Against everything she felt she stood for, Willow stood still.
Then everything went completely dark. For a moment, just as Los Angeles disappeared, she thought she felt heat, but she couldn’t be sure.
Then the darkness ended and she found herself in a new place.
She stood next to a wide opening. Huge metal doors stood on either side of it, ready to be rolled shut. Inside the well lit room, she saw a jet that would have appeared on the cover of Popular Science magazine in the 1950’s. Silver with a pointed nose and triangular wings near the tail, it looked wrong to her somehow, and she couldn’t put a finger on why.
A black sports car that resembled a mid-60’s Corvette sat between it and a red, white, and blue motorcycle.
Tools, and spare parts covered the walls and the floor next to them.
For a second, she wondered if she’d been sent back in time, but then she noticed flat screen monitors and computers on top of one of the counters in the room.
She looked to her right, realizing suddenly that the room she stood inside was nearly as big as the hangar to her left.
As large as a basketball court, the dim room appeared to be a strange combination of a superhero base and somebody’s grandparents’ basement. The musty smell and olive green, 1970’s shag carpet along with a pile of cardboard boxes leaned strongly toward basement.
She couldn’t see the details in the dark, but the awards and damaged weapons displayed in trophy cases or hanging on the wall said “superhero base” quite clearly. So did the long, round table near the front of the room, and the twenty foot high TV screen. She felt like she’d seen the TV screen’s relatives in hundreds of movies and comic books over the years.
Most of the time though, they showed presidents and generals, and sometimes natural disasters. This giant TV screen showed an assault on a building in the winter, but it had been paused. She recognized the scene. It was from the movie “Inception.”
The words “Inter-dimensional Incursion” appeared in red on the bottom right corner of the screen.
She knew that wasn’t in the movie.
She might have wondered who was watching the movie, but that was obvious–twenty or more teenagers stood in front of the screen, all of them staring at her.
So that was the moment when the static cleared in her earbud, and Dave said, “Willow! It worked! I put you into the best place I could think of on short notice–Heroes League HQ. The guy who runs it is named Nick. He’s a gadgeteer. He runs around in suit of powered armor. He’s not very experienced as a superhero, but very good technically. Convincing him to help shouldn’t be a problem. You know how we can teleport the omnilocators out if we can just pinpoint their location? I’m pretty sure he can find them.”
Willow stared at the teenagers in front of her. She couldn’t see them well, but none of them looked inexperienced. Almost all of them stood in stances that required only a small adjustment to become martial arts fighting stances.
The ones that weren’t? They were moving a few steps away from the group the way some flyers did when they didn’t want their take off to knock over their team mates.
She thought she saw electricity move across the fingers of a short, long haired guy wearing jeans and a leather jacket. He’d moved toward the edge of the crowd.
“Dave,” she whispered, “are you behind on this series? Extremely behind maybe? There’s twenty of them down here. They look quite experienced, and they don’t look friendly.”
“Not that behind. And look, you should recognize the place. I sent you the ebook last week. It’s got a link to the website where the author posts the serialized version and everything… Whoa. I thought I wasn’t behind, but it looks like it’s been going for seven years, and I stopped three years ago. Just a second, I’ll check the most recent posts.”
One of the group stepped forward. Willow guessed he might be in college. Nearly seven feet tall with dark hair and tanned skin, he had the physique of a football player, or possibly a bodybuilder, and the smooth, confident gait of a predator.
In a deep voice, he asked, “Who are you?”
“Willow. Which one of you is Nick?”
Without moving, the guy said, “Nick, don’t move. Don’t say anything.”
If one of them did move when she’d said Nick’s name, she’d missed it. She’d have to persuade them, and telling the truth might not be an easy sell.
“I’m not here to hurt him,” she started to say, but she was interrupted.
“She’s telling the truth,” a girl said.
Willow pegged the girl as being in late high school, but she couldn’t have been much taller than five feet. She had shoulder length brown hair, a gymnast’s build (small and thin), and wore a blue t-shirt that said “Grand Lake University.”
Her facial features were enough like the big guy that Willow guessed they might be brother and sister.
The girl said, “I’m Haley. That’s my brother Travis, and this is my boyfriend, Nick.”
A boy with dark hair stepped out of the crowd. A little shorter than six feet tall, he gave her a little wave. “Hi. I can help you out, but we’ll have to go over here.”
He wore blue jeans and a t-shirt that said, “You can’t take the sky from me.”
Willow didn’t ask.
Haley walked next to him as led Willow to a ten foot wide metal circle. A waist high control panel stood alongside the circle. Nick started pressing buttons, but as he did he asked, “Let me make sure I’ve got this right. Your brother’s a supervillain named Dr. Omniverse who wants to give supervillains the ability to get superpowers from other dimensions. He’s got a bunch of decoys with omnilocators to slow you down. Do I have that basically right?”
Her eyes widened. “How did you find that out?”
He blinked. “My friend Daniel’s a telepath. He’s over there, and he passed it along.”
“Tell him to stay out of my head.” She glared in the direction of the kids by the long table, trying to figure out which one had done it. None of them noticed. They were too busy grabbing pizza from the boxes on the table.
Nick stopped messing with the controls. “I’m sure he got it from your surface thoughts. He has a hard time blocking them out.”
Over her earbud, Dave said, “That’s true. He does it all the time in the serial. It’s kind of funny actually.”
“Not,” she whispered, “when it’s you.”
“By the way,” Dave said, “I found out what’s up. They’re in some kind of superhero training program now. So I guess all the other kids must be friends from school.” Dave paused. “Um… What’s he doing?”
Nick continued to mess around with the controls. “Okay. I just isolated the power source that sent you over here. Based on that, I’ve managed to track down your last few universe skips, and based on that, and following some other guy, I’ve found one omnilocator. Based on readings I’m taking from it, I’m thinking it’s not much different from the inter-universe trackers I’ve built into our team’s communicators–”
Haley interrupted. “Our communicators will let you find us in other universes?”
Nick shrugged. “I put that in the technical specs.”
Haley gave him a look. “Nick, no one reads the technical specs.”
Nick looked back at the controls. “I’ve pinpointed all of them. So here’s what we can do. I figure you’ve got basically three choices. I know which of the omnilocators is Dr. Omniverse, so you could just go there. Alternately, I can give you the locations of all the omnilocators and you can teleport all the devices back to you. Or, and this sounds kind of fun to me, I can use our dimensional transporter to transport all the people with omnilocators whereever you’d like.”
Willow took a step back and thought about it, only managing to say, “It sounds too easy.”
“Yeah,” Nick said, “that reminds me of the other thing I was going to say. Personal experience shows that when everything looks this good that’s the time when everything really goes wrong.”