The Previous Magical Girls chapter is located right here
“No, seriously, fifty bucks right now if you say Flea caught us. Or that Towers chick, Skip? We’ll settle for that one, dude. Fifty bucks straight up. A hundred. Easy hundred, just--wait. No, no, I see what you’re writing on that pad. Do not write that. Do not--aww c’mon, man!”
The would-be briber currently desperately pleading for the nearby police officer to stop writing was having a rather bad time. As was his partner. The two of them had started out their night, an hour earlier, attempting to break into a medical supplies depot in order to steal a full shipment that had only been delivered a couple hours earlier. Which would have been the sort of score that could set them both up for at least a month of easy living before they would’ve had to pull off anything else.
Unfortunately, that ‘easy score’ had ended up being anything but, thanks to… outside intervention. Now, they were both soaking wet and hanging upside down. Their ankles were locked into shackles with metal suction cup-like things attached to the chain. Those suction cups were attached to the wall of the building and had a keypad attached. They also clearly weren’t actually using suction to remain in place, because the men had strained as hard as they could for the fifteen minutes it had taken the cops to arrive, without any luck in pulling themselves free.
“What’s the matter, boys?” the short, heavyset man with the gray walrus mustache drawled as he looked back and forth between the dangling duo. He was Lieutenant Harold Dabber, and he either couldn’t, or wouldn’t, keep the amusement out of his voice. With a few chastising tone, he added, “You should know what happens when you sign up to serve as Queen Beryl’s lackeys. You mess with the Senshi, you get the glowing tiara.”
The dangling, soaked men looked at each other from their upside down positions, then at the man himself before blurting a pair of confused, “What the fuck?!”
Tutting them while muttering about how uncultured they were, Dabber reached up to carefully enter the six digit code that had been called in along with news about the men’s location. At the last digit, he paused before looking toward a couple uniformed patrol officers. At his nod, they stepped over and held the man while Dabber input the last digit. Instantly, the shackles unlocked and the officers lowered the man to the ground to put their own cuffs on him. At the same time, the shackle itself vanished, disappearing back to its owner as they always did.
He had just done the same for the second man, allowing him to be secured as well, when the flapping of wings made Dabber turn to look at the small black bird that was gliding in to land on the nearby dumpster. “Hey there, Lucent. Afraid you’re a little late to the party this time. This place belong to the Seraphs?
“It does,” came the response, “and clearly we owe a good bit of thanks to a certain couple of young girls for the assist.” The Touched-Raven sounded thoughtful, head tilting as he looked toward the men who were being hauled to their feet and marched toward a waiting police cruiser. “Tell me something, lieutenant. Were they alone again?” His voice was troubled.
Clearing his throat, Dabber nodded. “From what we hear, yeah. Believe me, we've done our best to discourage those two from running around by themselves. But they don't exactly listen to reason, and that Swiftkick’s transport tech is too good for any of us to even have a prayer of stopping them. Not to mention, if we push too hard, we’ll just end up looking like… well, like a bunch of armed cops chasing a couple hero kids. Hard to make that come off as anything good, no matter how well-intentioned we might be. Still, I just…” His head shook. “If the Scions get hold of ‘em, or… you know the Ninety-Niners won’t hold back if they get pissed off. I--Yeah, I'm glad they want to help. And God knows seeing crooks like those idiots over there get humiliated by those two playing magical girls is pretty damn funny. Seriously, it’s pretty great. But if anything happens to them, it… they need someone. You know, someone watching their backs and being the adult who can tell them when enough is enough and that they need to call in the professionals.” He gave a heavy sigh, good humor tempered by renewed worry now that the subject had come up. “But that’s the problem. We don’t even know if those two have any adults who even know who they are and what they’re doing. We don’t know anything about what their lives are like outside this whole… thing they’ve got going on. They need someone out there who does know them, someone who can help.”
“My good lieutenant,” Lucent announced, puffing himself up a bit dramatically. “We’re not talking about ordinary Star-Touched teenagers here. We are, in fact, referring to a couple of magical girls.
“What they need… is a talking animal sidekick.”
“Yes, but what exactly qualifies you for the position?”
Swiftkick, dressed in her green body armor and helmet, with a white skirt, boots, and dragonfly-like wings, asked the question while sitting on the very edge of a comfortable (and perfectly sized for her) leather chair. Her partner, Cloudburst, sat next to her in another chair, wearing her own silver armor with blue boots, skirt, and a cloak rather than wings. The two of them were clearly doing their level best to appear serious and composed while staring at the intelligent raven perched in the middle of the wooden desk in front of them.
It had taken about a week before Lucent managed to track down the girls in question at the end of one of their outings. He had introduced himself, and explained what he was there for. Which was what led to this moment. Rather than an office, they were atop the roof of an old camping supply store across the street from their latest adventure. Both of the chairs and the table had been produced instantly (and out of nowhere) by Swiftkick as soon as the conversation began.
He couldn’t read their expressions behind the helmets, of course. But, from their body language, involving crossed ankles and steepled fingers, he could tell that they were attempting to look as serious and mature as possible. How much of that was out of a desire to be taken seriously, and how much was for their own amusement, he wasn’t absolutely certain yet. Although, the fact that they had both produced clipboards and were making a show of taking notes while giving studious ‘hmm’ sounds gave him a pretty strong indication that a large part of it was the latter.
Deciding to run with the joke, Lucent tilted his head one way, then the other in an exaggerated motion. “What qualifies me to be a talking animal sidekick?” He paused, looked down at his own bird body, then up again, repeating that motion a couple of times before finally answering, “It may be a stretch, but if given the opportunity, I believe I can pull it off.”
They both considered him for a moment before Swiftkick started to lean toward her partner as though to whisper something. Abruptly, she stopped and looked that way. “You don't have super-hearing, do you?”
“Not the last time I checked!” he cheerfully assured her. “But if it would make you more comfortable, I could fly to the billboard over there until you’re ready.”
They both seemed to consider that before shaking their heads. “Nah,” Cloudburst replied, “you’re good.” Then she leaned over and began whispering something to Swiftkick. The two held a brief, murmured conversation for several seconds before both of them sat back.
“One more question,” Cloudburst announced. “Have you ever in the past used the position of talking animal sidekick in order to steal a girl’s soul?”
“Or anyone’s soul, really,” Swiftkick immediately added with a raised finger. “You don’t get a pass on soul-harvesting just because they were some old guy. That’s still bad.”
Tapping his beak against the table a couple of times for emphasis, Lucent firmly replied, “I can quite safely say I have never even been tempted to do anything with any person's soul.” There was a very brief pause then, before he amended, “You are spelling that s-o-u-l, yes? Because I have bitten several feet in my time. But they certainly had it coming.”
“Oh. Suddenly that show makes a lot more sense,” Cloudburst managed to get out with a very serious-sounding voice that was only slightly hurt by her subsequent mostly-muffled snicker.
“I like you!” Swiftkick suddenly announced, popping to her feet while extending a hand. The clipboard (which he could see now simply had random lines scribbled on it) was tossed aside in the process. “You’re not grumpy and mean. I think you’ve got the job. Right, Cloud?”
With a nod of agreement, the other girl hopped up as well. Her own clipboard was discarded, revealing that she actually had been taking notes. “I think so, Swift. Congratulations, Mr. Lucent. Welcome to the team.”
“Ah, but you do know what the job of a good magical animal sidekick is, yes?” Lucent reminded them. “They serve as a guide and mentor. If I am to fill that role, you must be prepared to listen when I give advice. And particularly when I suggest that discretion is the better part of valor.” After a brief pause, he clarified, “When I say run away, you must both do exactly that. No arguing, no claiming you know what you’re doing. We retreat and regroup so we can discuss the best way to proceed. No girl or bird left behind. Understand? We do this together. And we plan things out properly, so no tail feathers get singed.”
“We can still have fun, right?” Swiftkick insisted. “I mean, we know people get hurt doing this and all. We know it’s serious. But…”
“But if people think we’re being all silly and ridiculous, they don’t take us seriously,” Cloudburst put in. “By the time they realize we’re not a total joke, it’s too late. It’s kind of… how we do this good.”
“How we do this well,” Lucent corrected before giving a sharp headshake. He began pacing back and forth across the table. “And you’re wrong about… part of that, girls. You do well because you are both very talented, very intelligent people. You want to help and you put your powers toward doing just that, quite effectively. You didn’t make those weapons and armor by accident, Swift. And you, Cloud, are one of the strongest hydrokinetics I’ve seen. To say nothing of the gravity side of your powers. You are two incredibly capable girls.”
He paused then, turning his gaze from one to the other before pointedly going on. “Unfortunately, people are going to realize that. Those bad guys are going to stop underestimating you, no matter how silly you act. They’ll learn to take you seriously and adapt to the… joke. That is what you must be prepared for. You asked if you can still have fun. Yes, absolutely. I am here as a mentor to help you keep having fun. You learn, you train, you get better at doing all of this. And then you can embarrass the bad guys even more. Because you won’t only have some talent, power, and luck seeing you through. You’ll have skill and knowledge too. And that combination will take you very far indeed.”
“Okay,” Cloud agreed. “We’ll practice with you.” She sounded relieved about the whole situation.
Swift nodded. “Yeah, definitely.” Leaning closer then, she carefully brought her index fingers up, spacing them out in front of her eyes as though estimating his size. “Could you come back to the lab with us, Mr. Lucent?
“I’ve got some ideas.”
Four Weeks Later
With a loud squeal of protesting tires and brakes, the semi-truck came to a screaming halt bare inches away from the large tree that had grown out of the middle of what had been an open highway mere minutes earlier. The highway itself, on the outskirts of Detroit, was seldom used once the much more direct freeway was put in. Between that and the early morning hour, the truck’s driver hadn’t expected to see many other drivers on the road. And he certainly had never expected to find a twelve-foot wide and fifty-foot tall tree blocking his path. Coming over the hill, he'd barely had time to notice it and hit the brakes on the way down.
Of course, it wasn't hard to realize what was going on as soon as he had a second to think about it. The man was already reaching for his CB radio to call it in, when an acorn seed suddenly flew in the narrow gap in his slightly lowered window. His eyes tracked the acorn as it passed in front of his eyes before landing on the passenger seat. An instant later, a man emerged from the acorn, popping into existence. He wore brown and green body armor, and a helmet that looked like it was made of bark (but was actually much tougher). There was a narrow black visor over where his eyes were.
Landscape, member of the Sherwood gang, of course. His hand snapped down to catch the driver’s wrist while shaking his head. “That’s a bad idea, comrade. Why don’t you get out of the truck now, before anyone gets hurt? We'll just grab these monuments to mankind's utter destruction of the planet we’re all supposed to live on and be out of your hair in a jiffy.”
The words themselves were calm, but his tone certainly was not. So, rather than push the issue, the driver slowly stepped out of his vehicle. He found several more people from Sherwood waiting. Three were simply ordinary, Prev members of the fanatical gang. The other two were more Touched. There was a girl in dark green and black camo-like pants and boots, with black chainmail-like armor and a brown duster. Her companion, meanwhile, was a man in a ghillie suit, making him look like a living bush. Both wore the same bark-like helmet with black visor as Landscape. It was a Sherwood staple; even the non-Touched wore those masks. They provided protection from everything up to small arms fire, even through the visor.
The girl was Clime, who created forcefield bubbles and filled them with extreme weather. The man, meanwhile, was Greenery. His power allowed him to make any plant or combination of plants he was familiar with and had spent time around appear anywhere around himself. He was clearly the one responsible for the tree suddenly being in the middle of the highway. And he had just as suddenly sent it back where it had come from.
“Open the back,” Clime demanded impatiently. "You think you can just keep bringing this garbage into our city? Those are video cards. High end video cards. Do you know what people use those for? Cryptomining. And do you know what those assholes do to cryptomine? They use energy. Lots and lots of energy. Why don’t you just grab a drill and tear into the planet yourself, huh? I mean, it’s not like we all have to live on this fucking planet, right?”
“Just open the back.” The annoyed grunt came from Greenery, who rarely spoke but always seemed right on the verge of terrible violence whenever he did.
Not wanting to be a target for that violence, the driver had just turned to follow his instructions when he stopped short. Perched on top of his truck were three ravens. Or rather, three raven statues. As soon as he saw them, the man stopped short.
“What’re yo--” Landscape started to demand before his own eyes took in what the other man had seen. “Aww shi--” And then it was too late, as the three statues abruptly sent out a blinding flash of supernatural light, which made the gathered group stagger backward with a collection of the yelps and curses.
In the midst of that, while they were all still recoiling and blinded, a pair of voices called out from the direction of the truck. “Shield of the city, Shining Gift!”
That was followed by one of the voices shouting, “Silver Force! Patroller Cloudburst!”
Then the other voice called, “Emerald Force! Guardian Swiftkick!”
By that point, the Fell-Touched and their Prev thugs could see once more, and found themselves staring at those two standing atop the truck, where Lucent had left his raven statues. They were standing tall (well, as tall as two young girls could stand), fists on their hips as they glared down at the group.
“That’s quite enough of that!” Cloudburst announced. “Back away from the truck and surrender, this is your only warning!”
“Or don’t,” Swiftkick added, “and give us a reason to kick your butts. Cuz we’re pretty good at kicking, and those are some big butts to practice with.”
Seeing the two up there, the Sherwood Fell-Touched trio exchanged looks before Landscape shoved one of the Prev men. “Fucking shoot the bitches and be done with it.”
“The fuck, dude?” the man retorted, “I ain’t shooting a couple little kids. What do you think I am?”
Clearly rolling her eyes behind her mask, Clime snapped, “Fuck it, I’ll deal with this.” Before the other two could object, she spun back and focused her power that way. Instantly, a forcefield appeared around the girls. They were small enough that it could grab both of them at once. “You think you’re tough, huh? Let’s see how you deal with a little wind!” With that, she put a small tornado in the bubble. It wasn't enough to rip them apart. She wasn't about to go killing a couple kids like some kind of fucking monster. But it would send them bouncing off the walls and bruise the little brats a bit. And it would definitely teach them a lesson about butting their noses in where they didn’t belong.
However, she'd barely started the wind before a voice from within the bubble shouted, “Octave Slam!” With that, a sudden, deafeningly loud whistle filled the air. It felt like it was piercing right through her brain. Clime recoiled once more, crying out as her hands snapped up to bounce off her helmet in an attempt to cover her ears. The whistle stopped just as quickly, but the damage was done. She’d lost focus on the forcefield, which meant it was weak enough for the two girls to punch their way out of it. Under two blows, the bubble shattered, revealing Swiftkick holding a small baseball sized metal orb with speaker grills on it.
Realizing what happened immediately, the Sherwood girl tried to reform the bubble. Unfortunately for her, Cloudburst was faster. With a shouted, “Aegis Typhoon!” she thrust her hand forward, summoning a wave of water that shot out from underneath the truck, colliding with not only Clime, but all the others. They were knocked off their feet by the wave and sent them crashing to the ground.
All of them, that was, aside from the truck driver. Just before the wave crashed into the group, a backpack-shaped object with two wings sticking out either side came flying in from behind them. It collided with the driver’s back, startling him into a scream as the thing latched onto him, then picked the man off the ground and flew him into the air while the gang members were knocked off their feet. A second later, the wingpack landed safely on the far side of the truck before disengaging from him.
By the time the Sherwood people shoved themselves back to their feet, Cloudburst and Swiftkick had dropped down from the truck, landing lightly on the road thanks to a slight gravity adjustment.
“We gave you a chance,” Cloud reminded them.
“You’re the ones who chose the hard way,” Swift added.
“Alright, that’s it!” The outburst came from Landscape, who produced a stun baton in one hand and an assortment of acorns in the other. “You little shits might have a few fun little tricks, but I’ve had enough. The two of you--”
“And who,” a new voice interrupted, “said there were only two of them?”
Every eye turned that way, to the front of the truck. Perched there, on the driver’s mirror, was Lucent himself. “Did you forget about me?” the Touched-Raven demanded. “And after I left my little friends in plain view.” His gaze snapped briefly toward the trio of statues still on top of the truck, then back again. “I’m hurt. Wait, no.” Head tilting as though he was considering, the bird mused, “not hurt… excited. Yes, very excited. Your little excursion today was most fortuitous. Tis my first opportunity to try it.”
“Try what?” one of the Prev thugs reflexively blurted, earning a glare from everyone else.
“I am so glad you asked,” came the response, followed immediately by a bellowed, “Shield of the city, feathered gift!” With that, Lucent launched himself into the sky. A pair of very small pouches on his legs expanded in an instant, growing into red-gold armor that entirely encased his body. It made him look as though he was a robot bird rather than a real one, including a little helmet with an open spot for his beak to stick through, and what looked like tiny goggles over his eyes.
“Ruby Force! Ace Birdbrain!”
Now fully armored, the raven flew to where the extra flight pack was hovering, landing on top of it just as a pair of concussive cannons emerged from the front. “Now then,” Lucent--or Birdbrain, announced.
“Let’s see how much fun we can truly have, shall we?”
“We did it! We won!” Now out of costume entirely, Wren bounced up and down, her unkempt blonde hair flying wildly while she held tightly to an equally unarmored Izzy. The two of them were prancing in circles around the small, secluded park a quarter mile away from where they’d just had their confrontation with the Sherwood gang members.
Unable to keep a smile off her face, Izzy nodded. “Too bad Landscape and Clime got away.”
Lucent, sitting on a small tree branch, gave a soft caw of agreement before speaking. “You shall find, as you perform these duties, that such a thing happens far more often than not. True villains have a tendency to slither away from the hand of justice.”
“That’s okay,” Wren insisted, “we’ll nail ‘em next time. And hey, the new armor works, right?!”
“Tis true,” Lucent agreed. “Your designs were flawless. I have often struggled to wear anything without being weighed down, but the armor fit as a second set of feathers. I hardly noticed its presence.”
“And you were right,” Izzy pointed out. “About having a sonic bomb to distract Clime so we could break out of her forcefield. That… it was a good plan.” She offered him a small smile. “We’re lucky you came to help.”
“As I am truly fortunate to have found such willing and capable heroes to attach myself to, I assure you,” Lucent returned. “And yet, you have now faced, and won, against Fell-Touched, who will hold a grudge against you. They will want revenge. And those who are not part of their gang will begin to see you as a true threat. You both know what that means.”
Exchanging a couple looks, the girls turned their gazes back to Lucent. All three blurted the answer together.
I'm Not Exactly Sure How Lucent Ended Up The Default Father Figure For Young Touched, But I Am Here For It.
Don't Worry, Unnamed Thug. If You Actually Had Tried To Shoot Those Young Girls, A: Their Armor Would Protect Them and B: The Lucent Statues Would Have Melted The Gun With One Eye Beam And Knocked You Twenty Feet Or So With The Other.
This Very Well May Be The Most Fun I've Had Writing A Chapter, At Least In A Long While.