a small measure and turned into a kind of snowy mist, thinking she avoided Jiminy’s attack.

And she did… But just the first one.

Jiminy looked upon with his Bellax Analytica and he stayed on the move, spinning his body on a spinning attack with both blades. The one with the Fake Orichalcum blade failed, but the Silver one had catch her at her cheek when she solidified herself again. She reacted trying to punch Jiminy, that used the momentum to evade the attack.

“You foolish brat!” said The Ice Queen “Do you think that know me? Do you think you know my pain? You know nothing, Jiminy Cricket. Nothing. I’ll kill you, and then Santa’s power will be mine! No more Santa! No more Christmas! Where he was when I was being raped? Where he was when my parents died? What do he know about my pain? You all know nothing!”

“You are right!” shouted Jiminy “I know nothing about you, except a thing or two we had obtained on your profile. But I can infere. You are a victim, I know. As I was too. But you made your choices, yours only. I will not say you could or should forget it, because I can’t say. But you can’t also say that I don’t know about pain: I had many of my bones broken by the bullies that tried to kill me. I got comatose by 6 months after that attack. I was almost killed by Alsyf Alayat. I was kidnapped at least three times, was shot and had lots of pain. Maybe not as painfully as you had, but you offend me and offend yourself saying I don’t know about pain!”

“Enough!” shouted her, using a kind of magic to push Jiminy away, making him hit hard the wall behind you.

“I’ll kill you, and I’ll kill Santa with a dagger full of a Nice kid blood! This will be so fortunate!” she gloated, running to Jiminy. She got and pierced Jiminy with the dagger, making him scream.

“JIMINY!” screamed Dumont and Djanni, still blind, hearing Jiminy’s scream, thinking he would be dead.

“It… Will… Not… Be… That… Easy!” shouted Jiminy, feeling the cold breath from Ice Queen, and pushing her away with a kick, running away. The dagger was craved into his bleeding left arm.

It was when Jiminy felt something, a heat getting into himself that was totally incompatible with where they are.

“NO! IT CAN’T BE! THIS SHOULD BE MINE! ONLY MINE!” despaired the Ice Queen, looking for Jiminy on an extreme fear.

While fighting with some Cold Hearted, Sugarplum, Marjanah and Scheherazade could feel something

“The tide is turning! The magic is getting somehow back! Is not like Santa, but looks like the Ice Queen is on trouble!” effused Sugarplum

“Lo! Allah is forgiving, merciful!” praised Scheherazade

“But how?” asked Marjanah

“I don’t know… But more than ever, we need to do our job!” said Sugarplum, now full on new energies to fight against the Cold Hearted

At the same time outside…

“The Northern Lights!” exclaimed Metsätäja, looking to the lights that were less red now “The wave is turning!”

“Stay in the fight, everyone!” boasted Bernhardt “Those guys are turning the wave back for us! We need to hold the fight! For Christmas!”

“For Christmas!” everyone boasted, holding the fight.

A kind of golden energy was getting from the torn Santa Suit to Jiminy. Jiminy could not see his own clothes changing for something more Helper-like, red and green all around, his Top Hat turning into a beautiful red elf bonnet. His nose had gone petite and snub, lots of freckles over his cheeks. His ears became pointed like a Santa Helper’s, his hair becoming more copper-like, his eyes going green as mistletoe.

But he could feel his power growing, into weird ways!

“Jiminy, I can’t say what’s happening… But you are into a surge of power! You’re going Ultra power… Even Omega!” gasped Blue Fairy.

“Stop, foolish kid! You can’t control all this power!” said The Ice Queen, in rage and despair.

For some reason, Jiminy just took his blades and touched them hilt to hilt. They fused and their blades became blunt, looking more like batons than swords, becoming a big staff. On each of them one word: NICE and NAUGHTY.

“Looks like Santa Clause has its ways to defend itself.” smiled Jiminy, spinning the big staff over his head, like he did before into some Jeet-Kune training.

“I’ll kill you, kid!” said the Ice Queen, his beauty growing big, but inhuman, like a so beautiful demon that was so horrible to see. She shot some bolts of energy, that Jiminy stopped using the staff, dispersing the energies aside.

“I’ll free Santa as soon I defeat you, Agnetha.” said Jiminy

“I! AM! THE! ICE! QUEEN!” she shouted, using again her power.

Sugarplum and the Cissé sisters Marjanah and Scheherazade came. They ran for Djanni and Dumont

“What’s happening here?” demanded her

“Can’t say!” exasperated Djanni “I’m blind thanks for that woman whiteout. I can say that something happened that is turning the tide, like Santa’s magics passing to someone else!”

“It’s Jiminy!” exclaimed Marjanah, looking for the battle there “The Santa Clause for some reason channeled on him, not on the Ice Queen!”

“But… Jiminy will die!” gasped Sugarplum “It’s too much power to be held for someone unprepared. Neither I… In fact, neither Ozma would be able to hold so much power! It’s almost Omega! He’ll burn like a candle!” she shouted.

“Jiminy, finish this bitch fast!” shouted Dumont

“I will!” agreed Jiminy, running to her, when she tried to blast a shot against Santa.

“NOT HIM!” he exclaimed, receiving the attack straight on his chest, being blasted against a wall

“JIMINY!!!” exclaimed everyone while the Ice Queen got nearby Jiminy, with the smile of a predator

“Now…“ she gloated, taking another dagger from her clothes “I kill you. I take those powers. I kill Santa. And Christmas and Winter are mine.” looking for Jiminy’s almost unconscious body.


When she got to stab his heart, Jiminy jumped away, kicking the dagger from her hand. He then took the other it and, throwing it to Sugarplum, shouted

“Free Santa! Take care on his wounds! I’ll join you as soon I drop this lady down.” said Jiminy, jumping nearby the Ice Queen and hitting her with the dark side. Jiminy Cane’s taser was still there, which made her being knocked back by the electricity induced recoil. Then he run and, using some techniques from Savate, hit her straight in the legs, sending her to the ground. After that, he pushed the staff to her throat.

“You would not kill me!” sneered the Ice Queen “If you are under the Santa Clause, you would never kill. Even the top Naughty people. Try this, and you’ll be put yourself on the Naughty list, and the Clause would kill you.”

“You’re right.” said Jiminy “But I can taser you out unconscious. To be fair, I think this is the best solution.” he finished, while touching the side of her head with the NICE side of the staff, sending the energy through her brain, inducing seizures until she got down.

It was when Santa looked for Jiminy, while Sugarplum treated some of the worst damages…

“Jiminy, stop now! You’ll burn like a candle if you stay with Santa’s Mantle….” exasperated Santa

“But… What can I do? My head is aching a lot!” whined Jiminy, now that the battle frenzy cooled down feeling the painful power on him

“Come to me! Hug me!” shouted Santa

Jiminy got, in pain. For some reason, his steps were difficult and painful.

“Jiminy, pretty please!” said Blue Fairy into his head, with a somewhat fainted “voice” “This power is too big to be held by you: it will burn your brain like a firefly! Go and free it back to Santa.”

“No!” said a voice “This is mine!”

The Ice Queen got and tried to held Jiminy. And Jiminy turn back and put his hand on Ice Queen throat

“Yeah! Try to kill me! The power will kill you first and I’ll take the Santa’s mantle!” she said, with a greedy, hungry voice.

“Jiminy, please! NO!” shouted in despair Blue Fairy, that was disappearing into his mind.

He could feel Ice Queen’s head going limp. He looked behind her and it was Djanni, that punched her back to unconsciousness.

“In the name of Allah, the Forgiving, the All-Mighty, the Merciful (SWT), Jiminy, go for Santa and free yourself from this burden, giving his powers back to him!” he said, smiling a little

Jiminy then run and hug Santa, to give him the Mantle back. While hugging Santa, he felt his belly filling again, his clothes reconstructing around him, as the energies from the Santa’s Mantle migrated from him to Santa, his rightful owner.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” laughed him, very heartly “Don’t give us this kind of scare again, Joshua. Only your heart allowed you to save yourself. The Santa Clause can be very unforgiving for those that wasn’t worthy of them.”

“I… I…“ said Jiminy, but he then snapped and cried. His team got for him, hugged him, trying to lift him over.

“Calm down, Jiminy. You did alright. You were just a little bit from failing, but you have Nice friends with you. You were and would never be ready to take this power. But you did it right, and now it’s time to get back Christmas Village and heal your wounds. And… Well, it’s December 21th. Maybe you’ll want to take a ride for home in some days.” said Santa, when they heard a rumbling noise.

“The castle!” shouted Scheherazade “It will fall down!”

“We should take the Ice Queen!” said Jiminy, running to her, when some icy pillars and chandeliers fell down blocking his way

“No, Jiminy… It’s too late. She’s beyond salvation.” said sadly Santa “Let her have a fast and peaceful death. It’s the biggest mercy we can exert to her now.”

“C’mon, Jiminy!” shouted Dumont “There’s no use for you to die with her!”

Jiminy run away, tears on his face.

They just had time to get out and jump before the Ice Queen Castle fell down.

“Is she… dead?” asked Metsätäja. They looked and saw that the Cold Hearted were falling down, now without the magics that made them undead. One or another still blinked his eyes and tried to do something, running away.

“Looks like: the Cold Hearted are no more…“ said Santa “But I don’t think it was the last time we heard about the Ice Queen. She, as me, is a Christmas Spirit, and she can reappear herself.”

“Well… By now… It’s over.” said Sugarplum

“Except…“ said Jiminy, that looked in the mirror-like ice debris from the Ice Queen Castle “How I will explain my parents I’m looking like a Santa Elf?”

They all giggled

“Hurry up, everyone!” said Santa “The Great Day is nigh, and this mess made us got behind the schedule, even more that we’ll need to repair Christmas Village and lots of toys. We have no second to lose.”

“We’ll help you!” said Jiminy and his teammates.

“You already did a lot…“ was retorting Santa

“…but without us, you’ll not be able to rebuild all the toys.” said Jiminy “You’re certainly some hands short, and we can help a lot, if you allow us.”

“Alright… Alright…“ smiled Santa. “Let’s go: there’s no second to lose. Bernhardt, take all the helpers in good shape and schedule them for the hard work. Those that are not so able, put on lighter work: food, rebuilding, you name it. Your choice.”

“Roger!” said Bernhardt, when they mounted their reindeers and got back for the Christmas Village, while the Castle melted back into the snow, like a nightmare that had gone away.

Chapter 13 - Epilogue

“Our mission at [REDACTED] showed me how important was our mission as capes at Herós Sans Frontières: when someone like [REDACTED] needs help, and the stakes are so high, you can’t just give your back for it. You need to make a choice, take a stance. And this is why I’ll always be a Herós Sans Frontières cape, as far I can.”

From Jiminy Cricket’s Journal

It was the end of Santa’s Voyage around the world. He just touched back Christmas Village with his flying sleigh and reindeers. All the Village was there to greet back the Boss, the Big Guy. Even Bernhardt had a smile now, with Leon at his side, using lots of bandage on his body, recovering from the grueviling attack he suffered from the White Queen. He just pulled the reins back and made the reindeers stop.

“Woah!” he said, passing the reins for a Helper that would usher the reindeers back their stables “Alright, my friends. Another good voyage. Take your time and rest for next year.”

“Any problem, Santa?” asked Bernhardt

“None… Well, maybe… Who had the idea to send a skunk for that bully at Wisconsin?” asked him

“It was me.” said Jiminy, still recovering from the power oversurge he had after receiving Santa’s Mantle: he still had the pert nose and freckled cheeks, but his pointed ears receded a little, the points not too visible as the Santa Helpers’.

“That was funny, but next time close the cage correctly: it almost got out and it would be a bad thing if all the gifts got stinky after a smelly skunk sprays them.” he retorted Jiminy, smiling

“Right.” said Jiminy, when they all got nearby their reindeers

“Are you sure you don’t want a ride back? I can left you at ORSL 1 with the blink of an eye.” said Santa

“Yeah… We want to get back the common way. And we already have lots of gifts, including the blueprints for your Vernetech.” said Dumont. “We don’t want to be over-demanding.”

“Never you would be: without you, Christmas would be ruined. You are almost Santa Helpers by yourselves, as you’re as caring for others as Santa Helpers.” answered Santa “You’ll be always welcomed at Christmas Village, as long you stay in the Nice list. If you need anything that Christmas Village can help, you just ask.”

“Hope we don’t need something that big.” said Djanni “If we think this way… If neither Christmas Village can help, it would be a big need.”

“But it is all about what we are, right?” responded Sugarplum “Super-aide pour les super-Bedouin, super-help for the super needs…“

“Right.” agreed both Scheherazade and Marjanah.

“Now… What you’ll do?” asked Santa

“Get back Rovaniemi, and from there go for Malta. And from there, ORSL 1, our home.” answered Dumont

“The One bless you, no matter how you name it.” said Santa.

“Hey, everyone. We are getting late: I don’t want to be in the wilderness during night. And we are into a tight schedule.” retorted Metsätäja “Sorry, Santa, but you know how dangerous Arctic can be during night. Even without the Night Blizzards.”

“Right. And about the Christmas Compass, I’ll send it back to NORAD Santa Tracking. Just remember to send the After-Action Report for them. And remember: this is classified.” said Santa

“Right!” they replied, mounting their reindeers, while they were being cheered by the Santa Helpers, and they passed through the Christmas Village gate.

“Hope this wasn’t a dream.” said dreamy Marjanah.

“It wasn’t. Pity we’ll can’t say about this for everyone else.” replied Jiminy

“You can… But for them, this will be a fantasy.” stated Metsätäja.

“Do you think that the Ice Queen survived?” asked Djanni

“I don’t know… And, to be hoenst, now is not a concern.” assured Dumont, while they got into the road, now without blizzards, under the Northern Lights back to Rovaniemi.

And to their lives…

“Hey, sir, we found this girl in the water…“ said the man in the whale hunter boat in the Arctic Sea

“It’s a miracle she is still alive, into a so cold water.” replied the captain, looking for the beautiful unconscious girl, while the men was wrapping her into a thermal blanket “Looks like she was released from a kind of curse, to be fair. Her face is beautiful, but somehow sad.”

“She’s waking up!” said the sailor.

The girl opened her eyes: they were blue like ice pendants.

“Where am I?” whispered the girl.

“You fell somehow in the Arctic Sea… How that happened?” said the sailor

“I can’t say… I don’t remember what happened…“ said the girl

“Anyway. This ship is the norra drottningen, the North Queen. I’m Nils, the Quartermaster. Our captain is Durval. And you?”

“My name is… Agnetha…“ said the girl

“Look like our Sleeping Beauty has a name. Now… We are locked here during the Winter, but we have lots of supplies and we can have you with us for a while. Where you want to go after?” said Nils the Quartermaster

“I believe I want to go somewhere… Warmer… Any chance to leave me at Gibraltar or somewhere like this? I don’t want winter for a time, for sure.” said Agnetha, the former Ice Queen.

“No problem. As soon we can get out, we’ll send you there. And need to say: you have a nice smile.” said him

“Thank you…“ she said, looking for her face in a mirror. “You’re right: I can’t remember the last time I had this kind of smile… A kind one…“

“Well, let’s go. Think the soup is ready.” said Nils

Agnetha looked to the Northern Lights and remembered everything, including her time as the Ice Queen. She then gave the back to the Northern Lights, trying to think on a new life.

The End… And a new Beginning…

Saiba Mais (30291 palavras...)

Jiminy Cricket - Intro


“Welcome to Zurich. The weather is cool, 23 Celsius Degrees. Please put your seats at upright position. We’ll landing in half an hour.” - said the airplane sound system, while the little kid was waking up, looking all around. He was into a first-class seat, going for a really new life.

In his mind, he could see the the ghost image of a man getting near him and huffing his messy, strawberry blonde hair. Just some seconds after, he saw the same man getting near him in real life in real life.

“How are you, son?” said the man, his father, while huffing his hair. “Think you had seen me coming.”

“Yup.” says the kid, using his Pinocchio pajamas.

“How are you dealing with this, Joshua? On this flight… All the things you could see..” said the man.

“I’m okay, Daddy.”, said Joshua, the kid “There’s so much people here that I can’t preview too much their moves. Just some fractions of a second.”

“I’m just trying to be a good dad. It’s not so easy to do this when your son’s a Breakthrough, a Hero.” says Daddy

Until last year, Joshua McCarthy was a common kid, very kind and well behaved, that loved heroes, like Atlas, Ajax, Blackstone, Astra and others that came since The Event.

He was a very smart kid that loved books and stories and Disney.

It was when…

He was going back home walking, as he lost the school bus… He avoided to walk back because the bullies that always picked him, he being small and weak, so an easy target. He didn’t understand why they didn’t liked him, as he was just a kid that just wanted to learn, to be a better person and give a good future for his parents.

It was when he was to cross an street he saw just the worst bully in the classroom, Kyle. He was just the other side of the street, with hawk-like eyes, looking for a prey.

He knew there was no need to try talking with him: he was know as a rotten kid, even by some of the teachers.

He did the only wise thing he could do.

He ran.

He tried his best to run back to your home, but he was the smallest and meekest kid in his classroom.

And he had no friends, like Kyle had.

When he turned a corner, one of the other kids of Kyle’s gang catched him and sent him to the ground, into a empty alley.

“You should not made me run, shrimp!”, said Kyle, with a very bad smile in his face.

“Leave me alone, Kyle! Please!” said Joshua.

“‘Leave me alone, Kyle! Please!’“ said Kyle, mockingly “Look for this momma boy!” and he started the punches, followed by the others

Joshua tried his best to protect himself, looking for some help, but no one passed nearby the alley.

As far he knew, he was as good as dead if counting with someone passing by.

He was feeling that the beating was going even harder that time: he could hear one of his ribcage bones crack. After this, his left arms was crushed by a stomp from one of the Kyle’s friends…

Curiously, he could feel he was seeing the attacks just before they were done. But he felt himself so desperately fragile… He could even see possible escape routes, but he could not run, breathing too much difficult because of the broken ribs and legs and other bones…

“Kyle… It’s enough!” he heard one of the other kids saying… Worried “You’ll kill him!”

“Yeah? So sorry… In this world, it’s kill or be killed! Even a Cape would say that!” said Kyle, gleeful on sadism.

That made something snapped in Joshua mind… He, at least for a moment, could not feel pain. And he screamed, full of terror and something else he could not understand:


And, as a miracle, they stopped their attack.

But it was not this… He could see a blue-ish like mirage thing, with them running away, and a woman passing… And some places he could run. But it wasn’t they what he was seeing.

He could see the future.

He said: “Pretty please, go away! Let me go home, go away and do this thing no more! Against no one!”, he stressed on the last and he felt that his voice had a kind of authorative tone that they could not negate. They tried to punch him again, but they ran away, more scared than him… Like he was the one that bullied and walloped him. Even he being the one so badly hurt, walloped for no better reason then because.

He limped away from the alley, with difficult, lots of broken bones and the pain getting back to him, even more painfully, when the woman he saw was getting near, a Walmart bag in his hand.

“Oh Dear! My god, kid! What happened?” said the woman worried, looking Joshua’s wounds

“Please… Home… Hurt… too… Much…“ wimped Joshua, painfully, breathing being very difficult. “Want… Dad… Mom…“

“No ambulance? You need to go for a hospital!” worried the woman, carrying Joshua cautiosly on her lap

“No… First… Home… Ambulance… Later…“ he stressed

She did her best to put him into her Honda CR-V and hear his directions, which Joshua gave with a growing pain on his voice… Until he arrived at home.

“Joshua dear!” said his mother.

“Mom… That bad kids… Kyle… Did this… I talked… He stopped… Talked again… He ran away…“ said Joshua, his father holding him over his arms, before he blacked out into a coma.

“It was not easy for us to be with a comatose son. They found Kyle and the other kids and the police discovered they almost killed you. They were send to the Juvenile Reformatory.” said his Dad.

“I know… Then you heard from that woman what I talked to her about what happened to me.” said Joshua.

“Yup… It was when we discovered you had gone through Breakthrough, and then you were discovered by some capes based on what happened with you. And it was that, two days after you woke up, that Diana woman came to you.”

Joshua was a little better, although his arms were still into stretches. His mother was helping him to eat some beef casserole with carrot and peas, when someone knocked the door… With a little too much strength, by the powerful knocks:

“Excuse me… I think you are Mrs. McCarthy.” said the woman while entering. She was black, tall, strong and beautiful, dressed into fatigues, a dog tag over her neck.

“Yes… And you…“ said Mrs. McCarthy

“My name is Diana Souza, capename Diana.” said the woman.

“Are you a hero?” said Joshua.

“We could call this way. I’m a cape, a breakthrough.” said Diana “To be exact, according by Barlow classification, I’m an A-Class Ajax-Type Breakthrough.”

“So, superstrong and super-resistant.” said Mrs. McCarthy “I worked with insurance until some years, and in my work I had to read the Barlow’s.”

“Barlow’s?”, asked Joshua

“Barlow’s Guide to Superhumans.” said Diana “A book that qualifies the powers and level of prowess for almost all the main types of Breakthroughs and give basic information about the most famous ones. But enough about me… You’re the kid that froze a group of bullies and made them go away just using the voice, right?”

“How do you know about this, miss?” said Mrs. McCarthy “If you’re one of those goddamn paparazzi…”

It was when Diana took a badge from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and showed it discreetly for Mrs. McCarthy.

“Forgot to finish my presentation. I work for UNHCR, and also for Heròs Sans Frontiére, the Heroes Without Borders. This was how we discovered about your son. And I think you already heard about us.” said Diana

Joshua nodded “Read about you… You helped the people that lost their homes after Eretz Israel was founded, after the Caliphate War”

“And even more things, but I think you know enough about us to understand what I’m here for.” said Diana

“No way!” said Mrs. McCarthy “He’s just a kid, not a soldier! Even he had undergone a Breakthrough, he is just a kid, he doesn’t need to Wear the Cape! He was just getting back from school and all taht happened! He didn’t asked for this and no way we could give him to a soldier to put him into some war-stricken place and treat him as cannon fodder!”

“You’re right on be defensive on him. As his mother, I really respect this on you, believe me. And your’re also right. I’m a soldier, that’s a fact. In fact, my breakthrough was triggered when I stepped into a Landmine in Angola, serving for Brazilian Peace Forces for UN, only my new Atlas fueled Strength and resilience helping me on avoinding become mincemeat. But Heròs sans Frontiére, that is the organization for what I work besides UNHCR, is not a military force and is not just made of Ajaxes: we are mainly support for Doctors Without Borders. We are Breakthroughs that offer support and help in catastrophe zones with all kind of needs, so we need all kind of powers on rosters. Normally we don’t take on weapons, although the basic training have some personal defense techniques and weapons as demanded. We work on humanitary missions with UNHCR, UNESCO, UNICEF and other UN Agencies, Doctors Without Borders and lots of other humanitary NGOs, using our Breakthrough powers, avoiding fight. Believe me, after an earthquake, having some capes can be very useful.”

“All right.” said Mrs. McCarthy “Let us say that I’m okay with Heròs sans Frontiére, and I’m not saying I’m totally okay with this yet. I think you’re here to recruit our son to your organization. For which reason?”

“First of all, let us make something clear, I’m just asking for. This is not compulsory. We need all help we can call upon, but we are not for forcing people on do things. If you say ‘no’, Mrs. McCarthy, it will be ‘no’, no strings attached. We take Joshua’s freedom as Breakthrough and your’s as parents very seriously. But we, like almost everyone else, are always looking for breakthroughs to improve our rosters. And your son power could be really useful for us. And for everyone else. Believe me, while we are talking, there’s people at Quantico and Langley and Fort Meade looking for your son’s powers, with less scruples, with bigger legal powers and for more war-focused uses than us. I think you understand what we are talking about, Mrs. McCarthy.”

“FBI, CIA and NSA” said Joshua

Mrs. McCarthy and Diana looked to Joshua, surprised.

“What? Had I said something wrong?” said Joshua

“No…“ said Mrs. McCarthy “But how you know about this?”

“Dunno.” said Joshua, “Just… Know… Maybe heard or read somewhere I never remembered until now.”

Diana looked to Joshua.

“Mrs. Selena McCarthy,” said Diana, turning back to her, and taking a business card from a pocket in her fatigues “call me if you want to talk more about Joshua. I can say for you: Heròs Sans Frontiéres’s crew are trained in all kind of things, and we can provide for Joshua the best education and training you can imagine, so he can use his powers not only efficiently, but wisely. Looks like he has an incredible power set by what I’ve saw, from the only recently catalogued Mastermind-Type, that can be very useful in panic-stricken situations. He could help us in more than a way, on non-violent riot control and so. But, as I’ve said, I’ll left the decision for yourselves. I’ll be glad if you, at least, go for our HQ at New York for a visit and maybe a better talk. Anyway, thanks for your time.” finished Diana while getting out the hospital room.

“It was a difficult talk, after that.” said Joshua

“I thought that you could have a use for the HWB’s overseas education, but your mom, as the pacifist she always was, was almost totally against this. We were surprised when you said you had made your choice.”

“Mom, Dad… I really want to Wear the Cape.” said Joshua, shocking his parents.

“WHAT?! But… Josh…“ said Mrs. McCarthy

“Mom… I don’t know why I had gone through the breakthrough and not died… I don’t know how powerful I am… But… You always said me God gave us free will to do the good for everyone. And… I think that, if I can help and save people with my powers, it almost made it worthy being beaten almost to the death by Kyle…“ said Joshua

Mr. and Mrs. McCarthy looked for his kid with a mix of worry and happiness.

“Josh… I don’t know what happened while you’re under that coma… But you had turned wise beyond your age. We are glad…“ said Mr. McCarthy “For me, I think you can join the HWB.”

“What? But… Michael…“ said Mrs. McCarthy

“Selena… I think this will be the better way to put his powers. A better use than the Army or CIA could do for them. You felt his power just yesterday, when he used it on you to get an extra petit suisse cheese. Think on Joshua, with his powers and the military indoctrination. Your father was in Vietnam, you Uncle in Korea, your grandfather in the D-Day. You know how they are, what they saw… Think on Joshua with the military doctrination. He could be used as a weapon, and would be as disposable as any Weapon” said Mr. McCarthy.

Mrs. McCarthy looked for Joshua and for his husband, and back for Joshua…

“Your father is right, Joshua. But I think you understand this will not be like the Cub Scouts: there will be people that you’ll find with the HWB that will want to kill you for sure, like that Seif-al-Din nut and their followers. You’ll swear me, for all that is Sacred, that you’ll do your best to use your powers for doing good and save people, not for kill people. You’ll be better than those bullies, either Kyle and Seif-al-Din.” said Mrs. McCarthy, a little happiness tear in her eye and hands over Joshua’s shoulder, looking into his green eyes.

“I’ll do it mom! Scout’s Honor!” said Joshua, that was really a Cub Scout, doing the Scout’s Salute.

“It’ll not be easy for us to do this…“ says Mr. McCarthy

“I know… But I think I could not left this gift behind or use it for things like the Army.” said Joshua. “I’ll do my best to use the powers now I know I have, either the Bellax Analytica, the Tactical Analysis, and the Pretty Please to help people. I can use the Bellax Analytica to understand the panic-stricken situations and the Pretty Please to make people goes calmer.”

“Looks like that Diana woman was right: you have a great gift. But I know better that, more than your powers, you have a great heart, in the right place. We are proud about you, son.” said Mr. McCarthy, while getting throught the Zurich’s customs. While Mr. McCarthy showed his US Passport, Joshua presented a brand-new blue UN Lassez-Passer, the UN Passport, with the expressed signed consent for overseas travels. The Customs agents looked weirdly for the kid with a Peter Pan T-Shirt and so presenting the UN Passport, but they confirmed it as a fair and square thing.

After passing the Customs, there was a girl, somewhat 19, looking for them, using what looked like a ballet jacket and thighs… People could think she was a ballerina, wasn’t for the HWB badge on her jacket.

“Mr. Michael McCarthy, Joshua… Think Diana talked about me, but I’ll present myself. I’m Eileen MacRae, capename Sugarplum. I’ll be Joshua legal guardian, with Seiji Shirou, capename Soldaire, here in HWB. I know you’re tired, so we’ll get to Geneva, for HWB HQ. Please, come with me.” said the ballerina girl

They took their luggage, including all the toys Joshua brought with him, including his prefered Jiminy Cricket plush doll. He loved Pinocchio even more than all Disney animations he loved.

The black Mercedes SUV with HWB logo was waiting for them: Diana was in one seat, and a Japanese guy, dressed in his best Tokyo Keishichō, the name for Japanese Police, with a armband at his arm with HWB logo.

“This is Seiji Shirou, cape name Soldaire, our Sentai, more exactly a Metal Hero. He’ll help us to care for Joshua.” said Diana, presenting the Japanese man. “I’m here just for some days. I’ll get back soon to the field.”

“So, this is the little Joshua?” said Seiji, giving a respectful bow Japanese-Style, which was replied by the McCarthys, and then they shook hands. “Had you already thought on a capename? If you don’t want, this is not mandatory, but this help things at field and gave some security for your parents and family, as outside the HWB people normally will not know you beside your capename.”

Joshua didn’t thought about this during all this time, neither during the crash-course on his power he did at New York before going to Zurich. He thought on his powers, and on how much he liked Jiminy Cricket, and about how Jiminy Cricket was Pinnochio’s Conscience Voice until he turned into a real boy, and something clicked on him…

“I think… I’ll be… Jiminy Cricket!” said Joshua.

The adults looking for him and laughing heartfully

“At least will be easy to do a costume: we could ask Disney for this. Think they’ll help a little hero to be a Conscience Voice for the moments people lost their minds, like Pinocchio did sometimes.” said Diana. “So, let’s go? The trip will be somewhat fast, but maybe will need to take some meal in the trip. Everything paid by HWB.” she said, while Mr. McCarthy and Joshua, or better, Jiminy Cricket, entered the car, going to Geneva for his training.

Saiba Mais (3027 palavras...)