I was halfway back to Paragon City when I excused the steward to give me some time to myself. The moment he disappeared to his area I broke down and began to cry. What was I doing and what was happening? A lifetime of tragedy had built me into a rather stoic woman. I didn’t cry much at all and really didn’t think much about my emotions. I’d been to more funerals and memorials in my childhood than most people do in a lifetime. Death and sickness seemed to follow me and my loved ones. But it had strengthened me. I was unflappable. But I was breaking down.
Thoughts of the years of cancer treatments rushed into my head. The unknown and potential to die as a little girl. Learning of not only of the death of my aunt and uncle, my cousins, my dearest mother and my father; all by the age of 18. I made it through all of that. Went to college and received a PhD by the age of 25. I was majority owner in a major technology conglomerate, taught college, watched the love of my life leave me with no good reason and finally buried my mentor and my grandmother within weeks of each other. All of this with very few tears shed. Sure I did cry a bit; I was a normal person emotionally but things tended to not bother me. I took pride in my strength and was praised by my new friends and surrogate family. But this, this thing that was happening to me was stirring a whirlwind of despair in me I hadn’t felt. It was out of my control. I didn’t know what had happened, what was happening and what would happen to me. I searched for answers and found nothing but a dead end. I knew less than I did before the trip. What to do now? Was it worth doing anything for that matter?
The jet began its approach into Paragon City and I quickly cleaned myself up erasing all signs that I had been crying. Frank was meeting me at the airport and I didn’t want him to see me upset. I just wanted to rest in his arms in bed after a hot bath and sleep for days. I hadn’t felt comfort and love like this in years and it was the balm that I so longed for for so long.
Walking slowly down the stairs toward the tarmac I hadn’t realized how tired I was. I ached everywhere thanks to the Longbow and their interrogation techniques and I was still in the same clothes I came in. It was a breezy night and a small drizzle hit my face and helped me catch my senses. It woke me like a shot of espresso. I looked to the limousine waiting for me and saw Festus coming toward me to get my bags. He smiled and said nothing but a brief hello. He could see I was tired. Or he knew what I was in for. Then I saw the two figures standing by the towncar and realized myself what I was in for. Two outlines in the night but I knew exactly who it was: Frank and Smithie. I was about to get lectured by the two men in my life and I don’t think after my little meltdown in the jet that I could handle that tonight. As I approached the car the lights of the airport showed their faces. Serious. Business-like. Unhappy. Worried.
“Amanda, I hope you don’t mind I came along with Frank?”
Head down in shame I just shook it no. I looked up, “I’m sorry I know you want to lecture me but please not right now I’ve had a bad night and I just want to…….”
A sudden chill in the air hit me harder than the drizzle of rain. I was awakened and hyper aware. Then I heard a voice.
“Stand aside Dr. St. John-Smythe, Detective. We want to talk to her.” I knew the voice but couldn’t see where it was coming from. A wall of earth erupted in front of me, separating me from my ride home and my loved ones. I heard struggling behind that wall and new someone was restraining the three men that came to take me home. As I turned to see where the assault was coming from I saw a fist glowing red with energy just as it hit me in the temple. All went black for a few seconds.
I came to looking up from the tarmac at faces I was familiar with unsure of what just happened. They were friends, they must have saved me, but who attacked me? A ring of friends and acquaintances stared down at me. To my left was Princess Grace, an almost invulnerable martial artist. The armored gadget specialist, Stellar Knight, stood next to her holding onto something metallic. To my right was a very familiar face, the Troll Princess, fierce and serious staring at me. My thoughts became clearer and I felt nervous as my mind started putting things together. As I looked to the person in front of me I realized these people didn’t save me, they attacked me. A walking block of ice stood before me hands still glowing red with energy. The coldness….the stunning energy punch. They came from Frozen Passion, someone I had fought crime with, talked with as a friend. All of them, they all knew me. What? What was going on?
“Praetorian! Stand up!” she ordered to me.
“What? What the hell…..Frozen? What are you talking about?”
“We all gave you the benefit of the doubt after your little ‘power change’ and your ‘memory loss’” she said using those annoying finger quotation marks indicating she didn’t think the words true, “but after finding out you had gone to the Rogue Islands I couldn’t stand around any longer and let one of you infiltrate our circle of heroes."
“Frozen, this is insane. You know me. You all know me.” I looked at each face and saw the dead eyes of people who didn’t believe me. Suzannah Stonehands, the Troll Princess, radioactive controller of earth and stone grabbed my arm and helped me stand.
“You have a lot of explaning to do….”
“Mental Maden, are you ok?” Smithie said in a calm voice. I looked in their direction and saw the wall of earth had gone and they stood on guard but respectful of the powerful people that had attacked us. I shook my head and looked at Frank as he started to slowly put his hand behind his back.
Calmly I said, “Frank, I beg you not to pull your gun. Please, honey.” A blue blur zoomed past me frictionless in air.
“I would suggest the same Detective.” Said the almost robot-like Stellar Knight. “I’m holding a rather nasty explosive device. If my thumb should happen to come off this button, well, lets just say it wouldn’t be pretty.”
They were serious. They did NOT believe I was who I said I was. Who I know I am. This situation just became complicated and the two most beloved people in the world were now in danger. Frank’s hands immediately went up.
“Ok, ok Hero.” He said with a voice dripping with venom and sarcasm. “You do realize you are endangering a decorated hero of Paragon, a PPD Detective and a rather influential member of the city government all for some paranoid theory. She is not who you think she is….”
“We are the only ones acting for the safety of the people of this city and this country, while you blindly fall for her Praetorian lies. I have fought her people Detective, have you?” The question was rhetorical and insulting. He was reminding Frank who really had the power. Many heroes viewed the police as weak and helpless against the real problems that the city faced. He was drawing a clear line. You could feel it.
Troll was still holding onto my arm and I felt it tighten on my arm. I felt her warm breath as she whispered in my ear, “Duck, in three seconds.” One. Two. Three. I ducked and looked up as a yellow electromagnetic pulse radiated out from the Troll Princess. The bodies of my captors and my loved ones dropped to the ground as the lights and machinery around us went black.
“The bomb!” I yelled as the metallic orb rolled away from Stellar Knights now limp body.
“Don’t worry, the EMP will have fried its circuits long enough” she said as she motioned to the object which became encrusted with several feet of rock. “There, completely safe.”
“What is going on Suzanna?”
“I’ll explain later,” she said before letting out a loud whistle.
From the shadows appeared more familiar faces. My closest friends, the ones I’ve needed since this all happened. The empathic Medistar and the powerful alien Tellania walked toward me. The katana wielding Hoard of Souls came out from the shadows of the G-4. Speeding toward me was the smiling face of Winterflux, tears were in her eyes as she hugged me. I felt a gust of wind hit my face as Onceti May landed on the ground with a mist of clouds covering her.
“Quickly restrain them and take them all to the base. They are not going to be happy with us when they come to.” Tellania ordered as an unmarked van approached. “Good work, Spartan Guard. Medistar, revive her people and meet us back at headquarters.”