and now for something COMPLETELY different Prose in Tales of Justice | World Anvil

and now for something COMPLETELY different

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

"Everybody seatbelted?" Brian could not see all of the other kids in the rearview mirror, so he glanced over his right shoulder. The SUV normally seated eight, but when one of those was a six-foot-tall plant kid, they were lucky to fit all seven of them into one vehicle.
Amy finished wiggling into her assigned spot in the middle of the back row. "Yup! Now just remember: once you turn the ignition back off, it's done. We don't have time for me to do it the better way."
"Young Justice, go!" Bubba said. He and Grayson fistbumped each other.
Brian could not help grinning a little at that. He eased the SUV out of the garage. "Grayson, we'll be at the gate in just a minute," he said.
"Yes, of course," Grayson said. He dug a few slender plastic rods out of the pocket on his armband. "We must have code names. We are a covert heroic team!"
Cindy just stared out the window. Jeremy, opposite her in the back seat row, glanced at her withdrawn face for a second. Cindy was still so upset about her visions that she did not see any of the FUN in this.
"We should definitely have code names," Jeremy agreed. "I am the Second Investigator."
"Boring!" Amy informed him. "That is a fine name when you are being The Three Investigators. I guess. But Young Justice is a different kind of team! More like where I grew up. People in the Justice Squadron are named things like 'Tomahawk' or 'Superstar', not 'Weapons Guy' or 'Energy Blaster'. We are covert but we can still be cool!"
"I vote for 'cool'," Bubba said. He adjusted the grocery bag in his lap. His pet cat, inside the bag, pushed the other contents around to make a more stable nest. "Mr. Sniffles can be Alley-Kat-Abra."
The older kids traded glances, those who could see one another.
"That's copyrighted," Brian said dubiously. He rolled down his window and shifted to park. "Grayson?"
The catboy unbuckled his seatbelt. "You may confuse Mr. Sniffles if you start calling him by a different name," he told his brother. "Pets are not superheroes. Maman says so, and Oncle Thomas agrees." Then, looking forward, he told the older kids, "Hands in laps and hold your breaths, mes amis!"
A second later, Grayson appeared crouched on the center console between the two front seats. Brian and Susie coughed, batting blue smoke away with their hands, while Grayson crawled sideways into Brian's lap. "I shall be … CAPTAIN HARLOCK!" he announced. Then he reached out the open driver's window to get his plastic picks near the bottom of the control panel for the Gironde School entrance gate.
"No," Susie said. "I've seen that anime. Captain Harlock never turns out well for anybody."
"Humph." Grayson wiggled one of his plastic tools in place on the underside of the control panel, jammed the other as far inward as it could go. Almost as soon as he started, he withdrew again: "System is now resetting itself and running a diagnostic. That includes opening and closing the gate, so be very quick!" He clambered over the back of the seat rather than try to teleport when the vehicle might be in motion.
Once they were safely off campus, on the tree-lined country highway, Cindy spoke up. "We do need code names," she agreed quietly. "I am not going to be 'Cassandra'. Nobody ever believed her prophecies."
Jeremy patted her arm awkwardly. "We believe you! But. Yeah. Let's just stay away from everything Greco-Roman."
Brian glanced at what little of Cindy he could see. Mostly it was her hair, which was currently dyed in the brown and dark red swirls of cherry wood. "Hildegard von Bingen, a twelfth century Benedictine abbess, wrote and illustrated a book of her visions titled 'Scivias'," he offered. "Along with being a prophet, she also invented a secret code for her fellow nuns to write songs or something in, I forget what exactly. Hildegard also wrote a bunch of books about medicine, scientific properties of plants and rocks and stuff, all sorts of things from the days when a scientist was supposed to study everything instead of being a specialist. I wrote my history thesis on her, last semester. Anyway, 'Scivias' was from a phrase that meant 'know the ways'. She spent a lot of time scared," Brian finished, "but she did what was right even when it petrified her."
Cindy looked at the back of Brian's head for a minute. "Scivias," she said at last. "I like it."
"All right!" Susie said enthusiastically. "That's one code name down." She checked the screen of a device concealed in her lap. "Active radar in the next speed trap," she told Brian. "After that, you can probably put some distance between us and pursuit."
"I could do it faster," Amy grumbled. "I'm a better driver than all of you put together."
"Everybody knows that," Brian said. "But you're ten. And it's still daytime! People see a ten year old driving a car, they freak out and call the cops. Who pull us over, and see you wearing power armor? You know that winds up being talked about on the radio, and then the bad guys know where to look for us."
Amy scowled. But she did not argue.
"Speaking of power armor," Brian said, "what's your code name? Iron Maiden?"
"OH MY GOD!" Amy flailed as if trying to swat a mosquito. "EWW! No! Old man music! Creeeeeeeeeeeeepy!"
Brian opened his mouth to argue. Susie stopped him.
"Okay, then, genius," Jeremy said instead. "You want Brian to dredge his memory of weird facts for you, too?"
"No!" Amy twisted around to glance at Jeremy. "No, thank you," she amended. "I figured out my hero name years ago. I'm 'Steelheart'."
"Ooooh," Bubba said appreciatively.
"Cool!" Susie grinned. "Scivias and Steelheart. Okay, guys, either everybody gets an S name or nobody else gets one."
Everyone seemed to agree that the rest of the code names should be different.
"I shall be," Grayson announced dramatically, "KAGATO!"
Brian adjusted his grip on the steering wheel. They were passing through the area where the Lackawanna County Sheriff's Office usually had a patrol car lurking, just before they merged onto I-4085 and headed south. "The villain in Tenchi Muyo," he pointed out, "has a glowing sword—"
Grayson smiled. "So does my Tante Jessica."
"She has two!" Bubba added. He nodded excitedly.
"And silly, tiny glasses on his nose," Brian finished as if he had not been interrupted.
Grayson deflated. "Okay, maybe not."
Jeremy decided this would be a good time to steer the conversation. "I'm going to be Mirage," he said.
Susie grinned. "We're into consonance, again. I was thinking 'Mindcraft'." She looked over at Brian. "You're clear."
Brian promptly hit the accelerator. "Twenty minutes until we pass the exit for the Coliseum," he estimated. "Figuring traffic, we have thirty-five before we reach the bridges. Are we crossing the river?"
"Yes," Cindy said in that odd voice that meant a vision. "Do not be tempted by the drawbridge. Do not stop before we reach the south shore."
"You got it, Scivias," Brian said.
Cindy blinked. Brian sounded like he was talking to a hero: a calm woman, confident, who knew what she was doing. Who would not fall prey to the black-jacket men. Who was not a shrinking violet of a teenage girl, waiting for the world to fall on her.
She could get used to this!
Bubba and Grayson compared notes on the tiny screen of Grayson's burner phone. They were looking up space pirates on the Internet. "Tex Hex!" Grayson exclaimed. "I can learn to speak with an accent."
"You already have an accent," Jeremy said.
"I do not!" Grayson frowned at him. "Anyway. This 'Tex Hex', he is purple AND a pirate. My fur rosettes are blue, but that is close enough!"
Amy leaned forward to show the two boys on the middle bench her own burner phone, on which an old cartoon show was playing. "You mean this guy?"
Bubba recoiled in dismay. Grayson did too, and hissed for good measure. "That," the catboy blurted, "is a langur! I am a cat!"
"They had a purple-faced langur visiting the Metropolis Zoo last summer," Amy explained to the older kids. "It was visiting from Sri Lanka. They said it was normally a very nice monkey, but it threw its food at us." To Grayson, she said, "This is definitely the 'Tex Hex' character on a show called 'BraveStarr'. He's the main villain."
Grayson waved the entire concept away.
"What about you, Bubba?" Susie asked.
Bubba peeked into his grocery bag. "I guess if Mr. Sniffles is not going to use a code name, we will just have to keep him a secret."
"Yes," Susie said impatiently.
Jeremy jumped back into the conversation. He knew Susie was not very good with anybody who thought slower than she did. "When we talk about your cat, we can call him 'Vine' — because he creeps and climbs — and no one will realize we mean a cat instead of a plant. Do you want to be 'Flower Child'?"
Bubba's head tilted as he looked back at the kids in the rear row. "No. People will think that Poison Ivy is my mom. She is a very nice lady! But she is not my mom." He stroked his pet cat's fur. "Quickbranch. That's my Enting OC in my Lord of the Rings fanclub. He's a silver linden tree."
Grayson blinked several times. He knew very well that Bubba's fanclub user name was his real name. He decided that he would ask his brother later about this little fib; for now, brothers covered for each other. "Oui," he said, "Quickbranch is very cool. I still need a cool name!" Starting at the back of the SUV, he pointed at people with his ears as he listed names: "Scivias, Steelheart, Mirage. Quickbranch. Mindcraft. Brian? Who will you be?"
Brian shrugged. "I'm open to suggestions."
For the next three miles, everyone except Cindy fired off increasingly ludicrous ideas. Brian grinned a little.
"I draw the line at 'Bubble Bot'," he said at last, laughing. "I wear armor, but it's not POWER armor! And I don't make bubbles." He checked the traffic again. "How are we doing?"
Susie checked her screen. "No signals in range," she said.
Cindy shivered. "The black-jacket men are behind us. Pursuing. I see them weaving through the traffic on motorcycles, causing an accident that draws the deputy away." She shrank into the seat a little. Then she shook it off: she was Scivias, a dangerous person, not the Cindy that Steven tucked under the blankets.
Steelheart's ungloved fingers clutched at her hand anyway. Scivias clutched back. The lady in the story was scared, Mirage said, but she did what was right.
"We will have to leave the car after the bridge," Scivias finished. "On the street named for Mr. Sniffles."
Susie poked at the GPS mounted into the dashboard. "I don't see a Sniffles Street or Sniffles Road."
Jeremy scratched his nose. "Isn't there a Vine Street? No. Vineland Avenue?"
Bubba carefully extracted Mr. Sniffles from the cloth grocery bag so he could hug the cat. It purred at him. Its purr sounded disturbingly like classical North Indian music. Since the actual catboy did not much care about this supposed housecat that mimicked a sitar and a tabla, no one else cared to question it.
After a little more furious searching, Susie said, "Aha! Yes to both. There's a Vineland Avenue up in the Ardmore neighborhood. That has to be wrong, that's north of the river, over by the Stadium. And there's a Vine Street, short little thing, just barely misses going under the south side of the bridge near Johnson Road."
Hearing no objections from Cindy, Brian nodded. "Vine Street it is. We'll park there, switch vehicles or something. Hide our trail."
"You and I still need our code names, mon ami," Grayson pointed out.
"Backdraft," Brian said. It came out casual-sounding. It did not at all sound like he had spent hours in the library, searching for the perfect hero name while his broken leg healed.
"That's a smoke explosion." Susie frowned a little.
"Yeah," Brian said cheerfully. "Bad guys hear you call me 'Backdraft', they'll be expecting kabooms. They won't be expecting a shield!"
"Nice!" Jeremy said.
Everyone who was not driving turned to look at the eight-year-old catboy with the blue spots.
"I shall be…." Grayson took a deep breath. He found it difficult to look dramatic and imposing when he was seatbelted into position, and definitely the shortest person in the car. He tried his best. "Corsair!"
The rest of Young Justice thought that over.
Grayson could not stand the suspense. "Well?!" He looked around for the next objection.
Cindy — Scivias — smiled at him. "That works."
"Good timing," Backdraft said, "'cause here's the ramp up to the bridge." He started easing the SUV into the right lane. Their exit would come up very fast.

Takes place during the adventure Harvest of Dust between parts 5 and 6.
Definitely needs a better title!


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