By Lady Bastain
Cleo hesitated, unsure of what to do. She had been separated from her team, her com device seemed busted and she could faintly hear a slow scratching sound in the distance. It was a slow steady shuffle of dead weight, and it just didn’t sound good, not even to the inexperienced ears of a young recruit. Cleo was new to the hero business, her first day on the job in fact, but she had good instincts and sharp claws to help her out. She crept quietly up the hall, cautiously scanning the darkness. The crumbling building she was in was a known hideout for Skulls, and she didn’t want to be surprised by one of them. She noticed a smell, like rotting meat on a hot August day. Then she heard the distinct noise made by insects stirred into a frenzy. Cleo had found her team, but unfortunately they were not alone.
She watched in horror as the deranged figures in white began to argue over whether to cut up the unconscious hero’s that made up Cleo’s team before or after they delivered them to their boss. The heroes
had been knocked out before they could hit their emergency recall buttons, to signal the Hero Recall System into play. They lay on the floor in a scattered heap, and Cleo couldn't count on the fact that the stuns would wear off in time to save them. If those buttons weren’t hit then the heroes were at the mercy of the strange creatures that wanted to use them for spare parts. Cleo hesitated, she was out numbered and this was after all her first day. She reviewed the floor plan of the building in her mind. This particular floor had a circular hall that fed back into a main room, and she hatched a plan. She crept forward on the balls of her feet, ready to run, then yelled out at the creatures that looked like Dr Frankenstein’s version of a family.
"Hey y’all, you missed one!", she cried. Then she took off with shouts of “Fresh Meat!” coming from behind her. She stumbled a little, like a mama bird does when trying to lure a predator from her chicks. Come on she muttered, come on chase me! When she knew the creatures were just behind her she sped up racing around the circular hall of the building, coming up behind her fallen team, she stabbed at the buttons of the young hero’s on the floor, activating two of them. The defender and controller vanished from the hall and then Cleo raced back away. She had heard the monsters coming back, the defender had whispered as she had started to dematerialize the word Vahzzz ,so now Cleo was truly scared. She had heard stories in the quick training courses she had received. Tales from the instructors and some well-experienced heroes taking refresher courses. About the creatures called the Vahz, the reanimated dead that plagued Paragon and she had seen several of the veteran’s scars from their acid like spit. Cleo didn’t want to go back down that hall, but there was 3 teammates left on the floor and she knew they had no hope if the Vahz dragged them back to their insane leader. Hero “parts” were considered prime prizes to the Vahz, and they would show no mercy.
She crept back down the corridor towards her original hiding spot. As she tried to ascertain if the Vahz would be stupid enough to fall for the same trick twice, she felt an intense burning on her shoulder, as if a hundred evil insects were eating away at her flesh. She stifled a scream of pain and whirled in the hall. It was a minion, its repulsive features held together by a weird pattern of stitchery. Cleo leaped towards the monster, trying to block the pain from her mind as she did. Her claws flashed in the air as she unraveled the minion into several pieces, and she hoped the “vombie” gunk would come out from under her claws. The hall was clear again and she decided to to ease her way closer to the doorway of the main room. The Vahz were riled, they shouted back and forth to each other as she spied on them. One of the Reapers was gesturing towards a minion, who was wired up with some sort of pack. Not sure if her plan would work again, Cleo looked around for inspiration. There was a doorway in the hall, it led to a small room and there was another exit. Cleo angled her body so she could glance out of the exit, and she spotted the tank, a brass young hero named Rock Steady, and she remembered joking with him that they would put the Skulls between a Rock and a Claw place when they found them. He didn't deserve to become spare parts, but luckily he was within a few feet of the doorway to the small room, and one of the blasters lay by his side. Rock had probably gone down trying to keep the blaster safe, he had seemed to be dedicated to helping the teammates he had jokingly called "squishes".
Decision made, Cleo eased out of the doorway towards the tanker, eyeing the Vahz that were milling on the far side of the room. If she could just escape notice long enough to hit the tanker and blaster's emergency buttons, that would leave one last teammate to rescue. That was the hero named Jasmine, a shy young defender who had dedicated herself to healing others. She had decided to save Jasmine for last because she been overpowered by the Vahz in a dangerous spot. It was dead center in the room and Cleo knew no clever trick would make that rescue an easy one. Cleo pushed that thought away, not ready to contemplate that fact she might not be able to save that last defender.
She was almost at the tanker when the first Vazh spotted her. Rapidly she punched the tanker’s recall button. He blipped out in a flash of light. Cleo quickly extended her claws, and it gave her just enough reach to hit the blaster's unit. Spinning around she sprang for the doorway and back down the hall. She felt "vombie" spit sear into her back and prayed she wouldn't faint. The Vahz were slow moving but relentless and chased her down the hall. She was almost at the turn in the circular hallway that would lead back into the main room. She decided that she would need to make one last ditch effort to save Jasmine. Staggering from the effects of the acid like spit from the Vahz, Cleo paused at the doorway. Quickly she broke open her emergency kit and took stock. She had 3 green vials in there, she had been urged to use them when needed only, but Cleo figured if there was ever a time it was now. Popping them open she drank them rapidly, the steady dragging sound of the Vahz’s dead limbs coming closer from behind her urging her to hurry. Setting her sights on the defenders limp form she cast a last prayer up to the Goddess, and ran full tilt into the room. The Vahz Reapers spotted her, shooting arrows at her. She felt the sting of the acid like spit of the "vombies" eating away thru her uniform as they also began to surround her. Cleo felt like the 3 feet to get to Jasmine were 300 yards and prayed she would make it. Finally she was there, and reached out to hit the defenders recall unit. Jasmine's body blinked out and Cleo felt 3 more arrows hit her in the back. Oh shit, she thought, and desperately clawed for her own button as she felt the darkness encompass her.
When Cleo awakened she was laying on a hard cot in a bright room. Her teammates were in the room with her, and they were grinning and joking amongst themselves, young hero's still thinking that they were immortal, even after a good whomping by the enemy. Rock Steady looked at Cleo and said, "Hey there girly, hell of a first day huh?" Cleo looked at him for a moment, speechless. Then she started to laugh, knowing just like the rest of her team, that she would be ready again tomorrow, ready to try to save the world, although she really hoped there would be less spit involved.