Skyscraper, having expanded to a full sixty feet tall, held Payday up in the air and shook the mentally imbalanced vigilante. Gun after gun fell from Payday’s black leather overcoat and plunked to the ground.
Champion raised a boxing-gloved fist. “Hey, stop it!”
From his perch fifty feet up, Small Packages shouted, “Stay out of this, it ain’t none of your business!”
Captain Revolution yelled, “Put him down!”
Skyscraper kicked Captain Revolution three hundred yards away.
Champion went over and whispered to Elephant Woman, India’s strongest woman. They charged Skyscraper. Elephant Woman tossed Champion in the air and Champion latched onto Skyscraper’s right knee cap. Holding on with his ungloved hand, he used his power punch, a rapid series of quick powerful blows to Skyscraper’s knee.
Elephant Woman climbed to the other knee and used her armored Elephant suit’s mammoth strength against Skyscraper.
The giant tried to shake off his attackers, but the two held on, and continued to pummel him. Skyscraper fell.
Right before being squished, Small Packages jumped free from Skyscraper’s overalls pocket, somersaulted, and landed on his brother’s giant rear end. Skyscraper howled.
Payday snatched up his .38 semi-automatic and stood. “Hold still, I think I can take you both at once.”
An energy beam hit Payday’s hand. The gun ricocheted off his green shirt’s golden dollar sign and skid across the ground.
Jesse said, “No one’s killing anyone.”
Finally, he steps in. What was he waiting for? An engraved invitation? Revelator glared at Chicago’s two not-so-finest. “Leaving Payday to the villains was an awful idea, but this is murder. You could go to jail.”
Small Packages hooked his thumbs in his overall straps and laughed. “You don’t get it, Einstein. Would you care for me to enlighten you?”
Revelator zeroed in on the dwarf’s pattern and blocked it again. No wonder he looked so smug. Small Packages had realized the one thing missing that he hadn’t even noticed.
Revelator gasped. “My God. You’re right, there’s no sun.”
Small Package said, “Wait, I didn’t-will you cut that out!”
Every hero looked up in the sky.
A warning shot through Revelator from his implant’s unconscious scan for danger, a visual of Captain Revolution beaten to death. He traced the pattern. The Empress.
He turned her way just as she reached for her electric whip. “Revolution, look out!”
Captain Revolution turned. The Empress pulled out her electric whip. She threw her arm forward, with malice in her eyes.
Captain Revolution laughed. “Perhaps you forgot to charge the battery.”
The whip had produced no string of electricity. The Empress continued to flail the useless handle and finally threw it at Captain Revolution.
He caught it with his red-gloved hand. “That hurt very much.”
“I do not understand.” The Empress shook her head. “I charged the battery. It was fine.”
Captain Revolution looked at the watch just above the yellow stars on his wrist and frowned. “My watch isn’t working.”
Revelator swallowed. Uh-oh. “Would it be digital, perchance?”
“Then wherever we’re at must have an Electromagnetic Pulse.”
“But your implant is working, no?”
Revelator shook his head. “I built it with nanobiotics. EMP has no effect on it.”
A cry came from behind him and a heavy clunk. Everyone turned.
Texas Ranger lay gasping on the ground. “Aw guess ‘ats why Aw feel so weird.”
Jesse ran over. “I can use my blade to-”
Texas Ranger laughed. “To what? Git sixty different machines inside me to work? Tain’t gonna work.”
The Mexican healing hero ran over in his tonksium scrubs. “This is a job for Curador. Where does the problem lie, Amigo?”
“An accident shoulda killed me, some say it did. They had to replace parts of my heart, my brain, an eye, and an arm with electronics.”
Curador cursed. “I’d need to be able to fix the computer.”
Texas Ranger sent Curador a weak, pained half-smile as the metal half of his face refused to cooperate. “Much obliged to yew for tryin’.”
Texas Ranger turned his head slowly to Highland Guardian. “Got yewr pipes?”
Highland Guardian nodded. “Aye, but without the electronics, they don’t do much other than play music.”
“That’s all I need. Play me Amazin’ Grace.”
Highland Guardian fetched his pipes from their bag and began to play. Texas Ranger smiled peacefully, and his natural eye closed for the last time. His electronic eye stared up at the heroes.
Payday walked by Texas Ranger’s body. He pulled a gun from his coat that he must have picked up while they were distracted by the Empress and Texas Ranger.
Payday pointed the gun into the air and began to fire. Once emptying the gun, thus giving Texas Ranger a 15-round salute, he holstered the gun back inside his coat. “You fought for justice and if I ever get a hold of that Dark Mystic . . . ”
Payday pulled another gun from his coat. ” . . . I’ll direct deposit a few slugs in his chest and then rip out his heart.”
Payday stepped away. Small Packages said, “Touching eulogy.”
All eyes shifted to Small Packages.
“For my part,” said Small Packages. “Tex was someone I could really respect. He’s been doing this years longer than we have. I really looked up to him.”
Several nervous chuckles went through the heroes. Revelator bit his lip. This is no time to laugh, but if you put Small Packages in charge of the eulogies, what can you expect?
Commander Justice came up and placed a hand over the courthouse emblem on his brick red costume’s chest. Tears filled his eyes and spilled down his cheeks.
After the sideshow beginning, an impromptu funeral got under way in earnest. The Americans all testified of Texas Rangers’ bravery. Except for Captain Revolution and Highland Guardian, none of the foreign heroes had worked with him, but were respectful nonetheless.
Revelator looked around for Jesse, but didn’t see him. He focused on Jesse’s brainwave pattern. Throwing a pity party in the plane’s cockpit.
Revelator climbed up back inside the plane and through the empty passenger compartment, to the cockpit.
Jesse sat staring out across the sunless blue horizon with his arms folded tight against his black uniform. “Here to gloat?”
“You know it’s not like that.”
“Oh, you ought to. Tex was one of the best. I might as well have shot him myself. I killed him. I should have listened to you. There’s no excuse. It’s all my fault.”
Revelator sat in the co-pilot seat. “You’re right, it is your fault. I’m not going to candy coat it. The question is: What are you going to do about it?”
Jesse grunted. “What am I supposed to do about it? I’ve stranded these people who knows where, and shown myself a complete failure as a leader. Maybe what I should do is step down.”
Revelator shook his head. “You step aside, and those guys will be at each other’s throats. There’s no one out there who doesn’t look up to you and believe in you. Tex didn’t blame you. Other than me, no one here blames you at all.” Though the Defender’s hero-worship had been brutally shattered. “They blame Dark Mystic and, yeah, you should have checked his story better.”
Jesse sighed. “You’re doing it again.”
“Sorry. I know you feel bad, but you’ll have to work this out later. Right now, we need you. Throwing a pity party is selfish.”
Jesse nodded. “You’re right. I also have a feeling this EMP situation will make things worse for more than just Tex.” Jesse got up. “Come on, we have to get to work.”
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