Once, not too long ago, Megalopolis had been the most prosperous and beautiful city in the world. Travelers from everywhere had come for the fine art, high tech wonders, gleaming skyscrapers and of course its heroes. The most famous costumed avengers in the world had made Megalopolis and nearby River City their base of operations. That was why it had been nicknamed America’s Super City.
That was why it was chilling to see what it had become.
Fires had run unchecked through the streets leaving the glass and steel towers blackened ruins. Had it been a simple accident of the work of the jackal-things?
Of the jackal things there was no sign but the dead wandered everywhere but they had become bloated with rot and were relatively easy to avoid.
Every day for the last seven days Annabelle Jones had searched through the wreckage and remains trying to fill Plan Omega’s nearly impossible shopping list. Plan Omega was their only hope, their escape route.
Motorcycle parts. Volumes of forbidden lore. Transistors. Leather bodysuits. Gold, as much gold as possible. And most bizarre of all, the integrated circuits for a beryllium atomic clock.
Well, Annabelle had thought that last one would be impossible but here she was with Frogman on the outskirts of the city making her way up the steps to the Freemantle Institute.
The Freemantle Institute was a squat dome-shaped building and it had been the heart of Megalopolis’ scientific community. It had been built from space age metals and was powered by prism-like solar panels that had glittered like jewels. The fires hadn’t spared it and it seemed to Annabelle that some kind of an explosion had ripped a third of the building off its foundations. Annabelle took cover in the building’s ruined doorway.
“You wait here,” Frogman raised a green-gloved hand, “I’ll go in first.”
Before she could protest he drew the frogarang from his utility belt and hopped inside.
Hurrying after him Annabelle wondered if he was being smug or protective. He never took off his green helmet and the faceplate hid his every expression so there was no way for her to tell.
The stink of fire and rot filled her nostrils, by the time they had reached the heart of the building’s main it was strong enough to make her sick to her stomach.
It took a few minutes of shoving for them to shove open the door to the main stairwell. Frogman like to brag that he had the proportional strength of an amphibian but it was of no help to them here.
The stairway itself was pitch black. Annabelle switched her walkie-talkie for her flashlight. “Put it back,” Frogman flicked a switch on his utility belt and a cone of illumination shone from the buckle. It was brighter than a spotlight, it left Annabelle momentarily blinded.
The masked hero leapt down the steps as she tried to blink the dots from her eyes. When she could see again she hurried after him.
The atomic clock was secured behind a vault door. They had brought explosives to blast it apart but the door was already open.
Flickering light shone out through the doorway. Twin bonfires burned in the center of the chamber, thick clouds of smoke crowded against the roof.
Both Annabelle and Frogman recognized the eyes gleaming at them from the shadows and firelight.
Jackal-things. Annabelle drew the second revolver from her belt, At least a dozen of them.
“The Ogodad said you would come,” a voice growled from the darkness.
“Who’s there?” Frogman swept his utility belt’s spotlight across the room resulting in some unfortunate pelvic gestures, “Show yourself!”
A jackal-thing approached them, it was albino-white, “The Ogodad said you would come so we waited and you came.”
“Who are you?”
“I am Serbe,” with a sweep of his white-furred arm he urged the other jackal things forward, “and you have come here to die.”
“That so?” A dangerous smile settled onto Annabelle’s face. She fired. The revolvers crashed like thunder.
Two jackal-things fell, the rest charged forward. Annabelle fired again and again. Each shot was a perfect kill. Frogman leapt at Serbe hitting him three times in rapid succession with the kind of spinning kicks only a master of the art Hop-Fu could accomplish.
The revolvers emptied Annabelle retreated as she reloaded. Her fingers moved with practiced dexterity. One of the jackal-things got close enough to grab at her. She hit it across the snout with a freshly loaded revolver snapping the cylinder back into place. The she fired point blank.
Serbe cried out and suddenly the monsters began to retreat. Annabelle fired again and again catching a last few in the back. “Frogman!” she cried over the din, “Are you OK?”
He leapt to her side, “I’ve got the part Professor Tibbs asked for.”
“Good,” she said as she reloaded again. She couldn’t shake the feeling there was still something glaring at them from the darkness, “What about the leader?”
“He got away,” Frogman said, “we should get out of here too- just in case.”
As they left the Freemantle Institute Frogman turned to look at her, the green metal of his helmet had become dull and scratched over the weeks.
Why won’t he take it off? Annabelle wondered.
“That was good shooting,” he said. “of course back in the old days I wouldn’t have approved of a superhero using guns.”
Annabelle laughed, “I’m not a superhero.”
The military all terrain vehicle they had taken here was waiting for them. The soldier standing guard over it was visibly relieved by their return, he saluted.
“I heard differently,” Frogman commented “Professor Tibbs said you had a superhero name but you wouldn’t tell him what it was.”
She groaned, “Not this again.”