Jiminy Cricket II - pt 1

Jiminy Cricket have some good... And not too good... Time while his team is on bench!

Chapter 1

“Metrocon is a great experience for every cape… You know, is the Breakthrough Mecca, and is nice to see, for us from Herós Sans Frontières, that we are inspiration for fans and new capes also.”

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

Jiminy was back to the Herós Sans Frontières booth at the Metrocon, the biggest cape fandom event all around the world, limping a little, supporting his weight in part using a beautiful cane with a Jiminy Cricket head Dumont made him. Part of National CAI Conference, the biggest CAI training and expo event, Metrocon was part confraternization, part fanservice, part festival, part headhunting.

This year, the team allocated at the Herós Sans Frontières booth was Jiminy’s one. Jiminy Cricket (real name: Joshua McCarthy) was still limping from the leg damage he was sustaining since they acquired Derek Kwazani, a crazy A-Class Verne that developed a Breakthrough Enticing Drug that was very dangerous. In the action, he was launched against a wall and had broken his left shin bones. As a A-Class Mastermind, Jiminy was somewhat super-intelligent, could precog actions via his Bellax Analytica and also could use his Pretty Please! to somewhat call people’s heart for good things.

But his powers doesn’t include fast healing, and he just hadn’t hurt himself even more thanks the Iron Cricket, his combat focused costume, that absorbed some of the impact. He was almost healed, 5 months after the event, but he still needed to use a cane, because his leg was still casted. The good thing is, as a kid, he was still growing and, so, he could recovery even faster than other people.

“Need any help?” said his best friend, Djanni (real name: Altayr Bashir Tahan), the other underage hero from Herós Sans Frontières.

“I’m okay, Djanni.” said Jiminy, today on his common Jiminy Cricket 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, a half mask shaped as a cricket face and a top hat. He looks always like a kid that took some Dress-Up Game costume as hero costume. He just sat in a chair and looked for the people going. “Hope this can help Herós Sans Frontières to receive extra donations, either from people and from other super-teams.”

“Think this will do. Need to say: they looked for you two as good curiosities, being so young capes, and this is helping on the funds.” said the other guy with them, in his civil clothes, although for Soldaire (real name: Seiji Shirou) being in “civil” was something rare. When not doning his Soldaire armor, he was always on his best Keichisou (Tokyo policemen) uniform, except in the most private times, when he liked to dress himself into 80s biker attire. Lent by the Japanese Superhuman Self-Defense Forces to the Herós Sans Frontières, almost permanently, Soldaire acted as Team Leader, including PR. The team was specifically invited by the Chicago Sentinels after the events at Roque Santeiro, specially for the NCAIC. Being at the Metrocon was Soldaire with the HSF big kahunas’ idea to raise awareness for Herós Sans Frontières and the Super-Help for Super-Needs motto, gather some donations, make some money with merchandising and trying to recruit.

“No new capes?” said Jiminy.

“Nothing. There was that B-Class aquakinetic that had potential, but we said him to get into contact with some of the local CAI teams. I put him in contact with Saint Louis CAI teams, so his power could be more useful, as there’s too much floods there, natural or not.” said Soldaire “How it was with the Sentinels?”

“It was fun. They are all cool as in the shows, but more fun because they’re real, imperfect, quirky. And the Young Sentinels are cool too. I say: with all that happened, it was fun to know them. Artemis was a little creepy, but she looks like a dark version of Sugarplum.” said Jiminy. Sugarplum (real name: Eileen McRae) was a ballerina until, during a Nutcracker presentation were she was the Sugarplum Fairy, some anarchists robbed the show cash and made this putting the cast under gunpoint. She gone so stressed that shrunk to the size of a fairy, and discovered she could fly using some fairy wings that magically shows on and off and do some kind of Glamour magic. Albeit her appearance, people should not take her for a little Tinkerbell: her magics could mess with the mind and bring the Nature’s wrath. “And where’s she?”

“She’s talking with Ozma, from the Young Sentinels. Astra presented her.” said Soldaire “Sounds like some of the magicks Ozma uses could be used by Sugarplum to improve her repertoire of power. She’s a little frustrated to not, on her opinion, be too much useful in combat after the Roque Santeiro’s tour. And how it was with Blackstone?”

“We talked some about what I thought on all this, and about what happened in Roque Santeiro. He said we avoided an even bigger disaster we could imagine, and then he gave me this magic card deck.” said Jiminy, showing the card deck branded with Blackstone’s crest, like a nice souvenir. “And about you Djanni, how it was?”

“They were cool: I need to say I was a little afraid because, you know…“ said Djanni, blushing bellow the veil he uses as mask. As a Tunisian Muslim refugee, Djanni thought they could take him as a new Seif-Al-Din, but he was not a radical, as he was teached on the Qu’ran by his dad, Zayn Tahan, and her mother, Fathama Tahan, on a good vision of Islam and the Qu’ran. He has the religious practices, but he was fully with the Herós Sans Frontières against the Islam fundamentalists from the Undying Caliphate if would be needed. “But it was really fun: Astra was really incredible and respectful with the Islam, and she said she believes that Seif-Al-Din was delusional, and he didn’t represented Islam as a whole, and Blackstone said the same. And she gave me good tips on how to improve into my powers’ control.”

“This was really good.”, agreed Jiminy. As Astra, Djanni was an Atlas, but as he had the breakthrough somewhat an year before, he still needed to develop some finesse on his powers. As all Atlases, Djanni could fly, was super-strong, and had super-senses that he just started to control. It was really awkward when he felt ashamed to see Sugarplum form into heat signature behind a wall.

“Where are the others?” said Jiminy.

“Dumont had gone for a talk with Vulcan and other Vernes:” said Soldaire “he wants to learn some new tricks he could do with his steampunk Vernetech. Hufflepuff had gone for a talk with the El Paso Guards. Need to say that they give me the willies, but I understand what they need to do. LionHeart is giving a talk on breakthroughs under parole like him, and people was also expecting him for a kind of Breakthrough Masterchef presentation the Sentinels are arranging as part of the show for cape fans. Kuntur had found some guys from Bolivia, Colombia and Peru and they are talking about how things are there: looks he’s too much time with us and is a little homesick and this talk can help.” said Soldaire

The team main muscle, LionHeart (real name: Richard ‘Ric’ McInroy) was a convicted ex-Super-villain, A-Class Ajax, called in the past The Bronx Shoulder, that was “lent” by New York Justice as part of his parole (he was convicted by multiple property damage and manslaughter, life sentence). In HSF, he assumed a new cape identity, and also practice all kind of new abilities, even some hobby, like the one in which he was incredible, cooking. He’s big and red haired, with Irish blood, even being risen at Hell’s Kitchen. And has an easy smile for kids like Jiminy. His costume was something that looked like a lion costume, with the a Heart crest over the shoulder, but without a hood: instead, he uses a maroon Zorro-like mask.

The dandy Dumont (real name: Andre Macedo Luis) is a Verne hero whose costume and capename 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, black tie, the iconic white somewhat wrinkled fedora hat he uses in field, and the goggles he uses while in field as mask. Anachronistic like his Vernetech devices, it was rare to see him using epads, even knowing on how to use them: instead he took notes using an old fashioned, honest-to-gosh, Montblanc fountain pen and a paper notepad.

Hufflepuff (real name: Juan Manuel Acierdo) was the son of a Tecnico Luchador from Mexico that died at The Event, when the shockwaves from an airplane crash next the Lucha arena had made everything goes down, his father hit straight at the heart by an 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 Breakthrough, turning someone as strong as an Ajax, but with more flexibility and powered by La Passion de La Lucha, that boosts 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 have, as LionHeart, an easy smile for kids and good people. Even when into civil suit, he was always on his Mask, that have holes for eyes, nose and mouth, so he could eat with his mask.

And Kuntur (real name: Jose Marti Poma) was 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.

“The Eight Excellent Protectors and the Nine Accomplished Heroes are also here at Metrocon,” said Soldaire, thoughtful “so I want to talk a little with them and show my respect to them. I’m just waiting some of the other adults to get back. I don’t want to leave the booth just with you, and your parents are also on some talks.”

Which was true: Jiminy and Djanni’s parents were on a panel about breakthrough parenting with parents from other breakthroughs, like Astra and Shelly/Galatea, so Soldaire was the only adult on the place.

“If you need to go, Soldaire, let this for us.” said Jiminy “We can take rounds and care for the booth until someone get back. And send them my respects about the Go board.”

“Hummm…“ said Soldaire “Alright. Maybe it’s a good idea to go: the Heroes and Protectors have a very tight schedule and will soon go back to Japan, and it would be disrespectful to let them get away without some greetings. I’ll get back soon. If you need anything, I’ll be at the Earbug.” he said, getting away.

It was fun for Jiminy and Djanni: although small, the booth had a fridge with some juice, cola and cocoa (provided by the Sentinels), and the anime-like promotional video, made by a friend of Soldaire, was fun, and included Anime-like Relectures from all of them. People stopped on the booth, and asked about Herós Sans Frontières: they showed people some pamphlets about the HWB, talked about their recent gig at Roque Santeiro, took some donations in money and also talked with some weak breakthroughs that asked for a chance, passing them business cards with Heroes Without Borders New York HQ contact informationn while receiving some curriculum. Some CAI teams also left old but good equipment as donation for other teams in places like Angola, Rwanda, Croatia or Sierra Leone.

Jiminy even discovered he had some fans, even smaller than him.

“Mommy, look! It’s Jiminy Cricket from Herós Sans Frontières, the kid hero!” said a 4 years old kid, cosplayed into his costume (Disney had the right for selling Jiminy Cricket’s costumes for fans, as his costume was based on Jiminy design from their Pinocchio animation. However, some of the profits on it were donated to Herós Sans Frontières) “He’s even cooler than when he was at Sesame Street, Blue Peter and Disney XD. And who is this guy? Is a new cape?” said the kid, pointing Djanni.

“Hey, chap, want to hear my friend Djanni here and me telling his story while you get an autograph on your Top Hat?” said Jiminy and the kid nodded, astounished, and Jiminy and Djanni started to talk how some mean kids picked on Djanni and he felt that he needed to run and actually flied and how they know each other and how Djanni helped to capture Derek Kwazani, while Jiminy autographed his Top Hat with his capename.

“Wow! You’re really cool! Djanni, can I have your autograph too?” said the kid.

“Only Allah the Most High should be praised, but I think I’ll autograph your hat too. Hope this will be inspiration for you to be a good kid, in The Prophet’s name (PBUH) and in Isa, or as you call Jesus, too, Peace be with Him and with you too.” said Djanni, doing a draw from his Crest (a Crescent Moon with the word Virtue in Arabic) into the kid’s hat inside, also autographing his capename. The kid got the Hat and put on the head, while his mother took some pamphlets and left some tips as donation for Herós Sans Frontières. The kid and mother then had gone, the kid waving his hand for both of them.

“It was fun know that kids are growing good by looking on us as example.” said Jiminy, smiling, and Djanni nodded.

It was when Jiminy felt a shiver from his Bellax Analytica engaging.

“Djanni, be ready… Something wicked is coming.” he whispered.

It was when he saw a guy that he didn’t saw by at least two years.

And that the last time he saw, was the one the guy almost walloped him to dead and was forbade by Jiminy’s first Pretty Please! use.

Kyle Montague was a bully that always picked Joshua, as he was the smallest and meekest kid in the school, for some thrashing. The last thrash he gave has induced Joshua’s breakthrough, and resulted on Joshua gone comatose for six months. In the meantime, Kyle was sent to Juvenile Reformatory. As Joshua had gone to HWB for training at Geneva, he didn’t though a bit on Kyle in the time.

“So you’re Jiminy Cricket? You should had chosen a better capename, you shrimp. With those powers of you, I would call myself Mastermind, Dominion or The Master.” said Kyle, looking for Jiminy. Jiminy didn’t know what to do: although many paparazzi revealed his identity before, it was not a good policy to, under costume, talk about himself using civilian name. He would not go, however, on the “I don’t know what are you talking about” trope.

“Hey, Kyle, want to know about Herós Sans Frontières?” said Jiminy, giving him a pamphlet, that he pushed aside.

“Do you think I want to join your bunch of little goody two-shoes? No… Not after what happened with me in the Reformatory. And, if wasn’t for you, you little shrimp, that would not had happened.” said Kyle, and Jiminy could see a wicked light in his eyes.

Flame-like lights.

Jiminy had just a blink of a second to avoid the plasma energy blast that Kyle somewhat launched from his hand. Even as an A-Class Mastermind, his body was as strong and resilient as a ten years old boy, somewhat chubby, and with his leg casted. Only his field experience saved him to be hit straight in the face by the flame blast. Djanni just jumped it like he was playing hopscotch with a salamander. The flame blast almost destroyed the Herós Sans Frontières’s booth.

“Hey! What had you done?” said Jiminy.

“Are you crazy, guy?” said Djanni, ready to engage into combat if needed, floating a little over the ground “There’s people here!”

“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.” though Jiminy, thinking on the Rules of Engagement from Chicago Sentinels, adopted by almost all CAI teams, including HWB ones.

Jiminy looked everywhere, and people was only panicked, but unhurt. Some small CAI teams nearby were helping to neutralize the civilian risks by pushing people away and isolating the place. Now they needed to reduce the escalation

“Kyle, you don’t need to do this… Pretty Please!, stop now!” he said using the special voice accent to activate the Pretty Please! power.

However, Pretty Please! has two main 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 even for a chance.

And, by Kyle’s face, he just wanted to hurt, or even kill, Jiminy Cricket!

“You’ll be my first tag, shrimp! This will be so easy! People will love to see me burning you like Pinocchio did with the Cricket in the real, non-Disney-sugar-coated, tale!” said Kyle with a sadistic smile, while readying some more plasma shots with his hands.

“He gone super-villain!” thought Jiminy. Many people that get into super-villain culture, mainly the breakthrough ones, likes to go into a tag against a hero. And so, for Kyle, Jiminy was a good target: easy to deal with and with an “old-time vendetta”.

The next plasma shots put some of the other booths on fire, which engaged the sprinklers system, Jiminy had again just a second and his Bellax Analytica to avoid the deadly flames.

Djanni got down and ran to Kyle and tackled him with a Rugby-like tackle he learned at Geneva CAI training.

But it was not effective enough to stop Kyle: he gave another blast straight in Djanni chest, making him goes to about, hurt and shouting in pain.

Jiminy then screamed: “Taser! Taser!”

One of the things that Dumont put on the Vernetech cane he was using, that he called Jiminy Cane (“Dumont and his flamboyant names for things!”, thought Jiminy), was a little taser in the point of the cane. The energy from the Vernetech battery in the cane head was not too much but, Jiminy hoped, would be enough to make Kyle stop for time enough to be contained.

Jiminy used some technique he learned in Geneva by training the french Savate martial art (a thing that Soldaire didn’t waited for Jiminy recover back 100% before made him study it) and, using the cane as a sword, touched its tip straight on the back of Kyle’s neck. The energy discharge was not enough to knock out Kyle, but enough to made him go in pain enough to make Djanni pin him at the ground. As a A-Class Atlas, Djanni needed to control himself to not simply turn the mean kid wrists into puree.

“Jiminy! We need to use some Blacklocks on him!” said Djanni, trying to hold Kyle without hurt him.

“We have none!”, said Jiminy, worried “The donated ones were put in the HSF truck!”

Kyle take his time to just give another plasma shot to send Djanni again to the air, almost hitting the roof.

“How he undergone breakthrough?” thought Jiminy “He’s a Projector now, at least C-Class!”

Djanni felt in the ground by the damage, feeling some pain. And Kyle looked for Jiminy.

Jiminy started to feel himself again like in the alley where he almost lost his life, pointing the Jiminy Cane to Kyle while feeling frozen in fear. He couldn’t see a way to get out with his Bellax Analytica, and also he had no way to fight Kyle: his powers were all about support, not fight. The only one he could use against Kyle directly, Pretty Please!, hadn’t worked.

It was when he saw someone with a baseball bat getting from the crowd and hitting Kyle straight and sound in the side making him scream in pain.

“So, you’re the kid that almost killed my son that time.” noticed Jiminy’s dad, Michael. “Did not you done enough trying to kill my son? Lucky you I’m not your lot or, believe me, neither God would stop me to turn you into mincemeat.” he completed, lowering the baseball bat.

Kyle got hurt and was angry, readying another plasma shot, when some vines entrapped him. A Fairy-like girl got nearby a little over him, growing for the size of a young woman size, with a dress with big petticoats and pantaloons.

“If you try to use this plasma thing again, you’ll just barbecue yourself to death.” demanded Sugarplum, looking for the kid.

“Get me out of this, you bitch.” shouted Kyle, when Jiminy Cricket looked into his eyes and said, into a very studied voice.

“Pretty Please!, don’t react. You’ll just hurt yourself.” whispered Jiminy, and Kyle felt himself into Jiminy’s power, that stopped Kyle enough to prevent him to do any trick to get out.

The other HWB guys came. In the meantime, Djanni was being treated and his power working.

“How you came here?” asked Jiminy for the others.

Then a guy on GQ blazer and khakis came to them.

“Lucky I was with Sugarplum, Grendel and Ozma.” said the GQ blazer guy, that Jiminy recognized as Seven, ex-_Hollywood Knights_, now part of Chicago Sentinels. “When the sprinklers got on nearby you, Sugarplum thought on go straight for you, but I said Grendel and Ozma could ask for help and I said her to get to your father.”

“Now, kid, you were lucky to attack goody two shoes boys like Jiminy or Djanni. If you had tried this with me, the question everyone would be asking now would be the biggest part of you they would find.” sneered the guy in the side, that looked like a monster, but had a smile in his face for Jiminy. “Grendel.” thought Jiminy

“No need to waste your energy with him, Grendel. It’s obvious he is like a Nome King servant.” said Ozma, the girl who said was the real real Ozma, Queen of Oz. And Jiminy felt her royalty strong enough for him to take his hat and do a bow for her, Djanni also showing niceties by doing the salaam, the ritual Muslim greeting, to which Ozma did a discrete curtsy. “Distrustful, cheater, meek. In fact: useless.” spat Ozma looking to Kyle with disgust, which made him mad, trying to untangle himself from Sugarplum’s vines.

“Alright, guy, why this? What you have against Jiminy?” questioned Seven

“He was the one who punched me almost to dead when I had my breakthrough. He was sent to reformatory because of this. Looks like he gone breakthrough and super-villain there.” explainged Jiminy Cricket.

“Then I don’t know if I thank you or I punch the crap out of you for this.” joked Seven to Kyle “So, you’ll have two options: go for Detroit SuperMax, as you had attempted mass manslaughter and so you can be judged as an adult, or go for Hillwood High. Your choice.”, said Seven.

“And if you think you are strong, kid, let me give you the news.” said Grendel, taking the enveloped kid like if he was a big burrito “I’m an alumni from Hillwood and, although I was in top tier, I wasn’t the strongest one there.” he said, getting away.

“Thank you, Seven.” said Jiminy “Your power is really cool, you know.”

“How do you know about my power?”

“Barlow’s and the Knights show.” said Jiminy.

Seven’s power was the total serendipity: in layman terms he was extremely lucky and his luck could extend for others.

“You’re welcome, kid.” said Seven, tipping his hat “But, need to say, you two did a good job containing him for time enough. You two just need to be more confident.” he said to Jiminy and Djanni, while the crowd clapped for them.

“They are thinking this was all scened.” whispered Ozma, smiling, for the kids, while royally waving her hand to the crowd “Just wave a little for the crowd, you two, they’ll love it.”

And, blushing, Jiminy and Djanni did.

Chapter 2

“Parenting a breakthrough is not a too much different thing from parenting a common kid. I know their powers can be really spooky: my son could force his will against me, if he wanted to. But YOU are the adult and need to make it clear: even with their powers, you’ll be always respected if you put yourself on their side and show them the right way to grow up and deal with their powers. More than ever, breakthrough kids needs support from their parents: the great powers bring them great responsibility. And this could only be achieved with the parents’ support.”

Michael & Selena McCarthy, “Superdads: Parenting kids, breakthrough or not”

After Metrocon, HWB gave Joshua’s team some days off duty. They discovered Kyle was lynched at the Reformatory during a riot and gone breakthrough, at least other 3 kids died because the plasma he shot from his hand after his breakthrough. He was considered a dangerous breakthrough and had ran away before Hillwood guys could take him, and got to Metrocon to rob people, when discovered about Joshua. So, he chose to use a possible kill from Joshua as a banner for criminal agenda. He now would be sent to the juvenile section of Detroit Supermax.

“That was so stupid!” said Eileen. After getting some days in Charlotte, she got back to Joshua’s home in Newark. “If you kill some of those more hero capes, like Astra, it would be bad enough, but killing someone from CAI teams not involved into law enforcement like Herós Sans Frontières would put you into bad vibes even with the bad guys.”

They were just chilling down into Joshua’s tree-house, the old tree-house he didn’t saw for two years since the fated day he undergone breakthrough. His dad doesn’t had too much money for everything, but at least he built a place that could be Joshua’s Sanctum, his place where he would be protected when he needed time, to play safely and let his imagination fly. The big tree-house was one of the things the other kids were jealous on Joshua: his dad was good with wood, being a hobbyist carpenter, as was both his grandfathers and they helped to do this in a big old tree that were in their backyard.

In the tree-house, Joshua could leave many of his preferred things: some books, including fairytale books, some of them very old. Other nerd story books, like The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, The Little Prince, The Neverending Story, some Dr. Seuss and, his most prized items, original copies of The Wizard of Oz and Pinocchio. Here and there some toys, comics and games were neatly placed into some shelves. And in an improvised rack there was some of Joshua’s old time Halloween costumes: rabbit, clown, pirate, dog and zombie, that needed to be dusted and washed again. A telescope was in the nearby window and a baseball flag was into another place.

Joshua and Altayr were there after a good barbecue his parent put into, as a farewell party for their relatives in US, as they would soon get back Geneva. Eileen’s and Altayr’s family came too. Also Soldaire, Dumont and Hufflepuff (with his mask, as always) were there. The only absence was LionHeart: as a convicted under parole, he had gone for a encounter with his parole officer at NY, where he would join the team to get back Geneva.

Joshua, Altayr and Eileen were in his tree-house, reading some comics and exchanging some stories, over some of the sleeping bags that were in the ground or folded into an old circus trunk (some said that was from Mrs. McCarthy’s mother). Eileen brought her music player and left some of the Nutcracker ballet playing. Eileen still loved Nutcracker, even she turned into a fairy-like breakthrough when she was put and gunpoint by some anarchist during a presentation, and now they could see why: it was fun, soothing and relaxing, and brought peace for them.

“But I think he never accepted the fact I turned into someone, in his concept, more successful. He was always mean with everyone. I just was the one he picked because I was always the smallest, but he was bad to the core with everyone.” said Joshua.

The day before, Joshua was allowed by the HWB doctors to remove the cast in his leg. Only this allowed him to go to the tree-house, that was dusted and dirty from all the time Joshua got out. Some birds even did a nest in the old clown costume shoes and they carefully empty the shoes, putting the nest into a small place in a corner when papa and mama bird were out.

After a little cleaning and some new things on it, the tree-house looked like Jiminy Cricket’s Fortress of Solitude (Eileen’s words). Now there was some photos from actions (specially from Roque Santeiro) and a place for the Go game he used to reinforce his Bellax Analytica. Also there was some of the photos with other heroes, mainly in the Metrocon: even Artemis looking like a Evil Snow White, he liked all them. He put some cool photos with Astra, Blackstone, Ozma, being over Grendel’s shoulder, and even with Artemis and Riptide. Obviously, there was a photo with his team and Chicago Sentinels and the Young Sentinels.

“Hope I can get back here more times.” said Joshua “I love this tree-house.”

“It’s nice.” said Altayr “Somehow I envy you. Hoped I had this kind of thing in Tunisia.”

Altayr was a refugee from Tunisia, and his breakthrough happened at Roque Santeiro when trying to run away from some bullies, like Jiminy himself. As Djanni, he was important on acquiring Derek Kwazani and shut down his operations by defeating one of his lieutenants, Adze, a vampiric-like Merlin that walked in the Shadows and used them as tentacles.

“Maybe now, that your parents are living in Geneva, you’ll have your own place. Your Sanctum, as my grandparent says.” said Joshua, while putting a Holy Qu’ran copy that Altayr gave him into a shelf, together with the Holy Bible, Pinocchio and Chronicles of Narnia

“Sanctum?” asked Altayr.

“Latin for Holy ground.” said Joshua “My Granddad said a Sanctum is somewhere you could go to get away from world and somehow put your hair down and take your time to think and be just yourself. His Sanctum was an old shack where he left his fishing tools, nearby a lake in Montana. My dad put his on the attic where’s all his woodworking tools. And this is mine.”

“Hope in Geneva I can have a place like that.” said Altair, when he looked worried, feeling something with his Atlas-enhanced senses.

“Everyone, get out! There’s an earthquake coming!” he said.

Eileen had gone Tink and got out flying outside. Altayr just jumped through the exit trapdoor, and Joshua took a little rope and got down.

When he put his feet on the ground, Joshua felt it shaking.

“Joshua, get in.” said his dad, ushering everyone into the basement. Joshua just ran like he did in action and got into the basement.

“There was no alert, warning or forecast!” said Seiji, into his best 80s biker clothes, the Civil Civil clothes for him. “I talked with local Dispatch before and nothing.”

“An Omega event like the Big One with that Tremblor chico?” said Hufflepuff.

“Don’t know.” said Andre. “And it’s not our concern by now. Let us get alive from this first, then we can worry about Omega events.”

Joshua and Altayr hugged with their families: they were kids, after all, powers or not.

“This vernetech radio can be tuned into the main Dispatch frequencies.” said Andre, while they heard some things falling in the rooms over them. “As soon this all pass, I’ll use it to contact local Dispatch if needed.”

“This house is strong, don’t worry.” said Joshua’s dad, trying to calm down the kids “And we have some capes here to help.” he completed, while Mrs. McCarthy and Tahan huffed their sons’ hair

Some minutes after, the tremors stopped.

“Alright, let’s get out.” said Joshua’s dad, looking out seeing everything is safe. The neighborhood, although somewhat poor, was made of sturdy homes: there was very small damages.

“Looks like we don’t have gas or light by now. I’ll light again the barbecue oven and we’ll improvise some food for everyone nearby.” said Joshua’s mother, and the other parents gone for helping.

“We can help!” said Mr. and Mrs. Tahan

“Count with us!” said the McRaes.

“Go on… Work, dammit.” said Andre, after pulling a little radio-like thing, made on brass, from his pockets, turning some of the knobs in the thing, until it started to sound.

“All local CAI teams in the region! This is Dispatch for a Code Red Emergency call! We need all the available CAI teams to report! We had a Natural Charlie Foxtrot!” they heard the radio echoed.

Seiji took the annexed microphone from the radio and said

“Dispatch, here is Seiji Shirou, capename Soldaire. Me and my CAI team are in the city. Our resident cape is capename Jiminy Cricket. We’re from Herós Sans Frontières, Situation 2 team. Can we help?” said Seiji.

“We need all support we can. There’s potential for lots of kills and casualties. We need all hands that can help. Come to City Hall for information and Earbug equip.”

“Roger, we’ll be soon. We’ll get under Civil. Out.” said Seiji and he looked for everyone. “Mr. and Mrs. McRae, McCarthy, Tahan, stay here and help your neighborhood. Use Dumont radio for emergency. Everyone, we are into a Natural Charlie Foxtrot, and no second can be lost. So, we’re under CAI Under Civil until further order. There’s no time to lose wearing costumes, just Dumont should take his Deimoselle as we’ll need its flying capability, as well Sugarplum should take her wand and magic stuff. The others, only the utility belts.” said Seiji, opening his backpack and passing some Heroes Without Borders badges for everyone, with their cape crests on them.

“Alright. Go on, kids, do your best.” said Joshua’s, Eileen’s and Altayr’s parents in unison.

Chapter 3

Natural Charlie Foxtrot (NCF): Dispatch code for a big natural catastrophe that could provoke so much damage like a fight between capes. See Also: Code Red. In case of a Natural Charlie Foxtrot, Herós Sans Frontières’ Situation 2 team leaders can engage CAI Under Civil at their discretion.

CAI Under Civil (CUC): exceptional situation where a CAI team that was on bench or otherwise out of field can be deployed without the cape identity being ready. This situation can be engaged by Herós Sans Frontières’ Situation 2 team leaders under discretion in some very specific situation, like in a Natural Charlie Foxtrot. See Also: Hero Under Civil, Naked Cape. Only capes that need extra preparation and equipment, like Verne, Merlin and so are authorized to take equipment and costumes under a CUC. Even into CUC, all Herós Sans Frontières’ capes should be badged with their crests and HSF badges and should communicate under capenames. This applies only for those capes with private identities: those with secret identities can circunvent this, as long they can ready themselves without too much time expensure”

Herós Sans Frontières’ Field Operations and Protocols Manual.

Kuntur, Djanni and Dumont flew, respectively, Hufflepuff, Jiminy and Soldaire (Sugarplum could flew herself) till the City Hall, Jiminy giving the directions. They could see that some of the most old constructions were almost into dust, and some streets were broken, water flowing from the cracks showing the plumbing also got broken. Some small fires cause by gas leakages were being fought by civilians, and here and there some D-Class breakthrough were helping in the first action.

They arrived in front of the City Hall and a Dispatch clerk was waiting.

“We are under CUC as protocol for Herós Sans Frontières. We are Soldaire, Sentai; Hufflepuff, Luchador; Sugarplum, Merlin; Jiminy Cricket, Mastermind; Dumont, Verne; and our Atlases Kuntur and his sidekick Djanni.” said Soldaire, presenting themselves by their capename, even everyone being on civil, besides Hufflepuff (because his mask) and Dumont (that needed his formals because the Demoiselle).

“I’m Olaf Steffonson, your Dispatch contact. We didn’t believed you first, but we checked with HSF your profiles and we cleared you for the time.” said the clerk, that looked really strong “We are normally not compliant with CUC actions, but we don’t have too much time for choice. So you’re welcome aboard.” he said smiling. “Are you the team leader, Mr. Shirou?” he said, shaking hands with all of them.

“Yes. Can you also provide some contact with Geneva for us so we can obtain information if needed?” said Soldaire.

“Sure, just ask via the Earbugs and we’ll do the comm-link.” he said, showing them their Earbugs, that they took and put into their ears.

“Now… Kuntur, Hufflepuff and Djanni, cleaning and rescuing. Work with local capes to clean routes for civilian evacuation and emergency services repairing. Djanni, remember you’re a sidekick: do as Kuntur says and stay compliant with his actions. I’ll work with Dispatch and other teams leaders. Dumont, Jiminy and Sugarplum, surveillance, first aid and crowd control. Work with the police and other capes. Jiminy, at your discretion on Pretty Please! Now go.” said Soldaire while they split themselves and gone.

“I read about those kids and never believed this would be true. Is they ready?” said Olaf

“As ready as ready can be.” assured Soldaire.

“Dispatch, Jiminy Cricket here. Any riots that need some containing?” said Jiminy, being driven by Dumont via some harnesses he was using.

“Dispatch here: we have some people looting on a market nearby you. Sending you the location.” said Dispatch

Jiminy pointed the direction for Dumont, that needed to put his costume and, with it, Demoiselle, his so-called backjet, so he could fly with that Steampunk jet pack he produced himself. Jiminy, otherwise, was being held by some harnesses that allowed him to be lifted by Demoiselle or any other of the team flyers.

“Jiminy, I’m seeing them. It’s a big crowd.” confirmed Dumont, looking the using his Vernetech super-binoculars called OmniSpecs.

“Pass us some of your OmniSpecs.” said Sugarplum “I’ll go Tink for some surveillance.” she finished, taking the goggles and putting them before getting into her Tink form, small and fast as a little Tinkerbell. In this mode, she could only be heard because the Earbugs and by almost sitting on other’s ear, otherwise only little chirps and squeals could be heard.

Jiminy also put the OmniSpecs, readying himself.

“They are just doing this because the Earthquake. They gone desperate with this and gone for looting the market for food and other emergency things. My Bellax Analytica shows no big problems in the crowd.” reported Jiminy. “Dispatch, please put me in contact with the chief police officer from the riot control squad there.”

Some seconds gone until he heard a strong voice.

“So, you’re Jiminy Cricket. Lt LaRusso here.” said a strong man behind a wall of shielded policemen, looking high to the chubby little kid on harnesses being lifted by the guy with a jetpack.

“Yes. Had you secured the perimeter?” asked Jiminy.

“Yeah. Men in all main routes, including some of our own breakthroughs.” he answered.

“Give me two minutes and a megaphone and I think I can deal with the big share of the loot crowd.” pleaded Jiminy

“Alright, kid, but not an extra second.” said the lieutenant

They gone down and one of the policemen handed Jiminy a megaphone. Dumont rose again to gave Jiminy best line of sight for his powers.

“Engaging some wards, just for sure.” said Sugarplum, doing some little chanting, while Jiminy saw the little blue light circling them.

“Okay, Jiminy. Showtime.” said Dumont nonchalantly.

Joshua focused his mind and them he shouted through the megaphone: “EVERYONE HAD SUFFERED WITH THIS EARTHQUAKE! PRETTY PLEASE!, STOP THE LOOTING! NOW!”

Almost everyone stopped with all the things they had in their hands, like they were trying to understand what they were doing.

“Pretty Please!, there’s no need for looting! Leave everything there, go away and get back into some minutes when Goodwill and Red Cross set themselves and then they’ll help you and provide food and clothes.” said Jiminy, using a more light Pretty please!

People looked to each other and left the things they were pillaging in the ground and just get back to their homes.

“Woah! Great job, kiddo!” gasped Lt. LaRusso

“Don’t commemorate yet!” said Dumont, turning a little his own OmniSpecs, like it was a pince-nez “There’s two people still in the market. A man and a woman.” said Dumont “Looks like the man is armed, big weapon, probably military-grade and he’s still looking for things in the market. I have them in my thermoscan.”

“We’re getting in.” said the Lt. LaRusso

“No, Mr LaRusso.” said Jiminy “Let me try to negotiate him first. Just circle the market.”

“Alright kid, but anything funny this guy does, we’ll get in!” he said

Jiminy adjusted the OmniSpecs for some extra thermal information.

“Dispatch, could you show me the market blueprint?” asked Jiminy

“Transferring it by Earbug now.” assured Dispatch.

The blueprint was shown over by the OmniSpecs, like an “extra layer” over the reality and thermal views.

“Looks he’s looking for the drugstore… And the woman… Looks pregnant?” said Jiminy

“She is, Jiminy.” said Dispatch. “By your thermal info… 32 to 34 weeks. Looks like the stress from the earthquake had pushed the deliver early. Proceed with caution.”

“Alright. Dispatch, I’m getting in. Dumont, officers, stay as backup. Sugarplum, follow me on distance, Tink size. If you can, do wards on both of you to avoid risks.” oriented Jiminy, just getting in the ground and disengaging Dumont’s harnesses, putting his OmniSpecs in his pants pocket.

Jiminy entered and looked everywhere.

“Sugarplum, go as high you can see and provide me any tactical intel and view via maskcam.” whispered Jiminy

“Roger!” confirmed Sugarplum

Jiminy walked through the messy market, lots of things in the floor, like an elephant stampeded all around. He was going to the drugstore, when he heard a BANG! and he jumped behind the computer racks, his Bellax Analytica saving him just by a bit, the big sound system behind him turned into smithereens by the ammo power.

“Jiminy, he have an AR-15, depleted Uranium ammo! Confirmed your intel, Dumont!” screamed Sugarplum through the Earbug. “Dispatch, I’m zooming his face. Check if he’s framed and/or a Person of Interest in the System.”

“Roger! Hold your position!” repleid Dispatch “Should we take this as a situation?”

“Not by now. Just hold the isolation.” said Jiminy as calmly as he could after almost being shot to death.

“I know who you are, you freak.” said a bossy voice “I saw you messing with everyone outside. I will not fall on your trick.”

“Looks like he’s a Paladin or Humanity First supporter. This explains his military ammo.” thought Jiminy “Also, he didn’t fell under my Pretty Please! uses outside, so he has something important to do or is very strong willed. Maybe both.”

“Get out, freak. There’s nothing here for you.” said the guy.

“This guy is Albert McNamara, 36, married, construction worker. Listed as a POI Paladin supporter, but not framed. No police record. Just some transit fines.” said Dispatch, showing in Jiminy’s OmniSpec all the info “His wife is miss Laura McNamara, 30, kindergarten teacher.”

“Get out, Jiminy. This guy is a Paladin. No way you could convince him.” ordered Lt LaRusso “We have a sniper ready to take him down if needed and our negotiator is coming.”

“No! You can take the woman and the baby in the fire! Just give me support. I’ll negotiate. Sugarplum, can you engage wards on me for safety?” said Jiminy.

“No chance. I’m too far away, should need to get nearby, and he’s using a telescopic target, I would show into it and he could shot me before I get down. Besides, my wards are not that good to stop depleted uranium.” said Sugarplum

“Alright…“ sighed Jiminy and then he shouted to the guy. “Mr. McNamara, can we talk?”

“Get out from your cover, hands up!” he shouted.

Jiminy get up and showed himself, hands up.

“A kid? A freaking kid freak? What do you want here?” demanded the man, looking to Jiminy through the targeting system. He looked like a salt-and-pepper haired man, a brunette woman at his side.

“Sir, it’s dangerous to stay here. There’s an aftershock risk. Just let get out.” pleaded Jiminy.

“Right. And this would be one of you lot again, like in the Big One.” shouted the man, the woman really panicked.

“He’s paranoid. He doesn’t see this was a Natural Charlie Foxtrot. He thinks this was an Omega event.” thought Jiminy, thinking on the situations were things goes really Foxtrot and are provoked on purpose.

“Sir, you can hate me or the government, but, Pretty Please!, think on your wife and kid and just get out of the market.” said Jiminy, calculating the voice tone so his Pretty Please! could pass undetected.

The Pretty Please! looked like didn’t engaged totally, but the guy looked a little more on talking.

“First rule: any funny thing and I kill you. Second rule: just you, no other Freaks here. I know you have support outside. Third rule: no police here also! Those are nonnegotiable! If you agree, nod.” said the guy.

Jiminy nodded.

“Jiminy, you’re turning yourself into hostage!” said LaRusso “We can’t accept…“

“Let us do as he said by now. Sugarplum, go to the entrance and don’t let anyone get in. If needed, do some wards. Lt. LaRusso, stay on position, but no action.” said Jiminy.

“But…“ said Sugarplum

“I think I can deal with this one by myself.” said Jiminy

“Alright, kid. But if this guy just try to shot against you, he’ll be shot. Our sniper is a D-Class Speedster.” said LaRusso

“Okay. I don’t think you will need to do this.” said Jiminy, getting into the lion’s cave.

Chapter 4

“My Pretty Please! is not totally reliable: you see, I can’t make people goes violent or does this that they could not have a minimal chance to do otherwise. So, half the success of Pretty Please! involves know the target and his motivations. After that, it’s easy to use my powers.”

Jiminy Cricket, answering a question at Blue Peter, BBC

“First of all, sir, let me see your wife. I’ll talk with Dispatch for medic support.” said Jiminy, hands up, looking for mr. McNamara.

“Right. Come here!” said the man, gesturing to Jiminy come nearby with the gun.

“Jiminy, I’m getting out.” said Sugarplum, via Earbug.

Jiminy got nearby under the gunpoint.

“Who are you? Your name and age?” spat Mr. McNamara

“I’m Joshua McCarthy, sir. My capename is Jiminy Cricket. I’m 11.” said Jiminy, breaking the protocol by giving his real name, not just his capename.

“How can you help my Laura?” chortled Mr. McNamara “You didn’t got out from diapers!”

“Sir, I work for Herós Sans Frontières, Heroes Without Borders. I’m CAI certificated, have also EMT training and I can talk with Dispatch to put me into contact with anyone we need. And if you help me, we can get you, your wife and your little new kid out of this safe and sound.” said Jiminy, trying to be calm

“Right, like a freak kid could do something.” snubbed the guy, not believing Jiminy’s words.

“Let me look your wife with this.” assured Jiminy, showing the OmniSpecs “Those special Vernetech glasses are linked with Dispatch: they also works as CAT scan and X-Ray, and I can monitor the life signals from your woman with them. This can help. Had she contraptions?” said Jiminy.

“Yup.” said the guy “This thing is safe for her?”

“Totally: I use a similar one in my mask when in normal action. That helped a lot when I was in Africa.” said Jiminy

“Had you in Africa?” said the guy.

“Yup, at Roque Santeiro.” said Jiminy, when their heard a shout in the Earbug, and felt something on his feet.

“Jiminy, get out of there! Go Safe! An aftershock is coming!” said Dispatch

“Let’s go, it’s an aftershock!” said Jiminy, hurried.

The guy looked like having military experience, as he run while taking some of the drugs and materials here and there. They run to the bakery when everything had crashed down. The bakery high ceiling was the only reason they were not smashed like potatoes now, being into a safe place under the debris. They coughed a little, panting by the run and some of the dust they breathed

“Jiminy, Dispatch here! Report status!” said Dispatch, some seconds after.

“Are you okay kid?” said the guy.

“Yea…“ and then Jiminy yelped

The guy looked to Jiminy and saw his right ankle.

It was bleeding, swollen and full of dirt on it.

“Looks like your ankle is twisted.” said him “What kind of hero you are you don’t heal yourself?”

“I’m not an Atlas or Ajax.” pouted a little Jiminy, feeling a little pain while massaging his right ankle, cleaning it with a handkerchief “They are the ones with super-healing… I’m what is called Mastermind: I’m more for support.” he continued “Dispatch, how is Sugarplum? And how is outside.”

“Jiminy, Sugarplum is okay: she escaped before everything going down. Your GPS shows you’re safe by now, but we are in talk to rescue you ASAP. The market had gone down. You?” said Dumont

“Twisted ankle, can work by now.” said Jiminy, mentally blocking the pain and focusing on what he had to do “We are safe in the bakery, nearby bread aisle. Dispatch, need CADUCEUS US HQ contact ASAP. There’s a pregnant woman here with contraptions. Livestream and signals in my OmniSpecs.”

“Wait, we’ll take their help.” said Dispatch.

“You’re not CAI certificated? Or your training is for punching others?” shouted the guy

“CAI certification isn’t a silver bullet: it covers lots of specializations. I never brought someone to birth before. But some basic things I know. Take some pots, and all paper you can. Also see if there’s gas leaking. And please, stop shouting: your wife is growing nervous and this doesn’t help us at all. I already asked for help via Dispatch.” said Jiminy focusing on being calm and putting his OmniSpecs.

“Alright.” said the guy, while into a little screen in his OmniSpec augmented reality system, a nice blonde woman shows itself.

“CADUCEUS US, emergency line. Angie Thompson, certified nurse.” said the blonde woman

“Jiminy Cricket, HWB, under Civil, working as support for Newark CAI teams. I have a situation here: pregnant woman. We are under debris and she had contraptions and no capes to rescue us by now. I’m using an Omnispec pair as maskcam, and it is livestreaming her data for you. I’m CAI and EMT trained: with some support I think I can deal with the birthing.” said Jiminy

“Looking there: constant and crescent contraptions, some hormonal readings are growing showing pain… Yeah, it’s for real. Take warm water, a pair of scissor and all clean cloth and towels you can.” said Angie.

“Here kid.” said Mr McNamara, bringing some kitchen apparel. “There’s no gas leaking, some water leaking.”

“If they have gas, please boil some water to a little warmer than ambient temperature and bring it there. I saw you’re a survivalist: have you scissors? Sterilize them.” said Jiminy

“Right.” said Mr McNamara

“Need you to show me her cervix to see how much it is dilated.” said Angie

“Need to look her…“ says Jiminy, and blushed “There…“

“Are you some kind of little pervert, kid?” shouted Mr McNamara.

“Is for our support at CADUCEUS! They are a medical nonprofit that supports Dispatches and CAI teams all around the world. I could asked Doctors Without Borders, but it would be useless: certainly they are with their hands full now.” said Jiminy

“Right, whatever.” said the guy.

Jiminy looked over the Mrs McNamara’s vagina.

“Okay… It’s dilating…“ said Angie, when Mrs McNamara screamed, and Jiminy looked and saw a liquid leaking out.

“Her water had broken.” said Angie. “Now, clean your hands very good and go for their vagina. You’ll see the baby head. Just touch it and hold it enough to let her does the job.”

“Jiminy, Soldaire here. Remember your training, do you job. This is yosei. Everything will end well.” he said.

Jiminy started to clean his hand on the warm water and focused on his Bellax Analytica.

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.

But the recent events in Roque Santeiro, Jiminy started to gain more control at his power by playing and studying the ancient game of Go, called also Baduk or Weiqi, according to 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 done to make him better on focus and uses of Bellax Analytica without the power goes overboard, crippling him. As the standard Go board was made of 19 lines crossed by 19 columns, giving 361 possible places to put on a stone per turn, the exponential variables were great enough to push over Jiminy’s Bellax Analytica power so he would need to understand his power and avoid the traps that it brings.

One of those traps was the fact that many future options could (as happened in the past) make the power goes overboard and make him goes amok, screaming in pain.

However, his power also brought the solution: recently, Jiminy started to “switch through” the possible futures and see how to go through it and the results.

By his Go training, he improved his Bellax Analytica specially in the endgame, the yosei, where the possible paths were less numbered and clearer to foresee.

And now, by focusing himself into what he was doing, he could try and find the best one. And go through it.

“Sir, let us spread her in the ground. Put some of the towels there. I’ll need you to support her head. I’ll do the birthing.” said Jiminy

“What? What are you… “ said Mr McNamara

“You’re bigger than me, so you can support her head more comfortable for her. And she’ll need all your support on comfort, either by talking and by cleansing her sweat. Your hands are also big, strong and clumsy. Holding a baby is not like holding a military level weapon.” said Jiminy, focused “Now, Pretty Please!, let me help your baby to born. You can hate me from all your heart if you want after that, but I know you want your baby to born, so let me help her.”

“Right, kid.” said Mr McNamara, then she looked for the woman, holding her hand, while making her got down over the towels “Laura, we’ll do this.”

“And you, miss, Pretty Please!, I’ll need you to be calm, strong and brave. We have no anesthetics here, but with my help, if you are calm and strong, everything will end well.”

“Okay, kid.” said her, panting “Let’s go!” she said, starting to push, screaming.

After discreetly using his Pretty Please power over both, Jiminy got back to the birthing process.

“Okay, Nurse Thompson, and now?” said Jiminy

“Now you’ll need to look her. As soon the baby head get out, support it and the baby body as he’ll get out from her body. Don’t pull it, just support it: trying to pull will only turn things worst and potentially dangerous for everyone. Need to say, it’ll be messy. I’ll be your nurse in this, right?” said Angie

“Alright. Let’s begin!” said Jiminy

And they began, and the screams could be heard over the debris.

5 minutes passed and nothing.

“Nothing yet, kid? Don’t lie!” said Mr McNamara.

“Noth… Wait! The head! I can see it’s babyfur!” said Jiminy

“Are you?” said Mrs McNamara and she gave another push and a scream.

“Now! Just one more! You can do it! Pretty please!, just one more push!” said Jiminy, while she gave a big push.

And she screamed…

…and a baby cried, while going through her birthing cannal. Mrs. McNamara looked exhausted, but very happy.

Jiminy took one of the last cleaning towels and showed Laura and Albert McNamara their baby.

“It’s a little girl.” said Joshua, sweetly “And, look, how she’s really a cute thing.”

“Kid, it’s not over yet. Wait the placenta get out and put the placenta high over the baby.” said Angie.

As soon the placenta got out, Jiminy put it into a small bowl and lifted it over the baby head.

“Right, kid. Now you just need to clean the baby the best you can with warm water and wait for medic. You did it well.” said Angie.

When Jiminy got the towel and the water, Mr. McNamara said, with a very suave voice tone, different from the angry guy when all that started, taking the towel while putting the bowl with the placenta somewhere else. “Let me do this, kid. You already did enough. Take care of your ankle now.” taking the towel and cleaning his daughter.

Jiminy just sat and removed his Mickey Mouse Converses and looked for his right feet: the ankle was really swollen, and a small red line denounced the blood. He soaked a towel with warm water and placed it over the ankle. The pain was uncomfortable at first, but there was some relief when the swell reduced a little.

“Jiminy, Dispatch: a jumper is here ready for rescue you. And there’s some EMT trained to deal with this baby.” said Soldaire.

“Alright.” said Jiminy, looking for the McNamara “We’ll get out. A teleporter will get us.”

“Alright… And police will get me.” said the guy

“What!? No, you…“ was saying Jiminy when Mr. McNamara stopped him

“Kiddo… I putted someone under a gunpoint, and this is attempted manslaughter. After shooting you, being you a kid, this will make things worst. Even more that now they know I’m, or better, I WAS part of the Paladins. Jackie here showed me how much wrong I was. “ stated Mr. McNamara.

“You were desperate. Maybe this and some collaboration can help you.” replied Jiminy

“I know kid… But let see what will happen.” said Mr Albert McNamara when they felt the teleporter showing himself to rescue them.

Jiminy sat in a place in the market debris, his leg into a half cast the doctors that came with some Speedsters did. The local Starbucks made coffee for everyone and served it with some of the perishable food that would be lost anyway thanks the power shortage. They gave Jiminy a beautiful thermos full of cocoa with some hint of coffee, and a big slice of fruitcake. Mr. McNamara was waiting to his wife and newborn daughter, now having her first breastfeed, to be transferred to a hospital as soon an ambulance (or an Atlas) would be available. He sat on the rabble beside Jiminy with a little latte and a bagel.

“I’ll be put under parole: they understood I was desperate, and they don’t want to fill jails by now, so I’ll have to do some hours in the hospital. Also, I’ll lose my right to carry. In the balance, I’m okay with this. And I’ll support the Paladins no more. I thought all breakthroughs were potential Seif-al-din. I was wrong. How is your leg?” asked him, looking for the half casted leg

“Hurts, but I had worse before. At most, in a week I’ll be okay. As soon I’m cleared by the doctors, I’ll get to Dispatch and change places with our team leader, that will get to the field.” said Jiminy looking for the green half cast they made around his leg

“Why you do this? You’re so young… You should be playing ball, not doing adult work and saving people.” said the man, looking kids playing baseball even with all the chaos.

“Do you know how I had undergone breakthrough?” said Jiminy

“No… But I wonder.” said the man

“I was took by bullies and punched and kicked. I could hear my bones being broken, until that I used my Pretty Please! to make them stop just before they could hit me the final blow. Under big pain, I used my Bellax Analytica to be found and brought back home. When I arrived, just exchanged some words with my parents and got comatose for 6 months. Some time after I woke up, I was visited by HSF people and that sounded a better way to put my powers in use.” said Jiminy

Jiminy took a big gulp on his cocoa thermos: talking about his past always gave him the willies.

“Our motto in Heroes Without Borders is ‘super-help for super-needs’. And this is how we live. We are not like the Chicago Sentinels and Hollywood Knights, with all the glamour. We are in the field, helping people from everywhere when needed. Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, humanity catastrophes, you name it. I thought that, after almost dying, this could be my way to thank God by being alive.” said Jiminy.

“You’re really a weird kid, but weird in a good way.” smiled the man “And courageous also: I can’t think what could happen if I just had shot you… That could put an A-Class Ajax down.” frowned him

“Well, at least you had understand that people are not good or bad because their powers, but regardless their powers. The breakthrough is something that happens with you and what you’ll do with your powers is up to you, as it is the consequences of those uses.” said Jiminy, when they heard the ambulance coming.

“Alright, looks like we split now. But I’ll look for you. Looks like not only wood boys needs a Jiminy Cricket.” said the man, shaking hands with Jiminy before joining his wife and little kid to get into the ambulance.

It was when Dumont and Sugarplum get nearby.

“Ready to go back the City Hall, short stuff? The CUC status will be left, and you’ll have time to take a bath before go full Jiminy Cricket.” asked Sugarplum

“Let us go. Hope she could grew nice in a better world.” said Jiminy, while the ambulance got to deliver them to the hospital.

“It was what all of us wants, Jiminy.” wondered Dumont, engaging Jiminy’s harnesses on his Demoiselle.

Chapter 5

“Stressful situations always shows the best and the worst of humanity. It would not be different with breakthrough.”

Richard ‘LionHeart’ McInroy, on “Musings from Herós Sans Frontières Breakthroughs.”, Herós Sans Frontières

Some days had passed and now the city was recovering and they were put into the rotation with the other CAI teams until the Code Red situation would be lifted. As an emergency, the McCarthy house was turned into a makeshift of a HWB base for the team, so it was very crowded.

So they used some of the new prototype HWB sleeping bags, developed by some of HWB Vernes, to open space in the house for the extra people. And because of this Jiminy Cricket, Sugarplum and Djanni were using the tree-house as their sleeping place, which freed Jiminy’s room for others, in case, LionHeart and Hufflepuff. Dumont MacGyvered an elevator on the tree-house’s trapdoor so Jiminy could get in and out with his swollen, twisted, half-casted ankle.

Jiminy and Sugarplum were sleeping when they felt the sun getting into the tree-house through its windows. They yawned and looked around.

“Everyone, wake up. Rise and shine.” said Sugarplum. She saw that, in fact, Djanni was already woke up and was already praying the salat, his head turned to Mecca.

Jiminy got up and, after Djanni finished his prayers, they folded back the sleeping bags into tiny packages and put them into a rack. While Sugarplum just flew through the window in her Tink mode, Djanni helped Jiminy to get to the trapdoor and hit a button nearby to make the brass elevator works.

Jiminy got down and looked for some water to clean his face, before going to the breakfast. And he was surprised: his mother did pancakes.

“Wow!” he said, looking for the big pile of golden pancakes over the table. He saw everyone getting out and joining the table for some breakfast.

The city cleaning effort was almost over and soon they would get back Geneva, but they are still needed there. It was exactly because this Jiminy felt weird when Soldaire came to him and said “Okay, Jiminy. Today you’re in the bench, off-duty.”

“What? But my leg…“ started to say Jiminy when Soldaire cut him

“I know your ankle is okay now, and you’ll remove the cast. But we need you trained into combat. You’re still our weak spot on this. So, unfortunately, I can’t wait you recover 100%. Cajun is in the city to help you with some Savate training.” said Soldaire.

Cajun (real name: Leon LeClerc) was previously a crime-fighter vigilante, but now was a HWB reserve and part of the Saint Louis Guardians roster. A Paragon, he was not a breakthrough in the strict sense, or some people considered that way, but as a Paragon in fact he was the nearest on the super-nornal concept from the old time comics, someone that is the expression of the perfection without powers. Big, bold and boastful, he was a Savate Professeur, someone that teaches Savate, and also a extremely good fencer, and that was what turned him into a vigilante first time.

“Jiminy, I want you to train with him as much as you can.” said Soldaire “And also I want you to train using the Jiminy Cane and using your Bellax Analytica to reinforce your physical defense and attack using your powers.” and Jiminy nodded, while he finished his breakfast “You’ll also do it under costume. I want you to do this real life, and I asked Cajun to do this way.”

After breakfast and a shower, Jiminy removed his cast, got into his costume and waited for Cajun. He didn’t waited too much.

Cajun got out a taxi front of Jiminy’s home. He was dressed into an integrale, the Savate practicioner clothes, in black, with a Zorro mask hiding his cajun face, just the green eyes and some locks of his strawberry blonde hair, styled a La Louis XV, being shown. His Toledo sword was into a sheath locked to his belt. He used a blood red honest-to-gosh velvet big heavy cape.

“Bonjour, mon ami. Ready for your practice?” said Cajun, shaking Jiminy hand

“First, let me present you to my parents.” said Jiminy, presenting Cajun to his parents.

After this, Cajun and Jiminy ran a little as part of warming, until they found an empty corner some blocks away where they could do their practice undisturbed. They started with some basic warming and basic move training. Then he reinforced the basics of La Canne de Combat (stick), Le Bâton Français (staff), Le Couteau (knife), Le Poignard (dagger), La Chaise (chair) and Le Manteau (overcoat) for Jiminy, also including some fencing practice.

Jiminy was exhausted after all this training, and Cajun took some water bottles and said, while passing one for Jiminy.

“Jiminy, you have a good training and very solid basics. But you’re still an initiateur, a beginner, and need to be pushed over. Even me, without any real power beside my Savate skills, could defeat and even kill you if needed.” lectured Cajun “Soldaire said me you frozen in front of a enemy breakthrough at Metrocon, and then I saw the videos. Quelle honte, freeze yourself under a bully kid with just power and hate!” retorted Cajun, ashamed on Jiminy “I know you’re still a blue glove, but you need to grow over fast, or you’ll be a nuisance for your team at field, and a dangerous one.”

He cleaned his sweat, and while Jiminy cleaned his own Cajun unsheathed his sword and pointed it to Jiminy, in combat posture.

“What…“ said Jiminy, worried

“Consider this, Jiminy Criquet, your exam for green gloves. This will be for real, though. I’ll try and hurt you for real if I can. You have to disarm me or, at least, remove my cape.” stated him, still showing his blade to Jiminy “If you surrender, go unconscious or be disarmed, I’ll be your professeur no more. If you do what I’ve said, you’ll receive your green gloves. En garde!” said Cajun, thrusting his blade against Jiminy.

He had just a split second to get his face out of the way and unsheathed his swordcane that was part of Jiminy Cane, two feet of slim silver blade held by a trembling hand.

“Nice blade. Designed as a rapier, a light weapon that you could use based more on your skill and speed than on strength.” stated Cajun, stopping for a moment, still in combat posture, blades crossed, looking to Jiminy’s blade “Dumont did it to you?” Jiminy nodded, trying to recover his pose “Now, think on why Dumont did this blade this way for you!” and he broke the swords clinch, thrusted again and again, Jiminy avoiding the attacks because Bellax Analytica foresaw them, but being pushed back, until he got against a wall.

Cajun then gave an attack and cut Jiminy left arm, making him yelp, while he got out the wall, back to the alley. Just a scratch, but enough to show him Cajun was business. He just had time to avoid the disarming attack, and he looked worried. He thought to use his Pretty Please!, but then Cajun looked to him, as he almost read Jiminy’s mind, and said.

“Forgot to say, using Pretty Please! will be your defeat. This is a fight between Gentlemen, so no mind-bending!” retorted Cajun, thrusting again.

Jiminy was growing tired fast, getting back and back. It was not fair: Cajun was bigger, stronger, and more experienced either as a Savateur and as a cape than Jiminy, and Jiminy just removed his cast from the twisted ankle and could not use his Pretty Please!, neither to ask him to take easy on him.

“If you always get back, you’ll be defeated. There’s only one way to win.” shouted Cajun, in a hit that scratched his hand and almost disarmed Jiminy, only his pain tolerance and experience avoiding this.

Jiminy than understood: he needed to use his big suits to fight Cajun and win. But which they were?

“I’m smaller, but I’m certainly faster than Cajun, even if by just.” thought Jiminy “Also, he’s more experienced and skilled…“

But he saw the solution: he have Bellax Analytica. If he was brave enough and use it, he could go into offense and find a weak spot.

Jiminy stopped to get back and exchanged some bouts. He felt Cajun exerting even more strength.

And it was exactly what Jiminy wanted.

The Toledo sword Cajun was using was guardless. By getting into a sword clinch, he found the weak spot: he hit Cajun in the wrist, using the cane-sheath, and then into his hand with the blade, getting behind the guard. Using the traditional circular movement, he pushed Cajun’s sword off his hand. Then he pointed the sword to Cajun’s face.

“No regrets?” said Jiminy, smiling, putting the swordcane back the cane.

“No regrets. You did it well. Let us treat those scratches before getting back your home.” said Cajun, sitting back the same stairs they started all this.

Cajun started by treated first Jiminy scratches and, after treated their own, took a pair of green boxing-like gloves from his bag and put Jiminy’s hands inside them.

“Think you’re worthy of these ones.” he assured. “Your powers are nothing without courage and, why not say, some panache. This is why Soldaire wanted me to push you over this way. I knew you recently removed a cast from a broken leg and had the other casted until today, but I could not take easy with you. It would be disrespectful with me, with Soldaire, with your team, and with you.” he said

“I understand…“ said Jiminy, when he heard the Earbug engaging.

“Jiminy, get back your home now!” shouted urgently Soldaire via Earbug “There’s a riot getting there! We’ll evacuate the team ASAP!”

“What?” said Jiminy

Chapter 6

“I’ll never understand Paladins or Humanity Firsters. They call us breakthrough freaks, but they attack not only us, but our families and everyone else even remotely connected with us. They think they have the right to kill us. Why? I have no answer. No matter how much we help people, they believe we should get away. It’s sad that they think on us to people to be slaved or, worse, killed.”

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

Jiminy and Cajun ran to Jiminy’s home, and he saw there’s already some rioters breaking through the house and setting it on fire. They were not protesters, but rioters, with lots of baseball bats, machetes and molotov cocktails.

“No chance to stop them with my Pretty Please! They’re insane!” said Jiminy, and he hitted his Earbug “Dispatch, we have a riot in my position. Engaging now, will need firefighters and riot control here.”

“Sending support ASAP. Riot control ETA 2 minutes, firefighters ETA 5 minutes.” said Dispatch

Jiminy tried to open way through the rioters with Cajun, using his Savate technique and Bellax Analytica to passing through them.

One rioter pulled Jiminy by his cravat, lifting him and said. “One less freak kid today!” he said, lifting a machete to head off Jiminy, when Jiminy hit the taser from his Jiminy Cane against the rioter, that screamed in pain.

Another rioter got and tried to attack Cajun, that cutted the rioter’s Achilles’ Heels, making him dropping in pain in the ground. “I know the Rules of Engagements, but don’t play naive with them. They don’t give a merde for those.” said Cajun, combing his cape and Savate punches to knock out another rioter. Jiminy got other two with taser hits, when the taser battery ran out and he get into the house. He gave some hits with Savate techniques and his cane to break through the rioters outside the house.

He got into the house and looked around: “MOM! MRS. TAHAN! MRS. MCRAE!” he shouted

“SON, WE ARE IN THE BASEMENT!” said Jiminy’s parents.

“Right, getting there! Djanni, need help here!” said Jiminy.

“Roger! I have my hands full by now, but I’ll get there soon.” said Djanni, and he heard Djanni was worried.

When he tried to get out, he felt a shot almost getting him in the face, only his Bellax Analytica allowing him to avoid the shot.

“A sniper! And military action weaponry!” said Jiminy, looking for the bullet hole “Dispatch, we need support here NOW!”

“Sorry, Jiminy!” said Dispatch “We are hands full now! We’re doing our best to send reinforcements ASAP!”

Jiminy looked around and saw Cajun and some speedsters dealing with the rioters. So, he engaged his OmniSpecs mounted into his Jiminy mask and used his Bellax Analytica to shot the sniper.

Looking on the ghost-like image foreseeing from it, he set his Jiminy Cane’s laser for minimal energy and shot on his hand.

It was enough to make the guy goes down enough to give him another shot in his shoulder to make him scream and leave the weapon down.

“Cajun! We have a sniper down in backside, somewhat two or three homes back! Send a speedster there, but take care: AR-15, depleted uranium ammo! Anti-Ajax weaponry, they could blast my head out!” said Jiminy.

“Roger! Go for your parents! The upper side of your home started to collapse. It’s almost falling down!” said with urgency Cajun

Jiminy run to the basement door and saw it was blocked with some chains.

“Son… The smoke is getting in by the chimney!” said Jiminy’s dad

“Get back!” said Jiminy, setting the laser for maximum power, cutting the chains. He took the chains out to unblock the door.

“The door is unlocked! Get out, quick! The house will fall!” said Jiminy

“Jiminy, Dispatch! Reinforcements getting there!” said Dispatch

“Dispatch, Cajun here! The rioters had gone! Probably they are on your frequency.” stated Cajun, while everyone got out and got near the backyard tree.

It was just at the eleventh hour: the house fell just some seconds after Mr. McCarthy got out the basement, being the last one to do this.

Jiminy ran to the tree and catch a little Vernetech Breathalyzer, part of his hero kit, to help people to breath out the fire smoke and got down.

“Here, everyone!” said Jiminy, pushing the little tube-like brass device for Mrs. Tahan, that looked the worst one on breathing. “Take a deep breath and pass to the next: it will clean your lungs and put clean oxygen. It was made by Dumont.” said Jiminy, while they heard the firefighters getting there.

The firefighters needed two hours to take the fire out, even with the help of a local aquakinetic to blast extra water and a pyrokinetic to extinguish the fire. Jiminy helped as much as he could, to avoid the fires to spread through the neighborhood. In the end, the only place still unscathed was the tree and the tree-house.

When he looked around, to the ashes and debris where his house previously were, Jiminy snapped and just cried, physically and mentally exhausted:

“Why, daddy, mommy? Why they did this?” said Jiminy, hugging his parents as much as he could. No matter his powers, no matter his experience in war-stricken places, he still was a kid, and some people took his house down. This could be enough to make any kid broke down.

“I don’t know!” said Michael, as flabbergasted. All the HWB team was called back to Jiminy’s home, or better, its debris.

“It was Humanity First.” stated Soldaire, while talking to Dispatch “That guy you helped bring the daughter to life Jiminy denounced them for the Police just some seconds before their action. He didn’t heard about it before, and Police and Dispatch had no time to avoid this…“

As the sun started to go down, Djanni looked to Jiminy very sad and said:

“Jiminy, it’s time for our prayers, and me and my parents will pray now for Allah the Most High to help you on this moment. Even you being an infidel, that’s not right! You had helped lots of people at Roque Santeiro… It’s not fair what happened with you. You are in our prayers always, even more now.”

They put some carpets in the scorched grass and gone for their prayers. In a corner, Dumont removed his fedora and was also praying, looking for something into it: Jiminy knew Dumont was a Catholic, and certainly he was praying for the Holy Mother of Aparecida, Brazil’s Patroness, looking the holy picture he had at his hat. Everyone did what they could to help them on spiritual support and comfort on that time. As Jiminy saw lots of Merlins and Supernatural breakthroughs, like Sugarplum, he knew that this was good, at least to comfort them and show them they are not alone.

“We have no more home here, Joshua.” said Michael, down, to his son, Jiminy, and they all gasped, as it was not common to ask a cape common name when he was wearing the cape. “I’ll make sure those guys will pay dearly!”

Jiminy was down, really down. “After all we did to help people!”

Some of the neighbors came with some food, spare blankets and things for McCarthy family… And the police sealed off the neighborhood, as some anti-cape people gone to picketing against Jiminy, banners saying he was a community risk. Soldaire was in the Earbug since that situation, and some capes came to do a circle in the region. But there’s nothing people could do otherwise.

The neighborhood was flabbergasted: they knew the McCarthys from before The Event, and their neighbors respected Joshua. He was cherished as a very nice good kid, a nice dedicated Cub Scout with lots of badges, that was in all civic events, even more when he gone through breakthrough and gone for helping people overseas.

Jiminy got down back the tree and removed his hat and mask, crying a lot.

“We have a report…“ said Soldaire “Police crossed information and discovered that one of your neighbors had gone out the city after the earthquake. Surprise… he was a Humanity First supporter.” and this made Jiminy even more flabbergasted. “NYPD got him some minutes after a warrant was got for him. He said he did this by revenge.”

“Revenge? Like I did this?” said Jiminy, sad.

“People goes crazy on situations like this, Jiminy! I thought you learned it at Roque Santeiro.” said Soldaire “HWB had said that you will have full support. First of all, we are going back to Geneva ASAP. There’s nothing more we can do here. Our work here is finished as the event situation now is Code Blue, back to normality. I’ve already asked Sugarplum and Kuntur to take all you have at the tree-house.”

“But… My…“ said Jiminy, and he understood

“This city isn’t safe for you no more: you don’t have a secret identity, but a private one. They know about you, and just some minutes on Net will be enough to take a good profile on you.” said Soldaire “You and your parents aren’t safe here: Humanity First supporters are worse than professional villains. They believe they are right and they can bring their Crusade against breakthroughs to your parents. So, sadly, no more sanctum for you, at least here.”

Jiminy looked for the tree-house and cried, taking out his mask and Top Hat, as he remembered as much effort his dad and grandparents did to build that tree-house. Sugarplum, Djanni and Kuntur got down with everything into the tree-house into a big crate: the games, the Cub Scouts uniforms, pins and badges, costumes, books, everything.

“Let’s go, son…“ said his mother, her hand over his shoulder.

“Mom… Maybe I should had heard you and not…“ said Jiminy, crying disconsolated, when Mrs. McCarthy gone and hugged Jiminy as much as he could.

“No, son. It’s not your fault. You’re a very good kid, always had been. You did great things for people. Those people are mean, crazy people.” consoled Mrs. Selena McCarthy, hugging his kid. She took also his mask and Top Hat. “I’m very proud of you, Joshua. And I’m also proud of you as Jiminy Cricket.” she reaffirmed, putting his mask back, after cleaning his son’s tears.

“The police just asked for an After-Action Report.” reported Soldaire, disengaging his Earbug “They said the guy you shot with laser claimed you shot first. He just filed a suit against you.”

“What?! But…“ said Jiminy, when Soldaire looked him

“We know… But let us do this fair and square, and we’ll catch them hard. I think there’s no way they say you did first. I was in Dispatch and saw your maskcam. It was fair and square.” said Soldaire.

“We need to go now.” stated Dumont, looking his OmniSpec “The anti-cape protesters are menacing the neighborhood and some of the neighbors are ready to clash against the protesters, things are escalating very fast, even with police here. No good can be done by staying here. HWB already arranged the NY HQ for us until we fly back Geneva.”

Jiminy breathed and said downcast: “Let’s go… We can’t make things grew worse. Rules of Engagement: don’t escalate the events.”

Two SUVs took them, and when they got out the block, for some reason Jiminy felt he would never get back, and he would not see his tree-house, his Sanctum, again. He looked the crates with all the things he had into his tree-house.

And, after taking his mask and hat off, he just rested his head on his mother’s shoulder…

And cried like the kid that, in the end, he always was.

Chapter 7

“Sometimes, people thinks that, when you do good things, it’s just your obligation. But if you fail, you’re incompetent or, worse, ill-intended. How difficult is for us to also praise the good things? I know that you should do good things just because they are good and right… But why not say about good examples?”

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

Jiminy was just looking through the window, while the freighter airplane was getting down Geneva. He was melancholic, thinking on what happened.

“Dad… That was so unfair!” said Joshua

“I know, son, but there’s nothing we can do by now.” said Mr. Michael McCarthy

The things had grown worse for Joshua: a lawyer had put an injunction against Joshua, questioning his CAI training and pledging he violated all the norms about it by shooting the sniper with the laser. HWB’s lawyer pledged that the maskcam record and After-Action Report, both filed as evidence, showed he used the laser shots at minimum power with the only objective to neutralize a life-threating tango that was obstructing a rescue operation, and that without this, his life and six others (McCarthys, McRaes and Tahans’) would be lost.

However, the judgement would be in some weeks, and until there, he would be in the bench. There was also the risk that Jiminy could be treated as a national risk and sent to some Military Boot Camp, just the kind of destination his parents tired to avoid to him from the very beginning.

The case was being debated all the time in news, cooking public interest on Joshua: even Blackstone said that Jiminy was a little temerary on his actions, but “an attack against his family, made by rioters, some of them armed with military-grade weapons acknowledged as anti-breakthrough and putting on risk civilians, demanded an action to be stopped, and even on this situation Jiminy Cricket acted as a cape and done all he could to avoid escalation.” This conforted Joshua a little, after all the bad vibes.

He knew lots of people were trying to profit on all this: the McRaes had gone to the old farm in Indiana where Mr. McRae’s parents still lived, Sugarplum Grandpa all the time with a rifle to avoid the newsies and paparazzi. The Tahans had gone back with them to Geneva, and Joshua knew that people were trying to trace them to the Undying Caliphate because of their creed. Their own grandparents were found and asked things in Nevada and Wisconsin. Newsies tried to talk with everyone that had contact with him: teachers, neighbors, school friends, even his Cub Scouts former leader.

They even gone to Kyle at the Supermax, and even him said that “that sissy wouldn’t kill a butterfly.” He took this as a compliment, even a weird one. Someone even took somehow a photo of him without mask and hat, sat in the old tree crying like there’s no tomorrow and published it on Internet, and people was either taking him as a poor little kid or as a brat that deserved what he received by “playing hero”.

When they arrived at Geneva, one of the local PR guys, called Varekai (real name: Thomas Flüus), a C-Class Metamorph with a circus obsession (he could turn himself into all kind of circus character or animal: he just needed to see some photos), called them in his civil.

“Joshua, we have a great issue!” hushed Varekai

“What?” whined Joshua, thinking that things could no go worse.

It was when he understood what sometimes Dumont said about Hell having a basement.

Varekai showed him an opt-ed from New York Times, signed a well-known anti-breakthrough Chicago politician called Malcolm Shankman, was in fact a big boasty rant about what he called “a villanious action” by a “crazy breakthrough kid” that should be “contained and constrained for the society best interest”.

That rant was a so big vitriolic pile of political diatribe that even Hufflepuff, not too much concerned about politics, sweared some very bad words in Spanish.

For some reason, Joshua could not think at all:

“It’s like I took that guy and launched him against the Empire State Building! As I ever could do this!” said Joshua.

“He’s a known anti-breakthrough guy… Some people says he’s connected with the Paladins and Humanity First, and other anti-breakthrough people all around the world.” said Varekai “I was looking for reactions, and some people is at your side, Joshua: no matter you’re a breakthrough, you’re a kid, and exposing a kid like you is a big no-no, even more like he did, by nominally citing both your capename and real name! But there’s some negative reaction of people that either are with Mr. Shankman or against your parents, saying all kind of horrid things. Need to say I almost had gone sick.”

“What?!” asked everyone.

“They said your parents, Joshua, were famemongers that exposed you for money! And this is the BEST thing those people have to say about you and your parents, and to be fair, the only one I can say for you without your mom making me washing my mouth with soap!” shunned Varekai

“But…“ said Joshua, when Varekai stopped him

“We know! We have all the forms and documentation showing you had joined HSF by your own will! But people are crazy, even more in America: need to say, America concept of democracy is a little weird for me. They can say all kind of terrible things and destroy others lives acting totally under the law, and when framed on this they just cry 1ST AMENDMENT!” exasperated Varekai “An arrivist like this guy shows their claws just on those kind of moments, and take you is just the best prize he and their lot wants: by painting you as a bad kid, they are trying to milk some political gain.”

“So, it’s all about this? Politics?” shouted LionHeart

“Not just this. They are trying to put HSF in the corner. Our position against some of the humanity crimes that are undergoing at Eretz Israel, Balkans and Constantinople put us into the radar of those nuts, and they are using this to cripple us at US. And, no matter my criticism on them, HSF needs their money. Unfortunately.” pouted Varekai

“And now… What could we do?” asked worried Joshua

“By now, let him distill all the vitriol he wants: a rebutt is just what they want. They’re looking for anything that allow them to cry wolf against you, Joshua, to show you as a crazy kid, so every action you do now could backfire against HSF.” said Varekai “So, until everything cool down, you’re in the bench here in Geneva. Djanni also, as he is not full CAI-certificated, and this could put even more mud on all this. We are talking with the big bosses and contacts at LDS and UN to not split your team. But maybe you’ll need to depart, at least for some time. I asked Cajun to reinforce the team and train you and Djanni in the meantime, and you will help us by readying Djanni for his CAI Certification. But…“ said Varekai

“I understand: HSF needs to think on the reputation of the NGO as a whole.” said Joshua “I’m okay with this: I can help Djanni receive his CAI certification and train with Cajun in the meantime. And Disney?”

“After all the documentation we shown for them, they said they are with you through and through. They believed 120% you did your best. They only needed to go out of the radar for sometime, but I think they’re waiting everything cool down so this mess don’t splash on themselves.” said Varekai

Joshua looked around and everyone was as astonished as himself.

“There’s nothing we can do by now.” said Joshua, sighing “If you need to be deployed somewhere, go without me. I’ll join you as soon as possible.”

“That’s the spirit, Joshua. We’ll get those guys.” said Varekai while they got into the HSF HQ

Those were stressful days for Joshua: without his sanctum, after losing his house and with all those things, Joshua was even more pressured and was almost breaking and going crazy.

At least, there was things that he could do to relief a little: Djanni preparation for CAI-certification and Savate training with Cajun. In two weeks he just undergone another glove up, the strenuous Savate training helping him to not think on all this and go crazy. When he wasn’t on one or another, he was into video-conferences with Legal Eagle, Chicago Sentinels lawyer that took his case pro bono, as it had HSF involved.

In the meantime, Mal Shankman had put some more opt-eds, trying to slow cook Joshua as much as he could against the public opinion, but people were seeing also some publicity helping Joshua.

First was the Metrocon video from Kyle attacking Joshua as a cape that leaked to ViewTube. At first there was some very nasty comments, but those who were with Joshua showed their power: in just a few days, the thumbs up had toppled the thumbs down 2 by 1.

Lots of comments and even some videos supporting Joshua were in the ViewTube. He saw the little kid he signed the hat doing a cute video on Instagram that gone viral saying “Go go, Jiminy!” and the hashtag #freejiminy rose very fast in all the social networks, from the big ones to those obscure like Mastodon.

Joshua was studying all he could and preparing himself for his defense, because he knew the stakes: it wasn’t just about his CAI license, or even about being sent to a Boot Camp. It was about attacking Herós Sans Frontières’s reputation. If they fail, HSF would fall. And this would not be what he wanted to do.

And then came the day: he would be judged at Newark Court Hall. He was going there with a HSF car, escorted by some of the super-policemen from NYPD and some well known capes, like Blackstone, Seven, Chakra and The Harlequin. He was not in cape, but dressed on a nice dark green formal suit: they chose to use the fact that, as his private identity was already busted, he would go as Joshua McCarthy, not as Jiminy Cricket, to gain some sympathy. His parents were with him also.

“Calm down, son. The truth is with you.” consoled Mr. McCarthy.

“I know, dad.” pouted Joshua

“We know that you did everything fair and square.” reinforced Mrs. McCarthy, when they arrived at the Justice House parking place below the Court Hall. He saw all the picketing people, either pro- and anti-Jiminy Cricket. The escorts left him as soon he got into the basement parking lot.

When he got out of the car, he saw some people, including a weird-looking guy.

“Hope you have no problem we brought Veritas here.” said one of them, showing a DSA badge. Probably a support breakthrough that worked for them.

“Not at all.” said Legal Eagle (real name: Tommy Brannigan, esquire), Joshua’s main lawyer. “In fact, I’m very aware on this.”

“Joshua, we’ll ask some questions before you get at the court, and Veritas will check it for us. By the way, I’m Agent Leon Milligan and my partners here are Agent Williams, Jarreau and DuBois.” said Agent Milligan, nodding a little, the others confirming, and Joshua nodded back as a courtesy. “First of all: are you Joshua Clemens McCarthy, known as capename Jiminy Cricket, resident at Newark, but with hometown at Geneva, Switzerland?”

“Yes.” said Joshua

“Are you an A-Class Mastermind hero whose powers are Bellax Analytica, a kind of future foreseeing; Pretty Please! a light will-bending power; and a super-enhanced learning capability?” said Agent Williams, that looked meek, but certainly was a Mentalist, by the weird look he gave to Joshua.

“Yes.” said Joshua

“Are you here to be judged on attempted manslaughter on action by shooting a rioter with a Vernetech laser weapon under action?” said Agent Jarreau, that used some kind of magical charms, probably a Merlin.

“Yes.” said Joshua

“And are you about to use your powers, specially your Pretty Please! one, to affect the Jury?” said Agent DuBois, a strong looking woman, probably an Ajax.

“No, not at all.” said Jiminy “Besides…“

“We know: we read your profile. You can’t change the mental state totally. You can only make people does things if they are inclined to do it, even remotely.” said Agent Milligan smiling “Veritas?”

“Truth as water were his responses.” said Veritas, smiling

Veritas, Jiminy knew, was one of the very few known Ultra-class breakthroughs, even more powerful than the A-Class ones like Joshua himself. Veritas was a Mentalist that almost could smell lies, according himself literally. He works for DSA, the Department for Superhuman Affairs as a kind of human lie detector. And as a breakthrough with mind-bending powers, Joshua knew he would be checked by Veritas.

“Alright. Now… Hope you understand, but we need to handcuff you, until you’re presented to the Court.” said Agent Milligan, showing him some common police handcuffs.

“No, no one will do this with my son.” said Mrs. McCarthy, when Joshua gestured for her.

“Mom… It’s okay. They are only doing their job.” said Joshua, hugging her mother a little before showing him his wrists. Agent Milligan took the handcuffs and put it on Joshua’s wrists, under Legal Eagle look. And he got to the Public Court Hall.

Chapter 8

“One of the worst experiences I had was being judged after I lost my house. Even knowing I did everything fair and square, I feared people would found me guilt just because I’m a breakthrough, my recent experience on Humanity First fogging my judgement. Sometimes, I still think on why I didn’t forfeit my US citizenship and accepted the refugee status Switzerland offered me… But I think that I chose to fight the Good Fight. There was too much in game, the stakes were very high. And I could not let this ruin myself as a cape or HWB.”

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

Jiminy entered the room when the clerk said.

“Court Case Number 203: Williams versus Jiminy Cricket.” said the clerk, ritually.

“How the defendant declare himself?” said the Judge.

“Not Guilty, Your Honor.” said Joshua

“I’m his lawyer, Your Honor.” said Legal Eagle “I want to ask Your Honor why is the defendant being judged as an adult…“

“He’s being accused on attempted manslaughter and vigilantism, felonies which allow him to be judged as an adult.” said the Judge

Vigilantism: acting as an unauthorized cape. New Jersey was a No-Mask state: actively working as a cape unregistered was a felony. Illinois, from were Legal Eagle was, was a Mask state, where wearing the cape without a previous governmental registry was legal, as far no felony happened in the process and the cape was part of any CAI team. And Jiminy wasn’t registered as cape there.

“However, Your Honor, Joshua McCarthy, capename Jiminy Cricket, is a CAI-certificated cape on an overseas organization, Herós Sans Frontières, recognized internationally, and he was acting as CAI during a recent natural catastrophe, the 7.3 earthquake that hit Newark, so he was on duty at the moment of the events that will be judged today. The State vs HSF recognized Herós Sans Frontières as a certification organization and registrar for capes overseas when the No Mask legislation issue came into accounting, as HSF’s heroes roster profiles are all available when demanded by justice, not being classified as some registries from some US agencies. So, I ask Your Honor to drop the vigilantism accusation as unfounded.” said Legal Eagle.

“Your Honor, no minor should be accepted as cape. State vs Construct states that, no matter what, no underage is recognized as a CAI cape.” said the accusation lawyer, a guy with a seal-like moustache but almost no neck and intimidating green eyes.

“As HSF is responsible for the defendant as a cape, and his profile is available under request, and HSF had given full access to his profile when formally asked by the Justice, the vigilantism accusation will be dropped.” said the Judge “However, it was just an aggravating factor. The main accusation, attempted manslaughter, stays. Am I clear?”

“Yes, Your Honor.” said the lawyers, when they got to their table, and Jiminy avoided to look the guy with accusation lawyer: bald headed, tattooed with symbols from the Humanity First, as white as white can be, ice blue eyes, and a smirk that could make someone not as trained as Joshua faint. He was smiling and he could see why: Joshua saw in their side of the court audience crowd Malcolm Shankman, the politician that did all that vitriol against Joshua. He looked to Joshua like a wolf that was about to eat a little lamb, and the lamb was Joshua. He gulped a little in fear, when he heard a vibration sound.

Joshua looked for Legal Eagle’s cellphone vibrating. Then Legal Eagle looked to the cellphone screen, gasped, and passed discreetly for Joshua to see: someone somehow had put on Internet a photo of Joshua being handcuffed by the DSA agents. The legend said: “the first criminal”.

“Your Honor, I want to put the accusation under suspicion. I just received from a friend a post from social networks with a photo showing the defendant being handcuffed at the Court parking lot and the caption ‘the first criminal’.” when Legal Eagle said this, showing the judge his your cellphone, lots of people had gone for their cellphones, while he gone to show his own to the Judge. “As the only ones the defendant came with were his parents and me, beside the escort that left him immediately after we entered the parking lot, the only one that could did this were the plaintiff or some of their team, or a paparazzi. If the later, I ask for an injunction on this.”

“There’s nothing we can do by now about this, Mr. Brannigan.” said the Judge “We’ll ask for an injunction for the image later, but let us begin.”

The first hours were just the accusation looking for some people that could say that Joshua was psyched as the rioters (that, according the accusation, doesn’t included the plaintiff) tried to put everything down and so over-reacted. It was fast, as they just pushed on the idea that Joshua was a crazy kid that gone vigilante after gone breakthrough. Joshua was very nervous, even with all the preparation and so, as every of the accusation witnesses stayed on the crazy kid quotes as much they could. Legal Eagle, however, was as cold someone could think he was cryokinetic, not the C-Class Atlas he was, able to fly but nothing else.

“There’ll be a lunch recess. The Court will get back in an hour with the defense.” said the Judge.

Legal Eagle and Joshua gone to their designed room, where Mr. and Mrs. McCarthy were already waiting them with some sandwiches and chocolate milk for Joshua and a Schweppes soft drink for Legal Eagle.

“The good news: they have no sustentation on their accusation. As soon we show the maskcam images and the Dispatch registry, we’ll demolish them like a card castle. Bad news: they know this and will try to push you very hard, Joshua, to make you lose your composure.” said Legal Eagle “I know this is horrible, but this is how things works. You’ll need to be as calm as you can, Joshua, or we can lose the case.”

“Alright.” said Joshua, drinking his chocolate milk and eating his ham and egg sandwich “They are creepy.”

“I know. They have no case, to be fair: for me, from the photo until now, everything is being done to play mind games specifically on you. Use your Bellax Analytica here and you can see, if you take time enough, that this is all being made to make you snap and go crazy and try to do something stupid.”

“Understood…“ said Joshua, when he tried a little and he foresaw at least two times where he snapped and screamed against them or cried like a baby or otherwise showed weakness enough.

“So… Let them push you and let the objections with me. They’ll try to gnaw you, but stay calm and firm.” said Legal Eagle “As you are the last to be heard, if we do things right, we can kick their asses hard… Sorry, Mrs. McCarthy.” he said, looking to Mrs. McCarthy’s face.

They finished their meal and gone back to the Court.

Legal Eagle showed all he could to dismantle the crazy kid thesis from accusation, using the maskcam video to show how the action was conducted under all the Rules of Engagement standards and protocols. He even talked with some people from Roque Santeiro, like Diana, Panther and Kilimanjaro, that stated he did his best to stay all the time into the Rules of Engagement and under all CAI standards. He asked also questions for the Dispatch operators and for Mr. McNamara, that denounced the Humanity First riot attack against Joshua’s house.

It was when it was time for Joshua to give testimony.

“Are you Joshua McCarthy, 12, from 17 McKinnon Street?” said Legal Eagle

“Yes, sir.” said Joshua

“And you are also a CAI-certified and registered breakthrough known as Jiminy Cricket, part of Herós Sans Frontières, Situation 2 Team 12 roster?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Could you say for the Jury why you were at Newark three months ago?”

“We were sent for working at National CAI Conference, at Chicago, Illinois. The most of the audience knows this event as Chicago Metrocon. After that, we had some days off and, as a resident, I chose to take those days off here for visiting people and just relax. In our last day off, before we get to Geneva, my father had a farewell party for some of the other team members’ parents, including the ones of my team-mate capename Sugarplum, from Charlotte, North Carolina. It was when the earthquake happened and we put ourselves at service for Newark, after an call for a Code Red. As it happened so fast we started to work as CAI Under Civil circumstance, a rare situation that only the Team Leader, in our case capename Soldaire, could declare. We had worked in all kind of situations under our time in the event until we are cleared by Newark Civil Defense, which happened immediately after the events in this judgement.”

“Could you say how you could help, as a cape? This, Exhibit A, is the folder with your profile provided by Herós Sans Frontières, but could you declare for the Jury your powers and how you use it in a situation like the earthquake?” said Legal Eagle, taking a folder and showing for everyone.

“My powers, as it’s stated in the profile sent as Exhibit A, are from the Mastermind type, as catalogued by Barlow’s Guide to the Superhuman. In my specific case, my main powers are Bellax Analytica, that I can use to foresaw the results of events, in a some seconds scale, and Pretty Please!, that is catalogued as a mind-bending power, and that can be used to somewhat convince people to do things that I want them to do. I can’t use this power to make people do what they wouldn’t do at all, or take violent actions. My training on them is focused on riot control and tactical analysis for Dispatch, and sometimes in the field.”

“So, where were you when your family and house was attacked?”

“I was training with one of my combat mentors, capename Cajun. He’s a Savate master, and was teaching me some extra fighting techniques. Dispatch called us via Earbug, saying that my house was being attacked by rioters. While Soldaire were asking for evacuation for our team, I had gone to look for my parents and the other non-breakthroughs. I was almost killed at least another time, when a guy tried to chop my head off with a machete and I tasered him. I entered the room and asked for them. They had hidden themselves into the basement.”

“Until then it was fair and square and the Jury had saw the video and audio from action via maskcam, our Exhibit B. And?” said Legal Eagle, putting over the Exhibit table a DVD with the maskcam record

“When I tried to get to the backyard to open the basement, I avoided a shot against me thanks my Bellax Analytica.”_

“You can describe the ammo?”

“.45 caliber, 5.56 bullet. Made with depleted uranium, based on the hole produced by the bullet on a very sturdy wall. The information was confirmed by our maskcam system.”

“Could be one of those from Exhibit C?” said Legal Eagle, showing a photo with an assault rifle and some ammo, including a fired bullet recovered. “Those, Your Honor, were seized with the plaintiff when processed into the system in this event aftermath.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And the shooter?”

“I used my Bellax Analytica and foresaw his position: he was at least 100 feet beyond me.” said Joshua

“What you did?”

“I set my Jiminy Cane’s laser system for minimum power first. I knew that I would have no more than a split second to shoot him before he shoot me, probably aiming for my head.”

“This so called Jiminy Cane is this one? This, Your Honor, is Exhibit D.” said Legal Eagle showing the Jiminy Cane for everyone “Could you describe it for the Jury, including all the Vernetech gizmos put on it?”

“Yes: it’s made from redwood, with an ebony-made head, painted on green and styled as Disney’s Pinocchio Jiminy Cricket design, same as my cape crest. This is a swordcane whose blade is made with the Verne metal alloy known as fake Orichalcum: silver, cold iron and some salt. Also, the cane tip acts as a contact taser and the head also has a laser weapon, both Vernetech developed and deployed into the cane by my teammate capename Dumont.”

“So, you used your laser to shoot the shooter, in fact, the plaintiff. Which were your targets?” said Legal Eagle

“First the hands, to disallow him to shot, and after that on his shoulder, so he could drop his weapon out in pain.” said Joshua

“And this confirms the Exhibit E, the forensics results from the plaintiff.” said Legal Eagle. “After that, when the plaintiff was down in pain, even that it was not really hurt…“

“Objection! The plaintiff was hurt, very bad.” said the seal-moustached guy

“Your Honor, Exhibit E proves there was no permanent damage for the plaintiff.” said Legal Eagle.

“Overruled. Go on.” said the Judge

“Your Honor. So, after shot the plaintiff…“ said Legal Eagle

“I got to the basement entry, where my parents and four other civilians were, and saw the basement was locked by the outside, probably by the plaintiff or one of their associates. I don’t know and it wasn’t my concern at time and now.”

“As by these chains, Exhibit F?” said Legal Eagle, showing the half melt chains.

“Yes, sir. I used the laser, now for more power, as a cutting tool. I cutted the chains and took them away. After that, the civilians got out at the eleventh hour before the house collapses. In the meantime, the rioters got away. And I helped the firefighters to avoid the fire to spread over.” said Joshua.

“And it was when Exhibits B and G stopped to register. Exhibit G, Jury, is the After Action Report, registered by the defendant and approved by either Newark Justice and Herós Sans Frontières’ review boards with some caveats.” said Legal Eagle, showing a folder for them.

“Yes sir.” said Joshua

“No more questions.” said Legal Eagle

It was when the real test started for Joshua.

The seal-moustached lawyer looked to him.

“So, Mr. McCarthy, you’re 12, so, underage. Is this correct?” said the lawyer, trying to look intimidate

“Yes, sir.” said Jiminy, focusing on the answers, remembering the counseling Legal Eagle gave him.

“And, even being underage, you didn’t went for Hillwood or, in fact, to Whitlow’s Academy or our local Saint Agnes Academy or other local schools for underage breakthroughs.”

“Yes, sir.”


“Herós Sans Frontières came to me at hospital and made an offer to study and develop myself and my powers overseas that appeared interesting. My parents authorized it, as showed by the express authorization documents part of Exhibit A.” said Joshua

“But as far I understood, you recently did a 6 month tour at Roque Santeiro refugee camp at Sierra Leone, after a year of CAI certification training, and did a big operation against an A-Class Verne that developed a kind of super-drug. Is this correct?”

“Yes, sir, but barely. The action against Derek Kwazani was not predicted by or part of our mission designation. We needed to investigate him after a Code Red situation at Roque Santeiro with some origin sellers whose supplier was Derek Kwazani. This put us on Priority Alpha on acquire him after an attack against that refugee camp. Our action at Roque Santeiro were first focused on general help, as part of a HSF protocol of regular team rotation.”

“And your specific action for the first time was?”

“Dispatch coordination, sir. As a non-combat cape, my powers were more useful at the Dispatch, by foreseeing dangers so everyone could avoid them, as I said before. In the events I cited, I helped into riot control also.”

“So, with all this work, you didn’t studied at all.” said the lawyer, smiling.

“I did, sir. I did my studies in my time out the Cape, almost all of them. To be clear, when I wasn’t on duty, I was studying. In fact, we in Herós Sans Frontières uses a lot of correspondence course and Internet classes, and I had some homeschooling with my associate, capename Sugarplum, that is a certified teacher and now is doing a post-grad on Correspondence Education. I studied classes from some MOOC programs from United Kingdom and Germany and got even faster through my studies, somewhat thanks of my powers…“

“So you’re a cheater.” said the lawyer, with a smirk.

“Objection! Assumption and false accusation!” said Legal Eagle

“Sustained.” said the Judge

“Mister, my breakthrough powers somewhat improved my mind. Even being 12, I have the same knowledge, acknowledged by our local system, as a sophomore high-schooler.” complimented Joshua

“Are you saying about Exhibit H? The report from local educational system acknowledging your school profile based on your results at HSF programs?” said the mustached lawyer

“Yes sir. My worst grade, when made the equivalence on our school system, was a C at Arts. My average grade is B+, and my English and STEM grades are average A.”

“Sounds like very good grades…“ said the moustached guy, but looking upset, as Joshua just fumbled one of his line of action to win the case. “Now… Back to the case. Your lawyer said that your After-Action Report for this action, Exhibit G, was approved with caveats. Could you please say the Jury which those caveats were and the one who raised the caveats?”

“The caveats was ‘Use less force that could result on potential casualties’. The one who cited the caveats was Henry Roix, capename Blackstone, from Chicago Sentinels.”

The audience gasped, while the seal-moustached guy smiled and Legal Eagle looked worried: a caveat of this kind from Blackstone, that, even before The Event, was an US Mariner and an intel specialist means business.

“How you dealt with this after the action?” said the moustached guy

“I had no time to improve it yet as, after an injunction on my CAI certification, I was put at HSF bench, and this jury came. I still had no time to really work into the caveat with HSF.”

“And do you think that could have a chance of you applying deathly force against the plaintiff, even unintentionally?”

“Objection! Assumption!” said Legal Eagle

“Overruled!” said the Judge, and then Legal Eagle looked for Joshua. The attack was somewhat surgical: by showing that Blackstone himself said that Jiminy could use, even by accident, deathly force, and forcing him to admit this would be a problem. “Answer the question.”

And he knew how Joshua would answer, as he oriented him to do this. He would say “Yes!”

But it was when Joshua surprised even Legal Eagle, as he didn’t had rehearsed this kind of question.

“Beside my training, it would be a possibility, to apply deathly force against the plaintiff. But I was trained to use the Jiminy Cane in the time I was recovering my right leg’s shin bones that were broken during Derek Kwazani’s arrest. I trained a lot to know how to do the settings for each of those elements as fast as I could, preferably by not even looking for the setting system. But, to make sure I would not apply unnecessary force, I looked to the cane to double-check and confirm the right setting before deal with the plaintiff.” said Jiminy, and it was Legal Eagle time to smile: Joshua used the truth and cut his way straight out the trap the accusation made.

“Could you just didn’t just ignored him and helped the civilians?” said the lawyer

“No… As I said, and confirmed by the exhibits, including fingerprints found in the weapon from Exhibit D by forensics, the plaintiff was using an assault rifle with military grade ammo, powerful enough to drop down dead even a C-Class Ajax or Atlas cape, even stronger ones could being hurt by it. If I just tried to ignore him, I and six civilians would be dead. My powers, as listed at Exhibit A, doesn’t comply super-healing or resilience, like those for Atlases or Ajaxes.”

“So… You said there was six civilians in the basement. Could you confirm me that into those civilians were two Muslim Tunisian Refugees whose son is an A-Class Atlas…“

“Objection! Irrelevant!” said Legal Eagle

“… that could be, as far people know, the heir of Seif-Al-Din, and this guy is an associate and, witnesses confirmed, a friend of you.” shouted the moustached-guy, before the Judge could say anything.

It was a very dirty move, and even Legal Eagle was angry with this, but was a effective one: he felt that some in the audience and, worse, the Jury, were sympathetic to him now. Go and play the Seif-Al-Din card was somewhat effective.

“Sust…“ would say the Judge, when Joshua made a sound and looked to the Judge.

“Your Honor, I want to answer this one.”

Legal Eagle was going amok! What Joshua had in mind?

“Mr. Horatio.” said calmly Joshua to the moustached-guy “If you’re talking about capename Djanni, he and his parents were approved and screened by CIA, DHS and DSA before entering US as tourists, based on the Refugee status Switzerland granted them. He was a very important cape in our action against Derek Kwazani, defeating his lieutenant, capename Adze. He also helped us to deal with Kyle Montague, a rogue B-Class plasmakinetic that attacked us at Metrocon, avoiding civilian casualties and lots of material loss. He was in our team acting as a sidekick under capename Kuntur’s tutoring and as part of our team’s roster in the cleaning and rescuing teams after Newark’s earthquake. At least 120 lives were saved during his actions with Kuntur and other capes, at least 10 lives directly saved by Djanni. So, I would not compare him with the deceased assassin - and I’ll not call him terrorist because he just liked to kill people - called Seif-Al-Din. He was not different from other capes that did their job during the earthquake aftermatch. Besides, saying that I should leave them, or in fact any people in need, behind because their creed or origin is against all we CAI capes takes as principles in our action and over any civility principle.” finished Joshua, in an almost lecturing tone for the moustached guy, virtually waggling a finger for him. The crowd and jury wooed.

The moustached-guy was fumbling and Legal Eagle was screaming in joy inside: this was a very strong and direct blow that Joshua gave, and he could see that, aside some of the Humanity First supporters in the crowd, the tide had turned.

“How you explain, so, the caveat Blackstone put?” said mr. Horatio, accusing the blow and doing a last try, getting back to the After-Action Report.

“He has, and reasonably I can say, questioned why I wasn’t better prepared and equipped to deal with non-breakthrough rioters like the plaintiff. As I said, there could be really a chance to accidentally incurred into deathly force, but my training was really hard to do this with minimum risk. In fact, we are in talking at HSF to provide some extra resources to deal with rioters, not just to me, but for everyone.” said Joshua, basically burying the case for the accusation.

“No more questions, Your Honor.”

After the final considerations, where Joshua saw that Mr. Horatio was still fumbling and almost like he wanted to kill him by his own hands, the Judge said.

“The court is on recess for the Jury deliberation.” said the Judge

They didn’t had to wait too much: in less than 10 minutes, the Judge came back.

“So, the Judge have a unanimous verdict?” said the Judge.

“Yes, Your Honor. We the Jury declare the defendant, Joshua Clemens McCarthy, not guilty.” said the Jury president.

“Thank you, Jury. The State is glad for your time. The Jury is excused. Court is Adjourned.” said the Judge, before declaring Joshua innocent.

Joshua gave a small smile and gave a breath, exhausting, sitting in the chair while the court got empty and his parents came to hug him…

“Whew… Think this is over, now.” said Joshua for Legal Eagle.

“Yeah. Now you’re free to get back to action. With the innocence, the injunction against your CAI certification is automatically lifted.” said Legal Eagle.

And it was when their parents gave big smiles.

“Good news from Djanni also!” said Mr. McCarthy, showing a video into his cellphone. It was Djanni, and smiling under his veil-like mask.

“Joshua, I did it! Now I’m CAI-certificated! No more sidekicking, I’m a full fledged cape now!” he said, and he could see Sugarplum as a Tinkerbell dancing around his head.

“Great!” said Joshua.

“Let us go?” said Legal Eagle “Is good practice the winning side give a talk for the journalists…“

“No… No more newsies…“ said Joshua, looking exhausted although smiling “I just want to get back Geneva ASAP. I want no more newsies or paparazzi for some months… HSF will publish a statement about all this situation soon. I would not say I wanted a super-villain action because I don’t… In fact, all I want now if I can is to go to Disney World and then Disneyland Paris before getting on Geneva.”

“I would say you need it, to be just a little kid for some time for a change.” said Legal Eagle, getting out from the Court Hall with Joshua, who looked tired.

Chapter 9

“It was fun the time I had after all this, at Disney World and Disneyland Paris. Two weeks of fun and no worries after three months of pressure was all I’ve asked for. And it was fun to have lots of freebies from Disney and so, and even engaging some parades aside Mickey and others, including the real Jiminy Cricket. But I had to get back Geneva, to get back my life from where it stopped some months before.”

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

Now Jiminy’s team had grow with Cajun gone off the reserve and joining the team, as a way to train either Jiminy and Djanni into combat. Djanni needed not too much training, as his powers are combat-focused, the combat only needed as a way to improve his effectiveness. The main combat training was focused on Jiminy.

“Now, I want you, Djanni, to fight Jiminy Criquet.” said Cajun.

“What? But I can kill him with a pinch!” said Djanni, which was true: as an Atlas, Djanni was really, really strong and resilient. He was so strong that he could kill almost all common people just by hugging a little stronger. And Jiminy was, beside his powers, a common person, that could be killed by a good shot or, in case, a too much strong of a hug.

“I want you to exert your speed, but not your strength.” said Cajun “You’ll start with somewhat 20% of your speed and normal strength. This is good for you, to fine-tune your power control. And it will good for Jiminy, so he could learn how to deal with Atlases. Need to say, Jiminy, I don’t expect you to win: your objective is to push over and somewhat survive as much as possible against Djanni.”

Joshua looked okay with this: he was accustomed with the “crazy” training sessions Cajun send time and another.

“Alright!” said Jiminy.

“Are you okay with this?” said Djanni, readying himself, into Savate boxing posture. As an Atlas, his punches and kicks were weapons of mass destruction.

“If you’re alright with me trying to balance things by going with my swordcane…“ said Jiminy, taking his swordcane.

He knew that he could not win Djanni: as an Atlas, he was stronger and faster than Jiminy. Even 20% of his speed was a little above the Olympic level, and Jiminy was just a chubby kid. But he also knew, by his experience after the fight with Cajun that he should focus on using his Bellax Analytica to help him foresaw the blows.

However… Cajun was a Paragon, a peak human breakthrough, the so called Super-Normals: peak, but still human-level. Djanni was another matter: even a D-Class Atlas would be as fast as a Paragon. An A-Class is was even more faster: only Speedsters would be faster.

As Cajun gave the combat start, Djanni run to kick Jiminy. The speed was fast enough to make Jiminy gasp, but his Bellax Analytica acted as a Danger Sense and he avoided the first kicks. A punch form Djanni came nearby hit Jiminy, but he blocked using the cane from the swordcane, as by La Canne de Combat. But the punch was strong enough to disarm him from the cane, leaving him only with the rapier he sacked some moments before.

Jiminy felt that would be risky for him to stay using the rapier, but Cajun looked to him avoiding the attacks and said: “What Djanni is?”

“He’s an Atlas, Professeur!” said Jiminy, panting.

“So, Sacre Bleu, use you rapier!” said Cajun “It is the best you have to use against Djanni now. Think this a first blood match!”

First-blood match: if Jiminy hit a clean blow against Djanni, he could win. And even not using his strength, Djanni was naturally resilient, so the chance of Jiminy cause any real damage against him with his rapier the same he had to do it with a toothpick. He had not to worry on hurt Djanni.

So, Jiminy choose to try to get into close quarters and hit him.

And he felt Djanni hitting him in the stomach. He lost his air by an instant and Djanni gave a kick at his side, putting Jiminy in the ground.

Jiminy panted a lot… But Cajun stopped the fight and looked to Djanni.

“This is what you call a ‘normal’ punch?” Jiminy said, faking nervousness.

“Well… It’s the common one as Kuntur teached me on my Control your powers 101.” said Djanni

“Let us stop by now and get back to the basics training. Need to say, both of you did well. Jiminy, get into a straight attack with someone like me is a thing, going against an Atlas like Djanni is another business. But you did well: you took more time to be hit by Djanni than I could imagine. And Djanni, I think you power control still needs some fine-tuning, but it’s okay for a start. You need to learn to control your power so you can avoid problems at CAI actions.” said Cajun, pulling some carton boxes for them, full of chocolate milk for Jiminy and Orange Juice for Djanni. “Let us take some minutes, then more basic moves, then another try on this.”

In the next days, it was this the main training for both. Jiminy’s parents were worried: he was accumulating bruises all around his body, but Jiminy said he’s okay with this.

“I think this will be important: lots of the guys we fight in field are combatants, Atlases or Ajaxes. Although we have the main combatants, I have to learn to deal with those guys too, and so not being a weak spot.” said Jiminy, while bathing to relax his hurt body.

In the end of the week, Jiminy was already using his Bellax Analytica totally unconscious of his power to avoid Djanni’s blows. His fights were taking more than ten minutes, and Djanni was growing a little frustrated. It was when…

Djanni gone into a sequence of blows, that Jiminy avoided using his cane and getting out of them. And his Bellax Analytica showed a weak spot at Djanni’s defenses. Jiminy just got into it and thrusted his blade against Djanni’s cheek, making him yelp.

“Okay, stop!” said Cajun, when they looked Djanni. There was a thin scratch at his face, the bloodstain just closing.

“Alright! It was good, Jiminy. You found your way through Djanni’s defenses and stroke a good blow. Good work!” said Cajun

“Are you okay, Djanni?” said Jiminy, looking worried, taking a piece of cloth and cleaning his rapier tip from Djanni’s blood.

“Alright. You can’t hurt me for real, you know.” said Djanni, the scratch starting to close “But this doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.”

“Right… Take the rest of day to rest and recover, you two. Tomorrow, Djanni, we’ll stay on this training, but with 50% of your speed. This will push you even more, Jiminy.” said Cajun, which made both kids gasp.

It took 10 days for Jiminy put a blow at Djanni at 50% of his speed. And then 15 days to put a blow with 75% of his speed.

“Great job, you two.” said Cajun, while Djanni put a band-aid to help into the scratch in his right hand that Jiminy gave with his rapier, while Jiminy cleaned the blade.

“Now, without too much ado, I want you, Jiminy, to hit a blow against Djanni at full speed. And Djanni, I want you to put also 15% of your strength in your blows.” said Cajun

Both the kids gasped: 15% of Djanni strength was somewhat over a common MMA fighter strength, even a heavyweight lifter. A well-delivered blow could make Jiminy’s bones shatter like a toothpick.

“Are you against this?” said Cajun, raising an eyebrow.

“Professeur,” said Djanni, timid “I don’t think Jiminy could resist a blow against me at 15%, even more now: he’s tired from our fight… Why not 5%?”

“Because,” said Cajun “I want to put Jiminy in REAL danger!”

Cajun took a breath and said, looking for both, but specially to Jiminy

“In field, you’ll be always at real danger: your enemies will never put into accord you’re a kid if they want to kill you. Here the fights are simulated, but in real life people will not contain themselves like I’m asking Djanni to. If you just run away and scream like a kid, you’ll be just a nuisance for your team. You need to see the danger face to face and deal with it, to laugh from it.” said Cajun, giving one of his laughs full of Panache “You need to fight it, at least for time enough the team bricks came to do their job. Do you understand this, Jiminy Criquet?” said Cajun

Jiminy looked for him and, even full of fear, nodded.

“Good. You’re full of fear. I would be worried if you’re not, it would be a signal of naivety or insanity, neither of them good. But let us do this and everything will be well.” said Cajun

And then Cajun gave the command to start.

The time Jiminy was in the bench by the process really did the difference: Djanni just gave blows in a blinking eye speed that Jiminy could not follow if not his Bellax Analytica almost becoming a Danger Sense when engaged. He stopped two or three blows using his cane and avoided others, but the speed was great.

He gave some side steps to try to get momentum for an attack, but Djanni turned his body in a incredible speed! Jiminy started to fall into his bad habit of getting back into a fight.

“Remember about our fight, Jiminy Criquet!” said Cajun

And then Jiminy did, and stop to get back, just working into sidesteps. By doing this, Djanni got a little slower because the movements he needed to do, but not enough to open a defense. And both Djanni and Jiminy were locked into a kind of weird rondo of blows, spinning around each other, Djanni failing in hit Jiminy and vice-versa.

It was when Jiminy got a weak spot in Djanni right side and gone to thrust his blade against it.

But he failed to check for his defenses, and Djanni gave him a mighty blow at his side, he almost hearing his rib cage bones broken.

“Stop!” said Cajun, worried.

Jiminy loosed his grip from the blade, falling aside, breathing a little painfully. The blade didn’t fell, as he somewhat had pushed it into Djanni’s side. Djanni yelped in pain, and Cajun removed the blade from Djanni before getting to Jiminy.

“Are you okay…“ said Cajun

“Not… Too… Much… Breath… Difficult… Just a time.” said Jiminy

“Let me send you to the infirmary. Looking not that serious, your blows, you two, but need treatment.” said Cajun, hitting a button into his crest. “Need medical support at Training Room 2.”

“You did well, you two. Next time, just don’t go so crazy on your moves, but think you two are worthy on a glove rating raising.” said Cajun “And this makes you, Jiminy Criquet, an yellow glove and an aide-moniteur, an assistant monitor, to help teaching Savate.” he said, smiling, while the local Doctors came.

The portable Vernetech MRI machine showed that Jiminy was not that bad: his side was swollen by the blow, but the rib cage had not broken. In two days he would be okay. Djanni, as an Atlas, just needed some first aid to be okay from Jiminy’s blow.

But now Jiminy understood what Cajun wanted with this crazy training, and knew that he now know what he needed to do in field.

Chapter 10

“People wouldn’t believe how much things we train. Even us, being a non-combat focused CAI team, we train A LOT: combat, yes… But also EMT, first aid, basic electronics, civil construction… All the kind of skills, even cooking, music, theater and ballet. Because, specially in Herós Sans Frontières, we never know what we’ll need to do in the field. And so the better CAI cape for us is a duck: not an specialist on anything, but a generalist, and a very good one, armed with all kind of skills!”

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

The rib cage hit had raised some concerns into Jiminy and Djanni’s parents, but they understood Jiminy needed some training for surviving fights in field. But Jiminy and Djanni stopped that training and got back for simulated fight and moves at Savate training.

So Jiminy had gone for the European CAI Conference, at Paris, to give some lectures on their actions and his situation as an underage cape, and how they should be taken as one-by-one cases. At the same time, one cape came to him and talked about his actions. He was a B-Class Redux, called Limelight, that acted as an one-man theater group. He was a HSF reserve that was at Haiti until some weeks and now was in the bench, before going somewhere else.

“So, you had worked recently at Haiti.” said Jiminy

“Yeah.” said Limelight “I did lots of support job like you. In fact, it was fun to do some funny activities with the kids, including some clowning. They are bereft of everything, you know. They are still feeling The Event’s consequences. UNHCR has defined Port-au-Prince as a humanitarian catastrophe since The Event Day. They are still restructuring themselves, and the Big One had affected them also, albeit indirectly, and doesn’t help they are into a route for twisters and cyclones. They are in constant need, as since before the Event they were ignored by the rest of the world. They had dictatorships and all kind of bad things. I think we need to support them, in fact.”

“So… You worked in the field?” said Jiminy

“Of course: Haiti has one of the biggest breakthrough rates, and also death-by-origin-chase rates, they need some breakthroughs to help them deal with all this. And there’s the rise of guerrilla groups like the so-called Heirs of Papa Doc. They are the worst, a bunch of psychotic breakthroughs, Merlins and Mentalists whose powers are linked with Vodoun. They are the local troops main issue. They deal with Darkness and Death and Dominion. Curiously, one of the biggest opposition for them is the guy known as Baron Samedi. An A-Class Merlin linked with the Loa of the Death, he chose to go vigilante to deal with them by himself. Sometimes he was a pesky problem, even not going against us, at least by now. So, we will not go against him.”

“And so, your work is to…“

“Deal with all this situation, try to make people goes on all that craziness as good as we can. And there’s lots of people that help us too. Not only MSF, but CADUCEUS and Clowns Without Borders.”

“Nice…“ said Jiminy “And did you clown there? Why?”

“Yeah, I did!” said Limelight “I think that a CAI-certificated cape needs the biggest repertoire possible on powers and skills, specially if you’re not a combatant one, so you need to do your best to ease things for your partners and, at the same time, to put yourself useful at the field. By helping making the kids laugh, I can also put myself useful.”

“Should I try?” said Jiminy, before he could stop himself “I had a Cub Scout badge for theater, from a Peter Pan presentation. Sounds like somewhat similar.”

“I don’t know… It’s not the same thing: be a clown is not the same as being an actor.” said Limelight “But I think that, if it does no good, no ill will be done too.”

“How you know about this?” said Jiminy

“I was an thespian even before my breakthrough, during The Event.” said Limelight “The Theater where I was rehearsing A Midsummer’s Night Dream collapsed in The Event… And I had my breakthrough by splitting myself into many copies of me: some of them doing first aid, others comforting people that lost parents, some trying to find a escape route, even one that ‘died’ while trying to hold a passage for others escape before it collapsed. Just some time after, I joined the first Situation 2 roster for the recently created Herós Sans Frontières, we weren’t even called that way, it was defined after. Soldaire came some time after, and he turned into what we called a seeder. This is why he never got back to Japan, even being called back sometimes by the Japanese Superhuman Self-Defense Forces: Herós Sans Frontières needs him dearly and he likes it.”

“Soldaire is a Seeder? What this means?” said Jiminy

“We call seeder the kind of guy that can work a team and, after a time, leave it when they can walk by themselves. Think on those old-fashioned comics: sometimes a guy got out from a team to establish another and then got away from this one for another and so on. Half the HSF teams had Soldaire in their rosters one time or another…“ said Limelight

“So… Soldaire could leave us?” said Jiminy

“I don’t know… At least, I can say that he’ll not leave you by now. I talked with him: your team is still very young and inexperienced.” said Limelight “But he feels that your team is very balanced: the bricks are very good, as the support is: your powers are very rare, and, need to be frank, not too much common in good capes. Normally the Masterminds tends for the villainy, but you’re a very good kid. The PR is good also: more than a half of non-US capes, two underages, a convicted under parole, and a Japanese policemen.” said Limelight “And you have a very active par of Merlin and Verne, an uncommon roster. I saw some of your maskcam operations: you’re one of the best CAI teams in the world, for me. Put on context, there’s not too much Chicago Sentinels or the Parisién Citoyéns can do and you can’t. They have bigger resources, just that.”

“Understood.” said Jiminy.

“Thinking now, maybe you should try the clowning thing. Think that, if you combo this with your powers, you can ease things into places like Roque Santeiro. At least, it’s an extra repertoire you’ll have on you. Believe me, learning is never too much and in the field, anything can be useful.”

Jiminy thought on this talk with Limelight and, when back at Geneva HSF HQ, talked with Soldaire and his parents about the idea Limilight gave for him to go clown in the field. They thought it would be good, and so greenlit him to go for a clown school. It helped that they were slotted back as the “bench team” for the next two months, and there was a good clown school opening classes in two week at US.

So, he applied himself and paid from his own money to get to US for the Clown Camp. His parents could not go with him, but gave him express authorization to get in the school. He had gone with few things: some light clothes, a change of costume and an Earbug (mandatory for emergencies), some money and his debit card for any clown costume or material he would need.

The Clown Camp was happening in a not too big city and the teacher was a famous clown that worked in The Greatest Show on Earth and now teached people on clowning. Besides, she was a breakthrough friendly woman by what he read, and after all the bad experiences with Paladins and Humanity First supporters, the last thing Jiminy wanted is to deal with breakthrough hostile people. By what he looked, there’s people there that already had some clowning experience, and those, like him, totally green on clowning.

“First of all, let us present each other: who you are and your objectives on this camp.” said the clown woman, on her full clown attire, that called herself as clown Brick-a-Brack, real name Michelle O’Mara. “I can see that we have a good mix of people, in age, clowning experience and kind of work… Let us start by the youngest one.” she said, pointing her gloved hand to Joshua.

“My name is Joshua McCarthy. I think some of you read about me in news after the Newark Earthquake, but anyway, I’m a cape that works for Herós Sans Frontières, capename Jiminy Cricket. I’m here to learn more things that could help us in field: as we deal in catastrophes places, and I’m not a combatant, I think that learn how to clown around could put me into a way to help more, by dealing with scared and sad people, specially kids like me.”

“Very sweet of you.” said Brick-a-Brack “Hope you learn a lot in your time here and your clown can help people everywhere in the world. Now, for the oldest.” said her, pointing for another woman, that looked over her 50s.

“I’m Tammy Wilson. I’m from Fort Lauderdale, and I already clown into church.” said her “I want to help people into the church.”

Joshua knew their companions in the clown school, and they looked like good fellows: a firefighter, two Scout Leaders, a soldier and other people. There was then the first class, makeup, and Joshua started learn.

And fast he learned: he gone through the classes learning very fast. Makeup, character development, skits, physical comedy… He learned very fast. It took just a day for learning the basics, impressing Brick-a-Brack.

“This is part of your powers? Never saw someone totally green grew so fast.” said Brick-a-Brack.

“I don’t know… My powers had somewhat improved my mind, and I can learn very very fast, but I never thought this would be effective on clowning.” said Joshua, cleaning the “pie”, in fact shaving cream, in his face, part of physical comedy class. He was made up into a cute Auguste face that had enhanced his smile and eyes, as clown makeup is not to hide, but to show up. He put himself the makeup during the clown makeup class.

“Nice to see a nice good kiddo like you with this kind of powers.” said Mrs. Wilson, also made up, but as a big Auguste clown, the partner of Joshua in the physical comedy class.

They were studying also some skits for the graduation show at a local theater. Joshua learned well many things that time, but the best thing for him was the comedy and the paradabilty. And he given Mrs. Wilson, or Mimi The Clown, to partner with Joshua, and she had christened him as a clown with the name Spotty.

They were rehearsing for the show, learning many skits. They would go with classic ones, like Ring Ring, Banana Bandana and I’m a Little Teapot, with lots of antics. As the graduation show would be a free one for the community and the local orphanage, all the new clowns, Joshua included, where rehearsing dearly, so it would be very funny.

It was when Joshua noted Mrs. Wilson was panting after the rehearsals, when they got back to their shared room.

“Are you okay, mrs?” said Joshua, looking for Mrs. Wilson.

“I’m okay, sweetie.” said Mrs. Wilson, giving some deep breaths “Just need my meds. The rehearsal was tiring and pushed me a little too much.”

“Wants me to take you some water or a sandwich?” said Joshua

“It’s nice from you. Please, take me a bottle of water from the vending machine.” said Mrs. Wilson, taking her pulse and giving Joshua some money.

He ran to the vending machine and chose the water bottle, and brought it back to Mrs. Wilson.

“Thanks, my dear.” said Mrs. Wilson “While I take my meds, what do you think about taking a shower and removing all this mess on your face? Then we can get down and took a good dinner.”

Which was true: there was still some of the shaving cream used for the “pie” on Joshua’s face, and there was also his makeup.

“Okay. But if you have anything you need, say me.” said Joshua, getting to the shower.

That was his routine way during all the week they had on the Clown Camp, as Mrs. Wilson was Joshua’s roommate. They studied and rehearsed a lot during the day, and talked at their room or during the dinner a lot at night. She gave him many tips and shared lots of stories about clowning, while he shared with her all his adventures, including Djanni’s breakthrough and the judgement.

The last day, the Graduation Show day, started with both of them taking a good breakfast, as they would be all the day “on clown”, and getting back their room, for some shower. When Mrs. Wilson finished her shower, Joshua was already dried and dressed into a white pair of boxer briefs, shorts and t-shirt, in front of the clown trunk where he put all his clown stuff.

“It was a great idea to buy one of those. It will be great in the field: I can leave everything here and then just put it with the team stuff. I’ll just put a Jiminy Cricket crest on a corner, so everyone knows this is mine.” said Joshua, pushing one of the drawers and lifting a mirror, and another with the little pots of clown makeup.

“This was how the clowns did in the circus in the past: each one had his own trunk with costume and all he needed, so he did not take too much things in the train that transported them. The trunk were put in the alley, each clown with his own corner. So in their bedroom in the train or hotel they could go with a small bag with some clothes changes.” said Mr. Wilson, drying herself and opening her clown trunk. “Those trunks are not cheap, you know, and I saw you needed to buy everything brand-new, and it was not cheap stuff also. Are your parents okay with this?” said her

“I used part of my allowance, you know.” said Joshua, organizing things before get made up “As a HWB cape, I have a wage, but I gave the lion share of it for my parents. I just spare somewhat like 300 euros a month for myself as allowance. And, as I don’t have too much to spend on while on duty, I had four or so months of them saved for those things in my account.”

“How much you earn at HWB, monthly? Looks like real money?” said Mrs. Wilson, astonished

“Three thousand euros monthly.” said Joshua, passing a cloth in his face to clean it “It’s not too much, if you put this on perspective on what Chicago Sentinels pay for their capes, but as I’m on the field or in our HQ most of time, I don’t have too much expenses. This allows me to give my parents the lion’s share of my wage. They are actually living in Geneva, on a house they bought recently, that is where I live when not in field. We rented it at first, and when his previous owner chose to to get back to US, he sold us the house and my parents and me are now paying the mortgage with my wage lion’s share help.” said Joshua. “My mom is a paralegal at International Justice Court, my dad is a clerk and translator for IJC too.”

“Wow! Looks like you are a really hard-working nice family.” said Mr. Wilson, while both of them ready themselves for the show.

Joshua painted his upper lip, his muzzle, and an area covering and over his eyebrows in white, and used the sock filled with powder to fix the makeup by gently powder it. After this, he used the flesh toned makeup all around the upper half of his face, and used a Q-Tip swab to clean the region below his lower lip and the tip of his nose. Then, he used another flesh toned makeup, a little darker, on the lower half of his face and neck, and blended the place where both tones get together, to make it smooth.

After another powder makeup fix, he cleaned the powder excess with a brush and used the red makeup to make the clown smile on his lower lip and some place below it. He also took a little of red makeup and passed on his cheek, to give it a hint of pinkish red blush. Another powder fix, and he passed a black pencil to drawn the lines around his lips and eyebrows, and to put some cute “freckle dots” in his cheeks.

He also put some red in the tip of his nose, then took his clown button of nose and put some spirit gum on it and over his own nose. He pushed the clown nose over his own for some seconds and then looked at the mirror, where there was a little cute clown face looking for him. He smiled while cleaning his hand on a piece of cloth.

“Had you already done your makeup?” said Joshua for Mrs. Wilson

“Almost, little Spotty.” said Mrs. Wilson, calling Joshua by his clown name.

Joshua started to dress himself then: first, a red and white t-shirt with long sleeves, then a pair of men thighs, yellow and white, a polka-dotted pair of boxer briefs and a blue overall with some silly patches stitched on it. Then he put a big white bib with a rainbow colored bowtie and adjusted it over his t-shirt. He took a green jacket with some silly patches to put over him. And after that came a little green bowler with a rainbow colored ribbon on it and put it over his natural hair. To finish, some fingerless gloves.

He took also some silly stuff from a drawer: some balloons to fill up with his pump, an yoyo, a little slingshot that was just to be shown into his pocket, some stickers with hearts, Care Bears and so, and his juggling scarves and balls that gone also into his pockets. He took also his juggling rings and clubs and put them into a little colorful letterman bag he put aside while he took his clown colored and a little bigger than normal Converses, one blue, the other yellow, both with some red details and opposite color strings and put and laced them on his feet.

He looked to himself into the full body mirror in the room and smiled: it was the first time that he saw himself full Spotty the Clown, as he bought the clothes without his makeup and vice-versa. He took his cellphone and took a picture to send for his parents, Altayr, Eileen and everyone at Geneva. After the photo, he heard a goofy voice saying:

“My my, what a cutie little clownie we have here!” said Mrs. Wilson, or better, Mimi the Clown. She was on a kind of pink, lemon green and white granny dress, a big purse on his side, which Joshua knew there’s lots of the silly stuff to be shared into a parade. She had also an Auguste makeup with a big balled clown nose and over her naturally white hair she had a lemon green wig with a big lace over it. Her gloves were opera gloves one, that gone up until get into the hem of her dress sleeves. Her skirt have some petticoats to gave her a little fluffiness over it and to make show some of the pantaloons she was using below her dress. She also took a cellphone and said: “Look like we need a Granny Mimi and Spotty photo!”

They took some photos making funny faces and poses, including one were Mimi was looking for Spotty like retorting him and he done a kind of “It was not me!” pose, and finishing by one where each other looked like they love each one as Granny/Grandchild.

They had a good fun, but they heard someone knocking the door.

“Heyia, you two! Ready make some people happy?” they heard Brick-a-Brack talking. They opened the door and she was the same way she did in the first day, looking like a neat whiteface woman, with a very elegant dress and bloomers. “Let’s go! It’s time for the show!”

They got down and they know that they would do a little parade from the hotel where they were to the local theater where the show would happens. Joshua took from the letter bag a kazoo instrument he did, and when Brick-a-Brack lifted her baton, he and the some of the clowns started to play some silly enactment of musics like Yankee Doodle or Mary had a little lamb. Some of the other clown started to greet and waive hands with the crowd in the street.

Some time after they started, Mimi came to exchange places with Joshua, or better, Spotty, taking from his big purse a melodica and joining the band, while Spotty gone to greet people and done some trick with his yoyo and juggling rings. He also gave cute stickers and high-fived some of the kids nearby.

After this fun but short parade, they got into the theater and gone for the backstage. As everyone Joshua was thirsty, and he got a little water from a squeeze bottle, passing it to Mrs. Wilson, that also took a med pill and swallow it with the water. He got and took their big foam cellphones linked by a rubber string that were the props for the Ring Ring skit, as they were next.

And it was when they gone into the stage, and they started his skit.

“Grams! Look at this! I did this LONG CALL PHONE!” said Joshua, or better Spotty, being very sweet and innocent, but in fact, looking a little mischievous.

“Wow! Nice one, Spotty!” said Mimi.

“Now I want to test this with you, Grams Mimi! You’ll stay here, I’ll get there! And I’ll say: ‘Ring Ring!’ And you’ll say: ‘Hello!’ Then I say: ‘I have a message to you!’ And you say: ‘Let me have it!’“ said Spotty, giving one of the fake cellphones to Mimi

“Right Right!” said Mimi

But then, when Spotty got away to his place, Mimi gone behind him.

“Oh, no, Grams! You stay there!” said Spotty, pointing to where in the stage they had. “And I’ll be here, and I’ll say: ‘Ring Ring!’ And you’ll say: ‘Hello!’ Then I say: ‘I have a message to you!’ And you say: ‘Let me have it!’“ said Spotty

“Oh, right right! said Mimi, going to there, being pushed by Spotty.

Then the same thing happened and Spotty said again.

“Grams! You stay there!” said Spotty, pointing to where in the stage they had. “I’ll be here, and I’ll say: ‘Ring Ring!’ And you’ll say: ‘Hello!’ Then I say: ‘I have a message to you!’ And you say: ‘Let me have it!’“ said Spotty

Then Mimi gone for the place where they were and stayed there. Then Spotty did, very sweetly:

“Ring Ring!”

“The telephone you called has been…“ said Mimi, and then Spotty started to gone angry

“Oh no! Grams, you’re ruining my experience! Remember. I’ll say: ‘Ring Ring!’ And you’ll say: ‘Hello!’ Then I say: ‘I have a message to you!’ And you say: ‘Let me have it!’“ said Spotty angry

“Alright, alright!” said Mimi, nonchalantly

Then Spotty did, a little less sweetly:

“Ring Ring!”

“Hello!” said Mimi, very sweet

“I have a message to you!” said Spotty, on a sweet and somewhat mischievous tone.

“What? The calling is not good…“ said Mimi, like the phones were bad.

And then Spotty looked to her, very angry!

“You should had said ‘Let me have it!’“ said Spotty, pouting angry

“What?!” said Mimi, like she was not hearing

“‘Let me have it!’“ said Spotty, angry

“What?!” said Mimi, like she was not hearing

“‘LET ME HAVE IT!’“ said Spotty, stomping his feet while almost getting into a tantrum

“Why didn’t you said it before?” said Mimi, releasing the phone and releasing the rubber string, which made the phone gone and hitting Spotty straight into his head, that looked silly and astonished and faked a little crying.

“You mean granny!” screamed Spotty while getting out the stage with the cellphone in a hand, the other going pushed by the string, Mimi getting out also. The crowd was roaring in laughter and cheered and clapped hands a lot for both.

“Wow! It was amazing!” said Brick-a-Brack “Never saw Ring Ring being so well done. It’s a classic skit and doing this on a different way is an art. You did very well.”

“Thanks!” said Joshua, when he looked and saw that Mrs. Wilson was very tired.

“Is your heart?” said Joshua, looking worried

“A little… This is a very strenuous thing for me… The next skit will be easier for me.” said Mrs. Wilson.

The clowns gone and did each their skits, and it was when they would do their next skit, I’m a little teapot!

Mimi got to her chair and then Spotty came with the slingshot ready to shot something:

“Spotty! Stop!” said her, before he shot a little lamp in a table. “You’re a so messy kid sometimes! I need to teach you some manners!”

“Manners? But I’m a well behaved kid!” said Spotty

“And well behaved kids tries to slingshot things? I don’t think so!” retorted Mimi, and Spotty looked sad. “Now now, don’t be sad. Tell you what, let us do a little funny thing. Had you ever heard ‘I’m a little teapot’?”

“No, grams!” said Spotty

“Okay… I’ll show you, and then I want you to try it.” said Mimi

“Alright!” said Spotty.

Mimi lifted from her chair and started to sing:

“I’m a little teapot / Short and stout” said Mimi, squatting and doing like she was bigger than she was

“Here is my handle” she said, putting one hand on hip

“Here is my spout” she said, putting the other arm out with elbow and wrist bent

“When I get all steamed up / Hear me shout,” she said, puffing her cheeks like she was pouting

“Tip me over and pour me out!” she finished, lean over toward spout “Do you think you can do this, Spotty?”

“I think I can do…“ said Spotty and started…

“I’m a little teapot / Short and stout” said Spotty, squatting and doing like he was bigger than he was

“Here is my handle” he said, putting one hand on hip

“Here is my…“ he said and looked like he forgot what he had to say, and then he said “handle.”, putting the other hand in the hip

“No no no…“ said Mimi sweetly. “It’s the spout… Not another handle.”

“Alright, grams…“ said Spotty “Let me try again.”

“I’m a little teapot / Short and stout” said Spotty, squatting and doing like he was bigger than he was

“Here is my handle” he said, putting one hand on hip

“Here is my…“ he said and looked like he forgot again what he had to say, and then he said “handle.”, putting the other hand in the hip

“Oh, no no no!” said Mimi, a little angry “It’s the spout… Not another handle.”

“Alright… I’ll try it again.” said Spotty

“I’m a little teapot / Short and stout” said Spotty, squatting and doing like he was bigger than he was

“Here is my handle” he said, putting one hand on hip

“Here is my…“ he said and looked like he forgot what he had to say, and then he said “spout.”, putting the other hand in the hip

“Alright…“ said Mimi, growing worried “You did the song okay… But you’re still doing another handle, not a spout!” she said, exasperated

“Alright… I’ll try it a last time.” said Spotty

“I’m a little teapot / Short and stout” said Spotty, squatting and doing like he was bigger than he was

“Here is my handle” he said, putting one hand on hip

“Here is my…“ he said and looked like he forgot what he had to say, and then he said “spout.”, putting the other hand in the hip

“Stop stop stop, STOP!” said Mimi, exasperated “What are you think are you doing, Spotty?”

“I think…“ said Spotty, like he dawned something “Grams, I’m not a teapot! I’m a sugar bowl!” whined him.

The crowd gone “Aaaawwwwnnnnn!!!” when Mimi gone and huffed Spotty’s hair, and they got out the stage.

“It was so sweet.” said Brick-a-Brack. “People loved you. Now, rest you because there’s the grand finale dance!” she said for them both.

Joshua passed the squeeze bottle for Mrs. Wilson and she took a big gulp.

“It’s a little hot here.” said Joshua “Maybe you should take at least your wig by now.” he said.

“No problem kid… I came from Florida. It’s not that hot here.” she said “I just need to take some rest before the dance and playing at the end…“

Joshua took some water and looked for his kazoo instruments. The other clowns looked for Mimi and they were as worried as Joshua were. But Mrs. Wilson grew better as she had some rest.

It was then the last pair finished their Dead and Alive! skit and Brick-a-Brack started to give the certification, by saying the common and the clown name of each one. After Josephine Lawrence, Rosie, Brick-a-Brack said:

“Joshua McCarthy as Spotty the Clown!” said Brick-a-Brack, and Joshua entered, walking zanily as Spotty the Clown and greeting the audience that cheered and clapped for him, while Brick-a-Brack gave him his certificate and a little button from the World Clown Association and other from the local clown alley. “Now you’re a full-fledged clown!” she said, while pinning the buttons at Joshua clown jacket and shaking his hand funny.

Joshua had stayed in the other side of backstage, looking clown after clown receiving their certificates, when Brick-a-Brack said “Tammy Wilson as Mimi the Clown!” and Mimi gone, as the last one. She received her certificate and put it into her purse, while Brick-a-Brack took her baton again.

It was the code for all the clowns gone back to stage and started to do the mischievous and funny dances and playing their kazoo instruments, funnily enacting silly and funny musics until they ended with Gangnam Style, while Spotty and Mimi did a little trick by pulling Brick-a-Brack’s gloves, that extended, both of them looking like it wasn’t just her gloves, but her arms, where growing, until the gloves ran out and they fell silly in the floor. The crowd roared and this finished the presentation. Everyone clapped while starting to get out the theater and the clowns bowed for the crowd.

The clowns looked exhausted, but there was some cleaning to do, although the skits didn’t used too much messy things. Some of then passed a broom to clean everything. Joshua took some of the props and put into the bags each one had placed for them in the backstage. Mrs. Wilson was resting, as she was exerted herself too much in the last gig.

After they finished cleaning the theater and put everything in the bus they had located toget back the hotel, Brick-a-Brack asked for a photo with all the new clowns, and it was a funny photo where Joshua, or better Spotty, got his head over Mimi’s lap, all the other clowns circling the Clown school logo making silly stances.

“Now, let us go for the restaurant for a confraternization!” said Brick-a-Brack

“What? This way? On clown?” said Joshua

“Right! It’s no shame to go this way with a bunch of clowns!” said Brick-a-Brack, smiling “And I think you’re hungry, as all of us. Any issue?”

“No, not at all.” said Joshua “I think I can go as Spotty for the restaurant.”

“That’s the spirit.” smiled Brick-a-Brack, while they got to the restaurant.

In the restaurant, Brick-a-Brack gave some silly stuff for some informal awards between the clowns from the class. Joshua received a good skit book as “Cutest Little Clown from the Class” award, and he and Mrs. Wilson a CD with silly music each as “Cutest Clown Couple from the Class” award. Everyone had received an Award or another, and they had an incredible time with delicious food, soft drinks and lots of laughter.

When they got back to the hotel, they were all exhausted, but needed to clean themselves to go to sleep. Joshua undressed himself at the bathroom and got back with a robe and his clown clothes to put them back in the trunk.

When he got back, he saw that Mrs. Wilson was not feeling good.

“Mrs. Wilson?” said Joshua

“Joshua, please, gave me my med.” said Mrs. Wilson, almost without strength.

Joshua took a capsule from a little bottle and she put it below her tongue.

“Maybe you should go for the doctor.” said Joshua

“I don’t think I need.” said Mrs. Wilson, a little reticent.

Joshua didn’t thought too much.

“Pretty Please!, mistress Wilson, you’re not that good. I’ll put my clown clothes again and we’ll take a taxi to get you to the hospital.” said Joshua

She felt a little weird, but smiled when she noticed what happened:

“You used your power on me?” said Mrs. Wilson.

“Yup.” said Joshua “Sorry doing this, but…“ he said, while hastily redressing himself into his clown clothes.

“No problem, kid. You’re right.” said Mrs. Wilson, a little weak “I’ll need you to support me.”

He supported Mrs. Wilson to get out the room, and it was when Brick-a-Brack saw them.

“She’s not well.” said Joshua “We need to get her to hospital now.”

“I’ll drive you, my car is near and is comfy.” said Brick-a-Brack running for the hotel parking lot. When Joshua and Mr. Wilson got at the Hotel entrance, Brick-a-Brack came with her colorful SUV. Mrs Wilson got in one of the back seats, Joshua run to got in the other and place her head over his lap.

“Okay, let’s go!” said Joshua.

They got very soon in the hospital and called for the stretcher, that came soon.

“She was almost without strength. Looks she has heart issues. I’m his roommate in the clown school.” said Joshua

“I’m the Clown School teacher.” said Brick-a-Brack.

“Looks like she’s having a potential heart attack: you did well by bringing her soon. This will easy everything. Just wait a little here and I’ll came soon with news.” said the doctor

Joshua gone for the vending machine and chose a hot cocoa for him while waiting. When he was to put the money, Brick-a-Brack took a dime and put on the machine.

“It’s up to me, kid.” said her, while the cup dropped and was filled by the vending machine.

Joshua took the cup and thanked for it, while she took a latte for herself

“I never had breakthroughs into my classes before. Or at least not after undergone the breakthrough.” she said “It was fun, and you helped and learned a lot. I like this on kids.”

“Thanks, but it was another guy that talked me to do this.” said Joshua “I want to make kids happy with this. I know some common guys that clowns at refugees camps at Africa and sounds like a good way to put my powers in use.”

“I understand.” said Brick-a-Brack “I had a good friend that tried to origin chase, and almost killed herself with a gun. Now she’s blind and trying to live as a teacher and audiobook actress.”

“Oh… Sor…“ would say Joshua

“Don’t be sorry.” said Brick-a-Brack, condescending “You can’t control others’ destiny, no matter how powerful you are. But you can do good things, like you did with Mrs. Wilson. I knew she had heart issues: there’s on her subscription for the classes, it’s mandatory. But I didn’t believe she would be so stubborn… Your power helped us to get her for the doctor… Hope there’s no problem with her.” said Brick-a-Brack, when the doctor came back.

“OK. Bad news is: she’ll be checked in for observation. She looks like having a heart condition and we need to double check things as much as we can. So, she’ll be here at least for two days. Good news is: you had brought her here very soon. She was growing into a potential heart attack, but now she’s more stable. She’s conscious and lucid, but tomorrow we’ll do an angioplasty and some extra exams. Could you tomorrow bring her clothes? And also contact her family.” said the Doctor.

“I’ll bring her clothes tomorrow.” said Joshua

“And I’ll contact her family ASAP.” said Brick-a-Brack.

“Alright.” said the Doctor “There’s nothing you can do by now. Go back home and take some rest. Tomorrow we’ll have good news, and maybe you can visit her.”

They got back the Hotel, and Brick-a-Brack said “Where do you go sleep tomorrow? You’ll need to check-out the Hotel.”

“I’ll take some more days in the hotel by my own. I still have some spare money and I’ll exchange my plane tickets to Geneva.” said Joshua.

“If you want, I have a spare room at my home. You can use it for some days.” said Brick-a-Brack

“No, I don’t want to…“ said Joshua

“You’ll not give any trouble.” said Brick-a-Brack, and Joshua nodded, accepting her offer

Joshua closed the clown trunks for Mimi and his own for Spotty, after undressed and taking a good bath after cleaning his makeup. He then put a pyjama and slept.

Next day, Mrs. O’Mara joined him after the breakfast to put their trunks, his and Mrs. Wilson’s, and bags into her SUV, and then they gone for her house. The house was not too big, but it was comfy and remembered Joshua his own, that the Humanity First supporters arsoned. Some tears rolled from his eyes.

“What happened?” said Mrs. O’Mara.

“This remembered my old house.” said Joshua, drying his tears

“Your old house?” said Mrs. O’Mara

“Yup…“ and he talked about how the rioters from Humanity First had arsoned his house, and how they almost killed his family and his friends’ ones, and how he was painted as a crazy kid.

“Wow…“ said Mrs. O’Mara “And now…“

“And now we are living at Geneva, and my parents were even thinking on stay there definitively. We like US, but we can’t think we could live here anymore. I felt weird that people didn’t knew about me in the Clown School after all the media coverage in the process I had. My private identity was fumbled, and I know that everyone that follows capes knows now that Joshua McCarthy IS Jiminy Cricket.” said Joshua, finishing some chocolate milk and cookies that Mrs. O’Mara served over the table.

“Need to say: some of them did. I know some of the other clowns knew you are Jiminy Cricket before you said.” said O’Mara “However, you and your parents should have more faith in people. I know that you had suffered with all that Paladins and Humanity First crap, but there’s lots of people that supports capes. I know that there’s crazy people that lost their own in catastrophes and gone crazy, even without going breakthrough. But people, sooner or later, understand a maximum from the old comics: heroes aren’t gods. They can do lots of things common people can’t, but even they can’t do everything. Only God could do this, and I don’t think that any breakthrough could go God, as long I heard about some that says this.”

“I know…“ said Joshua

“You’re a good kid, and God had pushed you a lot, but as far I saw you’re like bamboo, not like oak. The oak is strong and the wind can’t bend it, but a great enough wind could take it, roots and all, from the ground and send him away and with this, make it wither and die. The bamboo, otherwise, looks feeble and fragile, and even the a gentle breeze bend it a little. However, no matter how strong a wind is, the bamboo will bend, but never snaps or flew away. The bamboo stays strong into its roots and never, ever breaks.” said O’Mara.

“So…“ said Joshua

“You’ll never break.” said Mrs. O’Mara “You’re a whole kid. You’re not Joshua McCarthy OR Jiminy Cricket OR Spotty the Clown. You’re them all as a whole. You are a fortunate kid because, thanks your breakthrough, you understood your life mission. Some people take years to understand this.” she said, sipping her coffee “I myself had took some time before goes for the Ringling Bros Clown College: I had gone for College before seeing that a 7-11 life was not for me. And I rose my kids into the circus, even none of them staying on circus. And then came the Event.”

She said drinking the Coffee:

“I have saw lots of breakthroughs, as my son is in the Army, and some of them were creepy. I had read Barlow’s to understand what was happening, and I know that almost all breakthroughs had undergone some kind of life-threating experience, beside those who had undergone some epiphaniac event, like Chakra. I don’t know what happened to you to had undergone breakthrough, and it’s not my concern, but need to confess that somewhat I feared breakthroughs until know you. If there’s a kid like you in the world, there’s hope for good living between common and breakthrough people.” she said, then looked to Joshua, who was very pensive “Sorry, I didn’t want to bother you…“

“No, you’re right.” said Joshua “I myself had saw many creepy breakthroughs, like the psychotic ones that used origin chasing drugs and shattered their minds, and some supernaturals that emulates bad myths like the vampires. And even for us they were creepy. I hope that my job can help people understand that we are not different: there’s no breakthrough gene. Anyone, given the right circumstances, can go breakthrough.”

Mrs. O’Mara gave the same sweet smile Joshua loved when she was Brick-a-Brack and said: “Hope you’re right, Joshua. So, after you put your things at guest room, let us go see Mrs. Wilson.”

“Alright.” said Joshua, pushing his cellphone “I’ll just call my parents and my team leader and explain them I’ll take some more time here.”

After calling home and explained what happened, Joshua got to the hospital with Mrs. O’Mara and looked for Mrs. Wilson room.

“Hi, kiddo. Looks like you’re right, I should had came before.” said Mrs. Wilson.

“How are you?” said Joshua

“Not too good, but it could be worse: I was in the process to get on an heart attack. It was diagnosed as an angina crisis and now need to get rest and meds, after the angioplasty. My son said you asked them, Michelle?” said Mrs. Wilson

“I could not avoid this: medical order. Your things are at my home: Joshua here brought them there.” said Mrs. O’Mara

“Now… Joshua, I know you are a cape, so, you can go now back your team. They need you.” said Mrs. Wilson

“I’m okay: my team is still on bench, I can take some more days here.” said Joshua, when they heard something weird. Then Joshua felt the familiar feeling when his Bellax Analytica was alerting him about danger by showing him what would happen.

“Mistresses, stay here. Looks like something is wrong, I can feel it with my power. Stay here and be quiet… I’ll see what’s happening.” whispered Joshua.

Joshua gone a little away from the room and saw two guys under hoods and black clothes, pistols in their hands.

“Alright kid, hands up and no fun…“ said one of them, pointing to him

Chapter 11

“The professional villains are not bad at all, as they play by the unwritten Rules about not engage on you when civil and so. Those really pesky are the Thrill ones. Many of them aren’t even breakthroughs, but common people ‘playing villain’ trying to ‘make a name’ by a ‘tag’, a fight against a cape. The biggest problem is: if you play light, they can hurt other people. If you play strong, you can hurt them. It’s never a good thing to be against thrill villains, even more if they know who you are.”

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

“Alright, I surrender.” said Joshua, just raising his hands. “But don’t do anything against the women at that room: one of them is still convalescing herself from a heart condition and need rest and peace.”

Joshua could easily make them do this via his Pretty Please!, but he chose to hold his trumps by now: they should not discover, as much as he could, that he was a cape.

“Okay, kiddo, but no funny moves!” said the other guy, that looked meaner, Joshua read by their eyes. “Let’s see the women, and you’ll say them to not mess with us.”

Joshua got back to the room and both Mrs. Wilson and O’Mara looked worried when they saw Joshua with those guys pointing pistols to his back, his hands lifted.

“Mistresses, those guys are…“ was saying Joshua.

“We are from The Pure God Work Fraternity.” said the first of them, they showing themselves, the weapons at Joshua’s back “The kid here said us to not do anything against you, and he was wise enough to surrender at once, so we’ll do this as a favor for him. But no funny things.”

“You heard them, so Pretty Please!, stay calm. Everything will be okay.” said Joshua, lacing discreetly his talk with his Pretty Please! to assure they should stay calm and doesn’t make any mistake.

“Alright, kiddo, you had your talk. Now move!” said the meaner guy, pushing Joshua while they closed the door.

Joshua was a little worried: no matter how calm they would be, he didn’t put their into a Pretty Please! to not talk about the situation to outsiders. He knew that Police sooner or later would be there, but for Joshua, or better, for Jiminy Cricket, later would be better, as he could try to juice intel about those guys.

He was pushed to the hospital entrance and said to sat in the floor with the other hostages:

“Now, hands back your neck, and no funny moves.” said the meaner one. He saw at least other eight armed people, all of them using Celtic Crosses into a layout that Joshua recognized while doing some hastily intel gathering:

“Neo-nazi… Probably anti-breakthrough too… Or maybe just anti-non-aryan-breakthroughs. All of them armed, but only two armed enough to deal with capes, military grade weapons and ammo. But looks like all of them are armed well enough to stop non-brick breakthroughs like me. And one of them…“ said Joshua, looking for one of the guys, that looked a little meeker than the others, but was using a notebook linked with a device that looked like an external HD.

But then Joshua remembered one of the gizmos Dumont made he always carry with him: he made a little glasses box fell in the ground from his pocket while sitting in the ground.

“Hey, kid! No move!” said a third guy, one that was with a heavy machine gun and looked very strong and mean.

“It’s my prescription glasses, sir, sorry. Hope there’s no problem.” said Joshua, hoping none of them had any information about him. If one of them was a little clever or a hero follower, he would be doomed.

Joshua put the old-fashioned pair of glasses and looked around: those glasses were called by Dumont Tesla Flux Level Detector, or, in layman terms, Field Detector. By using this, Joshua could detect some weird energy flows that could show if there was any unconventional energies, like created by some Vernetech fields or similar.

And it paid the profit: Joshua faked looking around astonished with the guys and noted that the HD-like thing was generating some kind of energy field. “I don’t think they are trying to jam cellphone signal. Looks like they are a combo of Cause and Thrill Villains, so they want everyone outside know their demands and maybe some manifesto. Maybe a ‘normality’ field? If so, one of them is a Verne or has contact with one to provide him the generator.” he thought

Normality fields were a recently discovered Vernetech tech that some Vernes uses to restrict somehow the region to be accessed by breakthrough powers like teleporting or via Hypertime by Speedsters. It doesn’t work against Atlases or Ajaxes, as they just run against the field like anyone else, and are imperfect, but no one would try to pass it if can avoid: it’s known that a Normality Field clash is very painful for those who suffers it. So, Joshua should not take for granted a super-rescue involving Speedsters or Jumpers.

“Alright… So look like those guys are not new kids on the block. But how I didn’t know about them? If they were so good, probably they already did something big and HSF would have some intel… Or maybe DSA or CIA or FBI treat them as a domestic problem. They also could go low profile and this is their first real big gig. Okay, let us try to milk some intel.” thought Joshua, faking being just a little fearful kid.

“Mister, who are you? I was just visiting a friend! What you want?” whined Joshua

“We are The Pure God Work Fraternity.” said a fourth guy, who looked more haughty than the others below his mask: he was using a khaki uniform with their symbol over his right arm, look like their leader.

“So Nazi, So Cliche!” thought Joshua.

“We are looking for freaks. The government knows how and who they are, like those swine Jews and Muslims: the government knows and just do nothing. They took our houses and jobs and money and real Americans are suffering. Those chicanos are hiding themselves as capes, and the government knows.”

“Okay… Nazi-like propaganda speech, check.” thought Joshua while he said “And why here?”

“We heard there’s some of those freaks in this hospital: looks like some of them are being treated here. We want them. As soon we put him under God’s Justice, we’ll free you. And the world will know that God is with us: the Real Americans, the Pure God Work, will be the only allowed to be supermen.” said the leader.

Joshua then avoided to gulp: he was one of their targets, without their knowledge.

“If those freaks doesn’t show themselves, I’ll use some bomb to deal with it.” said the leader “No more swine with powers!”

“So, they are trying some kind of ethnic cleansing against non-American breakthroughs.” thought Joshua, when he heard the police coming.

“Sir, they came.” said one of the guys with the bigger weaponry.

“Alright. Place the bomb. Take all the Americans and left behind those that doesn’t look American.” said the leader

Joshua could wait or hide no more: this would be a massacre, Joshua chose to do something.

“Sir, you’re wrong with something.” said Joshua “I’m a breakthrough.”

“What?!” said the leader “You? A kid? Don’t make me laugh!”

“Search for Jiminy Cricket in the Internet.” he said.

It was a risky gambit the one Joshua was playing, but it was what he could do by now.

“Sir!” said the one in the notebook “It’s true! He’s Jiminy Cricket, from Herós Sans Frontières!” he said, showing the photos from the judgement, and the one showing him crying against the tree.

“So… You’re that brat that avoid some cleanse from our Humanity First brothers…“ spat the leader

“They destroyed my house and tried to kill my family!” said Joshua, playing the spoiled kid card.

The slap he felt on his face was really strong.

“Shut up, kid! We should kill you here and now! But I think you’ll be useful before receiving your deserved justice.” said the leader guy, when Joshua heard the police outside saying

“Here’s police! Get out with hands up! You’re surrounded!” said the Police.

“Now, kid, do as I say, or everyone here will die!” said the guy “Hey, Paul, this brat has any useful power?”

“He’s not an Atlas or Ajax, so forget firepower… But he’s a Mastermind: he has some kind of tactical analysis power and mind bending powers!” said Paul, reading the internet available profile.

“Now, kid, say us how much of them there’s outside!” said the leader

Joshua did as they said, using his Bellax Analytica to reveal the positions:

“They have four squads, all military grade armed, and four snipers, all of them C-Class Speedsters.” said Joshua. “If you try anything…“

“I think you should be the one worried here. Paul, how much for you shield?” said the leader

“Sir, 55% available. I’ll tunneling it through our Normality Field. We can go undetected if you don’t…“ said the meek Verne

“Shut up and do the shield and portal, dammit. If you’re so weak a breakthrough, even a swine like this brat could deal with you.” said the leader. Joshua felt him holding his weapon against his head side. “Now, you’ll negotiate with them for us… As an incentive, those women in that room are your responsibility. Mac, Donovan, if something happen wrong, go to that room and kill them!” said the leader for the two guys who came with Joshua.

“Gosh… Now I’m in real trouble. The guy is so deluded that if I try Pretty Please! him I will just make things goes even worse!” thought Joshua.

“You’ll use your powers against the police. You’ll make them gave us weapons, money and a helicopter. Remember: all those people here in the Hospital are your responsibility: if they try anything against us, your hand will be blood-soaked with them.” said the leader.

Joshua tried his best to stay calm under this pressure, and his training under Cajun helped.

But the leader looks like doesn’t know how Joshua Bellax Analytica worked. His mind was overclocked now, looking for a way to get out of this with minimal causality, as by the Rules of Engagement.

“Hey, Police! We have a friend of you with us, and he’ll be our negotiator!” said the leader, cackling, pushing Joshua to the door in his front, using him as meatshield for any sniper.

“Who is you, kid?” said the operation commander.

“I’m Joshua McCarthy, capename Jiminy Cricket!” said Joshua “They have lots of hostage here, and they’re…“ was saying Joshua when the leader of the guys muted him with his hand.

“Now, guys, it’s very simple: our little friend here said you have snipers. So, the first BANG we hear, you’ll hear a lot of them here, enough to make OK Corral looks like Disneyland.” said the leader

“He isn’t blabbing: he’s arrogant enough to turn this into a bloodbath if needed.” thought Joshua, while his mind was going into his Bellax Analytica.

“Okay, chap… But first, some exchange: I want some of your hostage freed now.” said the commander

“Deal: one hostage per sniper.” said the leader of the Fraternity “And no playing games with me: this kid here will say me if you didn’t did as I said.”

The leader chose four of the hostages in the hall and send it outside.

“And now, your snipers.” said the leader

“Alright.” said the police commander

“And another thing: no capes, the kid here will say me if you try to mess with me!” said the leader for the commander. Then he looked for Joshua and said. “And now, kiddo, they did what they said?”

“Yes. They removed the snipers.” said Joshua

“Now, negotiate our escape… And remember: those two women will talk with Saint Peter if you fail.” he said

“Alright. No more snipers!” said the police commander “And now?”

“Use your power now, kid, and ensure we have what we want.” said the leader

It was when Joshua saw a good way out of this…

“Pretty Please!, those guys wants some money, a helicopter and weapons, and also a way to get out the hospital. Gave them what they want and everything will end well!” said Joshua, feeling nauseated inside by what he was doing notwithstanding.

The commander felt the compel Pretty Please! induced.

“Okay, but I want some extra hostages!” said the commander.

“Right, right!” said the leader non-chalantly. “Everyone healthy enough, get out!”

The hostages got out, and Joshua felt his Bellax Analytica showing on a good route for this when a small school bus came for, a police officer getting out of them.

“There’s money, weapons and the helicopter keys in the bus.” said the commander

“If you do any weird move or follow us, this kid will die! There’s also a bomb in the hospital, linked with myself. If you try to knock me out or kill me, the bomb will explode.” said the leader.

“Alright, alright!” said the commander, nonchalantly

“Go, kid!” said the leader, pushing Joshua front of him “Paul, shut down the field, we’re getting out!”

“But sir!” said the meek Verne.

“Shut the f— shield up!” said the leader.

Joshua was thinking on this situation, as they got over in the bus, himself always under the gunpoint. They started to follow the directions in the map to get to a heliport nearby… Looked like they had got away unscathed, with a juicy morsel of a “freak kid” for their hate sacrifice…

When the local capes acted.

The first signal of their action was when they felt a sonic BOOM explosion below the bus lifting it in the air: Joshua held himself at the chair, his Bellax Analytica showing hte event just a split-second before it happened, while the leader could not do this because his pistol. The man tried to shot Jiminy, but the movement made him friendly fired one of his own!

“Paul, the f—ing field!” said the leader, in pain, when the bus stopped to barrel roll

“No time!” said the meek Verne “There’s a time to engage the Normality Field!”

“Now, kid, you’re toast!” said the leader, trying to shot Joshua with his pistol, but Joshua was in advantage.

He saw his position using Bellax Analytica and gave a Chasse Italien, a Savate kick straight between the leader legs. He took the leader’s cane as a weapon to deal to one of the shooters, hitting him straight behind his knee, with strength enough to make him kneel in pain. He felt a teleporter that looked also a Dragon, kicking the shooters, and an Atlas that took the leader guy and bend a steel bar around him. Joshua looked for the Verne guy that booted up his notebook and he felt the cane he took was in fact a swordcane, unsheathing it. Joshua then took the cane from the sword cane and used the cane to hit the man in the hand. cutting the cable that linked the notebook to the Normality Field Generator with the swordcane blade.

“Not today.” said Joshua, pointing the sword into the Verne guy neck. “Now, don’t try anything weird!”

“You would never do this! You’re a little goody two shoes!” said the Verne guy

“Are you sure?” said Joshua, advancing the sword just a little, just a small space between the sword tip and the guy neck. “You’re not professional villains. You violated all the Rules. If you have any problem with breakthroughs, you should go against them, in cape. Not go against them while on civil or against civilians, using them as meatshield. From the time you place my friends and all those people in risk, you forfeited the Rules, for good or ill.”

“Which Rules? Are you insane?” said Paul, crazy

“You should had read comics from the past: no villain goes against capes in civil, even when they are known. Looks like you knew I was a breakthrough.” said Joshua

“No! Just some people said us that a breakthrough was there yesterday!” said Paul.

“Anyway…“ said Joshua, when he felt a hot sting crossing his leg.

Someone shot him!

It was the leader!

He was so naive.

Joshua felt the blood getting out the hit and looked for the leader: he had a little Derringer-like weapon.

“You’ll save no one, kid! This is my victory!” said the leader, turning the gun against his head.

Joshua ignored the pain as much he could and run, thrusting the sword into a slash.

It was by just: Joshua cut the man hand back, enough to hit the tendons, the pain making him pointing the weapon to the ground, blood splatting the ground.

The local capes came: beside the Teleporter, there was an Atlas and guy that looked like a aerokinetic with some sound projection powers.

“Are you Jiminy Cricket?” said the Atlas

“Yeah…“ said Joshua, painfully going prone in the bus wreck

“I am Prop, leader of the local Guardians CAI Team. Police talked me about you. Colocation, care for him and send him back the hospital. This guy too.” said Prop, putting a Sandman bag over his head and removing the bar. “The others are already acquired and are okay. Me and Sukhoi will take them for the Police to br processed. Your action was well done.” said Prop looking Jiminy

“I thought on a way to make them get the Normality Field deactivated.” said Jiminy, in pain “So, they should believe they would have what they wanted. I knew that my Pretty Please! would worn out sometime after they got out the Hospital, and the policemen would be able to work a way to catch them out the Hospital.”

“You brat! You betrayed us!” said the Verne guy, and Jiminy put her tongue out for him “All those hostages…“

“… will be okay. We have a Speedster that had his breakthrough when he failed to disarm a bomb. Split/Second would not repeat the same error again.” said Prop “The bomb was disarmed just a little before Sukhoi did his Sonic Boom attack.”

Joshua was weak, feeling the blood loss.

“Colocation, take Jiminy. He needs help ASAP.” said Prop for the slim woman at his side. Joshua felt her putting himself into her lap and the void effect when you’re into a teleportation. As soon he got back to somewhere, he passed out.

Joshua had undergone a procedure to clean and close the bullet injury. Somehow the bullet didn’t hit tendons, bones or big veins, albeit there was a good loss of blood, so Joshua needed to be checked in for some days for a blood replacement. The hospital people were calmer, but the newsie movement was intense some days after the situation, even more after discovering Jiminy Cricket was there. Both Mrs. Wilson and O’Mara (and Mrs. Wilson’s parents) where oriented to not talk with the newsies, and so they did.

But they talked with Joshua a lot during that week of recovery for both Joshua and Mrs. Wilson (both in the same room, the doctors put). Soon they were cleared, and the local CAI team provided a black SUV to take them away. The teleporter, Colocation (real name: Susan Ma), was useful to provide some diversion so they could go to Mrs. O’Mara’s home to get all their things and got to the airport without the pesky newsies.

“It was so exciting!” said Mrs. Wilson happy somehow, that now had some stents on her left arm, looking really better. “Hope you always remember Mimi, Spotty!” said her.

“For sure. And remember: I’m not the teapot! I’m the sugar bowl!” said Joshua, smiling, after hugging her and seeing her go through the airport gate for her flight home to Florida.

“Now, Joshua.” said Mrs. O’Mara, looking for him “Are you sure there’s no problem to you get home without help?”

“No problem at all…“ said Joshua, limping on the leg he was shot, supported by the Jiminy Cane (there would still have some 2 days until everything got okay and he could remove the cast on his leg), when he looked to the TV.

The newsread showed the news: “REFUGEE CAMP ATTACKED!”

“Please sir, raise the volume!” said Joshua for the airport cafeteria owner.

“There was an attack for the Undying Caliphate against the refugee camp Roque Santeiro at Sierra Leone. The local cape forces repealed partially the attack, but some of the refugees were kidnapped…“ said the news anchor, when Joshua felt his cellphone ringing. It was Soldaire.

“Joshua, I know what happened to you, but need to know how ready you are to get back to the field?” said Soldaire “Be honest, because…“

“I know. Just saw the news. I think I’m 75% ready: I’m limping, but I think I can do the job at Dispatch and so.” said Joshua

“Where you are?”

“In the local airport: I’m to take a flight to NY and then back to Geneva.” said Joshua

“Forget Geneva. Go for NY and there someone will expecting you with some tickets for your flights to Freetown. We are taking your stuff with us. We are just going there now, I’m already in the Hercules. Go straight and try to get ASAP.” said Soldaire, while he could hear the noise of the turbo engines from the Hercules “In NY someone will provide you an epad with your briefing intel, except by any classified things, but need to say that things are growing hot very fast!”

“Roger. Anything I can help remotely, ask me.”

“Okay… We’ll try to get 1st class flights for you: I think you’ll need all the sleep you can until came to Roque Santeiro.”

“Okay. See you in Freetown.” said Joshua, hanging out.

“What happened?” said Mrs. O’Mara “Are you…“

“Yes… I’m going to that situation: I don’t know if I’ll fight the Undying Caliphate, but I can’t let people at Roque Santeiro helpless. They need Joshua McCarthy, they need Spotty the Clown, and they need Jiminy Cricket.” said Joshua.

Mrs. O’Mara looked to Joshua and said. “At least, can you take a selfie with me and sign a photo?” said her, smiling, taking her cellphone.

Joshua and Mrs. O’Mara took a selfie making goofy faces and she showed him a photo from his clown class. Before he took the flight, he signed the photo before getting through the Customs to go board his flight to NY.

“Good Luck, kid! Godspeed!” said Mrs. O’Mara while she saw the plane starting the takeoff procedure and looked to the photo.

In the photo, the graduation one, Joshua signed as “Joshua McCarthy, aka Jiminy Cricket, aka Spotty the Clown”

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