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Machinations - 1. Arc 1, Falling

It was a lovely day in the city of Candlelight Cove, if one ignored the fact that half of the electricity grid had been knocked out, a skyscraper was shooting lightning into the sky, and five police cars were stuck to said skyscraper. Then again, Nathan supposed, there weren’t any confirmed fatalities after ten hours, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. On the other hand, he hadn’t heard a word about his teammates. Bodycams and radios weren’t working due to the EMPs of the area. The news footage he was watching had the same problem, only catching things from afar. His teammates were nothing more than colorful blobs.

Nathan’s earpiece buzzed. “Enmachina,” Angelica said, “please report to my office ASAP.”

Understood,” he replied. If she was calling for Enmachina, she wanted him suited up. But why? Was the situation so bad that she was willing to send even him out for an electromagnetic crisis? He hastily put on his suit, powered up the components, and practically ran to the captain’s office.

What’s the situation?” Enmachina asked, opening the door and then stopping dead. Angelica was there, sitting behind her desk, but there was another person there. A very colorful one, in fact: the costume was a dress and cape with a bright rainbow gradient down to the knees, as well as a rainbow domino mask.

The rest of the team has cornered the villain responsible,” Angelica said. “It’s Flashstrike, of course, except this time he decided to play Frankenstein.” She picked up the remote on her desk and pressed a button.

Flashstrike’s barricaded himself in the top floor with some sort of shield,” came Stethoscope’s voice. Enmachina relaxed. Raph was all right. “From what we saw on the initial sweep, there’s nothing else in there for him to defend himself with. We just need to get through and then it’s all over.” Judging by Scope’s voice, he was definitely ready for it to be over.

Angelica set the remote down. “That’s from about ten minutes ago. I would have called you sooner, but I was distracted by our new arrival.”

Thank you for the update,” Enmachina said. “So, who’s this?”

Rainbright,” the new hero said, holding out a hand.

She transferred over from Micropolis,” Angelica said. “Too many heroes, not enough crime.”

Doesn’t sound like a problem to me,” Enmachina said, barely remembering to pitch his voice modulator higher to keep it light. His suit’s monotone filters really got to people sometimes. Didn’t want to scare off the newbie.

It’s certainly not a problem for us,” Angelica said. “Rainbright, I’d like you to go on patrol with Enmachina and learn the ropes. We’ll introduce you to the rest this evening, assuming the crisis is over by then. Understood?”

Rainbright nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

Angelica smiled. “Off you go, then. I’ll call you when they’re back.

Enmachina nodded and left, walking slowly until he was sure Rainbright was following. “So,” Rainbright asked, “is this sort of thing normal here?”

The skyscraper lightning rod? Not really. We only have something big like that every few months.” He glanced at her costume. “Can I guess your powerset?” he asked.

Sure,” Rainbright said, looking at the hallways. It was very modern, with large internal windows looking into each room and plants growing in between. Enmachina guessed that the Micropolis Corps, one of the older and smaller branches of Power Corps, didn’t have a building like this. Though he’d ever been to Micropolis, so he couldn’t say. “Hit me with your best guess,” she continued. She was definitely a lot perkier once she was away from Angelica. The wings were pretty intimidating.

Flyer, maybe a Flying Brick, with light-based powers.”

Rainbright squeaked. “How’d you know?”

Well, you’re out on patrol with me. I usually do flying patrols, so you’d have to fly in order to work with me,” Enmachina said. “And for the light powers, that’s usually why heroes wear rainbows. That or they’re extremely gay. Or both.”

Well… I’m not a Brick. I don’t have strength or invulnerability. But other than that, you’re right.” Rainbright bit her lip. “I make hard light, actually. Up to six things. All different colors. And I can make really bright lights to blind people.”

Can you show me?” Enmachina asked. “The hard light, I mean. Please don’t blind me.”

Rainbright nodded and struck a heroic pose. Six translucent clones of her appeared, making the same pose. All of them were in a different color from red to purple. Enmachina poked the red one, which was closest. It tipped back like a statue, rather than swaying like a human would. Rainbright relaxed her arms and so did the clones. “I can control them, too,” she said.

Very useful,” Enmachina said.

What about you?” Rainbright said. “I mean, I’m assuming you’re a human in there. Not that AI heroes don’t exist.”

Hmm,” Enmachina said. Underneath his faceplate, Nathan grinned, though he didn’t adjust his modulator from its normal monotone. “I guessed your powers. What if you have to guess mine?”

What? No fair!” Rainbright said.

Totally fair. Now, come on. We need to get the afternoon patrol going.” He walked away.

Rainbright tagged along. “Well, you said you have flight powers. Flying Brick?”

Nope. None of the three.”

But then how do you fly?”

Through the power of SCIENCE!” Hopefully he didn’t overload his modulator this time.

Mad Scientist. Definitely Mad Scientist.”

Nope.” He made it to the balcony where the flyers usually took off. Some pigeons strutted out of the way, not bothering to take off. “Here’s the landing pad. This is where we take off. Ready?

Ready.”

Enmachina took off. Once he got to a good height, he stopped and hovered, turning off his external voice and turning on comms. “Can you hear me?”

Whoa,” Rainbright said over the radio. “You have a voice! Like, not a machine voice.

Yep. Now, let’s take a good look at the city. We’re mostly in the center, but west of the river.” He pointed south. The bright colors of the touristy centers shone even miles away, though the smokestained grays and blacks of the old shut down factories were equally visible. “South is the ocean, the beach, the docks, and the industrial sector. Lots of warehouses and some factories down there. Also a science museum and an amusement park, though the park is pretty small.

Does it have roller coasters, at least?” Rainbright asked, craning her neck.

Yeah, a couple.” He turned west. There was lots of greenery that way; while the east had its parks, trees and grass just weren’t built in as well. “West and east are both mostly residential. West is the newer developments. A bit more suburban.” Turning around, he pointed east, which was predominantly brick red. “East is older and urban. That’s also where you’ll find Main Street, city hall and the other government stuff, and the zoo. Lots of attacks there.”

Rainbright turned north. “And that’s where all the supervillain lairs are,” she said.

Nathan glanced to the north to look at the skyscraper there, which was still attracting lightning. The other buildings were in the way, so he couldn’t tell if the cars were still stuck to it. “That’s the commercial district. Past that, you have the rich people’s homes and the country club, and past that is a national forest.”

This is way bigger than I thought it’d be,” Rainbright said, sounding faint.

Enmachina resisted the urge to make a joke. “Yeah. We’re not the biggest city in the state, but we’re still pretty far up there. So, we’ll go east first, pass over some of the major hotspots, and then move on to another district. I’ll show you the landmarks. Ready?”

Yeah,” she said. “So can you grow metal out of your body and your suit is really just you?”

No.”

Several rounds of the city later, most of the lights in the city were back on and Rainbright still hadn’t guessed it. “I got it,” she said, as she had the ten times before. “You’ve got superspeed and there’s a little hamster wheel in there that’s powering the suit.”

No,” Enmachina said, not looking away from the streets. “But you’re getting warmer.”

Ooh! You’re actually non-powered, but there’s a superspeeder hamster in there and it’s powering the suit!”

Definitely not.”

Wait, I think…”

Rainbright was cut off by a loud click over their audio. “We have reports of supervillain activity in Tilted Windmills Mini-Golf. Repeat, we have supervillain activity in Tilted Windmills Mini-Golf.”

Enmachina activated his comm. “Enmachina here. Please describe the villain activity.”

Dispatch here. According to our contact… they appear to be golfing.”

Golfing. Such a terrible crime,” Enmachina said. “Is there anything suspicious about how they’re golfing?”

They’re doing it in costume. Two of them. One is wearing a blue suit that covers their entire body, except for a window on their helmet. Difficult to tell their gender. The other… is on fire.”

The contact couldn’t have led with that?” Enmachina grumbled. Echo and Couronne. Just what he needed in front of the newbie. At least Echo had stopped with the song and dance routine. Hopefully they didn’t decide to revive it for the occasion. “Are they threatening the workers or other golfers? Setting the place on fire?”

No. They’re just golfing.”

Huh. Well, might as well check it out. Send us the coordinates and we’ll be on our way.” That was weird for them. Ordinarily, a villain doing something very conspicuous would be distracting the team from another crime, but Echo and Couronne didn’t work with other villains. In fact, they were usually the first ones to go after other villains. Besides, the whole skyscraper-lightning thing was more than enough of a distraction. He sent a report back to HQ anyway, just in case. Not like he didn’t have time enough for it: the mini-golf center was on the other side of the city.

So… mini-golf?” Rainbright asked.

Yeah, that’s kinda weird, even for those two.” Enmachina shook his head. “Quick question: do you have a catchphrase?”

No. I mean, I have a few ideas, but nothing solid.”

Good. If you get a catchphrase, never say it in front of them. Trust me on this. You will never, ever live it down. Your legacy will be forever tarnished.

Uh… Okay?”

Rainbright obviously wanted to ask more, but they arrived. Enmachina gently touched down, while Rainbright nearly stumbled into the wall. After a quick check to make sure she was all right, he walked inside. The clerk inside looked bored, but raised her eyebrows when she saw Rainbright. “We heard you had a pest problem,” Enmachina said.

Yeah. Sort of.”

What are they doing, exactly?” Enmachina asked.

The clerk shrugged. “They’re playing golf. That’s it. They even paid for it.”

Card?” Enmachina asked hopefully.

Cash.”

I see.” No trace to their civilian identities. Sure, that would have been a really stupid move, but the two were currently playing mini-golf in costume, so he wasn’t sure how to rate their intelligence at the moment. “We’ll take care of it. Come on,” he said, waving Rainbright along toward the back. “Now, what’s our first priority?”

Arresting the villains?” Rainbright asked eagerly.

...No. First priority, we need to get them out of the building. If we start a fight inside, we’ll probably destroy it and hurt bystanders.”

Oh,” Rainbright said, hunching her shoulders. “Okay. So how do we do that?”

Doesn’t hurt to ask politely,” Enmachina said. He turned a corner and spotted the two immediately. Aside from the fact that there was nobody else in there, Couronne was very distinctive due to being on so much fire that it obscured their body entirely. Couronne was lining up their golf swing while Echo leaned on their club. “Really, you two?” he called out to them.

They both turned to look at him. “Really,” Echo called back, mimicking his voice modulator except somehow making it sound smug.

Couronne waved a hand in the air. Flaming words appeared, saying Who’s the pride flag?

Introduction time, I guess. Rainbright, this is Echo and Couronne. Couronne is the one on fire, who shockingly has fire-based powers.” Couronne gave a wave. “Echo has sonic amplification and repeats what people say.”

Echo!” Echo echoed.

They’re also a Flying Brick, and Couronne flies. Echo, Couronne, this is Rainbright.”

Echo stepped forward and offered a hand. Rainbright automatically shook it. Enmachina cringed, but that safety lecture could wait. “So,” he said, “How about we go outside and avoid destroying the place?”

Destroy,” Echo repeated gleefully.

Couronne just shrugged. Why should we leave? We’re not breaking any laws.

There are multiple warrants out for your arrest,” Enmachina said. “We can arrest you at any time, regardless of what you’re doing.” He was pretty sure they knew that already. They kept from crossing so many lines that they had to know where those lines were. “And really, why did you two decide to go out golfing? I thought you hated golf.”

Nah, just rich people, Couronne wrote in the air. Want to join us?

No, I would not like to join you,” Enmachina said. “Look. You’re out in the open, in your costumes. Obviously you want attention. We’ll get plenty of it if we’re fighting, won’t we? So let’s go off and fight.”

Do we get a refund? Couronne wrote. We haven’t played all our balls.

I’ll be sure to tell the court to take it off whatever fines you get,” Enmachina said.

The two looked at each other, and then Echo shrugged. They dropped their clubs and walked toward the exit. Enmachina followed. “Echo looks really familiar,” Rainbright said.

Probably. They’ve gone viral a few times.”

Right, right. So is this the part where we arrest them?” Rainbright asked.

Enmachina sighed. “I hate to say it, but it would be really hard for us to arrest them,” he said. “Couronne is on fire. It’s pretty hard to arrest someone who’s on fire unless they surrender. Like, how do you even get the inhibitor cuffs on without burning yourself?

What about Echo?”

Invulnerable, so Couronne can also set them on fire.”

So… what exactly are we doing, then?”

Well, I figure while we’re here, I can take a look at your combat capabilities.” At Rainbright’s horrified look, he chuckled. “Don’t worry. These two know the rules. They don’t try to kill heroes. Oh, by the way, never shake hands with a villain. Echo is… well, we’re not entirely sure of Echo’s powers, but they appear to have something similar to Nightingale, so we don’t think they have skin contact powers. But still, don’t shake hands.”

Oh.” Rainbright’s eyes were wide. “Nightingale? Wait, does that mean…”

Enmachina shrugged. “Powers aren’t always transmitted through families. We did investigate her just in case, but she doesn’t have any living relatives that we can trace.” Honestly, they needed to go visit her – both to ask her and in general – but it was too much of a security risk. Nursing homes might be unofficially off-limits to villains, but not everyone abided by those rules.

Then Echo and Couronne took off and Enmachina had to focus on following them. They went to a nearby abandoned parking lot with weeds stretching for the sky from the pavement cracks. Couronne stood opposite from Rainbright and Echo opposed Enmachina. Rainbright started off first, creating six pillows behind Couronne. The pillows swung forward. Even though Couronne didn’t move a muscle or even look around, the pillows disappeared the moment they hit the flames.

Echo screamed and Enmachina shut off his outside audio, though he could still feel his armor vibrating with the sheer force of it. Moments later, they slammed into him. He stumbled back, kicked his legs up and activated his pulse cannon. Echo flew back. In a few moments, they would fly and right themself. Before that could happen, Enmachina activated his flight boosters, caught up, and threw Echo into the ground. He deactivated the boosters and dropped right on top of them. Echo grabbed his leg armor, squeezed until he could feel the internal padding pressing against his leg, and shot up into the air. Enmachina tried aiming his pulse cannon at them, but it was a little hard when he was dangling in the air by his leg. He kicked out with his other leg. They dropped him and he had just enough time to activate his inertial dampeners before he hit the ground. He still felt a bone-jarring thud, but most of the blow was cushioned. At least this time, he didn’t panic and activate his flight boosters, which would have shot him into the ground even faster.

Why isn’t this working?!” Rainbright yelled. Neither she nor Couronne had moved. She had six clones out, all trying to punch Couronne, but their arms disappeared as soon as they got near and reformed as they moved away. Her creations were hard light, so… did Couronne have light-bending abilities?

Enmachina got up and went to her side. “Let’s switch,” he said, firing his pulse cannon. Couronne finally moved, dodging to the side and conjuring up a bolas made of fire. When he threw them, Enmachina shot them with his cannon, dispersing them. Not that they would have done much – Couronne’s fire creations weren’t solid – but the less he burnt his armor the better.

Meanwhile, Echo had landed. Rainbright had immediately acted by covering them in a light bubble, and Echo was pressing against the walls. Enmachina’s eyes widened. If Echo was trapped in there, then it might be possible to actually arrest them. Unfortunately, Couronne somehow noticed it, even though they didn’t turn their head. Or they didn’t appear to turn their head, at least. Whatever the case, the bubble around Echo disappeared. Echo immediately ran forward and kicked Rainbright in her exposed shin. Rainbright yelped and ran away, and Echo gave chase.

Enmachina fired his pulse cannon again, this time straight at Couronne. He wasn’t fast enough: Couronne flew up over the blast and flung a fireball. Enmachina shot it with the pulse cannon. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much he could do at this point. Maybe if he distracted Couronne enough, Rainbright could try to seal off Echo, but Rainbright was currently running around to avoid getting kicked again. It was safe to call this one a loss, he decided, dodging another fireball.

That is it!” Rainbright screamed. She held out her arms, and they glowed white.

What had she said? She could make hard light, but also make really bright lights to blind people? He shut his eyes and turned off his cameras. Even so, his eyelids brightened up. When that faded and Enmachina turned his sight back on, Echo and Couronne were nowhere to be found, not even in the sky. He sighed. Even if the whole fight was a bust, it would have been nice to turn them in.

Did… did I vaporize them with my light?” Rainbright was staring down at her hands in horror.

No, of course not. I’m still here.” Enmachina looked down. “See? Armor isn’t even scratched. They probably just ran away under cover of the light.”

Rainbright looked up at the sky. “Do you think we can catch them?”

Enmachina shrugged. “Might as well look around for them.”

They patrolled over the area for an hour or so, but there was no trace of them at the usual targets: banks, country clubs, homophobic fast food restaurants. There were no calls in, either. Enmachina was just about to head back when the comm crackled. “There’s a large protest going on outside City Hall. Requesting assistance in case of supervillain attendance.”

That was in the east side, on the opposite side of the city. Enmachina frowned. “Has a supervillain sighting been confirmed?”

No, but they’re protesting that accident from a few weeks back. Prime target for a certain duo, don’t you think?”

Right. The “accident”. If it weren’t for the fact that a police officer had done it, they’d be calling it murder. Still, Echo and Couronne did tend to show up during police brutality protests. Wait, was that why they’d been out earlier? Had they been trying to lure any remaining heroes as far away as possible to increase reaction times? “Right. We’ll be there as soon as we can. Enmachina out.

When they arrived at the parking lot outside City Hall, there were no supervillains there. There were no police there, either, which was pretty surprising. Enmachina sat on a nearby roof and motioned for Rainbright to do the same. “So, what are they protesting?” she asked.

Few weeks ago, a cop shot and killed a kid who wasn’t responding to commands. Claimed the kid was a criminal. Turns out the kid was disabled and couldn’t hear the orders. The investigation’s pretty much dead now.

That’s horrible!” Rainbright said. A moment later, But was the kid a criminal?”

Enmachina turned to face her. “He was ten. A neighbor called the police because they thought the kid was acting too neurodivergent and then the officer claimed the kid was potentially violent. No weapon, no violence, just non-compliance due to being unable to hear. This isn’t the officer’s first problem, either. And even if the kid was a criminal, we don’t have the death penalty here. And even if we did, the constitution guarantees us the right to a jury to sentence us, not a police officer carrying out an execution for no reason.” Not to mention how funny it was that these “accidents” tended to happen to certain demographics and not others. It could just as easily happen to Scope if the wrong officer caught him out of uniform.

But…

Whatever she was going to say, it was cut off by the arrival of armored trucks. Police exited trucks in full riot gear. The protesters didn’t even have any weapons. They still stood their ground, but they were looking decidedly nervous and some moved behind their signs. Enmachina fought the urge to get down there. Last time he’d tried to interfere in something like this, the police had refused to fully cooperate with the Cove Corps for a month, which had cost a few people their lives.

The police lined up, shields in front and guns at the ready. Enmachina glanced up at the sky… and a blue streak fell from it straight onto one of the trucks, landing with a loud crunch. The police whipped around, some shooting. Echo shrugged off the bullets, leaping onto an undamaged truck, cackling like a kookaburra. From the other side, the protesters parted and allowed Couronne through to the front. Enmachina let out his breath. As horrible as those two were, they could at least be counted on for some things.

Why are they cheering?” Rainbright asked.

The protesters were indeed applauding their arrival. “Because those two are there to protect them from the police,” Enmachina said.

What?!”

The line of police turned to look over at the protesters again, and were immediately hit by a sonic scream from behind, forcing them to turn their shields and guns around. “They’re making it impossible for the police to fire on the protesters,” Enmachina said. “If they try to shoot, Echo gets them from behind. If they try to throw tear gas… well, tear gas is flammable and it leaves a trail straight back to the officers.”

One of the officers produced a bullhorn from… somewhere… and aimed it at Echo. “Put your hands in the air,” he called.

Hands in the air!” the protesters immediately roared. Right, that was the newest Echo dance meme. “Hands in the air! Supervillain, put your hands in the air!”

Echo did the dance to go along with the chant, and then bowed with enough flamboyance to rival their partner.

What was that?” Rainbright asked.

Remember how I told you not to use a catchphrase around them? That’s why. Echo repeats things. Sometimes, they repeat them to music and add a dance.”

Oh!” Rainbright said, sitting straight up. “That’s where I’ve seen them before! The Cogs of Justice video! That was hilarious!” She giggled. “Have you seen that one?”

Enmachina twitched. “Yeah. I’ve seen it.”

Sure, his previous catchphrase had been kind of silly. ‘The cogs of justice have turned on you!’ Still, it wasn’t the worst he’d heard. But then, during a fight with Echo, he’d said it and then a car with loud music went past. Echo had looked between him and the car and then immediately said, ‘the cogs of justice have turned you on!’ Things went downhill from there, complete with song and dance. Raph hadn’t been feeling well that night, so Nathan had gone to visit Eric and Coral, hoping for a bit of a reprieve. Instead, he’d found them howling with laughter over Echo’s butchering of his catchphrase. Not only had someone recorded it and put it on the internet, but it had been remixed a dozen times. After that, he couldn’t say his catchphrase without someone nearby bursting into laughter or into song.

Not that he was bitter. Even if Echo, a supervillain, had more fans on the internet than he did. That just proved how little social media mattered.

Shouldn’t we stop this?” Rainbright said.

Enmachina jumped. Right, he needed to keep an eye on things. So far, they were still at a stalemate, with the police stuck between Echo and Couronne. “Yeah, I guess. We’ll talk to them first, though. We don’t want to get people hurt.” He pushed himself off the building and made his way down. “Come on, guys,” he called out. “You’re scaring the cops. They’re all shaking in their riot gear.” He ignored indignant looks from some of the officers.

Echo stroked their chin. “Shaking in their riot gear,” they repeated.

Yeah,” Enmachina said. He couldn’t help it. “I mean, they’re deathly scared of little kids with mental disorders. How do you think they’re holding up against full-grown villains?” He was so going on probation after this.

Whose side are you on?!” One of the police yelled.

The side of people who I know won’t kill my black, disabled boyfriend just for existing. At least Echo and Couronne hadn’t killed anyone. “Just trying to defuse the situation, officer.”

You’re scaring the cops,” Echo repeated, jerking their head at the police.

Right. They fear the hero and not the two villains who can each take them down.”

Echo looked between Enmachina and the police. “Take them down,” they said, a hint of speculation in their repeated monotone.

Oh dear,” Enmachina said, massaging his forehead. Or, at least, the top of his faceplate. “You know that’s against the rules.”

Echo suddenly straightened up and began clapping. “Cops fear little kids, oh dear! Shaking in their riot gear!” The protesters took up the chant.

Yep. Definitely going on probation. “Knock it off!” Enmachina said.

Cops knock off little kids!” Echo retorted, and then continued chanting. This time, they began to dance. That was never a good sign.

Enmachina sighed and turned to the cops. “They won’t stop as long as you’re here,” he said. “It might be a good time to leave.”

We’re not leaving until the threat’s been neutralized,” the nearest officer said.

What threat?” Enmachina asked. “The protesters? They don’t have weapons and they haven’t been attacking anything. And the first amendment guarantees them the right to protest without getting arrested. The supervillains? They’re only here because you are. Leave and they will.They didn’t look convinced. “I’ll be here. I can handle them.” They looked especially unconvinced.

Still, apparently they realized there was nothing else they could do, so they quietly filed back into their vehicles, minus the damaged one. Echo hopped down from their perch, though continued to watch them as they left. The protesters cheered.

Time for you two to leave,” Enmachina said. “Cops are gone, no need for you to be here.”

Couronne stepped forward. Fine, they wrote, but if they come back, so do we.

Fair enough. Now go.”

The two looked at each other, nodded, and then flew off into the sky. Even though Enmachina was watching, he soon lost sight of them.

Should have arrested them,” Rainbright muttered. Fortunately, she was quiet enough that the protesters didn’t hear.

Come on. Let’s sit and watch for a while.” Enmachina flew off back to the building where they’d been waiting. When Rainbright was seated next to him, he spoke. “Do you know about the unofficial rules of heroes and villains?”

No? I mean, I think you said a few things earlier, though.”

Enmachina counted off on his fingers. “No intentional deaths or injuries, and they need to go out of their way to prevent accidental injuries. No hospitals, schools, daycares, or retirement homes. No international crimes or widescale effects. If they find someone’s secret identity, no going after them or their families. If anyone else breaks these rules, they have to help apprehend whoever broke the rules.” He tapped his thumb. “That last is the most important. You’ve heard of the End Crisis, haven’t you?”

Well, of course,” Rainbright said.

My… predecessor participated. Many villains did as well. In fact, one of them saved her life when she got caught in the bell’s radius. Without them, it’s entirely possible we would have lost. Even when we’re not in a massive crisis, the Cove has way too few heroes and too many villains. And the villains are honestly more afraid of each other than of us. We have rules about not killing. So if someone follows all the rules, especially the one about catching other villains, they get a little leeway. Echo and Couronne are villains, but they stick to the rules. Mostly civil disobedience, vandalism, resisting arrest, mocking people, and the occasional bank robbery that doesn’t even give them more than a few hundred dollars. Small fry as far as supervillains go. But they’re especially good at hunting down rulebreakers and turning them in alive, so we pretty much just chase them off when they cause problems.”

But…” Rainbright looked upset. “You’re letting villains go! And working with them! What if they hurt someone in the future? Isn’t that your fault?”

Enmachina shook his head. “What’s the alternative? They’re too powerful for us to arrest. It’s pretty much killing them or letting them go, and they haven’t done anything worth death. If we do have the chance to arrest them or if they cross a line, then we’ll deal with them. Until then, they’re at least doing something good by scaring off worse villains.”

Rainbright was silent for a while. “I just don’t know.”

Well, when we get back, you can talk to Angelica and the other team members about it.” He wasn’t good at philosophy. All he knew was that killing was an extreme measure and anyone alive had the chance to change and do good. Teaching a rookie hero about moral relativism on her first day? Definitely not something up his alley.

He watched the protesters for a while. The cops hopefully weren’t coming back to arrest any of them. He couldn’t see Echo or Couronne anywhere, but they were probably still around.

Was I terrible today?” Rainbright suddenly asked.

No,” Enmachina immediately replied. That was probably too fast. “No,” he said again after a moment. “That idea you had of putting Echo in a bubble? That was brilliant. If Couronne hadn’t been there, you would definitely have won.” And then the protesters would have been illegally assaulted and arrested by the police. “Though I think you might need to work on self-defense and hand-to-hand. Getting chased around by a supervillain who’s kicking you? Not a very good look.” Oddly, she looked more relaxed after he criticized her.

I wasn’t trying to capture them. I just wanted to keep them from screaming and so I put something around them to stop it.”

Well, it worked. Do you think you could lift a bubble if someone was inside?”

Rainbright looked at her hands. “Maybe?”

Well, I’ll tell Angelica about it. She’ll get you some training to help you figure out the tactics.” The protesters were starting to pack up. “Looks like we should head back. We’re done here.” And the team was likely back. If things were bad, Raph would probably be in bed recovering. That meant Nathan could spend the night with Eric instead.

As he stood up to leave, he saw firelight flickering off a nearby alley’s walls. He ignored it.

Copyright © 2021 Flamboyant Chatoyant; All Rights Reserved.
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