‘CODE NINE. THIS IS A CODE NINE. ALL SUPERHEROES REPORT TO THE CONTROL ROOM.’
BOB shouted through Phreak’s mobile over the din of the wailing siren. Psylocke leapt up, nearly knocking the table over in her haste.
‘Report,’ she barked.
‘Miss Metamorphosis has escaped custody.’ BOB said. ‘Citizens converged at random outside the police station where she was being held and managed to release her from her cell. Initial reports are that their mindless behaviour was due to a mind-control stimulant, likely administered through the money Miss Metamorphosis handled at the bank.’
‘Bitch,’ breathed Cassandra.
‘Wait here.’ Psylocke gestured for our heroes to stay put. ‘Except you, Phreak. Come with me.’
‘Wait. Why can’t we come? We could help.’ Nymph said. Psylocke shook her head.
‘You’re new recruits.’
‘None of you are properly insured yet.’
‘Lame.’ Vixen shook her head as Psylocke and Phreak hurried from the room.
Our heroes looked at each other as the siren cut off, leaving them in silence.
‘Now what?’ Devi asked. Joules got up and stretched.
‘I don’t know about you, but I intend to get some head space.’ She said as she ambled out the door.
After an awkward pause Vixen also got up. ‘It wouldn’t hurt to explore this place. With Psylocke and the others out of the way we can have a proper look around.’
She slipped noiselessly from the room. With a shrug Façade and then Cassandra also left. Nymph sidled up to Devi who blushed.
‘I’m starving.’ She batted her eyelashes at Devi. ‘Tell you what, gorgeous. Why don’t you see if you can rustle me up something from the kitchen? I could murder a bacon buttie.’
Vixen wandered to the end of the first corridor. She heaved the heavy doors at the end of it open. To her surprise, she found herself in a wood-panelled library, heavy with silence, filled floor to ceiling with shelves stacked with leather-bound books. It would be interesting to see what passed for light reading at MI13, she thought as she browsed the shelves.
Cassandra stumbled upon an untidy room that looked like some kind of workshop, filled with wires and circuit boards among other devices, which from the way they were scattered about looked like they had been dropped in a hurry.
Wandering down a different, identical wide corridor, Façade went down a short flight of steps into a pitch black basement. She felt along the wall for the light switch. Florescent tubes hummed and flickered into life overhead, illuminating the room in dazzling light, revealing row after row of gleaming super cars. This was more like it, she nodded in satisfaction.
Nymph got lucky and discovered the one place in MI13 she hoped to find. A sterile, white lab, filled with test tubes, bottles with skulls and crossbones on them, microscopes and Bunsen burners. She hugged herself and immediately hopped up on a stool to examine one of the Petri dishes.
Devi, unable to resist Nymph’s charms was looking anxiously for the kitchen, heaving a sigh of relief when she found it. A quick scout around the fridge and cupboards and she soon had everything she needed. She lit the hob, laid the bacon on the frying pan and hummed to herself as it began to sizzle.
Joules, meanwhile, had paced the corridors, looking for nothing and no one in particular; just trying, like she had said, to get some head space.
Softly, almost silently, the doors leading to each of the rooms swung on their hinges and with a heart-juddering crash, simultaneously slammed shut.
Vixen was contemplating the volume Diplomatic Solutions for Confrontational Villains alongside a hardback edition of Fifty Shades of Grey when the doors to the library swung shut. She felt the slam as much as heard it, jumping a foot in the air, swearing loudly.
Nymph looked up, saw the door to the lab swing shut and snorted. She swivelled around in her chair, humming to herself, tweeting; I can’t believe the MI13 scientists didn’t use a counterbalance in the centrifuge. #dickhead.
Joules, who had wandered into the kitchen, heard the bangs echoing down the corridor. She whipped around as the kitchen door slammed shut in her face. Her throat went dry. She was trapped. And she was trapped with Devi, who looked up from her bacon with a mystified expression.
Cassandra was also bemused to find herself locked in the workshop. She tried the door. It didn’t budge.
Façade rattled the handle to the garage door. When she had no luck she hit the intercom button on the wall. There was no response, only white noise. She fished her mobile out of her pocket. No signal. Thinking, she spoke into it anyway. ‘BOB? Can you hear me?’
‘Affirmative.’ BOB’s voice crackled.
‘I’m trapped in the garage and need to bust out. Do any of these cars have weapons?’
‘Might BOB suggest the Lexus to your right with the enormous gun fixed to the roof?’
‘Oh, right. Link up to the others’ phones and speak to them. Find out if they’re trapped too.’
‘Affirmative. Yes. No worries, sister.’ A fizz of static. ‘I am upgrading my programming to sound more human.’
‘Shut the Hell up BOB before I rip your wires out of their socket.’
‘One moment please.’
Every hero with a mobile phone felt it vibrate. Vixen picked up first.
‘Hello? BOB? What the fuck is going on?’
‘The door to the library just slammed shut. It’s locked and I can’t get out. What’s happening?’
‘I don’t know.’ BOB’s said. ‘No one else is trapped in their rooms.’
Unaware of BOB’s cryptic conversation, Façade punched through the window of the Lexus and clambered in. She wasn’t sure if she knew how to hot wire a car but now was an excellent time to find out.
Thanks to Nymph’s devastating pheromones unleashed at the bank, Devi remained obsessed with her crush and more specifically with delivering the requested bacon sandwich. She looked first at the closed door, then Joules, then at her bacon sandwich and back at the door again.
‘But how am I going to bring Nymph her sandwich now?’ She faltered.
‘I’d say that’s the least of our worries, wouldn’t you?’ Joules snapped.
With her predicament now clear to her, Devi burst into tears. Her rat familiar Thelma climbed out of her pocket and onto her shoulder, squeaking sympathetically. Joules rolled her eyes.
Meanwhile, back in the lab, the still nonplussed Nymph was curiously poking about the room. She tried to log on to one of the computers but couldn’t guess the password of the previous user. Then something caught her eye. She peered closer and gasped. She couldn’t believe it. These fossil scientists were still using Windows Vista. No wonder things kept screwing up around here.
Laughing, she looked up and noticed something she hadn’t before. Perched on a long bench at the far side of the room, among beakers filled with blue liquid, and glass apparatus, was a huge pile of money. Nymph approached and looked closer. She felt instinctively that this was the money Miss Metamorphosis had tried to steal from the bank. MI13 must be trying to figure out the nature of the mind control substance she covered the bank notes with. Nymph skirted around the edge of the table, studying but being careful not to touch anything.
Devi’s shoulders shook as she sobbed. Joules looked about frantically for a way out - to escape this hormonal madwoman. It was no good. There were no windows and the only door was the one now barred to them. There was no other way out of the room. Not at least, for ordinary people.
Joules held her mobile phone to her ear. It was dead, no signal, no dialling tone. Joules took a steadying breath, shimmered, compressed and vanished. Devi stopped crying mid-sob and stared as Joules’ mobile clattered to the floor.
Joules surfed the electrical current down the phone line and emerged through the nearest mobile she came across. As she dusted herself off and looked about the workshop she noticed Cassandra cowering under a bench.
‘I wish you would give some sort of warning before you do that!’ Cass bellowed.
Across MI13, our heroes’ mobile phones vibrated. BOB’s voice rang out. ‘I am attempting to contact your fellow heroes. Please remain calm. We appear to be in trouble.’
This was something of an understatement. At that moment the doors opened and robots flooded through.
‘What the –‘ Vixen didn’t have time for a single curse before she was struck clean across her shoulders by a robot’s blast and thrown back against the shelves, a cascade of books tumbling down on top of her.
Façade looked up over the Lexus dashboard as a glancing blast sheared across the top of her head. She fell back, stunned.
Cassandra and Joules watched in dismay as the robots from the combat simulator burst into the workshop. Joules made rapid use of her gifts and disappeared while Cass escaped a blast by burrowing deeper under the bench she was crouched under.
She pressed her fingers to her temple, trying to ignore the crossfire. As she suspected, her psychic powers were being blocked somehow. This was looking like a classic set up. Or at least, she assumed this was what a classic set up looked like. She didn’t have much experience of this in her day job. Misplaced handkerchiefs and white rabbits appearing in odd places were the order of the day when you were a magician’s assistant. Nevertheless, she was learning fast.
A force of will broke through the block and she quickly read the minds of the others. They were in similar dire straits. This was so a set up.
Back in the kitchen, Devi’s bacon mission reached its sorry and premature conclusion. When the first mechanical menace marched through the door and trained its beam on her she did the first thing that came naturally and held up the plate of Nymph’s sandwiches as a shield.
The blast dissolved the plate into a cloud of dust. Looked like Nymph would be #hangry - an unfortunate blend of hungry and angry about it - a while longer.
Unable to contain her devastation at the loss of the bacon, Devi threw back her head and screamed, levitating off the floor and rapidly turning blue.
Her fire spell shot out of her fingertips and blasted the robot’s head off.
At the same moment, Nymph was polishing off a leftover box of chocolates she had found in one of the cupboards and wondering where her Smurf-like admirer was with her bacon sandwich when she heard the commotion down the corridor.
Smelling the proverbial rodent, she quickly necked a vial of her special serum. Vines and leaves creaked and rustled as they sprung from her skin, leaving her a bark-hardened hero ready to kick arse.
The first robot through the door got a tube of acid in its face. It collapsed, melting, into a heap.
Nymph grabbed another tube and held it over her head, aiming for the next robot when the room started humming. She froze. It was a familiar melody. One she thought she had forgotten – a melody that closed the gap between the years since she was last trussed up in a lab like this, frightened, helpless, while her mother injected her with the latest serum the scientists had created, all the while humming to her daughter, humming that tune…
The tube slid from Nymph’s fingers and shattered; the acid burning through the floor tiling. She stood quite literally rooted, frozen in fear as the melody echoed through MI13’s tannoy system.