by Martin Maenza
Dove sidestepped while Hawk leaped forward and rolled. The mirror smashed against the doorframe, shattering the reflective glass with a loud crash.
“Not too smart, Jeanne!” Hawk said as he sprang to his feet. “That’ll cost you seven years bad luck!” He grabbed onto her left arm. “See, it’s starting already!”
The red-haired woman glared at him menacingly and then began to rise from the floor, lifting the unsuspecting Hawk with her. “Hey, now!” Hawk started to protest.
“Where’s Scutti?” Jeanne shrieked. And with her words, an unseen force grabbed hold of Hawk and sent him flying across the room. He slammed hard into one of the walls, putting a hole in the plaster.
“Scutti?” asked Dove. “Is that the man with the brown hair and beard?”
The levitating woman whirled around to face the inquisitive Dove. “What did you do to him?” she wailed. Her words were punctuated by some drawers that pulled from the desk and flew across the room.
“He’s fine,” Dove said as she sprung out of the way. “If you’ll just relax, then maybe we can talk about this.”
“Relax?” Jeanne Somner asked. “How can one relax? With shopping to do, gifts to wrap, cards to write! There’s no time. No time!” She screamed out in pain, and another wave of energy burst out from her.
Dove grasped her head to try to block the pain. Whatever this woman was doing, it was at least partly psionic in nature. The energy she hurled had both physical and mental properties to it.
“Why can’t things be more simple?” Jeanne said with some regret in her voice. She snatched one of the small frames that had been floating about the room and stared at the picture. “Like twenty years ago when we were back in school.” The picture was of a group of friends, including a younger Jeanne and Scutti.
“Things were simpler then,” she said softly. “Back at the university, we all thought we could change the world for the better.” She stared at the faces in the picture that looked back at her. She smiled. “Specs. Robby. Darren. Oh, how I miss you so, especially at this time of year.”
Dove could see that talking about it was helping Jeanne to calm down some. Hawk was barely stirring from the blow the woman had dealt him. The heroine decided to keep the woman busy talking. “What happened to them, Jeanne?”
“One of our professors was a man of great vision,” Jeanne said. “Over long night sessions with scented candles and Mid-Eastern melodies, he’d tell us about his visions for utopia, where we’d all live in harmony and peace. We’d all be free and equal and happy. No one judging anyone else. Everyone working together for the betterment of man.”
“Sounds nice,” Dove said.
“But it would never come to be,” Jeanne continued. “There were protests on the campus to show dismay with the country’s involvement in the war. The protests turned into riots! Things got all crazy. The professor was injured; the doctors said he’d never walk again. Specs went to jail. Robby and Darren were drafted. Scutti would have been, too, so we ran off to Canada.” A tear began to fall down her cheek. “We ran and ran and ran. All it seems like we’ve ever done is run!”
Dove could see from the corner of her eye that Hawk was starting to come back around. She tried to gesture discreetly to him to stay still. Jeanne was exhibiting incredible levels of power, and for the safety of everyone they needed to keep it in check.
“But it seems like you have a good life with a man who loves you,” Dove said. “That’s got to count for something, right?”
“I suppose,” Jeanne said. “It’s just…” Her voice trailed off a bit as she glanced out the large bay window to the shops across the way. She could see the greenery and the red of the decorations. All the decorations put up to celebrate the season and attract the shoppers. “It’s just, the holidays depress me so. And to top it all off, this change has come over me. I don’t understand it, and I don’t need it right now. It’s just too much…”
“Cry me a river,” said Hawk who started toward her. “That’s no reason to go busting stuff up, even if it belongs to you!”
Jeanne whirled around at the tone. “You don’t know me!” she cried out. “You don’t know who I am or how I feel or why!” The energy about her eyes crackled. “And you don’t care! That’s what’s wrong with the world today!”
“Hawk, look out!” Dove cried as she leaped toward her partner.
Jeanne unleashed an incredible blast that exploded out from her in all directions.
Her anger and frustration were exemplified by the power of the blast. It tore apart the top floor of the townhouse, plowing through the drywall and supports, shattering the windows, and sending debris raining outward.
Hawk and Dove lay close to the ground, avoiding the brunt of the blast but making themselves targets for the falling portions of the roof. Thanks to the young woman’s quick thinking and warning, they were alive for the moment.
Jeanne continued to float in the air like the gentle eye of a hurricane. In a split second, her anger and rage had unleashed a deadly force that destroyed the upper portions of her home and damaged the neighboring structures as well.
In contrast to the sounds seconds before of wood and materials being assaulted, what now could be heard was a slight sobbing. “Oh, my God,” Jeanne cried softly. “What have I done? What have I become?”
“Whoa!” a voice called from beyond the house. “Like, what truck ran through here?”
Jeanne turned at the sound of the voice. The energy began to build again but subsided quickly as she took in the new arrival. It was a man adorned in gold armor with wings that kept him easily aloft in the air. The midday sun reflected off it, giving him an unnatural glow.
Jeanne blinked. He looked like an angel, a sign of hope. “Darren?” she whispered. “Is that you?” She floated out toward him, but just as she was about to reach him, she felt an odd sensation. “What?” Suddenly, her eyes — which had been crackling with energy — reverted back to their original green, and she began to drop.
“Relax,” Golden Eagle said as he reached for her waist with his two arms. “I’ve got you.” He caught her in mid-fall and carefully lifted her back to open second floor of the home.
Just then, Scutti Somner appeared from the stairwell. “Jeanne! Baby!” He ran over to his wife and embraced her. Golden Eagle stepped back and let the man comfort her. She began to sob with her head buried in his shoulder.
Hawk and Dove rose from the ground, brushing off the bits of plaster and such. Hawk clasped his hand to his friend’s shoulders. “Not sure what you did, Eagle,” he said. “But it seemed to work.”
Dove nodded. “We’d better get her some help,” the young woman said. “Perhaps STAR can figure out what triggered these abilities in her and maybe get her some help in coping with them.”
Andrei Szackas stared out as the falling snow continued to blanket the tree-lined countryside. He breathed in and then let out a deep sigh. While the air was cold and crisp, it was clean. There was no denying that. Still, he was never a large fan of winter, and he was not particularly enjoying this one so far.
He removed his hands from his warm pockets to check his watch. Ten minutes to six. He had better hurry. Andrei trudged through the ankle deep snow, his boots sinking with each step. If the storm kept up, it could be a good foot deep and then some by midnight.
Andrei entered the palace foray and quickly removed his coat and scarf, hanging them on an ornate wooden rack. He pounded his boots a few times on the rug before heading toward the dining room. He rushed down the hall and entered the room. “I’m sorry if I am late, excellency,” he apologized.
Cassandra De Granaco acknowledged the arrival by turning to the awaiting staff. “You may proceed with serving,” the dark-haired, purple-clad Contessa De Granaco said.
Standing near the fire, Bito Wladon finished warming his hand. He was dressed in his blue uniform, the one he most often wore. He crossed the room and clasped the newest arrival on the shoulders. “Szackas!” he said. “I was worried you might be too busy to join us.”
“Never, your majesty,” the professor said nervously. The man known to the world as Sonar glared at him. “That is, I mean, your majesty, that I would, uh, never miss our weekly dinner. That would be very rude to your lovely bride.” He turned to the Contessa and nodded, but the woman’s expression yielded little hint of a response.
“Yes,” Sonar agreed as he looked at the woman longingly. “Yes, it would indeed.” He turned back to Szackas. “Come, we eat.” The two men went to the table and sat down as the servants returned with bowls and platters of food.
“So, how goes the project?” the Contessa asked of her husband. “I assume you are keeping the professor, here, very busy.” She eyed the man critically. “He certainly seems to look more and more tired every time I see him.” The dark circles under his eyes were evident for all to see.
“I’m sleeping well enough, my queen,” Szackas lied. He looked down at his plate, picked up his fork, and gingerly took a taste of the food.
“There will be plenty of time for rest later,” Sonar stated. “For now, all that matters is that we continue to produce the nucleo-sonic armor to outfit our armies.”
“It is a slow process,” Szackas explained, “but it goes well. The design is very complex and requires meticulous attention to detail. It is my belief that you want quality output, and not equipment slapped together in haste.”
“Very true,” Sonar said. “But we do not have years to complete the work. We need to be ready during the next calendar year. Prepared to strike at our enemies and to bring upon a new era of growth for Modora.”
“Modora-Granaco,” the Contessa corrected him.
“Of course,” Sonar said. “Modora-Granaco. For we are now one, united.” He gave his wife an intimate look; she gave him a pleasant smile, even though she felt little attraction to him inside. Sonar looked at the professor. “What is wrong, Szackas? You are not eating.”
Andrei Szackas blinked. “Oh,” he said glancing down at his still full plate. “I’m sorry. It all looks wonderful. It’s just that I’m not really hungry this evening.” He didn’t want to offend the royal couple, but he was starting to grow tired of gristoph, the native Modoran meat dish that they served quite often. What he wouldn’t give for a Big Belly burger right about now.
“Oh,” Sonar said. “I hope you aren’t taking ill. I need you. Your native country needs you.”
The Contessa turned to Szackas. “I know what is wrong with our guest,” she announced. Szackas sat up, concerned that he had been found out.
“Well, out with it, my dear,” Sonar insisted. “Do not keep us waiting.”
The Contessa let his impudent tone pass. She’d put up with it only as long as it benefited her to do so. “I believe our professor, here, is a bit homesick. Is it not a season of celebration in the Americas?”
“Of course,” Sonar said as if he had just received an epiphany. “I recall that! A time of giving of gifts and goodwill toward men.” He turned to Szackas. “In honor of the Christmas holiday, I permit you to report to the labs an hour later Sunday morning. That should give you some time to catch up on your lost sleep, eh?” The monarch of the small nation felt good about his gesture, as meager as it was.
Szackas sighed ever so slightly. “Thank you, your majesty,” he said, though his heart was not truly into the words. “You are too kind.” Szackas steadied himself to get through the rest of the evening.