A burst of light almost blinded me. The frog-things howled and held their arms in front of their eyes.
Sam shouted, “Both of you, come here!” She held the staff in both hands, keeping the top end high above her head. The tip of her staff blazed with light.
I didn’t hesitate, shielding my eyes from the light with my hand, and joining her. Within two of his steps Rod stood next to us.
I couldn’t see much of anything past Sam’s light, but within it, I could see everything like it was day. The frog-things backed away to the edges of the circle
“This is great. Why didn’t you do this before?”
“I’m not sure how long it will last.”
“Well how long does it normally last? Hours? Minutes?”
“An hour, but normally I don’t make it this bright.”
“So, half an hour?”
“Maybe ten minutes? I don’t know. We should talk about what we’re going to do.”
From above us, Rod said, “Run that way?” He pointed down the highway. “The cars can follow us.”
That sounded good, and I was about to say so when my League phone beeped. Before getting out of the car, I’d turned off my normal phone, so it had to be the League phone.
Only now the League phone was beeping, so I’d have to turn that off. I pulled out of my backpack, and looked at the screen. It said, “Connect to the Liberator’s Team Alert Network?”
Trust Nick to let our phones work with other teams’ systems, and then not tell anybody.
I clicked “yes,” and the phone beeped again.
Sam said, “What are you doing? You’re not texting, are you?”
“No, that would be crazy. I wanted to stop the beeping.”
The phone started to ring. “What the—” I began, and checked the phone’s screen. It ID’ed the caller as “Liberator HQ.”
Standing near to hundreds if not thousands of enemies, I’d have to take that.
I held the phone to my ear.
The voice on the other end said, “Captain Commando?”
“Who are you?”
“This is Liberator HQ. I saw your connection activate—”
“Great. I don’t have time to talk now. I’m in the middle of a million frog monsters. Anything you can do about that?”
His response? He laughed. Because when someone tells you they’re surrounded by deadly enemies that’s what you’re supposed to do.
I nearly hung up.
He said, “You sound just like the first Captain Commando. Yeah, we’ve got people coming. You ought to be seeing them any—”
A series of sonic booms came from the open highway ahead of us, and a dark blur passed us, moving straight down the side of the freeway between the cars and the railing.
Shouts of rage and pain, followed by screams as dark shapes flew over the barrier, dropping three stories to the road below.
A light appeared in the sky—brighter than the stars or even Sam’s staff. Howls came from hundreds, maybe thousands of throats, and the creatures started jumping off the side themselves.
“Wow,” I said. “It’s over.”
“Nearly, but not yet,” the man from Liberator HQ said, “They’ve got them on the run where you are, but not everywhere. If you want to help, we’ve got small groups you could join up with.”
“I’m in the middle of something else,” I said.
“Don’t hesitate to call for help if you’re stuck, but I can’t guarantee a response. We’re busy.”
“No prob. We’ll be okay.”
I hung up, and put the phone back in my backpack.
“Hey, problem solved. Where’s that building we were trying to find?”
Rod nodded off to our left, and I recognized it from the picture in Sam’s water bowl.
The building rose above the highway, six stories tall, sloping away from the road. I’d never noticed, but we’d passed it in the dark.
* * *
Half an hour later we’d walked down the back alley that led into the parking area under the building. The van sat alone in a corner.
None of the lights were on, but Rod and I had flashlights. We swung them around, and, not seeing any frog-things, walked to the van.
Rod wore a black trench coat and a mask. I guess he needed something for when he wanted in on the action, but couldn’t fit as a troll.
“I’m still not sure we should be doing this,” Sam said. “With everything going on, they’ll be looking for an attack.”
She pulled out the water basin from her pocket.
I didn’t watch. I walked over to the van, and found the edge of the door. I dug my fingers in, and, with a metallic screech, ripped the door off the driver’s side of the van.
“They will,” Rod said, “but they won’t be looking for us. They’ll be looking for Deep Ones, or whatever the monsters really are, and the electricity’s out, so we’ll have the advantage.”
“Guns don’t run on electricity,” Sam said.
I shined the flashlight inside. “Hey, you said you needed hair or something? I think we’re in luck. The guy’s got bad dandruff.”
Bits of white sprinkled the top of the driver’s seat.
“Oh,” Sam said. “Wonderful.”
Minutes later, she sat on the ground next to the van with the basin in front of her. We all watched as the man exited the van, and took the elevator down to the sub-basement, or possibly the sub-sub-sub-basement.
He walked up to two, blue-painted metal doors, ran an access card through a reader alongside the door, and typed in a code. When the doors opened, he walked inside, but my eyes stayed on the door.
The nameplate above the card reader showed the number nine—which might have been the number of the room. On the other hand, “The Nine” also happened to be an organization run by supervillains.
Dr. Mind, the scientist who had created me, sometimes worked for them. So had the man who exploded Dad’s head.