Brightstar: The Rising Superhero
When we returned, my eyes were swollen and red from all that crying. I rushed to my aunt and hugged her tightly. She didn’t expect the hug, but she knew how much I needed it. Kusagi wrapped her arms around me and gently took me into her embrace.
Zanny moved away to give us some room.
“You have only been gone one second. What happened there?” Kusagi asked.
“I’m sorry. We can’t save her.”
Haru stepped closer to us. “Catty wanted you to know that she loves you, and she forgave you.”
Kusagi closed her eyes, sniffled a tear. “That damn woman.” She said it with anger, but she meant well. “I only wished she said it to my face.” Kusagi had an endearing grin, even though it was glazed with sadness.
Cindy leaned away from the pillar. “I don't want to be a mood killer, but what’s our next plan?”
I turned to face her and glanced at each person in the hangar. Haru, Kusagi, Cindy, and Zanny narrowed their eyes at me and waited for an answer. “I have a plan, but we will need to get everyone on board to make this place a success. Ms. Cindy, we will need resources: helicopters, cars, trucks, weapons, explosives, and equipment. Anything you got.”
“I can do that, but we will need an army. I can’t get my employees to do this. It’s too dangerous.”
“Don't worry about the army.” I turned to Kusagi. “Aunty, I’ll need you to call up Arthur’s boys. They will want payback for their dad, and we are going to give it to them.”
“Let’s get back to the city. We’ll need Ria and Jake’s help on this.”
Cindy called a ride for us. We ditched the helicopter to avoid being tracked by the authorities. It took us a while to get to the city by car, but we made it after a long ride. The day had ended by the time we arrived. We all gathered in Cindy’s skyscraper basement.
“It’s nice to see you again, Ricky.” Haru patted her shoulder.
“I wish I could say the same to you, but…” Ricky laughed along with Haru.
“If you are blind, how do you make all of this?” Haru asked.
Ricky showed the back of her neck. A high-tech artificial spine can be seen down her back. It was surgically attached, it must have cost a fortune. “It’s my greatest invention. It’s not just my spine, I had it installed in my eyes. I can see and feel by connecting my nerves to a camera and sensory tech, but I don’t use it often because of the massive migraine that comes afterward.”
“Woah, cool.” Haru leaned in to take a closer look.
“I know right. She’s like a half machine.” Aunty chimed in.
“It's going to be hard if we have a prank war with her. She could see us coming from a mile away.” Haru rubbed his chin.
“Then we need to get her while she is asleep.” Aunty grinned mischievously.
“Come at me, punk, if you know what’s good for you.” Ricky raised her chin arrogantly.
I saw Cindy smiling on the side. She stared at them as if she was reliving a sweet memory. I’ve never seen Aunty this energetic before. Haru and Aunty made a good team, they both played each other childish sides perfectly.
The elevator dinged, Ria stepped out with her eyes widened when she saw the people in the room. Her eyes wandered around the room until they landed on me. Her eyebrows raised, and a big smile formed on her face. She ran toward me, then wrapped her arms around my body.
“Kenn, I knew you would come back!” She buried her face against my neck. Her warm breath caressed my skin.
“Look at those two lovebirds. Pooh. Pooh.” Kusagi chanted.
“I guess Kenn also inherited my charismatic gene in him. Well done, son.” Haru nodded his head with a proud grin.
I rolled my eyes at the comment. These two. It was fun at first to see them joking around, but now it’s getting annoying. I broke away from the embrace because it had become awkward after she had been hugging me for almost 5 minutes now.
“I didn’t realize you miss me that much.”
“You jerk!” She punched my shoulder and sniffled a tear. “Of course, I do. I thought you were dead.”
“I’m here now.”
“Kenn, Catty is…”
“It’s okay. I already know.” I paused for a moment. “I need your help taking down Ironhide. It’s dangerous, so I understand if you say no.”
“What, screw that shit. I’m with you till the end. You know that.”
“Thank you.” I looked at the elevator. “Have you seen Jake?”
“Jake said he’s on the way.”
“We are going to proceed without Jake. I’ll tell him about the plan when he gets here.” After taking a short breath, I walked to the table with a large map of Nirvana city. Five monopoly pieces were placed on top of the map, far apart from each other. The people in the room gathered around the table.
“Our main goal is to destroy the serum and prevent them from reproducing again. So, we are going to hit five targets in the city. The first two are private laboratories. They are located northwest of here. Another two are private data center facilities. Each is located far apart from the others. One at the west. Another at the far east. The last one is the headquarters building.”
Kusagi raised her hand. “How do you know it’s there and not in some overseas labs?”
“Zanny showed me where Ironhide stored them. He doesn't want his precious investment getting stolen, so he is keeping them at a place where his security is the strongest, and it’s here. In this city. Trust me on this.”
“I dealt with Ironhide before. It’s possible.” Cindy nodded her head.
“Each of these locations is going to be heavily guarded, and I meant it when I said it. They got heavy weapons, mechs, trained soldiers, and powereds. They will not hesitate to put you down if you give them a chance, but we aren’t like them. So, non-lethal weapons only.”
“Easier said than done, kid.” Haru leaned on the table.
“Is it impossible?” I asked.
“It will be hard, but not impossible. If we hit them hard with knock-out gas, we could take out most of their forces. Gas and blast. What do you think, Kusagi?”
“I could do it with my bare hands, old man,” Kusagi smirked.
“Old man? I bet I can take out more bad guys than you, kid.”
“Haru, I’m sorry, but I need you for something else.” I butted in.
Kusagi laughed. “I already won the bet before we even begin, old man.”
“One of these days, I’m going to show you what this old man can do.” Haru looked at me. “What is it you want me to do, Kenn?”
“I need you to deal with Bradford.” My jaw tightened as I closed my eyes.
“Are you sure about giving this to me? I know how much it meant to you.”
I stared into Haru’s eyes. “I don’t trust myself to do it because we can’t kill him, Haru.”
“What?” Aunty spoke up in disbelief. “He deserves to be six feet under.”
“I know that, but it’s complicated. We can’t kill him. Our chances… ha. Stop him, but do not kill him.”
“If that's what you want, no problem.” Haru nodded his head in understanding.
“Are you serious?” Aunty balled her hand into a fist.
“Have faith in him, Kusagi. He knows what he’s doing.” Haru placed her hand on aunty’s shoulder to calm her down.
“Fine.” Aunty crossed her arms.
“Ria, you will be helping the others infiltrate the lab and destroy the serum.”
“Breaking and entering is my middle name,” Ria said enthusiastically.
“Ms. Cindy will provide the full detail of your target. I believe most of the people here have some kind of experience with this kind of job, except for me and Ria. If you need equipment, feel free to ask Ms. Ricky.”
Cindy sighed. “I hope I don’t go bankrupt over this. Wait, we still need an army.”
The elevator dinged. An army of bee hybrid men stepped into the room with a determined gaze. In the middle of the group was a woman hybrid, someone familiar to me. Arthur’s wife: Morgana Antho. She carried a sword on her back while in a battle gown: a beautiful green gown with a chest plate and gauntlet, combat-ready and badass. I never thought such a dress existed, but here she was, before me. I admit I was impressed.
“My other sons are waiting in the lobby above. Not all of us can fit inside the elevator. However, we are ready to kick ass, am I right?” Morgana turned to her sons, and they cheered wildly.
I walked to Morgana and shook her hand. “Thank you for coming.”
“If it weren’t for you and your aunt, we wouldn’t be here. Oh, I almost forgot, your friend is waiting for you in the lobby. He called himself Jake. Do you know him?”
“I do. Oddly, I told him to come down here.”
“He said he wanted to talk to you somewhere private.”
“Thank you for telling me. I’m going to head up. You should talk to Cindy. She will brief you about our plan.”
I headed toward the elevator, but after I got in, Zanny slipped inside. She stood beside me. I could tell that she wanted to say something because of her worried expression. We rode the elevator upward.
“Is there something on your mind?”
“It’s about Jake. Proceed with caution. That’s all I can tell you without disrupting the path we are on.”
The elevator dinged and opened its door. Zanny walked out without saying a word. She turned around the corner and disappeared from my sight. I took her warning to heart. She warned me that there are few things that she can’t tell me because it could disrupt the outcome we were aiming for.
When I stepped into the lobby area, I scanned for any sign of Jake. I saw him leaning against a pillar with his hands inside his pocket. His attitude seems strange, out of ordinary. Suddenly, Zanny’s warning crossed my mind. I took a deep breath before walking toward him.
“Hey, are you okay?” I asked.
Jake raised his chin and turned to me with a faint smile. “Let’s talk outside.”
From a dark alley, not far from the courtyard, was a lizard woman who worked for Ironhide. She was far enough to hide from any sight, but not close enough to hear what Jake and Kenn were talking about. However, from what she was seeing, the conversation was getting sour.
Kenn buried his finger harshly against Jake’s chest. In response, Jake swapped his friend’s hand away and caused him to back off. Their expression turned dark, they were both furious with each other.
It was getting heated by the second. When things couldn’t get any worse, it happened. Kenn punched Jake in the face and caused him to drop on his butt.
“You’re a traitor!” A shout so loud even the lizard woman heard it.
“I came here to help, and you're getting mad at something that I didn’t even do?!”
“You’re his family. Do you think I could trust you after knowing that?!”
It got even worse when Jake stood up and started wailing on Kenn. It turned into a street fight in which they landed punches against each other and tossed themselves onto the lawn. They were unrelenting on the fisticuffs until Kenn landed a final blow on Jake’s face.
“Don’t you ever show your face near me again, or I swear you won’t be lucky next time!” Kenn shouted before leaving Jake on the lawn.
The lizard woman had witnessed a brutal breakup between two best friends. She needed to report this to Ironhide as soon as possible.
Two Days Later.
“We gotta attack these facilities at the same time, so they don’t have the chance to upload a backup to another facility,” Kenn’s voice beamed out from the radio.
“Affirmative,” Ria said as she leaned her back against a wall in an alley next to her target.
Behind her was her team filled with Arthur’s sons. She got about a dozen of them in her team. They all decked in full tactical gear and wielded non-lethal rifles. They may shoot rubber bullets, but when it hit someone, it’s going to hurt like hell and incapacitated them a little while.
Even Ria donned another outfit, so people wouldn’t know Violet Jet was behind the attack.
Ria and her team had memorized the layout of the lab. It’s a two-story building with a metal fence around it. The security cameras outside prevented any surprise entry. So, direct infiltration was absolutely impossible, not without alerting the enemy.
Luckily for her, the city sewer ran exactly under the facility. Her team opened up the manhole cover, and they dive in. After taking out a blueprint, they carefully navigated the tunnel until they reached their intended spot.
“Right above us,” Ria said.
“Setting up, Boss.” One of Arthur’s sons assembled a large rectangle frame large enough to fit a person. Another one squatted down and helped his brother reach the ceiling. He stuck the frame on the ceiling.
“Ready for breach,” Ria said, then clear from underneath the frame.
Each of them proceeded to put on a gas mask, while two of them took out a grenade launcher. They checked the chamber for the correct ammunition, which was grenades containing knock-out gas.
“Are we ready?” Kenn’s voice echoed from the radio in Ria’s ear.
“Team Bat, ready to infiltrate.”
She heard the other team called out to Kenn’s question.
“Copy. Commencing Operation Salted Earth in 3, 2, 1.”
The frame stitch on the ceiling exploded and created a hole big enough for two-person to fit. Ria pointed to Arthur’s sons. The two that were holding a grenade launcher sent a couple of rounds through the hole. A cloud of thin smoke filled the room above and dripped down into the sewer.
The sound of coughing and proceed with several thuds signaled Ria’s team that she had incapacitated enough of the people inside the room. Two of her men squatted down, while the rest used them as a launchpad into the room above.
Ria took out her metal bat and scanned the room. Around her was an office with cubicles for each worker, just like in the blueprint. A coughing man stumbled toward a corner, Ria sent her bat flying to the back of his neck and knocked him out.
Her target was the lab on the second floor and the security office on this level. She gestured to her team, and they split up just like they planned. Ria led half her team to the security office, while the others made their way to the stairs.
After turning around the corner, something hit her in the chest and sent her back in the other direction. Her team wanted to reach for her, but she stopped them. Ria raised her gaze and met with the hybrid right in front of her.
The Lizard woman stood before her with a gas mask on. Ironhide’s right-hand woman was waiting for her with a team of armed men. They aimed their rifles at Ria and waited for the order. She gave the signal and they let it rip.
Ria took hold of her bat and rode it away from incoming fire. One of her men caught her before she struck against the wall. She nodded her gratitude at him before they took cover in the room.
Her team and the enemy exchanged fire.
Ria switched her radio to her team channel. “Team 2, we encountered a problem. What is your situation?”
Her second team replied. “We are pinned down at the lab entrance, boss, but we’ll manage. We’ll hold out until you unlock the door for us.”
“Understand. Give us a minute.” Ria let go of her radio and turned her gaze at her men across from her. “Shock and awe!”
He nodded his head at the mere mention of those words. It was their backup plan.
Ria took out a flash bang and tossed it near the enemy. It shook the room with a bright light, blinding and discombobulating the people near it. She and her team focus their fire on the hallway.
Her men sneaked to the edge of the room and planted the plastic explosives on the wall. He set a timer of approximately 20 seconds. A runway bullet hit him in the leg before he could get away.
Ria gritted her teeth and sent her bat flying into the hallway. It bounced back against the wall ceiling and floor. The hallway became a pinball machine. It managed to stop her enemy from firing. Long enough for her men to get clear from the blast zone.
The plastic explosive blasted the wall into the smithereens and shook the entire building. Her team had made their entry right into the security office. Two of her men rushed inside and secured it.
Ria was so focused at the security office, that she gave her enemy a chance to attack. The hybrid woman launched herself with speed and crashed into Ria. They were flung into the back of the room. They stopped when their body hit the wall.
The Lizard woman shook her head and brought up her rifle. Before she could fire, her rifle was smashed into pieces when a flying metal bat crashed into it. The destruction of her weapons didn’t stop her, she brought down her tail on Ria.
Ria stopped her tail with her metal bat. It caused a lump thump, enough to displace the mist of knock-out gas from them.
“You’re that kid who knocks me out.”
“Yep, do you miss me?” Ria smirked.
The lizard woman stepped back and brought her tail down again on Ria. Stopping her tail wasn’t an easy task, it had a strength akin to being hit by a car.
It was thanks to the power Ria had that she managed to even stop it. She was sure, if she relied only on her strength, she couldn’t stop it. Ria proceeded to take out her rifle and aimed at her chest. The Lizard woman smashed Ria’s rifle apart with her tail.
Ria gritted her teeth and landed a few jabs under her enemy ribs. It forced her enemy to back away and gave her a chance to smack her enemy’s shoulder with the metal bat.
The Lizard woman took the hit like a champ and landed a punch against Ria’s arm. It doesn’t stop there, as she swatted Ria across the room with her tail.
After crashing through a couple of cubicles, she tried to stand up but fell to her knee. Her body was in pain, that hit had taken much out of her. She forced herself to stand and ran toward her incoming enemy.
They both trade a punch, Ria manages to land a hit on her shoulder while the lizard woman gets the better out of her. She had broken Ria’s gas mask. The knock-out gas was seeping into Ria’s mask, she had to hold her breath, but the lizard woman wasn’t going to give her the chance. She kept on the attack to force Ria to inhale more of the gas.
Her enemy’s eyes were grinning.
Ria’s teammate was busy occupying the armed forces to help her now. Her sight became blurry, and her body was losing her strength, but her will on the other hand. She kicked her enemy away.
The lizard woman widened her eyes at the sight in front of her.
Ria took off her mask and cast it aside. She glared at her. Without hesitation, she rushed forward and landed a few jabs against her enemy. After her enemy was forced to take a defensive stance, she lowered her metal and used it as a launchpad. She brought down her elbow onto the woman and forced her on her knees.
“Grenade Launcher!” Ria shouted.
One of her men tossed the grenade launcher to Ria. The lizard woman raised her sight to meet the barrel of her weapon right in front of her face. She pressed the trigger, and it sent one of the rounds through the eye’s shield. The gas round burst inside her mask and knocked her out for good.
“We got it, Boss.”
The second floor shook violently. The explosive her men planted had detonated and destroyed the serum along with every information about it. Ria smirked before she fainted from inhaling too much of the knock-out gas. Her men caught her before she fell. They carried her to the hole and escaped without a problem. The enemy was preoccupied with the second-floor fire to even think of chasing after them.
“The first target was destroyed,” said one of the teammates on the radio.
Kusagi and Morgana.
Unlike Ria’s plan, Kusagi had a more direct approach in her infiltration. Morgana and her sons tightened their grips around the handlebars. They were a bit scared about the plan, and who could blame them? Because it sounded like a plan made by a madman.
“Are you sure about this?” Morgan’s voice was shaken.
Kusagi laughed. “Yes, it is the easiest way in. Hold on tight.”
She stepped on the accelerator and drove the armored truck through the lab gate. The vehicle shook when it hit the back of a parked car. Kusagi couldn’t stop laughing as she enjoyed the carnage she caused.
Instead of driving through the main entrance of the building, she plowed into the edge of the building. It was on purpose because the security was located there. Her truck destroyed the equipment inside, but Kusagi didn’t stop there. She drove further inside the building until it arrived in the lobby.
“Let it rip!” ordered Kusagi.
Her wingman flipped every switch on the board. The truck poured out knockout gas in every direction. It was a modification Kusagi had requested from Ricky, and she obliged, but also warned her that she wants her truck back after the mission.
“Gas and Blast, baby!”
Kusagi, Morgana, and her sons wore the gas mask. They all exited the truck and immediately took down the remaining people around the truck. However, before they could make it to the stairs, Kusagi immediately launched herself into Morgana and dodged the fireball that was coming for her.
The fireball hit the truck, but one single blast managed to penetrate through the armor and hit the gas tank. It exploded into a burning pile of fire. Their Gas and Blast plan was Immediately interrupted as Salamander appeared from above and burned the gas with his blue fire.
The man with burn scars all over his body along with a robotic arm and legs was grinning ear to ear after he landed on the first floor. “I gotta admit that was a hell of an entrance.”
Kusagi pulled Morgana up and turned to Salamander. “I’m glad you like it. I certainly did.” She sighed after taking a glance at the burning truck. “That’s going to come out from my paycheck.”
“Salamander…” said Morgana, seeping with anger. She unsheathed her sword and readied for an attack.
“You’re his wife, aren't you?” Salamander laughed. “You came back for revenge? I’m flattered.”
“Well, who wants to live forever anyway?” said Kusagi.
Kusagi sneaked a glance at her team and she saw them making their way toward the other stairs. She turned her attention back to Salamander and stretched her neck. She took out the two non-lethal SMG from her holsters and nodded at Morgana. She returned her nod with her own.
Salamander threw a fireball at them, Kusagi took off to the right while Morgana took off to the left. The fireball landed at where they used to be and hit nothing. Salamander smiled, he was filled to the brim with excitement. He couldn’t wait to fight these two highly skilled women.