If the room hadn't been the size of a couple of freaking football fields, I'd have been fast enough. As it was, I almost made it. But another thing I was learning about being a superhero, along with the crazy plans and the crazy supervillains and the general craziness, is that "almost" just doesn't cut it. "Almost" leaves you still twenty feet away when the bad guy opens the door and his minions flood into the room with their guns at the ready.
"I really have to thank you," Lord Raptor said as his men herded us back towards the portal. I really wanted to take them on, but the odds did not look good--especially not with Captain Light still hovering in the air, now looking increasingly strained as the energy cuffs drained away his power to keep the portal device open. I looked over at Kevin, then jerked my head towards the portal, but he managed to convey in some surprisingly economic gestures that he hadn't really equipped the jury-rigged device with a safety cut-out, and that it was drawing on Josh's ambient power to the point where he couldn't free himself from it. I responded with my own economic gesture that would probably be unprintable.
"Here I am, kidnapping and bombing and stealing and doing all this work to get my portal sustainable to the point where I can use it to enter other worlds...and all I really needed to do was to get a few inventive superheroes to do it for me! You've achieved all my goals, and I didn't even need to lift a finger. I'd let you share in my new Golden Age of Humanity, but I think we both all know that you're not the type to appreciate it." His men backed us up against the portal, and he sauntered arrogantly over to the computer bank.
"Instead, I think I will give you the mercy of exile. Our scans have uncovered a number of habitable worlds; we can find one for you that will keep you alive...if not necessarily comfortable...while I carry out my plans." He gestured to Captain Light. "Which isn't to say that you'll all be going on a one-way trip. This young man is proving to be quite invaluable."
He pressed a few buttons, and the swirl of the portal began to shift. "But the rest of you...entirely expendable, I'm afraid. I hope you understand that it's nothing personal. I'm sure we'd get along quite well socially. But you're in the way of a brand new destiny for the human race. A whole new frontier to conquer...and there's no room for sentimental fools like you that want to coddle the weak." The portal resolved onto a whole new world, one with lemon-yellow sky and trees with bright blue leaves. It was my first-ever glimpse of an alien planet. I'd have appreciated it a lot more if I hadn't been thinking at the time that I was going to spend the rest of my life there.
"Welcome to your new home, my dears. I hope you don't mind roughing it for a bit, but we really can't spare you the supplies. Not when we've got a beachhead to--what the HELL?" He broke off into a stunned silence just as his men started to fire.
As you can imagine, it took a lot for Lord Raptor to break off his love affair with the sound of his own voice. I'm not sure what it looked like to everyone else--probably just a blurred streak in the air, leaping and bouncing and...um, stabbing and mutilating and eviscerating. But I've got my super-speed perceptions, so I saw it perfectly. And by 'it', I mean 'her'.
She stood about eight feet tall, with lavender skin that was covered in some places with an outfit made of animal skins and and in others with war paint the color of dried blood. (At least, I hoped it was paint.) Her ears were pointy, her teeth were pointy, her tail was pointy, and her swords were pointy too. She was demonstrating it vividly and viciously to Lord Raptor's men; I could follow her movements, but they must have felt like food in a Cuisinart. She hacked her way through about a dozen or so, leaving them bleeding on the floor, before she stopped and bellowed a challenge to the rest.
"Ka kh'ra, spellack chirr, sha ka fra kee!" She gestured with her swords, wiggling the tip in a way that made it clear that 'Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!' transcended human language. A few of Lord Raptor's troops shot at her, but she darted away from the bolts as if they were slow-pitch softballs. She hissed back at them like an angry cat, her teeth bared in a parody of a smile.
"Kill the savage!" Lord Raptor shouted from his strategic position on the other side of the computer banks. "A million dollars to the man who brings back her head!"
"Saa...vij..." The alien woman rolled the word around in her mouth as if she was tasting it. "Saavij!" She slapped her own chest with the hilt of her sword. "SAAVIJ!" She laughed harshly, and flung herself back into the crowd of soldiers. I felt guilty for not doing more, but, um...not so guilty that I did more, you know? I mean, Lord Raptor was planning to dump us on a whole planet of 'savages' and then go kill a whole other planet of 'savages', and I knew the meaning of 'irony' as well as the next person. When the troops broke and ran for it, leaving Lord Raptor all alone with us and the alien chick, well...justice was being pretty poetic.
Lord Raptor tried to make for the door too, but Saavij (we never did learn her name in her own language) kept darting in front of him, cutting off his every avenue of escape. He backed away from her, but she was playing with him like a cat played with a mouse. He had nowhere to go except backwards, to the portal. To her world. And from the look on her face, she couldn't wait to give him the guided tour. He stumbled backwards into the alien world with the yellow skies...
And before she could follow, the portal cut out. We all heard the thump of Captain Light hitting the floor knees-first, then falling forward onto his hands. "Oh," he said. "So that's what 'tired' feels like..." With that, he slumped forwards and passed out.
It took him a full three days to wake up. In that time, we'd placated Saavij with some raw meat, taught her the words for 'food', 'water' and 'friend' (although I'm still pretty sure she thinks it means 'person who brings you food and water') and turfed out the few soldiers who hadn't bugged out. That left us with about two dozen airships, twenty or so tanks, an interdimensional portal that we knew how to run in a pinch, and a secret base built into a mountain.
And it was Josh who came up what to do with it all.
"I know there are others like us," he said. "People who have amazing abilities, and who actually want to do the right thing with them. We can get them together here--we've got enough space to store an army, literally. And we can all teach one another everything we've already learned, and learn from them what they've taught themselves! It'll be like an academy for superheroes, except that nobody's in charge. And we can encourage new people with powers, when we find them, to do the right thing instead of turning out like Lord Raptor, just another bully with big ideas." He shrugged. "At least, that's the plan. What do you say?"
I think at this point, you can guess what we said.
But that wasn't what I dreamed about. I'd already gone off into Angry Telepathic Frog House, as previously noted. And I woke up, shouting "Don't crawl down my shirt!" As already indicated. And then I really woke up, and opened my eyes...to the Best. Thing. Ever.
TO BE CONTINUED...