Comic book writer Steve Ahlquist (Oz Squad, Strange Eggs) reinvents the tokusatsu superhero genre in an action packed, emotional roller coaster of a novel. Show Less
Wonder Heroes 4.07
Instantly the Wonder Heroes appeared in the river district of Calvary, outside a large abandoned warehouse. It was the beginning of the rainy season so the unpopulated streets of the district were slick and bepuddled, the normal city sounds strangely hushed.
Theodore raised his hand and waited for Susan to high-five him. “That was awesome!” Susan laughed and slapped Theodore’s hand.
Kalomo agreed. “That was intense.”
Jay was less enthusiastic. “At least it’s over.”
Susan laughed. “It took less than a second Jay.”
Matt held up his hand, quieting the team’s chatter. “Let’s calm down guys. It’s going to get interesting.”
Kalomo tried to make sense of his visor’s readings. “Isn’t there supposed to be a spaceship around here somewhere?”
In answer Matt pointed, and Kalomo, along with the rest of the team, found himself looking up, and up, and up. Behind the warehouse, dwarfing it in size, was the cobbled together mess of a spaceship that belonged to Spratsis 3 of 8.
“So what do we do?” asked Jay, “Attack it?”
As if in response a strange beam of high frequency orange light was fired from the Spratsis spaceship. The Wonder Heroes, except for Matt, all nervously held up their arms and summoned energy shields. The effort was unnecessary, as the beam was aimed at some nearby abandoned warehouses.
“Check your neural stream, guys,” said Matt, “the armor gives you too much information so don’t try to understand it so much as intuit it.”
Susan nodded and increased the neural flow. She tried not to let the information overwhelm her, concentrating instead on the situation at hand.
The beam of orange light from the Spratsis ship now enveloped the warehouses, and within seconds a deafening chorus of high pitched squeals from within the warehouses filled the air. It was the sound of hundreds of rats being tortured.
Matt let loose a single blast of blue energy from his gauntlet at the beam projector, cleanly slicing the source of the beam from the side of the ship. The projector fell slowly from the ship and crashed to the street below, exploding in a ball of orange light.
Kalomo interpreted his visor’s sensor readings. “That beam was transmutagenic…”
Jay was the only Wonder Hero with his protective energy shield still in place. “What the hell is a transmutagenic?” His shield glowed black, and reflected the single streetlight.
From the quaver in his voice, Susan thought Jay might be shaking with fear, but if she were asked, she would have to admit that the sounds from within the warehouse were unnerving her as well. The screeches of the tortured rats now turned into long, plaintive wails, and the warehouse was suddenly alive with activity.
“What do we do, Matt?” asked Jay, with borderline panic.
“Relax…” began Matt, but he was cut off as the windows of the warehouses suddenly exploded outward in a burst of brown fur, scrabbling claws and yellowed, razor sharp teeth. Gigantic rats, twice the size of bears, came pouring out of the warehouses all around them, wave after wave, and dozens at a time.
Jay screamed and fired an onyx blast of dark energy, cutting a rat in half even as two more leapt through the air and brought him down, one rat gripping his helmet within its enormous jaws. Jay fired again but his arm was pinned and his shot was absorbed by a warehouse, forming a hole in the brick wall.
Susan lowered into an aikido stance and gripped the first rat to come at her around the neck. She hoped giant rat anatomy was similar enough to a human’s for her martial skills to work. With her strength enhanced by the Wonder Suit she easily snapped the monster’s neck, and with a swift kick incapacitated another.
Kalomo and Theodore were slowly backing away, firing blast after blast of sharp white and devastating golden energy into the army of transformed rats. Each monster that fell was quickly replaced by the two more waiting to take its place. The two Wonder Heroes were confronted with a wall of fur and claws, and struggled to make each shot count. They knew that the sheer number of rats might overwhelm them in seconds, and then they would be fighting hand to hand.
Matt leapt over the first wave of rats, punched his fist through the skull of one and used his boot jets to power kick another into the air and through a second floor warehouse window. Summoning his cerulean shield he toppled the second wave of rats and blasted his way through a third with an explosion of blue energy missiles. Turning quickly Matt continued to devastate the second wave before they had the time to find their feet and counterattack.
Matt pummeled these creatures mercilessly, his rage pushing him towards extreme violence. It felt like battling the incoming tide, for every giant rat dealt with there were dozens more to take its place, and Matt reveled in the carnage, a part of him wishing it would never end, because only here, in the midst of battle, could he find a refuge from his pain, loss and anger.
On board his spaceship, Spratsis 3 of 8 watched the battle on several monitors. He squinted at the screens and smiled. “The battle continues apace! We are overwhelming these Wonder Heroes!”
Bobby Whittaker, the captive pizza deliveryman, laughed, “Ha!”
The ship’s translators tried to make sense of the human’s utterance, but delivered nothing but nonsense to the Spratsis. “What is the meaning of this word?”
“Ha!” repeated Bobby, “It means the Wonder Heroes have you exactly where they want you!”
Spratsis 3 of 8 scurried from his command seat and stretched his spine to tower over Bobby Whittaker. He drew his clawed paw back to deliver what would surely be a deadly strike. “Explain!”
Bobby tried to steady the quaver in his voice. “Isn’t it obvious? The Wonder Heroes are drawing out the battle, so they can pull some sort of surprise and decimate your forces.”
Spratsis 3 of 8 snarled at the human thing that cowered beneath him, and his claw twitched, eager for blood, but the human’s meaning was beginning to uncoil itself in his rat-like mind. “There is a logic, human and flawed, but still a logic of sorts, to what you say. A quick end is called for, and my newly spawned rat creatures may not be up to the task.”
The Spratsis turned and his tail whipped back, curling around Bobby Whittaker and caressing him as 3 of 8 thought aloud. “I must enter the battle myself!” Gesturing to a lower order Spratsis minion, 3 of 8 ordered, “Take the human thing back to his cell…”
Bobby saw his chance. “That’s a ballsy move,” he said, “out there in the fray, fighting Earth’s defenders without me there to interpret their motives and actions and tricks…”
The minion was pushing Bobby ahead of it, when Spratsis 3 of 8 changed his mind. “Wait! The human shall accompany me. There can be no tricks!”
Outside the ship Susan found herself starting to get a feel for the flow of battle. Allowing instinct to take over, she shifted from one opponent to the next, making each blow count, constantly moving, and never letting the transmutated rats get the upper hand. She saw a flash of blue energy and a rat explode as Matt cartwheeled through where the rat once stood. She met Matt in the middle of the melee, and back-to-back they continued to devastate the remaining rat creatures.
The flow of rats that threatened to overwhelm Kalomo and Theodore rose to towering proportions, and just as Theodore feared it would crest and overwhelm them, the flow ebbed, and the rat attack began to diminish. Blast after blast of Wonder Energy continued to thin the ranks of the monsters. Kalomo and Theodore smiled beneath their Wonder Helmets, because the end, and victory, seemed suddenly in range.
Jay felt the claws of the rat creatures that had tackled him trying to penetrate the seams of his armor. He imagined a claw prying open and scrapping through to his skin and into his ribs. With a scream he summoned a polarized energy sword, as black as space, and decapitated the rat that pinned him. He then stabbed another rat through the chest as he rolled over, pinning the rat to the ground. As the rat died Jay raised his crackling, steaming sword in the air and roared in triumph. He had killed three of the creatures.
Jay turned at a sound behind him and saw something completely unexpected. Spratsis 3 of 8 stood nearby, next to a pizza deliveryman dressed in a red, white and blue uniform. The Spratsis wore battle armor as haphazardly assembled as his ship: alien tech scavenged and fitted together with little more than wire and glue. In each paw the Spratsis held a different weapon, and before Jay could react the Spratsis fired both weapons simultaneously. An ultra-dense neutron bullet and a thick wet beam of red lightning streaked from the guns, with sounds that crackled and popped.
Jay was blasted backwards like a rag doll, folded in half at the midsection as the neutron bullet caught him dead center. He blacked out for a microsecond but awoke to find himself staring at the dark, angry skies of Calgary, face up in a dirty puddle. His energy sword was gone, and a terrible black steam rose from his body.
Susan dispatched the last transmutated rat within her reach as Bobby Whitaker ran forward, ducking behind her in fear. “Help me! I was kidnapped by that thing!” Susan took the unlikely appearance of a pizza deliveryman in stride as he towards Spratsis 3 of 8.
The Spratsis was stepping to the edge of the puddle and aiming his guns at Jay. Jay fought to clear his head, his thoughts overwhelmed by the presence of the alien hovering above him, preparing to deliver the deathblow.
“For the honor of my family!” screeched the creature.
Jay tried to summon a protective shield to no avail. He raised his hands futilely. Panic overwhelmed his ability to defend himself. Jay screamed, “It wasn’t me!”
Susan left the pizza delivery guy behind, activating the jump in her Wonder Boots and firing a beam of blood red energy at the Spratsis. The beam caught 3 of 8 unawares, spinning the alien around as it fired both guns. The neutron bullet fired harmlessly into space but the beam of red lightening from the second weapon sliced effortlessly through the hull of the nearby Spratsis spaceship. The crew of the ship, all lower order Spratsis minions, abandoned the craft, flowing out of the ship as it twisted and buckled, falling to pieces and becoming little more than the collection of junk it looked like.
Spratsis 3 of 8 watched, mouth agape as his ship fell to pieces, and was therefore completely unprepared for Wonder Hero Crimson as she landed next to him, knocking the guns from his hands, and punching him hard in the jaw. Teeth sprayed from 3 of 8’s mouth as he fell to the ground in a crash of broken, useless armor.
Susan’s visor informed her without having to look that Theodore and Kalomo had finished off the last of the transmutated rats, and the lower order Spratsis that populated and crewed the gigantic, collapsing spaceship were surrendering to Matt. Then Jay leapt to his feet, his systems back on line.
Jay marched past Susan and aimed his gauntlet at the prostrate body of Spratsis 3 of 8. “You almost killed me!”
Defiantly, Spratsis 3 of 8 hissed, “Human scum...”
Jay aimed his Wonder Gauntlet, and prepared to kill the Spratsis. Susan grabbed Jay’s arm and deflected the shot.
The beam of black energy melted the asphalt to the right of the creature into a puddle. Spratsis 3 of 8 hissed.
Jay backhanded Susan hard and clumsily, catching her on the side of her head. If not for the protection of her Wonder Helmet, the blow would have been lethal, but Jay was not finished. Blind with anger, he turned and threw another punch at Susan. Susan avoided the punch then swept Jay’s feet out from under him, sending him crashing to the ground.
Jay looked up to see Susan standing over him. Susan retracted her helmet and said, “We are not murderers.”
Jay retracted his helmet to meet Susan’s gaze. “It’s a goddamn rat!”
Suddenly Matt was kneeling next to Jay, and calmly placed his gauntleted fist up against Jay’s unprotected head. Matt’s voice sounded reasonable, but contained a thin veneer of explosive anger. “You know Jay, I’ve killed my teammates before,” blue energy played across Matt’s Wonder Gauntlet, “If you ever hit one of your own again, we’ll be auditioning for a new Wonder Hero Jet, understand?”
Jay turned his head away and said nothing. Matt rose and nodded at Theodore and Kalomo. They were busy restraining Spratsis 3 of 8. The Canadian Army was moving in to deal with the clean up of the lower order rats and deal with the gigantic spaceship that had been reduced to a pile of useless junk.
Suddenly angry, Jay’s helmet snapped into place as he jumped to his feet. Jay yelled after Matt, “Hey! This gauntlet chose me!”
Matt did not turn around. “Mistakes happen.”
Jay stood alone as the rest of the Wonder Heroes dealt with corralling the surrendering Spratsis minions. He fumed but reluctantly and halfheartedly began to pitch in. As he calmed down he realized what a terrible mistake he had made, but could not bring himself to apologize while his emotions were so raw. He kicked himself for being so stupid.
As Theodore and Kalomo handed over control of the battle site over to the Canadian authorities, Susan felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to see the pizza delivery guy, Bobby Whittaker, smiling at her, holding his arm where he had suffered a puncture wound on the alien spaceship. “Thanks for saving my life.”
Susan smiled, taking in the Bobby’s pizza delivery uniform. “You’re welcome. What were you doing here anyway?”
Bobby tried to be as cool as he could be. “Maybe I could tell you over dinner?”
Susan smiled and gathered with the rest of the team. “I don’t think so,” she said, “maybe some other time.”
Two rescue workers rushed to Bobby’s side, as Bobby exploded into a smile and said, “I’m going to hold you to that!” but he was talking to empty air, as the Wonder Base Computer teleported the team back to New Mexico.
That evening Wonder Hero Ultra led Spratsis 3 of 8 into the tombs, a prison built into the deepest, most impenetrable recesses of Wonder Base, Level Eight. The Canadian authorities were confident that they could deal with the lower order Spratsis that comprised the crew, but were less optimistic about containing their leader, so he was turned over to the Wonder Heroes for incarceration.
Here, deep in the hollowed out mesa that comprised the lowest levels of the Wonder Base were imprisoned the very worst of the surviving alien invaders defeated by the Wonder Heroes over the last three years. Matt escorted the newest addition past cells constructed to cater to each alien’s physiology. Many of the cells contained alien atmospheres, and were reinforced with energy matrices or rare metals.
As he was shuffled through the long subterranean corridors, Spratsis 3 of 8 stared into some of the cells, both impressed with the caliber of prisoners and strangely honored to be included among them. “Is that Maximass?” He asked, straining his neck for a longer look. Matt simply pushed his prisoner forward, ignoring the questions and comments. “What’s that thing?” asked the Spratsis, having caught a glimpse of the Dodecapuss.
Matt stopped in front of a cell that might be considered more traditional. Atmosphere, gravity and temperature were kept nearly at Earth normal. The cell was constructed of simple stonewalls and strong metal bars.
Inside this cell was Spratsis 2 of 8. As the two prisoners considered each other, several conflicting emotions ran through them. They summed up all those emotions in one word and said, simultaneously, “Brother.”
“I thought you two might enjoy sharing a cell,” said Matt.
The door opened at a mental command from Matt’s gauntlet and Matt removed the paw restraints from the new prisoner. Spratsis 3 of 8 joined his brother in the cell. The Spratsis brothers stared silently at each other as Matt ordered the cell to be closed and secured.
Spratsis 2 of 8 peered through the bars at his captor. “We have more brothers you know.”
“Yeah, I kind of guessed that from your names,” said Matt with unveiled sarcasm, “2 of 8, 3 of 8, very subtle that.”
“We will have our revenge!” said 2 of 8, but he was talking to Matt’s back.
Matt said, “That cell might start getting real crowded then.”
As Matt walked back to the elevator, there was one cell he wanted to ignore. He did not want to see her, but in the end his curiosity overtook him, and before he knew it he was looking into the pink and black eyes of Princess Gargoyle. In her last battle she had been grievously injured, but her self-replicating bionics had already rebuilt her leg and most of her arm.
Before Matt could look away she spoke with a soft, wavering sibilance, “How fares the new team, Matthew?”
Matt declined to answer and kept walking.
“Don’t walk away, Matthew. I’m lonely,” cooed the Princess, “Harlan taught me things about human men, when he visited me in my cell.”
Matt stopped, and clenched his fists.
“He found me beautiful. We sang in each other’s dreams. We did… sexual things… no human can imagine…”
Matt controlled his breathing and began walking again. Princess Gargoyle contorted her small mouth into an imitation of a human smile. She imitated a human laugh. “He was a fool to love me.”
Matt entered the waiting elevator.
Gargoyle was shrieking now. “I almost killed you all!”
Matt seethed as the elevator door silently closed.
The last thing he heard was Gargoyle’s taunting laugh as she said, “I’ll just have to settle for having murdered your sister. Say goodnight to Cassie for me!”