[PINCITY] Thunderclap #12 - "Missing" (ACRA)
rickhindle at gmail.com
Mon Feb 23 12:45:49 PST 2009
#12 - âMissingâ
by Rick Hindle
[cover shows Suzie up against an icy wall, a gun in her hands. Two
shadows are approaching her from the sides of the viewpoint]
I'm an idiot. I'll admit it from the get-go. Looking back, the
dumbest thing I could ever due was to reveal to Gretchen that in some
alternate reality, I had walked away from being Thunderclap in order
to be her boyfriend.
For some reason, I usually should be happy that she was hanging
around my place more often. It's not like I was there all the time â
I was usually 'out on patrol'. But for some reason, I was consciously
avoiding her. What the hell was wrong with me?
And why was I using terms like 'out on patrol'? I'm not Fedora, I
don't need to use stupid names like that. I enjoy flying around,
enjoying the evening sky, even in the middle of fall. It wasn't
chilly yet, and after dealing with the Ice Queen, I was quite happy
about that. For some reason, the Ice Queen's block of ice thing that
she did to me was sticking heavily in my head.
It was weird â the Red Samurai had stabbed me and was ready to take
my head off. But that didn't seem to shake me, at least long-term.
Nor did the fact that I had managed to avoid the high powered
mechanized guns of Major Tanaka's robots. It was that whole day in
the park â the Ice Queen imprisoning me and then Mordecai Holmquist
pulling me into the Slipspace. The visions about what I saw haunted
me. Every single time I smiled, the scar that the Ice Queen gave me
brought the visions back.
To keep from smiling, I just flew around, trying to help out where I
could. But Pinnacle City was fairly quiet. The Fedora and some of
the lesser-powered heroes were battling the gangs that seemed to be
tearing each other apart. Rumors of assassins taking out the various
gang leaders through out the East Shore and Old Town had the police on
watch. Shootouts had already erupted between the Sisters and the Hood
Street Gang, both of whom thought the other was responsible for the
murders of their leaders.
From the rumors that I had heard, it didn't sound like the gangs were
responsible. A third party had created a war between the two gangs.
And that had the police actually calling on the heroes of Pinnacle
City for assistance. It was a strange relationship, but it seemed
like the guy that the police had working, Mike Cesar, was a good guy.
At least, that was the impression I got from him. Dad had mentioned
him in his journals a couple times â Cesar had a tendency to let the
heroes do their thing, provided they didn't cross the line.
Of course, considering what I had seen from the Fedora roughing up
that snitch a couple months ago, I was worried that some would cross
the line too easily. Let's be honest, the Fedora really did scare
me. The guy had a few circuits loose. Of course, it did take balls,
and some sort of craziness, to do this whole costumed-crime fighting
thing without any superpowers whatsoever. I wouldn't be able to it,
that's for sure.
I enjoyed my flights of fancy through the skies around Pinnacle
City. Of course, things had a tendency to interrupt me. I preferred
when they were minor nuisances, like a fist fight or a convenience
But when a blinding flash of light comes from out of nowhere and
nearly hits you head on, you tend to not be happy.
I managed to avoid the thing, but found myself suddenly plummeting
towards one of the large bank buildings in the Financial District. I
was able to slow myself, but still hit the building with a thump.
Instead of falling off the building and gliding softly to the ground
like a pancake like you seen in cartoons, I actually started to tumble
down, bumping into the rough exterior of the building as I went.
Luckily for me, there was a lower-level roof for me to land on. I
sat up and shook my head and took inventory on my condition. My
spandex suit was a bit torn up. My head rung a bit. And I was sore.
No broken bones, for some reason, which surprised me. I didn't break
a bone landing against the side of the building? But I could break my
wrist catching a football pass and landing on it? Okay, the building
didn't involve a pair of 250-pound linebackers, but still â it was a
Maybe I was just in shock. But that faded away as soon as the flash
of light zoomed down and whipped across the roof top. It seemed to
slow, almost taunting me. Nope, I wasn't in shock; I was running on
I got to my feet in a partial crouch and pushed myself off after this
thing. Truthfully, I had never involved myself that much in the
physics and understanding my ability to fly. I'm sure it had
something to do with physics, but to be truthful, I didn't know much
about physics; the punter on the football team and one of the
cheerleaders had teamed up to do my homework. The last time I heard,
they were dating.
But right now wasn't a time to figure out how I managed to not get
caught in college for cheating. I wanted that light thingy's head on
The farm was quiet, almost eerily so. Suzie was curled up in front
of the fire in the main house, staring at the flames as they licked up
towards the chimney. âHow much of my life is a lie?â she thought to
herself. It was the same question she had kicked around in her head
over the last few months.
She wasn't entirely sure, but she knew that she had loved Tommy.
That much was true. But it had been difficult to get him to bend to
her wills. It wasn't that she wanted him to get hurt, she was
protecting him. Clay had ruined the plans. And then Tommy had gone
ahead and used his powers again.
A simple phone call to her handler had been intercepted by the
Facebook. He had disguised himself as the American Ranger, destroyed
their apartment, and then nearly killed Tommy.
Her handlers had been distraught. She had let him get away, almost
killed. Then again, the handlers were being yelled at by their bosses
at the Bureau of Superhuman Affairs, trying to figure out how such a
massive leak had occurred.
But now Suzie was here, at this farm somewhere in Virginia. She had
been ordered there as a safe house, to protect her from the Facebook,
or anyone else. Tommy couldn't find her, even if he wanted to. Suzie
doubted he did.
After all, she had betrayed his trust. She hadn't even told him
exactly how and why she knew.
Suzie was a hound. She was naturally gifted with certain abilities
that would allow her to find someone or a change in someone at any
distance. Suzie had been specially trained to know when Tommy was
using his powers. At first, the feeling had been so sudden that she
knew he had activated his powers for the first time in a long time.
That was when she made the call.
But now, Suzie had a dull ache every time he used his powers. And he
had been using them a lot more lately. Her handlers refused to tell
her what he was doing, just that he was safe and protected.
Muttering under her breath, Suzie pulled a blanket onto her
shoulders. It was getting colder, even for this time of the year. It
didn't seem possible, but was winter rolling in in October?
My muscles screamed and it felt like my face was being pulled back as
I raced after the light being. Whatever it was, it seemed to be
moving effortlessly, making smooth turns across the sky. It easily
gained and lost height, like it was designed to fly. Me, on the other
hand, was not meant to fly. I was defying physics, and the gee forces
were agreeing with that.
I was right behind the light being when it stopped, reversed course
and came right at me. I tried to stop, but the being stopped just as
I did. It look right at me, seeming to stare at me. A noise came
from what I believed to be a head. âWas that a laugh?â I thought.
Suddenly, the being dropped straight down to a roof top below. I
slowly followed it down, my senses alert for anything.
âGood to see you again, Thunderclap,â a voice said from the shadows.
I wheeled around to see the American Ranger standing there. I hadn't
seen him in a month, since he and I had briefly traveled together to
figure out the leak from the Bureau of Superhuman Affairs. The Ranger
extended his hand, which I took.
As we gripped each other's hands, I looked over his shoulder at a
teenager, wearing a body suit. âWho's the light?â
The Ranger looked over his left shoulder at the being, a slight smile
on his face. âHeh, that's Lightspeed,â the Ranger explained. âI
borrowed him from the Protectors. He's in training with them.â
âHe's just a kid,â I replied, taking away my hand before the Ranger
could crush it.
Nodding, the Ranger's smile disappeared. âIt's a rough world, and we
need all the help we can get. I'm sure you can understand.â My
response was to nod.
âI guess you're wondering why I borrowed the kid, huh?â Again, I
just nodded. How bad was it that the Protectors were recruiting and
training high school kids? This guy should be worried about grades,
acne and getting laid, not about saving the world. Then again, I'm
about to lose my job since I'm too busy saving the world.
âThe leak that we found with the Bureau traced back to a group of
handlers who ran Operation Bloodhound,â the Ranger began. âThey used
superhumans who possessed low-level abilities to sense certain things
about certain subjects. What Operation Bloodhound did was to train
the so-called 'hounds' to sense when certain superhumans used their
He paused. I took it all in. Was the BSA using superhumans to what
amounted to spying on other superhumans? Was I being watched? I did
a low-key look over my shoulders â I wanted to ignore the weird, am-I-
being-watched feeling that had crept into my senses.
I thought I heard the Ranger chuckle, so I turned back. âVelocity
was being 'hounded',â he stated tersely, âHis watcher was a Ms.
âSuzie,â I muttered.
The Ranger nodded. âShe's been a government agent for a while. She
went underground right after the Facebook posed as me and tried to
kidnap Tommy. My source told me where she is.â
âIs that why you're here?â
âMy impression is is that someone she's familiar with may help her
come out of hiding and help us save her.â
âSave her from what?â
âMy source says that whoever leaked the information about Tommy being
active again is still looking for Suzie. I wouldn't be shocked that
she would be used as bait.â
âBait for what?â I asked. I was a bit surprised. Going to find
Suzie after she left Tommy was a somewhat bitter bill to swallow.
My eyebrows raised under the domino mask I wore. âWhat does Tommy
have to do with it?â
The Ranger looked past me towards the giant Millennium Tower, it's
massive size cast an enormous shadow across the city. âTommy's the
first Ancient to be discovered in decades, Thunderclap,â he explained.
âThe fact there's a new Ancient out there might mean there are more
out there. The more Ancients we can protect mean there are fewer out
there whose powers can be corrupted and turned against the world.â
âBut don't they all go crazy?â I asked. âIsn't that why you protect
The Ranger shook his head. âSince Dangerman went out of control,
we've learned quite a bit more about helping Ancients out and
protecting them from themselves. It means a lot more training, a lot
more in depth study of their powers, and then tweaking their training
to allow them to contain themselves better.â
âTommy's got super-speed, that's it,â I said. âRight?â
âThere's some thinking that he could disrupt the space-time envelope
if he was to lose control of his powers.â
âSo it's not like they go crazy, right?â
âThat was the belief for a long-while. But one of the lasting things
that Dangerman left us with was a better understanding of how much
emotional control is necessary for an Ancient to have. It doesn't
matter whether they were eternal or not â losing control of their
emotions would mean the end of things. Tommy's got the potential to
be one of the most powerful Ancients out there.â
âSo why not bring Tommy to see Suzie?â I asked.
The Ranger stared at me. âHave you not been listening? Emotional
control is essential. And since the little incident involving him at
the Bakker charity party a couple of weeks ago, I question his
I tried to hide the smile, but seeing Tommy puking on my feet in the
driveway of the Protectors Island mansion amused me. It didn't amuse
me the next day when I had to clean my shoes. It also didn't amuse me
to think about that evening in a nutshell, especially about how it
I decided to relent. âOkay,â I said, âwhen do we leave?â
âImmediately,â the Ranger said without looking at his watch.
Christ. I was going to have to call out of work once again. I was
definitely losing my job now. âWe've already informed your employer
that you had a family emergency out of town,â the Ranger informed me.
âTommy's control issues-â the Ranger started.
âLet me guess,â I interrupted, âhe told everyone there, didn't he?â
The American Ranger smiled. Or at least did what must have past for
a smile from him.
It all happened so fast that she didn't have a clue what was
happening. One of the pipes exploded in the cabin like a shotgun
going off. Ice began to cover the windows before they shattered under
the weight. âWhat the hell is going on?â Suzie asked herself as she
ran out to find the agents who were watching her.
The first one had a four-foot long shard of ice embedded in his
chest. His body was nearly blue from the cold. The second agent was
encased in a solid block of ice. Before she could react, Suzie
watched the block explode as a burst of energy blew it apart.
The icy shards tore at her skin, leaving pinpricks of blood. Looking
down, Suzie instinctively grabbed one of the agents' guns, checked the
safety by feel and looked around. Slowly, Suzie backed up towards the
door into the house. If necessary, she would barricade herself in the
house until help would arrive; if it ever did.
As she backed up, Suzie stopped and jumped forward. The door leading
back into the house had been iced off. Wheeling back around, Suzie
tried to take in what was going on outside. The trees and grass near
the cabin had been covered in ice. It was sunny outside, but the ice
didn't seem to notice. Again, Suzie repeated, âWhat the hell's going
A shadow appeared to her right, but as she turned and leveled the
gun, nothing was there. Suzie admitted to herself that she was a bit
rusty â she had been a regular operator for the BSA for a bit before
assuming her role as a hound. But it had been a while since she had
actually balanced the steel of a gun in her hands. Too long in fact.
Suzie walked towards the side of the house from where she had seen
the shadow emerge and then disappear. Carefully, she edged herself
towards the corner, her back flush against the wall. As she got
closer to the corner, Suzie steadied herself, took a deep breath and
then swung herself out, gun raised.
The Ice Queen wheeled around, icy energy dancing on the tips of
fingers like light blue orbs. Suzie didn't wait, she squeezed the
Her aim was a bit off, the first bullet flying over the head of the
Ice Queen. The second shot ripped into the Ice Queen's right
The Ice Queen wheeled around and fell to the ground, moaning. Suzie
cautiously approached, her finger still on the trigger. âWho the fuck
are you?â Suzie demanded to the woman laying on her knees and left
shoulder. The Ice Queen was trying to hold the right shoulder in the
Suzie moved forward a bit more. She had now blocked out everything
except for the target in front of her.
That's why she never felt the blast from behind that knocked her
âAre you okay, milady?â the gentleman who had knocked out Suzie asked
the Ice Queen.
âEr...I'll be fine,â came the reply. âI'm icing over the injury now.
It'll help, but I'll need to see the Surgeon when we get back.â
âVery well, I'll get the prisoner,â the Playboy stated. He was tall
and slender, with an Errol Flynn mustache. Many people got him and
the Protector Ace confused, but as far as the Playboy was concerned,
the Ace was just a crude and uncouth person to have as a brother, much
less as a twin brother.
As he kicked away the gun, the Playboy tsk tsked out loud, âGuns.
Always the guns with these governmental types.â
âWell, you're not the one with a bullet in their shoulder,â the Ice
The Playboy just grunted as he casually picked up Suzie and half-
carried, half-dragged her towards the waiting aircraft. It was a
modified V-22 Osprey VTOL aircraft, with the rotor engines replaced by
jet engines. As the Playboy and Ice Queen climbed on board the pilot
started closing the rear hatch and started climbing.
âOW!â the Ice Queen cried as she was tossed from her feet and landed
on her injured shoulder.
âSorry folks, we've got an unknown aircraft flying down extremely
fast,â the pilot called towards the back.
âProtectors?â the Playboy asked.
âProbably,â came the short reply.
I'd never been on a private plane before, much less a Gulfstream V.
And not just a G-V, a Protectors G-V. This one had hypersonic
capability, a holographic projection system, and leather seats. Okay,
all of the G-V's I guess have leather. But how many have holographic
projectors and hypersonic capability?
I wish I could say that I was on my way to somewhere warm and fun.
But no, I was racing to see if we could get Suzie out of whatever
trouble that the Ranger thought she was in. The Ranger and I were in
the back, studying images of the farm while Ace flew the plane. Ace
knew Suzie, but only briefly from when she and Tommy had started
dating and Tommy had been in his first go-around as Velocity.
âRanger, we've got a VTOL craft coming up from the farm,â Ace called
out as we neared the area. The G-V had VTOL abilities too, but I
doubt they were as great as the plane we saw emerging from the forest.
âI take it that it's not supposed to be there,â I replied.
âNope,â was the Ranger's reply as he climbed into the cockpit.
The VTOL craft emerged from a clearing, turned away from us, and
powered away. âCrap,â the Ranger said.
âGo after them,â I told the Protectors, âI'll see if I can find
Before they could answer, I had opened the door and jumped out. That
probably wasn't a great idea as I barely cleared the engine before
zipping down towards the ground. I'm pretty sure that Ace and the
American Ranger weren't too happy about my exit. But Suzie was on the
ground. Or at least I hoped she was.
When I landed, I saw the ice and almost froze up. The sickly cold
feeling ran over me, but I swallowed it and walked towards the house.
I saw the dead agent with the ice spear run through him. I looked
around the house and the grounds but couldn't find her.
I heard a loud whine, followed by the icy branches of the trees
shaking as the G-V landed. As the door opened and the ladder emerged,
the American Ranger came out, angry. âThat was completely
unnecessary,â he informed me.
âYup,â was my response. âShe's not here,â I cut right to the chase.
âThere's a dead agent in the house. A nice large ice spear in his
chest. I'm thinking it's the Ice Queen.â
âIsn't that the one you dealt with a little while back?â Ace asked.
I nodded, âThat's the one.â Thoughts of freezing in an icy tomb made
The Ranger looked around, âI doubt she's the only one. From what I
learned, Suzie was a decent agent before Operation Bloodhound. Look
around,â he said as he started walking towards the house, âlet's see
if there's anything else.â
It didn't take long. On a table inside the house was a small flash
drive. The three of us walked back to the plane where the Ranger slid
it into the computer.
A spitting image of Ace appeared on the screen. âHoratio,â was all
Ace said under his breath. It was loud enough, though, for me to here.
âTo whomever finds this,â the Playboy began, âWe have the hound. We
ask for two things in return. The newly found Ancient and Operation
Reich Destroyer. They are to be in Montecaivo in two days time. Then
you get the girl back. That is all.â
The three of us sat there in silence. âWhat the hell is Operation
Reich Destroyer?â Ace asked to break the silence.
âI am,â was the Ranger's answer.
âHuh?â was Ace and my harmonic response. âWell, what do you have to
do with all of this?â Ace asked.
The Ranger shook his head. He was silent for a moment, almost like
he was trying to put all of the pieces together. âI just don't know.â
I sat there on the grounded G-V, trying to put my own spin on
things. All of the little pieces of the puzzle floated around in my
head. Okay, so Tommy's part in all of this was the fact that he's an
Ancient. And Suzie is there because she was the hound sent to track
him. That's two down. Now where did the Ranger come into this.
âRanger,â I started, âwe know where the other two â Tommy and Suzie â
fit into the puzzle. What was Operation Reich Destroyer all about?
Were you the only one?â
The Ranger shook his head. âNo. But the others died in combat. I
was really the only one that made it through. At least, that's what I
was told. The Soviets tried to re-create the experiments based on
some plans that the government turned over after the war. But they
all failed. The Shadow King and the Red Bear were the best they
turned out, if you can called them successes.â
More silence as the three of us thought through the problem.
âThere's only one way to find out,â the Ranger stated calmly. âAce,
fire up the engines. Let the island and the BSA know what's going
on. Ask the King to have the Santa Maria office ready to meet us.â
âSanta Maria?â I asked.
âSmall, Central American city state,â the Ranger explained, âthat
I nodded as Ace revved up the engines. âThey an ally?â I asked.
The Ranger didn't look up from the holographic computer. âLast time I
âLast time you heard?â
A grunt was my only reply. I leaned back to enjoy the leather. Hold
on, I told Suzie, we're coming.
It was sweltering wherever Suzie was. Her clothes hung tight to her
skin. She was hungry, thirsty, and for all she had been through, she
Suzie realized that she hadn't been scared when the Facebook crashed
into her apartment looking for Tommy. She hadn't been scared when she
shot the Ice Queen. Both of those had been reflex and adrenaline.
She looked around the small, cramped room she was in. The walls were
sweating from the humidity in the air. There was a door on one side,
the rest of the room was stone. The metal door did have a single
light in the hallway, which gave a little bit of light out into the
This was the room she had woken up in after being knocked unconscious
by something after shooting the ice-covered woman who had killed the
two Bureau of Superhuman Affairs agents. What the hell was going on?
Less than six months ago, she was perfectly happy. Her government
cover was perfectly fine, she was happy with Tommy. In fact,
sometimes she forgot that she was even a government sleeper agent.
Then Clay's father died and he became Thunderclap. Suzie had argued
about his choice with him until both were blue in the face. The truth
was, Suzie was fine with Clay becoming a superhuman crime fighter
wearing spandex. She wasn't fine about the fact that Tommy had
reactivated his powers. And that's where everything went wrong. If
Clay had never become Thunderclap, Tommy would have been fine. She
would be fine.
A cackling laugh filled the room. It wasn't from the hallway, but it
seemed to surround her. All around her, the laugh echoed, beating
And it chilled Suzie to the bone.
To be continued...
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