First Blood

A hero falls as the friction between the Squadrons escalates

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Jannikka Salome Anders, alias Red Marvel, reveled in the use of her powers. Free at last from the constraints imposed on her by RAPTURE, she could finally wield her psionic gifts to their fullest without thought for the collateral damage that might ensue.

First National Bank
Millennium City First National Bank days before the bank heist

She smiled coldly as the hapless staff of Millennium City First National Bank cowered beneath their desks as tendrils of telekinetic force rattled the walls like furious poltergeist. Those unlucky to have needed to do their banking in person that day lay sprawled on the polished linoleum floor, victims of the venomous mutant Asp.

“C’mon, Red! Stop playing with the normals,” shouted Asp from across the bank, a sickly green glow still emanating from the young woman’s hands. “Let’s open the safe before we have company!”

“You’re a real buzzkill,” Red Marvel replied sardonically.

As she turned towards the vault, Anders sensed that the bank manager, Katie Jensen of Westside, would try to activate the silent alarm from her hiding spot beneath her desk. With a sneer of contempt, she allowed Jensen to play hero before telekinetically hurling the mother of three into one of the marble columns supporting the roof of the bank. Jensen sank to the floor like a rag doll, her spine shattered. The cries of shock and fear that the cold-blooded murder of their colleague had elicited from the bank staff only served to infuriate Red Marvel.

“Go to sleep,” Anders snapped at them.

As if they were puppets whose strings had been cut simultaneously, the terrified staff slumped to the floor in restless, nightmare-filled sleep.

“They should be grateful I didn’t make them forget how to breath,” Anders said matter-of-factly to the incredulous Asp.

“You just murdered the only person who could open the vault,” yelled the furious Asp.

Anders turned to Asp, her pretense of a smile never reaching her ice-blue eyes. “Relax,” she began curtly. ” I’ve got this.”

The first sirens could be heard coming down Adams Avenue.

“Less than two minutes,” Red Marvel noted admiringly. “Very efficient.”

To Asp’s mounting concern and Red Marvel’s inexplicable indifference, the MCPD quickly cordoned off the block. Teams of snipers began taking up positions on the roofs of the buildings around the bank while SWAT teams waited impatiently beyond the police line for the green light to storm the building.

“Stay here while I open the vault,” Anders said nonchalantly.

Anders’ cold smile had returned. A sense of perverse anticipation gripped her as she glided soundlessly several centimeters above the floor of the bank to the vault room.

Bank Vault
The vault door could not withstand Red Marvel’s telekinetic onslaught

After telekinetically rending the day gate separating the employee offices from the vault as if it were paper mache, Anders landed several meters from the imposing vault door. She raised both hands towards the steel-reinforced door and, furrowing her brow, exerted her will upon it. At first, the only sound that could be heard in the vault room was that of her breathing. Then, almost imperceptibly, another could be heard – the faint sound of concrete slowly being ground to powder. Sweat beaded on Anders’ forehead as waves of psionic energy played upon the now-trembling surface of the massive metal door. Finally, the door was torn from its hinges with an ear-shattering rumble. The two-tonne door fell to the floor amid a cascade of fine dust with a crash that shook the very foundations of the bank. She was just about to enter the vault when she heard Asp cry out in surprise.

“The Squadron’s attacking,” yelled Asp, her voice muffled by the telltale sound of an anti-violence field being erected.

“This day’s getting better and better,” she said to herself chuckling, a tingle running up her spine as she flew towards her comrade.

As she burst from the vault room, Anders saw that Asp was on the defensive – the magician Benedict Sage and Madi Sharma, an old and despised acquaintance from her time in RAPTURE better known as Ultraviolet Cherry, would in a matter of moments take the young mutant down.

Genuine happiness seeped into Anders’ semblance of a smile. Channeling all her fury, she lashed out at her nemesis with a searing bolt of psionic energy. Unaware of Anders’ presence due to her telepathic dampening field, the diminutive Ultraviolet Cherry was completely unprepared for the sheer ferocity of Red Marvel’s psychic assault. The red-haired telepath screamed in intense pain and crumpled to the floor unconscious.

Anders had little time to celebrate her victory as she in turn was struck from behind with a blast of eldritch energy. The blonde telepath was knocked to the floor, disoriented from the attack.

“Your rampage ends now,” Sage said coolly, the body of Asp an apparently lifeless heap lying behind him.

Shaking the cobwebs out of her head, Anders got unsurely to her feet and turned to face her attacker. Sage raised his hands over his head and he began to chant in a language that was older than the ruins of ancient Khem.

Her vision clearing, Anders regarded the handsome trenchcoat-wearing sorcerer with a mixture of trepidation and attraction. She had to buy time or he would bring her freedom from RAPTURE to a close. With what little concentration she could muster, Anders reached out to the mind of her unconscious ally.

“Wake up, you stupid bitch!”

“I do not wish to hurt you,” Sage said, arcane energy dancing across his fingers like tiny sprites, “But you must answer for your crimes.”

Still groggy from Sage’s eldritch bolt, Anders smiled weakly at the magician. She could feel Asp slowly regaining consciousness.

“GET UP, YOU INCOMPETENT COW,” Anders psychically screamed.

Asp’s eyes snapped open and her body jerked as if struck by lightning. Although her head felt like it had been dipped in molasses, Asp managed to fire a single venom blast at Sage, striking the sorcerer squarely in the back. Spent from the effort, Asp slipped back into unconsciousness.

Sage turned to face the new threat, which was his undoing.

“You know,” Anders whispered into his mind, “You’re the best-looking man I’ve seen in a long while. Too bad I don’t have time to play with you.”

Anders then focused her psychokinetic power on the sorcerer as he turned back to face her and, with terrifyingly little effort, burst an artery in the parietal lobe of his brain, causing a massive aneurysm.

Sage’s hands shot to his temples as he screamed in agony. He was dead before his body hit the cold linoleum floor, his unblinking eyes still locked onto hers.

She walked slowly towards the magician’s corpse and stood over it for a long while. Then, she kicked him in the face with all the strength left in her. His nose was smashed to a pulp and his teeth exploded from his mouth like bloody Chiclets.

Feeling more like herself again, she telekinetically lifted the unconscious Asp and Ultraviolet Cherry and slowly rose towards the ceiling. With little more than a thought, she pulverized the roof of the bank with a psychokinetic bolt and took to the skies. The dumbfounded police below could do nothing but futility fire on the rapidly dwindling forms, their bullets ricocheting off her telekinetic shield.

She was just beginning to enjoy flying back to Squadron Sinister headquarters when her comm-link crackled to life.

“What the hell’s happening,” asked the Shroud tersely. “There are reports of a robbery at First National. At least one civilian and one meta are dead at the scene. Your comm badge indicates you’re in the vicinity.”

“Asp and me are fine, boss,” answered Anders mockingly. “I had to teach one of the straights a lesson.” She paused. “Guess I got carried away. Anyway, I’ve got a surprise for you – I captured one of your former crew.”

There was silence on the other end of the line. Anders was just about to repeat her message when the Shroud replied.

“Put the captive in a containment cell immediately. No more harm is to come to the prisoner,” the Shroud barked.

“Got it, boss,” Anders began sheepishly. She didn’t know why she felt such unease when dealing with the Shroud but she tried not to think too much about it. “I was thinking I could reprogram her to be our spy in the Supremes.”

“An interesting idea,” the Shroud began. “Were there any casualties on their side?”

Anders was unsure what the Shroud’s reaction would be to the news of Sage’s death. She knew they had been teammates. Hell, they may have even been an item for all she knew. What went on in that head was a complete mystery to her. In fact, Anders realized, she had never been able to get even the slightest sense of what the Shroud was thinking.

“Well, I had to… um… take down Benedict Sage,” began Anders nervously. “I had to get me and Asp outta there, boss. The place was surrounded by cops and…”

“Get back to headquarters,” the Shroud interrupted in an emotionless monotone. “We’ll discuss your actions when you arrive. Shroud, out.”

The smile left Anders’ face.

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