The Return of Nevermore part 15

“Stop pacing,” Evie announced as she gave Joselyn a flat look. “You’re starting to make ME nervous.”

“Sorry,” Joselyn apologized, though she couldn’t resist sticking her tongue out at her sister.

“Very mature,” Evie responded with a roll of her eyes.

Joselyn just snorted. “Funny, coming from the girl who keeps trying to ambush me with water balloons.”

Evie just grinned at that. “That’s different.” Then she stuck her own tongue out at Joselyn.

From a few feet away, Counterweight wryly commented, “Gee, I’d never guess you two were sisters.” Joselyn and Evie simultaneously stuck their tongues out at her, then burst out giggling.

“Just be thankful their younger sister isn’t here,” Joselyn’s dad commented with a shake of his head. “Then they’d both be acting like twelve year olds.” He paused for a moment before adding, “At least, more than they already are.”

Joselyn was still smiling as she looked to an empty space, where just a few minutes earlier, the Face had created a portal to leave. She’d wanted to go with him, but he told her that it wouldn’t be necessary. Now, all she could do was wait for him to return. Then, as she watched, a glowing red portal appeared in the air, and the Face stepped out of it, along with two other people.

The first person to appear after the Face, was a teenage girl about a year older than Joselyn. She had black hair and a costume that was black and gray. This girl was Vickie Wells, Joselyn’s closest friend outside of her own family. Of course, since Vickie was currently in costume, she was going by the codename of Velvet.

Right behind Vicki was her twin brother Chris, who was also known by the codename of Impact. He was tall and athletic with short white hair and a costume that was white and dark blue.

“Velvet,” Joselyn called out with a grin as she hurried over to see her friend.

“Jos…I mean Lady Knight,” Vickie greeted her with a broad grin of her own. “What’s going on?”

Joselyn looked to Chris and felt herself blush. “I’m glad you guys could make it.”

It only took a few seconds before Joselyn’s dad came over as well and gave her friends a curious look. “My daughter has told me a lot about you two,” he announced, holding his hand out to Chris first. “I’m glad to finally meet you, though I wish it was under better circumstances.”

Joselyn gave her dad a firm look, trying to silently warn him not to embarrass her. She’d learned that look from her mom and had been practicing it a bit over the last couple months, though she still hadn’t mastered as well as her mother had.
“Um…nice to meet you too,” Vickie said, looking a little nervous, which amused Joselyn.

Just then, Evie gently elbowed Joselyn and quietly asked, “Is he the one you were telling me about?” She was looking directly at Chris, which made Joselyn brush brightly.

“Yeah,” Joselyn admitted with a blush, which caused Evie to look at him more thoughtfully.

During one of Joselyn’s precognitive dreams, she’d had a vision about her own future. Specifically, about her own wedding. In that vision, Joselyn had been getting married to Chris, while Vickie had been her maid of honor. Several weeks after having that dream, Joselyn had met Vickie and Chris for the first time, which had been very odd for her, but also exciting.

So far, Joselyn had only told three people about that dream...Evie, her mom, and Vickie. She could only imagine how Chris or her dad would react, which was why she hadn’t said a word to either of them.

“This is my sister, Figment,” Joselyn said, introducing Evie to her best friend and future husband. Then she gave them a wry smile and added, “I have a few more relatives scattered around too…” She gestured to the rest of Knight Force, who had come over to see her friends. “I’ll have to have you guys over for dinner some time…and some real introductions, but that will have to wait.”

“Nice to meet you and all,” Vickie told Evie before looking back to Joselyn, “but what’s going on?”

“We saw that thing on the news,” Chris added, then looked around at the large gathering of heroes. “But somehow, I don’t think you really need our help for it.”

Joselyn gave a wry smile, knowing exactly what he meant. Vickie and Chris were both new to the hero business and had only just stuck their feet in. Neither of them had much experience, which was why she hadn’t called them originally. Compared to everyone else, they were rookies. And admittedly, she didn’t want to put either of them into this kind of danger until they were ready. Unfortunately, she no longer had a choice.

“We have a problem,” Joselyn said, gesturing to the barrier and looking at Vickie. “And you might be the solution.”

“The barrier was created by a villain known as Baron Nevermore,” Joselyn’s dad explained grimly. He gestured at the barrier as he continued, “It completely isolates Baltimore and all of the surrounding areas. So far, the number of heroes who have been able to bypass the barrier are very limited, but once the barrier is down, the rest of us will be able to move in and stop Nevermore…”

“And why are we here?” Chris asked curiously.

“Because both of you can get through the barrier,” Joselyn explained, giving them a wry smile that hid how self-conscious she was. “The only ones who can get through, are people like us. Gender switched.”

Their eyes widened and they looked at the gathered heroes, and especially at the ones who’d come close enough to hear that announcement. From their scowls, Joselyn knew that neither of them was happy about having their secret spread around.

“Then, there are only a couple of us,” Vickie said awkwardly.

“Actually,” the Face explained, “we already sent five teams through the barrier…”

“Five teams?” Chris blurted out in surprise.

“We had seventeen heroes who could go,” Joselyn told them with a chuckle. “Turns out, there are a lot more of us than I’d ever guessed…”

Vickie stared at Joselyn for a moment, then shook her head. “Wow… This is so weird…”

Joselyn just snorted at that. “You want to talk weird? I just found out I have a new sister…or brother.” At Vickie’s startled look, she shrugged. “It’s complicated.”

“As I was saying,” the Face said, raising his voice a little to remind them that he’d been about to explain. “The barrier is maintained by five obelisks on the other side. In order to remove the barrier, these obelisks need to be destroyed. Four of the teams we sent in managed to destroy their obelisks, but one of the teams failed.”

“And my daughter believes that you are the key to taking that one,” Joselyn’s father finished, his eyes locked on Vickie, who seemed uncomfortable with the attention.

“Us?” Vickie asked in surprise.

“Mostly just you,” Joselyn told her, giving an apologetic look to Chris. “Your powers are perfect to deal with this…”

At that, they began to explain the situation to Vickie and Chris, who both looked a little worried. Joselyn could see that they felt like they were in over their heads, but neither of them said anything about it. And by the time they were finished with explanations, Vickie and Chris were both nodding their agreement.

“And that’s the situation,” Joselyn’s dad said. “The last obelisk is being guarded by Circuit Monger and an army of infected drones.”

“And Lady Knight says that you can help,” Interface added, giving Vickie a curious look, clearly wondering exactly how she could do that. “I understand that you can create some kind of darkness field…”

“Not exactly,” Vickie responded with a growing grin. “I absorb light. Actually, I absorb all electromagnetic energy in an area…including light…and radio waves.”

Interface suddenly looked more interested in Vickie, as did the Face and some of the others. “I see,” Interface said, giving Vickie a thoughtful look.

“If any drones get in her range,” Chris proudly announced, “they’ll not only go blind…but lose all radio communications.”

“And if Velvet happens to get close enough to Circuit Monger,” Joselyn added with a faint smirk, “she can cut her off from ALL of the drones.”

“Now THAT should be useful,” Evie said before glancing at Chris. “And what can you do?”

Chris looked pleased to finally get a little attention, since everyone had been focused on his sister. He puffed up a little bit as he answered, “I absorb kinetic energy and use it to get strong.”

“He’s strong and hard to hurt,” Vickie said.

“Which will be useful for this mission,” Joselyn’s dad said, looking grim as she remembered what he was going to send them into.

There was a bit of muttering from the various heroes before Kaboom asked, “So, who all is going on this team?” She glanced down to her arm, which was still in a sling, scowling as she did so.

“We’re going,” Invincible Woman announced as she and Ghost Boy came over. She had a determined expression on her face. “We have unfinished business with Circuit Monger.”

“We have to finish our mission,” Ghost Boy added with a grim look of his own. “And we can’t just leave Praxis like that.”

“And I’m going too,” Joselyn announced, glancing towards Vicki and Chris. There was absolutely no way that she was going to send them in to face Circuit Monger while she stayed back where it was safe.

Joselyn’s father looked like he was about to argue, but the Face pointed out, “It isn’t as though we have many other heroes who are even capable of going. Ms. Miracle is out of action, Kaboom has a broken arm, Legacy has a broken leg, Lady Hexx has a sprained ankle, Channel is exhausted, and Counterweight has a broken shoulder…”

“Just badly bruised,” Counterweight corrected him. She went to rotate her arm to show that it could still function, but winced in pain. “Yeah, not good.”

“Yeah, we’re all messed up,” Kaboom grumbled.

“I might not be in good shape to fight,” Counterweight admitted, “but I can still play taxi.” She gestured to Vickie and Chris, adding, “Unless you two can fly or teleport…”

“Nope,” Vickie admitted with a shrug.

“I’m afraid that we don’t have a lot of time to waste,” the Face announced, gesturing to the barrier. “The longer the barrier remains intact, the more people die inside, and the more time Baron Nevermore has to do whatever it is he has planned.”

“Whatever it is,” Joselyn added, shuddering faintly at the memory of the nightmare that had awoken her that morning, “it isn’t good.”

“I guess we’re as ready to go as we can be,” Chris said with a determined look that hid his nervousness.

Joselyn nodded, not blaming Chris and Vickie for being nervous in the least. Circuit Monger was a dangerous villain, and a bit beyond their power levels. Of course, thinking about that just reminded her that Circuit Monger was even further outside of her own power level. However, she wasn’t going to admit that or back out. After all, someone had to take down Circuit Monger, or at least her obelisk, and they were the only ones currently available.

A couple minutes later, they stepped through the barrier and walked towards the metal shell that had been left sitting there. Joselyn looked around the newly formed team, then at Vickie and Chris. “I guess I should probably introduce everyone…” She gestured to Counterweight and said, “Our limo driver for the mission is Counterweight. She controls gravity.”

“Nice to meet you,” Counterweight said, nodding to the two newcomers. She also gave them curious looks, clearly wondering about them and the story behind why they were qualified to pass through the barrier.

And this is Invincible Woman and Ghost Boy,” Joselyn added, indicating the two heroes who’d already faced Circuit Monger. Then she paused, suddenly ‘knowing’ that this wasn’t the first time that the two pairs had met each other. She was a little startled at that revelation from her powers and added, “But I think you already know each other…”

The two pairs paused to look at each other in confusion. “No,” Ghost Boy responded after a few seconds. “I’m pretty sure I’ve never met them…”

“Ditto,” Chris said.

However, Vickie stared at Ghost Boy. He wore a domino mask as well as a hood that covered his hair and helped to obscure his features, but her eyes suddenly went wide in recognition anyway. “Miles?”

Invincible Woman and Ghost Boy both jumped at that. “How do you know that name?” Invincible Woman demanded, looking just a little shaken.

“No way,” Vickie blurted out in stunned amazement.

“Wait,” Chris gasped, now staring at Ghost Boy as well. “You’re Miles?”

“I’m Vic,” Vickie exclaimed, gesturing at herself before giving a self-conscious smile. “Or at least, I used to be…”

“Vic?” Invincible Woman gasped, staring at Vickie with a similar expression. Then she gulped and gestured down at herself. “I’m Miles. Ghost Boy is my mom… We sort of switch bodies when we use our powers…”

“That explains a few things,” Counterweight commented as she looked over Invincible Woman and Ghost Boy.

“Chris and I just switched genders,” Vickie responded, gesturing to Chris.

This time, Invincible Woman stared at Chris and gasped, “You’re Christine?”

“I used to be,” Chris responded a bit awkwardly.

Vickie looked back and forth between Invincible Woman and Ghost Boy, then glanced over at her brother. “Now, this is a weird coincidence.”

“Definitely,” Invincible Woman responded. “Freaky weird.”

Joselyn scowled a little as she considered what she’d just learned, that Invincible Woman was Vickie’s old friend Miles. Vickie had mentioned Miles to Joselyn before, a few times, and from what Joselyn remembered, Miles used to be Vickie’s best friend, back when she’d still been Vic. Now, Miles and Vickie were together again, and Miles had undergone a similar change.

Suddenly, Joselyn was feeling a little jealous and left out. After all, Vickie was supposed to be her best friend. And what if Chris liked Invincible Woman better than her too? Invincible Woman was definitely better built.

“Maybe you should continue this later,” Joselyn suggested, trying to keep her tone calm and even. “Or at least, continue it in the air…” She gestured to the metal shell that Lady Hexx had formed earlier. “Unfortunately, time is running out so we need to get going.”

“Good point,” Ghost Boy admitted. “I’m curious to hear about what happened to you two, but time is of the essence.”

“All right then,” Counterweight announced as she took her position in the metal shell. “Let’s get going.”

--------------------

The medical tent was quiet at the moment, for which Julie was thankful. After she’d collapsed, her friends and teammates had stuck around to make sure that she was all right, but Denise had finally chased them and most of the other visitors out so that the injured could rest.

Julie took a sip of the fluorescent orange drink that Denise had given her. It was some kind of sports drink, supposedly filled with electrolytes and other things that would help her recover. And though Julie didn’t care for the taste, she had to admit that it was working. She felt much better than she had earlier, though she was still a bit tired.

With a grunt, Julie slowly stood up from her chair, looking at the other patients and being grateful that she wasn’t stuck in a cot like they were. Ms. Miracle…Dave was currently asleep in his cot, while Legacy was awake, but a little out of it from the painkillers. Julie took another sip of her drink, deciding that she was well enough that she didn’t have to hang around the medical tent any longer. She could go outside and finish resting up out there just as easily.

Julie paused before leaving to take another look at Dave, frowning a little as she did so. Though she was happy to have allowed him to have a reunion with his mother, she felt extremely awkward at being caught in the middle of it. And admittedly, she’d also been a bit scared. Ms. Miracle…the original one…had been desperate to stay with her injured son, and that desperation had been powerful enough to overwhelm Julie’s control. For the first time ever, Julie hadn’t been able to eject the spirit she was channeling. She hadn’t been able to take control back, until that desperation had faded.

“At least you got to see her again,” Julie whispered, though she glanced over to Legacy and smiled faintly as she remembered that reunion as well.

When Julie stepped out of the medical tent, she wasn’t at all surprised to find a few people hanging around near it. Rumor was near the door, talking with her teammate Splash. A short distance away, Figment and the White Knight were talking, and they alternated between looking at the barrier and glancing to the medical tent. Julie assumed that they were worried about Lady Knight, and about their newly discovered family member. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like to suddenly discover that she had a new family member, without any warning.

“Channel,” Zero Kay called out to her. “How are you feeling?”

“A bit better,” Julie responded with a sigh. “I’m still wiped out though. I’ve never held a spirit for that long before, and I hope I never have to do it again.”

Zero Kay nodded as though she understood, though Julie knew that the other girl couldn’t possibly understand. She wasn’t the one who’d been a virtual prisoner in her own body.

“We still haven’t heard anything from Glamour Girl or Deadbeat,” Zero Kay said with a shake of her head. She looked just as worried about her other teammates as Julie was. “And Nike keeps pacing back and forth. It makes me nervous just to watch her…”

Julie chuckled at that. “Nike isn’t exactly one to sit and wait. Now, if you’ll excuse me. I need to sit down again.”

Zero Kay put a gentle hand on her shoulder as she said, “Rest and recharge. We may need you again when the barrier comes down.”

“If I’m ready by then,” Julie responded with a sigh, since she doubted that she’d have the energy to call anyone else until she’d had a good night sleep.

As Julie started for an open chair, she noticed Denise was having a private conversation with her nephew. Or at least, it would have been private, if their words hadn’t carried as far as they did, because Julie could hear what they were saying, and undoubtedly, so could a few of the other heroes.

“But what happens if you have an episode?” Will asked her. “If you do, this is the last place you should be. I mean, we’re surrounded by heroes…”

“Which means that this may be the best place,” Denise responded, sounding tired. “You have a good point, and I agree with you. I shouldn’t be here. But you’ve seen how badly some of these people have been injured, and who knows how bad the rest of them will be when they come back. Unfortunately, I seem to be the most qualified person available to patch them up, so I can’t leave just yet. Just in case.”

“Fine,” Will grumbled. “But if you have an episode…”

“That is why I have you here,” Denise told him.

This conversation caught Julie’s interest, and she was curious about what they were talking about. However, she didn’t hear any more since Mega was walking towards her, asking, “Channel, can I talk with you for a minute?”

Mega was a large and imposing woman, who towered over most people, even when she wasn’t using her powers to grow larger. However, at the moment, she looked a bit nervous, which made Julie gulp since she knew exactly what Mega wanted to talk about.

“I used to have a boyfriend,” Mega started to say, looking self-conscious and awkward. “And I was wondering…”

“I can’t summon a specific person,” Julie quickly told her, giving the larger woman an apologetic look. “I can’t choose who I summon. My powers don’t work that way.”

Mega suddenly looked disappointed, which caused Julie to wince. She hated it when people asked her to arrange a reunion with their loved ones, because she couldn’t do it…at least not intentionally. Being able to provide two reunions in one day was a miracle, but she couldn’t do it again if she tried...much to her frustration.

“I’m sorry,” Julie told Mega, feeling guilty as she did so. “I really wish I could help you, but…”

“I understand,” Mega said with a forced smile. “I just thought it was worth asking…”

Julie nodded. “I really am sorry. I would if I could…”

Mega muttered a brief apology for bothering Julie before hurrying away. Julie let out a sigh, then sadly shook her head, wishing she could have helped Mega. Then with a grimace, she continued to the chair and sat down with another sigh.

Julie took another sip from her sports drink, then looked at Catalyst, who was sitting in the chair beside her own. Catalyst was staring at the barrier with a grim expression on her face.

“You’re worried about Counterweight,” Julie said sympathetically.

“Yeah,” Catalyst admitted with a frown. “That idiot comes back injured, then turned around and volunteered to go right back in…”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Julie told her, hoping that she wasn’t going to be a liar.

“I just wish I was able to help,” Catalyst admitted after a few seconds. “While Counterweight is in there fighting, I’m stuck out here, unable to do anything to help. I feel so useless.” She shook her head in disgust, then in a bitter tone, announced, “I should be used to feeling useless…”

Julie gave her a curious look. “What do you mean?”

Catalyst gave her a wry smile and answered, “My powers are to give powers to other people. You don’t know how many times I’ve given powers to others, then watched them run off to be heroes while I get left behind or treated like a mascot.”

Julie stared at Catalyst for a moment. “I can relate…”

“How could you possibly relate?” Catalyst asked, looking a little curious. “You have tons of different powers, and are always in the middle of the action…”

With a snort, Julie responded, “My powers are to channel other people…to call up the dead and let them fight for me. I’m just along for the ride while the spirits do all the work.”

“Ah,” Catalyst said, clearly understanding. “Yeah, that sounds pretty frustrating. At least I’ve figured out how to take away powers as well as give them. Between that and my martial arts training, I’m able to hold my own a lot more than I used to.”

“Now I’m jealous,” Julie told her with a chuckle. “At least you get a chance to do something on your own.”

Julie continued talking with Catalyst, delighted to find a kindred spirit. It was nice to see that she wasn’t the only one who had that kind of downside with her powers, or those doubts about her legitimacy as a hero.

Suddenly, Catalyst jumped to her feet and exclaimed, “We’ve got another returnee…”

Julie looked at the barrier and saw someone coming through, though she couldn’t quite make out who it was. And when Catalyst hurried towards the barrier, Julie quickly followed.

A young man stepped through the barrier, making Julie pause to stare at him because he wasn’t one of the heroes who’d gone through the barrier. He was tall and slender, with dark blonde hair, and looking as though he was in his early twenties. Then, she noticed that he was using a gold metal walking stick that seemed familiar.

“That’s Mystik’s staff,” someone exclaimed, making Julie realize that they were right. This guy did have Mystik’s staff, which begged the question of how he got it.

“The Staff of Isis,” the Face stated as he approached the young man. He stopped and seemed to stare at the newcomer, though it was hard to tell since that mask completely covered his face. “Then I assume that you are Mystik.”

“Yeah,” the young man responded, looking a bit self-conscious. “My staff ran out of power so I changed back to normal.”

“You’re Mystik?” Mega asked in surprise while the young man nodded in response.

The young man…Mystik…stood there with a grim look on his face. He clenched the staff tightly enough that his knuckles were nearly white, then announced, “I have good news and bad…”



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