by Brian K. Asbury
Firebrand streaked back in through the window, just in time to see King Faraday’s CIA men leading the members of Monty Moran’s gang away.
“Take the scenic route back from Pittsburgh, did you, old girl?” said Edward Stacker as she regained her human form.
“Stacker, I swear, if you call me old girl once more, I’ll fry your face off,” she snapped, energy crackling around her fist as she spoke. “What’s happening?”
“Well, Faraday is calling his superiors to fill them in on what’s transpired here. It’s a bad business, losing Moran like that. However, at least we recovered the psi-phon.”
“If it still works,” she said, kicking idly at some of the debris scattered around the penthouse. “Moran made a hell of a mess when he blew his top.”
“Yeeesss… why did he do that, I wonder?” Firebrand only shrugged in reply. “I suspect you know more than you’re letting on, my dear, but no matter. The computers are fairly well trashed, and most of Moran’s papers seem to have been transformed into little pewter frog figurines, but whatever Moran’s state of mind at the time, he had the good sense to leave the psi-phon itself alone.” He walked into the other room, where the machine stood gleaming against one wall. Firebrand followed him.
“And of course,” he said, “thanks to Moran, we now know not only that the machine works, but that it is able to transfer one individual’s powers into another. Think what that means for us.”
Firebrand stopped dead. “Just what does it mean?”
“It means, my dear, that we no longer have to worry about locking up criminal meta-humans. We’ll simply siphon the powers out of them and give them to someone more worthy.”
“More controllable, you mean. The right people, as you said earlier.”
“And to do what? Form a cadre of super-agents under your control, or that of the CIA? The perfect assassins, perhaps?”
“That’s not something for you to worry your pretty little head over, my dear…”
Firebrand shrugged. “You’re right. You’re absolutely right. No one should have to worry about this.” She raised one gloved hand, and an intense light flared, followed by a devastating blast of heat that struck the psi-phon. The complex machine glowed white and then melted into a heap of misshapen slag.
“What the devil?” Stacker screamed. “What have you done? Don’t you know that this machine was irreplaceable? You stupid little fool!“
Firebrand’s expression was stern. “I know it was irreplaceable. All the research notes from the project were in those computers Moran destroyed. It’ll take years to build another one — that is, if they even can reproduce the work involved.”
“Because I’m a meta-human too, Stacker, and I don’t like the sound of what you’ve got planned for my kind. Oh, you might say you’d only do it to criminal meta-humans, but how long before you find excuses to use it on others? I couldn’t let you do that — and I don’t like the idea of you creating a corps of super-assassins one little bit.”
Stacker was silent for several seconds, staring at her with pure venom in his gaze. “I’ll break you for this, you little swine,” he said at length, his voice barely a whisper. “You won’t get away with–“
“Oh, get stuffed, Stacker!” she snapped. “In fact…” She raised one finger, and laser light lanced from it. Stacker’s eyes widened in horror as she approached him. “…I’ve had enough of you altogether. I quit — effective immediately!” And her laser sliced through his tie.
She then raised her arms, assumed her energy-form, and flew away, leaving her former colleague standing there among the wreckage, feeling completely shell-shocked.