No Hands are Clean

Bonus chapter to book 1. 

Bonus Chapter: No hands are clean.

 

Set between Superhumanity chapter 20 and Wind & Rain story 1

 
 

Bonus chapter: No hands are clean.

 

There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.

Niccolo Machiavelli

 

Post office, Downtown Helena Montana,

August 16th 2012.

 

Janet unlocked the post office box and reached inside. A letter was there. It was addressed to her with a few hearts made of glitter on it. This would not be a notable occurrence to anyone, if not for the sender. The sender was handwritten in print as “you know who”. To Janet, it meant that this letter was not for her. It was for her ‘friend’. She put the envelope in her backpack and looked around. No one was around her. She left the row of boxes quickly and passed by the front desk. She smiled at Mr. Plumb, a skinny old man with a lighthearted smile. He smiled back and waved as she turned to the left and went out the door. When she got into her car, she quickly typed a message and started up the car.

 

Later that day, she was over at Winter Rose cafe on Lamar Ave, flipping through pictures on her phone. She was so engrossed with the selfies and other summer memories that she failed to notice someone sit down opposite of her. She deleted a blurry picture of an ex-boyfriend jumping into a lake from a boat, then she looked up. “Oh! I didn’t see you!” she almost shouted, sliding a bit in her chair, “How long were you sitting there?”

 

“Less than a minute. Just after I got this ginger tea," said Jamir. His almost completely black skin contrasted heavily with the white striped sunglasses he was wearing. He took a quick sip. “It’s not bad. So what do you got for me?” Janet slid the envelope over to him. Jamir looked at the letter and noticed the sparkly glitter on it.

 

“Why does it come with hearts?” asked Janet?

 

“Spies are less likely to open a letter if it doesn’t look important," calmly answered Jamir. “While there are not many people here, if anyone asked them, it would just look like you were passing me a love note.”

 

“That would be romantic, wouldn’t it?” asked Janet. She rested her chin on her hands. “To have someone to pass love notes to.” She fluttered her eyes.

 

“I guess. I’m still learning about these things,” replied Jamir as he picked up the letter. He shook it once. Nothing inside other than paper. “I hear American teenagers have something called a rom.”

 

Janet giggled. “Prom, Jamir. It’s called a prom. It’s a big dance to celebrate graduating high school.”

“I thought I was missing something.” He smiled as he opened the envelope and folded open the letter inside. He then frowned.

 

“What does it say?” asked Janet.

 

“It’s best if you didn’t know.”

 

“I wanna read it.”

 

“It’s in Arabic. You couldn’t read it even if you wanted to.”

 

“Oh, nuts. So you gotta do some Jason Bourne stuff now, right?”

 

“Jason Bourne?” Jamir was perplexed.

 

“Movie spy character.”

 

“Ah. I haven’t seen that movie. I just got caught up with Star Wars.” He got up from his seat. “It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Sorry to cut this short.” He put a ten dollar bill down by her receipt and a hundred dollar bill by her latte. She quickly scooped it up and noticed it had blood stains on the side.

 

“Why does your money always have blood on it?”

 

“Everybody in town asks me that. I just tell them, ‘I haven’t done the money laundry yet’ and they laugh.”

 

“That is pretty funny.” Janet looked down as she stood up. “I’ll see you around then.” But Jamir was already gone.



Helena EADI Facility, Workshop 4

2:00pm

 

The mood inside the workshop was tense as Jamir unfolded the large documents he pulled from a pocket universe. One one side of the table were the Darfur 3 team. On the other side was Roger and his roommate Tibbs, three students from around campus, and two adult heroes. Rocky was at a nearby table, attaching something with a screwdriver. Piles of metal parts were at one corner of his table.

 

“This is the target," said Jamir as he waved his hand around the building in the picture. It was a satellite photo of a large, cross-shaped building surrounded by woods and vegetation. A road led from the head of the cross and there were a few cars in the nearby parking lot. “Our president has ordered us to raid this building. Apparently, the Clean Hands movement is planning a coup d'etat against the government in Juba. They’ve been using the building as a storage site for weapons, hard currency, and supplies.”

 

“Why hasn’t the FBI or DHS done something about this?” asked Willy, one of the teenage supers. He recently joined the Darfur special ops team because he wanted to fight.

 

“The Clean Hands group has the ear of many politicians and they are quite careful," answered Roger.

 

“They’ve probably been bribing politicians all over the US," said Fallout, one of the adult heroes who also recently joined. He was wearing a nice costume with a red atomic symbol on the cape.

 

“So our president can’t turn to the US to stop them," said Soad. “We will have to do it ourselves.” Jamir rolled up the first large photo and put it aside. The next document was of a blueprint of the building.

 

“Our hackers were able to find this blueprint of the building. The main target we want to hit is the storage site at the back of the building," said Jamir as he touched the end of the cross. “We start there, plant charges, and then go into the building. Master Clyde thinks they might be holding a super with teleportation abilities- otherwise they would have built this place near a port.” He rolled up this document and set it aside.

 

“On the second floor,” started Jamir, who then drew a circle around an oval shaped building in the middle of the cross, “there has to be a holding facility. Otherwise the super would have teleported out. And there are lots of power cables running through there.”

 

{Power cables usually don’t show up on blueprints. It’s very odd,} transmitted Otunda to the group. {Bring up the next picture.}

 

Jamir rolled up this document and set it aside. The document in front of them was of various zoomed in spots on the building, indicating sensors, cameras, antennas, guard posts and probable locations of mines. “This was taken a day ago," said Jamir. “As you can see, they have done a good job securing the place. We can’t teleport directly inside without triggering these internal sensors.” He pointed to some white beige rectangles that were jutting out slightly from a wall. “But there are no sensors on the middle of the roof. Chucky- we will teleport 800 meters away. I will open a portal and toss Rocky’s drone through it. It will fall to the roof, and access the antenna box. This will give you access to hack and disable their sensors. After that, I’ll message Soad and the rest of you will teleport in, plant the charges and we’ll join you inside.”

 

“This toy robot looks cute on the outside,” teased Rocky as he put it on the table, “but watch out! He’s now got a laser guided bite!” On the outside, it looked like a standard furry white toy dog. On the inside, it had various gadgets that would allow it to communicate with Chucky’s tablet without getting spotted. Gadgets like a quantum communicator, a laser cutter in one of the eyes, an alien-made battery pack, and now it sported a parachute.

 

“It’s so cute, Rocky!” squealed LeeAnn. “I wish I could hug it!”

 

“I wish I could gag," whined Rocky. The adult heroes laughed.

 

Jamir smiled and continued. “We can’t use our standard powers, in case there will be an investigation. We will have to use our power-based guns and secondary powers. This also means that if any of us are too dead to be saved, we will destroy your body to keep questions from being asked. Understood?”

 

“Yes, sir," responded the gathered students and the adult heroes in an out-of-sync fashion.

 

“Alright- let’s go for a ‘walk’," Jamir sent the documents back to the pocket universe and the group started walking to the sliding door.

 

Chucky grabbed the drone and Rocky ran to get the remote control. The door slid open and the heroes, now super soldiers, walked out into the sunny day.

 

Clean Hands Movement secret base, 2000 meters away.

3:10pm.

 

{Tablet is ready, Major.} transmitted Chucky to Jamir. {My turn, then.} replied Jamir by mental link. He looked at the tablet to see the wind speed information, then opened a small portal and tossed the dog drone into it. Chucky and Jamir looked up and activated their Cursed Eyes ability. They ‘zoomed in’ through the trees to about where they figured the dog would be falling through. They saw it fall, but the parachute had not opened yet.

 

{Blast it, Rocky! I had a feeling this-  Oh, there it goes!} said Jamir. He changed his tune when the parachute opened up 15 meters from the ground. Chucky saw the drone’s data on his tablet.  

{Dog is on the roof. Systems are responding well. Walking the dog,} said Chucky.

{Make sure you pick up its poop. The city fines us when we don’t,} joked Jamir.

{But robo-poop is good for the environment,} replied Chucky. {At the box. Cutting.} A laser shot out of the dog’s right eye, cutting through the tough steel combination lock on the antenna box. A short time later, the lock fell to the ground. The antenna box door swung open and an Ethernet cable fired out of the dog’s mouth, connecting with the open port inside.

{I’ve got access,} said Chucky as he pressed buttons on his tablet. Soon after, he shut down the sensors and outside connections. He was going to shut down the cameras when he found an interesting feed. {Major! On the second floor, there are multiple holding cells! They’ve got many captives here.}

{Well, Lieutenant, this just got complicated. Anybody we know?} Jamir peaked at the screen, saw something in one of the feeds, and said to Chucky {That one looks familiar. Is she one of ours?}

 

{I’m not sure.} She almost looks like Saul back home. Didn’t he lose a daughter before he joined us?}

{Yes, he said he couldn’t find her one day after the shelling. Looks like he was being more honest than he imagined. They have the same nose.}

{Does this change our plans?}

{I’m thinking yes, but not by much. Anyway, it’s go time, as the Americans say.}

 

Back on the roof, a technician came up the stairs and opened the roof hatch. I bet some mouse ate the data line again he mused. He stepped up and saw the dog by the dog. How’d a dog get up here? One of the staff being lazy? He took a few steps and whistled. The dog did not move. He whistled again. The dog lurched and hopped to the right. Hmm, this dog doesn’t move like most dogs. He walked over to it and picked it up. “What’s wrong, doggie? Hey you’re not a dog!” purot! A shot from Chucky’s energy pistol went through his head, dropping him dead to the roof. Jamir and Chucky teleported over to the corpse, tossed the dog into a pocket universe, then teleported the dead tech over to the edge, above where Soad and her team are planting explosives.

 

Storage area, 3:20pm

 

Soad’s team finished planting explosives on everything they could find that was explosive or they thought was explosive. The room was very dark, and with just their flashlights they couldn’t quite see what they were doing. As such, they used twice more C4 than Soad had figured they would.

“That’s a lot of explosives," noted Soad as she stood guard by the door.

“When we blow up things boss, they blow up real good," loudly whispered Fallout as he put one more pack of C4 on a box in the corner.

“This is the last pack, boss," quietly said LeeAnn as she put it on top of a box of guns.

“I knew I shouldn’t have taken the whole box. Master Clyde is going to be displeased," Soad lamented as she looked around the room.

“Better safe than sorry, right?” asked the White Avenger, who like the others, were not in a heroic costume. They were wearing urban combat camouflage and gray nanofiber bulletproof vests and masks.

 

Jamir and Chucky teleported in soon after the last explosive pack was placed. Soad took out her remote and turned on the packs. “We’ve got 15 minutes to secure prisoners and exfil," Soad stated as she put away the remote.

“We’ve taken the security system offline," said Jamir, “and we disabled their cars. Remember the plan- no one gets out alive.” He raised his pistol and clicked the safety off. The other members did the same with their guns. The hallway door suddenly swung open as a staff member opened it. purotpurotpurotpurot! Fallout, Willy, Wind & Rain, and Sleeper each got a shot off. The staff member fell forward and Soad caught him, and dragged him to the side. The White Avenger cringed.

 

“Oh my god oh my god good lord," he quietly panicked, dropping his pistol. Jamir ran over to him and grabbed his shoulder. He linked his mind with the White Avenger and passed calming thoughts to him.

{Calm down,} he said to him.

{I...am calm,} replied the White Avenger.

{You can do this.}

{I can do this.}

{You are strong.}

{I am strong.} The White Avenger was no longer nervous and scared.

“Everybody else ready?” quietly asked Jamir. The new soldiers nodded or didn’t move. “Good.” he smiled and patted White Avenger on the shoulder before running to the front. He held up one hand forward. “Shield is up. Follow behind me and clean out the rooms. LeeAnn- make an illusion of the door.”

 

“Got it,” said Lee Ann as she ran up to him. She looked back and pictured the end of the hallway in her head. She then cast an illusion of the room ahead of Jamir’s shield. It looked just like the door, complete with perspective.

 

The squad walked quietly into the hallway and went to the first door on their right. Soad leaned against the right wall by the door and gently tried the knob. click. Locked. She looked at the lock with her Pure Vision technique, and focused on the pinions with her telekinesis ability. They shifted and the door unlocked. She quickly opened it and aimed her gun. There were some brooms but the rest of the room was empty.

 

Chucky motioned to the door to the left. Roger took point at the middle and Tibbs leaned to his left. Chucky grabbed the handle and swung it open. There was a man at a desk, talking on a phone. purot! purot! Two quick shots from Roger made short work of him. Chucky walked inside and grabbed some papers from his desk and put him in a pocket.

 

They continued the grim work, moving slowly and killing almost silently, until they were halfway to the guard’s desk at the top of the hallway. They came to an intersection in the hallway. Lee Ann was getting tired. Jamir could see sweat pouring down her face from the load of keeping the illusion going.

As they entered the intersection, two women suddenly popped out of a room on the right hallway. “Maybe Ginger in- OH GOD!” the woman in the red and yellow blouse yelled. purot purot! Fallout and Willy quickly dropped her. But her scream was enough to catch the attention of the guards at the desk.

“Cover’s blown,” said LeeAnn as she dropped her illusion.

“Take cover!” ordered Soad and the troops went into the side hallways, except for Jamir. They drew their guns. Pow Pow Pow! The bullets bounced off Jamir’s shield. One of the guards ran for the desk. Purot! a quick shot from The White Avenger struck the guard in the back and he fell forwards, hitting a large red button with his dead, falling hand. Riiing! The lights in the hallway went to bright red light. wrrr-THUNK! A bunch of roundish white small knobs slid out of the wall of the hallways they were in, alternating every five feet. Jamir felt something change in the air, as if something was being blocked. Jamir quickly turned off his shield and dashed into the left hallway.

“They’ve got jammers in the hallways! Chucky! I thought you shut down their security grid!” yelled Jamir over the loud sounds of gunfire and return fire.

{I did shut it down! These jammers must be on a different circuit!} replied Chucky.

“Aaagh!” The guard at the end of the hallway went down, killed by shots from Soad.

 

“What are jammers?” yelled the White Avenger.

“They block dark energy from entering the area. Most of our abilities are powered by dark energy. So if we don’t deal with the jammers soon, we will run out of bullets and power,” quickly stated Soad, {Chucky, what can you do about the jammers?}

{Nothing from my tablet. We should go to the security desk and see if the off switch is there!}

“We’ve got a plan, then! Everyone! Secure the security desk! Let’s move!” Soad came out of the hallway first, pistol at the ready, followed quickly by everyone else. When she got to the end of the hallway, she ran to the staircase to the right of the security desk. Chucky ran to her right side. She held up her palm and the others stopped. People were coming down the stairs.

Soad pointed to her right and Jamir, Tibbs, and Roger ran to the desk and hid behind the chairs and the rounded marble sides. The first group of men rounded the stairs, guns drawn. purot!purot! They were taken out by Fallout and Sleeper, while they were leaning against the hallway walls with the others. The other men stopped coming down the stairs.

Soad touched the staircase and SLUUTCH! “AAAHH! “UURGHGHG!” Men screamed as Soad raised spikes from the material of the stairs. Jamir and the Wind & Rain team rounded the stairs. Purot!PurotPurot! A quick salvo from them killed the ten men on the stairs. SLUUTCH! Soad sent the spikes back into the staircase.

“That took most of my remaining power,” said Soad. “I won’t be able to do much more than heal or shoot.”

Chucky went to the the security desk. {I’ll try shutting off the jammers. It may take some time.} he told everyone.

 

“We only have nine minutes left. If you can’t get the jammers down in five, cut the power and we’ll just have to take what shows up,” said Jamir.

“What shows up? What does that mean?” asked Tibbs.

“They’re running jammers upstairs for a reason. Our guess is they’ve got a super with teleportation, but they may have others. Others who may not be happy to see us.”

“You always take us to fun places, Jamir. This place is like Candyland, only the candy wants to kill us.”

“Tell me more jokes later. We’ve got shizz to do. LeeAnn! Willy! Guard Chucky! The rest of you, with me!”

“Aye, sir!” said Roger as he and Tibbs ran up the stairs. They passed by some offices, and came upon some red colored doors on the other side of the intersection. They stopped at the corners and stuck their heads around. The side hallways were empty of people but there were doors with interesting labels on them. Jamir sent White Avenger and Soad to go check on the one on the left, and Fallout and Sleeper to see to the one on the right.

 

Fallout kicked open a door, revealing a man and a woman hiding behind a flipped up desk. They looked at Sleeper, who looked at them. “Sleep...please,” she said and the pair hiding behind the desk immediately fainted. “I hope that didn’t use up too much power,” she wondered. After all, it’s not like they have gauges for these powers.

 

Soad looked through the keyhole and saw an empty office. She motioned to White Avenger. He made his arm grow twice as large, and with a shove, wham! the door was shoved off its hinges and onto the ground. He stepped away from the entry just in time as a spray of bullets went by. Soad dove into the room and fired twice while lying on her back on the floor. purot!purot! Two direct hits, two men down.

 

“Nice shootin’ girl!” exclaimed The White Avenger.

“Don’t call me girl,” demanded Soad.

“Sorry, girl,” said The White Avenger.

Soad shook her head as she walked over to the desks on the other side of the room, far to the left of the door. “This office looks much nicer than the others. It must have belonged to their commander or someone with authority.”

“I don’t recognize the guy, and I’ve seen lots of Clean Hands guys on TV,” said the White Avenger as he looked at the body.

“Don’t shoot!” yelled a woman in a blue blouse as she stood up from behind the desk. purot purot! They shot her immediately. “Whoops,” said White Avenger.

“Oh well,” slightly moaned Soad. “Grab some papers and their phones. Anything you think might be important.”

 

Jamir took a flashbang out of his back pouch. He pushed the button and Tibbs opened the red door a crack. He tossed in the flashbang and Tibbs closed it shut. PAAAP! WHUMP! After the flashbang went off, Jamir kicked in the door. Roger and Tibbs rushed in. It was like walking into a morgue or anatomy class. Four bodies were on tables, cut open and missing parts. Scientists struggled to stay standing. Roger and Tibbs quickly shot all but one of them. Jamir walked in and grabbed the last survivor.

“My ears!” complained the scientist.

“Who are you people and what were you up to?!” demanded Jamir. Tibbs stood by the door as Roger picked up a nearby computer tablet.

“We are studying supers. Trying to find a….virus,” loudly said the scientist as Jamir shook him by the collar, “We were told to find a cure for the superhuman retrovirus or create a super plague.”

“How close are you?”

“Close. Are you going to kill me?”

“No.” purot! Jamir shot him in the side temple and dropped the body.

 

“I’ve got some of their data here, Major,” said Roger. He emptied a nearby shoulder bag and put the tablet inside.

“Let’s check the next rooms. Maybe they have some kind of prison here as well,” ordered Jamir.

 

Back at the security desk, Chucky struggled with the controls. Only a few of the buttons were labeled and many seem to be related to working the cameras. Willy was looking outside the large glass windows when he saw a van approaching. “Boss, we got company!”

Chucky looked around the desk for some sort of off switch. He looked over the desk. The van stopped by the front entrance. {Cover going up!} he transmitted to LeeAnn and Willy. ruummmblll. A thick, solid black nanotube material barricade about ten feet long and five and a half foot tall rose from the floor. {That took the bulk of my power! Keep them off me.}

“Got it Chucks,” replied LeeAnn as she took aim at an armed man exiting the van.

 

Jamir and his team walked up to another red door. A brief scan inside with the Cursed Eyes technique revealed a person being held inside a clear oval container made of glass or plastic. But, nobody else. Jamir quickly opened the door. A very dark-skinned girl was inside, wearing a faded beige smock. She looked about 10 or 11 years old. She looked down as they ran in, but perked up when Jamir tapped the glass.

 

“<Are you from Sudan?”> asked the girl in Arabic.

“<Not exactly. I’m from Darfur,>” Jamir replied in Arabic. “<We have come to rescue you. I believe that I know your father.>

“<Really?!”> she jumped from her stool at the sound of the word.

“<Yes. Now, do you know how to get the doors open?>”

“<These men would come in. They wore white coats and they’d swipe a card on that thing by the door.>” She pointed to a card reader by a door to her left. There was an airlock that separated the room from her cage.

 

“How we gonna get her out of there, boss?” asked Tibbs.

“The man in the last room said they were working on a virus. She is contained in this bubble. It is a problem,” Jamir said as he crossed his arms, still looking at the girl. He then looked at Tibbs. “See if you can find any notes in the room. I’ll try to get her out.”

“Aight, but I don’t speak science,” said Tibbs, who then walked to a desk that Roger was walking to.

“I don’t see anything in here saything that they injected her with a virus,” said Roger, “It could be on computer. Can we have Chucky scan their systems to find out?”

“He is preoccupied at the moment,” replied Jamir. He put his hands on the clear window. “<Stand back, little one. I am going to free you.>” The girl went as far back as she could, almost knocking over her poop bucket by the bed. Jamir vibrated the glass.  A precise moment ticked by, until KA-KSSSH! The glass shattered into a menagerie of small pieces like stage glass. The girl ran out and hugged Jamir. He smiled and said “<You’re safe now.>”

The stink from the cage was noticeable and Roger pinched his nose. “First thing when we get home, you will be getting a shower,” Roger strongly said, then ran to the door and peeked out. “We’ve got three more doors to check.”  

 

“I feel low on power at this time, but I can still fight,” replied Jamir. He took the girl to a desk by the door and pointed down. She hid under the desk.

“Don’t worry, Major. We’ll cut the grass,” said Tibbs.

“We’ll trim the hedges,” said Roger.

“Mash the potatoes.”

“Make the gravy.”

“Yes, yes, I get it,” said Jamir with a slightly annoyed tone in his voice.

 

Tibbs motioned with his hand, indicating the other team members were coming. Soad ran into the room, followed by Fallout and the others. She looked at her watch. Four minutes left until detonation.

“We’ve gone a minute over the deadline,” said Soad.

“Chucky needs some help. Soad, take Wind & Rain and back up Chucky. Sleeper, you stay here with the girl. Fallout, White Avenger? You’re with me. We’re going to check the other three rooms.”

“It’s a dangerous play, boss,” said Tibbs.

“Chucky will deal with the jammers. Have some faith,” said Soad. She left and Roger and Tibbs followed her out of the room. They got to the stairs and things were pretty bad. Willy was down behind the barricade, holding his shoulder, and Lee Ann was behind the desk, firing blindly at overwhelming forces. Soad activated a speed boost ability, bolted downstairs like a cheetah, and kicked over one attacker. purot! purot! BAM BAM! She fired as she crouched, bullets missing her by inches. Her shots rang true, killing two more attackers. The attackers suppressing Lee Ann quickly turned their attention to Soad. One dove behind Chucky’s barricade. The other was quickly brought down from shots by Tibbs, as he leapt dramatically from the stairwell, and dash-teleporting to a crouch by Soad’s side. Roger ran down the stairs. He looked outside and saw two men pushing a large machine gun on wheels towards them. “Heavy gun incoming!” He shouted, then fired. purot! purot! Two shots felled both men pushing the gun down the sidewalk. Two more started coming their way, towards the gun.

 

“Take cover!” Roger shouted to his team. He and the others ran behind Chucky’s big barricade. He ducked up to fire at the men by the big gun. click. “I’m out!” Roger did not have enough power saved in his body to fire his weapon anymore.

“Me too!” shouted Tibbs. This is bad, Soad thought. {Chucky! We need these jammers down!} transmitted Soad to Chucky.

{No go, Captain. It’s on a separate power source,} replied Chucky. {I’m pretty close to finding the source.}

{Work quickly! We’re pinned down here!} ordered Soad.

 

TATATATATATTTATATATT! The big gun roared, firing .50 cal rounds at Chucky’s barricade. The nanotube barricade took the barrage, but cracks started forming along the sides. Soad weighed her options. Buttress the barricade or take out the guards with the last of my power? If I attack I won’t have enough power to get us home. If I patch the barricade, I won’t have enough to attack.

 

While Soad was fighting with her team to stay alive, Jamir and his team were kicking down doors. One door he kicked down revealed another experimentation area with dead bodies around. There were some papers, one of which Jamir quickly read. “Subject B-7 showed remarkable teleportation ability. Subject expired after attempt 23a (Jump to Florida with 10 boxes).” He looked at Fallout and said, “They were testing supers with teleportation ability here. They haven’t found anyone who could jump to my country as of yet.”

 

Fallout looked over the charred, disfigured corpses. He then looked at Jamir. “Is this what happens when you use more power than your body can handle?”

“It’s one of many outcomes. Time is short and we have what we need from here,” Jamir said as he stuffed the papers into an empty pouch. They quickly left the room and ran to the red door on the right. Fallout leaned against the wall to the right of the door, with White Avenger behind him. Jamir looked inside using his Cursed Eyes ability. A massive amount of power was flowing out of the room, from a shape that resembled a person. Jamir kicked open the door. The room was fairly empty, except for a woman floating in the middle of seven copper colored metal rings. It was like she was the magnet in an electromagnet. Electric arcs connected the rings and the woman. She appeared to be sleeping. She had a head case on, with short antennas sticking out of it. Wires were running from the end of one coil by her foot to the wall. A computer monitor glowed ominously 5 feet by her head.

{I’ve located the power source! It’s in a room by the end of the hallway,} transmitted Chucky.

{You’re correct. I’m at the source. Going to disconnect,} replied Jamir. He looked over to Fallout.

 

“We must get her out of there. She’s the power source,” said Jamir. He raised his hand and moved his stored power towards his hands. Fallout did the same and they aimed at the cables supporting the copper colored coils. Jamir fired a solid beam while Fallout fired an atomic explosive beam. Ba-KOW! Both shots bounced off something invisible protecting the rings. The nearby computer terminal got knocked over.

 

Outside, the men firing on the barricade were confused. They’d been at this for over a minute now, and the barricade was still standing. One man figured that the barricade was made of something new. The other man figured the bullets they got must have been second rate. Either way, they weren’t paying attention to their ammo counts. weeee clink. The gun stopped firing and spinning. Soad peeked around the barricade. The men were looking confused at each other.

She grabbed the flashbang from her pouch, pushed the button and threw it at them. KA-POP! They were stunned, holding their ears with their hands and covering their eyes. Soad ran over to the man covering his face on the right. She drew her knife from her hip pouch and sh-luuck! shoved the blade deep into his heart. She quickly drew it out. The man on the other side of the gun struggled to see. He drew a pistol after he partially heard Soad drop his partner. He aimed it towards Soad but still way off the mark. Soad turned towards the man. She was only fifteen feet away- close enough for the average man to kill without getting hit, and certainly close enough for her. Soad started her run. The gun pointed at her head. vvt vvt! Two shots from the building flew out, striking the man in the temple. He fell to the ground. BAM! His final act was an accident, the gun firing when it hit the sidewalk. It bounced off Soad’s armored leg clothing.

“OJHOW!’” shouted Soad after she felt the bullet. Her clothing was impenetrable to small arms, but it don’t mean it don’t sting when it hits!

“You OK boss?” asked LeeAnn as she stood on the steps.

“I’ll be fine. Stings like a Dickies,” replied Soad, botching a famous phrase in the process. She looked at her watch. 1 minute and 50 seconds remaining. What is taking Jamir so long?

 

“Well, I’m out of power now,” said Fallout. He lowered his hand. The shield was still up and they had made no progress towards getting the woman out of the cable.

“What do we do, boss?” asked White Avenger, with a tinge of panic in his voice, “That bomb of ours is gonna blow soon.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” answered Jamir. He looked at the ceiling. Can’t get through the ceiling in time. He looked at the girl. Mind control might work, but she doesn’t seem to be awake. No power can get through the shield. He looked at his watch. 1 minute 26 seconds remaining. No choice, then. “Get out of the room,” ordered Jamir.

“What are you going to do, Jamir?” asked Fallout. Jamir pulled his sleeve back on his left forearm. Several tattoos in black, each a different shape of a creature or tool, faded into view.

“Something dangerous. Now go.”

“Oh shit. Black magic!” White Avenger said in fear. He took three quick steps back.

“There’s gotta be a better way!” shouted Fallout. He didn’t know much about magic, and he knew that Jamir’s magic is very dangerous.

“We’re out of time! It’s the only way,” answered Jamir as he raised his left arm to his side, “<Great spirit: I have an unusual feast for you. Eat quickly.>” A misty black, wave-shaped light came out of the middle of Jamir’s left arm, and enveloped the woman in flowing, shiny darkness. crunch! scrripkk! pop! Bluuup! Horrid sounds came out of the shadow. Fallout looked away.

 

“I’m gonna be sick.” moaned White Avenger, “HRRKK!” he puked and some of it landed on Fallout.

“Not on me!!!” he yelled at White Avenger. The seconds went by, filled with horrid sounds of the woman being consumed. After twenty seconds, the wave receded back into his arm. The power jammers in the room slid back into their wall slots. Jamir and the others felt their bodies passively absorbing dark energy again.

 

“40 seconds left. Let’s get out of here,” Jamir ordered as he slid the sleeve forward.

“You...you ate her!” yelled Fallout.

“Technically, I didn’t eat her. An interdimensional sentient ‘god’ did. We can argue later,”  Jamir calmly replied. {Soad, Otunda- The jammers are down. Gather your teams and get to the evac point.}

{Copy that, Major.} they responded. Jamir looked at Fallout and the keeled over White Avenger. “Let’s get the girl and go.” They ran out of the room to the room where they left Sleeper and Saul’s daughter. When they got in there, they found a man holding Sleeper and the girl hostage. He turned and looked at Jamir’s team, gun still aimed at the girl.

 

“More of you freaks?!” he incredulously asked, “Get over there by them! Or I shoot!”

“Okay pal, listen,” said Fallout. They held their hands up as they walked over to the girl and Sleeper. “This place is gonna explode in a few seconds, so you might want to run.”

“I’ve been telling him that for the past minute!” noted Sleeper.

“Quiet, you! I refuse to believe you supers. You lie! You always lie!” screamed the angry man.

“I’ve had enough of you Clean Hands people this day!” Jamir loudly said, anger dripping from his tongue. “Die with your foolish friends, and your bigotry!” A moment after he said that, blink! Jamir, the girl, and his team teleported away. BAM! A reaction shot fired by man hit nothing but wall. I wonder if they were telling the truth after all? thought the man. But there was no longer any time to act.

 

“Yup, the building is gone,” said Sleeper. She was on top of a nearby tree, being held aloft by Soad’s levitation ability. The teams had teleported a kilometer away to make sure the explosion went off. Smoke rose from the crater that was the Clean Hands staging area.

“Willy doesn’t look good, boss,” said LeeAnn. She was crouched by Willy. Willy was not bleeding anymore but he was not breathing very much either.

“Sir, let’s get out of here and clean up back at Helena,” Soad suggested to Jamir.

“Good idea. The longer we spend here, the longer we risk discovery.” He opened a portal to the site in the woods they left from. They quickly walked in, with Chucky carrying the fallen Willy inside with a fireman’s carry. Once in the woods, Chucky set him down and Soad began healing him. Jamir and Chucky began collecting guns from the others.

“Good work today, men. Women,” praised Jamir, “You performed excellently under difficult conditions.”

“I’m gonna have nightmares for a week.” moaned White Avenger as he sat down on a rock.

 

“Killing people is just a day at the park for you, isn’t it?” angrily asked Fallout as he took off his mask. He angrily passed his CAG .45 to Jamir.

“These days I tried to avoid it. But sometimes we have no choice,” calmy said Jamir, “We tried our-” an immense pressure pushed down on Jamir and the others from above. Jamir fell to his knees, struggling to keep standing. Chucky managed to stay somewhat standing for a moment, but soon was down like the others, who were face down in the grass, or on their backs.

 

“What...is...this...force?” asked Sleeper. She struggled to breathe from the pressure. It feels like an elephant is standing on my chest!

“Grav...ic force...from above...us,” slowly said Jamir.

“Mmmmppfh!” shouted Soad. She could not say much because her face was now smushed against Willy’s chest.

 

“Who are you people?! State your names and purpose now!” shouted Director Allwyn. She was floating down to a stop about 20 feet above them. She had her left palm aimed at the group. Her light blue uniform was hard to see in the glare of the nearby sun.

“IT’S US! US!” shouted LeeAnn.

“Who is us?” asked the Director.

“Your...students….stop!” begged Fallout.

“Students? Why are you dressed like special ops soldiers?”

“It’s...compli...cated. It’s us...your Darfur….students,” said Jamir with great effort. Director Allwyn was pushing down so hard he couldn’t lift his head.

“<Please! Don’t hurt them!>” screamed the girl in Arabic. She was behind a tree and not in Karyn’s gravic field.

“What is with the kid? Why is she dressed in a smock?”

“I’ll tell you everything if you don’t...crush us…” said Jamir. Karyn was increasing the pressure by accident.

“Okay. Meet me in my office in 25 minutes. I have a flying class to finish teaching.” She turned off the gravic force pushing down on the students. The students slowly stood up as she floated back up into the sky.

 

“She’s quite the ball buster, isn’t she?” said Fallout as he struggled to stand.

“Yeah, she’s pretty pissed,” said Sleeper.

Willy regained consciousness and she and Soad pulled him up. “Someone get the number of that bus that hit me?” asked Willy.

“There’s another bus coming in 30 minutes. It’s number discipline,” said Soad.

“Looks like we’re busted,” said Tibbs.

“Yeah, sorry about this. This could be problematic,” said Jamir. He sent the guns back to the pocket universe storage site, then looked at Soad. “Take Saul’s daughter home, then stop in 2 places to throw the tracking systems off. Meet you back at the office in 20 minutes. “

“Got it, Major,” Soad quickly grabbed the girl and they teleported to South Sudan.

“We’ve got some time before we see her. Change clothes. There’s no need for the rest of the school to know what we’ve been up to.” Chucky went into a bush and pulled the bag out where they kept their clothes.

 

Director Allwyn’s office, 4:25 pm.

 

Director Karyn Allwyn sat at her desk with Vice Director Lane to her left. The Darfur 3 students sat on the cushy chairs in front of the desk, while the other students sat or stood behind them.

 

“Now that everyone is here, and not masked, I am eager to hear why you all were dressed in military outfits and in the woods,” said Karyn. She put her elbows on the desk and her hands up to rest her chin.

“The matter is complicated, ma’am. We had to do something you might not want to know about.”

“Let’s skip the plausible deniability angle.” Karyn’s voice took on an angry tone. “I. WANT. TO. KNOW. EVERYTHING.”

“I also want to know what happened to the girl you were with. Why is she not here?” asked the Vice Director.

“We’ll get to that in a few minutes,” started Jamir. “But you’ll want to know that everything said here does not leave this room. General Ibrahim says it would be…(speaking in Arabic) <problematic>... for our two countries if it did.”

“Why problematic? What did you do?” asked Karyn.

“How bad of a crapstorm are we looking at?” asked Lane.

“Category 5, homes,” said Willy.

“We’re all gonna die?”

“No, not that bad, sir. Thanks to our...thorough methods, you won’t even see it on the news,” said Roger.

 

“Black ops? OK...category 3. You know, Karyn, that friend of yours who turned down the Kurdistan job? Is it still open?”

“She told me it got bombed last week. Anyway, please proceed, students. I am all ears.”  

 

Jamir and the students explained the day’s battle and that they took the girl back to her father, leaving an important detail out. Karyn wrote a few things down to ask them when they finished.

When they finished their somewhat gap-filled summary, Karyn started asking questions.

“How did you learn about the Clean Hands facility?”

“That is classified,” said Jamir, not wanting to expose his communication lines.

“I...see... Moving on then.” Karyn crinkled her forehead in annoyance, but this was not the only subject she wanted an answer about at this time. “Why did so many of you join a hit squad?”

Roger spoke first. “We wanted to be heroes. She made us heroes. So my friend and I kind of owe Soad and the Darfurians the favor.”

Fallout spoke next, “Sleeper and I were curious about the war. We wanted to learn how they won it. So they taught us about ‘Combined Arms’, the guns plus powers.”

Sleeper spoke after him. “It’s something P.A.T.H.R pioneered but never quite got working. The Darfurians perfected it and so we wanted to learn the methods behind it.”

LeeAnn spoke after him. “It was fun working on the tank with them. Why not do a few black ops on the side?”

White Avenger spoke last. “The Lord moved me in mysterious ways, ma’am.”

 

Karyn stood up and slammed her hands on the desk. “I’m gonna move you all in unpleasant ways! Stand in the hallway, all of you!” she yelled as she pointed at the door. The students walked out the door, a bit sullen at the prospect of punishment from the mighty Director. The Darfur students were about to stand up when Karyn said, “Not you three. Stay where you are.” The students sat back down as their friends left the room. “So, whose bright idea was it to operate a black ops squad from my facility?”

 

“Technically, we are still operating as commissioned officers in the Darfur and South Sudan army, Director,” said Jamir with a very calm voice, “We are ordered to help our country, no matter the circumstance.”

“Going after the Clean Hands movement like this...it really paints a target on our backs,” Lane explained. “Why didn’t you come to us with this information?”

“If word got out, the Clean Hands group might have learned of it through their spies,” Soad responded. “They have a lot of friends in the government here.”

 

“So for the sake of argument, let’s assume your raid was justified,” said Karyn, as she sat down. “I still do not like the idea of a black ops squad operating out of a safe haven for children. I’m pretty sure it’s against UNSC regulations.”

“Actually, it is not mentioned,” noted Lane as he quickly thumbed through the large (but not massive, like War and Peace) EADI rule book.

“Well it should be! There will be no more black ops from this institution while I’m in charge! Is that clear?”

“Ma’am, I don’t see why you are upset about this,” said Soad, “After all, you conducted midnight raids with Clyde and other heroes in Afghanistan.”

“That was classified!” shouted Karyn. Damnit Clyde! What have you told them about me and the wars? “And these are different circumstances!”

“How so?” calmly asked Jamir as he stood up. “Don’t we have a right to defend our nation from terrorists? No matter where they are hiding in the world?” His voice was higher pitched as he spoke.

“Jamir, sit down,” Lane demanded.

“Colorado is not a hive for terrorists or a war zone! And if you had been captured, you would have been linked to us here and put the children here at risk!” loudly said Karyn. She took a sip of coffee as Jamir spoke.

 

“No I will not sit! We made sure the authorities could not track us. There was no risk for blowback- as you Americans call it.” Jamir sat down after looking at Otunda. “Our country’s children would have been at risk had we not acted. We took action just as you did in the past!”

 

“I’m not going to discuss my military days any further. You guys give me a lot of trouble, you know that?”

“It’s Chucky’s fault!” said Soad, pointing at Chucky.

{Is not!} responded Chucky.

“Is too!” said Soad with greater conviction, though the others could not hear what Chucky transmitted.

“Students, please,” said Lane. “Karyn? Shall we tell them?”

“Yes, might as well. The main reason why you are here is to keep the power balance between the nations with heroes tilted as heavily in the United States’ favor as long as possible. Every time you’re in the news, I get calls like this.” Karyn pressed the button on her answering machine. She said “All calls tagged “Darfur students.”

 

Beginning playback. Saved Message 13,” the answering machine spoke.

Bon Jour, Director Allwyn,” a male French voice said on the phone, “We here at Montpelier EADI have heard of your difficulties with the Darfurians. If you would like to be rid of them, give me a call. Thank you for your time.”

 

Message 14,” the answering machine spoke.

Hey Hey Karyn! Oceana down under EADI on the horn here. Saw those Darfur soldiers on the tele again. I bet they’re giving you problems. If so, gimme a hollar. I’ll sort them out for youse,” said the Australian male voice on the phone.

 

Message 15.

What’s up my home-girl?! This is China EADI calling you! I heard you gotz three problems from East Africa up in yo hauuusssse! Yo hauuuseee! Home girl, let me level wit you! We’ve got some new training programs down here. Hook a brudda up! I fix yo thang like a chicken wang!” Karyn had enough and pressed the stop button with great force. Jamir and Soad snorted, barely holding back a laugh.

“Why does he sound like the Chinese guy from the Drunken Wedding movies?” asked Lane.

“See what I gotta deal with?!” started Karyn, her voice reflecting her agitation, “Every single week I get a call like this from one facility or another. But they don’t want you because they think you’ll learn heroism better there. They want you there so you can fight their wars! We want you to be heroes, and they want you to be warriors. And everyday, especially today, it seems to me you want to be soldiers.”

 

“We have no problem being soldiers, when our nation calls. Yours did and you answered,” said Soad.

“This is different and you know it. No more black ops without my express permission. I’m going to call your general and inform him that if I catch you doing crap like this again, I’m having you sent to Prison 5. Is that understood?!”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Jamir and Soad. They stood up.

“OK, you may go for now. Stay out of trouble,” said Lane.

“Bring in the others,” Karyn said with a sigh.  

 

Helena EADI cafeteria, 6:30pm

 

“So, how’d it go?” asked Rocky. He took a bite of his shredded chicken pizza. Jamir wiped some sweat from his forehead. He had put too much hot sauce on his pizza yet again.

“This Tabasco stuff is stronger than I thought,” said Jamir. “We’ve been banned from black ops missions without permission.”

“Wind and Rain are being foreceptly (mispronounced) graduated,” said Soad with a touch of regret in her voice. “I liked training them. They were fun to shoot.”

“This is terrible news. What about the others?” Rocky inquired.

“Fallout and Sleeper have two weeks to finish their training here. But they can’t train with us anymore,” said Jamir. He took a big gulp of ice water.

“How’d my dog do?”

{It worked great,} Chucky transmitted to the group.

LeeAnn took a piece of pizza from the pile they had assembled from the buffet. “I’d never thought I’d get yelled at by the Director for doing the right thing,” said LeeAnn.

“She has a more ‘strict’ interpretation of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’,” said Jamir as he made air quotes.

 

In the office, Director Allwyn and Lane poured over the documents and pictures that Jamir and the other team members left for them. Karyn floated a document up to Lane’s face. Lane grabbed it and looked at the spot which she circled earlier.

“Where did they get this stuff from? This part here- I recognize it as special built P.A.T.H.R. jamming equipment,” said the Vice Director.

“That explains the customer,” said Karyn, “But P.A.T.H.R. doesn’t make a lot of hardware. This had to have come from one of their affiliated companies.”

“What are we going to do about this, Director?” He looked at the pile of documents on the table.

“There’s nothing we can do directly that doesn’t tip off the rest of the Clean Hands people that we know about the raid.” She rubbed her forehead. “At the very least, we should warn the active heroes to watch out for jammers when dealing with Clean Hands members.”

 

“This won’t be the last we hear from them,” noted Lane. “They might even go for another coup attempt or a viral strike.”

“We’ll just have to be vigilant and act in accordance with the law. We can’t turn to military methods- at least, not until they leave us with no choice,” said Karyn. She started piling the documents to be stored, her mind going over the worst case scenarios that her students’ raid today has posed her.