(Please note, not edited/checked/PR-ed. You may run into a questionable grammar or two. If you happen to spot them, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks in advance!!)
Taylor let out a shocked gasp as soon as her perceptions locked onto the three teens blocking the road out in front of the car.
“Supers!! All of them are Supers!!”
Jack snapped out of his daze at the outburst and focused on the front. Seeing the three mysterious figures, suddenly he was beset with this strange incongruity, one that he couldn’t quite explain. It was as if he somehow knew them. Or, at least, supposed to know them. Of course, such a notion made no sense as he was pretty sure of never meeting the three before. He’d have remembered.
And then, there was something about the body language of the trio.
Not only Jack, but even Taylor and her father thought something was not quite right here. There was a small difference between them, however; Jack’s awakened instincts were telling him that there’d be a massive crisis about to unfold and the cause of that chaos was going to be the three teenage Supers blocking his way.
Jack unconsciously gulped. He felt hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
The athletic girl, Cleo, glanced at the glasses-wearing boy, Erik, to her side and asked. “Is that him?”
“Mm. Should be. You can feel it too, don’t you?”
Erik, Lei and Cleo slowly nodded to each other in unison.
Meanwhile, as the premonition of something bad happening got stronger, Jack hastily shouted at David. “Mister Finn, back up the car!! We need to leave, right now!!”
“Huh? Wh… right, good idea.”
Finn Senior replied, and engaged the reverse gear.
The shape of Cleo blurred. She moved so fast, it only left behind an afterimage, although Jack could barely catch her within his vision.
Cleo grabbed the impressive, upright grille of the vintage luxury car with both hands. Grinning like a maniac, she then began to lift the car up in the air. The metal creaked and shuddered as the most unnatural scene ever witnessed by the passengers transpired right before their shocked eyes.
In a manner of seconds, she clean-lifted the weighty automobile with ease. Maintaining her grin, she observed the occupants inside curiously. What she saw was, of course, the faces of panicked and gobsmacked people.
Unconcerned in the least, Cleo lightly tossed the car to the side. The impact was immense even if her actions seemed quite casual at a glance, like swatting a fly away or something like that.
The car bounced and rolled on the asphalt with vengeance, until it crashed into a parked car with a thunderous bang, setting off a chain of alarms in the vicinity.
Cleo grimaced as the unwelcome symphony of shrill noises filled the air.
“Noisy!! Lei, do something, will ya?!”
Cleo complained loudly. Lei, the Oriental girl, sighed and shook her head as if it was a bother. Without saying anything, she lifted a battered and scratched first-gen iPod out of her pocket – where an earphone cord was still attached, with the said earphones connected to her ears.
Her fingers swiped on the round touchpad for a couple of seconds, before several almost-imperceptible arcs of blue lights shot out from the aged device, landing on the cars with their alarms going off in tandem. With a comical fizzle, all of those noisy alarms died out in an instant.
“Happy?” Lei asked sarcastically.
“Yeah!!” Cleo grinned innocently.
Meanwhile, in the vintage luxury car, the world had turned upside down, because the car was actually on its roof. Both Taylor and her father still had their seatbelts on so they avoided being thrown around, but Jack wasn’t so fortunate in that regard.
His wounds had reopened, blood was seeping out of almost everywhere, and the smashed, broken glass bits were continuously cutting into his skin. On the flip side, he was not confined to his seat in the upside down position like the others, and was currently groaning on the ceiling of the car that had now become the floor.
Jack’s head spun like crazy from that experience. Now he knew what it felt like to be laundry stuck inside a tumble dryer. And boy, did it not feel particularly good. Not at all.
Fighting the rising urge to vomit, Jack brushed away the bits of glass away from his face. Then he hurriedly asked the other passengers. “Hey, are you guys alright?”
Taylor groaned softly, still trapped in her seat and unable to move. “Do we look alright to you?! Gosh, I’m stuck!! What about you, dad?”
David moaned weakly, his replies indistinct. Jack grabbed the front passenger seat and pulled himself up in the crumpled, messy interior, only to find Finn Senior unconscious and bleeding heavily from a cut somewhere in the head. Because he was upside down in the driver’s seat, his arms were hanging limply on his sides, his sunglasses rolling around on the ceiling, broken.
Jack quickly felt for his pulse and breathed a sigh of relief when he sensed the blood pumping in the veins.
“Your dad’s knocked out cold. He’s in a bad shape. We gotta get him to a hospital!!” Jack shouted as he tried to free him from the confines of broken seatbelt. The buckle frame was bent at a weird angle and was difficult to pull free.
Taylor became frantic after hearing that David was wounded. “Damn it!! This stupid thing…. Oh, god. Jack, they are coming!! Can you help me get out of this?!”
Jack was having trouble trying to free David at the moment, but after hearing Taylor’s desperate cries, he peeked outside the car. Indeed, the three Supers were leisurely walking towards them, a certain domineering swagger evident in their strides. The situation was rapidly turning critical.
The intense foreboding became only thicker in Jack’s heart. If his premonition was correct, then he was not going to live to see the end of the day. He needed to do something, and do it urgently.
What the hell do they want? Is it Taylor? Or could it be me? Could it even be Mister Finn? No, that can’t be; he should be unrelated to this, whatever this is. It has to be either me or Taylor that they want.
Jack’s mind furiously spun, trying to understand and formulate a strategy for his survival.
As far as I can tell, no one knows Taylor’s secret. But as for me, my recovery speed after the incident was way too fast. There’s bound to be someone out there suspicious of that. With a little investigation, my own secret could have been exposed!! If that’s the case, then what now?! What do they want with me?
Jack gritted his teeth. He could not come up with a good way to survive at all in this short amount of time he had.
It was then, a spark was lit inside; an idea came to him.
Right!! Alpha Man!! He’s not too far. As long as the news of the Supers causing the ruckus here, he will show up!! With all that car alarms going off, surely the residents here would’ve called the cops by now!! Yes, that’s it!!
A grim determination filled Jack’s eyes as he now understood what he needed to do.
Right, all I have to do is stall for time. At least for a few minutes. Then that Superhero will come. I need to bet everything on this!!
Jack felt like a desperate fool but since he had no choice, he had to act now. He turned to look at Taylor and solemnly told her.
“You need to get your dad and yourself out of here and call for help. I’ll stall for time until Alpha Man arrives. He should still be nearby.”
Her face paled but, after regaining her composure, she nodded quickly. “Hey, Mercer, do me a favor – don’t die yet, okay?”
Jack smiled wryly, before proceeding to open the bent backdoor of the car. It didn’t want to budge, so he ended up kicking at it, hard. As the result, the latch broke in half, and the door flung open on the first try, even surprising himself.
He crawled out of the upside down car with some difficulty and had to ignore the cries of pain from his own body. Every one of his muscles and bones ached, all the small cuts bleeding incessantly and ceaselessly screaming for his attention.
After standing up and out of the damaged car, Jack could better see the three Supers before him.
Wiping the trace of blood trickling down onto his right eye, Jack looked at the three, who had stopped advancing and stood about dozen feet away from where he was.
“I don’t know who you guys are, but mind telling me what’s this all about?”
Jack asked as the bitter taste of blood registered in his mouth. He spat the accumulated blood out onto the pavement, hoping no tooth would accompany that discarded saliva. Thankfully, nothing such came out. Jack could still give off a toothy grin if he wanted to.
The three looked at each other as if trying to come to an agreement. Then with a single nod, the glasses-wearing boy, Erik, stepped forward and spoke.
“It’s like this. About a month ago, we felt…. you, waking up.”
An inexplicable chill ran down Jack’s spine. Feeling dazed at the unexpected answer, his lips moved on their own, his voice sounding rather dull-witted.
“I’m sorry? You what?”
“Hmm. It’s hard to explain. We’re not sure of it ourselves. But… here’s the thing. There’s this discord, a strange wavelength, coming off you that makes us want to…. well, in the case of my friend Cleo here, fight you.”
Jack’s face darkened. He felt like groaning out loudly while saying something smart and insightful about the absurd reason Erik gave him. But he was no idiot; this situation, whatever this was, it was seriously dangerous.
But as ever, there was a silver lining to this situation, and that was him being their sole target. As long as he moved away from here, Taylor and her father would be alright.
He clenched his fists tightly and addressed the trio. “Well, that’s too bad, ‘cuz I’m not interested in fighting you or whatever. Right now, I’m really tired. It’s been a long day, you see. I just want to go home and get some rest. So, you mind just calling it a day and please move on? How about it?”
While saying this, Jack slowly inched away from the wreckage of the upside down vintage car. It was measured, painfully slow but he didn’t want to make the other party react too suddenly.
Cleo tilted her head in confusion, while Lei and Erik looked at each other, somewhat conflicted as well. But that was for only a brief moment.
By the time Jack got to the second car, Erik frowned slightly and ordered Lei next to him.
“Stop him, Lei.”
She sighed and shook her head as if she thought this was all a massive waste of her time. She manipulated the touchpad on her iPod again, then a single wisp of blue light shot out from the device, headed straight to the car Jack was leaning on.
The door nearest to him snapped open like a spring-loaded trap and blocked his attempt at inching away. Jack felt a waterfall of sweat suddenly developing on his back.
So, the tall girl is the muscle, the one named Lei has powers to manipulate…. electronics? What about the guy with glasses?
Someone once said knowing the enemy’s abilities was a vital ingredient to achieving success in the battlefield. But to Jack, it didn’t seem like a useful advice right at this point. He could make some kind of contingency plan against Lei, but what about Cleo and the glasses boy?
Jack glanced at the car, remembering his original goal, that of stalling for time until the help could arrive. He had to distance himself away from here, taking the three assailants’ attention away from its occupants and solely focused on him.
Taking a deep breath, Jack took a long, hard look at the boy, Erik, and asked. “I’m guessing this….” He tapped the open door with his knuckles. “….Means a no?”
Erik nodded. “Sorry. We came a long way, risking an awful lot just to come and meet you, to confirm something really important to us. So, yeah – no, we can’t call it a day just like that. Not yet.”
It was an expected answer. Jack no longer hesitated. He quickly turned around and, by utilizing his slightly improved agility, jumped over the car’s hood and dashed away behind the row of parked vehicles.
“He’s getting away!!” Cleo shouted loudly before chasing after him.
Lei rolled her eyes and groaned. “I hate this, Erik.”
Erik held a cramped smile as he shook his head. “What can we do? We came all this way so we don’t have a choice. Let’s go.”
The two ran after Jack as well.
But the chase itself didn’t last too long, as Cleo demonstrated her superiority in speed over Jack’s own. She closed the gap in a matter of seconds, jumping over a car’s roof to block Jack’s path.
But he was counting on that and timed his own jump over the vehicle next to him. So, when Cleo landed grandly on the ground, Jack had landed on the other side of the parked cars. It was an inspired bit of improvisation, if he could say so himself.
“Eh? Where did he go?!” Cleo dazedly spun her head around, trying to locate him, only to see Jack run past her position on the other side. This infuriated her somewhat. “You slippery little…”
The very first thing she did was to punch a hole in the car’s side, then picking it up. She then used the said car as a baseball and threw it in an arc towards where Jack was heading.
His intuition went crazy in that moment of deadly crisis. He didn’t have to look back to see a gray-colored family hatchback flying towards him like a deadly payload shot out of a catapult, aimed only at him and nothing else.
However, once more, his body knew what to do. He instantly twisted on his axis, dodging the thrown vehicle with only millimeters to spare. The car then slammed into other parked vehicles on the opposite side of the street with a vengeance. The ensuing destruction was catastrophic in scale. Even the most sturdy-looking cars were blown away from the impact. No grand explosions, though. That was only in a Summer blockbuster, not in reality.
Jack was dumbfounded at the scene of carnage, and then quickly realized in deep horror that if he were to get hit by another one of those projectiles, then he should forget about having an open casket funeral. Hell, the coroner might have to scoop Jack off the floor with a spatula if he wasn’t careful.
Jack’s intuition kept on ringing the alarm bells, so he didn’t dally any longer and dashed forward, trying to put some more distance between him and the crazy but super-strong girl. His direction was towards where he came from – or, more correctly, where the convenience store was. He just hoped that Alpha Man was still there, or already on his way here. A slim hope, but a hope nevertheless.
Cleo threw another car in a fit of rage. She saw how he dodged the car and was inwardly flabbergasted at the display of Jack’s agile movement. Even she couldn’t have pulled that off. That peeved her a little bit.
Jack dodged the second car with a room to spare – her aim was a little off this time thanks to her agitation.
“Hey!! What are you doing, Cleo?!”
Erik and Lei finally caught up to the rampaging girl and tried to stop her when she went for the third car to throw.
“Huh? What do you mean, what am I doing? I’m trying to stop him, you know!!”
Cleo was clearly confused at the reactions of her friends so she tilted her head. Normally, some might say that’s cute, but that was impossible to say now, what with a car hoisted above her head, ready to be thrown.
“Are you trying to destroy the entire town?! Alert the whole world?! Stop before you do more damage!!”
Erik angrily shouted at her.
“Then what am I supposed to do?! He’s a crafty bastard, that one, you know!!” Cleo shouted back, exasperated.
“Well, you are faster than him, so chase him down,” Lei said as she tried to steady her breathing. “You can do that much, right?”
Cleo frowned unhappily but turned on her heels and dropped the car with a thud. Then she crouched, her leg muscles bulging. She pounced forward like an exploding bullet. The asphalt below her feet violently broke apart as her body was catapulted forward.
In a literal blink of an eye, Cleo’s explosive burst of speed allowed her to overtake Jack. Stunned, he stopped in his tracks, which was a mistake.
She reached out to grab him. Jack saw her movements, reading the way her shoulder and arm muscles flexed and tensed, something he started doing for the first time when facing that coyote. He still couldn’t explain how it worked nor why he could do it, but now wasn’t the time to complain.
Jack knew how best to counter the movements, her attempts at grabbing him. The big issue here, though, was not that he could see and tell, it was more to do with the slow reaction times his body could only manage. Just like when he was with the coyote, or the robber’s gun.
Jack tried to dodge out of her grasps, but it simply wasn’t enough – Cleo easily found a sure grip on his shirt and with another burst of strength, tossed him lightly over. Jack’s already tattered shirt ripped even further as he flew in the air, his arms and legs comically waving about.
Of course, he screamed.
His shocked cries only ended when Jack landed on the hood of a parked car with a heavy thud. All the air in his lungs violently escaped, feeling like ripping his chest to shreds in the process. All his bones seemed to crack from that simple throw.
Somehow, he was able to keep his consciousness and was able to roll off the damaged car, landing face first on the pavement. Groaning, he got up, but before he could react, Cleo was there. She shoved him in the chest, causing Jack to fly backwards and skid on the harsh asphalt for a good few feet. His back burned like hell.
Jack kept his eyes open the whole time through sheer force of will. He watched as a confident grin grew wider on Cleo’s face. She seemed to be enjoying this. Well, he sure wasn’t.
He had to do something, anything to persevere until the help arrived. He didn’t know when it would arrive, but it would come regardless. That much he was certain of. It had to.
And sure enough, just as Cleo proudly walked towards him, triumphant in her victory, a figure began to quickly descend from the sky.
Jack briefly squinted his eyes under the glare of harsh late afternoon sunlight, but he felt a powerful wave of relief the moment he heard the familiar voice shouting out the words “Halt!! Stop this destruction of the private property!!”
Cleo’s eyes narrowed as she watched Alpha Man stand before her. She couldn’t really tell whether this guy was serious or not, solely because of his get-up. Even Jack was slightly embarrassed at the Superhero’s costume, but whatever, the help had indeed arrived. Just in time, too.
“Can you stand, Jack?” Alpha Man asked without turning back.
Jack pulled himself up with some difficulty, but grinned weakly as he righted his aching torso. “Yeah, but be careful. There are two others. One can manipulate electronics, I think. As for the other one, I’m not so sure.”
Alpha Man nodded. “Don’t worry. The backup is coming.”
“Good, because there are a couple of people who need the medical attention back there,” said Jack as he clutched his aching side, sensing that maybe something might be broken there.
Alpha Man grimly glanced into the distance, noticing the upside down car. His expression took on a darker shade after recognizing it. “Get to a safer place, Jack. It will get messy from now on!!”
Hell, you don’t have to tell me twice!! Jack sighed inwardly, as he began to force his weary and hurting body to walk away.
“Dunno who you are, mister, but this doesn’t concern you, so back the hell off,” growled Cleo as she approached Alpha Man in a confident stride.
Immediately, he went on a high alert. He could tell this teenage girl was physically quite strong, maybe even as strong as certain members of SoJ.
“No, young lady. This does concern me. Please cease and desist. Hand yourself over to the police peacefully. Do not make your punishment worse by resisting me.”
Alpha Man spoke with a solemn voice as he reached for the batons on his waist. He was not taking any chances here after seeing all the damage done to the area.
Cleo snorted derisively and pounced. She was extremely quick, taking Alpha Man by surprise. However, the veteran Superhero had fought other powerful lawbreakers on multiple occasions before. He knew how to react in these types of situations.
He predicted the potential trajectory of Cleo the moment she dashed forward. All he had to do was swing his batons at the right angle and at the right time.
There was the solid connection between the reinforced material and Cleo’s body. She was blown away by her own momentum and the guile of the seasoned Superhero.
She landed hard on the side of a parked car, lifting it off the ground for a couple of feet. Stuck inside the twisted metal, Cleo held her head as if it was going through a dizzy spell. “Ouch, that hurts.”
Jack could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel after witnessing that quick exchange of moves. He was now saved, without a doubt!! He could finally relax for a second.
It was then Erik and Lei finally arrived on the scene. As soon as they did, Erik’s face darkened unhappily. “Alpha Man, a member of the Scales of Justice. A registered Superhero. Damn, how did he arrive here so quickly?”
“Hey, Erik, do something, will ya,” Cleo groaned from the side of the car. Clearly, she was hurting from the impact as she gingerly stood up while holding her left shoulder.
Erik nodded and glanced at Jack before taking his glasses off. Jack suddenly had another bad premonition when his eyes met with Erik’s. He felt like something was going to happen and it wasn’t going to be in his favor.
Alpha Man also took guard against the new arrivals, carefully observing the pale boy and the Oriental girl next to him. And when the boy took off his glasses, Alpha Man realized that the boy’s powers must have a correlation with his eyes.
So, he immediately jumped back, trying to get to a safe distance before an attack came his way. Too bad it wasn’t the type of attack he thought it could be.
The moment their eyes were locked, Alpha Man felt all his strength drain out of him. He couldn’t even keep his balance and started to falter. If Jack wasn’t there to support the man, he’d have crashed down on the ground.
“Hey, get a hold of yourself!!” Jack desperately shouted at the Superhero. This was not what he expected to happen. The help was rendered helpless within seconds and the danger was yet to pass over. This was bad.
Cleo was getting up, trying to swing her left arm. She winced a little but was able to move her limb just fine. “Whew, that hurts but I think nothing’s broken, so yeah, it’s all good. You really surprised me there, mister.”
There was a venom in her voice which made Jack shudder. He looked at Alpha Man and to his utter shock, both of the Superhero’s eyes had turned milky white with no irides in them. There was foam bubbling on the corners of his mouth, too. This was getting worse still, by the looks of things. He gasped desperately, wondering when the mentioned backup would arrive.
Erik hurriedly put the glasses back on, his face paler than before and his eyes bloodshot. In fact, there was a hint of a nosebleed as well. “Hey, Cleo – let’s finish this quickly. There should be more of other Superheroes coming this way and very soon at that.”
“Got it,” nodded Cleo and she quickly approached Jack, reaching out to grab him again.
Once more, Jack could see it, the way her muscles moved, telling him what her intentions were, and how to avoid being in a disadvantageous position.
Gritting his teeth, he tried to move in the way that gave him the most advantage, but as usual, his speed was just too slow compared to her. She grabbed his shoulder and pulled him up.
When this happened, Jack’s intuition had changed from avoiding being grabbed to how to free himself from her grasp. His hands shot up and lightly circled around Cleo’s wrists, before locking onto her joints and effortlessly brushing it away.
Confusion was written large on her face as she lost all control of her own arms, before Jack lightly tossed her away, while kneeling forward on one knee. It was a picture perfect Aikido throw that even a master of the famed martial art would applaud for how flawless its execution was.
She landed heavily on the ground. But she seemingly didn’t take much damage from the unexpected throw, as she bounced right back up without missing a beat. Still, confusion dominated her face, not sure of what just had happened. Not only her, but so did everyone else present here – including Jack.
But he had a moment of clarity then. If his strength and speed were found lacking as a result of possessing lower specs, then he’d best his opponents using techniques. As to just what techniques he’d use, well….
His body, his instincts, knew the right ones already.
Cleo came at him again. And she was faster; Jack could barely keep up.
But the moment she was able to grab him, he somehow dislodged her grip and threw her off her feet. Again and again. It was like a weird dance between two well-choreographed dancers.
By the fourth time she was thrown around, Cleo snapped in anger. Her face crumpled and one or two veins were popping on her forehead. Both Erik and Lei were watching from the side, stunned and bemused at the same time, by this strange turn of events.
Cleo decided that she’d had enough of this “trying to grab him” crap, immediately going for a powerful shove instead. But even then, Jack read her intentions correctly. He tilted his chest just enough to negate most of the blow. Still, Jack was flung back from the force, but managed the aftermaths without dying, which was a good news.
It only served to infuriate Cleo even more, though, seeing that Jack was, relatively speaking, fine and was standing on his two feet unaided. She pointed at him and angrily stomped on her feet.
“Hey!! I dunno what you are doing, but stop it!! I hate cheaters, you know!!”
Jack could only bitterly smile. Even though it looked like he was having an upper hand, in truth, he was barely hanging on. His energy was almost at the rock bottom; his entire body ached; his muscles were screaming from the overexertion. Worse still, he couldn’t completely avoid that last shove. He felt like that one of his ribs must have cracked from the impact.
The situation was not getting any better for him.
“They are coming,” said Lei as she tapped Erik on his shoulder. “We need to decide now, Erik.”
The glasses-wearing boy sighed and nodded. “Fine. Cleo, let’s wrap this up. We’ll take him with us.”
“But I can’t even grab him, you know?!” Cleo angrily stomped on the ground again, leaving an indentation of her foot on the hard asphalt. Seeing that power, Jack felt another cold sweat running down his spine.
“Take me where, exactly?” Jack frowned, cautiously observing the trio, trying hard not to topple over from fatigue and pain.
“….Well, you’ll see when we get there,” replied Erik.
“And if I refuse?” The bitter smile remained on Jack’s lips, but now, it was tinged with grim determination.
Erik sighed again. “Look – I’ve seen enough from this exchange. You are…. related to us. I don’t know how, or why yet. But I’m intending to find out. Aren’t you at least a bit curious as to why we could feel your presence? That why you can do what you just did against Cleo? I know you have burning questions in your heart. I can sense them. Don’t you want answers to them?”
Erik stepped forward and offered his hand.
“Come with us and maybe, just maybe, you will be able to figure this out. Get some answers, find the way to move forward in the future. What do you say?”
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