*JOHN! Oh God get up get up get up!* Heather sent in terrified desperation.
*…working…on it…* he replied woozily, pouring all his power into his force field. The two agents had knocked him back to the ground, and were doing everything in their considerable power to keep him there. It felt like being in the middle of a bell being rung by a pair of hyper-steroidal Quasimodos. Worse, whatever Agent Martinez had done to him hurt. It was hard to think, and forcing the power to bend to his will was making his eyes bulge from the strain. Most disturbingly, it didn’t seem to be going away.
"He’s tough," Martinez said. Under other circumstances, John would have been flattered by what he thought was reluctant admiration in her voice. I’m not as worried about the opinions of people who’re beating the unholy snot out of me, though, some distant, functioning part of his mind thought wryly.
"Yeah, whatever, can we save the applause for after we kick his butt?" Max shot back. In spite of his disorientation, Powerstar could at least tell that Max was moving constantly, bobbing and weaving even while keeping his weapon trained and firing on him in a steady stream of hurt.
Come on, John. FOCUS. He was still holding them off, and he had to take advantage of it before the inevitable backup arrived. John turned his attention to the disruption Martinez had hit him with. *Heather, I need you to be my eyes and ears for a minute,* he sent, directing his more subtle powers on his own brain and thoughts.
*Got it,* she replied, and he felt her panic recede with the chance to do something to help. With that taken care of briefly, he began the process of subverting whatever had been done to his mind. At first, it felt far too complex for him to ever undo, but as he picked at it and his thoughts grew clearer, he realized that its complexity was not a problem. The Complex agent had left some kind of…mental? psychic?…energy web in his mind, but like a web, it was easier to destroy than to create if you could just cut the threads. He focused his will like the proverbial knife and slashed outward. The thing wasn’t a literal web, though, so it…bulged…at first, but then it snapped with a satisfying burst of shriveling tendrils.
"Holy – HE’S LOOSE! NUKE HIM!" Martinez shouted. Powerstar’s strength returned just in time to hold off both weapons increasing their output massively. He tasted blood in his mouth.
*John, they’re closing in,* Heather sent with just a hint of a quaver.
*It’s good, I’m back,* he sent back, smiling grimly. This time, I have an idea. He let his strange new senses trickle into the streams of power crashing into him. They were violent rivers of raw force, and they seemed to actually foam, after a fashion, at the edges, not unlike whitewater. Licking his lips and frowning at the metallic tang, he focused his efforts on his force fields. Instantly, parabolic shields sprang up. Specifically, they appeared directly in the streams of power directed at him. Thanks to Heather’s awareness maintaining one set of senses automatically, he was able to track Max for the few moments his beam remained an issue.
The results were even more spectacular than he’d expected. The beams themselves seemed to explode, throwing force in every direction. Both weapons shorted out, several conduits erupting dramatically along the sides of each barrel. The agents flew off of their discs, which John proceeded to add to the marble collection he’d started with the already-unconscious Harkin’s equipment. Max tried to get up, but a gesture sent more carefully controlled lightning into the man, and he dropped, pole-axed.
That left Martinez. Powerstar eyed her warily for several seconds, but all she did was back away and pat her uniform. "Looking for these?" he asked finally, levitating several more marbles around her. John didn’t know much Spanish, but he was fairly certain that her mother would have washed her mouth out for what she was snarling. He strode towards her, senses flung as far wide as he could throw them in case her backup appeared as precipitously as she had. "I have a message for your boss."
"Stick it," she hissed. John frowned when he realized she was limping somewhat.
"You started this. Don’t forget that." Powerstar ate the distance between them with long, determined strides. Once he was within a pace of her, he let his eyeslits spark with azure fire. "My message is simple. Stay out of my way, and I’ll keep as low a profile as a guy in blue tights can. Come after me again, and I’ll return the favor, capisce?"
"The Complex is everywhere," she replied sullenly. "We are everything. You can’t hide for long."
He grinned coolly. "Considering your first effort to catch ‘a guy in blue tights,’ I’m not about to lose sleep over it." With that, he shot into the air like a rocket. From there, he fired several harmless bursts of light in every direction, riding inside one of them to land halfway across town. John sighed as he ducked behind a dumpster, waiting as pedestrians ooh-ed and aah-ed at his light show. *I think my escape route needs a little work,* he noted dryly.
*Yeah. Where did you leave your regular clothes again?* Heather sent with relief. He could also sense her amusement at his clothing dilemma. A fantasy played out in her/his mind, picturing an idealized version of himself walking in the door with nothing but a newspaper covering the necessary bits – at least until she ambushed him.
*Oh, for God’s sake…* John looked around in exasperation. Under other circumstances, the thought would have been as welcome as it was flattering. Under other circumstances. *As a matter of fact, they should be right around here. Somewhere. I think.*
Heather’s amusement slipped. *Somewhere? John, you do realize that they probably started tracking every burst from your light show two minutes ago, right?*
*Give me a minute.* John let his will expand again, reaching out, searching… *There.* With a quick mental tug, he yanked the bag from its hiding place under a mail box and raced it into his arms. *Now, a safe place to change, a quick bus ride, and I should be home before you can say ‘John, you idiot.’*
*Don’t tempt me,* Heather replied, the shakiness returning to her "voice." *Right now, just get the hell out of there. After that…*
John nodded soberly. *Yeah. What next? Are there even any other good guys left out there?*
"Guys! Guys! You are not going to believe this!"
In a small basement with walls covered in protest posters, a computer hums with life. The monitor displays several windows with various video feeds, one in particular displaying Powerstar shocking a mugger into unconsciousness. Two figures approach the computer and the diminutive net jockey before it. "Believe what?" the short woman asks wearily,shaking off a torn jacket. She blinks, then leans closer. "That looks like Captain Beacon. Wait, aren’t the colors wrong?"
"No, this is not footage from the movie they’re doing," the young lady at the monitor replies excitedly. "I hacked this from a Complex feed."
"Trap," the tall man in the rear says reflexively.
The hacker sighs dramatically. "Nuh-uh. Once I found this, I got a V-Eye out." She grins wickedly as her fingers dance across the keyboard. "Watch this!"
All three stare in amazement as they watch Powerstar fight three Complex Agents. Two jaws drop at the sight of his victory. "That…that’s Martinez, isn’t it?" the standing woman asks quietly.
"Yep. Sure, she was handicapped by Doctor Craptacular, but still, this newbie took them three on one and kicked their butts." The teen at the computer leans back and folds her hands behind her head. "Then he takes off and loses me. Me! I’m telling you, we’ve got to find this guy."
"How?" The tall man asks.
The hacker’s smile vanishes. "I’m working on it. You know how it is. When someone can hide from them–"
"–he can hide from us," the other woman grunts. "You think he’s really what he looks like?"
The net jockey leans her head over backwards to look at her two compatriots, grinning at their upside-down forms. "Hey, what kind of Alliance of Wonder would we be if we didn’t at least try believing in a superhero?"
…Next: Chapter Three — Wheels Within Wheels
(Note: As announced on the front page, Powerstar is on indefinite hiatus. However, Powerstar makes an appearance in Weaver’s Knight, a serial in the same Empowered/Majestic setting.)