The New Amsterdam skyline shot past Amy Dangerous. The city bustled below her. A few children pointed at her. Street sounds echoed off the glass walls rising from the ground. The wind stung her ears. She dove under skyways and over monorail lines. She came to a stop over an Art Deco skyscraper with a rooftop garden. The woman floated down until her feet lightly landed.
“Hello, ma’am, your regular booth?” asked Angus. He wore a dark wool suit. A thick mustache obscured his lips.
“Not today, but thank you. I’m meeting someone.” Amy unzipped her neon orange flight jacket. “Would you be a dear and check my coat?”
Angus bowed slightly, “Of course. Do you have time for a Cosmo?”
She nodded. He clicked his heels with a turn and ducked inside the cafe. She lingered in the garden. An infinity pool stretched out from the restaurant. A statute rose out of the center. A band of soldiers carrying flags ascended a mountain. In front of them was single young woman shielding them from bombs smiling. They never got Amy’s smile right. She looked at her reflection in the water then to the statute. She didn’t recognize the person in the statute anymore.
Amy sighed. She followed Angus through the door. Cafe Infinity was styled to match the age of the building. A framed picture of Infinity-Man holding a T-Rex over his head hung near the door. Midday light streamed in through the ring of windows circling the room. Trophies lined the walls above the windows. There was Isadore the Invincible’s spear on one wall opposite Count Smackdown’s 1984 championship belt while another wall had a full Centauri Raptor suit. Cerberus’s middle head sat on the mantle. Shadow Doom’s helmet was upturned on the bar as a tip jar. One wall was lined masks from retirees. Sunburst motifs covered the ceiling and floor. The heroine was lost in a memory when she bumped into a Martian’s back. “Sorry,” she said.
One of his tentacles grabbed her by the wrist. He pulled her close. He wore a long cape and had a thick sword strapped to his side. His body shifted from green to red and puffed up. A wave of thought pushed out from him, “How dare you! You! You?” His skin shifted to a yellow.
The hero standing next to the Martian pushed between him and Amy. He was bulbous and made of a thick red rubber. “This pipsqueak giving you trouble, Gram?”
“Yeah, Gram, am I giving you trouble?” Amy smirked.
A pair of heavy feet stopped behind Amy. “Lay off my friends, little lady,” A boxy robot with discs strapped to his body said in a low synthetic voice.
Gram let go of her wrist. “Sorry, didn’t realize you were making the rounds.”
Amy smiled. “Honest mistake.”
The boxy robot cut her off. “Hey! Are you listening to me? I think you should apologize to my friends.”
Amy took his hand in hers and flipped him over her head. The robot crashed into the red man flattening him. She raised a fist above the robot’s face. “Please don’t. They’re new, “ thought out Gram. Amy stopped short from the robot. The force blew his antenna back.
She straightened up. “Sorry, forget my strength. Lotta new faces, Gram”
The Martian’s skin shifted between green and yellow. He helped pull the robot off the rubber man. “We’ve been recruiting.” Bouncer’s body pulled back into his original shape.
“Make sure they can prove they aren’t jerks.” Amy turned and took off for a row of booths toward the back. She didn’t recognize the capes and cowls she saw. Each table made quick glances before looking back at something else, anything else. Split waved. She had three copies of herself sharing a banana split boat. Amy stopped at the corner booth.
“All I’m saying is we need to either find him or be sure he died. For good this time,” said a man in his mid-forties. Flames were emblazoned on his suit. His straight black hair was styled up. When he saw Amy his jaw dropped. He didn’t look away.
Quake cleared her throat. “We’ve had Atlantis checking every corner of the ocean. If he was down there, we would have found him Probably got eaten while he was regenerating.”
“Afternoon,” Amy said. “Good to see you Flare. Hello, backstabber.”
“Wondered when you’d show up.” Quake half turned to meet her. “Care to have a seat?”
“Another time. Why don’t my security codes work at the Fortress?”
“Because you disappeared for three years. It was a safety issue.”
A vein pulsed at Amy’s temple. “I’m back now.”
Quake turned so she could look directly at Amy. She tilted her head to the side. “I’m sorry. Are you a member of Aegis?”
“I founded Aegis.”
Cafe Infinity became silent. The bartender pressed a switch on the bar. An engine whirled as the glassware cabinet lowered into the floor.
Quake exhaled. She crossed her arms. “And you left us when we needed you most.”
Amy shoved Flare over. “You did fine on your own.”
“There was a war.”
“And you came through. Good job.”
“The world nearly ended.”
Amy sat quietly. Her fingers rapped at the table top.
“Our friends died.”
Amy’s finger dug into the table with a crunch.
Flare pointed to the aisle. He tried to stand up. Amy stayed where she was. “Do you mind if I get up? I think I might go grab something from the bar.” She kept eye contact with Quake. Flare scooted to the other end of the horseshoe bench next to Quake. She was watching Amy intently. “Hey, so, could I get out? I think I might just go . . . ”
Angus arrived at the table. “Your drink ma’am!” He pointed to Flare. “A drink, sir?”
“Yes. Well, uh, actually, you know, I’ll come to the bar.”
“Nonsense sir, I’ll get it.”
Quake set her palms on the table. The table rumbled and then slapped the floor with a crack. “We needed you and you weren’t there. We decided to live like you weren’t coming back.”
“What are you saying? You don’t need me anymore? Why’d you replace me with, who was it, Goldstar?” She took a sip of her cosmo.
“That wasn’t my choice.” Quake’s tumbler shattered in her hand. “It hurt to learn how much we needed you. Now we don’t need you.” She collected the glass shards with a wave of her hand. They reformed into the tumbler. “Why not stay gone? Take a vacation. Retire. Go see the universe. Find your family. Or go on a date. I heard Michon is single.”
Flare’s eyes ignited into tiny fires. “You two are seeing each other? I thought you said you weren’t ready for anything,” he made quotation marks with his fingers, “serious.”
Amy said, “We were just fighting Wrath. It wasn’t a date.”
A rumble shook the cafe. “Why the hell were you helping defend Midas anyway? They are our enemy. Michon is evil. They are the opposite of Aegis.”
“Aegis was formed to defend the Earth. That means all of it. Just cause Midas doesn’t want our help all the time doesn’t make them our enemy. And Michon isn’t evil. He has flaws . . .”
“Flaws?! Am I going crazy here? Flare, who was it that joined forces with Lab and nearly destroyed all of humanity?” The man joined Amy in looking at the table. He ran his fingers back through his hair. “Flare!”
“He… saved us.”
“What?” Amy and Quake said.
“At the Battle of the Arctic. He switched sides. It saved hundreds of us.”
Quake rubbed her head. “That was just because he was, well, I don’t know, hedging his bets.”
“Like I said,” Amy said looking Quake straight in the eye, “flawed. Like me.”
Quake held up a hand. “What about helping the Citadel? TrAIbunal picked you up fighting kaiju outside the city. And what about the Soviets? The ten-story robot in St. Petersburg.”
Amy stood up. “I fight for Earth. When you live as long as I do, the flag flying over your home doesn’t matter as much as the home.” She turned and started walking away.
“Wait,” Flare called out. He scooted to the far end of the seat and got up. He caught up with her. “What about your home? Where are you staying?” An invisible force pushed him aside.
“I’m just worried about you.”
“I don’t need your pity.”
He reached out for her. He pressed his hand slowly against her shield. It sunk slowly but slipped to the side. “It’s not pity. I really do care about you. I’m worried about you. Please don’t push us away.”
Amy clenched her fists. She let out an exasperated huff. A wave of power threw Flare off his feet. A pair of tables flipped. “Maybe stop pushing me away then!” She tried to take a few deep breaths. Tears welled at the corners of her eyes. “I’m fine.”
Flare stood up. “Yeah, I can see that.”
Angus stepped quietly to Flare’s side and handed him a martini glass with a tiny umbrella. “Thanks.”
Quake stood up. “Then start acting like you’re fine. Help us help you.”
“I’m just picking up the pieces, okay. I can’t make my wrong right overnight. Just let me get myself back together.”
“By locking me out?”
“By making you make things right. If it were anyone else we would make them apply to Aegis again. Renew their license. Take training courses. But you just waltz back to Earth like nothing happened and expect things to go back to how they were?”
Amy met her eyes. Streaks ran down her cheeks. “I just want to grab my stuff. Okay?”
“You mean that locker of Aegis property? Sounds like what you need is a renewal form. There’s a Department of Supers over on 30th. You can still catch them before they close.” Quake turned to sit back down. Amy bit her lip and held out a hand. Invisible force pulled Quake out of the booth. The woman spun and put out her hands and stopped. “Is that how you want to do this, Amy?” Invisible force crushed down on Quake. She reached out with her mind. She felt the individual particles that made Amy and began pulling them apart. Energy welled up from the two ripping at one another. The force of the power tore the wax off the floors. Chairs and tables flew from them. “You see, Amy, we aren’t so weak.”
Amy flipped her wrists and reverse the direction of the force tearing at Quake in opposite directions. The woman reacted by welling the gravity around her forcing herself back together. Tables and chairs flew back at Quake in a cloud of debris. She closed her eyes and reached out to every atom she could sense. The entire building shook.
“Break it up!” A steel disc struck Amy in the back of the head. She tumbled forward. Discus and Bouncer were standing in defensive stances. Discus kept his head and legs still while rotating his torso. Bouncer flexed his rubber body into a muscular fighting form.
Amy looked back to Quake. “Fine, I will recert.”
“Good,” she responded.
Lifting off the ground, Amy floated to the bar and deposited her empty glass. She tossed some coins into the Shadow Doom tip helmet and took her jacket.
“One more thing, Dangerous.”
“What is it, Quake?”
“Did you get a haircut?”
Amy flipped her off. With the force of a jet taking off, Amy crashed out of the doors blowing Bouncer and Discus off their feet. She stopped a block away, turned back, and rocketed back to the statue. The woman reached out with her mind to the statue. The pressure made it heat. Its surface bent and shifted. When she was satisfied, she catapulted back into the sky. Behind her, the statue showed a woman in her forties. Stern eyes and a stiff upper lip replaced the youthful joy from before.
The End for Now