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Adventure Fantasy

"Are you sure we're going the right way?" Kid Quarterstaff asked.


"Well, I'm trying to decrypt the directions from a secure message, using only a pencil and paper, and writing on the dashboard of tricked out RV. I'm good at math, but these are not the best conditions for trigonometric decoding," Miller's Son said, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice. "So, no. I'm not sure if we're going the right way."


"Why don't you just use the car-phone and call them?" Will Stoutly asked.


"It's a secret safe house in the middle of nowhere. No phone, no internet, no electricity. Completely off the grid, Will."


"So?"


"So that means we can’t call, Will," Alain-a-Gale said kindly.


"I would love to study your brain," Reyna Greenleaf said with a smirk. "Exponential strength. Below average intelligence."


"Hey, Miller's Son is the brains," Will Stoutly said. "He solves the puzzles; I punch the bad guys."


"Okay, enough talking guys. Help me look for the turn-off," Kid Quarterstaff said from the driver's seat.


"It's a right turn. Either next to a big blue barn, or a split spruce tree," Miller's Son said, erasing a line of calculations and starting again.


All five fell into silence as they stared out the windows of the RV into the dark winter night. The five teenagers called themselves the Merry Crusaders. None were yet old enough to become Church sponsored heroes, but that didn't stop them from doing their part to fight crime, protect their nation, and uphold the ideals of their faith. Each aspiring hero had been taken under the wing of first-generation hero, Guy of Gizbourne. The famous inventor and decorated crime-fighter had provided them with a high tech and fortified RV that acted as the team's mobile headquarters.


The Merry Crusaders traveled around the United Catholicity of the Americas, helping communities that were too small to have their own Church sponsored hero. They fought against threats and criminal elements that were deemed too small or insignificant for the Church's official heroes to handle. Such problems were normally left to Peace Officers, but their resources were already stretched incredibly thin. The Merry Crusaders were glad that they could do their part to lift some of the Peace Officer Service's burden and to help out those in need.


Guy of Gizbourne occasionally passed leads or missions along to the Merry Crusaders. Such was the case on this night, and the reason they were driving down an icy country road. They were on their way to give aid to another veteran hero. Members of the Vindices Catholicus of the United Americas, the premier team of Church sponsored heroes, had been escorting a witness named Ekram across the country when they'd been attacked by a group of assassins known as the Houri.


The Houri had attacked Ekram's transport, drawing the heroes of the VCUA into a fierce battle. During the fray, the hero Colonel Chaplain had snuck Ekram aboard a plane. They had been on their way to the United Catholicity capital city when the Houri found them and shot down their plane. Colonel Chaplain was an expert pilot and managed to bring the plane down in the midwestern portion of the country. He rigged the plane to explode upon landing, before bailing out at the last moment with Ekram.


Afterward, they had disappeared, presumably unable to contact anyone without risking the message being intercepted by the Houri. Based on the area where the plane went down, Guy of Gizbourne surmised that Colonel Chaplain had taken Ekram to an old safehouse near the crash site. Guy of Gizbourne then sent the Merry Crusaders to find the safehouse and offer whatever aid or protection they could to Ekram and Colonel Chaplain. For security reasons, Guy of Gizbourne had encrypted the message, encoding the directions to the cabin. As such, even with Miller's Son's advanced intellect, the Merry Crusaders were having trouble finding the safehouse.


"Do we even know why we're going to this safehouse?" Will Stoutly asked.


"Why, yes. I have managed to decode that portion of Gizbourne's message. " Miller's Son answered, happy for a break from scribbling equations on his notepad. "The VCUA has long suspected that the Ayatollah of Guinea is responsible for a major drug smuggling operation that has been flooding our country's streets with narcotics for decades. This would obviously violate the International Doctrine of Peace, but so far, the Church has been unable to prove it." 


"The other Ayatollahs of the Coalition of Islamic Oligarchs deny knowledge of the operation and refuse to help investigate. Luckily, a cleric named Ekram has agreed to testify against the Ayatollah of Guinea. That is, if he survives to make it to the official hearing. The Houri aren't known for easily giving up on their targets. Once we find the safehouse, we'll need to be ready for anything."


"Hooray, we get to face the Houri!" Kid Quarterstaff said with a chuckle. "This is our chance to prove ourselves to the Church. Maybe they'll make an exception and let us join the Junior-VCUA before we turn twenty."


"Clever wordplay and dreams of future heroics aside, how much do we know about the Houri? What exactly are we going to be facing if we go up against them?" Reyna Greenleaf asked.


"There's not much information about them in the database Gizbourne compiled for us," Miller's Son said, as he manipulated a cursor on a screen set into the center of the dashboard. "I assume that’s because not much is known about the assassins or their organization."


"Can you at least give us an idea of what we can expect?" Alain-a-Gale asked.


"The Houri always attack in groups," Miller's Son read off the screen. "They are a covert unit, and there's evidence that they may possess some sort of cloaking ability. Reports seem to vary as to if they have superpowers or advanced technology. There’s even some evidence to suggest the Houri are clones and each has been genetically modified."


"Deadly and an affront to God. Sounds like your kind of enemy, Kid," Reyna Greenleaf said, rolling her eyes. "If we face them, I'm sure you'll be the first one I have to patch up. As usual."


"I may rush into fights, but I get results," Kid Quarterstaff said with a shrug. "I won't become a renowned hero if I don't challenge myself and --"


"There's a blue barn!" Will Stoutly yelled, cutting Kid Quarterstaff off. He pointed toward the windshield and asked, "Is this where we're supposed to turn."


"Good eyes, Will," Miller's Son said, as Kid Quarterstaff turned the RV onto a poorly maintained dirt road. "As far as I can tell, this road dead ends. The driveway that leads to the safehouse should be the only turn off we come across.


They drove along for several minutes. The tires of the RV crunched through densely packed snow that covered a road pock marked with potholes. The RV bounced along, the armor plating attached to the vehicle’s sides shaking with every pothole and dip in road’s surface. The RV's headlights lit a large swath in front of the vehicle, but the view from the side windows was obscured by deep shadow. It was hard for Alain-a-Gale, Will Stoutly, and Reyna Greenleaf to make out what they were passing. The combination of darkness and falling snow made it look like the world fell off into nothing at the sides of the road.


After nearly ten minutes, Kid Quarterstaff spotted the turn off. The cabin stood perpendicular to the road, surrounded by thick woods. Kid Quarterstaff turned into the driveway and slowly pulled up in front of the cabin. Suddenly, he saw a pair of eyes staring at him. The eyes were jet black, and it was only because of their contrast to the headlight beams' reflection on the snow that he noticed them.


Squinting, he could make out a figure standing in the snow a few feet in front of the RV. Kid Quarterstaff could only see a vague outline of the person, their edges seemed to shimmer in the bright light. The figure raised an arm and a dark cylindrical object slid from between their fingers. Realizing it was a gun barrel, Kid Quarterstaff acted on instinct. He pressed the accelerator to the floor and the RV shot forward, ramming into the figure, preventing them from firing and sending them sailing backward several feet. Kid Quarterstaff slammed on the brakes and the RV slid to a stop.


"What the heck, man?" Will Stoutly asked, annoyed.


"Tell me you saw that, Mills," Kid Quarterstaff said.


"I saw it," Miller's Son replied. "I guess we know the rumors of the Houri possessing cloaking abilities are true."


The Houri assassin Kid Quarterstaff had struck with the RV stepped back into the area illuminated by the headlights and began to fire at the vehicle. Seconds later, more gunfire erupted from the woods to the right, the bullets ricocheting off the reinforced panels and bullet proof windows of the RV.


"Everyone out," Kid Quarterstaff said, killing the engine and opening his door. "Stay on the left side and use the RV for cover."


The Merry Crusaders climbed out of the RV just as the first Houri assassin stepped around to their side of the vehicle. As the assassin fired, Will Stoutly sprinted forward. The bullet bounced off Will Stoutly's body and he acted as a shield for his friends as ran across the snowy ground. Will Stoutly reached the assassin and punched her in the face. He threw three more punches, and the Houri dodged the first two and blocked the third.


The Merry Crusaders did not kill and so Will Stoutly was used to holding back his full super strength. Yet, he quickly realized that the Houri were not ordinary enemies and he would need to put more force into his punches. Blocking the Houri's counterstrikes, Will Stoutly punched her in the gut, doubling her over. Then, using close to the full extent of his strength, he brought his fist down on the back of her head, knocking her unconscious.


The gunfire stopped and the Merry Crusaders heard multiple sets of footsteps crunching through the snow and moving toward their position. Unlike the other three members of the Merry Crusaders, neither Miller's Son nor Kid Quarterstaff had superpowers. Miller's Son compensated for this fact by creating gadgets that aided him in his crime fighting endeavors. Miller's Son pulled three motorized drones out of a large duffel bag and turned on their battery powered floodlights. Then he activated the drones and their spinning turbines lifted the machines into the air. The drones spread out in a wide triangle and floated ten feet over head, their floodlights illuminating the area in front of the cabin.


Peeking around the sides of the RV, the Merry Crusaders could clearly see a group of eleven Houri walking toward them. Each Houri was pale white, nearly translucent. The light seemed to bend around them, rendering them practically invisible. The only feature that stood out were their jet-black pupils that seemed to fill the entirety of their eyes. Each Houri was nearly identical to the others and all were obviously female. None of them was wearing clothes, yet they seemed impervious to the cold.


Five of the Houri split off and began to fire at the cabin as the other six moved toward the Merry Crusader's position behind the RV. As the Houri's bullets tore through the walls and windows of the cabin, Kid Quarterstaff took charge. "Mills, you're on containment. Alain-a-Gale, you handle the shooters. Everyone else on me. The priority is keeping the Houri from reaching the cabin."


The Merry Crusaders split off and leapt into action. Miller's Son pulled out a fourth drone and sent it hovering into the air above. This drone possessed a powerful magnet that pulled the Houri's bullets toward it, rendering their guns useless. Alain-a-Gale's superpower allowed her to generate and control wind. She created a whirlwind around the five Houri with gun barrels extending from their arms. The swirling vortex of wind slammed the Houri together, pinning them within the center of the whirlwind. Miller's Son pulled a launcher out of his bag and fired a canister into the center of the whirlwind. The canister released knock-out gas and soon all five Houri had fallen unconscious. Alain-a-Gale moved closer to the cabin, in case any of the remaining Houri made it past her friends. Miller's Son grabbed several sets of handcuffs and began putting them around the wrists and ankles of the unconscious Houri.


The other three Merry Crusaders ran around the side of the RV and engaged the remaining Houri. The Houri stopped their advance and each took on a defensive stance. The fingers on their left hands lengthened into talons. The index and middle fingers on their right hands split apart from their pinky and ring fingers and long blades extended from within their hands. The Merry Crusaders moved into a triangular formation, with Will Stoutly in front. He burst through the Houri's formation, creating distance between them. Then all three Merry Crusaders picked a target and engaged.


Reyna Greenleaf's superpower allowed her to absorb energy. During the day, her body absorbed and stored energy from the sun. Just like a plant pulling water out of the soil, she could also drain energy from living beings, just by touching them. She could then use the stored energy to heal herself or her teammates. Reyna Greenleaf caught the clawed hand of one of the Houri and held on, slowing draining the assassin's energy. When another Houri flanked her. She leapt back, dodging the Houri's blade, and waited for an opening to place a hand on the assassin and drain her energy.


Kid Quarterstaff was a master of martial arts who he specialized in fighting with pole weapons. He sprinted forward and then slid on his knees through the snow, passing between two of the Houri. As he slid past, he struck one of the Houri in the back of the knee, knocking her off her feet. He then spun around and struck the second Houri in the back of the head. Unfazed by the blow she turned around and slashed at Kid Quarterstaff with her blade.


Suddenly, a gunshot rang out and the Houri in front of Kid Quarterstaff crumpled to the ground. Another shot and one of the Houri Reyna Greenleaf was fighting was knocked back as a rubber bullet slammed into her chest. The Merry Crusaders quickly realized that someone was firing from inside the cabin. Will Stoutly knocked out the two Houri he was facing. Then he and Alain-a-Gale converged on the last two assassins and helped Reyna Greenleaf and Kid Quarterstaff take them out.


With all of the Houri assassins defeated and restrained by handcuffs, the Merry Crusaders cautiously approached the cabin. The cabin door opened, and Colonel Chaplain stepped out. He looked over the heads of the Merry Crusaders, scanning the forest for signs of more Houri, all the while keeping his rifle at the ready. Satisfied that the coast was clear for the moment, he asked in a gruff voice, "Who are you?"


"We're the Merry Crusaders," Will Stoutly said.


When Colonel Chaplain only gave them a blank look, Miller's Son clarified, "Guy of Gizbourne sent us to assist you. So you know we're legit, the call sign is fruit basket."


Colonel Chaplain, satisfied by Miller's Son's response, motioned to the RV with a jerk of his head. "That thing fortified and ready to roll?"


"Yes, sir," Kid Quarterstaff replied.


"Then climb in, and let's move out. There's bound to be more Houri on their way here," Colonel Chaplain said to the Merry Crusaders. Then he turned back toward the cabin and called, "Come on, Ekram. We're moving to a new location."


Ekram, a short man of Arabic descent, quickly exited the cabin and scrambled toward the RV. He looked rattled and had obviously been shaken by the multiple attempts on his life. Alain-a-Gale offered him comfort as they climbed into the back of the RV. Colonel Chaplain took the front seat and Kid Quarterstaff got behind the wheel. Turning the RV around, the group drove back down the dirt road. When they reached the main road, Colonel Chaplain told them to head West.


They drove for twelve hours straight, Kid Quarterstaff, Miller's Son, and Reyna Greenleaf all taking turns behind the wheel. Colonel Chaplain stayed in the front seat, never resting, his eyes switching between the windshield and the side mirrors as he scanned the area around them for enemies. They made it to the St. Augustonne military base without further incident. Ekram was escorted inside to await the hearing where he would give his testimony against the Ayatollah of Guinea. Colonel Chaplain thanked the Merry Crusaders for their help and the Church commended them for their exemplary service to the faith.


After resting for a few days, the Merry Crusaders returned to the road, in search of their next adventure. "I'm proud of you guys. Few can say they faced off against the Houri and survived. Let alone triumphed," Kid Quarterstaff said. "I'd say we're truly on our way to becoming the kind of heroes we all dream of being one day."

January 21, 2021 20:54

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15 comments

18:57 Feb 11, 2021

I really love the Robin Hood vibes :)

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Michael Boquet
20:43 Feb 11, 2021

You're the first commentor to pick up on that. :)

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Jason Parker
00:26 Jan 27, 2021

Terms like the 'United Catholicity' are pure genius. This piece is brilliant through and through. You've perfectly realized the world of this story and it leaps off the page. I would love to see this in Graphic Novel format. There are some really rich ideas, characters, and settings here. : )

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Michael Boquet
01:57 Jan 27, 2021

Thank you. One of these days I want to take one of these prompts and turn in a comic book script as my submission. Just haven't found the right prompt.

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Janey Finch
14:22 Jan 22, 2021

Wow, that was so thrilling. I have no idea how you just thought of this idea because it's truly something different. I feel like a short story doesn't give this idea of the Church kind of controlling America, people with superpowers, enough justice. I could totally read a whole novel on this, and yet, you managed to cap it at a few thousand words. You also managed to not give an information overload, and switched between the present and backstory with ease which kept me on the edge of my seat. You're a great writer! Would you mind checking o...

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Michael Boquet
14:28 Jan 22, 2021

Thanks so much. Yes, I'll gladly check out your story. If you're interested in reading more stories set in this super hero world, there are others on my Reedsy page. All stand alone but build onto the greater world. They're all called IUSTITIA. They can be read in any order, though I'd read Iustitia Novum last. An older version of Kid Quarterstaff appears in Iustitia Discordea. Check em out if you're interested. If not, I appreciate you taking the time to read this one

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Janey Finch
14:41 Jan 22, 2021

Wow! Of course, I'll read them! And thanks so much!

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Beth Connor
01:12 Jan 22, 2021

This was an entertaining piece. I found the sheer amount of characters, organizations and a bit overwhelming, and was forced to slow down to absorb it all. I also felt like there was some secret code I did not get hahaha...I think this would make an interesting graphic novel or comic. I made the mistake of visualizing the RV as the Mystery Machine, and now I can't get that out of my head.

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Michael Boquet
01:51 Jan 22, 2021

Yeah, I see your point. It is a bit complex, character wise. For the RV I was actually visualizing the motor homes from Jurassic Park: Lost World, lol

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Tia Jackson
04:09 Jan 22, 2021

Woah. I honestly loved this. I have no idea how you thought it all up, or managed to tie it all together so well but I honestly really liked this story. I’ve always been a fan of hero and villain stories and this was awesome. I could totally see this as the prequel to a superhero movie or the first one in a great series! Congrats

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Michael Boquet
04:36 Jan 22, 2021

Thanks so much. This is actually the newest installment in a series I've been writing here on Reedsy. Chronologically, this one actually does come first. They're all on my page, all called Iustitia, if you're interested in checking them out. Regardless, thanks for reading this one!

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Tia Jackson
10:40 Jan 22, 2021

I definitely will, thanks for letting me know

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Tia Jackson
10:40 Jan 22, 2021

I definitely will, thanks for letting me know

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Tia Jackson
10:40 Jan 22, 2021

I definitely will, thanks for letting me know

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