Professor Skink nervously licked her eye and called the meeting to order. “You know why you’ve been summoned. I call on each of you to relinquish your talisman. This is the final assembly of the Pallas Group.”
Sheer, the unsettlingly thin alien with mirrored skin and lapsed thirst for conquest, buzzed in dismay. “You called us together to disband us?”
“What is there to disband? Our schemes are undone. Our affairs lie in ruins.”
“We took a few hits, is all,” drawled the cowboy, Lasso Lyle, flicking a match with his thumbnail. The tip broke off without sparking. “Horse throws you, you dust yourself off and get right back in the saddle.”
“Can you not do that accent?” said Sybil, the future-glimpsing sneak thief with the faceless black mask. “I’ve got family in Texas who’d shoot you for that accent.”
“It’s a work in progress, little lady,” replied Lyle, but he trailed off, his native Toronto tones breaking through.
“Unacceptable!” Gigantex, the size-shifting robot from the Venomous Dimensions, expanded its fist to eight times the regular size and used it to bash the pool table between them. Balls bounced and scattered. “Gigantex requires allies to enact its plans. Loss of support resources will cause intolerable delays to Schemes 7, 11 and 23.”
“Look around you, you fools! “Professor Skink grabbed the overhead light dangling by a chain over the table and turned it in random directions. Its sickly beams turned toward aged arcade consoles, a dusty refreshment booth and eight dull, scuffed bowling lanes.
“Does this look like the secret meeting chamber at the 21-Carat Club to you? Or the penthouse of Celestios Tower? Or Dame Grandiose’s personal yacht? No, it looks like my manservant’s cousin’s bowling alley, because this is all we could get. And incidentally, Gigantex, if you have damaged the felt on this table, the cost of replacing it will come out of your cut of the treasury.”
“Unacceptable!” Gigantex bellowed again, but it retreated to its seat by the slushie dispenser.
“Our situation is beyond salvage,” said Professor Skink. “We are the last members of the Pallas Group left standing in Colossus City.”
“Oh really?” said Sybil with heavy skepticism. “What about Centrifuge?”
“Captain Silver trapped him in an antigrav bubble.”
“Wow. The Irregulator, then?”
“That idiot? He fell for a fake lottery sting put together by the cops and Roulette Blue.”
“Who even knows with that one?”
Sybil snorted. “Did any heavy hitters get away? Present company excluded, of course.” Sheer nodded, and the plates of Gigantex’s metal face rearranged themselves into smug acknowledgment.
“None. Nobody’s seen Corona in weeks. She’s probably skulking in the heart of the sun.” Professor Skink repeated, “Surrender the talismans. Until they are returned to me willingly, our pact is vulnerable to those with mystic sight. And with Nightmare Kaja and the Singe Twins in custody…”
“We gotta bust them outta – er, out of there,” suggested Lyle, with a nervous glance at Sybil. “They’d do the same for us.”
Sheer, always difficult to look at, appeared to shake its head. “Every conceivable rescue scenario carries a significant risk of an encounter with Team Infinity. Their success rates for physical victories and criminal prosecutions have been rising ever since-”
“Ever since Doc Ontological took Tock Tock off the table,” finished Sybil with audible bitterness. “He did us no favours, stirring them up like that. The whole hero community’s been like a pack of wild dogs for months now.” She fished a small golden medallion from a pocket on her belt and dropped it into Professor Skink’s outstretched hand. “Take it, Scales. It stopped working for me a while back anyhow.”
Sheer reached into its own stomach as if plunging a hand into a pool of quicksilver. It produced a talisman, which it handed to Professor Skink. “The criminal fraternity is no use to me if it does not afford protection and resources. I rescind my association with the Pallas Group.”
Lyle, with a forlorn expression wrapped around a clumsily hand-rolled cigarette, gave two talismans to Skink. “I got Kevin’s when he dumped me.”
“What? The Stiletto and Dirk mercenary power couple have split up?” cried Sybil. “Is that what this Lone Ranger getup is all about?”
“I’m trialling some new gimmicks,” admitted Lyle, looking down at a carpet heavily stained by mustard spills and soda syrup. “It’s not easy, starting out all over again after a long time with one person.”
“Good for you. That takes a lot of courage.” Sybil offered a hug. After an uncertain pause, Lyle accepted.
Crackling impatiently, Gigantex flung its talisman at the Professor. “Unity magic useless to Gigantex if nobody unites. Gigantex will conquer humans without help!”
The metal emblems flared with chemical light and melted to slag in the Professor’s hand. “It’s done. Our strength and fortunes are our own once more. This is the end of the Pallas Group. Now I suggest we all go our separate-”
Plucking the two heaviest bowling balls from a nearby display rack, Sybil whirled and crushed Gigantex’s head between them. Sparks from its scrapped appendage illuminated expressions of shock that turned instantly furious.
Sybil swung a roundhouse blow that connected with Professor Skink’s ridged brow and sent her sprawling over the shoe-hire bar. She spun on one heel and released both balls like throwing daggers. One hit Sheer square in the face; the ball sank in and bubbles appeared on the surface of Sheer’s head. The other ball punctured Sheer’s torso, in one side and out the other. The alien squawked once and collapsed into a puddle.
“What the-? You’re not Sybil!” Lyle tried to catch her in his lasso but Sybil caught the rope and yanked it from his hands.
Sybil held up a finger to shush him. “Night Shrike to Team Infinity,” she announced. “Three trashbags ready for collection.”
She looked at Lyle. “You wanted a fresh start, Lyle? Be my guest.”
“You’re…letting me go?”
“On one condition,” said Night Shrike. “Lose the chaps.”
I figured it was time to check in on the superhero setting of Colossus City and see what’s up. This story is a sequel to more or less all the other CC stories to date, but especially Tock Tock. All of my superhero flash stories are linked using the Colossus City tag.
This week might have been the closest I’ve come to not finishing a story. I splashed hot cooking oil on my hand while making dinner, and had to spend most of the next hour with my fingers under a cold water tap, trying not to throw up from the pain.
Eventually the sting calmed down enough for me to use a keyboard. I’ll probably have some blistering tomorrow but I definitely avoided the worst of it.
(This is your periodic reminder that it’s a very good idea to have some basic first aid training under your belt. Tonight’s important medical tip – nothing but cool running water and lots of it for scalds and oil burns).