Mission 01.04

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I confess, I have a thing about fire. A housefire nearly killed me when I was a teenager -- the rental we were in at the time didn't have functional smoke alarms. I woke up in the middle of the night, and sat up into a thick layer of smoke. The flames were right outside my door. I laid back down thinking, okay I'm going to die. Then I heard Tata in the street, yelling for me to jump out the window, so I did and broke both my legs. Went to graduation in a wheelchair and had to put off entering into basic training two months.

Then of course, there was the explosion at Redplains Academy itself. Both fortunately AND unfortunately for me, I took on a Gas mutation instantly. Fortunately because it meant I literally walked out of the fire. Unfortunately because the transformation was probably as painful as BEING on fire.

So when I got Hot Stuff on my roster, my shrink was like uh-oh, are you gonna be okay with this? Sometimes I wonder if the lady is taking everyone else's valium because I had to remind her that I'd been working alongside a pyrokinetic just fine for the past couple of years. Yes, I assured the doc. I can handle it.

And now I'm face to face with a fire intense enough to kill even me and it's taking every bit of self-control to not budge, not even twitch. My voice, though, has a hint of desperation piercing through.

"Hot Stuff, the fire's out of control! PUT IT OUT!!"

I'm yelling at the top of my lungs, but I don't know if she can hear me and even if she did, if she could do as I command. The kid's frozen up -- I catch hazy glimpses of her through the swirl of white hot flame -- and she's just standing there agape and horrified.

"Mindshadow, tell her to put it out!"

She can't... Her limbic system is completely flooded, stifling any messages to her frontal lobe...

While Mindshadow babbles neuroscience at me, the pavement near my feet turns to molten rock. "Jun, shut up -- can you turn her off?"

... I'll try. But you might have better luck.

Great. Just then I turn to see Vandal has rejoined me and is also too stupefied to do a damn thing. I have to grab him by the shoulder and shake him.

"HEY! Clear the area, would you?!"

He looks at me and I can tell he's afraid, but he says "Yeah, sure." The herd of police and bystanders don't need much encouragement, as soon as he begins waving his arms and shouting "Move it, people! Get outta here!" it's like a dam breaks and the people rush away.

With Vandal handling the evacuation (beggars can't be choosers), I can turn my attention to Hot Stuff. I grit my teeth and raise my arm protectively over my face. Hot Stuff's completely obscured now -- I need to get closer to her to talk her down... Or, more likely, knock her out. Ohgodohgodohgod...

Suddenly, the flames are gone. The pavement still glows and, UGH, there's an awful stench in the air, but the fire is gone.

It takes a while for my goggles to adjust to the sudden shift in lighting. First I see the body -- yeah, the perp is definitely dead. And then I see Hot Stuff, looking quite surprised.

"It... went out," her face slowly melts from terrified to victorious, " IT WENT OUT! I did it!"

Thank goodness. "Got it done, Freaky Girl -- nice work."

But Mindshadow doesn't respond.

"Freaky Girl? Jun? Acknowledge?"

At last she answers. Just... calling for a clean-up crew...

I note an edge of fatigue in her mental voice. Hijacking Hot Stuff and reining in her pyrokinesis probably wiped her out. "Thanks. And thanks for the back-up."

No problem. Cleaners are 15 minutes out.

I'm about to ask her again if she is all right when suddenly there's a mass of fire in my face again, accompanied by a rush of wind. But just as quickly as it impacts, the fire dissipates and Rook is there, doubled over. He's breathing so heavy he can't even talk and just gives me a half reporting-for-duty-sir salute.

"What are you doing here, Rook?" I ask, "I thought you were on vacation?"

"You... you don't need help?" he gasps.

Oh man, if they recalled him to give me backup... I'm going to have to have a talk with Winter. Hell, I'm going above her head on this, since she went above mine... I'm going to talk to the Director! But it's not Rook's fault -- and man, the kid hasn't had a day off ever and he's so damn cute and earnest and sweaty right now -- but, let us not forget, Rook can read minds too, so I just stifle that thought...

I cough to clear my throat. "Nope, sorry. Just wrapping up here."

Rook straightens up and smacks his forehead. "TOMMY!!" he yells aloud, and then after a brief pause, "Never mind, I'm returning to base. Yes, cancel it!" He stomps off.

"What's he so angry about?"

"Who cares."

I turn to see Hot Stuff and Vandal behind me. "Good work, kids." I say, somewhat non-commitedly. Vandal shrugs. Hot Stuff bows her head.

"I killed someone."

"Welllll, yes. We lost a suspect," I clap her on the shoulder and she winces, "But it could've been worse!"