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…

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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.

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Jiminy Cricket - First Mission

Chapter 1

“Héros Sans Frontiéres, Heroes Without Borders, acts in two levels. The first level is Situation 1, by managing and crowd-sourcing CAI Teams around the world. For local disasters, this works good enough, by managing resources, either human and material, and facilitates logistics, coordinating local teams that, by definition, already has a good synergy.

But, for the real big disasters, like the Big California Quake and similar events, HWB needs their own CAI teams, deployed into what we call Situation 2 level, that are allocated either on big catastrophes and on what we call pandemic disasters, situations that turned into real humanitarian disasters, like we have in Roque Santeiro, the biggest post-Event refugee camp, near Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Jiminy Cricket, on 21th European CAI Training Seminar, offered by Héros Sans Frontiéres, Geneva, Switzerland

“Right now, Josh, for the last French question.” said the blonde girl, pointing a question in the book for the kid in front of her. “Please, say this phrase: ‘I’m Jiminy Cricket, from Heroes Without Borders. We’re into a crisis zone. Please, follow our capes’ orientations while evacuating orderly.’“

The blonde little kid, dressed like in a Dress-Up game, said, with the typical chirp of a little kid:

“Je suis Jiminy Criquet, des Héros Sans Frontiéres. Nous sommes dans une zone de crise. S’il vous plaît, suivez les orientations de nos capes tout en évacuant sans encombre.”

The girl looks to him and says, smiling: “Well, it’s correct, or at least correct enough for a situation.”

The kid removes the green top hat over his head and says: “Whew… I’m exhausted. Hope there’s no problem tomorrow. I really want to take some time at Disneyland Paris, Eileen.”

“Let us see, Josh. But anyway, we need to see if there’ll be any shift for us here. After all, the ‘villains’ never sleeps, Jiminy Cricket.” she says

“Alright, Sugarplum.” says the kid, when they hear a siren. “Ow, why today?” he whined, while putting his half-mask and hat back. The mask was shaped as Disney’s Pinocchio’s Jiminy Cricket, while the girl at his side took the form of a big fairy and they get out Jiminy Cricket’s room to Heroes Without Border, Geneva HQ’s Briefing Room.

Josh, or better, Joshua McCarthy, capename Jiminy Cricket, was a Breakthrough, as his tutor and legal guardian Eileen McRae, capename Sugarplum. They had undergone traumatic experiences that triggered the Breakthrough back his hat, giving them superpowers only saw before in comics.

Eileen had been menaced by some Anarchists during a robbery while presenting The Nutcracker for a Christmas philanthropic ballet presentation, and had gone into a little Tinkerbell like transformation that also provided her flying capacity and magical Glamour powers, to create illusions, including an illusory Ratzilla at that time, and invoke Nature’s powers.

Joshua, otherwise, had been beaten by a local bully until almost dead, when he discovered he would be able to see what people would do in immediate future (no more than a second or two, three at most with focus) and also had a kind of suggestive voice, that make people does what he wants them to do under some restrains. Also, he started to develop a big control on knowledge about people and things, like he could tap some kind of extra-reality knowledge source, the mystical Akasha Records.

All this are limited, but very useful in crisis situation, like the one they are looking for.

When entering the HQ Situation Room, Jiminy saw the other members of his team:

The field leader, Soldaire (real name: Seiji Shirou), is a Sentai Hero: after an intensive training and conditioning, he was one of the few people in Japan able to don the Soldaire-Level super armors, in fact the Soldaire super armor itself, created by a Japanese Verne called Dr. Shokichi Hisagawa. Both were “lent” by the Japanese Super Self-Defense Forces to the Héros Sans Frontiéres , almost permanently. As civil, Seiji always dresses on his best Keichishou uniform or 80s biker fashion, beside the SolChange, a clock-like device that is used to donning the Soldaire super-armor. On it, Seiji goes as strong as an Ajax and can use lots special weapon and equipment, specially the SolPistols, Laser pistols that can hit hard a powerful armored mercenary or even an Atlas or Ajax. Also, he has a powerful armor and tactical information to help him to deal his menaces…

Beside him, the team main muscle, LionHeart (real name: Richard ‘Ric’ McInroy). A convicted ex-Super-villain, A-Class Ajax, in the past called The Bronx Shoulder, he was “lent” by New York Justice as part of his parole (he was serving a life sentence for multiple property damage and manslaughter). In HWB, he took an almost new identity, and also practice all kind of new abilities, even found a hobby on cooking, in which he was incredible, even almost being invited by the Celebrity Masterchef, which he needed to decline. He was big and red haired, with Irish blood. And with an easy smile for kids, like Jiminy. He was dressed into something that looked like a lion costume, with the a Heart crest over the shoulder. But he didn’t used a hood: instead, he used a maroon Zorro-like mask. And, although the criminal past, he was for Jiminy just like an old, odd uncle.

On the table, Jiminy could see the dandy Dumont (real name: Andre Macedo Luis). A Verne hero, his costume was a homage for his inspiration and hero, Alberto Santos Dumont, one of the first Aviators around the world (the first, depending on who you ask): black formals pants and jacket, a white shirt and black tie. Over the table, the iconic white and and somewhat wrinkled fedora hat he uses in field, and the goggles he uses while in field as mask. Anachronistic, he wasn’t using the so-common epads, even knowing on how to use them: instead he was taking notes with an old fashioned, honest-to-gosh, Montblanc fountain pen and a paper notepad.

Beside Dumont, there was Hufflepuff (real name: Juan Manuel Acierdo). Son of a Tecnico Luchador from Mexico, his father died at The Event, when the shockwaves of an airplane crash next the Lucha arena had made everything went down, his father hit straight at the heart by a steel pole from one of the arena’s columns. Juan, then a little nerdy kid that was, weirdly, training to be a Luchador, had gone by the Breakthrough turning someone as strong as an Ajax, but with more flexibility and powered by La Passion de La Lucha, that boost even more his powers and fighting techniques. It’s very rare to see him without his Mask, an yellow and black mask that emulated a badger’s face. Although strong, boasty and fierce in battle, he always had, as LionHeart, an easy smile for kids and people. Even here, using a civil suit, he was on his Mask, that have holes for eyes, nose and mouth, so he could eat with his mask.

And on the other side of Dumont was Kuntur (real name: Jose Marti Poma), a cape from La Paz, Bolivia, an old time hiker guide on the Andes Mountains, until he fell into a rift at the biggest of those mountains, the Aconcagua, and before he hit the ground for death, he flew his way out the rift. An Atlas, he chose his cape name based on the word in the old Aymara language for Condor. He dressed into a suit styled on his indigenous people clothes.

“Alright everyone.” said Soldaire “We received a notification from our outpost at UNHCR refugees camp Roque Santeiro for Situation 2 team rotation. I think that you’re already trained enough in controlled circumstance, as you’re all already CAI certificated, so, I’ll brief you on the situation.”, he said, while showing some slides.

“Since Eretz Israel foundation, there was lots of refugees from West Bank and Gaza, ejected from their homes at Israel territories. Some of them had gone to Jordan or Saudi Arabia, but the poorest had gone to Egypt and got through it into Africa, that after The Event was already a quagmire. One of the only places where there was democracy and stability enough for humanitarian actions get stable enough was Sierra Leone: when some tribal lords tried to overthrown the local corrupt government with their recent discovered powers, a local breakthrough called Bengela, real name Nelson Tchabalala, defeated them and held power for time enough elections could be held, being elected their president.”

“So, the United Nations and the League for Democratic States, via the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, established a refugee camp at Sierra Leone, receiving support from many NGOs, like UNESCO, UNICEF, the medical NGO CADUCEUS and our parents, the Médicins Sans Frontiéres, Doctors Without Borders. However, the camp started to grow and grow, people from other camps crossing either the Sahara and the Serengeti for some hope to get away that quagmire into some stabler countries on Europe and Africa… Even considering the difficult to cross the Serengeti and the Sahara, people still came to Roque Santeiro, either straight away or jumping from camp to camp. Some even crossed them using busses and trucks and boats that does the coast route from Cairo to Freetown.”

“Our mission is somewhat simple, although not easy: we’ll go as support team for the refugee camp staff. Although somewhat stable, Roque Santeiro is considered a pandemic disaster because the refugees’ numbers and diversity. We were called because they had gone short on staff, specially capes. So, we are going to the field. Roque Santeiro has people from lots of regions and creeds: Islam, Coptic Christians, Ethiopian Jews, other Christians, and some animistic creeds. In your epads there’ll be some intel on what you should expect. The staff has gone short recently, so we are being sent as emergency. Go to your rooms, pack everything you need as procedure and ready yourselves. We are going for Sierra Leone at 2000. The flight will take 10 hours, so you can take some sleep on the flight. Now, go.” finished Soldaire.

Joshua gone back to his all Disney-decorated room, with lots of Pinocchio merchandise, his favorite film, and his namesake Jiminy Cricket all around in posters, toys and plushies. He didn’t need too much help: he already had a go-bag with all the necessary things he needed for his job. He also packed some of his school books, clothes and other important things on a trunk with his hero crest, a stylished Jiminy Cricket shadow on a dark green background. He would left behind lots of things, but he did a good work.

“Packed everything?” said someone before getting in, on a strong Bronx accent. It was LionHeart.

“Everything is ready, Ric.” said Joshua, now without his mask and top hat, although still on his costume: green pants, dark green tails, blue scarf around the neck passing as a cravat for his white starched shirt topped by green waistcoat, black boots, and his top hat, that was a little big for him, but it worked.

“Alright. Let me take your trunk.” he said, with a smile. He took the trunk, that was almost as big than Jiminy, but lifted it as it was nothing, as expected as an A-Class Ajax. “For an Ajax like me, this is like lifting a plume. Not too much toys this time, huh?” he asked

“I thought it was not a that good idea.” said Joshua

“You should put some, you know: maybe some kids there would be on a need for a toy.” said Ric.

“I’ll place some into another box, some of those I don’t want anymore, and then we can give them for the kids there.”

“Sure. But now, let me take those to the garage, and them we’ll put this on the Hercules”.

At least one C-130 Hercules freighter always were posted at Geneva Airport for Héros Sans Frontiéres , with a Blue Beret squad of UN officers, with one or two Atlases or Ajaxes being sent as bodyguards for extra power. There’s normally two or three, used by HSF as cargo and crew transportation for some of the Situation 2 crew for disaster areas. The only time there was no one there was during the Big California Earthquake, the so-much expected Big One that fractured the San Andreas fault and split California from mainland America. Jiminy was not there, although he remembered seeing all things, being at Geneva for basic CAI and power control training. He saw Atlas and Ajax falling at Seif-Al-Din’s hands, Astra crashing against him and killing him with his own sword. He would not be allocated at that, not being CAI-certified and with no fine control on his Mastermind powers, but he lighted some candles and prayed for all the deceased.

Now, he was going for his first mission for sure: not the sample CAI missions for training or those he did on places like Haiti and Cambodia as a sidekick. Now it was for real. As much he was a little scared, he was excited. He trained and studied a lot for his CAI certification (the youngest CAI certified cape around the world) and now it’s time for the real stuff.

After finishing the last touches on what he would pack for Sierra Leone, including placing some old but good toys for the refugee kids into a box that LionHeart would take for the airplane, he put another costume change into a little bag, with his hygiene kit and some pyjamas for the flight, and gone for a shower before getting back the briefing room. After that, he dressed into a clean costume, left the one he used behind and locked his door with his key.

The HWB Geneva HQ was the HWB’s main one and was homebase for at least other 100 capes around the world, although normally just 12 were there at the same time, at most three teams in the bench so to speak. It was built by the same model as the Chicago Sentinel’s Dome, although simpler and without too much high-tech: HWB didn’t have too much resources, and the lion’s share of them were always put into things that helped missions. But his room was comfy was confy enough. He locked it and only the housekeeping would open it when he was outside, for any needed cleaning and laundry.

“Hiya, sport!” said Eileen, always on his Sugarplum costume, her mask being more like a Bridal Veil that somewhat made her face more ethereal and fairy-like. The back of her fairy-like dress was open, so she could make her butterfly like wings get outside without problems. The dress also held some magical components, like a little fairy dust and so on, and a big Desert Eagle she used for protection.

“Hey, Eileen!” said Joshua.

“Joshua, in the field, if not civilian, you should use others’ capenames.” said Eileen “And, to be frank, I’ll call you Jiminy more than Joshua at Sierra Leone.”

“So, Can I call you Sugarplum?”

“Not only can, but must: it’s best practice in field.” said Sugarplum, while they were going for the briefing room.

From there, they gone into the C-130 Hercules: although big, he was just a little better than the “normal” military cargo airplane, so it was designed for volume and autonomy: they were a cargo airplane, with a makeshift passenger place for the capes. After they loaded their cargo, they lifted off to Freetown. After the lift off procedure, they took some food and some of them exchanged themselves from their costumes into some civilian clothes, and Jiminy put their pyjamas. Even Hufflepuff put some pyjamas, although he was still with his mask. Jiminy gone to his place and just nod off, tired.

Chapter 2

“Kids, me including before my breakthrough, thinks on breakthroughs like the heroes on comics, with all the powers and stuff that are all cool. But the fact we don’t remember, and we should to, is that, as someone said, with great powers comes great responsibility. Only when you turn into a cape, you see how much true this is.”

Jiminy Cricket to Elmo, Big Bird, Grover, Ernie and Bert, at Sesame Street.

Freetown was a beautiful, although war-stricken, city. A isle of peace and stability in a place full of warlords and chieftains, Sierra Leone was somewhat beautiful.

That was Jiminy Cricket was thinking, after putting himself into costume, looking by the aircraft window. The little houses were growing and growing until the airplane touched down Freetown’s airport. While the plane was slowing down and going to a hangar, they were ready for getting down the plane.

When they got out, they saw some ambulances transferring some sick people to the Hercules after Kuntur, LionHeart, Hufflepuff and Soldaire (donning the Soldaire suit) discharged the team’s cargo, including either personal stuff and team equipment. Jiminy then saw a big guy, black, on military fatigue and with the HSF logo on it, with a Q letter styled as a angel halo. He looked something like Lothar from the old stories and comics, or Lawrence Fishburne on Matrix.

“You’re from Geneva, right? I’m Corin Phakathwayo and I’m also from HSF. No need of a capename for me, I’m not on this kind of posh. But if you want to present yourselves by your capenames, is totally okay for me. To be clear, my official capename IS Corin.” he said, with a strange accent, looking like South African English, shaking hands with everyone. Soldaire was the last one, already without the Soldaire suit (or better, without the Soldaire helmet).

“I’m Soldaire, the team leader.” said Soldaire “So, we’ll have transport till Roque Santeiro?”

“We need to: all recently arrived Atlas should avoid flying over Leonean airspace. They’re a little paranoiac because the local chieftains and their uses for Atlas. We’ll gave you credentials that will track you over Leonean airspace later. Until then, there’s a chopper here for you, and some of our Blue Berets will bring your stuff. We’ll talk about the things going there.” said Corin, while LionHeart, Kuntur and Hufflepuff finished loading the equipment on the big Mi-26M heli and gone with the team to another heli, an Mi-38.

After they entered, some Blue Berets took the free spots and Corin offered everyone some sound cancelling headsets and they departed, the powerful noise from the rotors turning into a small hum for Jiminy while he finished to adjust the safety belts.

“The HWB operation leader in Roque Santeiro, Diana, asked me for some first brief here before your real briefing at Roque Santeiro.”

“Roque Santeiro was named by some Angolan refugees from their last civil war: there was a big market there, one of the biggest everywhere, every time, and it was named after a pre-Event Brazilian soap opera still popular there. The market is no more, but the name held. Roque Santeiro is really big, and we receive supplies almost every day, either by air, via Hercules and Antonov cargo freighters from UN, LDS, governments and NGOs around the world, or via ship, from almost everywhere. Sometimes, we even use breakthroughs for cargo transport when needed. Things are normally civil, but sometimes things gets hot: we have too many different people to expect everything would be nice and smoothly all the time. Besides, we have some problems on breakthrough surges.”

“How?” asked Jiminy, and they look to him: even with his powers, there’s still many things Jiminy Cricket doesn’t know.

“There’s lots of rogue squadrons, bounty hunters, criminals, cause villains, and overall scoundrels on Africa. The Event was not that kind with us, even more after the Caliphate Wars and Eretz Israel: the population overgrown and resources shortage made people goes bonkers. Africa was already something very complex and bloody BEFORE the Event, and things had not gone any better after the Event, as so much breakthroughs had appeared with the violence surges, civil wars and ethnic conflicts, to just put even more heat everywhere. Things were on a spiral and just recently things started to grew stable. Groups like the NAWB, a white/breakthrough supremacy group on South Africa that got out there, and the New Angolan Socialist Party, had shed a lot of blood on conflicts, and just recently they were stopped by some breakthroughs like the Reformed Umkhonto we Sizwe, the Nation’s Spear, from South Africa and other capes that put some of the worst warmongering people behind the walls to be dealt by the International Criminal Court at Hague.”

“But, everything into account, it’s not Rocket Science to understand there’s too much breakthroughs growing into Roque Santeiro: all the war trauma and so are triggering lots of breakthrough, and also there’s the issue on origin-chasing. I think that some of you are also certified as teachers, or at least as counseling, according your CAI documentation. We need a lot of this… To be fair, we need a lot of everything.”, said Corin, and Jiminy gulped.

Then Corin smiled and said.

“Don’t worry, we are not alone: there’s others breakthroughs and people helping us, many of them allocated by some NGO or UN or LDS organization. And, to be fair, things are not that bad. People there is just trying to reconstruct their lives, find some relatives and a place to call home. It’ll not be that difficult to make people remember that and we’ll make sure everyone deal with that. They need to be remembered that they, and we, are all in the same boat.”

Jiminy relaxed a little, when they heard the pilot saying, via their headsets “Sir, we’re into Roque Santeiro’s airspace. I think they’ll like to see.”

Jiminy sat at Sugarplum’s lap and saw below: lots and lots of white barracks, wires going everywhere, and lots of people, until a big forest could be seen. It was really big, bigger than some neighbors from where he came, and even some cities he knew were smaller. And in some entrances there was even more people trying to get in. He could see some Blue Berets patrolling the camp and the neighborhoods, and two or three Atlas or otherwise flying-capable breakthroughs getting around.

“And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the Roque Santeiro refugee camp.” said Corin, while the helicopters got near the main helipoint.

As soon they arrived, Hufflepuff, LionHeart and Kuntur started to unload their stuff from the Mi-26M, while they were being received by the local HWB mission chief, a beautiful black woman, with a big afro, dressed into military fatigue, nice for the warm and moist weather that was making Jiminy sweat a lot. She also was using a dog-tag around the neck, and looked really strong, by her confident pose.

“I’m Diana Souza, capename Diana, and I’m local HWB mission chief. I’ll brief you before you get cleared and go for your barracks, so you could take a good rest and then get better into your stations when needed.” she said, shaking hands. Jiminy noted by her touch she was an Ajax: she was taking easy with him, as her full power could crush his hand easier than a beercan.

They got into a bigger white tent, and Jiminy could see that there was Roque Santeiro’s Dispatch: not surprisingly, considering their size and population, it was needed. In the back of the Dispatch room (very small, to be fair) there’s an even smaller room, with too little furniture, everything functional, the only decoration a spear made of a metal with some blue shades, obviously a Vernetech one.

“Sorry not bring you to our main briefing room, but until you’re cleared by the camp’s security, we can’t get you into our facilities. But before, we need to clarify things about Roque Santeiro.” said Diana

“This is the biggest refugee camp in the world. Some countries has a small population than we have here. There we have people from all the Africa, and from all the main ethnic groups: nago, nubians, belize, sotho, xhosa, zulu, hutu, you name it. Lots of people from many different backgrounds and religions.” said Diana

“Our mission here is simple: help to maintain security and order, provide support for UN forces, and general help to improve life quality at the camp. People here tends to be okay, but sometime things turns really grim because of the shortages on resources. Food and clean water are sometimes difficult to get, and the sanitary infra just didn’t collapsed thanks to our Vernes that works hardly on a daily basis on the infra.”

“We have also some guys from other organizations to help us, mainly UNHCR, our “mother” so-to-speak MSF, some guys from World Health Organization, some Blue Berets from UN and so to help us, including the MaxBerets, breakthrough Blue Berets that is now fixed part of the Peace Corps.”

“Well, enough about me and the camp: I’ll present you for our local team and you’ll present yourselves for them”

Then Diana opened a door and they saw two people. One of them is a guy with a dirty blonde hair, glasses and a medical coat with a logo with the medicine symbol at there and with a MSF logo and with a logo written CADUCEUS.

“This is Doctor Derek Stiles, MD, chief physician from the camp. Also he’s from CADUCEUS, a non profit corporation based in Brussels that studies diseases and works in medical technology development. They have lots of Vernes and Paragons, like our Derek here.” says Diana, while he shakes the hands of everyone.

The woman aside Derek is obviously an Metamorph, as she was using Squirrel ears and tail as fashion on herself. She was red haired and freckled faced, and looked really young, with some sunburn. She also used a medical coat, but below she was using a tie dyed t-shirt.

“And this is Doctor Lesley Dimantas, MD, our main psychologist here and one of the biggest specialist on breakthrough psychology. She’s also an A-Class Metamorph breakthrough, called Daughter of Gaea, Galathea…“ says Diana

“But now you can call me Squirrel Girl…“ she says, on a chirp that made her looks like even younger than she is.

“… Alright, Squirrel Girl. She helps us with the worst cases of breakthrough and how to deal with some of the worst potential breakthrough-induced psychosis.” says Diana, while the Squirrel Girl shakes hands with the team.

Them, they presented themselves. Each one says their capename, their real name (in some cases… Hufflepuff said not) and some information about their powers.

“I’m Jiminy Cricket, real name Joshua McCarthy. I’m an A-class Mastermind. I have enhanced intelligence, can precog somewhat other’s actions, in a very limited way, and can convince people on do what I want, as far there’s something that the person could do and that is not violent based or focused.” said Jiminy Cricket.

“I remember you, kid. But looks like you’re still a little too small and young for a breakthrough. Should you not be playing ball at home?” said Diana

“Ma’am, I had undergone breakthrough last year, and since then I’ve obtained my CAI certification and learned how to work my powers. Had also undergone some training missions for HSF at Bolivia, Cambodia, Kurdistan and other places, into rescue missions and we had very small casualties accounts on those, if you see my After Action Reports.” said Jiminy, seriously

Diana gave a good laugh and said “I understand, kiddo, and had read all your profiles. I think that, as long everything is fair and square with you, I don’t have any problem with you being a cape here. There is so much need here that I’m not into discharge some hands that can help.”

“Okay, enough about this: we’ll clear you all into Roque Santeiro and then you’ll all should need to take some rest, before asking some duties. We already read your profiles and already have some ideas on how to put your powers and skills into a good use.” says Diana, while all them get out the room.

Chapter 3

“People see being a cape as something glamorous, but people think only on those big guys like the Chicago sentinels. They don’t think on how many capes are doing their best in places like the Chinese States, Kurdistan and in Africa, caring for people in refugees camps and helping into floods, droughts and other humanity catastrophes, or even like The Crew, using their powers for just taking a living. Even with the Big One people still doesn’t see how hard and inglorious is being a cape sometimes. Because it’s too much easy to see the glamorous live than the hard stuff other people, cape or not, does.”

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

Jiminy wake up and goes for the shower for his shared tent. The Vernetech waste recycling and solar energy cells allow them for some amenities that would be unthinkable before the Event. Hot shower in the barracks, for example.

Anyway, even with this, some things are rationed, and his soap bar for the week was almost in the end.

“Eileen, are you awake?” said Jiminy from the shower box

He heard a yawn and someone saying, with a drowsy voice. “Almost… Any problem, Joshua?”

“The soap bar is running out. Still have some?”

“Yup… I can lend you some if your finish before the new rations.” said Eileen. “Hope you’re scrubbing yourself really good.”

“I am.” said Jiminy.

“And your homework?” said Eileen

“Over my table here, near my epad. Math, English, History and Geography.”

“Let me see those while you finish your shower.”

He knew that those talks from Eileen was a way to give some “normality” for his life at Roque Santeiro. Eileen knew that, even him being a breakthrough into a HWB mission, he still was a child, and needed some common ground to not go bonkers.

He finished his shower and dried himself with a tower before going back to the room.

As everyone else, Jiminy was living into some of the Refugees barracks, that was obviously Vernetech and bigger than the old fashioned pre-Event ones, and could be compressed into little dice-sized cubes. After uncompressed, the room was 20-by-20 feet sized with a 9 feet height, and had some functional built-in furniture into them. There was two closets and haddock-like beds, like the bunk beds from submarines, and some space for three folding desks with power plugs, one of them a built-in kitchen sink and oven. There’s also some racks where they could put some food and useful things. Very cramped, but better than the pre-Event things. The shower was part of this, and was connected to the camp infrastructure via some plugs and pipes. The better ones, like those, had even air conditioning.

“Want some breakfast here or should we go to the canteen?” said Sugarplum

“We could go for the canteen.” said Jiminy, while putting his costume, reinforced by some Kevlar-like material developed by Dumont, as the team Verne. That also made possible to him uses his costume even in the hot, humid Sierra Leonean weather.

“Alright. Let me just take some shower and dress myself. Put your dirty clothes and costumes in the bin: today is day for sending clothes to cleaning.”

“Right!” said Joshua.

Even before the Breakthrough, Jiminy, or better, Joshua, was always a kid that had no problem to do their chores. In Roque Santeiro, this was even more important, as he need to ease everyone’s burden, as there’s too much things to do.

After Eileen take some shower and dressed herself into her Sugarplum costume, they got out the barrack and closed it. They looked to the sides and saw that Soldaire and LionHeart, Kuntur and Hufflepuff, both their neighbors, were already woken up.

“Everyone ready for today? Sugarplum, you’ll help Dr. Dimantas with some triaging for breakthroughs on some recently arrived refugees. Me, Hufflepuff, LionHeart and Kuntur will go for Freetown to receive the week supplies from LDS, and Dumont will help to install some new solar panels for energy with local Vernes. Jiminy, you will help Diana at the Dispatch for today. Understand?” said Soldaire

“Alright. I had Dispatch training and simulation during my CAI certification, I can deal with this.” said Jiminy Cricket.

“Okay. So, let’s eat something and do our jobs.” said Soldaire, going for breakfast.

The canteen served some basic breakfast: bread with butter, some sausages and eggs and coffee. The Blue Berets still smiles for the little kid on a Dress-Up costume that was a cape, but they already know about his skills and they didn’t laugh about him, but laugh with him.

After the breakfast and leaving their clothes bag at one of the camp laundries, Jiminy had gone for the Dispatch, where Diana was expect him.

“Jiminy, by what I saw on your profile data, think you had Dispatch training, alright?” she said.

“Yup. People at Geneva, Soldaire on them, said my powers could be effective even in Dispatch, by coordinating their actions.” answered Jiminy.

“Alright… We’ll clear you for Dispatch and them you’ll work with them for this shift.” said Diana, while pushing him to a Blue Beret officer. “This is Colonel Carlos, from Brazilian Army, and he’s our Dispatch specialist and Dispatch coordinator.” she said.

“I’m not a Breakthrough, but I’m one of the rare non-cape CAI certificated people around the world. I’m the Dispatch coordinator here at Roque Santeiro.” said the officer, smiling and shaking Jiminy hands “And you are little Jiminy Cricket, right? Let us see how you can help us in Dispatch.”

“Right, sir. I’ll do my best.” said Jiminy, saluting the soldier, that replied and then said.

“You can take your hat and mask out if this ease you. Let us first clear you into the Dispatch system and then you can take any Dispatch station free.” said Colonel Carlos

After cleared, registering login information and some biometric information, like Iris and fingerprints for classified access, Jiminy gone for a station and then sat on its chair. The Dispatch room, sometimes called war-room, for the pre-Event lingo, was clean and somewhat cramped, like everything in the camp. Jiminy sat on his chair and put his hat out, just using his mask and putting the headset on his head, a water bottle at a special compartment near the station. He inserted his login and password at the station and then he could see the information on his screen.

“You’ll be our dispatcher for the supply team.” said Carlos via his headset “We chose this because you already have synergy with them, especially with the capes, as they came together from Geneva.”

“Right.” said Jiminy, looking for the computer screen, with tactical maps and some options to see cameras and talk with the team. Then he heard Soldaire talking.

“This is supply team, going to Freetown. Soldaire is leading the Capes. The team is me, Sentai; Kuntur, Atlas; Hufflepuff, Luchador; and LionHeart, Ajax. Also he have a Blue Beret platoon for military support. Roger?”

“Roger, Supply Team. This is Dispatch. We’ll be looking for potential tangos. Simple objective: bring the supplies from the LDS freighter at Freetown Airport to Roque Santeiro. There was some recent reports on merc activity nearby, so maybe you’ll have some hostiles. Stay into mission objective and don’t engage tangos: once the objective is completed, our local Blue Berets and capes could deal with any. Kuntur, you’ll work for aerial support. Leave Soldaire, Hufflepuff and LionHeart for ground support. Roger?” said Jiminy, looking for the station while icons identifying everyone showed in the tactical map. He could somewhat use his powers and, better, training for see whats happening.

“Roger, Dispatch. You’re doing well, Jiminy.” said Soldaire

“Roger.” said Colonel Carlos, overriding somewhat Jiminy’s comms “Blue Berets, Jiminy Cricket will be your Dispatch. Lieutenant Silva, you’re the contact for Jiminy Cricket.”

“Roger that.” he said “Jiminy, it’s an honor.”

“The same here.” said Jiminy Cricket “I think you’re with standard weaponry and ammo for deal with Ajax tangos.”

“Roger. Read the local intel, there’s some tango Ajaxes. Any suggested protocol?” said the Lieutenant

“I think while you’re going it’s okay, we’ll talk more about this when you’re getting back. Think that, if the intel is correct, there’s a potential Charlie Foxtrot when getting back.”

“Right.” said Jiminy “Any intel you think you need, we in Dispatch will send.”

“Which backup capes we have that could be dispatched?” said Silva

“I think that we could send Corin, Sugarplum and Dumont if needed, but only if things goes into a Charlie Foxtrot.” said Jiminy


And Jiminy was in the expectation for any potential action.

Chapter 4

“Need to say, I think that Vernes are cool and creepy at the same time. Take Dumont, for example: he can do almost everything that could be done with common electronics and even more using his, quote, ‘steam/dieselpunk’ Vernetech, using boiled water and vapor as power supply. Hey, his Demoiselle has even a ‘Death Ray’, a laser cannon that could hit a good blow on A-Class Ajaxes! You can say this is really cool, seeing a guy into an old-fashioned Tuxedo flying sky high and shooting lasers! But, at the other side, there’s those Verne that can go and create mutagenic stuff that could change people into werewolf/rat/cat/dog/bunny, and put them into his control. Those kind of Verne are difficult to stop, to counter, and are a great source of creepypasta for the anti-breakthrough people.”

Jiminy Cricket, answering a question at Blue Peter, BBC

The truck loading at the Freetown airport was very okay for an operation on this port: Kuntur, Soldaire, Hufflepuff and LionHeart could take some tons of cargo out of the LDS Hercules without so much effort. In half an hour they had loaded the trucks almost without sweating. In the meantime, Dumont finished the solar panels installation and was put on hold for any need by Jiminy, and also Sugarplum was on hold, after help in the triage of some kids that had undergone the breakthrough, for basic training and psychological support and counseling.

It was then they were gone back to Roque Santeiro.

“Dispatch, could you check the local forest for tangos?” said Lieutenant Silva

“Let me see if… Kuntur, could you take a flight and use your mask-cam so I could try to read something?” said Jiminy.

“Let this to me, Pepito Grillo” said Kuntur, using Jiminy Cricket’s Spanish name while ascending to the sky.

Jiminy had already change his control cam for Kuntur, still into the tactical map, when Kuntur gave him a big sky view from the road to Roque Santeiro.

“Kuntur… I think there’s something wrong on those forests.” said Jiminy, clicking on the touchscreen of his Dispatch terminal to send the tactical info of the forests for Kuntur, while zooming the image to see any details. “Please go take a look. Lieutenant Silva, put your soldiers on the Urutus in the corners for support. Hufflepuff and LionHeart, each of you, at North and South. Soldaire, cover them. Hope not to use you, but…“ said Jiminy, when he saw something going to Kuntur.

A RPG warhead!

“Cáspita! A Malparido tried to hit me with a RPG… Sorry about the French, Jiminy.” said Kuntur, noticing he said a bad name.

“No matter, Kuntur!” said Jiminy, and everyone in the Dispatch was already into a more intensive communication “We have a situation! Some unidentified tangos from the North Forest…“ said Jiminy, when Kuntur had to avoid another RPG from the opposite site “… and from South. They are with weapons. RPGs, the weapon signatures found HEAT ammo. Looks like those tangos have military-grade weapons! Kuntur, get down and go for help Hufflepuff. Soldaire, with LionHeart. I’ll need air tactical support: Dumont, Sugarplum, on it from above. Sugarplum, engage fairy mode. Dumont, go as high as you can with Demoiselle. Situation is a go!” said Jiminy.

“How much higher I should go?” said Dumont, and Jiminy could see by the tactical map that Sugarplum was at his side.

“600 feet absolute ceiling: over that, my power is useless. Sugarplum, can you provide Dumont some magical support?” said Jiminy.

“Sure!” said Sugarplum, by his now shrunken comm, and she mutted something “Used a little Leprechaun Luck geas to make him a little more avoidable.”

“ETA for Dumont and Sugarplum?” said Soldaire, while Jiminy could hear the machine guns being unlocked.

“2 Minutes… ETA for tangos, 30 seconds!” said Jiminy “Lieutenant Silva, assume breakthroughs with the tangos, maybe C-Class Ajaxes. The intel reports had info about this.”

“Roger. We already have some anti-Ajax ammo here ready for the gig! We know the drill!” said Silva

And then things started to go fast.

“We are under attack!” shouted Silva “Rock and Roll, guys!”

Jiminy could hear the ammo being shot by Silva. He chose some cams to try to overlap as much information as he could for the field.

One of Jiminy’s powers, called Bellax Analytica (Loosely translation: Tactical Analysis, Translation: War Analysis), is based on the idea that Jiminy can somewhat “precog” the immediate movements of everyone, more precisely on how much information he have. This is based in the fact (according by Merlins) he has somewhat a contact with the mythical Akasha Records, that is the font of all knowledge, from what is, ever was or ever will be. Other people, like Vernes, like to say that Jiminy’s mind has more computational power than all the non-Verne supercomputers and that way the so-called precog is just his mind working on the information he receives and inferring things with a supernatural speed and precision.

For Jiminy, fact is: it worked, even a little imperfect as he can’t preview the moves for too much time or people, based on how focused he is on each: focus on more people reduce precog time and vice versa. But, good news, his power works remote, as long as he have a good view from the theater.

Which he doesn’t have that time.

“Dumont, ETA!” shouted Jiminy

“90 seconds! I can’t push too much Demoiselle!” said Dumont

“Do your best to arrive as soon as possible! There’s too much tangos in both flanks for me to pass info!” said Jiminy

“We confirm Ajaxes!” said Silva

“There’s at least one for each three normal mercs. C-Class at most, that’s the good news!” said LionHeart

“Jiminy, we already had some Berets down!” said Soldaire. “We need medical support!”

“Everyone move. Get as near Roque Santeiro you can! Dumont and Sugarplum will get faster this way, and also the reinforcements.”

“Reinforcements are go! ETA 2 Minutes!” said Carlos

“We have some serious injured Berets!” said Silva

“We are ready for them here!” said Diana, entering the comm channel. “CADUCEUS, MSF and WHO trauma teams are ready for the injured!”

“Kuntur, can you take them to here?” said Jiminy

“I’ll need some cover!” said Kuntur

“We’ll provide it!” said Silva “Suppressive Fire everyone as long Kuntur needs!”

The time started to slow down as the things started to grew worse for Jiminy.

“Take the critical ones first, Kuntur. Dumont, had you arrived?” said Jiminy.

“Almost… I’ll be as near as I can securely. Sugarplum is already doing a ward for us, but I can’t go away after the ward being established… Engaging my omnispecs!” said Dumont

“Getting with the injured to Roque Santeiro. They are badly injured, but not critical. I can’t fly too much fast, they could be hurt even more by a bad transportation. Give me 30 seconds before engage back your tangos.” said Kuntur, getting and taking them back Roque Santeiro using some custom harnesses special made by Dumont at CADUCEUS design for taking the stretches with stability.

Dumont omnispectacles, omnispecs for short, are some kind of opticals that gave him a Atlas-level super vision…

…and Jiminy by proxy, as the omnispecs are integrated with Dumont’s mask-cam.

“Ward established!” said Sugarplum “I think I can call the Tuatha de Danaan’s fury to made a strong gust. At least the normal tangos will be neutralized without casualties!”

“Great, Sugarplum! I need some time for my power really work!” said Jiminy “Silva, after the gust, rock and roll.” said Jiminy, while seeing that Kuntur was already with two of the hit soldiers.

“Alright!” said Silva, while Sugarplum made the gust, and the normal people started to fly. This also gave Kuntur time to get away from the theater with the injured people, while Sugarplum turned to him and put a lucky charm on him to avoid hits while going to Roque Santeiro.

There was only six Ajaxes, with should be something easy.

But it was when Jiminy’s power really engaged, and he saw something that made him gasp.

“Hold yourselves for a Charlie Foxtrot! I repeat, Charlie Foxtrot!” said Jiminy, full of fear!

“How?” said Silva

“They are some kind of breakthrough power boost! My power see them growing!” said Jiminy, anticipating their boost

“What… How they… Mas que m…” said Silva

By everyone’s mask-cam, they could see the Ajaxes growing bigger and bigger and as mad as a hatter, hitting their chest like a cheesy King Kong-like challenge scream!

“They had used something! I’ve seen it with my SolView!” said Soldaire

“Roger! Confirms my Bellax Analytica! Berets, disengage and give tactical support for the capes! Soldaire, Hufflepuff, Kuntur and LionHeart, one on each! Sugarplum, wards on the crew and supplies!” said Jiminy

“Roger.” said everyone

“Dumont, I think I’ll toast them into that forest.” said Sugarplum

“Do this! They turned top level A-class after whatever big shit they used to boost them… Sorry Jiminy.” said LionHeart, while Jiminy could see the Ajax LionHeart was fighting going for him like a rabid dog.

“Get back first, be retorted later.” said Jiminy, when they heard the Soldaire alert beeping.

“I’m getting into my time limit… I have just one minute or two of safe Soldaire operation.” said Soldaire, hitting his crazy Ajax as there was no tomorrow, but the Ajax didn’t feeling anything.

“Sugarplum, Dumont, on Soldaire!” said Jiminy, worried.

“Right! Engaging Tesla Arc Cannon!” said Dumont , and Jiminy could see Dumont’s omnispecs turning into a old-fashioned cross-hair, focusing into the Ajax engaged with Soldaire.

“Readying a thunderbolt here!” said Sugarplum.

“Soldaire, disengage this tango, left it for Dumont and Sugarplum!” said Jiminy.

Jiminy saw Soldaire jumping out and then heard Dumont shout “Tesla Arc Cannon, shot!”

The laser Cannon (“it’s laser no matter what Dumont think”, thought Jiminy) hit the Ajax and the energy liberated kicked him back some meters, unconscious.

“Sugarplum, shot one of the other Ajax, so Kuntur or Hufflepuff could help LionHeart.” said Jiminy. “Hit Kuntur’s tango and left Hufflepuff’s… Looks he have almost all Kayfabe he needs.” said Jiminy, using his power and looks for the immediate future.

“You’re alright, Pepito Grillo. La Passion por la Lucha is on me and our friends.” and Jiminy could see that all the Berets that are not focused for tangos, and even some tangos, are looking for Hufflepuff’s acrobatic fight, helping him into his Kayfabe.

Kayfabe was the name gave for the somewhat unconscious power that the Luchador capes could tap upon on, based on the wonder they could bring while fighting. Called on the term used pre-Event for the “disbelief suspension” during wrestling matches, for Luchadores this is real power, by awe the ones that are seeing and using this to boost up their techniques.

Locking his Ajax into a armlock, he screamed, doing a somewhat cheesy wrestler pose. “Si no tiene La Passion Por La Lucha, no tiene oportunidad contra un Tecnico. Hijo de Tolot, soy Hufflepuff, y en nombre de la Sagrada Virgen Maria de Guadalupe, tenerás su condena por me desafiar! EL TEJÓN VOLADOR!” shouted Hufflepuff, launching the Ajax to the air and jumping, catching it in the air, and putting him in the middle of his legs and falling over him, smashing him with a so big stomp that LionHeart, Kuntur and their tangos stopped to fight, looking for the almost crushed Atlas crashing into the ground.

Giving time for Sugarplum hit LionHeart’s Ajax straight in his head with a thunderbolt that made him go grilled, falling unconscious.

And this gave LionHeart time to get near Kuntur and hold the last Ajax time enough so Kuntur could help him on walloping it until unconsciousness.

Jiminy could hear the PSSSHHHH sound from Soldaire’s helmet uncoupling from the suit.

“Tangos defeated, no kills on both sides, two Berets somewhat hurts, but on surgery by CADUCEUS. They were totally unsuccessful into their intent, Dispatch.” said Soldaire

“Alright Soldaire. Cleaning team are a go. Come back Roque Santeiro.” said Jiminy trying to maintain the attitude.

“Alright. Great job, Jiminy.” said LionHeart, which made him sob and silently cry on relief.

“Stay tight, sport. You’ll need to do the debrief.” said Sugarplum.

“What?!?!” said Jiminy

“You’re the one who was at Dispatch. So you’ll conduct the debrief, and then fill the After-Action Report.”

“Oh, shucks.” said Jiminy, while the rest of Dispatch applauded and cheered for him, making he want to put his hat over his head enough to hide himself, as he was beet red blushed.

Chapter 5

“My experience on Roque Santeiro says me that any common people that thinks that we could have a cape version of a zombie apocalypse should not question ‘Will we have one?’ but ‘Why didn’t this happened yet?”, if you consider how much traumatic experiences is happening on places like Middle East, Africa and China, and how much those experiences were resulting on uncontrolled breakthroughs, people that, without no support from any authority or NGOs, are passing through breakthrough and receiving powers, and that don’t see that old saying about great powers and great responsibility, even more because they undergo those into places that are quagmires, great powder kegs of violence just waiting for the spark that will ignite everything and make them goes amok.”

“People think that a breakthrough on cosmopolitan centers like New York or Chicago are problematic, but in the biggest cities there’s already some infrastructure for supporting the recent breakthroughs, with training for control and self-restraining for those powers that could indeed result on damages, and psychological orientation and treatment for those situations where the breakthrough came from, or result on, self-grandeur delusions or psychotic stances or other kind of psychic disorders.”

“Exactly this support infrastructure is what that’s needed on Africa and other places with too much violence and humanitarian catastrophes. The violence rising and the lack of support on everything turns Africa on a place with a breakthrough surge, and those breakthroughs has no support, no counseling and no following. From this to them being attracted by some of the black market mercenary teams for a kind of super-powered cannon fodder, that is used as living WMD, it’s just a bit.”

“And that will be the cannon fodder used by those like Seif-al-Din and other villains, specially those with a Cause, as so called martyrs or heroes. Not because they really chose for this, but because they didn’t know any better.”

Dr. Lesley Dimantas, “Breakthrough Surges into Humanitarian Catastrophe sites”, 4th World CAI Teams Seminar Proceedings, Héros Sans Frontiéres, UNESCO, UNHCR

“We had been lucky to not suffer casualties: we aren’t super-troops, breakthrough under military conditioning and training. We are and always will be a CAI team fundamentally.” said Jiminy Cricket, during the debrief of the team, including the Blue Beret troops, and Diana as camp leader “We had a timely action that was crucial, and the Berets support was fundamental, as there is almost no military-background cape under our team. In next actions we’ll include some of the MaxBerets, the Blue Berets breakthrough under us: only their small numbers and our timely and precise actions avoided casualties or supplies lost. To finish, I want to thank you everyone: your timely and precise job was superb, and helped us to deal with no casualties. I’ll make the After-Action Report soon and send for approving tomorrow morning at most. The debrief is over. Thank you very much.” said Jiminy, lifting from the pillow he needed to use over the chair to get near the microphone at the pulpit and taking his epad with his debrief notes.

“Great job, Jiminy.” said Soldaire, and he could see Diana with him, nodding accordingly.

“I was embarrassed.”

“Hey, short stuff!” said Sugarplum “You did it alright, no need to be so bashful. Want to take some pizza or want to do the report before?”

“I think I’ll do the report.” said Jiminy, and her voice was a little too serious, while either him and Sugarplum gone for their barrack.

While Sugarplum took a shower, Jiminy opened his notebook and started the Internet browser, working into the Roque Santeiro’s intranet, firewalled by some Verne and Asimov breakthroughs, the latter breakthroughs able to deal with information and cybertech, like robotics, as much or even more than Vernes. He started to fill the After-Action Report, while hearing the action recording and reworking the information in his little but powerful brain. It was when Sugarplum, still on his robe, said:

“There’s anything you’re thinking on this? C’mon, it was normal stuff: just some good-for-nothing mercs for some loose-head local war-chief. What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know, Eileen… But there’s something fishy on all this.” said Jiminy, or better, Joshua

“Fishy?!” said Eileen, raising an eyebrow, while drying her hair.

“Remember that when we started the action? Those super-mercs were D-Class, max C-Class Ajaxes, my Bellax Analytica said.”

“Maybe you misread things. You said yourself that this happens once in a while.” said Sugarplum, while starting to dress herself “No peeking, little mister.”

“But… LionHeart confirmed my first information. And then, when things gone almost Charlie Foxtrot… I saw them using something, like a pill or injection, that boosted them to A-Class, almost same level of Astra or others, but at a cost: they gone mad as a Hatter!” said Jiminy, looking the notebook to avoid see Eileen on their privates.

“Thinking on this,” she said “it was really weird… It was like they were gone Hulk or something like those cheesy old comics.”

“In fact, it was.” said Joshua, turning, and seeing Eileen on a kind of military like overall used by HSF operatives when don’t want or can go “full civil”, but don’t want to be into costume.

“We could see for this after…“ said Eileen “But now, short stuff, to the shower off you go. Then, let us take some pizza: just Joshua and Eileen, friends almost like brothers, not the capes Sugarplum and Jiminy Cricket.”

“Let just me send this…“ said Joshua, hitting the send button “… and done. I’ll be ready soon.”

Since arrived at HWB, Geneva, a year after waking up from his coma, somewhat a year and a half after almost died lynched by a bully and passed his breakthrough, Joshua was under care of Eileen, his babysitter/tutor/legal guardian/friend/big sister. Eileen, as Joshua, was away from their loved ones: Joshua knows Eileen have a family at Charlotte (mom, dad, older brother). So, they both were away from those who they loved. As Jiminy was accepted by HWB under authorization of their parents, HWB needed a legal guardian, that for Joshua are Eileen and Seiji.

But Seiji and the HWB High Council chose to put together the two youngest HWB capes.

Joshua and Eileen gone to the canteen for some pizza. They knew that some of the refugees works for UNHCR as a way to provide more for their families than the basic emergency kits they receive.

While walking, they heard a cry, and Joshua felt his power working as a Danger Sense.

“Eileen, shrink and dodge!” cried Joshua

Eileen and Joshua just felt the wind going when something passing nearby them.

“Shit!” said Eileen through her earbug “I just put the fatigue today because thought nothing could happen! My wings are blocked and I can’t fly! Joshua, need a hand here!”

Just when she finished saying, Joshua put a hand on the ground and catched Eileen as Peter Pan catches Tinkerbell.

“What’s happening?” said Eileen, via the earbug they two uses, while removing her fatigues, just on tank top, so her butterfly wings could be visible.

“Breakthrough!” said Joshua, hitting the comm. “Diana, he have a breakthrough near where I and Sugarplum are.”

“Roger, Jiminy! We are sending people… Can you see the Type?”

“Sound like an Atlas or Speedster, very fast but without control. We were not hit thanks to my Bellax Analytica. Can be a kinetic also, maybe an aerokinetic. Anyway, he’s very fast and almost without control.”

“Roger… Can you and Sugarplum see what’s happening until reinforcements?”

“Roger.” said Joshua “Eileen, fly. Use the Tink trick.”

“You know how so much I hate this!” pouted Eileen, but agreeing.

The Tink trick was basically using Glamour magic to go bright like fairy lights, like Tinkerbell, and Eileen hate so much because everyone take her by a little Tinkerbell when using this.

Joshua run, following the light.

“How much away?” says Joshua

“200 meters…“ said Eileen “It stopped. I can see: it’s a little boy. Looks like one of the refugees, apparently from somewhere like Libya or Tunisia. I don’t know if he speaks English… I’ll get near and try something. My French is not that good, so we could have a use for some interpreters.”

“Roger!” said Diana “Sending Dumont and Lesley for help! How he was?”

“Looking shocked.” said Eileen “Looks like he is not believing what’s happening.”

“First power use.” said a somewhat juvenile voice in the earbug, that Joshua and Eileen knew was Dr. Dimantas’ “We need to calm him down. You’re on civilian?”

“Yes. We were going to take a pizza, me and Joshua, after the hard day we had and chose to go civilian.”

“Alright… See if he doesn’t go afraid… Go smoothly: think that, even he being a kid, he’s also a potential WMD.” said Lesley.

“I’m putting some passive defense nearby you, closing a perimeter, with some Ajaxes and two flyer capes, a C-Class Atlas and an Aerokinetic: we don’t want him to be scared, but also can’t be naive enough so he could put people in danger.” said Diana in the comm

“Their parents are here.” said Joshua, while Eileen looked to the ground and saw the two people on regional clothes talking with Joshua. “They are really scared. I’m waiting the interpreters to explain better. I think I can deal with them for a while with my French, and maybe they speak some English.”

“Right”, said Eileen, and undoing the shrinking, at the same time she undid the Tinkerbell lights.

“Hey, kid.” said Eileen on his accented French “Don’t be afraid. Your parents are there.” pointing to the ground “What’s your name? Can you speak English?”

The kid looked to the winged woman, just on a tank top and military pants and was a little scared. Eileen chose to give time for him to respond and get near.

“Are you a Djinn?” said the kid in an Arabic-accented English, and Eileen knew he said about the mystical and sometimes evil folklore spirits from the desert, both of them floating somewhat 20 meters over the camp.

“No… My name is Eileen McRae, and I’m from the Heroes Without Borders.” said Eileen “And you?”

“I’m Altayr… Altayr Bashir ben Zayn Tahan.” said Altayr “And what are those wings on you? You look like a butterfly…“

“Yup… As I said, I’m from the Heroes Without Borders, and I’m a cape, a breakthrough, someone with powers, like you are now. As I’m a Merlin, this wings are part of my Fairy power.” said Eileen

“What? How this happened?” said Altayr.

“What you remember most recently? Had anyone picked on you? Or tried to hit you?” said Eileen

“Some of the other kids from the camp… We were playing soccer, and them some of the biggest tried to steal our ball, and they tried to pick on us as they done for some time and them… I don’t want this! I want to go back home!” said Altayr, crying full of fear.

Eileen could see Dumont and Lesley going near Altayr’s parents, and she said.

“It’s okay… Can I get near?” says Eileen and the kid nodded accordingly, while Eileen slowly got near, flapping her fairy wings. “Those kids will not hurt you anymore, and even they do, it would be easier you hurt them than the other way.”

“Why?” said Altayr.

“Do you know about Atlas? Astra?” said Eileen

“Those who killed Seif-al-Din?” said Altayr.

“Oops, bad move” thought Eileen. Although the US vision of Seif-al-Din as a terrorist, maybe for those who believed in a Islamic Caliphate as Africa’s fate, Seif-al-Din, the Sword of the Faith, was a hero and a martyr. Citing just those who killed him would be a bad way things goes.

“My dad said Seif-al-Din was in haram. He was bringing a bad name for the Islam and tainting the Prophet’s name, Peace Be Upon Him, by pushing the Jihad from a self purification to a destructive thing, and putting Allah, the Most High, and Islam into shame.” said Altayr.

“Looks like a wise man, your father.” said Lesley, holding herself into a backjet, a kind of steampunk jet-pack built by Dumont that he brought. “I’m Dr. Lesley Dimantas, and I think we can help you to control your power here into our camp… And after that, when you grow up, you can choose what you want to do with this. By now, we can help you on deal with this powers without hurting others. What do you think?”

“Can I go back to my daddy?” said Altayr.

“You can… But try not to do too much on a hug. If you’re like other Atlas, you can now hurt people if you push too much on strength.” said Lesley

“How you know that much about those powers?” said Altayr

“I studied a lot about breakthroughs, the powers some of them, and you now, have, and I know a little this and that about them. By now, I can say we want to bring you back your parents.”

Altayr nodded “How can I get back the ground?”

“By now, just try to think on getting down… This could help.” said Lesley, while Altayr nodded and then he started to get down.

When he touched the ground, their parents get near and hugged him. He also hugged back, but remembered Lesley’s suggestion and did only a small hug, to avoid hurt their parents. Joshua gets near Eileen and Lesley, and then Altayr looked to him.

“Are you like those women?” said Altayr

“Somewhat. I’m Joshua McCarthy, and I’m also a cape. Maybe we could play some time in the future. It sounds fun.” said Joshua and Altayr looked for their parents, that nodded approvingly.

“We can!” said Altayr, shaking hands to Joshua, a little too much vigorously, lifting him like he was on a rodeo and unintentionally launching him against a nearby empty tent.

“You’re okay, Joshua?” said Lesley, while Altayr looked horrified on how much strong he got.

“I’m okay… Just a little winded” said Joshua, when they took him, and he smiled to Altayr “You have a great push. This could be very helpful for everyone if you learn to deal with this.”

“But at the same time,” said Altayr’s dad, Zayn “It would be a great problem if you don’t learn how to use those powers. Allah the Most High gave you those powers for some reason, and not just to run from some mean kids or hurt people. I think you’ll need to learn to use them and control them, so they could not hurt people and put them under the service of the Most High.”

“Sure, father.” said Altayr.

“So, I think we could talk with someone that could help him, right, Mr. Tahan?” said Lesley “I’ll talk with some of our Atlas so they can teach him on how to use and control those powers. And let us see with Diana and the camp’s administration for a new barrack were he, and you, can stay without problems.”, said Lesley.

“I would be glad, miss Dimantas.” said Mr. Tahan, while all the others were getting away for the administration center, leaving Eileen and Joshua behind.

“Alright, Joshua.” said Eileen, in a retorting tone. “You already knew that he would throw you away with your Bellax Analytica and choose to let him took a little more overboard on you, as you knew you would be okay.”

“How you discovered?” said Joshua

“You flied like a ragdoll in the air, relaxing all your body, and this is a kind of How to avoid to be broken in multiple pieces by a recently discovered Atlas 101.” said Eileen

“Right… But if I didn’t did anything, either I would be really hurt or he would not see on how powerful, and so dangerous for others and for himself he is now. Did I did wrong?” said Joshua on that Puss on Boots face that all kids, even the super-powered ones, do when catch red hands doing some mischief.

“No… I’m okay if you’re not really hurt. But now, let us go for that pizza and then I want to just double-check you for any injuries, okay?” said Eileen, cleaning him a little

“Okay.” said Joshua, while they still gone for the canteen.

Chapter 6

“Africa was always involved into sectarianism since before the Imperial times, when European powers used this sectarianism for their own means. By saying this, I don’t do a judgment, but make a statement to follow the analytical flux. Even pre-Event, those sectarianism was used by powers for their own means, either by proxy wars, like USA and USSR did at Angola, or as a way to reinforce social control, as Apartheid South African governments did with the Inkhata Freedom Party against other factions like Madiba’s National African Congress. Those sectarianism just got exacerbated after The Event, when each village, each tribe, had their own Breakthroughs, warriors turned Ajaxes, witch doctors turned Merlins, fighting each other for power and resources and for intimidate populations and to grow their own numbers.

And the Caliphate War and Eretz Israel uprising just turned things even worse. Consider Dadaab, built by UN before the Event that gone with at most 300 thousand people, it was the pre-Event biggest refugee camp, where Somali people gone to run away from Somali civil war. However, Roque Santeiro have half a million people and growing. Lucky is that, as there was powers that grow into the sectarianism, also there’s people that help those who runs from the breakthrough-fueled sectarian wars.”

Corin Phakathwayo, Sectarianism and Refugees into African History, pre- and post-Event, UNESCO

Jiminy was observing Altayr training with Kuntur: as Altayr still wasn’t sure if he would join an Sidekick program with Kuntur at HWB (it was his dad’s decision, and it would be hard), he was still being trained on the basics on control his strength as Atlas and how to fly. In payment, his father agreed with him helping other capes at Roque Santeiro in some basic things that an Atlas like him could do, like lifting stuff and pushing some cargo. After a week or two, he had learned enough to control his powers and avoid the worst, although he destroyed a cup of glass or two before by losing his power control.

“Alright, Altayr.” said Kuntur “Think you’re already good on the power control. But I can’t put you into fight and CAI training before your father gives us authorization. And Soldaire is talking with Geneva if we could bring your parents to them. Anyway, no matter what happens, you can control now yourself and go mingle normally with people .”

“Thanks, mister Kuntur.” said Altayr, while going back to the ground with Kuntur after the flying training. Jiminy gave them both Gatorade bottles and towels “Hope my father gave you the authorization…“

When the horns could heard everywhere.

“Jiminy, we have a big situation!” said Soldaire on his earbug. “Take Altayr to the Dispatch center for safety and go for them! Diana will explain the situation while you’re going! Kuntur, in my position, now!”

“Ow, why now? I would play with Altayr.” said Jiminy

“Action now, whining later!” said Soldaire, somewhat harshly “Sorry, Jiminy, but looks like we don’t have time for dilly-dallying.”

“Alright. I’m getting to Dispatch.” said Jiminy, while Altayr get there and was stopped by the security.

“He’s with me. I’m taking him for the emergency bunker for civilians.” said Jiminy, and the security guys allowed passage.

Jiminy then pointed Altayr the bunker and granted him shelter, before getting to his Dispatch station, logging in the system and putting his headset, removing the earbug and the top hat. He stayed with his Jiminy Cricket-shaped half mask, his face covered with a cricket shaped mask over his eyes, below his normal face.

“We have a situation. We receive from our informants some intel about a local chieftain that is coming to attack us. Looks like one of those crazy warlords that uses Islam for justify violence against a humanitarian place like Roque Santeiro. They are going into big numbers, and many breakthroughs, we suppose on 1 for each 2 tangos. We are in yellow, and we have potential for a Charlie Foxtrot.” said Diana via the Dispatch comm. He could see Diana into a Dispatch station a little behind himself.

“The teams were already sorted and have their own objectives, but the guidelines are to avoid escalation, casualties and damages. Any tango should only be engaged enough to be stopped or run. We have some of the MaxBerets on the action. Jiminy Cricket, you’re with Soldaire and others. The teams will be listed into your tactical maps. Let kick those morons’ asses.” said Diana, while Jiminy was concentrated into your terminal.

“Soldaire, Dispatch here. I think you heard your orders. Leave the Blue Berets for cover. Kuntur, Dumont, Sugarplum, aerial support, mask-cams engaged for my Bellax Analytica. LionHeart, Soldaire, Hufflepuff, on ground. The intel talks about some D-Class or C-Class breakthroughs, mainly Ajaxes and Kinetics, maybe with one or two Vernes and Merlins between them. Take care: local Merlins are specially competent on weather manipulation.” said Jiminy

“Alright, Jiminy.” said Dumont “Engaging omnispecs.”

“Soldaire, just go SolArmor when you see there’s problems for LionHeart and Hufflepuff. Kuntur, help them if needed to give us time until Soldaire engage SolArmor. Intel says that they had too much mercs, and many capes. SolArmor has the 5 minutes operational limit, I think you remember.” said Jiminy

SolArmor, Soldaire’s armor, is a great piece of Vernetech, but it is not perfect. The main drawback of it is that it pushes too much from body that there’s a operational limit of time that Seiji could use it: somewhat 5 minutes each use, with at least 2 hours between them. More them that there’s the health hazard, as the armor heat and weight pushes Seiji’s body to the limit.

“Alright.” said Soldaire, still civilian.

“They’re coming!” said one of the MaxBerets.

“They’ll try to flank… They have some Atlas also! At least C-Class!” said Jiminy, when saw the guy in the air with some RPG launcher.

The things started to escalated, and Diana shout on the Dispatch channel:

“We have a Code Red situation! Everyone on your stations. Civilian evacuation protocols are a go! Trauma Teams, be ready for any injured people. Rock and roll!”

When Diana said that, Jiminy started to hear the ratratrat of machine guns and other weapons.

“I’m engaging our tango Atlases, Jiminy.” said Kuntur.

“Right. Sugarplum, magical wards.”

“Copy that!” said Sugarplum, while he saw her using his magic to provide some ward for the team.

“We have a Code Red situation! We had sleeper agents and they’re inciting sectarian conflicts!” said one of the stations, that was focused into Roque Santeiro’s internal security

“Dispatching forces!” said Diana “Jiminy, could you take some of them?”

“Soldaire…“ said Jiminy

“We can deal with the tangos here with the rest of Dispatch… Take action for Diana.” said Soldaire

“Alright!” said Jiminy “Diana, tactical and contact on me!”

“Right.” said Diana, and Jiminy had his tactical HUD exchanged, and he saw the problems.

“We are with a problem here!” said one of the MaxBerets. “Some problems involving origin chasers! They started to attack after the Code Red definition!”

“Any Merlin or Mentalist available?” said Jiminy.

“Two, but C-Class, not enough powerful.” said the MaxBerets

“Alright: disengage all the Ajaxes, and use them for launch tear gas and flash-bangs. Atlas on the air, mask-cams engaging. Isolate and neutralize the origin chasers that were in breakthrough. Non lethal weapons…“ said Jiminy, when he saw the place where things were happening…

Near Altayr’s family’s tent!

“Diana, I’m going into the field!” said Jiminy

“Jiminy, don’t! It’s an order!”

“Can’t accept it!”, said Jiminy, dropping out his headset and taking and putting his earbug going for the civilian bunker “Put a Dispatch on me. I’m getting help!”

He entered the bunker and found the help he needed.

“Altayr, I need you.” said Jiminy

“Why?” said Altayr

“Some people are doing bad things here, and I want to get near them. Your parents are near there.” said Jiminy

Altayr gasped “But how could I help you?”

“You’ll put me near there.” said Jiminy, taking some harnesses from one of his costume pockets. “You’re super-strong, as an Atlas. You can hold myself using these safety harnesses I’m putting and held me in the air… Don’t worry, they have also a parachute on it for emergency.” said Jiminy, dressing himself the safety harnesses and running outside with Altayr, while pushing an earbug for Altayr “Put this on your ear, so we can get communication and help.”

“Right.” said Altayr, putting the earbug on his ear while they were getting outside. Then Jiminy took a megaphone when passing through some local guards.

“Dispatch, this is Jiminy Cricket.” said him after the got outside the main barracks “I’m getting help from Altayr Bashir Tahan, in-training A-Class Atlas. I’m putting him as temporary sidekick, according CAI emergency protocols.”

“Jiminy, this is Diana. I would not advice this course of action: Altayr is not CAI trained and have little training on his powers.” said Diana on the earbug

“Copy that. Retort me later. You can take my dessert, but we need to do something against those sleeper agents and origin chasers, and Altayr is the best option we have by now with almost all our breakthroughs engaging tangos.” said Jiminy

“At least I hope you have some plan.” said Diana, exasperated

“I have… At least, something.” said Jiminy, not too much confident on this.

Jiminy got out the administration tent.

“Alright, Altayr, start to lift yourself and catch the harness by this hook”, said Jiminy, showing him the hook. Altayr lifted and took the hook easily.

“I need no effort to this, Jiminy. And now?” said Altayr.

“Get somewhat 100 meter over, and avoid any kind of danger. Go as faster as possible, but not too much fast. Go safe and sound. If there’s any chance you have to left me fall to avoid danger, just do it. I have a parachute in the harnesses and I can deal things myself.” said Jiminy “Dispatch, need a safe route for as near the hazard I can get. The signal near me is Altayr. Send the route for him.”

“I’m plotting the route. Follow it and stay safe.” said someone at the Dispatch “Soldaire just said they are okay by now.”

“Roger! I’m getting to the situation and I’ll go back as soon as possible!”

“Roger! Stay safe. Altayr, follow northwest, 300 meters!” said the Dispatch

“Understood…“ said Altayr, and he lifted Jiminy, and got there easily.

Jiminy then used his Bellax Analytica and saw that there was just some Ajaxes into there.

“Alright… Altayr, now I need you to hold still as much as you can, and don’t finch on what I’ll do now!” said Jiminy

“What?” said Altayr, while Jiminy took the megaphone and shouted

“You were all friends and good fellows till five minutes ago. You don’t need to fight! PRETTY PLEASE, EVERYONE STOP! NOW!” Jiminy shouted, and everyone stopped, for Altayr and everyone else’s awe.

Jiminy’s Pretty Please!, the first power he used while being lynched almost to death by bullies and passing through the breakthrough, allowed him to call people’s heart and making them do what he wanted.

“Pretty please, everyone! Go back your tents and let the Berets goes for the meanie guys!” said Jiminy via the megaphone, now more controlled, as that people somewhat stopped, and he saw people looking to each other, some trying to understand what’s happened and why they were fight each other.

But even that power has their flaws:

First, he could not make people do violent things, like “Kill them all!” or “Fight!”

Second, and most effective, he could not make people do something that they would not do normally.

And some of those people wanted to fight.

“Jiminy, they didn’t stopped!” said one of the MaxBerets down “Some of them stopped and are getting back, but not all of them!”

“Give me some time to try again!” said Jiminy

“Jiminy, Altayr, get out here!” said Diana “There’s an undetected Atlas there near Altayr!”

Altayr had time just to left Jiminy fall safely behind the MaxBerets wall, thanks the parachute on the harnesses, and dodge the human missile that come to him screaming “Allah Akbar!”

The guy looked like an insane guy, and even his appearance was weird, veins pulsing on his head.

“Jiminy, Altayr! Take care! This guy looks like he’s under some kind of drug overdose.” said Diana

“Jiminy, take care of my father. I’ll deal with this guy.” said Altayr.

“Berets, need cover for me and Altayr.” said Jiminy

“Roger. Guys, flash-bang and deal with those who don’t go back! Non-lethal ammo!” said the troop commander, while Jiminy run for Altayr father with his megaphone in hands.

Altayr already had some fighting basis as an Atlas, but it was theory.

Altayr choose to do an strategy, flying and calling the crazy guy attention, making it focus on him. “C’mon! Can’t you see you’re in haram?” he said in Arabic

“Traitor! You’re an infidels’ dog!” said the crazy man

“May the High One be merciful with you!” said Altayr, flying away and choosing for a tactic based on what he already learned with Kuntur about the Atlas power.

“Many Atlas uses the flying power as a way for move around and hit things as a human missile. However, if you really train enough, you can use your flying to fine-tune your movements, so you can take your opposition on bad situation.”

Altayr had flew very below between the tents, as Kuntur made him training, people getting out of the way, until he found where he want to get.

One of the helicopter port, now empty.

He just took and crossed his legs over the air, just some inches over the point.

“Let us see if you can hit me, your murtadd, your apothaste.” said Altayr, and then the guy snapped. He got to the skies as high as he could, and drop himself like a missile which ground zero would be Altayr…

… albeit he just got himself out of the way just some moments before get hit.

The guy crashed himself against the heliport with a big BOOM, opening a crater, but put himself unconscious as he got head-first on the port, debris and dust everywhere.

Altayr than started to shake, the adrenaline surge passing away.

“Jiminy, my parents…“ said him via Earbug, trembling in fear and scaring

“…they are okay.” said Jiminy, and Altayr gone ‘Allah Akbar!’ silently over the earbug. “They hid themselves into their barracks. One of those crazy guys was to get to them, but my Pretty Please! stopped him before he could do anything and the Berets put him under custody. And the mad Atlas?”

“Dealt with him… Used a trick Kuntur teached me. Just waited him to crash himself against a heliport. For a weak Atlas like him, it was hard enough to render him unconscious.” said Altayr, more calm, while the Berets got nearby and put some Blacklocks on it.

“The crowd was contained, those that had not under violent acts into shelters, those who are now took under arrest!” said the captain

“We need help here in Dispatch.” said Diana, while they were still on it.

“Roger.” said Jiminy “I have some extra harnesses here, Altayr, if you want to give your parents a ride.”

“Okay. Ready them, I’m getting there.” said Altayr, when he was ready to go and take Jiminy back the Dispatch.

The guy on Blacklocks shout in rage, speaking in Arabic, while looking to Altayr. “You’re not a person! You’re not a Muslim! You’re worse than an infidel! You’re not even a Zindiq! You’re a demon, a djanni!” and spat in the ground, while being put into a car to be sent for the local prison.

“In fact, maybe I am Djanni, but The High One will be the one that will judge me. Maktub. This is my fate.” said Altayr while the car sent the crazy Atlas, going for getting his parents and Jiminy back to the Dispatch, so Jiminy could help the Dispatch to contain the attack and they could have peace back Roque Santeiro.

Chapter 7

“Origin chasing and origin selling is for the post-Event society what drugs were for the pre-Event: the boogeyman for the upper classes, the hope for better life for the poor and/or desperate enough, and easy profit for those unscrupulous enough.”

“When the first breakthrough researches discovered that traumatic and epiphanic events could trigger breakthroughs, lots of people tried to achieve what they believed was a higher status in mankind and/or society as superheroes or villains. However, many of those didn’t understood that even today, 10 years after The Event, we still don’t know for sure how much you need to push yourself to trigger a breakthrough. The statistics on people dying by origin chasing is growing almost everywhere exactly by this lack of information and misinformation about the breakthrough.”

“Things grew even worse when people discovered that overdosing some drugs could trigger breakthroughs, and the use of strong drugs or drugs in dosages many times over LD50 and even LD99 turned into a popular way to try to go into a breakthrough. Sadly and logically, many of them had died in the process, the so called Suicide by Origin Chasing, but as the use of drugs like LSD, meth crystals and skunk cannabis had surged for the origin chasing process, many drug dealers changed their focus in origin selling.”

“And if this was not enough, some Vernes started to develop Verne-enhanced drugs that could be used as a breakthrough trigger. Apparently being proof-safe, in fact his dosage for LD99 is in general very little above the needed to maybe trigger a breakthrough, and many of those Verne-drugs has lots of physical and specially mental side effect: it’s not uncommon to register on those who used those drugs psychosis, mystical delirium, delusions, borderline disorder, multiple personalities disorder and so on, and even if they achieve a breakthrough, they could undergone a Psychosis Breakthrough, going crazy and need to be contained at any cost.”

“Even worse is the false breakthrough syndrome: some of those drugs provides the breakthrough powers only while the user is under the drug’s effect. It’s somewhat like the pre-Event “spiritual connection” some people used to feel when under a marijuana high, and as in the marijuana high, this is greatly addictive, if not in physical, on psychic level.”

“And, like with the drugs in the pre-Event, although origin chasing is see as a problem under the upper classes, in fact it is a pandemia under the low tiers of society, as their low income, education and opportunities make people grows desperate into something that could gave them some hope.”

Dr Lesley Dimantas, “Origin Chasing: guidelines and protocol for treatment and counseling”, Médicins Sans Frontiéres

The camp was a mess, and for two days everyone was under cape and into action, sleep a short-stocked commodity. The After-Action Report was big, the mess even bigger, and Roque Santeiro’s credibility was under the knife. And so Jiminy felt that Diana was right on be so pissed off while the debrief, even with the low casualties, 0-kill account.

“That was enough!” said Diana “We need to make a stand against all this. We could not avoid people to origin chase, but this was a big of a mess and it needs to stop!”

Jiminy was scared, even more when Soldaire and Sugarplum retorted him for abandoning his station at the Dispatch to help into the riot control, even more by putting Altayr, or better, Djanni (his self-given capename) in action without adequate CAI training. He avoided to look for Diana on that meeting, but Soldaire and Sugarplum’s eyes were also difficult to cross on. He could let them take his desserts until he goes 18 if they stopped to look as he did something really mean.

Diana breathed a little and look for everyone: almost all the camp’s capes are on there, and people were all nervous.

“It was the first time one of the local chieftains had gone thus far into attacking Roque Santeiro. Things goes even worse when we had a origin chasing surge, and at least 20 refugees had undergone breakthrough, just during the sectarian riot in the event, Altayr almost being killed by a C-Class Atlas, his training with Kuntur being life-saving, Jiminy Cricket action to stop the riot crucial. We need to take action, and we need NOW!” said Diana, while Derek Stiles risen up his chair and said.

“We did some analysis and we discovered something: all of those breakthroughs, and some of the rioters in the camp, where under the influence of a new drug, like nothing we saw before. This drug, that we’ll call Breakthrough Enticing Drug, BED for short, is almost certainly Vernetech: nothing like this was being produced, even considering the black market, by ‘normal’ researchers, even in small quantities. We crossed info even with military intelligence, and no one was researching this kind of drug.”

“And we all know what can happen if this drug grew popular.” said Lesley, but without his somewhat childish chirp, a serious voice showing. Everyone in Roque Santeiro knows how much was Lesley against origin chasing and breakthrough camps “Origin Chasing is a thing recently, if you look the suicide ratings related with it. A drug that could trigger a breakthrough would be a great problem. We sent a report for the World Health Organization and for MSF for double check reports on drug abuse related origin chasing deaths, so we could detect if there was a distribution of this drug.”

“And there’s also the problem related on military and paramilitary troops.” said Corin “If we think on the breakthrough camps, we can see that more than an Army would like to put their hands into those drugs: in the post-Event warfare, breakthroughs are a staple. If you can somewhat mass-product them, it would be a resource for war, and that would be dangerous, as it could escalate conflicts in places like Kurdistan and the Chinese States, and that could make the Caliphate War sounds like a bar brawl.”

“So, we need to stop this drug production as soon we can.” said Diana

“But who’s producing it?” said Sugarplum

“We don’t know, but there’s a clue. We have some hitch about a witch doctor in a nearby city that sells this for some of those guys who undergone breakthrough this time. We need to investigate it, but Sierra Leone authorities will not be able to help us: they have enough problems without putting the local chieftain against them. Looks like many of the local chieftains are buying this thing for their warriors, which is something factual considering the attack we suffered when taking supplies back Roque Santeiro. Anyway, we’ll need to deal things nice and smoothly as we don’t have police force here: we’re CAI teams, our authority being restricted to Roque Santeiro perimeter.” said Diana

“So, we should go undercover?” said Soldaire.

“Yes.” said Corin “Those witch doctors are very respected nearby, some of them being D-Class Merlins that can make some potions and concoctions that people use as herbal medicine.”

“I can do this.” said Jiminy Cricket.

“No chance, short stuff.” said Sugarplum “You’re just a kid, but those guys would not take it easy with you just because that.”

“I can go with him.” said someone showing himself. It was Altayr.

“You’re that Atlas kid that helped us? It would be risky. Fat chance we could put you on this.” said Corin

“I think that he could help us.” said Soldaire “I think that we could do with a investigation team supported by the other. Altayr…“

“Call me Djanni. I liked this as capename.” said Altayr

“Alright… Djanni and Jiminy, and Sugarplum and Dumont. Dumont will be crucial on this one, to study what the bleep is that BED.” said Soldaire

“Alright.” said Diana, exasperated “Sounds like a crazy plan, but I can’t think on anything that could go smoothly without involving local forces, and I can’t do this.”

“Our muscles could be put hide and engage if needed.” said Soldaire “Me, Kuntur, Hufflepuff and LionHeart.”

“I can provide some backjets for everyone. Not like my Demoiselle, but something useful enough.” said Dumont, that was scribbling some drafts into his notebook, his fountain pen almost dripping some ink drops while he nonchalantly moved the pen in the air.

“Alright.” said Diana “So, Jiminy, Dumont, Sugarplum and… Djanni, hope your parents had allowed you.”

Altayr just gave some documents for Diana.

“So, you’re applying for a side-kicking CAI training? Who will be your mentor and responsible?” said Diana, checking the documents.

“Think Kuntur, as an A-Class Atlas himself, can help with the power. And for the common ground drill, we all can teach him. Even Jiminy, as he’s already CAI-Certificated.” said Soldaire.

“Alright. So, welcome to Héros Sans Frontiéres, Djanni. Hope Allah, the High One, the Compassionate, help you and help us.” said Diana, respectfully with Altayr’s faith.

“Allah Akbar! Maktub!”, replied Altayr, happy to see that foreigner, even infidel, woman respecting his faith.

“So, first of all: no one in cape, at least you four that will investigate in the front line, and no military fatigues. You’ll be civil all time. No Roque Santeiro badges, to avoid calling too much attention. The local populace don’t speak good English, mainly tribal dialects, so we’ll provide you some translators. Everyone in earbugs all the time: we don’t want any surprise. Avoid haste: we need to do everything fair and square. We’ll start to deal with all this as soon as possible, and we’ll tackle all this when he have information enough.” said Diana, while they started to discuss everything.

Chapter 8

“Witch doctors had grown into a serious problem in Africa. Although many of them are legit, serious practitioners of traditional healing practices and those that undergone breakthrough developed incredible Merlin healing powers, those who had given his back for the old time traditions and are using his powers for selfish objectives are hurting their communities, as they are disrupting and modifying centuries old traditions for their own means, none of them good at all.”

Corin Phakathwayo, “The traditional religions and healing practices in the post-Event Africa”, UNESCO

Dumont, Jiminy, Sugarplum and Djanni had gone for putting some civilian clothes, while a car would be provided to take them for a city nearby so they could start their investigation. Dumont was a little uneasy without his panama hat and tuxedo, but he understood what he needed to do. He equipped himself with a “simpler” backjet, that could be hidden over a shirt, and put it in his back.

After getting into the car, Joshua pushed his earbug while the civilian driver got out Roque Santeiro. “Dispatch, here’s is Jiminy. Any tips? Should we use our Roque Santeiro IDs? And documents?”

“Jiminy, Dispatch here.” said Diana via Dispatch “Don’t present yourself as HWB if you don’t have to: remember, we don’t have legal power in city. Use your civilian documents, even passports, when needed. Go things smoothly, don’t escalate things. Above all, take care.”

“Alright.” said Joshua, freeing his hand from the earbug.

“So, how could we put hands into some BED?” said Andre.

“We need to see somewhere.” says Eileen “I so hate this, but I’ll need to do the move and getting into the blonde tourist stereotype. Think I can disarm them this way.”

“Alright.” said Andre, then he looked to Altayr “Altayr, you speak Arabic?”

“Sure… Need to: the Q’uran is normally read from Arabic and also the prayers.” said Altayr

“Sierra Leone is an official English-speaking country, but his population is majority Muslim, albeit somewhat secular.” said Andre “And in some places, people don’t speak English, but some kind of local dialect. The Arabic could be a good gateway, as people maybe speak some Arabic based on the Q’uran.”

“Alright.” said the driver “But this is a somewhat big city: there’s lots of English-speakers there.”

“Had you came before?” said Andre

“I forgot to say, I was born in this region: I’m a local civilian consultant. Also, I’m a certified driver for almost all kind of Rally and GT vehicles, and a professional driver. I could had gone for F1, have the superlicense, but I didn’t want to get from my country. And Roque Santeiro pays me well enough to take care of my family, and even send my sons to good schools.” said the driver, dealing with the old-fashioned 4x4 Land Rover into a bumpy rocky dirt track as it was a nice soccer mama car into a smooth road in US.

“Nice to know, Mr…“

“Bangura. Kabba Bangura. You can call me Cabby. It was a old joke between the guys and I took it as my callname, like your capename.” said Kabba “Diana asked me to stay alert and in contact with Dispatch. I also speak many of the local dialects and can work as translator. Some say I’m a Jack-of-All-Trades.”

“Thank you, Mr. Bangura.” said Joshua, while the got into the city.

The city was something that, albeit somewhat big for Sierra Leone, was not that great: a big street where the road arrives, with some houses, many made on wood. The sanitary conditions are not as catastrophic as pre-Event, but still were not good. Here and there they could see some litter and open sewer. The sun was strong and before getting out the car Eileen put some sunscreen and put also into Joshua and Altayr. Andre, as Brazilian, was a little more accomplished with those kind of weather, but he put some sunscreen at least on his face, putting a casquette to protect himself from the heat, while Cabby passed some caps for the others.

They went to a store where they could hear a little of a local music into an old-fashioned radio. A fridge had some refreshment, with Pepsi Cola and some local drinks. Joshua took some of the Leones, the local money Diana gave them, and took some sodas for everyone. When paying the sodas, the owner said.

“Never saw you before here… Missionaries?” said him

“No…“ said Eileen “I’m Eileen and those are Altayr and Joshua, and the guy on business shirt is Andre. The local guy is Kabba, our driver. We work for UN.”

“United Nations? Are you from Roque Santeiro?”

“We could say that we had been there.” said Andre, before Eileen could bust totally the cover “We are looking for the local camps, you know. We are going to Masala camp at Mali, then we’ll go for some of the camps at Niger. I think that there’s some difficult time after Eretz Israel.”

“Yep… Those refugees guys are basically crossing the Sahara for a better life. Poor chaps.”

“Sure.” said Eileen “I understand that people goes frustrated, thinking where all the cape guys are.”

“You say me.” said the owner “People here sometimes goes so desperate that goes origin chasing. I lost a niece sometime ago this way. She tried a ritual with some venomous concoction from a local witch doctor. She almost puked out her guts. Next day she was dead.”

“And there’s too much origin chasing here?” said Eileen “I’m researching about this for college.”

“There it is. In fact, there’s a certain witch doctor here that is an accomplished origin seller.”

“Had someone gone breakthrough with him?” asked Altayr

“I think two or three guys, Ajaxes. They left their tribes and gone merc. Their people is still crying about this.”

“And this guy, how old he is?” asked Joshua

“Old Gassimu? He is almost 40, but he’s full of vitality. He commands powers, you know: looks like he can invoke the Orisha. People fear him… Even saying his name.” he said

“And this Gassimu guy lives here in the city?” said Andre

“In an old hut in the city limits. It’s easy to find him: it’s the hut with lots of skulls and so.” said the owner, getting back to the radio, listening the reggae music.

Joshua and the others finished their soda and got out the shop.

“At least, we have a clue.” says Andre.

“Now, let us see on this guy.” said Altayr.

Joshua, however, looked on a bird somewhat over the shop’s roof.

“It’s a Turaco. Beautiful bird, shy… It’s somewhat wrong see how much those bird is hunted to be sold in bird traffic.” said Kabba “What’s wrong, Jiminy?”

“I don’t know…“ said Joshua “But I have the weird feeling that that bird is looking after us for some reason… Like it was shadowing or stalking us.”

“It’s the sun cooking your nuts, short stuff.” said Eileen “Let’s go, see that Witch Doctor.”

Maliki Gassimu was old when The Event happened, when he was sent into a trance, and the trance showed him how to do the divination and how to tap upon the land power for healing and cursing. He was then sent as an envoy of the old spirits to help people to ascend to the same level of the Irunmole, or the Orisha, which the foreigner says is Breakthrough.

In fact, Maliki Gassimu is an origin seller.

He sold his concoctions for many in the city: some turned themselves powerful beyond human scale. Some of those left the country behind. Some had undergone terrible damage, either in body or in mind. He should not be blamed for those fool enough to angry the Irunmole. Some had died: those should not had messed with Elegbara, that came from Orun to the Aiye and back again.

Recently, one of those who also was in this mission came to him with some drugs, that were better than his concoction.

And, better, he made Gassimu very rich.

Some still were dying and going into terrible damage: he could not be blamed.

But his look was shorting out when he saw those foreigners getting into his hut.

The hut was a little filthy, and scary for Joshua who never saw those things outside creepy slash horror films, with lots of skulls and weird objects. They saw a small old man, dressed into common clothes, but with some adornment made from plail and straws. His feet were bare directly into the earthen there’s the floor of the house.

“I think you are Mr. Gassimu.” said Andre

“Are you missionaries from the foreigner God? Don’t waste your time, I’m a firm believer on the Irunmole.” said Gassimu

“We’re not missionaries. I’m Andre Luis, and I’m from UN. This is my friend and trainee, ms. Eileen McRae, and those are Joshua and Altayr, part of a program from UNESCO. The man there is Mr. Kabba Bangura. We are researching a little about origin chasing, and people here said you knew a thing or two about this. Could we talk a little? Just a few minutes and we go.”

“You’ll go away NOW!” said Gassimu “I’m just a tool of the Irunmole. I have nothing on those fool enough to anger them! Those who died had angered on the Irunmole.”

“So, you’re an origin seller!” said Eileen, taking Gassimu red-handed “And how it works? A concoction of poisons? Scorpion or Spider stings?”

“I will not say about this. Those are mysteries for those who were initiated on the Irunmole.” said Gassimu, desperate while he quick-sanded his way

Joshua than gone into one of the creepy masks, and Gassimu looked desperate.

“Don’t touch this. Those are not toys. Get back, or the curse of the Irunmole will get down on you, kid!”

Joshua just ignored it, as he saw something with his Bellax Analytica.

He took the mask away and saw a little rack, with a little box full of blisters with some pills.

“Hey… I don’t think those are magical pills.” said Joshua.

It was when the bird had gone to Joshua.

Chapter 9

“If you are dealing with breakthroughs under a place like Africa, there’s two types you should worry about.”

“The first of all is the Merlin, or supernatural. Africa was always a place of superstition and animistic religions, and those things are a cauldron of things where the Merlin draw their power. And, as many of those deal with divination and nature control, they are powerful and dangerous.”

“However, in my opinion, the worst kind is the Metamorph. African Metamorphs also deal with the superstitions from the locals. And those with real power, the B-Class and A-Class, could tap upon the local nature and changing their form to replicate local animals, mingling easily with them. And we could not forgot that some of the biggest and fiercest animals, like the elephant, the lion, the hippo and the Honey badger, all of them came from Africa.”

“So, dealing with animals in Africa demands discretion, and deal with Metamorphs demands it double.”

Diana Souza, “Protocols and procedures on African Breakthroughs”, United Nations Department of Field Support (DFS)

The black Turaco flew over Joshua, while Gassimu took an old rod and used it as a wand to try to enchant all them. The bolt of light almost hit Joshua, and he gone near Eileen, already in his Fairy Mode, shrunk and with some magic ready.

“I knew this bird was not good.” said Joshua, trying to shoo the bird, while he heard Eileen via his earbug chanting a little before creating a good ward on them.

“We have a situation here!” said Cabby, taking from a holder a small Taurus .45 and taking cover behind the magical ward Eileen rose.

“This gassimu guy is D-Class Merlin.” said Eileen via the earbug, as otherwise they would only hear little chirps and squeaks as the little Tinkerbell Eileen is now, flying over everyone “I can handle him easily, but I’ll need you to give me a time.”

“That Turaco bird looks like a Breakthrough!” said Joshua, hiding himself behind Cabby “Metamorph, C- or B-Class!”

The Turaco then turned to Gassimu and turned into a little Bonobo monkey, hitting him straight in the head, rendering it unconsciously, before growing into an African man: smiling, with simple clothes, no mask or costume. Looking like a kind of black Han Solo, but without the Blaster gun and the Wookie.

“Hiya, kid.” said him to Joshua “You are as really smart as they talked us.”

“Talked you? Who are you?” said Joshua.

“I think you’re the one called Jiminy Cricket. Nice name: Pinocchio is one of the fables my little girl loves the most. She loves Disney. Maybe someday I’ll take her to Disney. You can call me Panther. I’m not like that Thundercats character, but let us play this on the game. So, you’re here because of the attack to Roque Santeiro, right?” said Panther.

“You’re the one who did this drug?” said Altayr “Did you know that kids could die because of this thing?”

When Altayr finished to say that, Joshua had time only to say “Altayr! Hold yourself!” while the smile on Panther’s face changed all of a sudden into an angered grim and from that to a angered grim and from that to the muzzle of a lion, and he ROARED! and stomped to take Altayr straight in his chest, Eileen’s ward exploding like millions of rainbow-colored shards as the violent attack passed through it.

If Altayr was the Altayr from some weeks before, he would be made into mincemeat.

But Altayr was now Djanni.

Altayr had time to put his hand and holding the muzzle of the lion like someone hold the muzzle of a naughty dog.

“I can’t hold him forever! He is furious!” said Altayr, that, even strong as an Ajax, could not hold a berserk lion!

The lion shook his head and launched Altayr aside, crashing him with Joshua, and avoided the net that Andre launched from a steampunk like pistol. Eileen used some of her magic to protect Cabby and gone near Altayr and Joshua.

The lion looked back to Altayr and ROARED! again, as mad as a Hatter, and launched himself to Altayr again…

That put his hand over the ground and made a big wall of dirt and sand.

The lion roared and screamed, and gone into an attack against Altayr again.

This time, however, Altayr was ready for it.

He did the trick again, holding him by the muzzle, but he then pushed his strength to go for the neck. Joshua gone back, avoiding the barking teeth of the lion. Altayr then finished the lock, until Joshua said.

“Eileen, Andre, please someone gave some knockout on this lion before Altayr kill it.” said Joshua.

“I can’t. Have no fairy dust here!” said Eileen

“Neither I: my pistols has no narcotics!” said Andre

Then they saw the lion getting back to human as he suffocates and his power bring him back into human, and he was shouting and screaming “No! Kids! No! Don’t! Hurt!”

Altayr still held the guy long enough Cabby could place on him some Blacklocks.

“Alright, Altayr!” said Joshua. “Pretty Please!, sir, let us talk.” he said, using the tone he used when using Pretty Please!

The guy looked to them, while Gassimu had been put under Blacklocks by Eileen and Andre.

“Sorry to use my Pretty Please! power on you… But we really want to talk with you. About this thing.” said Joshua, taking the blister with capsules. “What is this exactly?”

“Look, kid, this is a drug created by our boss, Derek Kwazani.” said Panther, before noting he was under a compulsion thanks to the Pretty Please! power.

“So, it was this Derek Kwazani that made this thing. And how much successful he is?” asked Andre.

“Look, I need protection, okay?” said Panther. Although under Pretty Please!, he wasn’t totally undefended, and could make some demands “Not to me, but to my little girl. I want to cure her and Derek said he could. This is why I work for Derek.”

“And what she has?” asked Eileen

“HIV. My wife had this and died when giving birth to her. I also have the virus, but I don’t have AIDS active because of my breakthrough biology, some Doctors said.” said Panther

AIDS was still a big issue on health research, and every now and then, a Merlin or Verne come with a miraculous “cure”, that didn’t work.

“We can provide her some security and treatment at Roque Santeiro, but we need to understand why we had been attacked.” said Andre.

“As far I know, Derek has nothing on this mess. Okay, he sells this for local chieftains, that gave them for their warriors, so they could achieve the Breakthrough.” said Panther.

“So, he is an origin seller.” said Eileen “How disgusting. And how effective is this thing?”

“I don’t know.” said Panther “I just take the requests from the local sellers, like this Gassimu here. He is the real origin seller: before the Breakthrough drug, he did those crazy concoctions and gave to people.”

“We know. So, at least this is more effective than whatever Gassimu did before.” said Andre. “I think we’ll take this for some research at Roque Santeiro.” he finished, taking some of the blisters and putting them into an evidence bag.

“And about me?” said Panther

“Where you live? We could bring your kid back with us to Roque Santeiro and put here into some of the tests for the new drugs CADUCEUS brought for AIDS.” said Joshua

“I’ll give you the directions.” said Panther

“And about Kwazani? Do he has some extra muscle?” said Cabby

“There’s other three he trust enough as henchmen, we could say. The rest are foot super-soldiers: at most C-Class Ajaxes and Speedsters, but all them addicted in the drug.”

“So the drug is not that effective on trigger the breakthrough.” said Joshua

“It is effective, but some of the people uses reduced dosage, that just partially trigger the breakthrough, giving powers while they are on the drug high. Otherwise, they are all common human.”

“And this thing is probably high addictive, so they would use more and more, until the trigger a real breakthrough or die.” said Andre

“Yes. But even after the breakthrough some of them still use this, because they believe that, while on this high their powers will be amplified.”

“Had you tried?” said Joshua

“Yes… But no more: this thing messes with the mind. I almost killed my daughter when into this thing high. It’s worse than hashish.”

“And about those guys you said before, that three others that this Kwazani guy trust enough, What could you say?” said Andre

And he spilled the beans on them.

Chapter 10

“Even in the new, post-Event world, Africa has a very traditionalist culture. Outside some of the major cities, like Cairo, Tripoli, Freetown, Lagos and Cape Town, Africa followed his path as always. Okay, there’s breakthroughs in there like every other place. But the common family in Africa still follow the local cultural background. For Africa, things are as always.”

Diana Souza, “Musings on Roque Santeiro’s Refugees and their culture”, CAI Teams Seminar, Chicago

“So, there’s those three guys that, with Panther, forms the Kwazani’s Elite guys.” said Diana, via Earbug, while they put Gassimu, Panther and his daughter into a UN Urutu transporter to Roque Santeiro.

“Yup.” said Joshua “The Dispatch can confirm the intel Panther gave us?”

“We are processing it, but some of the intel we previously collected confirm at least part of what Panther, or better Robert Nsele, gave us.” said Diana, lecturing all of them via Earbug, and Andre opened an holotransmitter he received from another Verne form Roque Santeiro, showing them some images, photos and stats.

“Magog, real name Steven Cebekhulu, was part of UN forces against the Caliphate, but had been hit by a suicide bomber. Didn’t died just because he had undergone breakthrough. He’s very big and not exactly smart. C-Class Ajax if our intel is correct. He’s this Kwazani guy bodyguard, even in his licit business on selling energy sources”

“Ianshan, Real Name Cynthia Sokwalisa. Her capename came from the air Orisha. By the collected intel, she undergone breakthrough when saving herself and a number of children from her school by flying out the bus and lifting it back to the road into a mountain in Kenya. But she had been expelled from his tribe, and this made her goes very grim. Looks like she’s somewhat the group strategist, and hardened enough on this. She’s a C-Class Atlas”

“Panther had undergone breakthrough when testing a Vernetech antiretroviral that made his body goes amok. He said that had an out-of-body experience where he fused himself into the Mama Afrika, the Spirit of Africa himself, and he could tap from and take the forms of the Africans animals. So, he’s a B-Class Metamorph” said Diana

“And this left us with the one you’re sending us to talk with.” said Andre

“Right: Kilimanjaro, real name Josephine Nondaba. From a local Leonese family of female witch doctors that came from way before The Event, some says even liked with the Abissinian empire. She had undergone her breakthrough, as far the Intel and Panther talked us, while undergoing a Rite of Passage and taking some kind of ritualistic beverage. Albeit very traditionalist, looks like the one more sensible of the group. She’s a weather controller, a B-Class Projector, very strong.” said Diana “We’re going to talk. We are NOT to get into fights. I think Jiminy, Dumont and Sugarplum will be the more effective. Cabby, you and Djanni stays for backup. I don’t know if the Nondabas speaks English, so I want you Cabby to be near everyone all the time and translate the dialects if needed. Alright? Our objective is convince Kilimanjaro that what Derek wants is dangerous for everyone: a mass-producing origin selling would put so much people in danger, even more in Africa. And to be fair, I’m holding this information from UN: I don’t trust the Security Council enough to say we have a crazy Verne that created a breakthorugh trigger panacea.”

“Understood.” said Joshua, while they got into the Land Rover to continue their investigations.

“Do you think that UN have something against Kwazani?” said Altayr.

“I think this way:” said Andre “in our new, post-Event, world society, the breakthrough phenomena had already shifted somehow the power balances. The Caliphate, Eretz Israel, the Chinese States, and Mexico are the main examples on this power unsettling. However, the power balance is somewhat into equilibrium, albeit unsettled, as there’s no country or region that had too much or too few breakthroughs enough to turn this into real, enforcable, upholdeable power. Anyway, people in the political and military jet set had gone crazy: 10 years were enough for the Event and breakthroughs throws almost everything people knew about diplomacy, warfare and politics to the dogs.”

“Some people says, Altayr,” said Eileen “that the only reason Touches Clouds was elected US president is that other countries could see into her a symbol of US power. Symbols as Atlas was, as Seif-Al-Din was, as Japan’s Excellent Protectors and the Accomplished Heroes are. You need to understand, Altayr, that powers like you have just shows in one into some hundred-thousands. D-Classes breakthrough had already being turned into staple in military, but think if you could shift this power balance against some countries that always had power, like US, Great Britain, Japan, with breakthroughs in number and power enough. This would not pass unscathed, and the other way also.”

“And another thing:” said Lesley, engaging the chat via Earbug “This drug is probably a opium-like one, but even more powerful. By inducing a breakthrough via a powerful, painful and hurtful drug overdose, he’s playing with fire, as he can unleash Psychotic Breakthroughs. This happens when people lose their mind during the breakthrough. And as the events of the breakthrough somewhat molds how your powers works, their powers will tainted with the their fractured psyche’s insanity.”

“I hate those psychotic breakthroughs.” said Cabby “They are enough creepypasta for make someone have nightmares by days, even months. I saw one of those. He had gone so mad his body changed into a big mass of rotten flesh and tentacles, dirty and stinky as you could not believe. Lost two good friends eaten by that… Thing. I would not believe that it was human once if I hadn’t saw it turning into that thing with my own eyes. There where also loads of casualties into the civilians.” he finished and this made either Joshua and Altayr gulps.

“So, this is the biggest problem with someone that could synthesize a drug that could turn people into breakthroughs, specially into a place like Africa,” Cabby continued “a place that was left to their own luck, or worse, was somewhat exploited by other countries from their resources, sometimes even human, as happened during the Slavery age. People here has an anger and desperation sometimes that could make them go en masse on this…“

“… but, at the same time,” said Andre “The developed countries would also try to discover or obtain the BED formula to synthesize it by themselves. Although Vernetech, it was not impossible for other Vernes to synthesize it, and even worse, to turn it viable for mass-production without using Vernetech that is possible to be commonly replicate.”

“What?” said Joshua “But Vernetech isn’t technology that would be not replicable by others?”

“Not exactly: a better definition for Vernetech is technology that is normally not-replicable, but there’s some Vernetech that other Vernes or even common scientists could replicate. You can think that, for those in early 20th Century, Internet and cellphones could be Vernetech, and if you take some pulp books you’ll see that kind of things. So, it’s sensible to think that Vernetech is the technology that, although too much advanced for the ‘common’ tech, is still on the scientific paradigm theoretical line-of-sight, no matter how absurd it is. Although this could came in variations, like myself, that run on a parallel technological paradigm, via the so-called steampunk tech.”

“Wow…“ said Joshua “So, by using this, someone could mass-products Seif-al-Dins?”

“Or Atlases.” said Andre “Before the Event, some people said that someone’s terrorist is someone else’s freedom fighter. Any country, for the most different reasons, would love to create a big army of breakthrough soldiers. If someone finds a way to create this in simpler, safer ways than the breakthrough camps, this could unbalance the power balance for themselves… But if something that the Cold War and all the wars in past taught us is: every power edge a side acquires will result on the other sides on the conflict to run into a desperate search for another edge. This is the main idea beyond the Russian doctrine adopted in the Soviet era of Mutual Assured Destruction: the idea that, if you attack me, I’ll strike you back so hard that, even if you defeat me, you’ll also be into ashes, reigning over shambles. It’s a game where the best way to win is by not playing.”

“We arrived.” said Kabba, while they got near a small village after the dirt road. Although made of traditional huts, sounds like better on infrastructure than some: there could be seen electric wires and solar energy batteries and generators, and some antennae for radio-based Internet connection and cellphones. The kids where playing free and wild nearby, either playing soccer and traditional plays and learning some of traditional songs and dances with the eldest.

In the middle of them, a beautiful woman, dressed with skins and some satin. She looked to Joshua and the others as they got out the SUV, and then looks for the kids and did a suave but authoritative flick with his hand, ushering them out of the way. When the kids get away, she looks for Joshua and the others.

“I know who you are… Or at least, what I need to about you. Others came before you. You’re wasting your time.” said the woman.

“Are you ms. Nondaba?” said Joshua.

“Indeed I am, kid. I don’t know what kind of breakthrough you are, but I’ll not hear your proposes. I did my own choice.”

“But… Pretty please!, at least give us some minutes.” said Joshua, trying to use his Pretty Please!, but for some reason the woman was not phased enough.

“Your panache to try to mess with my mind is laughable, kid, but at least I’ll give you some time in honor of your trying. Let go somewhere else: I don’t want to bring the Nature’s fury under my own people if I need to.”

“What are you…“ was saying Andre, when Joshua cutted Andre, the others looked to him.

“I’m glad, ms Nondaba.” said Joshua, when they started to go away from the village, looking the natural red ironwood that grew near, until they came to a place.

Looked like a little glen, a little hut nearby. A water gourd could be seen next, and a straw litter into the hut. There was some straw rope around some trees, neatly disposed. It was Eileen that was really uneasy when she saw the straw ropes that circled the glen:

“Sounds like some kind of ward. Here’s a holy place.” whispered Eileen into her earbug “Take care everyone, looks like a trap.”

Just after she said this, she yelped when a high-pitched signal came into the earbugs and hers just exploded a little after she took it away from her ear.

“How dare you, silly girl, to think that I would play low with you, even you being my enemies, to trap you!” said the woman, lowing her hand, which indicated she used her projector power to mess with the earbugs. “This is my place. My home. You are the foreigner here, silly girl, and if you don’t want to lose your life, behave and be respectful with those things you don’t know or understand. I just didn’t kill you straight here because the word I gave for this little kid you’re aside.” said Nondaba, looking for Joshua.

And they saw that, wherever they are, even being really powerful, they were in the weaker side.

Chapter 11

“People think that all Villains wants money or power. That’s not true. Some of them want other things, values they cherished the most, like us pride our Freedom. And sometimes, even the so-called villains are not so, and heroes can also be villains. We just think they are villains because they don’t think like us. I think that, if we punched less and talked more, too much could be solved in simpler, safer ways.”

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

Jiminy was the one who said “Everyone, don’t engage!”

“What?! Jiminy, she’s trying to attack us! Certainly this is a trap!” said Dumont

“How sure you are, Dumont?” Jiminy said “If she wanted to kill us, she could do this before”

“You heard herself saying us that she didn’t wanted to use their powers against us in the village. Here we are fair sport!” said Dumont, taking some of the steampunk pistols from their holsters into Demoiselle (that collapsed back from his shirt) and pointed them to Kilimanjaro.

All the hostilities and escalation had a very bad side effect on Jiminy Cricket: his Bellax Analytica had gone bonkers, as too much futures, many of them really grim and bloody, where showing into his head, the informational surge and possible results hitting his 10-year-old psyche like a sledgehammer against a glass crystal, making him bringing his hands to his head while screaming in pain.

“Everyone, stop! Jiminy is being hurt!” said Djanni.

“Djanni, take care of Jiminy and Cabby!” said Sugarplum, taking a spare earbug, and doing a small gesture against them.

“What are you doing?” said Djanni, running to her, but hitting hard against a kind of force field.

“I warded you.” said Sugarplum “No one takes me as a little Pollyanna and goes away with this freely. Even more a crazy Tina Turner cover.”

“I had enough, small child.” said Josephine, or better, Kilimanjaro, lifting from the ground “You are offending me in my home and mocking my ways and my gods, like your people always did. But no more, even more in my home, I’ll be insulted like this!”

Josephine just send a electric discharge from his fingers straight into her chest, that exploded against another ward lifted by Sugarplum. Dumont tried to shoot some energy discharges against Kilimanjaro, that just pulled the energy aside like it was nothing.

In the meanwhile, Jiminy Cricket had been rendered useless, going into fetal posture and rolling in the dirt, whining and crying:

“Please… don’t… Eileen… no…“

“What’s happening?” said Djanni trying to understand

“It’s his power.” said Kabba, getting near, trying to clean Jiminy’s sweaty forehead and hold Jiminy safe, while Dumont and Sugarplum were engaging Kilimanjaro “His mind is under a really painful stress, this conflict opening so much possible situations, many of them really grim, that he’s not strong enough to deal with it.”

“Let me get out of here, Sugarplum!” said Djanni to Sugarplum “I’ll end this fast!”

“Fat chance, short stuff.” said Sugarplum “I’ll kick this African Lady Godiva’s butt hard!”

“No way you could do this, spoiled kid, here in my place!” said Kilimanjaro, hitting her with a gust of wind.

She tried to get out by shrinking into her Fairy Mode, but this only turned things worse, as Sugarplum was directly hit by the gust of wind in her Tinkerbell-sized form, and was sent against some of the trees, falling fainted in the ground. At the same time, everyone could hear Jiminy screaming.

“Jiminy!!! Sugarplum!!!! Alright, miss. I’m normally a dandy, but I’m not against shoot some sense into a crazy lady.” said Dumont, lifting in the air and trying to shoot Kilimanjaro. The shots were avoided, and Kilimanjaro just forced Dumont back in the ground with another gust of wind. Then, she tried another of the lighting attack against Dumont, that she missed…

It was when Jiminy cried to Djanni.

“DJANNI, IN THE ROAD! THAT GIRL!” he screamed.

And Djanni saw a little girl, getting near, straight into the lighting range and line.

Djanni had just a blink to act, leaving Jiminy and getting out the ward, flying to the kid direction…

…being hit full hard unconscious in his back when he put himself as meatshield between the kid and the lighting.

“Djanni!” said Dumont, running for it, while Josephine looked for the girl, that gone for her, scared.

“Sawie!” said Kilimanjaro, looking for the now trembling girl “What are you thinking you’re doing, coming here? You’re not old enough to came to the gods’ home!”

“Josie…“ was saying Sawie, trembling in fear either in her body and her voice “Your Mom… She asked me to came… When she saw the winds changing and the sky going dark. She knew you would fight…“ and she started to cry.

Dumont was looking for Djanni, while Sugarplum was going for Jiminy, both unconscious now.

“Jiminy… Jiminy…“ said Sugarplum.

“Let us go.” said Kilimanjaro for the girl, with a more sweet tone in her profound, powerful voice “Come with me and bring those kids. I don’t know how, but that crazy kid saved my little friend Sawie’s life, and by extension my soul. Bring them back with me to my mothers’ hut, and they’ll rest and recover. I swear by Hospitality Tradition you’ll have safe haven.”

Kabba got Djanni, while Dumont took Jiminy, Sugarplum shameful putting herself aside Dumont.

“I never saw him that way before.” said Sugarplum, worried “I know his power is really incredible, and somewhat dangerous… But never saw him going that mad before…“

“Jiminy is still a child.” said Dumont “We forget this so easily because on how fast he learns and how powerful is his mind… But, in his very heart, he’s still the same kind kid that just didn’t want to be picked up by and thrashed bullies. Think if you could see bleak futures for himself and/or for your friends…“

“But she’s a B-Class.” said Sugarplum

“She’s B-Class, Sugarplum, and this is really enough to kill even someone powerful like you or Djanni or anyone here.” said Dumont, looking a little sad to Jiminy “Need to say, sometimes I feel sorry for Jiminy and think that, if there’s a God, he should not be that good, to give a little kind boy like him a so big burden.”

“You should not.” said Kilimanjaro “If the adder could hear, and the blind worm could see, neither man nor beast would ever go free. This kid can be kind and had suffered, but the Gods are wise enough to give each one the burden they could sustain. This kid was wiser than both of you older than himself, except by the man there.” said Kilimanjaro, pointing Kabba.

“I would not try to mess with a witch doctor, even more one knowingly powerful.” he said

Jiminy was still crying and sobbing over Dumont’s arms, while Djanni was starting to wake up.

“Cabby… How is… That girl…“ said Djanni.

“She’s okay. Unhurt, just a little shaken. Don’t speak or move too much: even being an Atlas, you had been hit really hard. Take your time to recover.”

“And Jiminy…“

“Looks like he had gone through it as well as he could… He’s unconscious now, and still maybe with bad dreams, but the worst is over.” said Cabby.

“We’re are we going…“ said Djanni

“We are going back the village, so everyone could be treated. Take some rest. To be fair, I think you and Jiminy saved us.” said Cabby, while Djanni closed back his eyes and got into a sleep.

Chapter 12

“The first time you’re defeated, you never forget. This is a truth that I learned with the infidels, the Compassionate One to be honored on let me learn this that time. No matter how powerful you think you are, you’ll find either someone stronger than you or smarter than you or someone that can’t be affected by your powers. And this is good, because this shows how the Compassionate One made us to be complimentary and only Him is All-Mighty.”

Altayr Bashir Tahan, “Musings on the Holy Q’uran and the Event, from a Breakthrough Muslim”

The hut was a little dark, as they put no electric power on it. By option, to be fair: there was electric power for the rest of the village and the smartphones had signal from the local base station. Josephine had put them there, with some litters in the clean dirt floor. Altayr was still feeling some small pain, but he was better than Joshua, that was sweating a lot and looking like a kid having terrible nightmares, what in fact he was.

“Jesus Christ…“ said Eileen “He doesn’t wake up. What is happening?”

“I think his Bellax Analytica had gone amok and he can’t get out…“ said Andre, when Josephine came with two elderly women.

“Those are my mother, Masseray, and grandmother, Mabinty. They are wise into our people wisdom. I talked to them what happened, and they believe they can help.” said Josephine, while putting a LED lamp in the ground, near the litters “Sorry about this, but we use this only in some rituals, so there’s no electric light for this hut, and this is the only one empty by now. However, if you want to take a shower, there’s a community shower and we can provide some towels and soap.”

“We are okay…“ said Eileen, meekly, while the elderly women looked to Joshua.

“He’s under a trance of Oya, lady of Progression.” said one of them “This white kid is powerful, but even so powerful he is still a child. You all” said the old woman, looking for the adults, including Josephine “should know this, and so you all are guilty on whatever happens with him. Josephine, you are guilty for bringing violence in the house of gods. And you, girl,” said the woman, looking for Eileen “you should had listened to this kid. He would be not like this if you did so.”

“Will he be okay?” asked Eileen

“Let me do the treatment.” said the old woman, taking a little pot made of gourd and putting some water and a kind of beverage into Joshua’s lips and mouth. The reaction was almost instantaneous, as his face was calmer and the sweating stopped.

“This will let him have some of the dreams a kid should have. This will not heal him fully, but he’ll be better tomorrow, and will heal soon. Now, we will talk.” said the older woman, that Eileen believed be Mabinty, lifting and giving a sign to them. Andre and Eileen looked to each other and then to Kabba.

“You go. I’ll talk with Roque Santeiro and look for Altayr and Joshua.” said Kabba

“We’ll ask someone to bring you and the kids some food.” said the other woman, Masseray, while getting out, leaving gourds with water for them.

The lights in the village were very bright in the houses and huts, but almost non-existent in the outside, so they could see the stars. The bright stars where, with the bright full moon, almost all they needed for lighting. There was a communal kitchen next a fire, where some food were over a wooden stove. Rice, the local fufu made from cassava and some local soups were made in big casseroles. A peanut stew full in chicken parts were also being served. The kids took some of all the food, while Josephine took some of the fufu and the stew. Andre and Eileen also took some of the food, including the fufu that they started to eat with the hands as everyone. Although a little messy, they ate the food and Eileen had to take it, it was very tasty.

After that, they looked while Josephine and their parents telling stories, African folklore that gone until them by oral tradition. The magical and creepy stories. It was when the kids were really sleepy and they gone back for their homes, that Masseray took the word.

“You came here with bad intentions.” said Masseray “At least, you came with evil at your heart.”

“What?!” said Eileen “Look, ma’am, I don’t want to…“

“SILENCE!” said the older Mabinty, not with volume, but with posture “You’ll hear those older than you, young girl, if you know what’s good. What you want or not is not our concern. You came here and brought violence to the home of the gods. And this includes you, Josephine. You, more than them, should now: thou shall not bring the violence into the home of the gods.”

Josephine was with a meek face.

“You are all kids that don’t learned the wisdom. The little white kid in the hut was the one who suffered on because your hubris. You thought that your powers brought you wisdom, but you almost killed three children, and you could had killed yourselves, and over everything, you almost killed your own souls. Shame on you three.” said Mabinty

“It was our fault.” said Andre “We thought we were being put into a trap. Jiminy… I say, Joshua… tried to say that we should not fight.”

“It was some of my fault also.” said Josephine “I was in hubris. I should had not forced a fight.”

“Beyond everything, you all didn’t listen to the wisdom of the children. It was them that saved you from yourselves.” said Mabinty, and Andre noted that she was a kind of judge, but not in legal ways. She was one of those sage woman from the stories, that corrects those who are not doing things right.

“There’s nothing you can do for him now, except accept your responsibility as adults.” says Masseray. “Now, why you came here, foreigners?”

“It’s… We had an attack at Roque Santeiro camp recently. Some tribal chieftain used a lot of breakthrough warriors, many of them with dangerous powers. Those two kids, Altayr and Joshua, fought with us some that were into the camp. We believe that some local witch doctor is doing some bad thing with the local people. We discovered some information about a kind of drug that gave power for those who take it.” said Eileen.

“And why you came for us? We don’t know nothing about this.” said Masseray, but she and Mabinty could see Josephine growing uneasily.

“We heard from someone we have under custody that your daughter, Mrs. Nondaba, is somewhat involved on this.” said Andre “This drug is a Vernetech drug, a super-science drug that is difficult to make an antidote. Besides, it’s very dangerous for either the body and the mind: some of those who use this drug could go mad with it, the psychosis breakthrough giving origin to real monsters, people whose minds were shattered by the drug used in the origin chasing. I think you know how dangerous is origin chasing.”

“You are all right.” said Masseray “But we think that Josephine has nothing with this. Has you, Josephine?”

Masseray looked to Josephine, who looked away from their eyes.

“We taught you the best we could either in our traditional ways and in the foreigner’s wisdom, readying you for being a chieftain like us.” said Masseray “Had you gave your back for our traditions and wisdom? I can’t believe my own daughter is so big a child.”

“The foreigner ignores us, or fears us. We can strike back and take back what is ours! Our country! Our land!” said Josephine

“Nothing can do this. The past is the past. We learn from it, but we don’t yearn for it. Yearn the past, lose the future, is our wisdom.” said Masseray

“How you can say this, old woman? You thought me to be proud of myself, strong on myself, to rely on myself over all. Kwazani can empower Africa back! The time of the Foreigner is over!” said Josephine, the static start to growing around them, when they heard terrible screams.

One coming from the hut they came.

Other coming from one of the houses!

“What is…“ said Josephine, worried, when Altayr get from the hut, his body still limping on the pain from the sustained damage

“Eileen! Joshua cried to you to go for the house! He saw a really bad thing getting out there! Kabba is holding Joshua fast so he doesn’t hurt himself.” said Altayr

“What? What thing?” said Andre

When Eileen felt a bad, bad feeling, a mystical disturb that only a Merlin could feel and made her shiver.

“A psychosis breakthrough!” whispered Eileen, worried

Chapter 13

“I don’t know exactly why so much psychosis breakthrough came under the supernatural mantle, but I suspect that’s because we Merlin deal with the supernatural and the imagination, and some of the most ancient registries about those in the world are related with nightmares and the darkness. From the Serpent in the Eden’s Garden to Beowulf to Leviathan, to even the Cthulhu Mythos and Hellraiser’s cenobites, those nightmares still lurks the primordial ape there’s on each person, still make us wake up in the night screaming and sweating… And, thanks The Event, still appears through those whose minds fractures into a Breakthrough.”

Eileen McRae, for Reuters

The people ran away from the house while Eileen, Josephine and the others (Altayr including) got near. Some of the people were crossing themselves, other took some Mishaba and started to do the dhikr, saying the 99 names of Allah, other taking some salt and throwing it in front of them. They could see in front of them the same girl Altayr protected, being held hostage by a boy with a face demonically homicidal, an empty blister in his hand, the other with a tentacle holding the girl over the air.

“Senesie!” screamed Josephine “What are you doing with Sawie? She’s your sister!”

A voice, really trembling, started to say:

“She was weak! Se should not listen to any of you, bitches! She saw me, and will pay the price!” said the kid, like a possessed creature

“He’s under a psychotic surge!” said Andre “We need to stop them!”

“No!” said Masseray “You’ll kill him!”

“If we don’t engage him now,” said Eileen “he’ll kill her. We need to do our best to not escalate this.”

“Eileen…“ said Altayr

“No way, short stuff. We can deal with this. Josephine, I’ll think you’ll need to shot him with that electric trick.” said Andre

“Alright… But we’ll not kill him.” said Josephine

“Believe me, “ said Eileen “I don’t like this more than you, but this is the problem with psychotic breakthroughs: we can’t be sure we can stop them safely. But I swear I’ll try my best to not kill him.” she finished, putting the earbug and shrinking, doing the Tink trick so she could be seen.

Andre, Eileen and Josephine then were attacked by tentacles, made of solid darkness, darker than the night, that exploded just a little in front of them thanks the magical ward put by Eileen. She shot some light magic that severed some of the tentacles but the tentacles doubled from the severed ones.

“Shit!” said Andre, a special Vernetech Pincez-Nes over his left eye “Merlin, at least C-Class, potential to even A-Class.”

“What?!” said Eileen, dodging just for a bit one of those tentacles.

“This thing is a demon!” said Josephine “Whatever is happening, is demonic!”

“That’s the problem!” said Eileen “Merlins, or supernatural breakthrough, are all about magic and myth! Put this and a psychotic surge, and you have the creepypasta’s creepypasta!”

“Damn!” said Andre.

“I can help you with all this!” said Altayr.

“No way, short stuff! If you die here, your father will kill us!” said Eileen, while two other tentacles were chopped by Kilimanjaro’s lighting, just to regrow doubled in moments.

“But we need to do something.” said Altayr “What could we do?”

“There’s only two ways to deal with this.” said Andre, while shooting the tentacles “The first, fast, and forbidden: we finish him!”

“And the other?” said Altayr

“Sometimes there’s a kind of weak spot where this bad juju are more concentrated.” said Eileen “Deal enough damage there, the mystical mass will dissolve and be not able to regrow. However, this doesn’t assure we’ll stop him once and for all: if he wakes up, he can be as crazy as he’s now, even more. But at least we can deal with him for now and save Sawie.”

“And were is this spot…“ said Altayr

“We are trying to find it…“ said Eileen “If Joshua was here, his Bellax Analytica would be so much useful…“

Then, they saw Joshua, panting and running to it from the hut, Kabba also running.

“Joshua, NO!!!!” scream Eileen, as the way he came from was not warded.

The homicidal thing tried to shot some tentacles to impale either Joshua and Kabba, that took his Taurus and shoot as much as he could, but the bullets were not effective.

It was just by a bit that Altayr flew and catched both by their clothes.

“Joshua!” said Eileen

“I’m okay…“ said Joshua, although he didn’t looked that good: his eyes had dark circles and his hair was messy and dirty from the hut’s dirt and oil from the sweat. They could see he had an earbug on his ear.

“What are you doing?” said Andre, shooting as much tentacles as he could.

“I need you to gain time: I still need to do some effort on my Bellax Analytica!” said Joshua

“Kid, are you sure?” said Josephine, getting near Altayr, Joshua e Kabba

“If you gain time, I can see the spot from were the tentacle is coming. This could be hit until the kid body goes exhausted without killing them him and the other girl. Altayr, put me in the ground. Kabba, on me for help. Josephine, shoot the tentacles that holds that girl, so Altayr can catch her by flying nearby. Eileen and Andre, give distraction for Altayr.” said Joshua, panting.

“Are you…“ was saying Eileen, when Joshua shouted like a kid under a tantrum


Eileen made a grumpy face, but it was too late: she was caught into Joshua’s Pretty Please!, as all the others, and she had to do what Joshua said.

She was not like a marionette for Joshua, however: she put a second ward for Joshua and then engaged with the crazy kid, while he shot tentacle after tentacle and Andre and Eileen circled the crazy kid, that engaged them, giving his back for Joshua and lifting the little girl in the air like a ragdoll locked into a vicious dog bite.

It was when Josephine saw a spot to hit the girls’ tentacle and used a big lighting bolt, she blasted it to smithereens.

“Go, Altayr!” said Joshua, and Altayr blasted as fast as he could while the tentacles doubled and tried to get the girl back.

It was by a bit the the tentacles had not got the girl back, but Altayr received a good lashing of the tentacles.

“Altayr!” screamed Joshua.

“I’m okay! It was just a scratch!” said Altayr by his earbug, and gone back to the ward protection, the girl unhurt, but really shaken, being held by Kabba.

“Found the Spot!” said Joshua, when his Bellax Analytica showed the spot. “Behind his neck, a small point of a darkness even darker!”

“Roger!” said others

“Eileen, Aine’s Light!” said Joshua.

“Thought just about that!” said Eileen, going over and hover and then invoking a great ball of light, that made the tentacles grew weak and the darker spot even more visible.

“Go, Josephine! Eileen can’t hold this too much!” said Joshua, with urgency in the voice.

Josephine pointed her hand to the neck of the kid and shot a lighting bolt that hit straight into the point. The kid screamed and brought his hand to his head until he fell in the dirt. The old women, Masseray and Mabinty, went to the kid and looked for him, and gave meekly smiles.

Kabba was again carrying Joshua in his arms, but now he looked better.

“You saved my soul again, little kid.” said Josephine, looking for Joshua “I’ll never forget this.”

“Short stuff, you’re a mess.” said Eileen, almost crying

“Sorry using my Pretty Please! on you, Eileen.”

“No… You were right.” she said “Looks like those women are right: you’re wiser than us by most.”

“Now we’ll see for Senesie!” said Mabinty

“And this will gives us some clues.” said Andre, taking the blister Senesie had in one hand

“Josephine, you brought this to your village?” said Masseray, pointing the blister

“No! I swear!” said Josephine, worried

“Don’t lie to us, girl!” said Mabinty

“I’m not lying! Maybe…“ said Josephine, when they heard a car speeding out the tribe. When Kabba did the move to go, Joshua said meekly from the pain and exhaustion, almost falling to the ground before Kabba could get him.

“Don’t… Even you will not get them at this time of the night. They have advantage and knows the terrain. We’ll check for clues tomorrow. But looks like those were the ones who gave Senesie the drug.”

“Okay…“ said Masseray “Bring the kid to our shower: he need as much a good sleep as possible, after all this, and being this messy and dirty will not help. You have our Hospitality, by our Traditions, as long as needed. I swear in my and our Ancestor’s names.”

And Joshua had too much difficult to not get asleep before getting back the hut, clean and nice, when some of the Vernetech auto-filling inflatable mattress that Andre and Kabba brought from the Land Rover were filled. But as soon he touched his head into the mattress, he nod off.

Chapter 14

“How it is to ‘see the future’? First of all, let me correct: I don’t see THE future. What I see is a range of POSSIBLE futures, my power and mind expanding the possibilities as far as I can. And this sometimes is really a burden to figure out the best of those possible futures and try to make it true. It’s not easy, and even with the intensive training I have, sometimes my power still goes overboard and make me goes haywire, crippling me. Believe me, as far I like my powers, sometimes it’s really hurtful. So, don’t envy this, because sometimes I envy those who can’t ‘see the future’.”

Jiminy Cricket, at Blue Peter, BBC

Joshua woke up next day, thrashed by all the action and still with a big headache, but somewhat better than the day before.

“Hiya, sport.” said Eileen, pushing him a thermos bottle, a water bottle and a capsule. “Kabba said me to not let you out: you had a hell of a day yesterday, so you need as much rest as you can.” she said, and when Joshua was opening his mouth to complain, she said “No complains or Pretty Please!s this time. Diana’s orders. They send some meds for you. Just a little painkiller.”

“How Diana knows about all this?” said Joshua, taking the remedy with the water and drinking some of the thermos content. Hot cocoa. “And why not go back Roque Santeiro?”

“Our mission was compromised:” said Eileen “the Kwazani guy knows about us, according the recent intel. Panther and Kilimanjaro are now considered ‘in custody’, and will work with us. We believe that the one who gave that kid Senesie the drug was Magog: he’s Kwazani’s second and, for the good and the ill, will be the one that will do the dirty work. Kilimanjaro and Panther are now compromised, but they have useful intel that Roque Santeiro’s specialists are evaluating with all the collected intel to do a action plan. The village is on a mess: some Blue Berets are here for helping us and they are protecting the village against possible tangos.” and then Joshua noted Eileen was on costume. “We are all officially under costume for now and will be this way until further notice.”

“Brought some of mine?” said Joshua.

“We brought.” said Altayr, or better, Djanni, using first time his costume, something like Aladdin and classic Sinbad, using a veil as mask “But don’t push yourself, Joshua, or better, Jiminy. You had a hell of a night.” he said, passing him a small pack of chocolate filled wafers. “How are you?”

“Some headache, but can deal with this for a while, even more with the painkiller. It wasn’t the first time my powers gone haywire, but it was the worst until now.” said Joshua, opening the package and shoving the wafers in his mouth as there was no tomorrow.

“Hey, Jiminy, where’s your matters?” said Eileen, giggling, as Joshua is a so well-behaved kid that seeing him hogging the cocoa Thermos and wafers was a weird thing.

“‘Mowwy” said him with the mouth full, and then he swallowed the food and, blushing said. “Sorry… Think I was, as you say Eileen, so much needing this I could not control.”

“It’s okay. It was like that Mabinty woman said: we all, yourself in the account, sometimes forget that you are just a child. No matter how powerful your mind, your Bellax Analytica and your Pretty Please! are, you’re still a kid, and a very good one. We adult should sometime prevent you to go hurt. Remember anything between the glen and that thing?”

“Glimpses… But it was horrible. I could not think and my mind had gone amok. I can’t remember it all, but was scary as hell, so I can’t really describe what I remember, except by glimpses.” said Jiminy.

“Potty-mouth!” said Eileen, but giggling “But it’s okay. Looks like you’ll need a time to process all this.”

“Where’s the others?” said Joshua, trying to exchange topics, as all that was bringing back the willies for him.

“Andre is already on his Dumont’s best, doing what he does better: implementing tech. In fact, that serpentine coil for water heating for shower was a blessing. And also we are deploying an advanced post here for our actions.” said Eileen “Lesley came to talk with Senesie. Looks like he had achieved a breakthrough as Merlin, but he’s so reluctantly because his experience that Lesley is working on him to ease his burden so he can work all his power without problems. He looks better now, but sounds like he’ll need some time to cope with what happened. The other girl Sawie is better now, but Lesley will take a look on both of them during the next days. Corin came for reinforcement, but Soldaire, Hufflepuff and LionHeart are still at Roque Santeiro, helping with the intel analysis. Kuntur as an Atlas is helping bring stuff here. And Cabby is helping us by mapping the place, looking for any hazards with some Super Berets help. Me and Djanni will help Kuntur and Cabby on their activities. “

“Right.” said Joshua, finishing the food. “I’ll take a shower and put my costume. I’ll get into contact with Dispatch for extra intel. I can’t just stand aside while everyone else is working.”

“Okay, short stuff.” said Eileen exasperated “But I’ll want you to ALWAYS be on earbug and, if you feel yourself near on being with your powers haywired again, I want you to get out the frontline ASAP, right? No but’s or Pretty Please!s.”

“Right, Eileen.” said Joshua, taking a little bag and going for the communitary shower. He took a bath and put his costume, including his half-mask. For some reason, when he got out the shower room, the old woman Mabinty was nearby and a looked to him:

“I thought you should gave some time and leave this for those older than you.” said Mabinty, but without judgment

“Sorry… I just can’t let my friends on need.” said Joshua, or better, Jiminy Cricket.

“I thought this would be your answer.” she said, smiling a toothless but kind smile. “I’m old, maybe older than your parents and grandparents. This time is not like mine. In my time, kids only played and had fun and listened to the older and wiser. I don’t think I’ll live too many. Don’t be sad.” said Mabinty, looking for the sad face Jiminy did “This is your time, to do what you need for a new age. Maybe better, maybe worse, but very different from the time before The Event. This is the Orisha’s will. Or God, or Allah… I don’t know. What I know is that there’s no way to someone knows everything, and everyone needs to deal with things on their time.”

Jiminy didn’t know how to answer beside nod.

“You were touched, kid. People older and wiser than you would had their minds shattered if they undergone the same experiences you had. Don’t be cocky, however. You only had undergone this because it was what you and you only should undergo. Otherwise, there would be no chance for you to undergone that.” said Mabinty “But also don’t get meek. What you did, you did by your own strength. You’ll grow even wiser, if I can see your future. I do not have your powers” said Mabinty, when Jiminy looked to her, astonished “but I have my wisdom, from someone that lived a lot and saw a lot. I saw the first African hero, Bengela, and the first villain, a guy called just The Chieftain. I saw many, many people growing in power and falling and betraying and being betrayed and living and dying. I saw the politics and the greed and hate and love and happiness. Saw drug-lords unhappy and children with very few happy. I think you someday will also see this, and this will be important, not because your powers, but because your wisdom.” she said.

Jiminy nod agreeing, his half-mask hiding the blushing.

“Can I saw your face without the mask?” said Mabinty

Jiminy removed the top hat and pushed the cricket-shaped half mask, showing his clean face. He still had some spots because the day before, but he was almost as always he was.

“You have a kind face… Kids should be this way. Like you and Senesie and Sawie” said Mabinty, when Jiminy put his half mask back, putting the earbug on his ear. “I believe you’ll make a difference, I don’t know how or when or why, but you’ll be someone important. Just stay kind and wise and strong as you’re now.”

“Thanks, miss. I’ll do my best.” said Jiminy, when Mabinty gone to do her chores, and Jiminy to his.

“Authenticating on the network… Alright, we are in Roque Santeiro’s intranet.” said Andre, on his Dumont costume, while hitting the keyboard of the small laptop computer. The sun was hot, and everyone that could be were under the barrack they mounted, relieving into the portable air conditioning. The communication had some delay, but that was unavoidable, because the Asimov-powered cryptography and the radio connection. Anyway, they would have comm-link with Roque Santeiro.

“Roque Santeiro, this is Dumont. With me are Squirrel Girl, Jiminy Cricket, Cabby, Sugarplum, Kuntur and Djanni” said Dumont

“Here’s Roque Santeiro, Diana speaking. Outpost, how is the situation?” said Diana, using the Dispatch communication. The link issues made the audio full on noise and failures in the image, but for a first time check it was okay, everyone could say.

“We are established, and already defined with the local chieftains Mabinty and Masseray some contingency plans for evacuation, if needed. We also created a small DMZ for security on the village limits. MaxBerets on it.” said Cabby

“And the locals?”

“They are dealing okay, although somewhat uneasy. They are just okay with us because Kilimanjaro is very well-liked here, even with her working with a origin seller until now.” said Cabby.

“Soldaire speaking. How is Jiminy?”

“I’m okay.” said Jiminy “Just a little shaken.”

“What happened?” asked Soldaire.

“I lost control on my Bellax Analytica.” he said

“I already undergone a psychological evaluation on him.” said Squirrel Girl, that had undone her tail to free some space in the barrack “I’ll pass the full report soon, but I can say he’s okay. My theory is that the probability explosion, and the grim results on many of those futures, caused by Bellax Analytica, haywired Jiminy. He received too much too soon to deal with.”

“Alright. I’ll talk with you privately after, Jiminy, for a little training for your Bellax Analytica, so you can be shielded against this kind of haywire. This could be fatal in a battlefield.” said Soldaire, then he saw Jiminy’s reaction and said “Don’t worry, Jiminy. I know that you had a bad mind juju for a change, and it’s just because that I’m working into a training for your Bellax Analytica, so this kind of surge doesn’t happen again.”

“Alright, Soldaire.”

“So, I’ll need Cabby and Kuntur here at Roque Santeiro. We hope there’s no attacks soon, as we are in a shortage of muscle after the attack. So Dumont will help you with some Vernetech we’re sending for you. Panther and Kilimanjaro will work with you. I want you, Jiminy, on contact with Dispatch as much as possible. If not you, Dumont and, as soon we can free it, Cabby will work. Sugarplum, wards all around, and reinforce them as much as you can. Charms, wards, all kind of sigils, whatever. Your discretion. Lesley, I want you to care for Jiminy and that two kids, Senesie and Sawie. We are lucky enough they stopped a psychosis breakthrough without a kill.” said Diana

“Dr. Stiles here.” said the small blond man “We have some results on what is that drug. In fact, it is a mix of psychoactive drugs, many of them legally obtained for mental treatment, but in high dosages. In fact, this thing has a very small LD50, and just a pinch higher LD99. I don’t know how there’s not a dying spree linked with this. The biggest problem is the stimulants and depressants combination, and the used ones. All of them very powerful, and with lots of adverse effects. Just a pinch more of a micro-gram of any of those plus or less on someone’s system could make the body and mind goes amok. This Senesie kid was lucky, as he got away from a psychotic breakthrough alive and sane after take this death concoction.”

“Any kind of a antidote, or suppressor, if we need to deal with someone on an overdose or a psychotic surge?” said Sugarplum

“Fat chance… CADUCEUS used some supercomputers, including some Vernetech, all with Asimov-powered code, to simulate this thing. We didn’t even gone for animal testing because the toxicity of this thing is monstrous. The margin on this is really, really small. And an antidote could be just more toxicity for the body deal with. We have something ready, but I don’t believe this could be more a cure or antidote than a lethal injection. We are working hard on something to counter this down, but I would not put my chips on it.”

“So…“ said Kilimanjaro, disgusted with all this “Senesie was lucky.”

“Yes. The kind of toxicity on this thing is something we never saw before: I can’t believe on how many people had died into a frenzy pain, the body going berserk against itself… This is not even an origin chasing drug, this is just a killing pill that, just by luck, can induce a breakthrough, even temporally. I just don’t have words on how disgusting we all are.”

“Alright!” said Diana “I’ve send this all for MSF, HSF, WHO and the UNHCR, and we are just waiting some more intel. They are our tactical priority level Alpha, and I’m putting you all on this. Any questions?”

They were all astonished.

Chapter 15

“‘There’s a reason for super-teams. The paper-scissors-rock nature of superpowers means that nobody, no matter how tough, can defend against every possible kind of attack;’ when Astra said that, people think on the Atlas vs Merlin kind of fight, for example. But even if you are not super strong as an Atlas, you can be the paper for your team, if you understand how the other breakthrough power works.”

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

“Alpha priority?” said Jiminy while they were eating lunch, after the meeting, on one of the barracks, where Dumont, Sugarplum, Djanni and himself are boxed up. There was another barrack where Panther, Kuntur and Cabby would split. They are sat into some folding chairs and the haddock-like beds were retracted into the barrack wall.

“What is Alpha priority?” said Djanni.

“When we are in Alpha priority in tactical level” said Dumont “we are totally allocated for this: basically none of us will get back Roque Santeiro until we have acquired this origin seller. And we are all under costume all time, no excuses.”

“So, the TL; DR version” said Sugarplum “is that we need to solve this ASAP.”

“But we’ll have all support from the big guys.” said Dumont, when looking the worried faces of Jiminy and Djanni “They put us on Alpha because they see that drug as a potential menace.”

“All about the power shifting?” asked Djanni

“Not only: this drug is really a health problem. WHO is to declare an origin chasing pandemic, only did not because some countries, like US, are treating this the same way they treated War on Drugs in 1980s and 1990s. And everyone knows that this only made drug-related criminality and police funding rise and rise and the drug-related health treatment funding go low and low.” said Dumont

“They tried to use that ‘Just say no’ crap and forgot that kids and teens always have the peer pressure problem.” said Sugarplum “I myself lost a good friend for drugs. She gone into it because that good-for-nothing guy she fell in love with. He had that punk/villain pose, using marijuana and meth, and she started to use it, until she had a heart attack after an overdose and died. That asshole of boyfriend was of no use even to call 911 for an ambulance for her. I gone really bad, specially because she was part of the dance club before going into all this shit. She was my best dance training partner, so she was dearly for me.”

“They transferred the responsibility.” said Jiminy “I heard about a guy from my class that, after I gone comatose after the breakthrough, tried to buy some drugs for a bet into my school. He was arrested. Sometimes I think if we should not push people that hard on things. When everything goes amok and people dies or suffers in the process, the ones who did go with the ‘It’s not my fault’ or ‘It was just a joke’ or ‘We’ve just clowning around’ like those are a kind of ‘Get out of the jail’ card. It was the same with me somewhat: I was almost lynched to death before I used Pretty Please! first time, and my Bellax Analytica showed me a safe route to go back home before going into a six-month coma. My dad said they said that they didn’t want to almost kill me, and it was ‘just some fun’, when they were brought to Juvenile House. Well, for me was not a fun lose somewhat six month of my life, even with the breakthrough put into account.”

They looked for Jiminy: it was very rare for him to talk about himself, specially on something so traumatic for him as the lynching some bullies gave him that resulted on him undergoing breakthrough before being killed. That resulted on him going really hurt for home and gone comatose for six months after that. Then he gone to Héros Sans Frontiéres and now he was at Sierra Leone.

“Wow, Joshua…“ said Sugarplum “It’s not common from you to say things about this.”

“But now this is past. Although sometimes I envy those who doesn’t have powers.” said Jiminy “If I didn’t gone breakthrough, maybe today I would be playing ball with my dad.”

“Or you would be dead.” said Kilimanjaro, in a non-nonsense tone, getting into the barrack “Sorry, kid, but maybe you would be dead. And it’s no good to think on ifs and maybes. You are now what you are, you are here and we need you as a whole, not just Joshua or Jiminy. We need you.”

“Thanks, ms. Nondaba…“

“Call me Kilimanjaro.”

“Alright, Kilimanjaro.”

“So,” said Dumont “let us finish the plan: we still need to find where is Kwazani base and collect intel to get into it and stop his operation. Jiminy, take the day for getting into that training Soldaire want you. I think we’ll need you as stable you can, and things will go amok very soon. I’ll contact Roque Santeiro and then go with Kuntur, Kilimanjaro and Sugarplum for collecting as must intel as possible. I want Djanni and Panther here to secure everything.”

“Alright.” said everyone, while they finished their lunch.

The so called training was play and study the ancient game of Go, called also Baduk or Weiqi, depending on the place in the world you came from. The game was basically played by putting stones into a grid and circling regions. For Jiminy, this training was made to focus on how to better focus and uses Bellax Analytica without the power goes overboard. As the standard Go board was made of 19 lines crossed by 19 columns, giving 361 possible places to put on a stone on the first turn, the exponential variables were big enough to push over Jiminy’s Bellax Analytica power so he would need to understand his power and avoid the traps that it brings.

To make things more fun for Jiminy, Sugarplum, Dumont and Djanni also learned Go, so they could take times playing with him. In the next days, he passed almost all time he could in front of the foldable table and stones that Soldaire brought for him, courtesy of one of the Accomplished Warriors that was close friends with Soldaire and did him a favor by bringing some of this flying to Sierra Leone and leaving the Go material for Soldaire, either the foldable table and stones, and some books with Tsumego, life-and-death challenges somewhat like the checkmate exercises for chess.

“That’s a bore.” said Djanni, looking for the table, opened over a foldable table in their barrack. Their game was still a mess, but Djanni was already feeling he could not follow Jiminy’s game, as he put another stone in the table.

“Think if I would go spar you into some boxing.” said Jiminy, while looking to the table and thinking on his move. “Even if I would not make my bones gone into jelly in the process, it would be anyway a bore for me, as you are faster and stronger as an Atlas.”

Djanni smiled with the comparison while they were finishing the game. It would be obvious Jiminy would win, as Djanni haven’t a Bellax Analytica to help him to pass through the game. Still, Djanni felt a little like Jiminy was cheating on him, by using his power, even being this the reason for all this training and playing, to reinforce Jiminy’s control on Bellax Analytica.

It was when Sugarplum entered the room, still on his Tinkerbell-like size.

“Djanni, Jiminy, looks like they have discovered enough intel about Kwazani!” said Sugarplum, using the Earbug to be heard on more than little chirps and squeals.

“Alright. We are going.” said Jiminy and Djanni, undoing the game and putting everything back into their place in the barracks. The Go game was almost done what it should: this and Squirrel Girl’s counseling had done enough to Jiminy to put him back into his best for action.

Jiminy got out, pulling down his half-mask and putting his top hat over his head, while Sugarplum flied almost in front Jiminy and Djanni’s eyes. Everyone saw the two breakthrough kids going on and the little light dot that was Sugarplum and just avoided them, as the people from the Nondaba village was already used to the weird foreigner capes. They run to the base barrack, where they found Dumont already doing some notes with his Montblanc fountain pen on a map, using a set of honest-to-gosh ruler and T square to draw some precise lines into it with fast, elegant swishes.

“We already took the intel needed to make a plan.” said Dumont, showing the map for them, and they saw that Kuntur, Kilimanjaro, Panther and Cabby was seeing the map also, and so, via webcam conference, Diana, Soldaire, Hufflepuff and LionHeart at Roque Santeiro.

“We discovered where Kwazani established himself. He secretly used Mount Bintumani as a base, nearby Guinea frontier, and reinforced himself there. We think that he uses a clandestine airport nearby Guinean frontier to smuggle his chemicals here. The problem is: we can’t understand how he can smuggle all those chemicals through the frontier without being noticed. We don’t have proofs, but we think that Guinean warlords and chieftains are supporting him somehow in exchange for BED.” said Corin “But it’s certain according our intel that the supply line for the materials Kwazani needs is via Guinea. We don’t know about R&D and other things, however.”

“We’ll now trace an action plan: we are talking with Leonean forces to close the frontiers nearby Mount Bintumani and do a general lock-down of the region, including airspace closing, ground access restricted, all the drill.” said Dumont “We’ll work the details on this all, and we need everyone here, so we can adjust the plan.”

“I can help into the field in the action.” said Jiminy “Sounds like this time being at Dispatch would be not that good: if there’s too much variables on this, we should avoid the communication lag delay, and being in Dispatch would turn the delay prohibitive”

“No chance, short stuff.” said Sugarplum “Those guys are armed and armored and have those creepypasta they call breakthroughs to help them. They’ll turn you into a bloody Mac-and-Cheese if they can.”

“I think Jiminy is right this time, Sugarplum.” said Diana “We are not into a situation we can spare anyone in frontline. His power is more useful in the field now than ever, and the communication lag, even small, can be enough to render his power useless for this action. But I want you, Jiminy, to be into armor and, at least, do some basic training on using weapons and self-defense.”

“I had some as part of CAI Certification, I think I can do myself.” said Jiminy.

“I can care for Pepito Grillo if needed.” said Hufflepuff.

“Don’t worry, everyone.” said Dumont. “I’m developing some gizmos for Jiminy, based on Demoiselle. Already have the project and asked for materials, some of them already being sent. But I’ll need to take some days at Roque Santeiro, as all my tools are there.”

“Alright. Let us talk the plan and we’ll start to prepare everything…“ said Soldaire, while passing the gathered intel so everyone could give tips.

Chapter 16

“People think we Verne are like the Merlins, that could do things out of nothing. This is not true: even our technology being super-advanced, it’s still technology, so we still need the right materials and tools to do our main gig. And, when you’re in places with shortage of everything, doing the MacGyver sometimes is your only option.”

Andre “Dumont” Macedo, “Vernetech for Dummies”

Some nervous days passed, while Dumont gone back to Roque Santeiro to do the new equipment Jiminy would need. Sugarplum also did something, by creating some protection charms to be used by Jiminy, Cabby and everyone that would need. Djanni took some time with Kuntur for some sparring and combat training, readying himself for a real life-risking gig, leaving Jiminy alone to doing the Go study to reinforce his Bellax Analytica, pushing as much as he could his power. So, Soldaire suggested an even more strenuous Go training for him.

“10-14”, said Soldaire, using the Earbug connected through the outpost communications to Roque Santeiro, where he was putting his stones into a Go Board.

Jiminy was sat in his hammock bed and said “12-14” even without seeing the board, that was folded over the foldable table while Djanni trained with Kuntur, the stones all into their bowls. Jiminy should not use it, trying to force his mind and seeing the table on his mind, each stone and formation fixed on it, his focus on the multiple choices on stones. The game in his mind was already in the end, which was no more that strenous, but even now it was really pushing, his face beet red on it.

“Blind Go is really difficult, and even some pro go players can’t go through it.” said Soldaire “I know a guy, a Mentalist that is also a Go pro, that didn’t want to play blind go. If at any time you fell yourself tired or strained enough your Bellax Analytica could go haywire, please talk and we’ll stop.”

“I’m okay for now.” said Jiminy “I think I can remember the things rightly… And now, with so many stones, the Bellax Analytica shows me the paths that are still possible, and not much more.”

“Alright. And how you see the game?” said Soldaire

“I’m losing, and there’s no much way to win. I think it’s time to forfeit the game.” said Jiminy, a little gloom.

“Alright. So, I won over you.” said Soldaire “But you did it well. I’ll send the kifu, the game record, and you compare with what you saw in your mind table. Good news is that Dumont finished your new gear. He took some special materials that Vulcan from Chicago Sentinels send for him as a favor and developed a new bulletproof costume for you. He implemented also a special computer into your Top Hat that put you into communications with everyone and have access to our Dispatch system. He put some extra things on a brand-new mask, including zoom lenses and all the military-grade toys you could want. Also, he created your Cricket Wings, so you can have your own flying device, Demoiselle-_like, freeing Djanni during the action. To finish, he put a pair of Tesla Arc Cannon like devices into your gloves, connected to the_ Cricket Wings. I want you to go and test this with Djanni, and be accomplished with the gear until tomorrow, so we can do the gig as soon as possible. I put some pistols on it, a gear similar to the SolPistols energy weapons in my Soldaire suit. Think you can do it? You are our weak spot on firepower, even Cabby being stronger than you on this.”

“I think so.” said Jiminy, when he heard the typical noise of Demoiselle landing.

An hour after, Jiminy was flying with Dumont, Kuntur, Djanni and Sugarplum while training and get used with his new gear.

The new costume, he nicknamed Iron Cricket, was a kind of “Jiminy Cricket meets Iron Man” suit, looking more metallic and shinier and more robotic than the costume Jiminy normally used, that was like he took it straight from the Costume Shops nearby Disneyworld. His new top hat, with the small computer system, looked a little cramped over his head, but was good enough to be wear normally. The Cricket Wings were a backjet as per Demoiselle’s design and he was developing the basic flying skills with it.

The suit, with all the new things, were just a little heavier than his own suit, but it was a lot hotter. Jiminy was huffing and puffing while finishing the last flying exercises.

“Alright, think we have enough for now.” said Dumont, getting down into the plains nearby Nondaba village. The others also got down and looked for Jiminy, still panting. The wings on Cricket Wings closed behind his tails.

“Are you okay, Jiminy?” said Djanni

“I’m okay. The new gear is heavier, but I’ll get used with this.” said Jiminy panting a little.

“Let’s go back the village, and then you’ll exchange your costume for a cleaner one of the new one. Remember to unlock the Cricket Wings harnesses and so before put this on the cleaner.” said Dumont, when Jiminy looked around

“We are far from the village… I think I could use this place as shooting stand and do some training with the weapons.” said Jiminy.

“You’re right, Pepito Grillo.” said Kuntur “I’ll take some rocks and things that you can shoot on to train.”

“I think you should train first with the Cricket pistols and then with the Tesla Arc Cannons.” said Dumont, while Kuntur and Djanni took some things and Jiminy took some water from a little bottle he brought with him.

“Hey, Joshua,” said Sugarplum “if you think you can’t do this, don’t push yourself too much or goes overboard. We need you 100% okay on this.”

“I think I can do, Eileen.” said Jiminy “Besides, the Dispatch delay would be enough to, under a real Charlie Foxtrot, make you and everyone go hurt.”

Djanni and Kuntur build the targets, while Dumont gone for Jiminy.

“This would go better if we’re with Soldaire, but I think this will do for now. I’ll teach you the basics on shooting and then you’ll take some practice.”

“Alright. But I played on shooting stands in fairs…“ said Jiminy, when Dumont looked to him severely

“This is real life, Jiminy. You need to learn how to shot rightly to be effective, even if you don’t want to kill people.” retorted Dumont. “Now, let us see your posture.”

Dumont corrected Jiminy posture on legs and arms and teached him how to hold rightly the Cricket pistols, a variant of SolPistol that was built by Dr. Hisagawa, on the same design, although smaller and lighter enough to be used by a kid. An energy weapon, it was lighter than a real pistol, and with less recoil. Jiminy gave some shots until, using the cross-hairs into the new goggles that were part on his mask, he started to hit the targets.

“Alright, sounds like you can deal with things on an emergency, and this is enough by now.” said Dumont. “Now, let us see the Tesla Arc Cannon.”

Jiminy pointed the blaster in his hand palm and he shot. Although the target was hit, he yelped in the process.

“What’s happened?” said Dumont

“It burned me! I felt the heat of the shot.” whined Jiminy, removing the glove. Although the burn was not that big, it was hurtful enough for the little kid.

“Let me see… Take the other hand also.” said Dumont, while Sugarplum looked for his hand.

He gave a look on the gloves and sighed.

“Damn… I didn’t did correctly the exhaust system.” said Dumont “And I can’t do nothing to improve this. All my tools are at Roque Santeiro, I brought none of them here. My bad. I think you should only use the Tesla Arc Cannons if you really need it. Hope you don’t. We can do a MacGyver, but you’ll need to use some cloth around the hand before put the Tesla Arc Cannons gloves.”

“I’m okay… I think I can put the gloves only if needed, over the common costume gloves.” said Jiminy

“Sounds good enough for me… Now, let us go back and take a good sleep. Tomorrow will be the day.” said Dumont, while the sun started to set.

Chapter 17

“Derek Kwazani was the biggest problem for us during the Sierra Leone gig. If you think he was a Verne that was almost a Merlin, mixing traditional concoctions with Vernetech-enhanced psychoactive drugs to create the Breakthrough Enticing Drug, you can see why that creepypasta was enough to make UNHCR, UNESCO, LDS and HSF work against him as top priority, using all they could into the operation.”

Andre “Dumont” Macedo, “Histories from the Demoiselle - My Breakthrough Memoirs”

Next day, Jiminy woke up really nervous, anxious and excited.

“Alright, short stuff. Ready for the gig?” said Sugarplum

“I think so.” he said, and Sugarplum knew that in fact he was not that sure.

“Look here, Joshua: everyone here is as anxious than you. No plan survives tango contact. What I want you is to use all you could to go and do your job. You remember the rules for engagement?”

“Avoid an encounter-with-force if at all possible; Use only powers that can be applied without collateral damage; Use all powers that can be applied without collateral damage; Do not escalate; Stop any escalation; And neutralize civilian risks as quickly as possible.” he chirped, like a kid saying the A-B-C.

“Right. I think you can relieve yourself on some of those rules almost all time: this is not exactly a CAI operation, but a military one.” said Sugarplum “The Blue Berets will open way for us so we can get into Kwazani HQ, but after that we’ll be at our own.”

“I know.” said Jiminy, while he saw Djanni: he was doing some moves with the brand-new scimitar he had, made from a super-strong Vernetech Titanium alloy, made by Vulcan from the Chicago Sentinels, the same guy who did the light-weighted bulletproof fabric for the new “Iron Cricket” costume he was dressing. “Need to say: I understand that will be important to use this costume, but I’ll love to get back to my old costume. This thing is hot and cramped and my moves are a little more difficult on it.” he said, finishing to dress himself, and getting out with Djanni and Sugarplum. He took a small cookies-and-milk breakfast and gone to the village exit, where the others where already waiting.

“Alright.” said Soldaire, using his best Keichishou suit, with a special Kevlar vest “I received the Soldaire suit upgrade for more time, but I’ll go with the ground team on civilian as much as I can. The time in Soldaire suit was boosted for 30 minutes, but after that could be dangerous for health.”

“On ground we’ll have Hufflepuff, LionHeart, Panther, Soldaire, Cabby, me and Squirrel Girl.” said Diana, as the field operation coordinator “On air we’ll have Sugarplum, Kilimanjaro, Dumont, Kuntur, Djanni and Jiminy Cricket. Our supporters in ground and air will work with Dispatch for coordination. The first part of operation will be done with the Berets: we’ll break their lines and get into the HQ. Assume tangos with deadly force and potential Charlie Foxtrot. Assume also Havoc Protocols engaging at any time: hit them hard enough to break the lines. The MaxBerets will be our support, and we did a protection line on Nondaba village. Roque Santeiro teams are ready for treating any casualties. Even under Havoc, those who surrender should be acquired as civil as possible: this is not an all-out war. We have Interpol and UN with us, but this is not carte-blanche for power abuse.” she said, while the Urutu, Guarani and Hummer transport vehicles started to get from Nondaba vehicle.

They were sat down into a Guarani carrier, and Jiminy removed either his mask and hat to relieve himself for a time:

“This is not like my mother’s car.” said Jiminy, trying to make fun.

“It should not be. We hope this crazy guy didn’t put a minefield nearby the Mount. The Leonean authorities already put the lock-down over airspace in Mount Bintumani, and they discovered a corruption network with the local security forces.” said the carrier driver, giving a small smile for Jiminy

“This could explain on how easily Kwazani worked a base into it. Maybe he found natural caverns that could be useful.” said Jiminy.

“This is so much those cheesy Bond films like Moonraker. My dad loves this kind of thing, but it’s so cheesy and macho that stinks.” said Sugarplum.

“I think this will be more like Live and Let Die, but with less Blaxploitation and more real thing.” said the man at the turret, a C-Class Ajax with British accent.

“Okay everyone.” said Diana “We can do some chit-chat, but stay this on minimum. We’re getting on this guy range. We’ll get there in 2 hours. The helicopter support will join you there. When we get there, comm lines will be restricted. The Dispatch coordinators on Roque Santeiro will need a relay for comms. Dumont, think you can do this.”

“Roger: the comm equipment is ready to be deployed as soon we arrive at the rendezvous. At most five minutes after the arrival.” said Dumont.

“Alright. In the rendezvous also will be established a field command center with me, Squirrel Girl and Cabby on it. Everyone, remember your orders and check your gear now.” said Diana

In the Guarani carrier was, beside the pilot and the turret guy, there was two MaxBerets, a Speedster and a Verne, Jiminy, Sugarplum, Dumont, Hufflepuff, Djanni and Kuntur. Everyone started to check out their gear and so. Sugarplum could go in Tink form and even sit in Jiminy’s top hat brim, but not only it would be unnecessary, but dangerous, as she could be kicked around by the vibrations. Beside, she was without wings in the carrier, so she could just occupy the same space of everyone.

The two hours journey were a bore, until they got into the rendezvous with the Leonean forces nearby the Bintumani Mount.

“The forces already enforced a total lock-down of the theater.” said the Leonean commander, after they got out the transports “We didn’t found where you can infiltrate, but I think we can, in last case, just blow away our way.”

“No need to.” said Diana, looking sternly, but somewhat motherly for Jiminy. “We have our own way. We need just to break their lines and provoke a so great Charlie Foxtrot they put their head out, at least long enough Jiminy’s powers do the job.”

“So, my men will be a meat-shield for this kid?” said the Leonean commander, looking for Jiminy, flabbergasted.

“Pardon, sir, but I think I know the drill enough.”

“Did you had been in battlefield for real, son?” said the commander and looking for Jiminy’s embarrassed face he said “I thought not. Okay, so the mission is just bring the hell on them, right?”

“Yes.” said Diana

“I’ll say for you, I’ll do this as a favor: I hate those crappy origin sellers. My sister almost lost her life on this, and didn’t undergone breakthrough. And my niece died on this crappy origin chasing thing.” said the commander “Otherwise, I would not put my battalion’s life in the hand of this kid for not a prayer in hell.”

“Don’t worry. Jiminy here is capable, you’ll see.”

“Alright. Let us be ready for the drill.” said the commander, going away.

Jiminy cursed in his mind Dumont by putting those Dispatch computers into his Top Hat, so he couldn’t pull it over his face and hide his ashamed red face, when all the other capes could see his face.

“Jiminy, are you turning into a Merlin like Sugarplum?” said Diana “I could almost see you shrinking.”

“I was…“

“…Ashamed?” said Diana, smiling “Jiminy, you are a little nice boy, but you need to be more confident on you. You are no more the little Joshua McCarthy that was the bullies’ punching bag. You’re now Joshua McCarthy and Jiminy Cricket, and you can help people. Think on this: if we fail, not only we will be hurt, but kids all around the world will be at risk. Think on Senesie: how much of this you want people to see?”

The image of an army of psychotic breakthroughs made Jiminy shiver.

“I don’t want this to happen.” said Jiminy.

“So now, short stuff, it’s time to do what we know.” said Dumont to Jiminy, while finishing to check everything. Sugarplum even came and tidied up his scarf cravat.

“Alright.” said Diana, after Dumont deployed and established the communication relay and field command center in the rendezvous. “Now we need some MaxBerets here to secure the relay. If this is destroyed or run out, we’ll lose our comms with Roque Santeiro”

“Gotcha” said some of the soldiers “A Verne will be here, with some Ajaxes, a Merlin and a Speedster to protect the center.”

“Okay, I think it’s enough”. said Diana. “Everyone ready? Let’s go!”

Everyone started to go for their carriers, some of them with soldiers armored and armed with weakened plutonium bullets. Jiminy looked to the others and just nodded, ready for action. He pushed the Earbug and said.

“Dispatch, this is Jiminy Cricket. We are ready.”

“Jiminy, Diana here.” said the Roque Santeiro leader. “We are ready also. Now, everyone knows your orders. Group leaders, you know your orders. Everyone on Dispatch now. Jiminy, I want you all the time safe and sound: we need the strategic intel ASAP, but play safe and sound, because we need the intel to be exact no matter what and we need you safe. Take the time you need, but no more than it. Let’s go.”

Jiminy looked again, while Soldaire and the ground team got into a Hummer truck. Jiminy, Kuntur, Djanni, Dumont and Sugarplum started to fly.

“Alright, everyone.” said Jiminy “Engaging the binoculars. Calling the Geas Charm Sugarplum gave me.” he completed, touching a little clover-shaped silver pin Sugarplum put on his scarf cravat. He also touched a second charm he used on his Top Hat, given by his mother.

“Okay, going Fairy mode.” said Sugarplum, shrinking and going a little higher than Jiminy. As security, Djanni and Kuntur where front Dumont, Sugarplum and Jiminy: being Atlases, they could stand for more punishment than the others. At the same time, Jiminy could hear Sugarplum whispering over the Earbug and could see her doing little flicks, pointing over Djanni and Kuntur, setting some wards to provide some magical extra defense for them.

“Anything, Jiminy” said Diana.

“Nothing… Wait! Go single file! Minefield ahead!” said Jiminy.

Two of the heavy armored carriers were hit by the mines explosion, going in the air and destroyed. Fortunately, the Berets on them got out okay, after their Ajaxes untumbled them.

“No casualties here, just some bruises. But the Tangos are coming.” said the Beret on the carriers.

“Roger.” said Jiminy. “I think there’s an 1-on-1 ratio for breakthroughs tangos and common ones. Take care for Speedsters! They’ll use them as advantage.”

“We have some here, also.” said Diana, while Jiminy saw explosions all around. Jiminy could see that the MaxBerets Speedsters were running nearby and detonating the mines, “cleaning” the field. At the same time, the smoke and dirt screen created some cover.

“Diana, put the MaxBerets before the common army! They’ll go for a stampede!” said Jiminy, while some tango Atlases and Metamorphs passed through the smoke screen and got into a rampage against the Roque Santeiro’s Forces.

“Alright guys! Rock and Roll!” said one of the Berets commanders, while Roque Santeiro’s breakthroughs engaged the tangos.

“Jiminy!” said Diana “Focus on your mission! Let us with those tangos!”

“Roger!” said Jiminy, while he saw some of the tangos going to them.

“Jiminy!” said Djanni “Me and Kuntur will stop them! Look for the entrance!”

“Dumont, take Sugarplum and Jiminy! said Soldaire “Go through the mount to find the entrance.”

“Alright! Let us see if they can race the Demoiselle.” said Dumont, while Jiminy, Sugarplum and himself turned away from Kuntur and Djanni, racing around the mount while being searched by some tango fliers. One of them Jiminy recognized from the intel files.

“We have Ianshan on our trail.” said Jiminy.

“Don’t worry Jiminy. What your Bellax Analytica says?” said Dumont.

“Nothing by now… But we need to deal with her. She’s coming nearer and nearer.” said Jiminy.

“Let this to me.” said Sugarplum “I’m really wanting to kick some asses. Dumont, stay with Jiminy.”

“I’ll help you, little girl.” said a powerful voice, and Sugarplum recognized it as Kilimanjaro’s. “I know Ianshan good enough, and think I can deal with her.”

“Alright! Good luck!” said Dumont

“Take care, Sugarplum!” said Jiminy, following Dumont

“Don’t worry, short stuff. I think we can deal with this now that we have Kilimanjaro with us.” said Sugarplum, growing back to her size and looking while Kilimanjaro got nearby.

Chapter 18

“St. Michael, defender of man, stand with us in the day of battle. St. Jude, giver of hope, be with us in our desperate hour. St. Christopher, bearer of burdens, lift us when we fall.”

Unattributed prayer for heroes

Sugarplum warded her and Kilimanjaro, while they saw Ianshan coming.

“Alright, Kilimanjaro. You know her. Our intel said she’s an Atlas. Other powers?” said Sugarplum

“No… At least as far I remember.” said Kilimanjaro.

“Could she be crazy enough to use BED?”

“I don’t think so: she’s a too much Goody two shoes for this.”

“And how she got working for an origin seller like Kwazani?” said Sugarplum, abashed.

“It’s not easy to be an African teacher, saying for kids that they can be what they want, and all you see everywhere is suffering and negligence from everyone with the power to do this.” said Kilimanjaro, and Sugarplum understood. “Focus now… Here she comes!”

And that was for real.

Ianshan gave her entrance by going straight against Sugarplum. If wasn’t her wards, she would be turned into mincemeat.

But even with the ward, she was pushed some meters behind, until she could flap her wings again to push back and stop.

“You betrayed us, Josephine.” said Ianshan

“My mother said some truths for me… We need to stop, Cynthia. If Kwazani goes succeed, not only Africa, but the humanity will be bathed in blood.”

“Were was the ‘humanity’ when the school bus fell? They did nothing! Nothing, Josie! Kwazani will show them, when he gave people power to topple corrupt governments…“

“You should know better, Ianshan: Kwazani is all for the money. Origin selling is what he does. Or you didn’t know, or you are fooling yourself. Either way, I’ll need to stop you.” said Kilimanjaro, when Ianshan launched herself against Kilimanjaro.

She was hitted hard, but Kilimanjaro sustained well the punch, even Ianshan being an Atlas.

“Sorry, Cynthia, but I can’t play nice with you after Senesie!” said Kilimanjaro, shooting some bolts against Ianshan…

… that feel nothing.

“Kwazani knew about your treason, and did this for me.” said Ianshan, showing a vest with a slice of copper.

“A copper band for electric insulation.” said Kilimanjaro “Really clever.”

Ianshan then got Kilimanjaro and flew high, but before she could do anything Sugarplum got nearby and talked something in Irish Gaelic.

“Chosaint chugainn ó na fórsaí an namhaid.” and a big dome was risen over her and Kilimanjaro, Sugarplum pointing to it with her Fairy Wand as magical focus.

Ianshan launched herself against the dome. And the energy clash exploded…

…and Sugarplum got the worst, being launched straight to the ground, with a boom, unconscious.

Kilimanjaro looked for Ianshan eyes… And recognized something that made her shiver.

It was her eyes when she knew the foreigners.

“You got your back from our ancestors wisdom, Ianshan.” said Kilimanjaro, looking for Sugarplum. She was somewhat hurt and had passed out, but she was alive. Taking her from the place she landed, she put her near a tree and goes back to the air. Her hair was raised with static, and she looked for Ianshan.

“In part, that was my fault. I was the first one to fall into Kwazani’s poisoned sweet words. But now, I need to stop you.”

“Stop me? How? You can’t hit me, Kilimanjaro! I’ll kill you, and the foreigner, and the kids in future will not need to suffer as we.”

This snapped a thing on Kilimanjaro, when she remembered Senesie.

“Had you ever saw a psychotic breakthrough? I saw one, thanks for this drug Kwazani made. Senesie almost killed his own sister, and I needed their help to stop him without killing her. This drug is poison, and more kids will die in the process. Ianshan, I’ll stop you, even kill you, if this help us to defeat Kwazani.” said Kilimanjaro.

Ianshan then got again against Kilimanjaro, that held her somewhat, some of her ribs exploding. Kilimanjaro could feel the pain, but she said:

“Do you know which more uses copper as circling bands? Microwave Magnetrons.” said Kilimanjaro, putting her hand below Ianshan shirt and using her insulation against herself.

The energy surge in the insulation was enough to make the protection a trap, like an electrical coil, the heat and induction hurting Ianshan, making her scream. Kilimanjaro took just power enough to make Ianshan got unconscious, before getting nearby Sugarplum, herself very hurt.

“Dispatch, Kilimanjaro here… We stopped Ianshan, but me and Sugarplum are really hurt. We need some medic support ASAP.” said Kilimanjaro

“Alright. Hold your position.” said Diana

“Say Jiminy that Sugarplum is okay, but we’ll need some Doctor and care.”

“Alright, Kilimanjaro!” said a young voice with a hint of worry “Jiminy here. Take care of Sugarplum.”

“Okay. Good luck, kid.” said Kilimanjaro, when a small extraction team in a helicopter came for help, when she passed out in exhaustion.

Chapter 19

“Sometimes, the most important decisions are taken in the heat of the battle. No plan can preview all the options. No matter how strong are you, how capable are you, how many calculations you did, you need to give some space for improvisation”

Seiji Shirou, “The Art of War and the post-Event situation strategy”

The battle was intense, but at some time Hufflepuff and LionHeart broke the defense lines and the MaxBerets held the broke line, so a corridor was made. The troops circled the broken defense and deal with them as fast as possible. Soldaire was still on his civilian suit, the armor vest he used to avoid shoots still good.

“Alright.” said Diana, when the battle was almost over. “Jiminy, found the way?”

“Almost!” said Jiminy, using the Earbug “We had some tangos after Kilimanjaro and Sugarplum dealt with Ianshan, but we dealt with them. I think I already found the place, but need to see if my Bellax Analytica will detect a new tango wave.”

“Okay…“ said Diana, when they heard a scream from a big man, running to them. Before they took the chance to shoot, Hufflepuff put himself in the way.

“Everyone, back down.” said the Luchador on his best fighting leotard “This is Magog!”

“Alright, Latino.” said Magog, stopping a little away from them when Hufflepuff posted itself in front of him “You should had stayed on that Narco thrashed country and didn’t messed with us!”

“Hey, chap.” said LionHeart, looking for him “Do you think your boss is that good? He is a coward to send kids gone breakthrough crazy against us and to entice and almost made a kid gone mad and dead on a psychosis breakthrough.”

“Yeah? Looks you’re good enough on chat, foreigner, let us do this on punches!” said the man, almost as big than LionHeart and really bigger than Hufflepuff.

“Hufflepuff, let this to me.” said LionHeart “Always wanted to join a tag-team fight.”

“Okay, Corazón de Leon.” said Hufflepuff “Show them what HSF is made of.”

LionHeart gone and punched the man, that protected his face with the arms. The punch was not enough even to scratch!

“We have a problem! He is…“ said LionHeart, when he was punched back and pushed through very hard.

“LionHeart!” said Hufflepuff, when Magog gone for him.

Although technically smaller, and weaker than either Magog and LionHeart, Hufflepuff was not hit because he was faster, more skilled and had Kayfabe for himself, and so just avoided the hits.

But as a Tecnico Luchador, Hufflepuff played by the rules, and didn’t attacked back, which left Magog with time to made them go back, risking put the others in Magog’s attack range.

“Hufflepuff! Tag!” screamed LionHeart, really hurt, and Hufflepuff understood.

“Alright!” said Hufflepuff, running for LionHeart and tagging himself, and now he could join the fight.

“Okay. You played Rudo with me and my friends, right? Against Hijo de Tolot, Hufflepuff? Por la Sagrada Virgen Maria de Guadalupe, terás tu condena! No one mess with me and my friends and goes against without a Lucha de Apuestas!” said Hufflepuff. LionHeart gasped while rolling away from the fight.

The Lucha de Apuestas for the Luchador Breakthroughs are more than the “normal” Lucha de Apuestas. It’s an almost-to-death fight: they improve their Kayfabe and so grows even stronger, sometimes to an Ultra or even, in particular situations, Omega level. However, if they lose, they are risking their powers, at least for a time: there was registered cases of Luchadores who lost their powers forever after losing a Lucha de Apuestas.

Hufflepuff was risking everything!

“First of all, Rudo, just let me check something: you took some of those BED drug, right?”

“Sure!” said the guy, and Hufflepuff could see it: some of his veins was pulsating, visible for everyone. “Power is all, you understand? We are kicking the foreigner outside Africa. Taking back what is ours, before going to what we deserves.”

“How disgusting! Even looking like a Monstro you can’t hit Hufflepuff.” said Hufflepuff, while the others looked and stopped some of the Ajaxes that could interfere in the fight.

Magog didn’t lost time: he gone for Hufflepuff and grappled him, trying to lock him in the grapple.

The grapple was strong, Hufflepuff thought, but not that skilled, so he pushed his arm and gave a good two-handed stomp against Magog ears, who gone back screaming in pain: even an A-Class Ajax would feel pain on this one, although there was no chance for a permanent damage.

Magog gone crazy and just jumped over Hufflepuff, while throwing some ground dirt on Hufflepuff’s face, his eyes going sanded. Hufflepuff felt both the dirt messing with his eyes and the 200+ pounds of Magog’s 7ft body slamming him in the ground. He gone for exactly the place Hufflepuff feared the most to be shown.

He was trying to remove his mask!

“He was instructed about Lucha de Apuestas!” thought Hufflepuff, feeling that his bravado was now being used against him. Now he would need to fight for real, or his Mask would be lost, and La Passion de La Lucha with it.

He tried the move another time, trying to do the ear stomp, but his left arm was already locked by Magog, who was using some primitive, but effective, local African wrestling technique. He used his other hand to slap him as hard as he could, trusting Kayfabe would be enough to power it.

It was: Magog felt the slap doing another vacuum on his ear, and the pain was great. He released Hufflepuff and gone back, lifting.

Hufflepuff gave a good check on herself: some sore muscles, his left arm a little numb, his lungs now painful breathing for some seconds, but otherwise okay. He chose to play for real and run towards Magog.

Tecnico Luchadores had a great advantage against Rudo Luchadores and overall against Ajaxes: they are faster and more confident on their honed skills. And Hufflepuff was, after all, a Tecnico.

He run and did the Drop kick, slamming his powerful legs against Magog. Then, hastily rolling against the Magog’s punches, he lifted and gone in Crane Stance and hit Magog, who was running against him to try to slam him again, with a Crane Kick straight into his chin. Magog flinched when felt the now broken chin and looked for Hufflepuff, fearfully. The others seeing the fight were astonished and Hufflepuff could see.

Hufflepuff could feel the Kayfabe, the disbelief suspension from the old times, La Passion de La Lucha filling him like power, almost like electrostatic power, running everywhere in his body. So very few times he felt himself like this, and it was in very important times. And now, he was ready to finish Magog.

He run against Magog and jump against his shoulders, locking Magog head with a good leglock and gone for a leg lariat, the slam in the ground lifting dirt and make the nearby ground tremble. He locked Magog and said:

“Now, it’s time for your punishment! És hora de tu condena! EL TÉJON VOLADOR!” screamed Hufflepuff, and gave his Téjon Volador, his exclusive finishing move, launching Magog to the air and jumping, catching it in the air, and putting him in the middle of his legs and falling over him into a spinning lariat, smashing him with a so big stomp that everyone almost could heard Magog’s bones crushing.

LionHeart lifted and gone for Hufflepuff:

“Is he… dead?” said LionHeart

“No.” said Hufflepuff. “I would never kill someone in a lucha, even a Lucha de Apuestas. But he’ll remember what happens which those who messes with Hufflepuff and his friends.”

“Everyone! Found the cave entrance!” said Jiminy “It’s is open! It’s almost like this Kwazani guy would be inviting us.”

“So, Jiminy, let you show your manners and response them: get in” said Diana.

Chapter 20

“People think my power is perfect and that I can see the future: and this is somewhat true, but only in reduced probabilities. As the events into something goes, the possibilities funnel down and Bellax Analytica filters those more possible.”

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

They entered the natural cave in Bintumani mount found by Jiminy Cricket. Soldaire donned his SolArmor and used the SolPistol’s lights with it, going in front of them, and the muscles from the team circling the others: Djanni next Jiminy, Hufflepuff nearby, LionHeart nearby Dumont.

“Dispatch, how is Sugarplum?” said Jiminy.

“She had a concussion, but she’s okay. Stay calm and focused in the mission, no matter what Bellax Analytica shows about Sugarplum. She and Kilimanjaro are okay, albeit they could not be sent to the theater but on an emergency.” said Diana, via Dispatch.

“Roger!” said Jiminy, undoing the connection

They gone through the natural cave until what looked like a very big and reinforced door, that was closed.

“Okay…“ said Dumont “Sounds like Vernetech. Almost can see that there is some kind of knockout gas or something like this as a trap set into this. The entrance is not biometric, thanks God: let me try to hack it.” he said, pulling the left sleeve from his tuxedo, revealing a kind of glove made on brass and copper. “Jiminy, I’ll also need the computer I put into your hat, please.”

Jiminy got near and put his hat in the ground, while Dumont did some connections with alligator clips and coax cables. He took from a pocket some tools and started to open the lock.

“Everyone.” whispered Jiminy “Go back from the door… I think there’s something there I can’t preview. My Bellax Analytica doesn’t work against targets I can’t see, you know.”

“Roger.” said Soldaire “This door was Vernetech treated: I can’t take any heat signature from them. Jiminy, take my mask-cam: we’ll need to get fast into it to avoid surprises.”

“Roger.” said Jiminy, while Dumont took and jacked his jury-rigged system into the door. It was needed almost no time to hack the lock.

“Alright, I’m in.” said Dumont “When you want.”

“Everyone, ready for action. You too, Jiminy: set the Crickets for stun.” said Soldaire.

“Right!” said Jiminy, pulling from the holsters into his tuxedo both his Crickets and readying them.

“Go for this, Dumont!” said Soldaire.

Dumont just hit some keys into his glove keyboard and the door opened. As soon he could see, Jiminy said.

“There tangos everywhere. Dispatch, we need support here now…“ he said, trying to get help, when he heard static.

“It’s a trap!” said Dumont “The door was rigged to generate static! We had been cutted from the outside!” said Dumont.

“Cáspita!” said Kuntur “And the place is not high enough for neither me or Djanni to fly!” said Kuntur.

“Alright!” said Soldaire, going into SolArmor “Havoc protocols. Let us kick those guys asses.”

They entered and started to fight, leaving Dumont, Djanni and Jiminy behind.

“Djanni, protect Jiminy and Dumont. Dumont, try and override or shut the static signal ASAP. Jiminy, help Dumont.” said Soldaire

“But…“ said Jiminy, when Soldaire said

“We can deal with those guys!” said Soldaire.

“Alright.” said Jiminy.

Jiminy got nearby Dumont, while Djanni put himself between the two.

“Never used my Bellax Analytica for this, and I don’t know too much electronics!” said Jiminy

“Let us do this way:” said Dumont “If your power says that things could go even amok, says me… Trust me with my knowledge and I’ll trust your Bellax Analytica.”

“Right.” he said, while he could hear the fight, Djanni sustaining his position

“I could help them, by Allah!” said Djanni

“No.” said Jiminy “Let us trust Soldaire and the others. Looks those guys are just D or C-Classes Ajaxes or Projectors, meat-shield for protecting Kwazani.”

“Alright: I overcome the static, at least for some.” said Dumont.

“Dispatch! It’s Jiminy! We have a Charlie Foxtrot here! I repeat, we have a Charlie Foxtrot! Havoc protocols are a go for some guys that…“ said Jiminy, when something came through the shadows and looked for Jiminy.

Djanni tried to go for it and was hit straight in the chest, while Dumont put it under his target, but the woman that came from the shadows was quicker and rolled a tentacle under Jiminy’s throat, making him gasp.

“His life is under you and your friends. Stop the fight now, or the kid will die.” said the woman, using firefly wings. Dumont could see by Jiminy’s face that she was pulling his throat enough to choke him slowly.

“Soldaire, stop the fight!” shouted Dumont, lowering the gun and looking for Djanni.

“What?” replied Soldaire.

“They got Jiminy!”

“What?” said Hufflepuff, that looked through the open door and saw Jiminy being choked and tried to run to save him. Another tentacle made of solid darkness hit him through the chest with power enough to make the Luchador finch in pain.

“If you don’t want your mask out of you, Luchador, stay back.” ordered the woman “I think you on metal armor are the leader. So, it’s simple: you surrender, or the kid die. Simple that. Your choice.”

Jiminy was suffocating, they could see: the small hint of cheek visible below his green cricket-shaped half-mask was growing beet red and starting to purple.

“Alright.” sighed Soldaire, undoning his Soldaire suit helmet. “We surrender!”

“Good.” approved the woman, loosing a little the tentacle through Jiminy’s neck. They could Jiminy huffing and puffing desperately for air while looking to the others, defeated and worried.

“Now, free those tentacles and let Jiminy go.” demanded Soldaire “He’s a kid.”

“I don’t see this way. See, Adze here is not as dumb as you think, and the fact you don’t know about me is the proof.” gloated the woman, Adze.

“So, you’re with Kwazani?” said LionHeart.

“Yes. He send me to give you his greetings and usher you to him. Well, about the kid, he’s a cape, and his powers are great. So, it’s simple: he tries to speak, he dies. You do something I don’t want, he dies. Am I clear? Just nod, no need to talk.” said Adze.

Soldaire looked for Jiminy: even with his powers, he was just as resilient as a common kid, and by the finch Hufflepuff gives after being hit by them, he could see that Adze woman was really strong. “Maybe A-Class Shadow Projector, with some Merlin or Metamorph on her. There’s nothing we can do for now.” he thought, while he nodded. Hufflepuff, Dumont and Kuntur repeated the gesture.

“Alright.” approved Adze, taking a little bag from the shadows and pushing it to Dumont “Put those on your friends.” she demanded.

Dumont opened the bag: Blacklock manacles.

“You and the kid I took will not need this. But don’t play dumb with me: remember, any kind of funny move, and I’ll snap this kid neck like a twig.” said Adze.

Dumont did as she said, going and put the team muscles under manacles.

“You, robot guy, give the transformation equipment for your guy. If you try anything weird, I’ll kill the kid and destroy the device. This order.” said Adze.

Soldaire did as said and gave the SolChange device for Dumont.

“Now, goes in front of me.” said Adze to Dumont. “The others follow you, and I stay with this kid.”

“And Djanni?” said Dumont.

“The other kid will stay here. He’s alive, if this is what you want to know. No need to him to die.” said Adze, while getting nearby Jiminy’s Earbug that fell in the ground and stomping it, turning it into pieces. “Now, let’s go! And no funny moves: remember that this Jiminy kid life is under my hands. And I’m not fool enough to free his throat enough to him does that Pretty Please! thing.” she mocked Jiminy voice when saying Pretty Please! on a way that almost made LionHeart goes mad.

“No, LionHeart.” said Soldaire, lifting his arm in front of him “Don’t get into her blab… It’s what she want.”

“Looks like you’re really wise.” said Adze. “Let’s go!” she ordered, and they gone through the cave.

Chapter 21

“One thing that we can see is that those murtadd tends to justify their actions on hate. But Allah is the Compassionate One, that is so in love for even the infidels that send the Prophets in the past, and send Mohammad His Messenger (PBUH), to warn people to atone themselves from the sins and surrender to Himself. But those with hate in his heart tries to use everything to justify his actions, even the Compassionated One’s Prophet (PBUH) words, by distorting His message. Against this should be our fight beyond everything, to bring Allah’s justice for the hateful.”

Altayr Bashir Tahan, “Musings on the Holy Q’uran and the Event, from a Breakthrough Muslim”

Cabby heard Jiminy’s Earbug while they entered and gone worried when they got into that trap. When they said about the trap and the transmission was interrupted after Adze captured them, they assumed things gone into a real Charlie Foxtrot.

“Dispatch! Dispatch! This is Cabby! We have a hostage situation!”, shouted Cabby, that stayed outside as security.

“Cabby, Diana’s here!” said Diana in the rendezvous. “I’m getting there and Corin is taking the operation lead in my place. I heard it enough.”

“Instructions?” asked Cabby

“Just wait for us. As far we understood, they are keeping hostage Soldaire’s team. We have Kilimanjaro and Sugarplum hurt…“ replied Diana

“We are okay now. We are a go!” stated Sugarplum, via Earbug, getting nearby Cabby.

“No chance, Sugarplum. Wait me. Don’t engage now!” said Diana.

“I’m getting there.” said a chirped voice, like something a Chipette from Alvin and the Chipmunks could sound. Cabby saw a little meerkat running to him, but the meerkat turn back into a woman, Lesley.

“We are here in the communication relay.” said Cabby.

“Alright. Sugarplum, if you and Kilimanjaro are okay enough, wait me there rendezvous” said Diana.

While they wait, Sugarplum ready some geasa for them for mystical protection.

Diana got near running. She was carrying also her Vernetech-alloy spear and looked like someone ready to kick some butts hard.

“Alright everyone. They was the last straw.” spat Diana “No matter Jiminy being a cape, but use a kid as meat-shield is something that crossed all the lines. It’s Havoc Protocols from now till we get Kwazani.”

“And what about Jiminy and Djanni?” said Sugarplum.

“We need to deal with this somehow, but we can’t take lightly with them.” enforced Diana, and she saw Sugarplum making a shrug “Now, look: if they were playing by The Rules, I would also, right? We’ll hit them very hard. And I think that you and Kilimanjaro will help us.”

“I never was there, at least by the way they took.” said Kilimanjaro “Each of us had a special way to get into, but as I was compromised I didn’t talked about that before.”

“That was somewhat clever from Kwazani.” said Diana “Maybe with some luck we can get into by it.”

“No.” said Cabby “Maybe we should take back Djanni at least.”

“You’re right, but somehow I feel they left Djanni as a bait for us.” said Diana.

“Alright… Let me go. I can go fairy without going full Tink trick. I’ll be with the Earbug off, so they could not detect the signal. I’ll try to convince Djanni to get out and test things… If otherwise, I can act as a relay for you.” said Sugarplum “I hate this really so much, but do the Tinkerbell would be a good way to avoid them, nah?”

“Sounds like a plan. However, if you are attacked, Havoc protocols and all charms you can do.” said Diana.

“Alright.” said Sugarplum, getting Tinkerbell sized and flying near Diana’s ear, and saying in a voice so low that for Diana was like whispers “I’ll talk this way with Djanni. My voice in this form is so low that even people nearby couldn’t hear, but my Earbug when engaged sounds the same way.”

“Okay. In the meantime, me, Squirrel Girl and Kilimanjaro will try to enter via her secret entrance. If there’s tangos there, at least we can buy you some time, Sugarplum.” said Diana “As soon you feel it safe or necessary, use the Earbug. Cabby, stay here until further orders and stays in contact with Corin and Roque Santeiro.”

“Right.” said Cabby, unlocking a heavy machine gun

Sugarplum got into the cave: she needed to assume that getting into a dark cave into her Fairy mode gave her the willies, but she thinks that she would get nearby Djanni very fast. Her eyes were not adapted enough and she was not crazy enough to light herself into the Tink trick. Using a flashlight on her size was just a waste of battery, as all her normal equipment was affected by the size change, so the flashlight would not even light some millimeters away. The Earbug, however, was Vernetech: the size of a ear protector, it is a comm system with some extra functions, like life parameters monitoring. It was this way they knew Jiminy was took hostage and Djanni was alive.

The trip in the dark cave in her Tink form was something that was being hard to deal; her breakthrough was pushed by her fear of dying on an attack during a Nutcracker presentation, and it was also being pushed by the human natural fear of darkness. But she needed to push herself even tougher against the fear. For some reason, she started to recite something she received from a nerd friend after her best ballet friend died from an overdose, when she still was only Eileen McRae, not Sugarplum:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” whispered Sugarplum, again and again, feeling her mind calmer and stronger to fly till Djanni.

She got into a place where she could saw the door where the others were captured. She could see Jiminy’s Top Hat, still with the alligator clips connected into the place. “A trap? Or just left behind?” said Sugarplum, when she saw Djanni on the other side.

She flew till she got nearby Djanni. She could in her size hear Djanni’s breath. She thought on how to wake-up him, and chose the simpler way. She gone to the Earbug-less ear and said, very loudly (for her size):

“Djanni! Djanni! Wake up! It’s me, Sugarplum!” she yelled, and looked for the eyes.

Still closed.

She repeated two or three times when she saw him opening his eyes, his head moving in pain. He looked for the sides and could not see anyone.

“Was I killed and now it’s Time of Reckoning?” moaned Djanni.

“No, Djanni.” replied Sugarplum “It’s me. I’m almost into your right ear.”

She felt him taking his hand to his ear and gone to it like it was a cushion pillow. He took her to his face, that was enormous. She chose to do a little of the Tink trick, making her body magically glow a little, just enough for Djanni see it was her, not a fly or bug.

“Ms. McRae…“ said Djanni

“Remember, in field I’m Sugarplum.” shouted Sugarplum, which for Djanni was just a little, barely understandable, squeak.

“Oh, all right, Sugarplum…“ said Djanni and he gave a yelp that sounded like a heavy metal show for her. “Owie! What happened… I just remember that woman…“

Sugarplum flew to his right ear and started to talk, sitting into his ear like a weirdly put earring.

“Sorry, Djanni, I’ll need to sit here for a while, until we feel it’s safe enough to engage Earbug talking.” started Sugarplum “Just whisper with me: your normal voice is like thunder for someone my size.”

“Alright…“ whispered Djanni.

“That woman you saw is called Adze. We don’t know about her, but sounds like a Shadow Manipulator, with some Merlin to turn things worse.” lectured Sugarplum “After she hit you, she catched Jiminy and menaced to break his neck if the others didn’t surrender. She took the others, after making Soldaire don off the Soldaire Armor and putting Blacklocks in the others.”

“And what we could do?” said Djanni.

“We can deal with him after… I’ll catch Jiminy’s hat. I don’t know it’s a trap, but better recover it.” said Sugarplum, while looking Djanni ears “Ewww… This is not the best time, but need to say: you need to clean your ears properly.”

This comment made Djanni laugh a little, and then Sugarplum made a psst

“Don’t, Djanni! We don’t know if the Kwazani guy left anyone nearby. Just a minute. Go nearby Jiminy’s hat.”

When Djanni get nearby, Sugarplum got out his ear and grew back his natural size and looked for the hat.

“Let us disconnect those cables, and get into…“ said Sugarplum, but when they took it the door started to close.

“Hurry, Djanni!” hasted Sugarplum, putting the hat on her head and going Tink again, the hat shrinking with her. Her and Djanni just passed through the door and entered the place.

“Shucks!” she shouted, after getting back into Djanni’s ear, so she could talk to him. “We are locked inside. Find a place to hide, quick!” instructed Sugarplum, and Djanni run behind some big barrels with Sugarplum holding Djanni’s ears for her dear life.

“Hope there’s not a detection system. I’ll put my Earbug and let another fall. Take it and put it. Things are growing Foxtrot anyway.” said Sugarplum, taking from one of the hidden pockets at her costume petticoats (the only time she thanked God for them) some Earbugs and put one into her ear while leaving the other falling in the ground so her shrinking field lost its effect on it and Djanni could put it. She got some distance away from Djanni’s, that activated his Earbug. “Dispatch, it’s Sugarplum! Djanni is wake up, but when we tried to take Jiminy’s hat back, I think we undone Dumont’s hack on the entrance door. No way an Atlas or Ajax could put it down, look like this thing is made on a Vernetech Super-Steel alloy. Are you copying me?”

“Diana here… Sounds like Kwazani and his guys are going sloppy now they took the others. It’s being somewhat easy to take down the tangos here.” said Diana

“We can see you. How is Djanni?” asked Cabby at the command center.

“I’m okay.” replied funny Djanni “Just a little sore, but soon I’ll be okay. Good dibs on being an Atlas.”

“Don’t get cocky, Djanni.” retorted Diana “Sugarplum, how is situation? Can you fly?”

“Just a minute… Djanni, stay where you are.” replied Sugarplum. She flew a little and looked around before getting even deeper.

“There’s a big room, full of chemical barrels. Looks like the drug materials. Some of them are connected to some pipes. Looks like there’s no cameras or move sensors. Djanni, get over and came here… There’s an elevator in the end of the room. No one is there. We’ll get down, Diana.” stated Sugarplum.

Djanni got out his hiding spot and got nearby. He took his scimitar from the sheath in his back.

“Just let us see if there’s okay.” said Sugarplum.

It was easy to get through the room… Almost too easy.

“Okay… Let us go for the next floor.” said Sugarplum, looking for stair. She found some stairs at the side. “Better go on stairs. It would be more suspicious a elevator be called if everyone is down.”

“But the stairs could have cameras.” said Djanni. “I could bar the doors and we could get down by the elevator pit.”

“The elevators would not close the doors with the outside door being barred somehow.” said Sugarplum “Besides, let me do my charm somehow.” said Sugarplum, when Djanni opened the door.

There was cameras, Djanni was right, so Sugarplum would need to be fast. She flew to them and used some of his magic to shortcut the camera circuits using some magic flares from her magic wand.

“Right, Djanni. Let me get down and shut the cameras down. Sooner or latter they’ll notice us, but if we are lucky enough we’ll be able to get down enough to find the others.” said Sugarplum, while flying like the little fairy she’s now.

“Okay.” said Djanni, getting down when it was safe.

Chapter 21

“Even when they know who we are, if they come after us they come after us, in uniform, without involving our families. And when we go after them, we stick to the law and usually try and bring them in alive, even if a general warrant’s been issued. When both sides play by the rules, the bodies don’t start piling up.”


They were brought down the mountain, and down and down, Jiminy all the time with his neck totally uncomfortable, as it was loose enough so he could breath, but not enough to use his Pretty Please! After being made hostage, he saw Dumont being forced to take everyone’s Earbugs and gave them for the Adze woman, that put them on a pocket in her shadow-made clothes. Her shadows were not common ones, but it was like a dark hole in reality, just gulping the light nearby. It was beautiful and grotesque and horrible in equal proportions for Jiminy.

“Do you like this, kiddo? Maybe I can play with you if this passes. It’s my Shadow-cloth, and it’s part of my breakthrough powers. I’m what your Barlow’s describes as a Merlin, based on the Adze vampiric firefly, with some projection powers, so I can join the Shadows and be one of them, so whatever there’s a Shadow, I can join it as far I can touch it on a solid place.” said Adze, gloating.

“She was really a Merlin, and by what she says on her powers, she’s also a Shadow projector.” thought Jiminy, fearfully. If wasn’t the previous training, Jiminy would be freaking out: his Bellax Analytica was pushing hard and grim against his mind. Only the focus developed after all the Go games made Jiminy push away the grim “futures” he was seeing in his mind and focus his mind on how to get out of this. He was trying to record the way Adze was guiding them, and he could see they are going deeper and deeper into the lion’s cave.

They passed through a great manufacture plant, where automatic robots were filling the blisters with some substances. Some technicians (“Vernes”, though Jiminy) were looking on computer screens, sometime hitting some keys on keyboards or setting some dials. Looks like the drug mixing process for BED needed some human intervention for fine tuning.

It was when they got into another elevator, and they gone to another room. Very comfy and, surprising, not looking too much like a cheesy Bond film villain HQ. The room was clean and well-equipped with all kinds of computers and and a big chem-lab. Jiminy could see even a DNA Sequencer nearby. A big screen was engraved in the wall.

Adze pushed them and got nearby in a corner and got back into the shadows. After the big steel door being closed, they saw a man.

“Oh, hello, Mister Bond!” said the man, before turning to them, giving a cheeky sneer. “Need to say, I always wanted to say this.”

He was an African man, not that big like Magog or sly like Panther, but with a confident face. His face showed royalty, Jiminy could see: he didn’t had the look of a common person, but looks like a slim Shaquille O’Neil, slim and royal. He was confident on knowing that he had, at least that time, the upper hand. Curiously, the Bellax Analytica was not too much grim now. “Looks like we can have a way to escape.” though Jiminy, while seeing the man gloating.

“So at last we’ll be acquainted to each other. I’m Derek Kwazani, and, to put all the cards in the table, I’m what your Barlow guy call an Verne, A-Class. And if you are into that old-fashioned style, you maybe will cry something about surrendering” said Derek.

“So, this is the game.” though Jiminy “So, let us play by the book.”

“Mister, Pretty Please!, why you want us to do this? Let us go!” faked a whin Jiminy, trying to use his power, even knowing that it would not work.

As it didn’t.

“No way you could mess with my mind… But… Let us stay into the trope: now it’s time to me to say my ‘evil plan’, right?” said Kwazani, obviously unphased “Oh, well, my plan is simple: bring power back to Africa. You see, no matter all the balderdash they talk about Europe or Asia or America being the civilization birthplace, Africa is humanity birthplace. And before even Genghis Khan, there was big empires in Africa, not just Egypt, but also the Abyssinian, and many others. No matter what Israel calls, Egypt was stronger than them in the past. My objective is simple: bring Africa to their past glory.” said Kwazani, calmly.

“Ok, a Cause Villain.” though Jiminy “But not as villainous… Let us still play things: maybe we can escape and defeat him, or at least buy time for the others to came on.”

“And, to stay on our so called Journey’s Hero: how I would want to deal with this? Well, in my researches about the breakthrough I found some interesting common triggers that could be used to provide powers for anyone. And it’s this the way: by creating my own heroes, so to speak. After all, the hero of someone is the terrorist of someone else.” said Kwazani, appreciating the gloating like someone would taste a good vine or, for Jiminy, a tasty McDonald’s Happy Meal.

“Alright: think I had my part in the trope. So it’s yours: die or run away.” said Kwazani

Adze used her power in the ground below them, and they felt a hole of pure darkness getting below them, Jiminy included. They were being dragged, but it was fast enough to not allow them to react, even considering Jiminy’s Bellax Analytica. When they got out, the Blacklocks got out the hands of the others. It was somewhat dark and Jiminy took some time to adapt to the darkness.

They saw themselves into a big natural cave turned into something like a big Super-MMA ring. They looked around and saw some of the workers looking for them.

“Hufflepuff… I think you’ll feel yourself at home here.” said Jiminy, trying to do a little fun, but his voice didn’t hiding the fact he was really scared.

“No, Pepito Grillo, the SAAA rings were never this dark.” said Hufflepuff.

“Soldaire, I think they left me your SolChange with me.” said Dumont, giving back to Soldaire the SolChange device.

Soldaire put the device in his left arm and, after a gesture said. “Soldaire Henkan! Oh yuukoh ni shimasu!”.

“Engaging Soldaire Transformation!” Jiminy knew. The passkey to activate the Soldaire transformation, bringing the nanobots SolMetal to our dimension from the pocket dimension inside the SolChange, around Soldaire’s body, taking his clothes’ place. A process that curiously took .001 second, like some of those old Pre-Event Sentai series.

The lights started to get on, showing the big ring they were in front of them…

…and two Monsters in front of them. They looked like human, but more like Neanderthals or something like this.

“Which news you want, everyone… The bad or the worst?” said Dumont.

“The bad.” said Jiminy, impulsively.

“Those guys are BED-stoned.” said Dumont.

“And the worst?” said Hufflepuff

“They are so high in the BED that, and I hope I’m wrong… They gone atavic and are now Ultra-level!” said Dumont, taking his Pince-Nez and trying looking cool…

Without Success.

Chapter 22

“People think that breakthroughs are all mighty, no matter what. It’s not true. But I can say this: if you see a monster that even an A-Class Ajax can’t stand alone, run for your life! Dealing with Ultra and, god forbid, Omega events are beyond almost everyone but the mightiest or the foolest to deal with by your own, without help.”

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

“Hey, Sugarplum.” said Djanni “Looks like those people are getting to somewhere.” he said, while seeing that the technics were going to one place behind a door.

“Alright.” said Sugarplum, hitting the Earbug “Diana, where are you?”

“We are getting on: we had some distractions with some traps. Nothing too big, but enough to make us waste time. We are hearing some cheers, like there was happening a show or fight.” said Diana.

“Alright. Me and Djanni are getting as down as we can. Think Jiminy and the others are somewhere down or nearby we are.” said Sugarplum

“Roger. Djanni, any tango you see, go into Havoc protocol. Those guy brought the Charlie Foxtrot, we’ll bring it back for them.” said Diana. “Play safe, play hard, play harsh, play dirty, protect yourself and Sugarplum!”

“Right.” said Djanni, when he felt something getting nearby himself…

A very know sensation.

“Sugarplum, look out!” said Djanni, going fast flying beyond the solid darkness that was forming, trying to grab him.

“Alright!” said Sugarplum.

Adze took form in the darkness, just leaving her eyes, bright and poison yellow, somewhat visible.

“Okay…“ said Sugarplum, growing back “I heard you, and you looked like terror, but now… You’re not only Merlin and Projector. You had a psychotic breakthrough and also is a fucking sadistic bitch.”

“Pain is illumination.” said Adze “Even the white knows this. ‘Spare the rod, spoil the children’, isn’t what said?”

“You’re disgusting!” said Sugarplum, when the woman get back to the shadows, and they started to feel the tentacles flying everywhere, hitting everything except them, but for a bit.

Sugarplum gone back to her size and Djanni flew through some of the tentacles that either tried to hit him straight or to grab him.

“Sugarplum, I can just feel for a little when the tentacles came!” said Djanni.

“She’s really fast!” said Sugarplum “She must be. It’s very uncommon for someone goes undetected by Jiminy’s Bellax Analytica.”

It was when Djanni gone a little faster and didn’t took care, and Adze rolled some tentacles through his arms and legs.

“Stop now, little Tinkerbell.” said Adze, gleeful, holding Djanni over her head by his limbs, one dark tentacle circling each. “Go back to your real size, or I’ll rip this kid limbs apart.”

Sugarplum grew back.

“Right…“ said Adze. “I always wanted to kill a little fairy. How do you’ll die? Will I just need to say I don’t believe in fairies and you’ll die?” said her, mocking Jiminy voice when saying “I don’t believe in fairies!”

And this snapped something in Sugarplum.

“You fucking bitch!” said Sugarplum, starting to glow.

“Go back, silly girl, or the kid here will die!” said Adze worried, but it was when Djanni looked to her.

“Do what you need, Sugarplum! By Allah, the Mighty One and the Compassionated One, and Muhammad his Prophet (PBUH)! Do what you need! Allah Akbar! Maktub! This is our fate, our three!” said Djanni, feeling the pain as the grapple grew strong and pushing his limbs beside his body, trying to rip them apart Djanni.

But, instead to do what what Adze wanted, Sugarplum gone exactly opposite, growing more and more.

“Djanni, close your eyes!” said Sugarplum. “Aine, Badb, Brigit, Cailleach, Dagda, Danu, Goibniu, Macha…” she started to say, her body going brighter and brighter each name she said, until the light became so intense it grew hurtful. The light pulse was making Adze going weaker and weaker.

Adze’s power was based on darkness and despair and madness. Sugarplum’s, otherwise, was based on light and healing and blessing, although she could claim for the warrior deities from past, like Brigit and Macha, if needed.

Adze tried to push harder Djanni’s limbs, but the light was so bright that this only made the tentacles fade away like a foul mist.

“Now, Djanni! I can’t hold this forever!” said Sugarplum, desperate and full on wrath.

“Allah Akbar!” cried Djanni, pushing all his power in only a punch.

A common person could had his guts exploded by the full power of an A-Class Ajax like Djanni.

And even an A-Class Merlin and Projector could have problems, as a non-Ajax was always weaker against an Ajax on physical prowess.

No matter the A-Class Ajax was a 9-years old Tunisian refugee.

The punch made the shadows fade away from her body and some of the energy hit her straight into his lungs, making her expel her air. Djanni gave another punch, that didn’t hit the head that was his target, but made her shoulder explode into mincemeat, still linking her right arm to her body only God knows how. When he tried to bring the finishing blow, pushing his scimitar to chop her head out, he felt the light going down, but still bright enough.

“Stop, Djanni. Enough. Kill her will not help us.” said Sugarplum, and Djanni looked now for what he was pointing his scimitar.

The woman, without her Shadow-cloth, was using only a Tank Top and fatigues. Her face was somewhat common, except by the pain and lust in her face. For some reason, Djanni though she was pathetic and pitiful. Sugarplum looked everywhere and saw something.

“I didn’t know this Kwazani guy was so smart.” said Sugarplum, looking for something in a rack. “Djanni, I can’t touch that thing: you’ll need to do this.” she said, pointing a black pair of manacles.

“Those are Blacklocks?” said Djanni, taking their.

“The Merlin variation: take silver, salt, and cold iron. Some call this Fake Oriichalcum.” said Sugarplum “This is Vernetech to be used against some kind of projectors and Merlins. It circumvents our powers and blocks our access to any kind of source power, no matter is Glamour, Prana, Qi, or anything else. Just push this away, please, it gives me the willies.” she said

Djanni put the manacles and took the keys, when Diana, Squirrel Girl, Panther and Kilimanjaro.

“You catched her. Good work.” said Diana “And how are you, Djanni.”

“Sore…“ said Djanni, flexing his wrists and ankles back to his place “But okay.”

“Alright.” said Diana, when they saw that Adze was waking up and smiled

“You’ll not save your friends.” said Adze, gleeful

“What?” said Sugarplum

“They are into The Pit… No one had gone alive from it and the Monsters.” said Adze

“For your own well, I would hope they are alive.” said Diana, unlocking her heavy machine-gun and pointing it to Adze’s head “Now, if you want to stay with your head as it is now, say me what and where is that Pit.”

And Adze spilled the beans, looking that Diana was business.

Chapter 23

“You need to always improve yourself, always work your skills. Even if looks like there’s no apparent reason, sooner or later all your effort will pay the profits, even by staying with your head over your neck at the end.”

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

“I don’t know about you, but this guy is really cheesy, in my humble opinion!” said Dumont, when they were fighting the two Monsters. A kind of battle music was being played by some speakers in the cave. Dumont recognized it as the same music from the classic Pon-farr battle at Classic Star Trek.

Jiminy run away and tried to put himself out of the way, as he was small enough. But he tried to use his Bellax Analytica to detect the Monsters move.

“They are too much savage!” said Jiminy “I can’t precog them! And I can’t see those guys being stopped with my Pretty Please!”

“Damn!” said LionHeart, joining Dumont and Jiminy himself into one of them, Soldaire and Hufflepuff in the other.

“Jiminy, set your weapons for kill!” said Soldaire “Don’t play small with those guys!”

“Alright!” said Jiminy and he started to shot his Cricket weapons as much as he could.

But against those Ultra guys, the Cricket shots were like bee stings: annoying, but unhurtful.

Jiminy was almost hit by one of those guys, but he dodged the attack, even considering the Iron Cricket armor’s weight. He, however, was not totally unscathed. He yelped, feeling his ankle getting sprained.

“Jiminy!” said LionHeart

“I’m okay, it’s just my ankle.” said Jiminy trying to get over, but the ankle isn’t helping, as he limped his way out of the danger.

“Stay there, Jiminy.” said Soldaire “Help us from where you are and use your Bellax Analytica as much as possible.” said Dumont

“Right.” said Jiminy, and tried to focus on…

And he saw that he could.

The Go training for Bellax Analytica had paid his profits!

“Alright, I can see them!” said Jiminy, passing the orientations to the others.

They could see that their attacks hit even more hard the big Monsters. But their intuition pushed them against the little cricket kid.

“Hufflepuff, on one of them!” said Soldaire.

Hufflepuff ran and launched one of them against the walls that made the pit, feeling the Kayfabe growing even more now. But he felt himself tired, like all the others.

“This will never end!” said Hufflepuff “We need to put at least one of them down for sure!”

“Let me help you!” said Jiminy “LionHeart, go for the one Hufflepuff is attacking!”

“Alright!” said LionHeart.

The Monster was not that dumb, and gone for the main into a Lion-like costume and clashed int him, hands holding hands, confident on his great strength.

But he didn’t understood the Rock-Paper-Scissors.

“Now, Hufflepuff!” said Jiminy, while rolling out from the other Monster attack “He’s off-guard!”

Hufflepuff didn’t needed another asking, and run for him, going to it and grappling him and giving a strong double stomping over his ears. The Monsters roared in pain, when LionHeart started to punch his chest.

“LionHeart, forget the niceness. Havoc protocol! Straight into his stomach!” said Jiminy, running a little, his voice painfully, from the other Monster, that attacked him, Dumont and Soldaire randomly.

“Right!” said LionHeart, giving his best one-two straight into the stomach as Jiminy said.

And he found why: his one-two into its stomach worked like a Dim Mak, making him growl in pain, giving some step behind, feeling really hurt.

Because even an Ultra-Class Ajax feel pain and damage.

“Alright, Hufflepuff. Let’s do it!” said LionHeart, joining Hufflepuff into a pseudo-wrestling combat.

“I need help here, Jiminy!” said Dumont, while shooting the Monster.

“Looks like those Monsters don’t sustain too much at the same time. Soldaire, Dumont, let us shot him straight in the chest, rapid-fire!”

“Alright, Jiminy!” they said, using the rapid fire mode in the weapons to shoot as much as they could.

The good news was that the Monster started to feel the pain and punishment.

Bad news is: he gone amok on this.

He catched Jiminy off-guard and launched him against the other side of the room like a kid on a tantrum throwing a ragdoll, making Jiminy cry in pain, when he crashed against the wall.

“Jiminy!” said Soldaire, while Hufflepuff finished one of the Monsters, that got down limp in the ground.

“Don’t worry with me!” said Jiminy, his voice full on pain. “Stay on it!”

“I’ll see for Jiminy, Soldaire!” said LionHeart

“I’ll help you to get this thing down!” said Hufflepuff, and both split way. While Hufflepuff used his Kayfabe to boost his strength and hold the monster, LionHeart gone for Jiminy.

“How are you, Jiminy?” said LionHeart.

“I think my leg is broken!” whined weakily Jiminy, crying in pain like the little kid he is “The armor took the worst of the impact, but this monster is really strong!”

LionHeart looked: one of the legs of the armor was destroyed, and the impact was enough to make Jiminy’s leg bones break and goes outside.

“Damn!” said LionHeart “Double exposed fracture! We need to deal with this fast!” he said, remvoing the broken armor. After that, he undid Jiminy’s cravat and took the scarf from Jiminy’s neck.

“Looks clean enough for now! This will do the job!” he said, looking for the scarf “Now, I’ll need you to be a good and courageous boy, because this will hurt!” he said and, unceremoniously, pulled his shin bones’ parts back into his leg, making Jiminy cry in pain.

“Good kid!” said LionHeart, huffing Jiminy’s hair a little and cleaning the tears from his face for bring him back from the pain “Now, I’ll stanch the blood as much as I can and then we’ll see.” he said, doing a tourniquet a little over the bone using the scarf and cleaning as must as he could from the blood.

“Please, LionHeart, put me over your shoulders!” said Jiminy, moaning in pain.

“Right…“ said LionHeart

When he was over LionHeart, he pointed his hand to the Monster.

“Dumont, Soldaire, where I’ll shoot!” said Jiminy, pointing the faulty Tesla Arc Cannon to the Monster and starting to shoot, targeting the Monster’s face.

“Jiminy, NO!” said Dumont, but he was already shooting into a rapid fire using the Canons.

The Iron Cricket’s Tesla Arc Cannon was faulty, they all know: the cooling system was not good, the exhaust system not correctly deployed. Even using the gloves from his common costume below it, Jiminy could feel the vapour exhaust hitting his hand. He was doing as much as he could, trying to not thinking in the pain in his leg and hands, the adrenalin rush helping him to forget the pain.

Soldaire and Dumont saw that the only option was to join Jiminy on dealing with the Monster and finishing it as fast as they could, so they shoot it straight into his face: even an Ultra could stand so much shots. The Monster started to to fell until his face was almost destroyed by the energy shots, when he fell in the ground. Dumont needed to get near Jiminy, while he continued to shot the dead body and crying.

“Okay, Jiminy, stop. Enough. We are safe by now. Now, let me see these hands!” said Dumont, taking the glove, now exhausting lots of vapor.

When they saw his right hand, it was full of blisters, his normal glove below the Tesla Arc Cannon making Jiminy yelp when Dumont removed it as it somehow got fused with his hand because the vapour heat. The left one was not better

“This is not good. Luck I have a Vernetech healing kit here.” said Dumont, when they heard some claps and they looked to the claps.

“Very good. You are really powerful.” said Kwazani in a balcony, unlocking a heavy machine gun “Unfortunately, I can’t left you alive. Believe me, I’ll not sit at Hague or New York, except to be the new master of the world. Hope there’s no resentment.”

Chapter 24

“One of the best parts of being part of a CAI Team (I don’t like the ‘super-team’ thing: it’s posh and unreal) is: you have another family. And when your own family is so far away that they just can’t see you bleeding and panting and crying, you need a shoulder to cry when you’re in pain. And because of this, CAI Teams are so important for a cape.”

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

Kwazani was savoring the moment: he had a higher ground, the Mastermind kid was hurt and all of them was tired. Sure, he lost his Monsters, unfortunated souls that, after a BED overdose gone atavic, his body growing stronger and the mind rolling his evolution back to the Homo Erectus. But this was just a setback, and when he got from this guys, he would take his forces and then the world would tremble!

It was what he was thinking when the Honey Badger hit him straight in the back with its long claw.

He felt pain and tried to take the Badger back, but he also felt a foul smell. And he looked for the Honey Badger…

And saw that it had a skunk tail.

And it had four allies, including the traitors Panther and Kilimanjaro!

“Now, Kwazani, put this thing down!” said the black woman he recognized as Diana, the foreigner leader from Roque Santeiro, pointing an military-grade M-60 against him. “Believe me… The one who will suffer more will be you! Sugarplum, see how the others are.”

He felt the little wind going near his left side when the fairy girl passed very hastily beside him. The Honey Badger gave him a very strong hiss, the skunk tail tensed ready for another stink shot.

“Alright, Squirrel Girl, I think this guy already knows how disgusting you feel he is.” said Diana, and the Honey Badger grew back into a woman with squirrel ears and tail.

“They are okay!” said Sugarplum via Earbug. “Jiminy is very hurt, but he already received first aid. Dumont and I will finish the first aid with the kits CADUCEUS provided.”

“Right, Sugarplum, come back as soon you dealt with Jiminy.” said Diana via Earbug and then she turned back to Kwazani “Now, let us turn this simple, as I don’t have patience for Bond villains wannabes that fucks my businesses: put this weapon on the ground.”

“If you kill me, you’ll never be free from BED: I’m putting the BED synthetization process in the Dark Web and I’ll free it.” said Kwazani.

“So, you want to do an Omega Event? Right… We have Asimov enough to hack the Dark Web and made almost every copy of this fade away, if you try this. And for the lunatics like you, we’ll have a General Warrant against those drug dealers and producers that try this one. But, alright, let us play: you know I can’t let you leave get out this that easy, after what that Adze woman did with Jiminy, and after all we suffered. What you want?” said Diana

“Safe haven.” said Kwazani “You know I provide this drug for many of the local chieftains, and many of them will want my head as soon there’s no more drug for them.”

“For me, we should left you being ripped apart for this, origin seller.” said Squirrel Girl

“Hey, girl. It’s not my fault if your people messed everything and people don’t like you.” said Kwazani

“You…“ was saying Squirrel Girl, when either Kilimanjaro and Djanni held her.

“And you two, Bobby and Josephine. I thought you would not fall into all the babble from those guys.” said Kwazani

“It was my fault to fall under your babble, Kwazani, giving my back to my own people’s wisdom. Africa will grew, this is a fact, but not on your way!” said Kilimanjaro.

“You lied to me, Kwazani.” said Panther “My little girl is very good from the AIDS now with the new retrovirals those guys are using… What would be your idea, fill my little girl with BED until she gone mad or died?”

“Alright, Kwazani. So, you want safe haven, right? It’s two options: Hague or New York for LDS SuperMax Prison. Your choice.” said Diana

“Why I should hear you? You’ll need to put me on Roque Santeiro until we can get to one of those places. Time enough for someone kill me. Roque Santeiro’s security is not that hard, you saw when this all started. Why not put me in Freetown? I think they have a SuperMax prison there.” said Kwazani.

“He wants to give himself for local authorities? Too much easy! He would not be that stupid! Looks like he have someone into his pocket, or some juicy shady intel on them to trade by for his freedom.” thought Diana.

“Sugarplum, bring Dumont here: we don’t have any Asimov here to do the job, but I think he, and Jiminy if he can work, will do enough.” said Diana via Earbug, and this made Kwazani goes tense.

“Alright. UN people found an alternate route for there.” said Sugarplum.

“So, let us make this easy: try any kind of fool thing, we kill you. I’m fucked up enough to go trigger happy, but I would not kill someone without a good reason, even a piece of shit like you.” said Diana, unlocking the machine gun “No auto-destruction button or something funny like this. UN and LDS forces already are here. Your people are already arrested. It’s over for you.”

Kwazani looked like was defeated. He was putting the machine gun down, but discreetly turning it against his own chest when he heard a painful, sweet voice:

“Pretty Please!, mister Kwazani! Don’t kill yourself!” said Jiminy Cricket, in a low, painful and sweet childish voice because the pain he was feeling, while being carried by LionHeart, so painful and sweet that, even without his power, could make anyone besides the biggest psychopaths cry. But it was enough for the now off-guard Kwazani, that felt the Pretty Please! compulsion working on himself boosted by the natural human instinct of self-preservation. He even tried to pull the trigger, but he left the machine gun fall in the ground, looking for him, with a nasty smile.

“Nice revenge, kiddo.” said him “Forcing me to be utterly defeated. This is what your people does: you don’t fight with honor and let the defeated goes down. You want to humiliate, to put us in shame. You shown your real face behind your mask, kid.”

Jiminy said, somewhat sadly, somewhat painfully:

“No… Death is never the answer.” said Jiminy “So, Pretty Please!, let us put yourself into the Blacklocks.”

Kwazani looked in rage for Jiminy, but he knew that Pretty Please! had worked on him. He puts his hands in front of him, and Squirrel Girl gone to him with the Blacklocks.

“Be thankful for Jiminy. It was me, you would be now being strangled by an anaconda.” said Squirrel Girl, disgusted.

“Alright. Jiminy, give your hat for Dumont use as relay. Dispatch, put our Asimovs online: we’ll get all the intel we can for this. Mission completed! 0-kill, low casualties! Tangos known as Kwazani, Ianshan, Magog and Adze acquired. Target base acquired. Medical team, we have a serious damaged cape: double broken right chin bones, burnt hands, multiple other bruises.” said Diana, formally, and then she looked for Jiminy, with a nice, rare smile “Jiminy, now you can take some rest: you did more than we could expect on you and we all are proud.”

And Jiminy nod himself, relieving himself from the pain into little kid’s dreams when nodding off while being carried away by LionHeart and the others.

Chapter 25 - Epilogue

“If you have a breakthrough on your family, specially a cape, be supportive no matter what: they didn’t asked for their powers, and being jealous on them is not good. Sometimes, they need to get away. Sometimes, they’ll get really hurt. But many of them will try to do the best with their powers to improve life for everyone. What you need to do for them, as parent or relative, is being supportive: they already have so much over their shoulders without us trying to say them what they should or not do.”

Michael & Selena McCarthy, “Superdads: Parenting kids, breakthrough or not”

The barracks were cleaned: Joshua left many of his toys, including some of the Jiminy Cricket plushies he brought, for the camp, which made lots of refugees kids happy.

“Alright, short stuff.” said Eileen, on civilian like Joshua “Ready to go. Think we need to say goodbye for Diana, Lesley and the others.”

“Okay!” said Joshua, taking his crutches and using them to walk away from the barrack: his leg was casted, and his hands was still bandaged because of the Tesla Arc Cannons’ burns. He still had some problem walking on crutches but no way he would let Altayr carry him to the helicopter. He still had some pride.

They were being sent back to Geneva, either for Joshua’s recovery at Héros Sans Frontiéres’s Geneva HQ and to escort Derek Kwazani and Adze, or Sallay “Sally” Obrahim, to Hague, also escorting the data dumped from Kwazani’s servers to CADUCEUS Europe in Brussels for analysis to help people that had undergone BED overdose.

In the meantime, Kilimanjaro, Panther and, surprise, Ianshan were put under a parole at Roque Santeiro, accorded with Sierra Leone’s authorities. They agreed also with Kwazani being dispatched to Hague to be judged by the ICC, the International Criminal Court, as Sierra Leone assumed they couldn’t deal with Kwazani as a Breakthrough. Jiminy also discovered that Senesie was being instructed on his powers as a Breakthrough, a B-Class Merlin, that started to use the medical traditions from his people to cure others.

Djanni and his parents were waiting for: Mr. Zayn Tahan and Mrs. Fathama Tahan were going with Altayr, that would go for take his CAI training in Geneva before getting back Sierra Leone with the others when Joshua recovered back and would be cleared to get back the field. Panther, or better, Robert and his daughter came to say goodbye for the team, and also Senesie, Sawie and Josephine.

“Kid, bring that Tiana dress I asked you for my daughter. And the Cinderella one also.” asked Robert.

“Sure. As soon I go to Disneyland Paris I’ll buy them and send for you.” said Joshua.

“Kid, you saved my soul and many others here in Sierra Leone. You’ll never be forgot.” said Josephine.

“I’ll be back as soon as I’m good enough. Scout’s honor.” said Joshua.

“No, kid… Maybe you’ll be needed more somewhere else in the world. But I’ll always remember you.” said Josephine

“And I’ll remember you.” said Joshua

“Alright, everyone.” said Seiji, on his best Keichishou uniform, as he normally when in civil, only Hufflepuff and Dumont in cape. “We have to go. The flight is tightly scheduled and the other team is already here. Joshua, can you deal with?”

“I just will need some help to be put into the heli, but otherwise I’ll be okay.”

“Hope you come back soon.” said Diana “You all are very good, and we need all help we can.”

“I’ll do my best to came back here as soon as possible.” said Joshua, while shaking hands with everyone. Diana helped to put him into the helicopter and they waited him to be sat and fastened before closing the door.

Joshua couldn’t not feel some melancholy when he took the headset and felt the helicopter lifting from Roque Santeiro.

“Something you want to say, short stuff?” said Eileen

“I want to go back… As soon as possible.” said Joshua

“Maybe we’ll get back, Joshua” said Seiji. “But first, focus on your recovery, and on CAI training for Altayr.”

“Right.” said Joshua.

Some time after, they got into the Hercules waiting them at Freetown. He started to feel back some pain, and after the liftoff he took a small meal and some painkillers, which made him nod off during all the flight.

Mr. Michael & Mrs. Selena McCarthy were waiting on the Geneva airport, with the VISITOR credentials for HSF. When they saw the big Hercules transport carrier arriving, they felt their heart jumping, and then they saw his little Joshua getting out the plane, on crutches, his leg casted, but with a happy, healthy face, a little less chubby from the last time they saw him, and a little more older, a little more tanned, a little more freckled.

“Josh!” cried Selena, running to his son, hugging him like there was no tomorrow in front of everyone.

“MOMMY!” said Joshua, a little ashamed, but happy to see the mom he didn’t saw for some months.

The others gave a good laugh on this, but they all knew that the recovery would be better for Joshua if his parents were with him.

“Mom, Dad, I think you know the others, but those are Mr. and Mrs. Tahan. His son, Altayr, had undergone breakthrough at Roque Santeiro and now will do the CAI training here in Geneva. Mr. Tahan will also apply to work as translator and Mrs. Tahan as clerk for Héros Sans Frontiéres.” said Joshua, presenting the Tunisian refugee family.

“Hello, Mr. McCarthy.” said Mr. Tahan “I can see from where your kid learned to be a good boy.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Tahan.” said Mr. McCarthy shaking hands.

“So, dad. Will you go back home?” said Joshua.

“No.” said Mr. McCarthy “Your mom and I chose to stay here in Geneva: I applied for a job in Héros Sans Frontiéres, and your mother is now part of the ICC paralegal team.” he said, and Joshua was very happy.

“Now… Let us get back the Geneva base and look for the doctors on how will be your recovery, Joshua.” said Mrs. McCarthy, lifting his boy and getting into the SUV with HSF logo.

And for Joshua recovery to be ready for next missions.

                      THE END... BY NOW.
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