Chapter 6:

Cat Out of the Bag

Half-Paid Heroes

...Uh oh. While Chris was planning her strategy, the Helmets had gotten into their robot!

One of the management ladies, a lady about ten years her senior with ochre skin and hair in neat cornrows, ran up to her holding what appeared to be a silver backpack. Her grey suit blended in almost seamlessly with the object. "You're the new recruit who's been using the basement a lot lately, right?"

Chris gave her a questioning gaze with her sepia eyes, wondering what this could be about.

"Your standing around and upward gaze suggests you need some method to get up there, am I correct? So, I present to you-" she tossed it on to Chris's shoulders, confirming it was indeed a bulky silver backpack, "one of our coworkers' jetpacks."

...Wait a second. Whoever heard of a magical girl using a jetpack?!

Well, it was true that as much as she'd tried to prove otherwise, she didn't seem to have the increased physical abilities all other superheroes got, but-

The lady indicated a slate grey remote on the side of the "backpack" and then disappeared before Chris could protest otherwise.
Meanwhile, Kou had taken the first clothes he could find in his uncle's closet that fit - one of those hideously bright orange Hawaiian shirts and a pair of beige suit pants - and collapsed on the bed in the middle of the room, exploring the unfamiliar form of his body in the full-length mirror in front of him.

What was familiar, however, was the sound of his uncle's footsteps coming up the stairs. In a split-second panic, he made the decision to force the window open and leap out.
The entire robot rattled violently as Chris hit the back wall of the cockpit. Simultaneously, Kou clambered up to the robot's cockpit starting from midway down the torso. The Helmets swiftly turned and pulled out laser guns from side holsters, prompting Chris to roll into a low sweep in an attempt to knock the green Helmet (the one that was nearest to her) off his feet. However, she was too slow and slammed into one of the piloting seats of the robot.

Kou clambered into the cockpit, only to get three gunpoints on him. When he noticed this, he ducked so that two of the Helmets managed to knock each other out with a shot of each of their guns. By this point, Chris was still trying to get the green Helmet out of the way, but there was clearly no force in her thrown punches, leading to more shots hitting her.

Kou, meanwhile, had retrieved one of the laser guns - purple's, because the gun was colour-coded accordingly - while the other Helmets had resheathed their guns, realising they'd slowed Chris down considerably. After ramming into one of the attacking Helmets from behind, the boy headbutted the other one...which was a bad idea, since their titular headgear meant a headbutt hurt.

A funnel-shaped blast of air came from the far corner of the cockpit just as Kou was nursing his wounds. Meanwhile, Chris finally got the green Helmet with one of her punches.

There was nothing in the far corner, though...

Chris darted over to the source of the blast, but another blast followed it up, blowing her and the final Helmet back enough to hit the wall again.

Footsteps on the metal floor meant the mysterious blaster's job was done, and Kou's ears perked up at the audible sounds of the mystery attacker's shoes. They were the signature noise of rubber on metal...

...sure enough, when the noises stopped, the invisibility technique fell away to reveal the mystery attacker was the woman with the cornrows, wearing a jetpack of her own. On her left wrist was a golden watch, the same type as the one Kirikagura wore.

Gerry Hines