Excerpt for Airwing 1772 - Fatal Resistance - Part 1 of 3 - Liberty Bell by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Airwing 1772


BOOK 1: Liberty Bell

Written by:

Christopher S. Vickers

Published by Smashwords

Copyright © 2019 by Christopher Vickers

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Airwing 1772 1


BOOK 1: Liberty Bell 1

Written by: 1

Christopher S. Vickers 1

Published by Smashwords 1

Copyright © 2019 by Christopher Vickers 1

Smashwords Edition, License Notes 1

Foreword 4

Prologue 6

Christopher S. Vickers 3

Chapter 01 7

Andrews Air Force Base Hospital, Near Washington D.C. 7

August 4, 2016, 12:01 Hours Eastern Time 7

Andrews Air Force Base, Hangar 65 8

5 August 2016, 0730 hours Eastern Time 8

Southside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 10

1029 hours Eastern Time 10

Hangar 65, Andrews AFB 11

Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia 12

12 April 2016, 03:10 hours Eastern Time 12

Chapter 02 14

5 miles south of Key Largo, Florida 17

18 April 2016, 12:12 hours Eastern time zone 17

Chapter 03 20

Somewhere in Northern Virginia 23

One week later 23

Chapter 04 28

Bradshaw, West Virginia 28

6 hours later 28

Washington, D.C. 32

04 June 2016, 12:12 hours Eastern time 32

Somewhere in the sewers of Washington, D.C. 34

Chapter 05 37

Chapter 06 42

Calgary, Alberta, Canada 42

20 June 2016, 13:12 hours Mountain Time Zone 42

Washington, D.C. 43

Washington, D.C. 48

29 June 2016, 02:20 hours Eastern Time 48

Chapter 07 51

5 miles south of Key Largo, Florida 52

29 June 2016, 17:10 hours Eastern Time 52

48 hours later 54

15 miles northwest of calgary, alberta, canada 56

04:00 hours Mountain Time the next morning 56

Chapter 08 61

Air Force 1772nd Tactical Airwing Named Traitors by President Elect 64

Griswald Withdraws from Position of President Elect 66

Chapter 09 70

Chapter 10 77

Upstate Maine 77

Chapter 11 82

New York City, New York 82

01 December 2016, 19:12 Hours Eastern Time 82

Southside Chicago, Illinois 83

Illinois Meta Human teams indicted for fraud 88

Chapter 12 90

Somewhere in Siberia… 96

Washington D.C. 98

Three days later 98

Chapter 13 99

50 Miles south of “The Twins” 99

To Be Continued 106


Airwing 1772 was somewhat created accidentally shortly after the first time I was playing Champions Online. Of course, in that day, I had more characters, some of which were re-created in the game five years later, and others were either created once again in the book, or they were listed killed in action some time during my hiatus on the game.

I recently began writing the story behind the characters, but only the more recent adventures with the troupe of people that was ultimately generated in the game play, but instead of doing a dead repeat of the Champions lore, I regenerated the characters with a lore all their own. This came when William Lutz designed the cover art for this project. To him I say thanks on more than one level, as he helped spawn a whole new universe.

Of course, I had to also create the way most of them got their powers, which is referred to on occasion in the story as “The Incident.” I also stated why that’s all they refer to it as, in the prologue of the book.

Much of my thanks goes to Cryptic Studios and anyone who took ownership of the game after I began playing the first time, as they have fueled the inspiration behind these books, and to them I am grateful that I was capable of creating these characters. William Lutz and Dragon Phoenix Media also get some credit beyond the creation of the cover, as Mr. Lutz inspired the creation of a completely different lore. Thanks also go to my wife as always, for never allowing me to surrender on my writing, despite my mental afflictions, which have a knack of getting in my way.

I don’t really want to get into that very much, but I have admitted in previous publications that is in my way on at least one occasion. Therefore, I will get into the characters themselves.

Created on the game Champions Online, they began to patrol a city which was built over “the ruins of Detroit.” However, when Mr. Lutz began the cover, he felt that it was more appropriate to set the cover around Washington, D.C. This was based on that the characters were primarily military. Rolling with it, I set the entire story in that area.

I can’t thank the people supporting this project enough, including my fellow players and the creators of Champions Online. They are like gas on an open flame with the support of this work, and thanks ever so much to you guys!


In 1985, Colonel James Christopher Weston took command of a band of 20 tactically-trained officers. Together, they were the 1772nd US Air Force Tactical Wing. However, by 1997, with the acquisition of Second Lieutenant Lacey “Icewave” Wilson, the wing had increased in size to nearly 100. With this acquisition was the wedding between him and Michele Weston in 1990, and the birth of their children within 5 years after.

Within the next 15 years, they would handle many campaigns in the Middle East under classified circumstances. At that point, they were assigned to a classified base 10 miles south of the Canadian Border. The mission was deemed a failure, but it accidentally produced a minimum of 10,000 people that had begun to manifest super-human powers.

The next mission took them to Philadelphia, where their second nemesis, Dr. Timothy McBane, had been oppressing the state of Pennsylvania from a cavern beneath his laboratory campus. This lab was nothing more than a front for producing cloned soldiers called the Delta League, headed up by McBane himself, donning an armored costume that turned him into Delta Man. The mission was not yet completed, but the result was that the wing was, for the most part, forced to retreat to a base that a general named Falcon had built for them inside the moon…

Chapter 01

Andrews Air Force Base Hospital, Near Washington D.C.

August 4, 2016, 12:01 Hours Eastern Time

Jim woke up to see that the Hammer Fort was still crashed in the Potomac. General Williams walked into the room, and the nurse, a young second lieutenant, saluted him and left. Williams noticed that Jim was now sporting a goatee and said, “Retirement seems to suit you, Jim.”

Chuckling, Jim replied, “Soon as I’m out of here, I’m cutting it off.”

“Oh, like hell you are,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t consider that any less than desecrating the memory of the old nurse that died before you woke up; she insisted that you keep it, Jim. As a Command General, I’m making it an order, Lieutenant General.”

“Yes, sir,” Jim said. He sat himself up and said, “Any updates on Shelly?”

“Negative, General,” Williams said. “We haven’t found her yet.”

“Shit,” Jim said.

“Look, I know your feelings for her are strong; they always were, according to Falcon. But right now, we have no clue where she is, let alone if she’s living or deceased. However, I’m in a position to, should she be dead, issue a Federal warrant for the arrest of McBane. I know it was either him or one of his men that fired the dart right after she cut Thunder Hammer’s head off. From what we can gather, the head landed somewhere in Iraq, and the body’s at the bottom of the Atlantic.”

“Good,” Jim said. “At least she went down taking Hammer with her, if she is indeed dead.”

* * * * *

Captain Healey had been walking around the Capitol for some time now, and just as he had polished off a hot dog, he noticed that someone was weaving through traffic lanes on the road. He tossed the wrapper for the dog in a nearby trash can and said, “Christ on a crutch; doesn’t this joker know how to drive?” He then saw the car hit the sidewalk, headed toward him and said, “Shit!”

His skin turned into the silver substance that it seemed to be fused with years ago, and ran toward the car, grabbing it by the bumper.

“Let go, you Meta Human freak!”

“Piss off, you racist piece of shit,” Healey said. “I can rip this bumper off and shove it up your ass, and could do that before the accident that made me this. You want a demonstration, or will you get your ass out of the car?”

The man got out of the car, and revealed that he was wearing Delta League armor.

Shaking his head, Healey said, “I think I’m going to need a can opener.”

“You’re going to need more than that, Captain,” the armored man said. “I’ve got a special trick for you.”

The man was ripped in half before he could load the “trick,” and as the body collapsed, a local Meta Human appeared and said, “I’ll just bet on that.”

“The name’s Captain John Healey, USAF. My call sign is Tank.”

“Obvious reasons, I’ll wager.”

Nodding, John said, “And you are?”

“My name’s Jacqueline Vincent.”

“You’d better get the hell out of here,” Healey said. “There might be more of them. That one was targeting me.”

“They’ve been popping up all over the place,” Jackie said. “They’ve been hunting and killing Meta Humans everywhere from at least as far south as here to as far north as Pennsylvania. God only knows why they’re killing us off.”

“Because the son of a bitch running them doesn’t want anyone who can fight back. Perhaps since we’re in DC, we can push for a Federal warrant on that asshole, and get him brought in for justice.”

“We’ve already got that,” Jim said, landing in front of the two. “The warrant was issued maybe 72 hours ago. McBane must be stepping up his game to eliminate Metas.”

“You know it, General,” Healey said.

“Let’s get back to Andrews,” Jim said. “We have some planning to do, John. A car will be by for you.”

“Yes, sir,” Healey said.

“I’d carry you myself, but you’re a heavy bastard.”

With that, Jim flew away, and Jackie said, “Who in the hell was that?”

“My commanding officer, General Weston. His call sign is Psycheout.”

“A psychic,” Jackie said. “Captain, I want in.”

“Pretty exclusive group; we only take new inductees if they’re recently retired from the military or if they’re just turning 18.”

“I’m 19,” Jackie said. “That close enough?”

“I’ll talk to the Generals, but I don’t know,” Healey said.

* * * * *

Andrews Air Force Base, Hangar 65

5 August 2016, 0730 hours Eastern Time

Inside the hangar, chairs were lined up, but Thunder Eagle and Scarlet Raven, because they had wings on their backs, elected to stand for the briefing. Several Airmen were walking around the hangar with coffee carts, delivering cups of the liquid to the personnel gathered here. Eagle and Raven both declined a cup, but did accept cups of water. Neither one ever drank coffee in their lives, and William “Thunder Eagle” Brady, who stood a towering six-five, was still three inches shorter than Rick, if the wings were discounted. Scarlet Raven, however, without the wings, was a good fifteen inches shorter than her cousin.

Jim took the lectern and said, “Good morning everyone.

“Yesterday as I was released from the hospital, Captain Healey fell under attack by a Delta League Clone. If not for the young girl that telekinetically ripped the armored man in half, he would have been dead. This is an indication that our run here doesn’t afford us much of a leave. If anything, the alert status is heightened more than ever.

“Starting today, no one travels alone; we travel in pairs or packs of eight. This will serve as an insurance policy to gain a foot-hold on the ones we are after, and avoid much of a conflict with local criminals. Our focus is on Pennsylvania, and the liberation thereof, as well as the three states to the south of that state that are threatened with McBane’s control during his absence to wherever he is.”

A map of the region Jim was talking about appeared on the screen, and he said, “From what intelligence we’ve been able to gather, the best routes to enter are in New Jersey and New York, which is going to require an aquatic venture, and we obtain vehicles at the landing point. We can’t use the roads because of the armored inspection booths across the Interstate highways in and out of the state, run by the League itself. Running these Interstate blockades is almost impossible without causing residual collateral damage, so we have to use alternate methods.”

“This is going to be one hell of a fight,” Rick muttered. He then spoke up and said, “Can we not contact anyone in the Detroit Shield Operation’s ranks? Perhaps even AEGIS?”

“Negative, as far as we know,” Jim said. “We have to rely on whatever groups exist in the areas we’re attacking. From the latest reports of Philadelphia itself, which is our target, the place is already a war zone from the Meta Human groups that are rising up against the League. Most of them are untrained, and may or may not give a damn about collateral damage at this point. McBane and his troops have already caused enough of that there.”

“You’ve got that right,” Ulysses said. “There’s rumor that he’s in DC, gunning for me personally, since Bliz managed to reverse his aging poison against me.”

“There is one after you,” Michele Weston said from the hangar main hatch. “It’s not Delta Man himself, but the highest-ranking clone of him. He’s been gunning for you, staging crimes all over the DC area. Fortunately, the Capitols have been fighting him while we assemble and figure out how to strike at him.”

“Myriahd!” Brady said, kneeling to her. “We were beginning to think you were dead!”

“Shortly after taking Hammer’s head,” Michele said, “I noticed that McBane was going out of the country. I tracked him through China, Japan, and several Middle East countries. Finally, once he was stopped in his tracks by a country that no longer dealt in cash, I alerted the nearest Meta Human grouping; in this case, the Pharaohs.”

“Egypt,” Jim deduced.

Nodding, Michele said, “Cairo, to be exact.”

“Then he’s pretty much a dead duck,” Rick said. “Myriahd, you did a hell of a job with punking him.”

“He punked himself,” Michele said.

“The Circle has just called us,” Jim said. “Ghost is leading Operation Liberty Bell. Damn; that’s my little girl.”

“Not so little anymore, Jim,” Michele said.

“Not if she’s leading a rebellion against a megalomaniac,” Jim said proudly.

“Especially against one that has a Federal warrant for his arrest,” the command general of the base said. “This was issued 24 hours ago, General Weston. McBane now has a warrant issued for his arrest on a Federal level, making him wanted by the FBI and every other Federal agency in the book.”

“Right now,” Jim said, “our mission is to keep the Delta League from infiltrating the Capitol at all. They’ve already got a hit out on us, so you can expect other Meta Humans to join the charge, including the Capitols themselves. Let’s not travel in groups of less than three. This hit on Healey was just the beginning of the strikes against the Airwing. They won’t hit us on the Base, because of the military force present.”

“Yeah,” Ulysses said, “but God only knows we can’t hide here.”

“No,” the commanding general said, “you can’t, but you are welcome to stay here as needed. I don’t give a damn about the reputation that Metas have developed in recent days. Neither does the remainder of Base Personnel. Just don’t bring your bad baggage here.”

“We’re trying not to sir,” Jim said. “That’s why we schedule our outings from the base; that way, the battle isn’t waged here, and could end up being waged in the air.”

“With the Federal Warrant for his arrest out, TSA is going to be busy watching out for him,” the commanding general said. “We have to also be able to see right through any disguises he might use. As for your daughter leading a rebellion, however, that’s just last reports. We can’t get any information on that right now.”

“I know, because she hasn’t disabled their com system indefinitely yet; she can only do so in bursts,” Jim said. “When she does, she calls me directly and delivers her report over email.”

“Tell her to report to me directly while you’re in DC,” the general said. “You may be her father, but reports have to come to me. You can send my number if you like so that the reporting can be official.”

“She’s a civilian, for God’s sake,” Jim said.

“Not anymore,” the general said. “I’m granting her the rank of captain because of her rebellion against McBane and his troops. Further promotions will be awarded by me personally.”

“She’s going to hate holding rank,” Jim said. “She’s been accustomed to that her whole life.”

“Those are my orders, Lieutenant General,” the general said.

As the general left the hangar, Jim said, “Oh, shit.”

* * * * *

Southside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1029 hours Eastern Time

Adrienne “Ghost” Weston was beginning to run out of juice to keep the campaign going, but that was a common sight in Pennsylvania. With McBane ruling Pennsylvania and the two Virginia states, it was going to be difficult at best to get anything to her troops, and she needed food and medical supplies for the Metas in the battle…badly.

Suddenly, she noticed her phone was vibrating. She pulled it from her utility belt, and read the message; it was from Psycheout, her father.


By order of General Hopkins at Andrews AFB, you are awarded rank of captain due to your fight in Philly. You are to report to him at (202) 555-1082. If there’s anything you need to have sent to you, then you have a mission ahead to disable all anti-aircraft and roadway blockades at the Maryland/Delaware border. Following that, the Air Force will work to keep those lines open for supply drops.

Lt. Gen. J.C. Weston, CO, Airwing 1772

“Son of a bitch,” Adrienne said. “In addition to having no food, we have no access to any weapons. We need to blow up all blockades to enable our deliveries. Due to the city’s location, it’s perfect for military forces sneaking in from DC.”

“Then we need a plan of action,” Juice said from beside her. “There’s a warehouse close to that borderline that’s been abandoned since McBane had the gangs executed. He was using them until he began to clone the League.”

“One thing he did right,” Adrienne said, “overshadowed by a mountain of dead wrong. You think we can infiltrate without being noticed?”

“It’s never locked, but you do have to get past guards there.”

“Stealth Metas,” Adrienne said.

“You can phase through an unguarded wall, and I can get in through electrical conduits.”

“Getting in would be easy; getting out with anything, not so much.”

“Point. We’d have to invade both ways. Those that can attack the guards can be a distraction while we steal the weapons to take out the blockade at the Delaware border.”

* * * * *

Hangar 65, Andrews AFB

A lone naval man, Commander Donald “Buzz” Thompson, stood up from his seat. He had to speak up about the Naval bases in Virginia. “Sir,” he said, “with Virginia being taken, we’ve also lost Norfolk. We’d have to take that base back in order to keep McBane out of the country for good, or we’ve got a major port he can arrive in.”

“Shit,” Jim said. “We can’t have the port in McBane’s hands, General.”

“Indeed not,” Hopkins said. “We need all of the military bases in the state, but Norfolk’s a good place to begin. You up for it, Commander?”

“Yes, sir,” Buzz said.

“Then assemble your team, Commander Thompson,” Hopkins replied.

Jim was perturbed by Hopkins’ efforts to defuse his command of the wing, but understood that he was one star above him in rank, and therefore had more authority to give the order. He intentionally left out Arctic Hurricane and Blizzard, but there was a huge technical reason for that: one of his nastiest moves caused more collateral damage than he wanted to mess around with.

* * * * *

Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia

12 April 2016, 03:10 hours Eastern Time

Buzz, Thunder Eagle, and four others walked away from the docking platform, all of them prepping for an attack. Buzz noticed that the dock area guards were little more than robotic personnel guards, and thought, Seriously, McBane? Your assholes are trained to position robots to guard the dock, knowing how I’m rigged up?

Before he could even prepare to call for his cross-circuit overload strike, Thunder Eagle called up a storm squall, which caused lightning to strike everywhere. He then threw up an electrified deflector shield around the party. One by one, the robots fell into piles of junk, never figuring out that the storm that hit was a blatant attack.

“Knowing McBane’s tactics,” Buzz said, “once the robots are down for the count, the commanding clones will come out. We have until then to find the naval personnel running this base and liberate them.”

“The stockade,” Xerox said. “I’ve got it covered.”

“If they’re anything like the ones in Philly,” Brady said, “they’re morons. They’ll fall pretty easily.”

A robot tried to question Buzz’s orders to send only one person into the brig to liberate the people, but he had already hit him with the cross-circuit overload move, which turned him into a pile of scrap metal. Buzz then said, “Never question my logic, Bucket Head.”

“What’s the nearest Naval yard to here?” Brady asked. “I noticed a lack of Navy ships in this location.”

“McBane took this as a central harbor,” Buzz said. “There are a bunch more to the north, but this was the only naval harbor he could have taken. Next nearest yard command is Charleston, South Carolina. He takes that one, and one of the bases near DC would have to be converted, and it would be a bitch to get to.” He checked his watch and said, “We have until 1500 hours to take this base in time to receive the platoons of SEAL and Marine troops arriving on this base at that point. All Delta League presence must be removed.”

“With just six of us, it’s going to be difficult at best,” Brady said.

“One hundred five,” Buzz said, “counting Xerox’s ability to duplicate himself.”

The five remaining men continued to walk, taking out what the storm squall was missing as they went along toward the command building of the base.

* * * * *

Philadelphia Police SWAT Captain Thomas Ryder had been investigating the base’s command building for nearly an hour. He was in full hijacked armor from the Delta League, so be managed to make it in from the Delta League personnel that were sent in from Philadelphia. He was invading the League invasion to secure supplies for the battle going on at home, as this was the only harbor that McBane had taken other than the one just a few miles north, which was shut down.

“Son of a bitch,” Ryder said, walking past dead bodies strewn everywhere. “How long has he had this base?”

Keeping his attention on his scanners as well, he noticed that the others were two floors below. He’d have to fly out the window just to escape, but as he got to the admiral’s office, he noticed exactly what he suspected: the admiral in command of the base was dead, killed execution style and left at his desk.

Tom accessed the com frequency for the Airwing and said, “Is anybody here on this channel?”

Magnum Force?” Brady said over the com. “What the hell brings you here?”

“It was an attempt to gain supplies that apparently went south,” Tom said. “Someone had no knowledge that there were at least a couple more navy bases that could deliver the supplies in the DC area, so they sent me here.”

I see. What’ve you got?”

“The only life signs in this building are the damned clones, Eagle. On top of that, it’s a mess in here; the admiral’s dead by execution style gunshot wound.”

Keep us informed about that, and anything else that comes up, Magnum. Brady out.”

Tom continued to investigate, and a female voice said, “Next time you report a death, Magnum Force, make certain the person is truly dead.”

The admiral’s alive, Tom thought. Swapped places with a Meta Human.

“First dead guard I spot,” Tom said, “you get to strip the body of his piece and any ammo, Admiral.”

“Wrong again,” she said. “Yeoman Second Class Dana Tyson, sir. I switched with him because I could shapeshift. I was caught doing it when I tried to go for some R&R about 8 months ago.”

“Well, Yeoman,” Tom said, “you know how to work the piece?”

“An M-16? Yes sir.”

“Good; set for semi-auto to save on ammunition. I can reload anytime, but you won’t be able to. Further, make certain you aim right. Most of the vitals are heavily armored on these clowns, so I hope they had armor-piercing ammo.”

“Unfortunately no, sir,” Tyson said. “Standard-issue ammo; they didn’t see this attack coming.”

Then again, he thought, who the hell would?

Chapter 02

Fortunately for them, Tom had managed to engage the Delta League clones and wipe them all out before getting to Darla. They headed out of the office, and Tom’s scanners picked up a new target. He got a quick scan of the target and said, “Bio-plastic armor, limited weapons, we have a Normal trying to be a Meta in the building. Identification not known.”

“What do we do?” Darla asked.

“Nothing right now. I’ll send word to Thunder Eagle, and see what he wants to do about this guy; he’s not Airwing, and definitely not Circle. However, it seems like he only managed to get himself lost. He’s looking for something else.”

“Xerox noticed his car parked at the gate,” Brady said over the com. “The tires were affected by the tire trap, so he left it behind. Once he’s done with the brig, he’ll check things out in that regard.”

“Recommend against pursuit, Colonel,” Tom said. “He doesn’t seem interested in the base.”

“Unfortunately, I’m inclined to agree,” Brady said, “and we don’t have the kind of time to deal with him; McBane’s got control of this state, and West Virginia. Once we reach the Pennsylvania border with this run, we’re home free.”

“This battle’s already taken its toll on Pennsylvania,” Tom said. “Most of the cities are an unqualified war zone. The only reason for not going to the base further north is because that could actually be in the clutches of General Hopkins over at Andrews, but he’s corrupted enough by the clones of McBane to be suspected of being in cahoots with him.”

“I kind of thought so,” Brady said flatly. “I didn’t have a bad experience with him, but had a sneaking suspicion about that.”

“Something is up with this guy,” Xerox said. “Once he left the car, it just vanished into some sort of teleport.”

“That just means he’s got access to some technology, like we do,” Brady said. “Right now the standing order is leave him alone. He has no interest in our fight, and could probably vanish himself and reappear somewhere else.”

“What is the status on the brig?” Thompson asked. “We need that area free of prisoners.”

“Already done,” Xerox said. “The admiral is on his way to you, but he’s wearing the uniform of a yeoman.”

“My true rank,” Darla told Tom.

“The admiral switched places with a yeoman that is Meta Human. Known powers are regeneration and metamorphosis.”

“A regenerative metamorph,” Brady said. “Someone like that exists in the Wing. Her name is Shadowstrike.”

“Another one couldn’t hurt,” Tom said. “After all, I’m officially part of the Circle, but I do help you people out when I can. I’m here on a supply run that has obviously gone south.”

“Should’ve gone to Charleston,” Thompson said.

“And miss out on seeing you people again?” Tom said. “Not on your life!”

As the brig was completed, the people that were supposed to be released had grabbed weapons and began to attempt helping the ones that came to save them. The admiral, dressed as a yeoman in his working blues, as the time hadn’t come yet for the whites, walked with a detail of Marines guarding his flank. He approached the troupe that was fighting to liberate the base, and saluted Brady, saying, “Colonel, as long as I’m in this uniform, I’m constrained to acknowledge your command. I’m actually Vice Admiral Reginald Devereaux, commander of the base.”

“Colonel William Brady, call sign Thunder Eagle, commander of this detail of US Air Force Tactical Airwing 1772. Right now, we’re holding berth at Andrews.”

“Then we don’t have a moment to waste,” Thompson said.

“Unfortunately, all communications outside the base are cut off. We can’t signal out, and as a result we’re fortunate to be able to signal each other,” Brady said. “It’s got to be something in their armor that’s transmitting a blockade signal.”

“It’s got the Navy dodging every goddamn base from Charleston to New Jersey,” Devereaux said. “You’d have to liberate this state just to get any fucking supplies out of this harbor right now, and even then Charleston is the better bet.”

“Someone did come here,” Brady said. “Philadelphia PD Captain Tom Ryder has been here for some time, but even when he arrived it was too late. Fortunately, he was in armor that he had hijacked from the Delta League so he was capable of blending in.”

“So he could retaliate immediately should the League strike at him,” Devereaux said. “I’m not certain if that was brilliant or opening himself up for an attack from us.”

Before another word could be said, another group of Delta League clones appeared from a wash of energy, and the leader said, “Donald Thompson, William Brady: you are identified as Airwing 1772, and declared an Enemy of the State. You are to be immediately terminated.”

“I don’t know why they keep showing up,” Ryder said, bringing Tyson with him. “I don’t even know what State declares you an enemy.”

“The State of McBane,” Thompson said. “To these replicated shit piles, that’s more than enough.”

“All of you people will surrender immediately for your justice,” the lead clone said.

“Yeah?” Thompson said, holding his fists together. “Surrender this!”

A bolt of intense electrical energy shot from between them and began to leap-frog from one soldier to another, stunning all of them. He then said, “I know this may come as a shock, but the Airwing’s officially declared war on McBane Industries, as has the state of Pennsylvania.”

“Shit!” Devereaux said. “How many people are in the Wing?”

“There are 258,” Thompson said. “I joined when my plane was gunned down over Pittsburgh. McBane had apparently been building AA cannons all over the state for the past 20 years.”

“Asshole,” Devereaux said. “If Hopkins is in league with him, all of America could be screwed. I have some evidence of what I’ve made allegations of. It should be on my computer.”

“I’ve checked the hard drive,” Ryder said. “It’s wiped clean; either you’ve been a little busier than I thought, or the clones got to it.”

Tyson produced a flash drive and said, “No sir; I have it.”

Ryder shot Tyson a look and said, “You must’ve had time to not only copy the information, but wipe it out before they got here.”

“When I was using my metamorphosis for getting R&R, I noticed some strange things happening while in Norfolk,” Tyson said. “I reported this to the admiral, but he wanted to keep us from using AP rounds as much as possible.”

“Then again,” Ryder said, “seeing it coming is one thing; being capable of doing something about it is something else. Philly PD couldn’t do a damned thing about it, even though they had the firepower. You took out the gang members that were blocking the precincts from going out, he’d replace them with those cloned Nazi mother fuckers.”

“The gangs were there just to pin the cops down,” Tyson said. “Once that was done, he was free to take over the policing of the city, because his clones began taking the corners.”

“Right,” Ryder said factually. “The only one that could get out was me, since after the accident, McBane put my legs back together. Trouble was he only did that so I would take over commanding his clone army. Once I learned of that, I began to regain my strength and hijacked every weapon I could to blast my way out.”

“Wish you could have blown it up while in those caves,” Brady said.

“Like your commanders,” Ryder said, “I realized that would only serve to destroy half the city. I couldn’t risk that. As a sworn officer of the law, my duty was to save as much of the city as possible, so that was not an option.”

“Sometimes in saving the city,” Devereaux said, “you must sacrifice some. However, with that much at stake, I can’t say I blame you for actually saying no to blowing up the caverns. I wouldn’t have either, even if it were in Syria.”

“Half the Middle East is a demilitarized zone,” Ryder said. “That much I picked up on the news before McBane blacked out communications. Internet, all television transmission sources, and all cell phone service is totally shut down up there. We’ve got someone to lead the charge against the Delta League while Nova Starr is gone, and she’s in need of supplies; not just for Meta Humans but for the Normals as well.”

“Philadelphia is huge,” Devereaux said. “Have you tried bases further south?”

“I was going to,” Ryder said, “but circumstances have changed. I’m joining the Airwing in fighting to save the region of McBane’s rule. I’ll head south for the supplies as soon as we’re done.”

“That’s going to be rough,” Devereaux said. “You don’t know how badly Metas have it outside of your areas; Normals have them scared to show themselves because Normals have been known to murder Metas.”

“Believe me,” Thompson said, “we’ve had some samples of that since the incident that transformed most of the Wing.”

“Just exhibiting a power could be worse than running around naked in public,” Tyson said.

“Yeah,” Ryder said. “People can be asinine, but they can also show deep compassion for a cause. I’d rather have the latter, but end up with the former too many times.”

“Some people get so asinine that the military is required,” Devereaux said. “I just wonder why they drum the Metas out of the service, especially since we sometimes accidentally create them, like with Thompson and his bunch.”

“Most Metas take up the mantle of fighting for justice,” Ryder said, “but they suffer the greatest injustice of all: racism.”

“Just get those states liberated,” Devereaux said. “We can discuss the politics of being a Meta at a later time. We need all 50 states free in order to function as a nation.”

“You’ve got that right,” Brady said.

“Tyson, I’m sorry to do this,” Devereaux said, “but US Armed Forces regulations mandate your immediate retirement since you’re Meta Human. You’ll be better off with the Wing, as they can help you more.”

Lowering her head, she said, “Aye-aye, sir.”

Thompson tried to raise her head up and said, “Relax, kiddo; you’re among friends that will help you now.”

“Since the fact I’m Meta is out of the proverbial closet,” Tyson said, “I should reveal the entire truth. I’m old enough to remember when Moses was pulled from the Nile. My first known identity was Nephresairess.”

“Holy shit! You’ll make Shadowstrike look like an infant,” Brady said. “I remember her saying she’s about 500 years old. Moses was nearly three and a half millennia ago.”

“Never heard of that one,” Devereaux said.

“She’s been doing classified work since the 1990s,” Brady said, “so I’m not that surprised. She was never in Philly; didn’t meet her until Andrews. She lived in DC, so she was one of the first people to know that Psycheout was in the base hospital in a coma. She refused to take on any missions during that time.”

“Get going,” Devereaux said.

* * * * *

5 miles south of Key Largo, Florida

Flying stronghold of Victor “Hammer Hawk” Kromwell, currently docked

18 April 2016, 12:12 hours Eastern time zone

ShadowStrike, also known as Haley Jasmine, had been masquerading as the executive officer to Kromwell for nearly six months, and was eager to end this mission. Unfortunately, Arctic Hurricane had sent her in, and only Psycheout could give the orders to do otherwise. Intelligence on Kromwell’s movements was required, and she was the best point man for the job. Knowing this, but not that he was now awakened from his coma, there was no way to abort the mission and head for home.

Unfortunately, Jim did know about the mission, but hadn’t authorized her to abort mission just yet. He had a use for her, it was just not being activated at the moment. She would have to wait and see, consistently feeding Ulysses the intelligence he needed to begin an attack. Unfortunately, after six months, she wasn’t certain if she could hold on to the cover.

Fortunately, she was capable of accessing the cabin of the person she killed to get in, as it was the executive officer. Therefore, she was capable of hiding the fact that not only was she a metamorph, but her original form was a woman to boot. If that fact had been revealed, she would not have survived the resulting attack.

Unfortunately, she was losing patience with the orders to destroy the fortress, because of the talk that was going on aboard the craft. She was taught to simply take the talk, as it was simply wasted air, and only act on it if they did. However, some of it had her teased to begin the operation to destroy the craft right there, despite that there were Air Force personnel watching the whole time.

This is getting ludicrous, she thought as she went about Andreivich’s duties. Why shouldn’t I just blow this overgrown crate to pieces already?

* * * * *

Jim had been reading the regular reports of what she was up to, but didn’t have any inclination to recall her just yet. He had more pressing matters on his mind, like being out of psychic range of his daughter, who was apparently taking leadership of the attacks in Pennsylvania with any Meta Human team that just happened to be there, with all of the anti-air strike weapons planted all over the state. Her first task was to attack them, but until she had them all wiped out, she was using whatever ground vehicles weren’t wrecked in the Delta League strike in Philly. Ulysses walked up toward him and said, “Just how much longer in this hangar, Jim? With 250 people in this cooler, I’m getting a bit claustrophobic.”

Nodding, Jim said, “Yeah, everybody is. Unfortunately, Hopkins has been identified by Admiral Devereaux as the one that sold Virginia out. We can’t trust him any further than Tank would be capable of punching him.”

“That would be quite the stretch,” Ulysses said. “Lacey has cracked into the base ledger. It was severely encrypted, but they hadn’t made a code yet she’s incapable of breaking. She discovered several payments from McBane Industries over the past 20 years or so.”

“Kick-backs,” Jim said. “We have to get out of here before he discovers the hack job.”

“The executive officer of the base has been attempting to gain a foothold on the situation, but in the meantime, I’d say about 90 percent of the AA equipment in the state of Pennsylvania is supplied by the Army, from a base near the state. I have a feeling that Hopkins is supplying the funding to deliver those weapons to McBane so his strategists can deploy them.”

“Yeah, just to ground the Metas who can fly,” Ulysses said. “Fortunately, Adrienne knows how to handle them from growing up around you.”

“Probably,” Jim said. “We did handle the ones around Philly before we left.”

“Only to have that son of a bitch replace them not long after we migrated here,” Jack said. “Fortunately, we may not have to deal with McBane himself again. Latest news is that a Meta team in Cairo busted him for attempting to set up shop there.”

Nodding, Ulysses said, “They know of his illegal practices, thank God.”

Before anyone could say anything else, Hopkins’ voice said over a megaphone, “Airwing one-seven-seven-two, you have been declared under arrest by the United States Air Force. You are to step outside and surrender yourselves immediately.”

“That son of a bitch!” Jack said. “We need a way to fly the hell out of here.”

“First off, we can’t without a plane,” Jim said. “Second, Tank can’t fly; third, the hangar could be surrounded.”

“Shit,” Tammy Witherspoon said. “We’re going to need a diversion, and fast.”

You couldn’t be more right, Jim thought as he stood by the door, with only a lance and a sword as his capabilities.

Chapter 03

Stephen Witherspoon, the son of Tammy, asked the cab driver to drop him off some five miles from the base. The cab driver accepted the extra money, thinking that Stephen was planning to walk the entire five miles. As he pulled off, Stephen attempted to duck into an alley, Unfortunately, there were two things that weren’t exactly in his favor. The first of which was he couldn’t do his changeover because there wasn’t an alley for several blocks. The second was that the Scarlets, a massive gang in DC led by Diego Perez, had been overrunning the city’s alleyways and sewers for some time.

He looked around and said, “Aw, shit. Can’t seem to catch a break here.”

“What the hell have we here, a gringo?” someone asked as a gang of people in scarlet approached him. “Looks like a high school kid.”

“Apparently,” Stephen said, “I’ve got more brains than you’ll ever have.”

“Don’t be such an asshole,” the leader said. “You’re going to hand over what money you have left, because we’ve determined you have no further need for it, you little punk!”

“Who in the hell are you,” Stephen said, “to make that decision?” Blue flames formed a pillar around him, and he turned into what he was: the Meta Human who was known throughout Bozeman, Montana as Singe. “If you fuckers really want to tango, you’re messing with the wrong student!”

As they approached him a little more closely, the leader said, “Where is that little pussy? We need the money!”

“Stop running with a gang and get a fucking job, then,” Singe said. “Otherwise, you idiots are going to be stuck in back alleys forever.” He pointed at the ground, and black lenses formed over his eyes as he delivered a blinding flash-bang. As the men were stunned by the flash, he had taken off on wings of blue flame, saying, “You lose this time, assholes!”

Stephen approached the base by air, which seemed to be the best way to get there, because his mother had told him they were bunked in a hangar. As he approached, however, he noticed a general with a megaphone, and five MP men standing beside him. He then said, “Time to see what’s up with this bullshit.” As he got closer, he shot a series of miniature fireballs to form a line in front of the six men. As the flames shot into the air, he had landed. He then said, “What’s the big idea?”

“What the hell are you trying to do,” Hopkins said, “burn the base down?”

“Don’t get me started,” Stephen said. “You’re proceeding on a false arrest, you moron. I’m not the one to stand down, you are.”

“I do have a warrant, issued by the Air Force.”

“That isn’t worth wiping your ass with,” another general said. He stepped forward and said, “Why do you think I leave for these things five minutes after you do, General? Your arrest is a fraud, and so is the way you’ve been running things here. The only ones being arrested, sir, are you and your party. You’ve racked up a laundry list of charges against you, and to deflect them, you charge the 1772nd Airwing with treason, when they’ve been proven heroes since 1985? I don’t think so.”

“All Meta Humans are traitors,” Hopkins said.

“And you’re a racist, General,” Stephen said.

“Out of the mouths of babes,” the other general said.

“Don’t call me that, please,” Stephen said.

“My apologies, sir,” the general said. “Your height made me think foolishly.”

Several members of the group walked out, and Lacey formed an ice slick where the flames were. She then said, “I take it JAG got my email?”

“They did, which is why he’s being arrested, along with the MPs that were with him,” the other general said. “That email, though: how in the hell did you get that information? He encrypts the ledger to hell and back.”

“She’s a cyber-sleuth,” Jim said. “Probably the best in the business.”

“Fits her being something of a cold fish; I’ve heard of her reputation for turning down dates,” the other general said.

“I have no reason to turn them down,” Lacey said, “as long as they don’t give me one. As far as his encryptions, they haven’t made a code yet I have not been capable of cracking. I can probably shut ISIS down tonight if I wanted to.”

“Shit!” the other general said. “Should have known by the call sign, Icewave. You have been known to shut down Internet accounts if you don’t like someone. I’ve heard the Kromwell brothers had a hard time with you.”

“Tom and Victor, yes, sir,” Lacey said. “Andre is something of an enigma; he doesn’t show up on even the dark web. I’m beginning to wonder if he even exists beyond the assigned Social Security number.”

“He does, but he’s completely off the grid,” the other general said. “By the way, I’m Major General Daryl Hinkley; call sign Decimator.”

“Captain Lacey Wilson, sir,” Lacey replied with a salute. “You’re the one that cracked that information cartel 5 years ago.”

“They were morons, peddling their information on social media,” Daryl said. “You’ve been officially retired; how did you know about McBane?”

“That’s Falcon for you,” Jim said. “He placed us on the Officially Retired list. Unofficially, we’re quite active. In fact, we convinced him the business was better in North Africa, and he booked a flight to Egypt right before we took down Thomas Kromwell. Victor’s been active, but he hasn’t been able to find enough Thunder Hammers to activate the fortress in Key Largo.”

“How do you know about that?” Daryl probed Jim.

“I have a spy on the inside. She’s a shapshifter, so she’d be hard to spot.”

“Are all of you Meta Human?” Daryl asked.

Nodding, Jim said, “That’s the reason for being officially listed as retired. The military doesn’t look kindly upon Metas for some reason.”

“No one does,” Daryl said. “Some of them are complete assholes, so people think even the ones that aren’t asinine are. We need to unite Metas and Normals before we end up in a massive world war we can’t dig ourselves out of.”

“Unfortunately, before we can do that,” Jim said, “we have to find a way to keep McBane’s Delta League from getting out of their caverns before another civil war begins. We’re already working on Pennsylvania and Virginia.”

“I hear West Virginia is just as bad,” Daryl said. “McBane had three states, with more being taken in the near future.”

“Unless we can shut these places down without causing potential collateral damage,” Jim said, “the Delta League is going to overtake the entire US before McBane gets back. They might even have some territory in Canada and Central America.”

“This,” Daryl said, “on top of CORE getting more shady by the month. Dr. Jason Watley was killed just a few years ago.”

“Fifteen to be exact,” Anna said, stepping forward. “He was my husband.”

“Which explains the report of a man walking out of Norfolk a few hours ago,” Jim said. “I think he was ordered to feign his death, and go after CORE as a corporate assassin. No idea what his handle or his game is.”

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