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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Machinations - 13. Arc 2, Chapter 3

Enmachina flew over the city, scanning the streets below. He was feeling pretty annoyed. Even though Scanner and Smokescreen had been on the team for a week, he hadn’t been able to see them at all. He knew perfectly well who they were, given that they’d told him their powers. In fact, he’d been the one to tell Angelica about them.

He hadn’t even gotten to see Eric’s introduction into the Corps. On the one hand, he understood why Angelica didn’t want them together after they’d been fighting. But they’d forgiven Angelica, hadn’t they? If he could just talk to Eric, then they could work everything out. But Eric didn’t want to talk to him right now. He did understand that Eric needed time. But where was the line between giving someone space and a lack of communication? It was beginning to feel more like the latter.

A flash of color caught his eye and he zoomed in the camera. Definitely a suit, patterned after the American flag but with a blue belt covering one of the white stripes. Ugh. That was Minor Matters, a vigilante with brick powers and nothing else. They were looking into an alleyway. Enmachina looked into the alleyway, too, and saw a white man with a gun holding up an elderly black man. Minor Matters looked in, clearly seeing it, and walked away.

Enmachina put on a burst of speed, activating his radio. “Armed robbery spotted, going in to intervene.” He landed just inside the alleyway, moving up behind the robber.

“Come on, hurry up!” the robber said, waving his gun. The elderly man’s hands shook as he held out a watch.

“Hello,” Enmachina said. The robber whipped around. “Would you happen to have the time?”

“But, I…” The robber looked caught in the headlights. “He stole it from me! I was just taking my watch back!”

“Really?” Enmachina said, taking a step forward. “An elderly man with shaking hands stole a watch from you, a man with a gun?”

“Y-yeah.” The robber’s hands were shaking now, too.

“Well then, I’m sure the police will be happy to listen to it as they file a report for assault. Because even if I believe you, threatening someone with a gun is still inappropriate behavior.” Enmachina took another step forward. “I recommend you put down the gun. You have the right to remain silent--”

The robber pointed the gun at the elderly man, who was edging toward a door in the alleyway. “Shut up or I shoot him!”

“Oh dear. Adding a charge of attempted murder, are we?” Enmachina switched his arm to a small grappling hook. Without raising his arm, he shot a line out and yanked the gun away. It went off with a loud clang before falling to the ground. Enmachina pulled a ziptie out, forced the robber’s hands together, and tied his wrists. “Are you all right, sir?” he asked the elderly man. He was pretty sure the shot hit the dumpster in the alleyway, but there was a reason there was an entire field of study on how bullets moved.

“Yes.” The man’s voice was as shaky as his hands. “Didn’t hit me.”

“Good. Do you feel comfortable talking to the police? I’ll stay here either way.”

The man hesitated, but nodded. “I can give them a report.”

“Excellent. Now, as for you…” He nudged the robber. “You have the right to remain silent--”

“Hey!” The voice came from outside the alleyway. Enmachina glanced over to see Minor Matters stomping up towards him. “Unhand that citizen!”

“I am in the middle of an arrest,” Enmachina said before turning back to the robber. “Remain silent, anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have a lawyer with you during questioning. If you--”

Minor Matters grabbed Enmachina’s arm. “Let him go!”

“Let me go, or I’ll slap a cuff on you.” Minor Matters let go. “If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. If you decide to answer questions without a lawyer present, you have the right to stop answering at any time. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”

The robber gave Enmachina a glare and silently sulked. Well, it didn’t matter. Their jurisdiction didn’t require a firm answer of yes, just not a no, and the robber had clearly been communicating in English beforehand. Still… “Just to be clear, staying silent does not invoke your right to remain silent. You have to say out loud that you are remaining silent.”

“I understand,” the robber said.

Enmachina switched to the comm. “ETA for the police?”

“Should be there in a few seconds.”

“Excellent.” Not that he was happy about having to deal with the police, but they were the people who were supposed to handle non-powered criminals. “I’m currently recording. Please let them know that I’ll send the video to them once the encounter is over.”

“You have no proof that the man is a criminal,” Minor Matters said. “How do you know he wasn’t just defending himself?”

“Matters, I recorded what I saw. More importantly, I recorded you looking into the alleyway and seeing this man pointing a gun at an unarmed man and demanding his watch. What’s that you always say? All crimes matter? So why didn’t this crime matter?”

“Well, I…” Matters spluttered.

“And why did you only come in when I arrested a white man instead of intervening when a black man was at gunpoint?”

“I’m not legally obligated to intervene in crimes!”

“No, but you’re the one who criticizes us for focusing on certain crimes. We need to do all of them, don’t we? And then when one happens, you ignore it and then complain when I deal with it?”

Before Minor Matters could reply, a police car stopped just outside the alleyway. An officer got out. “This is the suspect?” the officer asked.

“Yes. He was robbing this man at gunpoint. I’m sending the recording to your station,” Enmachina said. “I’ve Mirandized him. That’s his gun on the ground. Shot the dumpster.”

The officer pulled out some gloves and an evidence bag. “And is this your partner?”

Enmachina glared at Minor Matters. “No. This one tried to interfere in the arrest.”

“Okay, then.” The officer picked up the gun and placed it into the bag before turning back to Enmachina. The other one came in and talked to the old man. Enmachina kept a careful eye on them, though that officer seemed to be behaving. Soon, a teenager – the man’s grandson, maybe – came out of the store. “Thank you for your assistance,” the first officer said to Enmachina. To the robber, placing a hand on his arm, “Let’s go.”

The robber was marched to the car and the old man went back inside, guided by the teenager. Minor Matters, on the other hand, glared at Enmachina. “You shouldn’t have done that,” they said. “I’ll testify myself if I have to.”

“Then do so. I don’t care. Everyone knows your reputation.” Enmachina walked back toward the mouth of the alley, trying to find a patch of ground that didn’t have garbage on it. Even if his flight was mostly self-powered, it could still send trash flying.

“What reputation?” Minor Matters demanded.

“That you have a history of only turning in people who aren’t white.” Enmachina glanced at Minor Matters, who looked angry.

“Well, have you considered that white people are just less likely to commit crimes? I mean, there are so many less in prisons,” Minor Matters said triumphantly.

“Interesting. Especially considering that you’ve been placed at the scene of quite a few violent crimes with a white perpetrator and haven’t done anything about it.” Enmachina shrugged. “It’s almost as if the reason there are fewer white people in prison is because people like you give them a pass.”

“That’s just your opinion.” Minor Matters crossed their arms.

“Whatever. Nobody cares about you. I mean, the Corps is desperate for new members. We’d take pretty much anyone at this point. But we’ve been specifically told not to recruit you. Angelica thinks you’d screw over our image. I agree.” Finally, he’d reached a clear spot.

He slammed into the wall of the alley. Minor Matters had taken ahold of his arm and pressed him against the brick. “I don’t care what you think,” they hissed. “You stupid n--”

Enmachina switched his arm to the pulse cannon and fired. Minor Matters stumbled back, releasing Enmachina’s arm. Another shot and he flew into the opposite wall. “Do that again and I’ll have you arrested for battery.”

“You should be arrested, laying your hands on me like that!” Minor Matters took a swing at Enmachina, who dodged it.

“I guess I should start racking up the charges, then. Obstruction of justice, assault, battery… What else would you like to add to that?” He pulled out the inhibitor cuff, taking care to keep it out of Minor Matters’ sight.

“You can’t arrest me!”

Enmachina didn’t bother to respond. He walked closer, keeping his arm trained on Minor Matters. Before he reached them, they shoved him and made a run for it. Enmachina scrambled to his feet and chased after them, but Minor Matters was half a block away by the time Enmachina got up and a full block ahead by the time Enmachina got half a block.

Enmachina stopped and sighed. He couldn’t catch up on foot. Flying might have allowed him to catch up, but flying down the street was prohibited below a certain altitude. The chase was over. That didn’t mean he was out of options, though. He turned on his comm. “Minor Matters attacked me and then made a run for it when I tried to arrest them. They escaped, probably though super-strong running. I couldn’t keep up with them.”

“Acknowledged. We’ll review the footage and decide on a proper course of action.”

Nathan shut off the comm. Minor Matters had escaped. He was just stronger, because he had a power that made him stronger.

Enmachina took a deep breath and flew up into the sky.


Raph settled into the couch after a long day’s work. So many people to scan and heal. But that was his job. If he wasn’t doing that, then what would he do?

Well, for one thing, bake cookies. Nathan was still out on patrol, so they should be done by the time he got back. There was leftover lasagna in the fridge, which would be good for dinner. As for cleaning, he turned on the vacuum and let it run. Everything was good.

There was a knock on the door. Raph frowned. Who was that? The other members of the team didn’t come visit them off-hours. Nathan wasn’t due back yet and he wouldn’t knock besides. Raph opened the door, mostly out of curiosity.

Oh. He should have expected that. Coral was there, with a small wave. Pink bracelet. “Hey,” she said. “I was checking out the room here. Figured I’d say hi. Is that cookies I smell?”

“Yeah,” Raph said. “Come in, sit down.”

Coral walked over to the couch, sneaking glances at the kitchen the whole time. “Nathan’s still out, right?”

“Yeah. Got a few hours. How about Eric?”

“Went to dinner with some coworkers. Networking thing. Wanna hang out?”

“Sure.” He was feeling better than normal after a shift. Hanging out couldn’t hurt. “I got some games here.”

“Great. Let’s see what we got.”

Eventually, they agreed on a game. The main thing was single-player, but it had a multiplayer campaign. There was a nagging question at the back of Raph’s mind, but it took several levels for him to bring it up. Between two levels, he sat back. “Coral?” he asked. “If Nathan and Eric break up, then will we still be friends?”

Coral looked surprised. “Of course. I mean, if you still want to be. Why?”

“Well, we usually spend time together when Nathan and Eric are together.”

“Yeah, since we’re both available then and Nathan is already headed your way.” Coral tilted her head. “Do you want to stay friends if they break up?”

“Yes.” He didn’t even have to think about it. “We’re gaming buddies. And honestly, you’re probably my closest friend. That I’m not dating, anyway.”

“Really?” Coral raised an eyebrow. “What about the team?”

Raph shrugged. “Not really. We’re all friendly, but we really only spend time when we’re on duty. And I’m not really on duty with them, since I work at the hospital and don’t patrol or anything.”

“Huh,” Coral said. “I always heard the team was close. Like a family. Not that I’m particularly close with the people who call themselves my family.”

“Not really,” Raph said. “For the team, I mean. I’m not close with them, but even so, I don’t think the rest of them are that close. Nobody comes to spend time with Nathan and he’s way more involved with the team than I am.”

“Huh,” Coral said again. “What about the hospital staff?”

This was beginning to feel like an interrogation. “They aren’t rude to me, but they aren’t that friendly. I guess I’m just an outsider everywhere. Not that I mind, especially. I don’t have to try to give them birthday gifts.”

Coral laughed. “That’s a good way of looking at it. I never know what to give coworkers, especially if I don’t know them that well. Like, what if they’re allergic to food?”

“Definitely a concern,” Raph said. “I mean, it’s hard enough to give things to Nathan and I’m in love with the guy.”

“Now, I’d just give him stuffed birds with binoculars. Like, who’s watching who now?!”

“Hmm.” Raph gave that some thought. “I might just do that.”

“I should give that to Eric, too. We coordinate our gifts. Oh, and we could make it a scavenger hunt! Every location has a bird and a new hint.”

Raph shook his head. “I think that might be going a bit far.”

Coral pouted. “This is why I’m dating Eric and not you.”

“And he’s welcome to you. No offense. I think we just work better as friends.”

“Agreed,” Coral said.

“Speaking of Eric, what’s going on with him? In regards to him and Nathan.”

Coral sighed. “He thinks he needs to break up with Nathan, but he doesn’t want to. So he’s kinda stuck in this holding pattern. Doesn’t help that he is actually pretty mad at Nathan but doesn’t want to be.”

“That… sounds pretty complicated.” Raph looked down. “I feel like I shouldn’t be saying this, but if it goes on for much longer, then maybe it’s better if they do break up.”

“Maybe.” Coral tapped the arm of the couch with one finger.

“I really hope they don’t, though. I’m happy with how things are.” Raph shrugged. “I mean, I think I’m pretty happy in general. I have a great boyfriend, I’m about to finish my residency, I’m debt-free and have enough money to retire comfortably even now… really, the only thing I’d change is being able to not sense people whenever I touch them, and I think that’s a fair price to pay.”

“Still a problem, isn’t it?” Coral asked. “Still don’t get why they wouldn’t let you put on a cuff. I mean, you have plenty of them.”

“Yes, but they’re designed not to open without a special tool. If I put one on without a good reason, then that causes all sorts of problems.”

“What sorts of problems?”

“Like awkward questions about why I’m wearing a cuff. And paperwork. And possibly losing the right to keep cuffs around.”

“Hmm.” The mischievous look on Coral’s face was concerning. “What if you had a good reason? Such as helping out a teammate?”

Raph waited for Coral to continue, but she stayed silent. Was she waiting for him to prompt her into continuing? “How would wearing a cuff help out a teammate?” Raph asked.

“Simple. I’ve gone through a lot of testing for my powers, but I haven’t done so with someone who’s wearing an inhibitor cuff. What I want to know is whether I can still scan powers from someone who has a cuff on.”

“Oh. That’s… actually a good idea. And it wouldn’t get me in trouble.”

“No need to sound so surprised,” she said.

“I wasn’t surprised, just--”

Coral cut him off. “I know, just teasing. Anyway, do you guys have cuffs in here, or…?”

“Yes, for emergencies, but I shouldn’t touch those. Be right back.” He put on a domino mask and headed out the door. A few minutes later, he was back. “Got it.”

“That was fast,” Coral said. “Isn’t the armory on the other side of the building?”

“It is. I asked Hermes for a lift. I asked him if he wanted to be bribed with cookies.”

Hermes popped his head in. “Hello!”

“Hey!” Coral covered her face.

“Oh, sorry. Didn’t see anything. At all.” Hermes covered his face as well. “Um, who are you?”

“Scanner,” Coral said, voice muffled by her hands.

“Oh, hey, nice to meet you again.”

By that time, Raph had a couple of the cookies in hand – or rather, in napkin – and gave them over. “Thank you for the lift,” he said. “Now go away before things get more awkward.”

Hermes shifted one hand so it was covering his eyes and held the other out for the cookies. “Bye. Thanks for the cookies.” He retreated swiftly.

“All right,” Raph said. “Ready for the test?”

“Do I get cookies, too?” Coral asked.

“Fine. You can have a couple.”

Raph put the cuff on. It gave him the strangest feeling. He could feel that something was missing, like if he suddenly didn’t feel either hot or cold, but it didn’t seem to affect him other than that. If he had a more active power, maybe it would be different.

“How’s it feel?” Coral asked.

Describing the thing was difficult. “Weird,” he finally settled on saying.

“Okay, then,” Coral said. “Come over here and let me touch you.” She waggled her eyebrows.

Raph decided to ignore that and held out his arm. Even though he knew he shouldn’t be able to scan her body, he still braced himself when she gently covered his hand with hers. There was nothing. No intense scan, no overwhelming feelings. It felt good, but somewhat… numb?

“Nope,” Coral said. “Can’t get anything through the inhibitor cuff.” She pulled her hand back. “And oh no, it seems like the cuff is stuck on you all night.” She grinned wickedly. “Whatever will you do?” Her grin widened. “With your boyfriend?”

“Nothing that’s your business,” Raph told her, pretending to be haughty.

Coral gasped and clutched a hand to her chest. “You mean that other people’s sex lives aren’t my business? What will they think of next? Gay people?!”

Raph snorted. Before he could reply, though, the door opened. “Honey, I’m home!” Nathan stepped into the room. Raph hurried over and gave him a kiss. “Hey,” Nathan said.

“Hey,” Raph said back. He placed a hand on Nathan’s cheek, gently caressing it. No sense of Nathan, other than what he could feel against his fingertips. If he wanted to feel Nathan’s entire body, he’d have to do it by hand. That sounded like a great idea, actually…

“Hi!” Coral said, hopping off the couch.

Raph jumped. So did Nathan. “Hi, Coral,” Nathan said awkwardly. “Didn’t see you there.” There were a few moments of silence. “Is Eric here?” His voice was both hopeful and nervous.

“Nope, just me,” Coral said cheerfully. “And that’s my cue to leave.”

“You don’t have to,” Raph said.

“Yeah, you can stay,” Nathan added halfheartedly.

“Nah. I’m sure the two of you have other things to do, so I’ll let you get to them. See ya!” With that, she left.

“What was that about?” Nathan asked. “And what’s this about?” He tapped Raph’s hand.

“Oh. Um. I was helping Coral out with a power test and…” Raph showed him the cuff.

“Oh. So you can…?”

“Yes.” Raph looked Nathan up and down, and then kissed him again. The force was greater than he’d anticipated, and Nathan was pushed into the door, letting out a noise against Raph’s lips. Raph pulled back. “I’m sorry! Did I--”

“No! No, that was… please keep doing that.” Nathan pulled Raph forward, back into the kiss.

Later, they lay tangled in bed together. It was the first time they’d been naked together. Feeling someone’s body was too distracting to allow Raph to sleep – or do anything else, really – so they were usually clothed.

“I could get used to that,” Nathan murmured into Raph’s neck.

“I have to give it back, though,” Raph said. “It’s supposed to be out for testing purposes.” Fortunately, they were routinely sterilized after every use.

“I know,” Nathan said. “How do you feel?”

“It’s like one of my senses just disappeared. Like I stopped being able to taste my own mouth. Or maybe like I’m feeling you through thinner gloves.”

“I don’t mean that,” Nathan said, patting Raph on the cheek. “How do you feel? What are your feelings about this?”

That was only slightly less complicated. “Well, I feel… good, I guess? I’m not feeling overwhelmed. On the other hand, I’m a healer. I’m supposed to be able to heal people. And right now, I can’t. If you got stabbed right now, I couldn’t help you.”

“How exactly am I supposed to get stabbed right now?” Nathan asked, looking amused.

“Well, I don’t know. But part of me is gone. Or suppressed, I guess, but either way it can’t be used. I’m not experiencing the downsides, but at a cost. Maybe it would be worth it sometimes, but definitely not all the time.”

“So you’re not about to run out and spend all your money on a ‘cure’?”

Raph snorted. “If it wasn’t a scam or an excuse to torture people with powers, you mean? No, I wouldn’t. It’s annoying, sure. And I mean, I get why some people would want to get rid of them if their power actively hurts them or other people, but I certainly don’t. Being able to help people is worth it.”

“Good,” Nathan said. “I like having a hot super-doctor boyfriend.” He kissed Raph. “But only because it’s you, of course.”

“What if I wasn’t a doctor?” Raph asked, mostly out of curiosity.

“Then I’d still love you. Even if you didn’t have powers or weren’t a doctor. Just as long as you were you.”

“Good. I like being me with you.” Raph reached out and took Nathan’s hand. “And you don’t mind if this doesn’t happen again?”

“No. It was nice, but what we usually do is also pretty hot.” Nathan squeezed Raph’s hand. “Now, how about dinner? Did you have anything in mind?”


Enmachina’s comm buzzed. “We have reports of supervillain activity in the industrial district. Repeat, we have reports of supervillain activity in the industrial district.”

He turned on the comm. “Enmachina here. What sort of activity?” He turned south. Of course his patrol had taken him to the north of the city right when something was happening.

“The report states that they’re smuggling strange technology through a warehouse. They think it’s some sort of super-tech.”

“Understood. Going to check it out.”

“Negative.” Angelica’s voice came through the comm. “I’m sending Rainbright and Iris out. We don’t want an interaction between the tech and your suit.”

His suit? Was she referring to his pacemaker? That was a bit strange. Dispatch knew that he had a pacemaker, so why was she dancing around it? Whatever. “I can keep an eye on them from the sky,” Enmachina said. “They won’t be able to teleport out, after all.” Hermes had his surgery yesterday.

“Fine. But watch and listen only. Understood?”

“Understood.” Enmachina continued on his way.

When he got there, he made a loop over the amusement park and headed over the warehouses. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be suspicious: they made sure not to have set patrol routes or patterns for exactly this reason. Shortly afterwards, he saw a rainbow streak in the sky and another on the ground. He switched the comm on to an internal channel. “Hey, guys,” he said.

“Hey,” Rainbright said after an odd pause. “Thought you weren’t supposed to be here. Angelica said we shouldn’t let you in.”

“Don’t worry, I’m your backup in case something blows up. But no, I’m not allowed inside.”

“Well, now I’m worried,” Rainbright said.

“Good luck,” Enmachina said.

He watched Rainbright land – she was getting much better at that – and enter a particular building with Iris. It didn’t look any more worn-down than the others, or less for that matter. No distinguishing features at all. He made a note of the general location and made another loop over the amusement park. Supposedly, they were building a new coaster there, but he couldn’t see any signs of construction.

About ten minutes later, Angelica called him up. “Have you heard from Rainbright and Iris?”

“No,” Enmachina said. He flew back over the warehouse area. “Well, the building’s still intact. I don’t see them outside, either.”

“Try calling them.”

Enmachina switched channels. “Rainbright, Iris, please report in,” he said quietly. There was no response. If they were in a bad spot and needed to stay quiet, there was a small button that would make clicks through the radio, but he wasn’t even getting that. “Not even a click.”

“Of course,” Angelica said.

“Want me to go in?”

“No, stay there. I’ll come in person.”

Enmachina frowned. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“Best case scenario is that there’s some sort of tech there that’s blocking radio transmissions. If you get in contact with that, it could ruin your suit. At best.”

“Got it,” Enmachina said, trying to keep his annoyance out of his voice. He was right there.

Soon enough, he saw Angelica flying to the warehouse. The comm crackled. “I’m going to run in, see if they’re there, and then come back out. If I’m not out in ten minutes, call in reinforcements.”

“Understood.” Enmachina watched her land and go in.

Ten minutes passed. Angelica still hadn’t returned, nor had she called in. This was getting worrying. Still, Angelica had told him to call in reinforcements, so he should probably do that instead of going in on his own. Even if it meant waiting a while. Scope and Grapple were the best options: Scope could treat any wounded and Grapple had super-strength. Between the two of them, they could probably power through anything.

As for Scanner and Smokescreen? Well, they could be useful for information-gathering. Scanner could tell them where everyone was and Smokescreen might be able to sneak in past any traps that were laid out for them. More importantly, they were complete unknowns at this point. They hadn’t been introduced to the public yet.

On the other hand, he didn’t want to call them in for the first time on something that could potentially have taken out three other superheroes, especially given that neither of them had combat-related powers. Besides, Coral was… scattered, sometimes, and Eric might be a distraction on the field.

Enmachina sighed and made the call. In less than half an hour, he stood in front of the warehouse door, looking at Scope and Grapple. “Ready?” he asked. They both nodded. “Let’s go.”

The inside of the warehouse was lit well enough that they could immediately see Iris, Rainbright, and Angelica lying on the ground on the other side. Grapple started and moved forward, but Enmachina grabbed her and held her back. “Recovery position,” Scope murmured. “They were placed that way and someone’s taking care not to kill them.”

“Got it,” Enmachina said. “This is probably a trap.”

There was an electronic screech from above, drawing their attention to a speaker at the top of the wall. “Hey, everybody!” The voice that came through was Angelica’s, though they could see Angelica clearly unconscious and not speaking. “Glad you got the invitation to the surprise party!” The snicker that followed was definitely not Angelica. “Come in, sit down, get some party favors.”

“Echo?” Grapple asked.

Enmachina was about to shake his head. Echo only repeated things, after all, and he couldn’t imagine Angelica ever saying those lines without gritting her teeth or giving false cheer. Still, there was no reason they couldn’t try to remix lines. But the whole thing didn’t feel like Echo and Couronne. “Too subtle to be them,” he said. “Move along the walls.”

They inched forward along empty, rusting shelves and crumbling boxes. “Aw,” not-Angelica said. “You’re no fun. Not as stupid as I expected, granted, but no fun. Let’s do something about that.”

The shelf beside them creaked ominously. Enmachina pushed Scope out of the way. He and Grapple caught the falling shelf and guided it gently toward the floor.

“Okay,” not-Angelica said, “that was pretty much my fault. I didn’t think that through. How about this, then?”

Light and sound. Enmachina thumped to the ground almost a foot away from where he’d been standing. Scope and Grapple sat up, both holding their heads. “You all right?” he asked them.

“You got the worst of it, I think,” Grapple said. Scope laid a hand on Grapple’s shoulder and she relaxed. “Thanks. Much better.”

“Oh, fine,” not-Angelica said. “I didn’t want to have to do this, but I guess I have no choice.” From the middle of the warehouse, there was a loud hum and then the sound of powering down. Before, there had been nothing. Now, there was a large towering machine in the exact center. A figure in a black robe with spiky black helmet sat on the machine, swinging their legs and holding a microphone under their helmet. “Hey.” The voice this time wasn’t Angelica, but Nathan’s.

Enmachina looked down at the floor. There was a circle in black tape on the floor, centered around the machine. This was definitely a trap. But their teammates were deep inside the circle, too far to reach. There was no way to get them without stepping inside the circle. On the other hand, they knew where the trap was this time, so they should be safe.

“Who are you?” Enmachina asked the villain in the black robe. At the same time, he turned on the comm and whispered a few suggestions to Grapple. She nodded and prepared her hook.

“Not telling,” Black Robe said, still using Enmachina’s voice.

“Okay, then. What do you want?” Enmachina asked.

“To get paid, mostly.” Black Robe shrugged. “Nothing personal about this, it’s just what I was hired to do. If you’ll just step into the circle, then we’ll be done. You won’t be hurt, just inconvenienced for a while, and I’ll get paid. Plus, you get your friends back! Sounds like a win-win to me!”

Enmachina looked down at the circle again. “What happens to us if we step into the circle?”

“Like I said. You’ll be inconvenienced.”

“Okay. Counteroffer. You turn off whatever that is and give back our teammates. We pretend to be inconvenienced for a while. You go to whoever hired you and tell them the job’s done. They pay you, we arrest them, and you get off the hook for attacking superheroes. Maybe you get some reward money if whoever hired you is important enough. Plus, we might have some work for you in the future, if you’re interested. How’s that sound?”

Black Robe laughed. “Damn, you’re speaking my language there. Problem is, if I screw over my clients, that’s my reputation shot to hell. Besides, this isn’t my first rodeo. I think you’d change your mind about arresting me sooner or later, so… gonna have to pass. Good try, though.”

“All right, then,” Enmachina said. “Go.”

Grapple threw her hook toward the machine. Halfway there, well over the circle, the hook stopped in midair, and then slowly slid toward the ground, like a cartoon character that had slammed into a window. She pulled it back with a frown. Grapple hooked her grappling hook back into her belt and got out the spare rope, quickly and expertly typing it into a lasso. She shot it out, where it landed on Rainbright’s leg. Enmachina nodded. Rainbright was the only one with a ranged power. The rope tightened around Rainbright’s leg.

“Nope!” Black Robe said, pressing a button on the machine. The rope pulled tight and Grapple gasped, stumbling forward. Enmachina grabbed her, trying to steady her, but his own feet began slipping.

“Let go,” Grapple said. “That’s an order.”

Reluctantly, Enmachina let go. Grapple fell forward into the circle. And then… she was fine. The rope fell slack and Grapple straightened up. “Grapple? Are you all right?” Scope asked.

“Yeah?” She sounded confused. “Nothing feels different. I don’t sound different, do I?”

“No. Everything looks normal.” Enmachina glared at the villain. “You were lying about the circle, weren’t you?”

Black Robe laughed. “Okay, you got me.”

Enmachina shook his head and stepped forward over the line. Nothing happened. “Right. Scope, go check on our teammates. We’re going to deal with this.” He and Grapple stepped forward.

As soon as Scope stepped into the circle, though, the world went black.


His bed was uncomfortable. It felt like floor. And why were people shaking him? He batted their hands away. “Come on, Gr-- get up!”

Nathan opened his eyes and immediately shut them against the bright light. “Ow. No.”

“Yes. That’s an order!”

He blinked himself awake. Was Rainbright giving him orders? He looked up at her. Yes, that was Rainbright. “You aren’t the boss of me.” He tried to go back to bed, but his bed was actually a floor. A dirty concrete floor at that. That was inconvenient. He looked up at Rainbright. “What happened?”

“We got ambushed by a supervillain, of course,” Rainbright said, exasperated. Something about her voice was familiar, but… wrong? His head was slowly getting clearer, but wasn’t quite at a not-fuzzy shape. “Hyperintellect at the very least.”

Nathan frowned. Something was off about the way he was seeing things. It took a moment for him to realize that his helmet was off. A mask was pressing into his face, as well. If they’d taken his helmet off… no, he was wearing something different. He glanced down. Purple shirt with a white metal labrys in front. “Why am I in Grapple’s costume?” he asked.

Rainbright sighed. “That’s the least of your problems,” she said.

He glanced down further. There was some flesh there where there shouldn’t be any. “Why do I have boobs?”

“Nathan, I’m guessing?” Rainbright asked.

“Yeah. Wait…” He looked around. Scope was lying there as well, and so was his suit. He glanced up at the calm and authoritative Rainbright, an Angelica who was ducking her head shyly and anxiously, and a very pissed-off Iris. He turned back to ‘Rainbright’. “Angelica?” he asked.


“I’m in Grapple’s body.”


“This is gonna suck.”


Copyright © 2021 Flamboyant Chatoyant; All Rights Reserved.

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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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