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Max_Writer

Superworld: Fire and Ice Session One Part 2 - Another Fire

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* * *

As Arclight and Angelus flew down towards the apartment building, Arclight saw it was eerily familiar and appeared to be the same layout as the other apartment building where there’d been a fire. Firefighters were at the scene and already working on extinguishing the fire. It looked like they had already entered the building as well. Unfortunately, it the fire had spread very quickly and the building was filled with smoke. People were outside of the building, watching the fire, probably residents. There were about a dozen people on the roof, most of them crying for help, as well as kids. Firefighters moved a ladder into position to start getting them off.

“I got the roof!” Arclight yelled down as Absolem’s Riddle appeared on the street near the firefighters.

Angelus flew down to the front of the building and smashed through the front door, sending shattered glass and broken metal flying. There was nothing but smoke until she saw stairs ahead of her just before she crashed into them.

* * *

Absolem’s Riddle appeared on the roof as Arclight dropped out of the sky. Just as she appeared, there was a clunk as the ladder bumped against the building. A firefighter was already climbing up the ladder.

“Oh my God!” someone screamed, suddenly freaking out. “Go go go!”

All of the adults on the roof rushed the ladder. Arclight landed in front of the ladder as Absolem’s Riddle grew to about eight feet tall and blocked the ladder. As people rushed her and she touched them, she teleported them down to the street. She quickly sent three of the adults away. She tried to stop the rest from rushing the ladder.

Arclight saw that there were half a dozen kids.

“Kids first!” he said.

He grabbed the two smallest kids.

“Help, mommy!” a little black girl about five screamed. “He’s kidnapping me.”

She started crying and continued screaming. The other child was a Hispanic kid, probably 11 years old.

“Hey!” he yelled. “Get your hands off me, you ****ing gringo!”

“Take my baby!” a black woman screamed. “Save my baby!”

Arclight leapt over the side of the roof and landed softly on the ground below. The little Hispanic boy cursed at him as he flew back up, then grabbed the little girl’s hand and led her to the crowd of people.

One of the panicked people climbed up onto Absolem’s Riddle, shoving his hand into her face and trying to get by her. He slipped and fell off the side of the building with a scream.

“No!” the firefighter on the ladder screamed.

Arclight changed direction and flew towards the man and tried to grab him but missed. He increased his speed, however, and got between the man and the ground, catching him before he struck. He seemed very grateful though terribly shook up.

“You should watch where you step,” Arclight said with a wink.

He set the man down and flew up to the roof again.

* * *

Angelus stood up. The smoke was thick in the lobby and she could tell that it was hot, though she didn’t feel any discomfort from it. Somewhere above her she heard a cat yowling. She could also hear someone yelling for help.

She ran up the steps as fast as she could.

* * *

Vanguard’s car screeched to a halt in the street out front of the building, the police car roaring up behind, sirens wailing and lights blazing. Vanguard caused his armor to appear around him as he stepped out of the car.

“Y’all guys check the perimeter and see what’s going on!” he called. “I’ll use my sonar cannon and see if I can put out some of the flames!”

Protean climbed out of the car.

“I’ll be in the basement!” he called.

As Vanguard ran into the burning building, Protean’s eyes stopped glowing as he left his body

* * *

“Let one through!” the firefighter yelled at Absolem’s Riddle.

She moved her arm enough so one of the people could get by. The firefighter helped that person onto the ladder as Arclight landed on the roof again. He grabbed two more kids, both of them freaking out and struggling against him. He got them in a good grip and dropped down to the ground with them again.

Absolem’s Riddle, meanwhile, teleported three more people to the street below while holding off the others.

* * *

Angelus reached the fourth floor where the yelling was coming from. It was from one of the back apartments and she could make out that the man was yelling “Help! Somebody help me! Help!” She ran to the door, smashing her way through it.

The apartment was small and grubby. The air was still relatively clean and there was only a little smoke. She rushed in and saw the window in the office area to one side was open and a young man was leaning out the window calling for help. He turned around.

“Oh thank God,” he said.

She rushed him.

“Wait! Stop! Stop! Stop!” he yelled.

She ran towards him as quickly as possible, slamming into him. She tried to turn herself to drag him backward out of the window, but lost her grip on him and flung him into the room instead. He crashed to the ground.

“What are you doing!?!” he screamed.

“I’m getting you out of the building!” she said.

* * *

Protean floated into the building in his astral form, projecting himself into the basement. The large room was filled with smoke and fire. It seemed to be everywhere. He saw boxes on fire and other stored items. He didn’t see any people there.

* * *

Tinker roared up on his motorcycle behind the police car.

“Wait!” one of the cops yelled at Vanguard as he ran into the building. “Stop!”

Tinker saw the building stood on a grassy block with no other buildings close to it. He didn’t think the fire would spread to other buildings. There was a yard around the entire building. He ran around the left side of the building. As he reached the back, he saw a pile of debris on the ground. There were trinkets, pillows, photo albums, and other personal effects. An old white woman in a housecoat hung out of the window on the 3rd floor, tossing things out of the window. Her face was wet with tears. He could see the other windows around her were open.

Edward followed Tinker around the side of the building. He also saw the woman in the window.

* * *

Arclight flew back up to the roof and grabbed the last two children, who met him with open arms and were ready to be rescued. One was a tiny black girl who looked like she was about three years old. She had obviously been crying. The 11-year-old boy was white and jumping from foot to foot, ready to go.

“You guys wanna go down fast?” he asked as he picked them up.

The three year old nodded but the 11-year-old shook his head.

“Hm,” Arclight said. “You gotta grow up sometime.”

He leapt over the edge, dropping quickly. The tiny child cried out in excitement while the other child screamed in terror.

Absolem’s Riddle teleported three more people away and helped the last one onto the ladder. The roof was empty.

* * *

Vanguard found it hard to breathe in the smoke-filled lobby. He started blasting away at the walls and floor with his sonar cannon, snuffing out several flames.

* * *

“No wait!” the man Angelus faced said. “Stop! Stop!”

He pointed into the office area. She saw several plastic bins filled with books. There were also several comic book boxes.

“No!” he said again. “Save those first! Save those first! They’re collector’s items! Those are first edition Dungeons & Dragons books!”

She launched herself at him again, trying to grab him. He struggled against her.

“No! No!” he yelled. “Wait! Get the comic books first! Please! There’s a Superman #20 in there!”

* * *

Protean heard strange blasts coming from above and recognized it as Vanguard’s sonar cannon. He thought he heard a cat yowling from above somewhere. He flew up through the first floor, seeing Vanguard at work snuffing the flames. The yowling sounded like it came from one of the front apartments above. He floated in and found the apartment filled with smoke. There were flames in the bedroom. On the other side of the apartment he floated through the bathroom door.

A yellow, tiger-striped cat was in the tub, howling at the top of its lungs in terror.

* * *

“We need help over here!” Tinker yelled.

“You got this?” Edward asked.

“I don’t know what I can do!” Tinker said.

“Neither do I,” Edward said.

“Keep looking for other people,” Tinker said.

Edward ran around the back of the building. A window on the fourth floor on the opposite side of the building was open. He could hear a cat yowling from inside of the building somewhere. Otherwise he didn’t hear anyone yelling for help.

He ran towards the front of the building.

* * *

Arclight flew up to the fourth floor and crashed through the window of one of the apartments, landing lightly. The room was filled with smoke. There was fire in the room and the floor of the main living area had partially collapsed. A large, heavy bookshelf had fallen on a firefighter who was lying on the ground, feebly struggling to get free.

“Are you stop, drop, and rolling, friend?” Arclight quipped.

* * *

Absolem’s Riddle ran to the roof access and down the steps to the fourth floor. She heard sounds of a struggle coming from one of the apartments. The door had been smashed open, apparently. She ran to the apartment across the hall and smashed the door open, searching the place for anyone in there. She found no one.

* * *

Vanguard had put out the very obvious fires on the first floor foyer. There was still a lot of smoke, however. His eyes started stinging and watering. He headed up the steps to the second floor.

* * *

Angelus was done.

“We’ll throw all your stuff out the window,” she said. “I’ll come back in a second.”

“It’ll get damaged!” the guy yelled.

She leapt out of the window and flew around the side of the apartment building, spotting Tinker on the ground on the opposite side. She saw the woman leaning out the window. Angelus turned abruptly and crashed through the nearby open window and the wall, crashing into the living room of the apartment. Debris fell onto the floor.

* * *

Protean entered the tub, forming an arm at first to grab the cat. He was disappointed with what he formed his body out of. The tub was made of a cheap plastic and there wasn’t much material to work with. He formed a skinny body as the cat struggled feebly against him. As he finished forming his body, leaving only the plumbing, he reached over and turned on the faucet and pulled the small plug. The shower sprayed down on him and the cat. The cat freaked out even more.

* * *

“God damn it!” Tinker shouted as he saw Angelus crash into the building.

He assumed she had it covered and ran around the back side of the building.

“Help! Help!” a man yelled, hanging out of a fourth floor window. “Please, help me!”

He saw Tinker.

“Please, can you help me?” the man called to him.

Tinker looked at him.

“I’ll get someone who can!” he called back.

“Oh,” the man called back. “Okay.”

Tinker ran towards the front of the building.

* * *

Edward reached the firefighters who were working with the hoses in front of the building.

“Give me a coat!” he yelled at them.

“It’s Cool Crocodile Man!” one of them said. “Somebody get him a coat!”

Another firefighter ran to one of the trucks and grabbed a fire coat and a gas mask. He flung them both at Edward. The crocodile leapt up in the air, literally catching the first side of the coat and thrusting his arm into the sleeve. He spun in mid air, pulling the coat around himself and then angled his head so the gas mask landed right on top of it. He landed, pulled the gas mask over his face, stretching the material and tearing it a little bit on the sides, but getting it on his muzzle.

The firefighter moved back to his hose. Some of the onlookers cheered for Edward.

“I could do that!” a little Hispanic kid yelled.

Edward gave a thumbs up and ran back towards the building.

* * *

The firefighter didn’t respond to Arclight. He seemed to be a little out of it. Arclight lifted the bookcase and flung it aside. Then he picked up the firefighter, who screamed as he was moved. His leg was bent in an unnatural position. The scream was cut short as if he was suddenly out of breath as well.

“I know this sucks, but it’s better than suffocating,” Arclight said.

He flew out the window with the firefighter, going a little more slowly and landing on the ground outside of the building. He saw that the name on the firefighter’s jacket was Shelby.

* * *

Absolem’s Riddle ran to the apartment across the hall where a man was in the window, yelling for help. He didn’t seem to have noticed her. She tried to teleport him but when she touched him, he didn’t disappear. He turned around.

“Oh, thank God,” he said. “Thank God. Here, these boxes, they have to go!”

She tried to grab him but he fought against her.

“No! No!” he shouted. “You’ve got to save the comic books!”

“I’ll get ‘em!” she said.

He continued to struggle against her.

* * *

Vanguard, in the second floor hallway, started to use his sonar cannon to try to snuff out fires again. He wasn’t as successful there, blowing a few holes in walls instead of putting out the flames. He could hear the cat howling in one of the apartments on that floor. He ran into the apartment and found the sound was coming from the bathroom. He flung the door open and found a strange, skinny figure made of plastic standing under the spraying water of the shower. The bathtub was gone. The figure held a cat, which was howling and struggling as water sprayed down on both of them.

He recognized Protean’s glowing eyes.

“Well, I just blew a few holes in the wall by accident,” Vanguard said. “If you want to run out and jump out that way, you’ll be safe.”

Protean grabbed several towels and soaked them in the water. Then he held the towel gently to the cat’s mouth and nose and ran out of the room. There were fewer flames on the ground floor than he remembered.

He ran out of the apartment building with the cat.

“Mr. Tibbles!” someone from the crowd yelled.

He headed towards the voice.

* * *

Angelus got to her feet and ran to the old woman. There was a small pile of photo albums and other memorabilia on the floor next to her. The old woman calmly tossed item after item out of the window.

“You’re family’s going to want you alive more than they’re going to want this,” Angelus said. “We need to get you out of here.”

The old woman didn’t respond but also didn’t resist when Angelus picked her up. She hopped out the window and glided down to the ground, setting the old woman down amidst the things she had been tossing out. As the old woman tried to gather her things, Angelus leapt into the air and flew around the back of the building again, heading for the other man’s apartment once again.

* * *

Tinker saw the man on the fourth floor go back into the window.

Aw Jesus, he thought.

He thought he heard people arguing up there.

“We’ve got more people over here!” Tinker yelled.

“Got it!” Absolem’s Riddle yelled back.

* * *

Edward found less fire on the first floor than he expected. It looked like someone had put out several fires there. Some were starting to reignite, however. He guessed the fire was in the basement. It didn’t look like any of the doors to any of the apartments were open.

With the gas mask and his nictitating membrane protecting his eyes, he was able to see yellow and brown smoke in small puffs coming from beneath the door nearest him. It was almost as if the fire was trying to breathe and he recognized it as a sign of a potential backdraft. He realized there was a very hot fire in the room that had been smothered by the smoke. He found similar signs at the other doors and realized if he opened any of them, there would be a terrible explosion as the fire was reintroduced to oxygen. He guessed with the amount of heat and smoke in the apartments, there was no one alive in any of them.

He spotted Protean run down the stairs, a yowling cat scratching at him as he ran, his body a skinny thing made of off-white plastic.

“Hey croc,” he said.

“Hey,” Edward said.

He headed up to the second floor. There was a lot of smoke there. Only one door was open. He checked another for backdraft indications but didn’t see any so he blasted the doorknob off it. He kicked the door open and slapped it open with his tail. He ran in.

A cracking noise from above was his only indication before the ceiling collapsed onto him. He wasn’t harmed by the falling debris and managed to break free. He searched the apartment but found it empty.

* * *

Arclight dropped off the firefighter and flew up to the fourth floor, smashing through the window on the other side of the building. He found the apartment empty and headed out into the hall.

* * *

Absolem’s Riddle looked at the boxes. There were 10 cardboard comic book boxes and 10 plastic bins filled with gaming paraphernalia. The man looked desperate.

“I’ll give you two or nothing,” she said. “Pick two.”

“Uh … uh …” he said.

He seemed to be unable to make a decision.

“Comic books or role-playing?” she asked.

“Uh … uh …” the man said.

She started to touch the comic-book boxes and teleport them out to the street. She was able to teleport out all of the comic book boxes and two of the plastic bins. Then Angelus flew in the office window like a rocket, her wings slapping back down to her sides and the momentum taking her through the window. She narrowly missed the man. Her wings snapped out as she reached the hall next to the kitchenette and landed gently.

“She’s got your shit!” Angelus said to the man. “Let’s get out!”

“Please save my stuff!” the man said.

Angelus swung at him, hoping to knock him out. The man started screaming.

“Leave me alone!” he shrieked.

She hit him with her right fist, striking him in the temple. He fell to the ground in a heap, out cold.

* * *

Vanguard heard a crash from across the hall. Edward came out of the apartment. He was wearing a firefighter’s coat, which was dragging on the floor behind him, and a damaged gas mask.

“Edward, are you all right?” Vanguard said. “I heard a loud crash.”

“I’m fine,” Edward simply said. “The roof collapsed on me.”

“We need to go ahead and get out,” Vanguard said. “The building is about to go.”

He headed for the stairs.

“Are there any more in here?” Edward asked.

“That Protean guy,” Vanguard said. “I don’t know if those two rooms are clear or not.”

“We should check ‘em before we leave,” Edward said.

“You take that one, I’ll take the other one,” Vanguard said, pointing.

* * *

“What the hell is that!?!” someone shouted, pointing at Protean.

“Who’s kitty is this?” Protean asked.

A Hispanic kid about 11 years old walked up to him.

“It’s mine,” he said, sticking out his lower lip.

“Here’s your kitty,” Protean said.

The boy took the cat and turned away. Then he looked back.

“Thank you,” he said.

He walked away.

Protean asked the crowd if they knew of anyone else still in the building. The people looked around and started throwing out names, trying to figure out who was in the building and who was not.

“There’s that nerd on the fourth floor,” someone said. “Where’s he?”

“A nerd?” Protean said.

He left the plastic statue as the people continued talking to it. He floated intangibly towards the third floor.

* * *

Tinker ran to the front of the building as boxes appeared around him. He saw the skinny plastic statue out front. People were apparently talking to it. He didn’t see anyone he recognized. More firefighters were heading into the front door of the building.

He ran to one of the fire trucks and found a coat and a gas mask, as well as axes. He quickly equipped himself.

* * *

Edward ran to the door Vanguard had indicated and found it unlocked. He kicked it open and ran into the apartment. A quick search proved it to be empty.

* * *

Arclight ran out into the hall and saw the two remaining doors on the floor were smashed open. He didn’t hear anything so he headed down to the third floor. All of the doors on the floor were closed. He smashed into one of the apartments and found all of the windows open. He quickly searched it but, aside from a pile of memorabilia on the floor near one window and one window practically smashed out of its frame and gouge marks on the floor, there was nothing out of the ordinary in the place.

* * *

Absolem’s Riddle ran into the hall and smashed her way through the only door on the fourth floor that remained intact. She found a fallen bookcase and a smashed window but no one in the apartment. She ran down to the third floor.

* * *

Vanguard ran to the other closed apartment on the second floor and found the door there locked. The blade came out of his suit and he slid it between the doorframe and the door, easily cutting the mechanism. He went into the apartment and searched it but found the place empty.

“There’s no one in this room!” he called. “What about yours!”

“Empty!” Edward replied.

* * *

Angelus grabbed the unconscious man and leapt out the window, depositing him amidst his comic book boxes below.

* * *

Protean flew to the third story, immaterial and invisible. He looked around in one of the rooms and saw that the floor had collapsed in one room. He searched two apartments but found no one. He saw Absolem’s Riddle and Arclight. He formed a face in the wall.

“These two rooms are clear!” he said.

“Holy shit!” Arclight cried.

* * *

Tinker ran into the burning building after the firefighters. The men were very carefully checking each door, testing it. He realized fires were smoldering in the rooms and opening the doors would cause a backdraft and explosive fires if they were opened. He headed up to the second floor and, through the smoke and fire, could see all of the doors were broken open.

Yeah, this makes sense, he thought.

He saw Edward and Vanguard come out into the hall. Vanguard coughed in the smoke.

“So, you’ve checked this floor?” Tinker asked. “This floor is clear?”

“Hey!” Edward said.

“Hi,” Tinker said. “I’m so happy to see you.”

“What are you doing in here?” Edward said. “Have firefighters come in?”

“They’re on the first floor but they’re taking their time,” Tinker said.

“Yeah, you shouldn’t open those,” Edward said.

“Well … this floor’s clear?” Tinker said.

“Yeah,” Edward said.

“All right,” Tinker said.

He headed up the steps.

“We should probably get everyone out of the building - like all of us, then,” Edward said. He turned to Vanguard. “Might be best if we just head out. Let the firemen do their jobs.”

He headed down the steps.

* * *

Arclight smashed into the last door on the third floor. He checked out the apartment and found it empty. He and Absolem’s Riddle headed down the stairs, meeting Tinker coming up.

* * *

“First edition,” the man on the ground near Angelus muttered in his unconscious state. “Tomb of Horrors. Temple of Elemental Evil.”

She ran back into the first floor as Vanguard left. Three firefighters were still working on testing doors that led off the hallway.

“There could be people in there,” she said.

“No!” one of the firefighters said. “Stand back! Don’t go in those doors.”

One of the men headed up the steps.

She headed down the steps into the basement and found a conflagration down there. The heat didn’t bother her though the smoke made her cough and her eyes sting. There was no way anyone could be alive there.

* * *

Protean, still immaterial, phased down to the first floor. He saw the firefighters in the hall there. He went into one of the closed rooms, immaterial. He couldn’t see more than a few inches in the dark rooms. There was no light. When he floated near one of the windows, he saw it was blackened by soot. He floated near the floor in the terrible room, seeing if anyone was there and guessing that if they were, they were dead.

* * *

The rest of the heroes came down the steps to the first floor. They passed a firefighter heading up the stairs.

“Second floor is clear,” Edward said. “The rest of the team’s got the top floors.”

The firefighter stopped and headed down with them. Another firefighter headed down to the basement and shouted they needed water there. Absolem’s Riddle headed for one of the closed apartment doors.

“No no no, don’t!” one of the firefighters screamed.

“Why?” Absolem’s Riddle said.

“Backdraft,” the man said. “Don’t go in there.”

“Get out!” she said.

“Don’t go in there!” he said again.

“Go!” she said. “I’m gonna go in there. Get out.”

“Are you immune to fire!?!” he said.

“Yes, I am!” she said. “Get out!”

“Let them do their job,” Edward said. “The building’s going to collapse.”

“If it collapses, I’ll teleport out,” Absolem’s Riddle said.

As she moved to the door, everyone else left. Absolem’s Riddle shrunk and headed under one of the doors. The room was very hot and filled with smoke as she resumed her regular size. She couldn’t breathe and held her breath. She felt the terrible heat but she kept looking for anyone who might be in the inferno of the room. She couldn’t see anything.

* * *

Angelus came up from the flaming basement and saw there was no one in the lobby. She went to the nearest door and kicked it open. There was an explosion of flames into the lobby. She strode into the room and searched the apartment. She was coughing from the terrible smoke before she crossed the lobby and headed for the apartment on the other side in the back. She kicked open the door there as well and a blast of fire and smoke burst from the room, nearly knocking her back. She went into the room and searched it as well.

Her satchel and beeper within were both incinerated.

* * *

Outside, the windows blew out of one of the back first floor apartments sending flames licking up the side of the building again. Glass spewed out into the yard and the street. The fire renewed its ferocity on the first floor. A minute later, the windows on the other side in the back were blasted out as fire and smoke blew out of them.

“God damn it!” one of the firefighters near the heroes said.

Arclight pulled out his pager.

“Get the **** out!” he paged. “With love from Arclight. Arclight.”

Absolem’s Riddle appeared beside the building, smoking, and gasped for breath. Her costume was scorched and she took huge breaths of air.

“Get the **** away!” Tinker yelled at her.

“Told you not to open up the doors!” Vanguard yelled at her.

“I didn’t open any doors!” she yelled back.

She looked back at the building and saw that the fire was burning violently again.

“Wait a minute …” Vanguard muttered.

“Where’s Gargirl?” Arclight said.

Absolem’s Riddle picked up a rock and moved to throw it at one of the windows of the apartment in the front of the building she had been searching.

“No, don’t do that!” one of the firefighters screamed.

“What if there’s people!?!” she yelled back.

“Then they’re dead!” the firefighter yelled at her.

“I’m not dead,” she said.

“No, you’re not,” Edward said.

“Because you have powers!” Arclight said.

“Wouldn’t it be better to at least check and see if someone is holding on for dear life?” she asked.

The firefighter just pointed at the flames licking up the side of the apartment building. More firefighters were now working desperately to try to quench the fire once again.

“I don’t just understand the point of trying to put out a fire if it’s hopeless,” she said.

“Because you’re not a ****ing firefighter!” the man screamed at her.

“No, I only saved twenty people’s lives!” she said.

“Lady, get away from the building!” the firefighter said. “You are now trespassing. Get away! Go!”

He walked to her and grabbed her by the arm but she teleported away.

“Good!” he grunted. “Thank God!”

He seemed very angry.

* * *

Protean was still moving very slowly, in astral form, through the first floor, looking for anyone in any of the remaining rooms. He didn’t think there was anyone there.

* * *

Absolem’s Riddle appeared behind the building. She tried to look into the windows that had blown out but could see little but flames and smoke. The firefighters around the scene were working much harder to put out the new fires that had broken out.

She looked for anyone who might be watching the fire suspiciously. She asked people around if they saw anyone.

* * *

Angelus came out of the front of the building.

“What were those explosions?” she asked.

She stank of smoked and coughed loudly.

“That was you?” Tinker asked.

“What?” Angelus said.

“Were you opening doors?” Arclight said.

Tinker walked away from her.

The firefighters kept working on the burning building. Someone tapped Angelus on her scales. She turned around to see no one there. She looked down. A little girl about 12 years old was standing behind her.

“I know who set the fire,” she said.

“Who?” Angelus said.

“There was a superhero,” she said. “He was in a red costume. And he breathed fire. And his friend he wore blue and white. Um. And I didn’t get a good look but the red guy had a cape. And he flew away and he carried his friend.”

“Well, thank you,” Angelus said.

“You’re welcome,” the little girl said.

“Did you notice anything else beside that?” Angelus asked.

“Hey, little girl, can you draw them for us?” Vanguard said.

“I can try, but all my drawing stuff is burned up,” the little girl said.

* * *

Angelus went back to the burning building, flying to the fourth floor and retrieving the collector’s Dungeons & Dragons books. Unfortunately, the fire had melted some of the bins pretty badly. One of them was still in good shape though. She got them all and put them with the others on the sidewalk away from the building.

* * *

One of the police officers had some crayons in his cruiser and gave them to the heroes. The little girl drew them a picture of what she said she had seen. One of the men had red, Dragonball Z hair and a mask that covered most of his face. She said he had a bird on his chest and had muscles and gloves. He also had red pants and black boots. She also drew the second man, who had a blue and white costume and big goggles. He had a white hood over his head and white skin. She noted that he had jagged blue and white on his costume and he had a belt with something on the side. He was mostly in light blue and white.

Vanguard suggested that they run it through the FORCE database. Though the picture was not well detailed, it was more than nothing.

* * *

As the firefighters kept fighting the fire, Protean tried to make a water body from the water from the hose.

As they sprayed the fire, suddenly the water seemed to congeal and then turned into the form of Protean, which flew at the building. It struck the fire on the side of the building and was smashed to pieces when it hit.

Tinker was horrified to see it. It reminded him too much of when he blasted him away before.

* * *

Vanguard went to his car and climbed in. He pulled the door shut and a police officer leaned into the car. He recognized the man as the one who had pursued him in his reckless drive across Charlotte. The man looked at him a moment.

“Good job,” he said.

He walked away.

* * *

The news crew showed up about 10 minutes after Protean repeatedly formed and apparently died, fighting the fire. They filmed the fire as Angelus helped fight it. She had asked to help and when they found out she was immune to fire and heat, though not smoke, they gave her a gas mask.

Arclight talked to the news people.

“We saved people again,” he said.

The reporters took video of him and several snapped pictures.

“And we now know what our arsonist looks like and we’re going to bring him to justice soon!” Arclight said.

“What’s he look like?” one of the reporters asked.

“Classified information,” Arclight said.

“Who helped you out here?” someone asked. “What happened?”

“Well, it was me and my team,” he said. “I had Vanguard, Gargirl, Protean, Vicegrip, Tinkerer, and Solomon’s Key.”

“Who’s Vicegrip?” another reporter asked.

“Where’s the crocodile man?” another asked.

“Vicegrip, formerly known as Cool Croc,” Arclight said.

“Wait, that’s his name?” someone said.

“That’s what it was,” Arclight said.

“Vicegrip?” someone said.

“So the Cool Crocodileman’s name is Vicegrip?” someone asked.

“Yeah, he doesn’t like Cool Croc I guess,” Arclight said.

“Vicegrip?” someone said. “Why is he called that?”

“Because when he bites down on you, you ain’t getting away!” Arclight said. “He’s taking a bite out of crime.”

“I thought that woman’s name was Absolem’s Riddle,” someone said.

“Huh?” Arclight said.

“I thought that woman’s name was Absolem’s Riddle,” the man said again.

“Maybe it is,” Arclight said. “I don’t know.”

“Well which one is it?” someone asked.

“Eh,” Arclight said.

“C’mon Arclight!” the man said. “C’mon!”

“She answers to both,” he said.

“Both?” the man said. “All right.”

“Maybe we’ll do Solomon’s Riddle,” Arclight said.

“Tell her we want to talk to her,” one of the reporters said.

“Okay,” Arclight said.

“Where’s Vanguard?” someone asked. “Where’s Vanguard?”

“Ah, he’s got other important stuff to do,” Arclight said.

“What about Tinkerer?” someone asked. “Where’s he?”

“He doesn’t like you guys,” Arclight said.

He also pointed out Protean becoming water bodies and being destroyed against the side of the building.

“Oh my God, that’s horrible!” someone yelled. “Get some film of this!”

The reporters got film of the building and some of them talked to the residents.

Police also showed up and they shared the picture the little girl had drawn for them. He gave them a better description and they asked to talk to the girl. They asked all of the remaining heroes to keep quiet about it until the chief decided what would be released to the press.

* * *

Absolem’s Riddle was angry and thought that if anyone died, she would blame herself for listening to the firefighters. A page came through from Arclight.

“I want to have a meeting,” it said. “With love from Arclight. Arclight.”

Her pager was partially melted from the heat it had been exposed to in the building.

“Meet at Vanguards,” came the next page.

* * *

“There he is!” one of the reporters said. “There’s Vicegrip!”

Edward had moved to where several of the firemen were resting between bouts of fighting the fire. The men were drinking from bottles of water and wiping the sweat from their heads with towels. The reporters headed over.

“Hey Vicegrip, can we ask you some questions?” one said.

“Nope,” Edward replied.

“How long have you been a crocodile?” the man asked.

They were pointing cameras at him but the crocodile still had on the firefighter’s jacket and gas mask. Some of the reporters wanted to interview him.

“Nope,” he said.

He stood there silently in the group of firemen. The firemen moved to block Edward from the cameras, clustering closely around him.

“I really need to talk to him,” one of the reporters said.

The same firefighter who had yelled at Absolem’s Riddle stood in his way.

“Hey buddy, this is a fire scene and right now I could have you arrested for trespassing,” he said. “So, get back behind the line, buddy.”

“Freedom of the press!” the reporter shouted.

“I don’t give a God damn,” the firefighter said. “See these cops over here? I tell them to arrest you and they will.”

The reporters eventually gave up. None of the firefighters said much to Edward but the angry one nodded at him.

The heroes let Angelus know they were heading back to Vanguard’s.

“I need another beeper,” she told them. “Where do we get them?”

“You don’t have your beeper?” Arclight asked her.

“It kind of melted,” she said.

* * *

Protean returned to his steel body and shook hands with the firefighters after the blaze was under control.

“Good job men,” he said. “And women.”

They thanked him for his help though they were a bit confused on who he actually was.

“Was that that guy that killed himself all those times?” one of them asked.

“Can I keep this plastic statue?” someone asked.

“Yes,” Protean said. “I don’t want that shitty plastic.”

* * *

Arclight’s cell phone rang almost as soon as he’d gotten back to the apartment. It was his agent.

“Hey, Arclight,” the voice said. “It’s Murray.”

“Hey Murray,” he said.

“Yeah, we got you the gig on Arrow!” Murray said.

“Aw … shit!” Arclight said.

“I’ll get back to you with deets, but I wanted to let you know,” Murray said.

“Nice!” Arclight said.

“You’re on your way, baby!” Murray said. “You’re on your way!”

“I’m on my way!” Arclight said. “Stephen Amell’s going down!”

They all met at the apartment a half hour later. Absolem’s Riddle arrived last, having taken her time getting there. She was wearing civilian clothes and just walked into the place.

“I know I’m one of the worst at this, but I think we need to start working as a team better,” Arclight said. “I know I kind of just flew away and stuff, when we were all just kind of out of sorts, but I think some of us put ourselves in more danger than need be. And we can’t have that. Especially if a villain’s around. It could be dangerous. So …we all have special abilities that are really good, like the fire you two were immune to it, so you could put yourself in the most danger. But I think the rest of us should have been more careful and let you guys handle that part.”

“I’m glad that you were compelled to help,” Protean said.

“Yeah!” Arclight said.

“Also, if there’s another fire and we can’t catch it, we need to start with the first floor,” Absolem’s Riddle said. “Because that’s where it’s going to get worse the fastest.”

“I just don’t know too much about fires in the first place,” Protean said.

“That’s why there’s not going to be any more fires!” Arclight said.

“It will be important to learn from people who know,” Tinker said. “Since this guy deals with fire.”

“Why is he burning poor people’s houses?” Angelus asked.

“Because it’s not Dr. Murder,” Absolem’s Riddle said.

“Well, yeah, but … why does he hate poor people?” Angelus asked. “Is he hired by the rich people?”

“Thom Tillis,” Arclight said.

“Thom Tillis,” Angelus said.

“But yeah, I just don’t want any of us to die,” Arclight said.

“I’d rather die saving someone else,” Absolem’s Riddle said.

“But we don’t need to put you in that position if we have people who can handle it,” Arclight said.

“But it didn’t get handled,” Absolem’s Riddle said. “There’s a whole floor.”

“They had it,” Arclight said.

“No, they didn’t,” Absolem’s Riddle insisted.

“I tried to help,” Angelus said. “I checked the two doors−”

“I know, but what I mean is we need to do it−” Absolem’s Riddle said.

“−but they just kept exploding for some reason,” Angelus said.

“−we need to do it sooner,” Absolem’s Riddle said. “That was the last thing we did but that was the most dangerous one.”

“It’s like, if we have to create something, I’m not going to do it, Tinker’s gonna do it,” Arclight said. “We put the best, capable person on something. Just like, I talk to the media because I’m the most capable. Because I’m an actor.”

“I think it’s important that we all make sure that we’re able to deal with a situation like this,” Tinker said. “So, I think I need to work on some stuff to kind of help dealing with fire easier.”

“If I could get on TV too, that would be nice,” Angelus said. “But I also want it so people to stop calling me Gargirl. It just sounds so dumb.”

“It isn’t always about how we’re portrayed in the media,” Protean said.

“But that’s why I changed my name,” Angelus said. “Now it’s Angelus. The nickname thing. But it’s just not spreading around fast.”

“Okay, Gargirl, I’ll make sure I get that one next time,” Arclight said.

“C’mon Arclight!” Angelus said.

“Tinker, can you make us suits to deal with the fire better?” Arclight asked.

“I mean I have those three gas masks,” Absolem’s Riddle said.

“We need more than gas masks,” Arclight said.

“I could probably come up with something,” Tinker said. “Maybe not suits, that would take too much time. But maybe something we could coat ourselves with.”

“Gel?” Absolem’s Riddle said. “Like vapor rub?”

“That’s kind of what I was thinking,” Tinker said. “There are methods of suppressing fire that doesn’t put you in harm’s way that I could research. But making something that’s fire resistant, because I forgot to give this gear back to the firemen, should be pretty easy.”

Edward had given back the coat and gas mask he’d borrowed.

“You guys are going to check the FORCE database, right?” Arclight said.

“Yeah!” Angelus said.

“Find that guy?” Arclight said. “Okay.”

“I’m going to push my name,” Angelus said. “Angelus.”

“All right, Gargirl,” Arclight said.

“I’m going to hit you, one of these days, Arclight,” Angelus said. “Hard.”

“Wait, what have you been telling people my name is?” Absolem’s Riddle said. “You’ve been telling them the right thing, right?”

“Solomon’s Riddle?” Arclight said. “Is that right?”

She glared at him.

She explained that it was Absolem’s Riddle because the caterpillar was called Absolem and gave Alice bites of mushroom to change her size.

“It finally makes sense,” Protean said.

“Ah … yeah,” Arclight said.

He looked at them.

“Good job, team!” he said.

He put his hand in. Some of them joined him and he finally lifted them up.

“Arclight and Friends!” he said.

“Wait wait, is that what we’re called?” Angelus said.

They discussed what they should be called, Protean noting that perhaps it shouldn’t be something that showcased Arclight specifically. Arclight suggested “Arclight and Buds.” Edward said “Arclightites” or the “Arclenites.” It was brought up that Absolem’s Riddle had suggested the “Outliers.”

“Arclight and the Outliers, got it,” Arclight said.

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