by Martin Maenza
Out in the Pacific Ocean, off the shoreline of the city, a gleaming figure soared over the waves. Every now and again, he had to cut up a bit to avoid being drenched by the choppy water. “Whoa, like, it’d be totally gnarly to try and surf this stuff!” he said aloud. “No doubt Keith and Eddie tried to, like, convince Hank to do just that. Those guys can be crazy mothers sometimes.”
“Hey, golden boy,” a voice called off to his left. “Care to give me a hand here?”
Golden Eagle swooped to that direction and saw a woman with blonde hair tied back in a ponytail pop her head above the waves. He knew her in an instant, for it was the young woman he was sharing so much of his life with as of late. Even now, in a blue body suit with a watery design and special mask, there was no mistaking for Charley that this was Lisa Morel. “There you are, Oceana,” he said, addressing her by her chosen code-name. “Any luck?”
The woman shifted aside in the bouncing waves to reveal a man in his early forties, floating on a piece of refuge. Oceana helped keep him steady, for he was still a bit disoriented. “I managed to find the captain, but not his fishing boat,” she said. “If you want to airlift him to shore, I can go down for another look-see.”
Golden Eagle reached down so he could take hold of the guy. “I can, like, carry him just fine,” he said. “But if I were you, I’d totally wait until things calm a bit before you, like, try to find his old fishing boat.”
“Well,” Oceana said, “there is the risk that it’ll get washed away, assuming there’s anything left of it.” The man had been clinging to a piece of the side of the small craft that he had been piloting when the waves kicked up. The name Seabiscuit was visible on the piece of the boat as it bounced on the waves.
“Insured…” the man said groggily as Golden Eagle got a good grip on him.
“See, there we go!” the armored hero said as his wings lifted them both into the air. “Let’s, like, head back in to shore to see if there is, like, anyone else we can help out. Lives are, like, so much more important than material things, you know?”
Oceana agreed. She recalled how her own boat had been destroyed when the Marine Marauder had kidnapped her. She was able to replace it and her oceanography equipment. What she couldn’t replace was her life and those people she valued as friends. Charley Parker was now at the top of that list. “Let’s head in.” As the Eagle flew the rescued man toward shore, she swam under her own power. Given her special abilities, the waves kicked up by the seismic activity didn’t bother her in the slightest.
The Golden Gate Bridge: stretching across a narrow strait between the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay, this orange-vermilion, Art Deco suspension bridge was one of the city’s most beloved symbols. At the cost of millions to build, when it finally opened, the bridge was hailed as a model of safety, economy, and grace.
Today, however, it was not the wisest of places to be. As thousands of people attempted to flee the series of earthquakes that were rocking the city by the bay, they were finding that even the two twin steel towers that rose above the piers at the base were susceptible to prolonged shifts in the earth’s crust.
Some of the steel ropes that hung from the two main cables snapped, falling down hard on the hoods and roofs of the cars jammed on the bridge. “Oh, my God!” one woman exclaimed as there was a thud on the roof of their sedan. “We’re going to die here!” Her husband tried his best to stay focused, ready to move when traffic would allow.
Another wave of vibrations shook the bridge. It swayed to the east, enough for the people in the cars to notice as some cars slid into the others next to them. Screams rang out.
Just then, as the bridge had swayed east, it then swayed back again to right itself. Even though the shaking continued, the bridge seemed to have found some inner strength — or, perhaps, some external force.
Positioned at the center point of the one-and-a-half-mile-long structure, about two-hundred feet above the suspended roadway, a lone figure hovered in the air. Dressed in a purple body-suit, Frances Kane held her arms out at full length and concentrated all of her efforts to keeping the bridge steady. Her magnetic abilities easily controlled the steel giant, though the effort was considerable nonetheless. Never before had she used her magnetic powers to attempt such a feat. The strain was showing on her face.
Above her, a dark-skinned woman in a yellow and black costume hovered, shouting encouragement. “Keep it up, Polara!” the Bumblebee said. “You’re doing great!“
Polara, Frances Kane thought. It was bad enough that Karen had convinced her to go out and use her powers. But did she have to get saddled with some kind of super-hero name as well? Well, it could have been worse, she mused. It’s not like she was being called Magneta or Magenta or some stupid variation like that.
The Bumblebee watched the blonde woman straining but was helpless to do more than encourage her. She barely knew Frances; this last month was the first time she’d had an opportunity to get to know the young woman on any level. Even still, Frances remained guarded that entire time. She was wrestling with some internal demons of her own and wasn’t allowing the others past her walls. But besides all that, the Bumblebee knew that the woman had what it took power-wise. Karen had run many of the tests herself; she had seen firsthand via measurements and controlled testing what the woman’s magnetic powers were capable of. They were very lucky to have her here in the right place at the right time. She just hoped that Frances could rise to the challenge.
The Bumblebee’s thoughts were broken as a glinting figure approached from the air. Using her wings, she flew to greet the approaching Golden Eagle. “Better steer clear,” she warned her teammate. “Polara is putting out some serious waves. I don’t know how it will affect your armor.”
“Polara, huh?” Golden Eagle asked. “So Fran is, like, helping out? Cool.”
“Times of crisis bring out the best in people,” the Bumblebee said as she noticed Oceana swim up beneath them.
Suddenly, the radio earpieces in both the Eagle’s helmet and the Bee’s mask sprang to life. “Jazzman to team, come in!” It was the voice of their teammate, the Herald.
“Stings and Wings here,” the Bumblebee replied. “What is it, baby?” She could hear the urgency in her husband’s voice.
“We’ve got members down,” the Herald relayed to them. “I don’t know if they’re alive or what. A building collapsed on them while they were saving some lives!”
“Dude, just tell us where and we’re on it!” the Golden Eagle said. The Herald quickly gave them the address.
“You two go,” Oceana said as she kept herself afloat on the waves. “I’ll stay here with Polara, and then we’ll follow as soon as we can.”
“Thanks,” the Bumblebee said. Then she and the Golden Eagle rocketed back in toward downtown.
Polara, meanwhile, continued to struggle. “So much…” she groaned. “So difficult.” Her body continued to manipulate the magnetic waves, doing her best to keep the bridge steady. She hoped that the tremors would subside or that the people would clear the bridge either by finally driving off or abandoning the vehicles entirely.
She didn’t have time to think about the pains that her powers had been bringing her the last six weeks. In truth, it wasn’t nearly as painful to be using the abilities now. Like it had been during the rigorous testing done at STAR Labs, Frances actually felt good releasing them. She wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. At least the pain was fading, and for that she had been thankful.
Still, she wasn’t a seasoned veteran at this. Not like Wally West. He’d lived with his super-speed for many years now and was comfortable with his powers. Frances had seen her powers as a curse ever since the day they emerged. She did her best to deny them, to reject them. But today, as hundreds of people were shouting her praises below, she kind of felt good about it all. She felt like she was making a difference.
But inexperience and the great task at hand were too much for her.
Polara faltered, exhausted. And she fell from the air and down toward the choppy waters below.
Oceana saw her fall and quickly maneuvered herself into a position to help the woman. Polara’s body hit the water and plunged deep. Oceana dived down, too, and with great speed was upon her body.
Kicking her legs with all her might, the blonde in blue dragged the blonde in purple to the surface. Oceana could survive underwater easily enough, but her friend could not. Polara gasped for air as they broke the water’s surface.
“Easy, Fran, easy,” Oceana whispered in her ear. “Just relax. I have you.”
Polara blinked and tried to catch her breath. “So… hard…”
“I know,” Oceana said. “I know.” Unlike the others, Lisa Morel knew what Frances Kane was going through. Only recently did she, too, come to a realization that her life was changing. When this crisis was over, she hoped the two would be able to sit down and just talk. Being an outsider to all of this, Lisa had a unique perspective that she felt Frances might be able to appreciate.
Beneath tons of rubble in a small dark pocket of air, Dove carefully examined the prison around them. She was concerned that the masses would shift, causing them to lose what little protection they had.
Nearby, Hawk groaned.
“Hey,” she said, shifting her focus to her fallen ally. “Hank, are you OK?”
“Sure,” the gruff voice said, “as well as I can be having the whole damn Museum of Natural History on top of my leg!” Indeed, Hawk’s right leg was pinned under some rubble.
“Do you want me to try to help you out again?” she asked.
“No!” he said firmly. “It actually hurts a lot less if I don’t move it! Know what I mean?”
Dove nodded silently. She knew Hawk was putting up a good front. His big macho ego wasn’t about to let his teammate see him in pain. She also knew from firsthand experience that their powers had some special properties. While they were in their guises of Hawk and Dove, they tended to recover a bit faster from injuries and such. “At least the tremors seemed to have stopped,” she finally said, searching for something to talk about.
“Well, we ain’t out of the woods yet,” Hawk said. “Otherwise, we’d have reverted back to normal. And believe me, right now, I’m kind of glad for that.”
“Me, too,” Dove said. Still, she didn’t like the idea that they were still in danger. Remaining calm and keeping Hawk calm was her first priority now. She just hoped their air supply would last long enough for them to be rescued.
Hawk shifted a bit to try to find a more comfortable position. He also tried to see if shifting might help him free his leg. No such luck. “So, how are things with you and the private dick?“
“Oh, you mean Jonny?” she asked, referring to Jonny Double. “OK. We get together every now and then. He’s a nice enough guy. Treats me well, like a gentleman.”
“He better,” Hawk said, “or he’ll have to answer to me!”
Dove smiled. Despite the situation they were in, here was Hawk once again acting like the big protector, the big brother, to her. She appreciated that. She moved over to where he was, bent down, and gave him a kiss. She meant to hit his cheek but instead brushed up against his lips.
She lingered there a little longer, and he didn’t push back. The kiss went from a friendly one to one with a bit more meaning behind it. Finally, Dove leaned back.
“What was that for?” Hawk asked.
“You complaining?” Dove countered.
Hawk smiled. “Nope, not me.”
The two sat quietly for a moment, contemplating a number of things. Then Dove said, “What was that?”
“I didn’t say anything,” Hawk replied.
“No, shhh,” Dove whispered. “Listen.”
Hawk remained motionless for a moment. Then he was able to pick up the slight humming of a sound coming from one of the walls. “I wonder what that is,” he said.
The humming got louder. “We’re about to find out,” Dove said.
Twenty minutes later, heavy equipment cleared away a large chunk of debris from the fallen museum, giving the two captive heroes a fresh breath of air. The crowd, some of which included folks they had rescued earlier, cheered as the heroes emerged from their prison.
“Dude, let me help you,” Golden Eagle offered as he helped support the limping Hawk.
“I’m fine,” the red-and-white-garbed hero grumbled.
“I think you should get him out of here, anyway,” Dove suggested to their armored teammate. “He’s been recovering well enough, but something tells me that will stop real soon.” She knew the danger was past, and soon they’d both be reverting back to their civilian forms.
“Gotcha,” the Eagle said. He scooped his friend up in his arms and took to the air.
“We’d better split as well,” the Bumblebee suggested. “Need a lift, Dove?”
“Happy to take one,” the heroine replied. The insect-motif heroine lifted her friend into the air, flew over some rooftops, and then dropped discreetly in a nearby alleyway just as Dove reverted back to Dawn Granger. “Good thing you guys came to our rescue, Karen.”
“Not a problem,” the Bumblebee replied. “Those quakes were rather intense, more so than we usually get. Mal’s doing some analysis back at the base to see if there’s some kind of pattern or something.”
“Sounds good,” Dawn said. “My car’s around the corner. I’ll hook up with you guys back at the base as soon as I check on Hank. He’s tough, but even he’s going to be hurting after this one.”
“For a while at least,” Bumblebee agreed. “I want to touch base with Fran and Lisa, too. We’ll regroup at the Horn later, then.” And with that, the yellow-and-black-garbed heroine flew off.