Aella took a leap across the roof, landing with a quick roll, body feeling tight. “God damn it,” She stood up to stretch. She should have done yoga that morning but she and her kid had slept in. They had to rush to get out the door in time.
“You’re getting old Queen,” murmured Fox, appearing from the shadows. She was a thin woman, wearing her black jumpsuit, and had long silky hair she wore in a bun. Fox was her code name and she tended to love it much more than her real name.
“It happens to us all Foxy,” Aella replied, rolling her shoulders. “Where’s Jax and Lance?”
“Grabbing your boyfriend.” She answered, adjusting her staff on her hip. “They’re coming up with Killian.” They both looked annoyed by that thought. Jax was younger than Aella but with more experience than Fox. Lance was the baby hero, inducted only a month ago, but somehow the same age as Jax. Killian was heading the heroes association purely by luck and experience. Was he a wonderful hero? Sure. Was he a total d-bag in his private and public life? Completely.
“Queen!” Lance and Jax flew up, clutching her “boyfriend” Ives. Lance had wings, real wings. Sprouted from his back like a bird. Jax wore jet-shoes he invented himself, carting a pack he created to match. They dropped Ives and landed on the other sides of him. “And here Jax thought you weren’t gonna meet up with us. You owe me ten bucks.”
Jax elected to ignore him this time, “Killian’s coming. Good to see you again Queen.”
“Hey, kids,” She clasped her hand with Killian’s for their handshake. Pressing her forehead against his. “You braided your hair,”
“You don’t like it?”
“Let me finish!” She told him. “I think it’s beautiful.” Jax beamed. Lance skirted over, wanting his turn with Queen. “Calm down, I remember you! Your shaved...part your head, very cool.” She told him softly, mussing his mohawk.
Ives snorted, smirking at her. Ives looked like a gremlin in some ways: long messy hair, dark eyes to match, thin but what Jax called “secretly ripped.” His voice was husky and deep, sounding like he had a permanent cold. But he was wonderful.
“Hey, Ives,” She said. “You stood me up.”
“I was grading your son’s History paper,” He answered. He saw her look. “It was fantastic you should be very proud.”
“I always am,” She replied, slipping one hand into his hair to place strands behind his ears.
Killian finally arrived, kicking open the doors of the rooftop, hands gripping the door frames. “Alright, you lot,” He declared, taking a moment to look at them all. “Let’s talk about tonight’s recon.”
Ives glanced at Aella, putting up her “guards”: arms crossed, leaning on one leg, eyes glaring. He knew she was mentally gearing for a comeback if she needed it. If they were alone he’d say how much he liked it.
“We’re watching Drew Sterling, he’s-”
“Activist and current Prime Minister!” Lance blurted.
“Good job, someone’s been paying attention.”
He burst into a grin. Fox wondered why he got wings instead of a tail. Jax smiled, seeing his excitement.
“Queenie, you got the map,” He asked her. Aella stepped forward, showing off her handmade map. No one appreciated her efforts. She pointed at the locations where the baddies had been spotted, circling back to the same street. “You got everything from the Organization Queenie?”
“My code name is Queen,” She said firmly. “I don’t call you Killer.”
“It’s just a nickname, lighten up princess!” He patted her back sharply, pushing her forward.
“A princess, that’s insulting.” Fox joined, stirring the tension more. Everyone looked at her in surprise. “What? Just because we don’t like each other doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve the same respect!”
Ives hastily cut it reminding they needed to start moving. “Unlike the rest of you, I have stuff to do later.”
“Drinking does not count as a hobby.” Killian pointed out.
“I haven’t had a drink in nearly 5 years, you moron.”
Jax cleared his throat, concluding they should split up and start the mission.
“Alright: Queenie and I will-”
“I would sooner eat my own jacket.” She answered sharply. “If the only choice is you I’m going solo.”
He paused, “Alright, Sunshine, Lance, and Ives are taking the SouthSide. Jax, you’re with me in the East. If you can handle the North, it’s yours.”
“I can do it,” She promised. “Everybody sync up,” She took the mic from her pocket and placed it into her ear, extending her watch. Everyone joined. “Three, two, one. Great, let’s go kids. Make mom and dad proud.” She stepped on the edge, lifting herself up to scan the street.
“Whose mom and dad?” asked Lance.
“I’m Mom, you pick Dad,” She replied, lifting one leg, letting herself fall over the side.
The first squad went to the Southside, standing atop the movie theatre. Fox and Lance crowded Ives, both thinking the same thing. Ives muttered to himself, tying up his hair, listening to the kids’ whisper. “Whatever you two are muttering about, stop it.” Fox went to his right, Lance went to his left.
“So, I take it you and Queen are getting along?” Lance started.
“Do not finish that thought.”
“She is pretty, you were looking at her very closely.”
“She was talking, you should listen to people when they’re talking.”
“Oh,” Fox murmured. “And what was she talking about when you were gazing at her non-existent back pockets?”
His face turned even darker, feeling the horror settle in. Why did he have to end up with the kids for this mission? “I did not look at her in that way.”
“Oh, you sure?” Fox snorted. “I think she did it on purpose.” She looped her arms around his neck, turning her face pouty. “Ives, you want to go….pay your taxes?” He looked at her completely deadpan. “I dunno how adults flirt.”
“Ives,” Aella declared into the coms. “Everyone settled?’
“We’re here too Mom,” Lance said, teasing.
“You want to trade spots?” Ives almost begged.
“You’re doing great,” She leaned on a gargoyle, surveying the street. “Jax, Killian? You set up?”
“I’m getting online now,” Jax reported. His superior leaned over, scanning Jax’s phone screen. “We’ll be in security cameras and CCTV in a minute.”
“Shouldn’t we have code names?” Lance asked no one in particular.
“Besides the one we already have?” Fox pointed out.
“No, ones for over the coms! Just in case they’re listening.”
“I think if they somehow enter the coms we’ll have bigger problems,” said Ives, rubbing his eyes.
“Don’t be mean Ives,” Aella smiled. “Let him make up names. It makes him happy.”
“What’d you have in mind?” Jax snorted. “Big Bird?”
“No,” Lance answered, then coyly added. “But you can be baby bird.”
Aella bit her lip, stifling her laughter. Ives buried his face into his hands. Jax avoided looking at his superior behind him, muttering softly, “Shut up.” A small smile lingering behind it.
“Can the two idiots in love remember we’re on a mission?” Fox rolled her eyes. Lance always did this. Teasing Ives was one thing, he never let his relationships hinder his work. Lance was still too inexperienced to know how to act on a real mission. Not like Killian would stop him, tell him to shape up as he did with her.
Jax finished his task, bringing up their work. Aella climbed on the gargoyle, seeing a flash of light dart past her eye-line. “Hm,” She followed it until it left. “At your 12,” She murmured to the South. They immediately went to the edges of the glittery “Flicks” frames, glancing from position. Lance saw the lights first, tucking his wings out to gear for a quick dive off. Ives waved his hand, meaning for him to wait. He tapped Fox’s shoulder and made a gesture for her to go. She nodded, closed her eyes, and melted into the shadows. Fox’s feet touched the edges of the concrete, seeing the light had a figure of a man. “Jax, you have it?” Aella murmured.
“I’ve got it. Fox, you at the six?”
“Copy.” She whispered. “I’m in pursuit.”
“Okay, Killian,” Jax looked over his shoulder, seeing the hero had disappeared. “Oh-”
“Jax, what’s wrong kid?” Before Aella got her answer there was a shout from Fox, scared and quick. Queen dived off the edge, landing hard on the sidewalk below, bursting the concrete. Jax flipped the screens searching for her. Lance and Ives scrambled off the roof already on the hunt. Aella made it before the rest, finding Fox beating another crook with her staff. Anger flashing in her every move. Aella slammed both feet into the ground, breaking up the ground underneath, and combined the air and the stone. “Down!” She ordered. Fox turned, letting herself fall. The burst of compressed air and shrapnel hit the villains, knocking them both back. “Stay away from her!” She growled, creating another burst of air. They heard Killian’s shout arriving from the opposite side, snatching up a goon and threw him as easily as a beach ball. Lance flew overhead, kicking the other directly in his forehead, knocking him out. Everyone caught their breath for only a moment. “Jax?”
“I got cops coming,” He said. “On my way.”
“Are you okay?” Ives asked the younger.
“I’m fine,” She mumbled, trying not to look at him. “I had everything under control.” She felt his hand graze her cheek. She felt the sting at her skin, seeing his fingers were bloodied. “Is that mine? One of them tried to swipe me.”
“Swipe or hit?”
“Just a swipe! I don’t think he even got close enough.”
“You’ve got to be more careful Sunshine,” Killian balanced his goon, now trembling in his hand. They heard sirens in the distance. “Get back to Randevu point everyone, I’ll handle this.”
“Ow!” Fox felt the sting of the disinfectant now soothing her scrape. “I told you it’s fine!”
“I’m not dealing with your mother,” Ives told her, gently patting the cheek again. “That woman is not one of empty threats.”
Aella glanced back at the birds, both scanning Jax’s screens. She sighed deeply, walking over. She touched Ives’s shoulder, meaning “Let me.” He set down his things, leaving them alone. She sat down beside the younger, seeing her try to shrink away. “You know it’s okay, right? I’ve got more bruises and scrapes on me than-”
“I am not in the mood for a teaching moment.”
“Or you’re too stubborn to attempt, you need help.”
She shrank further.
“Lana,” Aella whispered. “It’s not a sign of weakness to get taken care of. Or to ask for someone to go with you, if you’re unsure. Though you seemed very sure.”
“I know that.”
“Well, I want you to trust me! It’s way easier when someone helps me through it.”
“What’s that like?” Fox looked at her. “Having someone there for you all the time?”
“It’s not all the time,” She ran her fingers through Fox’s hair. “But it’s nice to ask.”
The younger accepted the tenderness of her hands, rolling her eyes, but feeling better. “Honestly, what do you see in him?”
“He makes me happy,”
“No, of course not! There are lots of reasons, but that’s the one I think of the most. When you get to be my age you realize that’s all you really want. Just someone who will make you happy.”
“What are you two doing?” Ives questioned the birds.
Lance had one arm around Jax who had not looked up from his screen. “I’m checking the news and police scanners,” Jax declared.
“I’m keeping him warm,”
“He’s keeping me warm.” Jax agreed.
“Where’s Killian?” asked Fox. A bandage had been placed on her skin and felt a little better. “I want to get back to recon.”
“I want to go to bed.” Ives declared to no one in particular.
“You don’t have to go to school tomorrow, right?” Lance offered.
“No, and I’m still going to get four hours of sleep.”
Aella snorted again.
“Uhhhh, guys,” Jax started, turning up the police scanners. They radioed out a location, only a block away. “Police are picking up blocked cell towers, I think maybe we should go down and check.”
“I’ll go,” Lance volunteered.
“Absolutely not,” Aella told him. “You’re keeping Jax warm. And you’re not experienced enough. Ives?”
“You want to rock paper scissors for it?” He asked her. “Or do you just want to do it?”
“Well, that depends,” She asked, smirking at him. “Do you want to watch the kids?” She continued to smirk while he fixed up his hair and pulled up his hood. “I thought so. You got your com on?”
“You owe me dinner.”
“You owe me dinner,” She laughed. “We’ll call it even and go out for sushi with Lonnie.”
“Alright deal,” He extended his hand meaning for a shake. He, instead, received a kiss in the middle of his palm. “How could you?” The pitch in his voice changed slightly higher. “I have a reputation.”
“Get going,” She ordered. He went to the fire escape and climbed down.
Ives had the unique power of common sense and he could alter matter. Same as Aella. But she excelled in air combustion and utilized her combat skills. Ives wasn’t as physically strong as her. His strength lies in being fast and his disintegration. When his powers went into full effect he could turn anything into dust. Anything. He adjusted his hood, catching the scent of something familiar to him. As he edged closer to the building he could almost taste the scent. He tapped his com, listening for her voice. “Aella,” He said before he could stop himself. He heard the kids hooting in the background.
“What’s up? What do you need?”
“Can we get into the building? Is there anything inside?”
Jax checked for him, murmuring softly. “Looks like it’s not just the cell towers.”
“Ives? Do you need backup?” Aella asked him.
He felt a stir in the air, “No, not yet.” He pressed forward.
“You know the rule,” He grazed the door handles and it fluttered into dust.
“Ives, where are you going?”
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” He kicked the doors.
“Bye.” He entered the building’s lobby. It looked like an abandoned hotel, smelling like a bottle of alcohol. That was the scent he knew. He let his hood down, slowly shutting the door behind him.
“We can all still hear you!”
He scanned around the room, looking at the hotel bar, feeling sick and scared to his stomach at the sight of dusty alcohol bottles. He squinted seeing the shelf, he reached and took the nearest bottle bringing it closer.
“I thought you weren’t drinking.” Killian’s voice filled the entire room.
“Jesus tapdancing Christ.”
“Is that Killian?” asked Jax.
“I’m not drinking! Look at this,” He handed him the bottle. “It’s empty, all of the vodka is.”
“I figured you were a whiskey man,” Killian offered, not entirely understanding.
“It smells like a bottle of alcohol in here! They’re trying to burn this place down.”
“Yellow,” Aella said sharply. “Yellow.”
“Burn it down, what’s in here?” Killian replied.
“Yellow Ives,” Aella said firmly.
He heard the urgency in her voice, knowing she was about to take action. “Red.” He murmured back. He skirted around Killian, seeing him not intending to follow. “I’m not staying in here.”
“Don’t be so irrational! We’re heroes, we’ll be fine.” He offered.
“Stay with Captain idiot, we’ll be there in a minute,” Aella told him. “Get out if you can.”
There was a dash out the doors, scattering footsteps. “Hey!” Killian bolted after.
“Oh for-” He smelled the scent of the blue flames licking up walls.
They smelled the fire long before they reached it. Aella felt her heart pound with her footsteps, getting closer and closer to the sight of light blue flames. “No, no, no, no,” She reached the corner, turning and was nearly blown back by the scent of low-grade vodka. Jax stopped his flight, worried the fuel of his jets would light him up, landing beside Fox who had to expose herself. Lance remained in flight, trying to edge closer, but the flames brushed against his feathers.
“Jax,” Aella said firmly. “Call the firefighters, call the cops, call everybody!”
“Ives is in there!” Lance shouted from above.
The woman took a deep breath and ran straight through the doors. Fox and Jax yelped for her, but she was already inside. Fox breathed in, “Lance! Start directing help this way! Jax, I’m knocking on doors, help me as soon as help knows!”
Aella couldn’t think, entering the front, coughing harshly from the smoke. “Ives! Killian!” She called, hitting the ground and began to crawl. She called again, feeling the heat all around her. Everything felt like slow motion. She reached the edge of the help desk, seeing Ives on the floor, knocked out. “Ives! Ives,” She snatched him by his waist, yanking him over to her, feeling how limp he was. “Come on love, come on.” Everything in her felt so congested, but every cell was not going to let her stay. She plucked him up in her arms and carted him back to the safe outside. He dangled from her arms, both covered with smoke, collapsing into the fresh air and ground. She sat up, looking down at him, brushing back his hair. “Ives don’t tell me this is what knocks the fight out of you!” She smacked his face, surprising the firefighters who ran to help.
“Ow,” He whispered, opening one eye. He felt her tears fall on his cheeks. He turned his head and coughed, hard. He got oxygen around his mouth, easing considerably. “Aella, I think I like you.”