If anyone ever suggests you hide under a vehicle traveling down a rough dirt road? Don't. Really, trust me and just don't. I mean sure, it sounds like a good idea if you're an idiot. I'm not and it didn't. But you know that old rule about if it's stupid and it works? Well, it worked. And I even got away from my latest pursuers. For values of Got Away that only care about a lack of handcuffs and pointed guns. And not getting squished by the tires. Not values of got away that care about pain and agony and ruining the back of your favorite and only jacket. But I still got away.
So yeah, I got away and was forcing myself to walk along said dirt road after one too many rough spots dislodged me from my clinging spot. I found myself a cabin before the vile Daystar fled below the horizon. Joy of joys there was no car out front only a bare patch of dirt and gravel with hints of dripped car fluids. No lights on inside. Heck I couldn't feel anything electrical inside other than a weaker than normal household background buzz. Then again cabin out in the hills, I doubt it was packed with as many electrical circuits and appliances as a city home. Go mutant electric powers. Once again they give me the win.
Yeah. Lame rhyme. So get in line and sue me. Unlike the bank that got the latest hunting party on me this cabin had a bog standard mechanical lock. But a quick look around told me that people were just as stupid as I'd been trained to believe.
"People actually buy those fake plastic rocks? Please tell me there isn't a key in that. I don't want to buy Psy-freak's propaganda about normies..."
Yeah. There was a key. Boo stupid normie civilians. Can't you be just slightly more security conscious?
Please? I really don't mind picking locks. Even if I suck at purely mechanical locks... Yeah, on second thought keep believing that those stupid tricks for hiding keys work.
Thirty seconds of mumbling later I was inserting a key into the lock and opening the front door. Thirty seconds after that I was trying not to become Flombe o' Tonya.
Wait. Let me jump back I left out a few bits. After opening the compartment on the bottom of the fake rock I'd seen in multiple catalogs I had the idiot cabin owner's spare key. Now really, I didn't have any reason to expect trouble. Shall we count the reasons? One, I can feel the flow of electricity with barely any effort and this felt like a place where no one was home. Two, I've got eyes and they didn't see a car or bike or anything like that outside the place. The car drippings all looked old, just discolored dirt rather than damp puddles. Three, for all my mumbling I'd like to think I was reasonably quiet... Oh, I mean I have ears and I hadn't heard anything moving inside when I circled the cabin.
All things considered I think it was perfectly reasonable for me to be surprised by the sleeping girl when I opened the door. The girl in the easy chair who woke up and immediately panicked at the sight of harmless little me. Okay, fine, panicked at the sight of a battered, bruised, and probably rather feral looking me.
I may have been surprised but I'm not slow. I had a palm full of ball lightning which let me see little miss white bread schoolgirl in it's flickering light. But she beat me to the greeting.
"Get out! I'm not afraid to use this!"
I was raised by thugs. Even at their best the Barbed Helix was a rough group and threats are a perfectly valid form of greeting among thugs. No reason to panic. Just a call for negotiating the price of admission.
"Whoa now, let's not be hasty kid, you want to hide, I want to hide, we both want... the same..."
Why does a girl who looks like a middle class runaway have a can of pepper spray that big? Why does a middle class runaway have that kind of can of pepper spray? A can I recognize from a year ago when I was lucky enough to only get slightly singed by the accidental and unplanned spray-can flamethrower. How the hell did that kid get hold of that pint-sized OSHA violation?
"Are you insane! Spray can. Sparks. Ignition source. Flames. Burnable cabin. Need I say more?"
We glared at each other for a few seconds. With the way the fear had her eyes bulging wide open and her hand white knuckled and shaking I thought she just might risk it. Then slowly she lowered the aim so it was more towards my feet instead of my face.
"Just get out. Go now and I won't tell anyone I saw you."
I let out a slow breath and relaxed as the risk of sudden flaming doom became far less likely. Right. I know what you're thinking. Hey Tonya, how could a spray can freak you out when you didn't even blink at Bonpyre's firebombs just a few days before? You were thinking that, weren't you? Yeah, well shut the hell up! The Barbed Helix designed those things for him and I programmed the microcontroller that handled the timer, detonator, and LED display. We sold him a nice crate full of the electronics and a few chemicals. He was either still using those or he'd copied them down to the code in the controller. Once I knew that I knew I could backdoor it and that meant I knew I was safe. There's no backdooring a spray can. Not until some nice person decides to bring that awesome Internet of Things mindset to them and pops some cheap sub-cent processor on each can replacing simple valves with micropumps and compressors and sticks a USB socket on the side for charging. Which I shouldn't complain about since that sort of thing makes my life easier.
"Okay, easy, like I said. You're hiding. I want to hide. No reason... we can't..."
I made it about that far when my body realized the danger of flaming death had passed and decided I didn't need all that wonderful adrenaline anymore. Then my body noticed the blood loss from my scraped up back and suddenly as my vision started going black I felt like I was swimming. I'm pretty sure that was my when I made a graceful fall to the floor. Hey, I'm telling the story so I'm saying it was graceful. Do I tell you how to tell your stories?
Look, it's called shock and even we mutants can suffer from it. We're mutants not lumps of stone. Well, most of us aren't lumps of stone and I'm pretty sure even the ones who look like it aren't either. It would be pretty hard for them to actually, you know be alive and all that, if they were. So yeah. You can only make it so far running on adrenaline and stupid levels of stubbornness. Eventually your body decides the scared normie girl in front of you is safe just because she's not pointing the pint-sized flamethrower of agonizing death right at your face anymore. Then your blood pressure drops, your heart goes into overdrive trying to fix that, that screws up your blood flow, oxygen stops getting places you need it to go, and boom you fall to the ground and hope your body reboots before the real damage starts happening.
I didn't dream nor do I recall seeing a bright light. I just found I was slowly growing aware of the world again. The strangest details come forward first. I smelled strawberries. Really, that was the first thing I noticed. Not that the remains of my jacket and shirt were gone. Not that my hair was wet. Not even that I was resting on something almost soft. Heck, it took me a while to realize my back was stinging something fierce.
I greeted consciousness with a groan and got as a reply, "I'm not hiding."
I cracked an eye open and saw a tackle box sized first aid kit not but a foot from my nose. Opening my other eye I slowly noticed I was on top of a green sleeping bag.
"Try not to move. I'm still cleaning and bandaging your back."
"Thank you." What? I can be nice to people who are helping me. "Ow!"
Whitebread dropped a piece of gravel she'd plucked from my back with tweezers into a cereal bowl. Then with her other hand spritzed something cold where she'd plucked it from.
"Almost done Sparkler. I can give you an old coat and some food. But you should go before my uncle gets back. He's a cop."
"Uh-huh. I'm not Sparkler."
"He is. And he'll be back any time now and I saw you on TV."
"I hate that name. Call me Tonya, or Circuit Bender if you have to."
"He might even call one of the neighbors to come check on me. So you really should go."
"Bull. You're a runner, just like me."
"Shut up! I'm not a monster like you!" She tossed the tweezers down and turned that glare on me again.
"You're awfully loud for someone facing a monster. Guess that's why I just fried you and took what I wanted. Oh wait, I didn't. I stumbled on some runaway in the middle of her first break in and offered to share the– "
"Damn it, shut up! I told you already this is my uncle's place!"
"Really? The middle of the day and you don't have anything on? No even a cell phone?"
"I was tired."
"Fine, fine. So you dropped in a chair and slept in the living room with all the blinds drawn and your pack right next to the chair, but I suppose maybe you might just hate beds."
She just glared at me, "You want the rest of that junk out of your back or not?"
I know I've got a bit of an attitude but I'm not an idiot. I can reel it in when I need to, for years that was nearly every waking moment. I didn't miss being that asshole's little pet but freedom doesn't have to mean shooting off your own foot.
"Yeah. I don't suppose that kit has any antibiotics or hell even hydrogen peroxide in it? Infections suck."
"There's a spray bottle that says it's got antimicrobial stuff."
"Yeah, guess that will do. Hey, let's try this again. Hi, my name's Tonya." She plucked another bit of junk out of my back and for a while I wasn't sure if she'd say anything.
"Well Amanda, thanks for the first aid. It would be a nightmare trying to clean that out on my own and I can't exactly go to the ER." I shrugged, which was a mistake now that my body wasn't hiding the pain from me.
"Yeah. Well, maybe if you weren't..." Her voice drifted off and I decided to let her drop it this time.
"I don't suppose you've checked the place for food yet."
"How many times do I have to say it, this is my uncle's cabin."
"So, have you checked to see if your uncle left any food here the last time he visited?"
"Just canned and freeze dried stuff. He doesn't like to leave anything that might spoil between visits."
"So just how does," she'd pulled out the spray and I had to clench my teeth to keep from screaming. I swear that stuff stung more than the brush and road did. "Damn! Why the hell can't they make that stuff numb you. They've got to know it's going on cuts."
"Probably to encourage us not to get hurt again?"
"Yeah? Well screw them if that's why. Great, and now it's itching. Crap, forget safety this will drive me insane if it keeps up. Is there any burn spray in there? Look for something with a name ending in cane?" Thankfully she found another spray bottle before long. "Look, two, maybe three sprays. Just try to get as much of it as you can with that. Nasty stuff if you use too much. And try not to get any on yourself."
"Why not? None of this is prescription."
Something about Amanda had my lost puppy instincts going off. If Psy-bitch was still around I'd be trying to hide her or get her to run before she got kicked. Even if the t-shirt she offered from her backpack wasn't one I'd ever have picked on my own, sorry but I don't feel like advertising billion dollar brands for free, she'd offered it without even as much as asking me to leave again. If she stayed on her own she'd be nothing but shark bait.
"It's got lidocaine in it. Get it on your skin and it numbs it. Great if you've got a burn bugging you. Bad if it gets on fingers that need to do fine work. Oh, and get too much and it messes with your heart and lungs. Just because you can buy it easy doesn't mean it's safe." While I was doing the lecture thing she gave my back a couple sprays and the effect was almost instant. "Better. Much better."
I guess you can't pick a bowl full of crud out of someone's back and not feel merciful. Instead of trying to kick me right out again she offered to split her dinner with me. Canned beans, potato flakes, and juice boxes, truly the dinner of desperate teens on the run. They never tasted better than they did that day. It was a good half hour of peace while we both just ate. Once we'd finished off the food it was harder to put things off any longer.
"Look." I said while drying the dishes she washed, "Let's say I believe you and this is your uncle's place. You honestly expect me to believe he's going to leave you up here alone for days? We're both trying to hide, no point in lying about it, just give me a few days to heal up and I'll be out of your hair."
It was a perfectly reasonable request. Brat stared at me like I'd suggested... I don't know, take me shopping on her own cards and then double date with dorky boys. What? I don't know what normie girls do for fun with their besties. Hell, I don't even know if they really call each other besties or if that was more lies the TV told.
"Fine. Just..." She gave me the evil eye for a second then just shrugged. "Just don't cause any trouble."
"Do I look like I want trouble?"
"You're a terrorist! A super villain! Of course the infamous Kid Sparkler is looking for trouble!"
And the canned beans were back to tasting like canned beans. Overcooked canned beans. So much for budding camaraderie and discovering the joys of having a temporary bestie.
"If you keep using that name I'm going to retract my generous offer to help fix this place up."
"What?" Oh. Right. Of course she looks confused, I hadn't actually made the offer yet.
"You know, the offer I was just about to make. Like clearing the gunk out of this drain or fixing the grounding in this shack's wiring. Or the really annoying buzz in the lights in here."
"Huh?" She looked around and back at me, "What buzz?"
"Trust me, if you can feel electricity there's a really annoying buzz. If the light in here had been on I might have moved on to the next place. Or tried and collapsed halfway there. Have I said thank you for patching me up instead of shanking me yet?"
"Oh, good. Because I really prefer keeping my blood on the inside. Anyway, can you not use that name anymore? Just call me Tonya, people who patch me up get to use first names. Besides, I really, really hate that name. If you keep reminding me of life with that psychotic asshole I'll have to glare at you."
"You'll... glare at me?" She laughed. She actually laughed at me. At my joke. Yeah, it was definitely at my joke. "You've got to be the lamest super villain ever!" Fine, she was laughing at me.
"Good! I don't want to be a villain." Ugh, for a normie she was doing a really spot on version of Psycho Ass's You Just Said Something Ludicrously Stupid eye roll.
"You don't want to be a villain? Have you watched any TV lately?"
"I've kinda on the run, that and couch potato don't got together. And most TV sucks."
"They had an alert about you getting involved in a bank robbery."
"Did they happen to mention I was beating up the guy who was robbing the place? I'll take the way you're looking at me as a no." I grabbed another bowl to dry and sighed. "You give one officer a mild zap, less than a civvie stun gun even, and they totally ignore your helping the hostages escape and zapping the villain even worse."
"Maybe because you already crashed a drone on a police van?"
What was I supposed to say. That all things considered I'd do it again in a heartbeat? Well, do it again in a heartbeat and make sure recordings of their threat to murder me in cold blood were immediately leaked? Probably not what she wanted to hear. But I guess I could try.
"Uh-uh. Nope. Not a police van. A DHS: Metapower Response unit. Those fine thugs who do their best to live up to everything bad ever claimed about federal agents. And only after the head thug on scene ordered his guys to shoot me as soon as I surrendered to them. Hell, I even gave them more than enough warning to get out of the van. But do they ever mention any of that? No. Do they ever acknowledge I was the one to turn over the rest of the Helix to them? Hell no! If someone's trying to kill you there's no shame in hitting back and running!"
Oh great. I'd raised my voice, shouted really by the end and scared the normie. Er, and maybe the sparks dancing all over me had something to do with those bulging eyes. I took a few deep breaths and pulled everything back in.
"Look, I'm not trying to say I'm some perfect saintly little girl, I've done stuff, maybe just to stay alive and not get my head fried but still... I want to be done with it, finished, I don't want any of this. All I want to do is go home. Damn it, that's all I've wanted for years!
"If those assholes hadn't tried to assassinate me I'd have been willing to walk in and talk their ears off about every last thing I can remember ever seeing or hearing. But no, I wasn't nothing but a loose end to clean up. All I want is to go home, hug mom and dad, call my little brother a cute-twerp again, and maybe hopefully see my grandparents again while they're still around. Then if they want they can lock me up for the stuff I got forced to do."
"Yeah?" Amanda'd turned away mid-rant and I could barely hear her. "Yeah, well at least you've still got a home to run to. My own mother threw me out."
"Right. What kind of problem does a normie girl have? Mom walk in on you kissing your boyfriend?"
"No, she thinks I'm an evil freak--"
"Oh, so she walked in on you kissing your girlfriend."
"Can you just shut up for a few seconds and let me finish! She wouldn't even care about that anyway, not like she doesn't bring 'friends' over to stay every other night. No, I just saved her ungrateful life!"
I waited a few seconds for her to continue before asking what the heck she meant, "Huh?"
Amanda sighed, dropped the pot she'd been scrubbing back in the sink, and then disappeared with a pop. I'd barely noticed her behind me when she said into my left ear, "She threw me out because I'm a freak like you, satisfied now?"
After I quickly reabsorbed the ball of sparks she hopefully hadn't noticed me almost letting loose at her I gave her a well thought out reply. "Oh. Um. Oh."
With another pop she reappeared at her side of the sink and grabbed the pot again. "She's been ranting about people like us even before Copper Springs happened. So I hid it when I figured out I could do that a few months ago. Then a couple weeks ago some drunk ass hopped his car up on the sidewalk. I didn't even realized I'd grabbed her and jumped until we were on the other side of the street looking at his car wrapped around a tree."
"And she threw you out for that?"
"Didn't talk to me the rest of the way home, then started drinking and screaming and disowned me and told me to get out. Only way I have anything was jumping back right into my room later after she'd drunk herself asleep."
"Damn. At least the wackos after me are strangers." I looked around the place and back at her, "This place really your uncle's or did you just find it first?" That brought out the eye roll again.
"Yes it's really my uncle's. Last time mom got picked up because of her drinking he gave me a key and told me I could come out here if I ever needed to."
"Um. Really a cop?"
"Yeah. Investigates financial crimes."
"So I guess it might not be a good idea to offer to put some money on your cards, if you've got any, not if you don't want to have to tell him where it came from."
She blinked at me and I shrugged and grinned.
"Hey, the best fancy online tools are ones really truly bought and paid for. Hijacking someone else's servers has its place but when they spot you you're lucky if they just delete your files and slam the door you came in through. A little time not running and a good net connection and one thing I won't be is broke."
"Then why the hell are you here instead of a fancy hotel?"
"I said a little time not running and a good net connection. My laptop gave the ultimate sacrifice stopping a damn huge rubber bullet. Less lethal, hah, with the dent that thing left I would have been lucky to walk away with nothing more than broken ribs. Vindictive bastards."
"Uh, you did, you know with the drone..."
"Once. You hijack and crash one drone and nobody ever lets you live it down. Whatever, my offer to help out stands. I'm pretty good at household electrical repairs. What with being able to cheat and feel things out before tearing open any walls. The oven's probably just a loose connection, the light in here probably wasn't installed right, and something's up with the line in the living room wall. I can at least check and suggest what to do for anything we can't fix ourselves.
"Of course I suppose that stare might be you wondering how to explain this to your uncle. You could always say I arrived and was gone before you got here and you just found an anonymous note asking that he accept the work as trade for a night's shelter."
"Um, I'm pretty sure if they check they'll figure out we were both here."
"Or I guess if you had to you could play off the scary reputation the TV and MR thugs have been building. I showed up and you didn't want to upset the girl who could throw lightning around."
Amanda was at least decent enough not to immediately say yes to that option. Instead handing over the last pot from the sink.
"How about we decide tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow? Yeah, tomorrow's good." After all, tomorrow meant she wasn't still trying to toss me out tonight. I checked on the light even without an agreement. It would have kept waking me up otherwise. And I suppose it just felt like the right thing to do.
So yeah. That was how I ran into Amanda and a good thing too given how things turned out. But that's for another day.
This one has been percolating for about two years. Chronologically it comes between
Ice Cream, Part of Tonya On the RunA few brief notes: Tonya, aka Sparkler, aka Circuit Bender started off as a character for a role playing scenario that never really got anywhere. It was going to be a group of super powered teens who met up on post Marvel Civil War Earth. Each had their own reason to be on the run and when they found a space ship they fled Earth to try and make a go of things as a traveling band. Tonya would have used her mutant electrical manipulation abilities to operate a mix of synthesizers. A couple years ago I picked her up again and wrote a couple of short pieces. While the original setting was the Marvel Comics universe I've since decided to pull her out into an original one. This is set while she's still on her own. And yeah, at fourteen she's sarcastic and a little bitter. If you ever saw the other pieces you know why and if not it should become clear.and
Ice Cream, Part of Tonya on the Run
There are times you wonder what the hell you think you're doing. With the police officer I'd just s
Rough Draft: Trying to SurrenderDetective Montoya watched the street while sipping his coffee. A few minutes later he spotted FBI Agent McAllen and waved him over to his table. The two of them made some meaningless small talk over coffee while watching the sidewalk. Both of them had received the same email early that morning. Clearly it was intended to give them little time to prepare. Not surprising. Their contact was already claiming she'd been the target of an assassination attempt. Even with the short lead time they still were able to arrange for over-watch.. The Copper Springs incident mentioned is this setting's version of the event which set off the comics continuity Marvel Civil War. A few villains decided to hide out in the small town of Copper Springs over the winter and proved less than proper guests. Which sparked a response from the heroes that left people uncertain which side actually did more harm.
For the next quarter hour the only saw a stream of local business workers, a handful of college students, and a boy who was probably skipping high school. Lucky for the boy he had a bigger fish to catch. They were on their second coffees when a text came through on his phone.
'If you can't offer me safe surrender walk away. No hard feelings. Otherwise, order iced mocha and turkey sandwich.'
The drink and sandwich sat at the third seat for only a few seconds w