Useless Powers, Useful Heroes
Loose fabric flapped in the wind as Trigger ran along the outer wall of the fortress. "Sometimes I really wish I'd gotten control over sewing machines or something..." Her poorly fitted outfit was a constant source of disappointment for her. She'd designed it herself, after all. The sketches showed a tight, sexy little one piece suit with a beautifully drawn pistol trigger emblem on the chest, split by a low cut V neck. She was going to be Trigger, the femme fatale, the hero all men wanted but were afraid to court. That is, until she took to making it. As it turned out, sewing wasn't her greatest skill. She had even been forced to abandon the V neck, as she couldn't figure out how to make it stay up. Her first iteration of the costume had revealed far more than she intended. So, for now, this is what she was stuck with. An approximation of her dream costume. And a loose approximation at that.
As she rounded a bend, Trigger realized she had no where to go. The wall continued around the entire fortress. She had hoped to find a weak point - perhaps a rope a soldier forget to pull up, or a low point in the wall. It was now clear that they wouldn't be getting so lucky. "Denise, little help, please?"
A sharp whine followed Trigger around the bend, "Triggerrrr, I told you not to call me that! We have codenames now!" Clip popped around the corner, joining Trigger by the wall.
Trigger raised a hand to shield her eyes. "God, Clip, I thought we talked about that costume. You look like you're wrapped in tinfoil. How're we supposed to sneak in when spotlights turn you into a walking discoball?"
Clip sighed and shook her head, "Trigger you never trust me, do you? I got this!" She ran her hands over the creases in her costume, frowning slightly. "It doesn't actually look like tinfoil, right?.."
Teardrop and Rob Boss poked their heads around the wall. "Oh hey guys!" Teardrop said excitedly as he waved. "Oh, sorry. Girls. That's hey girls!" A big smile crossed his face as he continued to wave.
Rob shook a paintbrush in Teardrop's face as he walked past. "Dude, sometimes, you're almost as bad as Clip. Tone down the energy, we don't want to get caught."
The smile immediately dropped off Teardrop's face. His head sunk as he muttered a forlorn, "Sorry..."
Clip skipped over to Teardrop and wrapped her arms around him. "Don't worry, you. You know how Rob gets. I, for one, love your energy!"
Trigger began tapping her foot, "Guys, the mission?"
"Right, on it!" Clip chimed out. Her expression suddenly grew serious. Everyone stood and watched in silence. Clip raised her hands out in front her, directing them at the wall. Sounds of clinking filled the air. It started out low, but as it grew in intensity, it was clear that Clip's costume was shaking.
Paperclips. Thousands of them. All tightly packed together, seamlessly covering Clip's body.
With a motion of her hand, Clip sent them forward. They shot at the wall, pushing up and over it. As the paperclips flew off of her, Clip's outfit became far less reflective. The ones underneath were plastic. They wouldn't reflect as much light. This was much to the chagrin of Clip, who took great pride in keeping the top layer of paperclips polished.
Clip's hands fell back to her sides. She smirked, satisfied with her work. There, on the wall, stood a paperclip ladder.
Trigger patted Clip on the back, "Good job, Clip. Alright everyone, over the wall we go. Remember, keep it quiet!"
Everyone took turns climbing up and over the wall. It wouldn't be able to support more than one of them at once. They'd learned that one the hard way. Finally, Clip herself climbed the wall, pulling the paperclips back onto her as she went.
Once over, Teardrop pointed to a massive stone block of a building. "That's it, right?"
Trigger nodded. "Yep, that's where they keep it. We have to get that duplicator. It can single-handedly restore the food supplies of every colony in the area!"
"Well then what're we waiting for? Let's go get it!" Rob exclaimed as his arm reached behind him, feeling around. "I know I strapped it... There we go!" With a grunt, he hefted up a folded easel. "Uh, little help?"
The others sighed but moved to help him set up the easel. An excited gleam entered Rob's eye. "Let's get the lay of the land, shall we?" He hooked his thumb into his palette, and picked a brush from the pouch tied to his belt. With a deep breath, he began painting. Bristles met canvas in thick, heavy strokes. There was no line work or intricate detailing to be had here. Rob Boss could only work in the abstract. Not that he minded, that was all he ever needed.
"There!" He proclaimed, gesturing toward the canvas. The group gathered up, trying to make out the painting. It was rough, but even the untrained eye could make out the layout of the fortress. One room in particular caught everyone's eye. A small chamber, in which Rob had painted an intersection of many lines.
"Lots of electricity being directed there." Trigger said enthusiastically.
"Yep. I usually can't see minor electrical lines, so those must be big ones. Something powerful is in there." Rob replied.
Teardrop draped his arms across both of their shoulders, "Well, guys, that's gotta be our target! Time to save some lives!"
As the group reached their consensus, their ears pricked up at the sound of soft grinding. All eyes fell on Clip. Her outfit was shifting, replacing the top, reflective layer with the duller plastic paperclips from underneath. She frowned as her costume settled into place, "I hate stealth mode... It's so boring!"
Looks were exchanged as the mood suddenly grew solemn. They moved as a unit, making their way across the courtyard as quickly and quietly as possible. It didn't take long to reach the fortress. "Over here!" Trigger called out. She pushed open the unlocked door she'd found, and motioned everyone inside.
The hall was dark. Fortunately, they had Rob's map. The outline it provided was enough to fumble their way roughly in the direction of the chamber they sought. It was eerily quiet in the fortress. Suspiciously so.
Clip peaked around a corner and had to stifle her startled shriek. She pressed her back against the wall, carefully pinning down her paperclips to avoid making noise, and pointed her finger toward the corner. "Guards," she whispered.
"Guns?" Trigger asked expectantly.
Trigger smiled. "My time to shine. Clip, be ready." She took Clip's place against the wall, peering around. There were three guards, all carrying standard issue pistols. These guns would only be able to fire roughly 16 bullets each. "Easy enough." Her fingers twitched at her sides.
With a deep breath, Trigger began to concentrate on the guns. She pictured them in her mind, and honed in on the grip. Her mind's eye traced the outline of the gun, moving up the grip, around the guard, and settling on her target: the trigger. Her fingers sprang into action. With each pull of her finger, one of the guns went off. Loud bangs echoed off the walls, followed by the surprised yelling of the guards. "12, 13, 14..." Trigger counted softly to herself as she pulled.
Clip rolled her shoulders. Now it was her turn. As the guards tried to wrestle their guns from their sides, Clip jumped around the corner. The men looked at her with looks of genuine confusion. "What the hell?.." One began. He was quickly cut off as a blast of paperclips struck him in the face. One of the two standing guards instinctively reached for his gun, cursing loudly as it went off. Clip struck again, sending another wave of heavy paperclips forward.
The last guard stood alone, his pistol finally silent. Beads of sweat fell down his face. He looked down at his fallen companions, and then up at Clip. "No way, man. I'm outta here!" He shouted as he turned to run.
"Oh no you don't." The paperclips on the floor lifted up, leaving behind the fallen bodies of the guards. They hung in the air for a moment, waiting to be commanded. Clip thought carefully, calculating the right angle and amount of force needed to catch the fleeing man. With a flick of the wrist, the paperclips took flight. They struck the man in the back of both of his legs, collapsing his knees. The sudden impact made him fall hard, his face smacking against the ground.
Clip winced, "Whoops. Didn't plan for that."
Rob patted Clip on the back, "Good job, that was some fine 'clip commandin' you did there, 'Tex. A real sharp shooter."
Clip laughed, "Oh shut it, Rob. Now let's go, before more guards show up."
The group moved on, being careful to step over the guards. They weren't here to kill, they just wanted the duplicator.
Finding the chamber was easy with Rob's map. The closer they got, the more apparent it became that this had to be the right place. Thick cables ran along the walls, all leading to the point Rob had marked. Sure enough, as they reached the end of yet another hallway, they saw it. There, beyond an archway with no door, was the duplicator.
It was an odd device. Standing no more than 3 feet high, the duplicator was of unknown origins. Coils wrapped around a central diode, energy pulsing along them. The cables they had followed met at either end of the diode, providing the immense power needed to use the device. It was clearly in active use. Weapons no one in the group recognized appeared in front of it, ferried off by a series of conveyor belts. With each new creation, a surge of electricity shot along the coils. It was as magnificent as it was terrifying.
Trigger looked at each face in turn, "Alright, you guys know your jobs. Teardrop, get started!"
Teardrop gave a thumbs up, "Right!" He rushed over to the duplicator, being careful to stay far enough away as to not be hit by the surges. He started to pry up the panel covers alongside the device, exposing the wiring underneath. As he upended the panels on one side of the room, Rob worked on those opposite him. Meanwhile, Trigger and Clip stood guard. They'd need to work fast.
When all the panels were off, Rob signaled to Teardrop. This would be it. "Whelp, time to find out if this will really work or not." Teardrop stood over one of the panels and opened his eyes wide. Moisture filled his eyes, quickly amassing into a stream of tears. He concentrated harder. The stream of tears picked up, sending a flood down toward the exposed wiring. Crackling sounds filled the air as electronics began to fail.
A river of tears made its way around the room, following the path of open panels. As the tears flowed, the coils on the duplicator began to emit weaker surges. Before long, it stopped surging altogether.
"That's it, it's off! Rob, grab it and let's go!" Trigger shouted.
Rob leapt over to the duplicator and carefully snatched it. The cables were still attached, and he struggled to pull the device free. Teardrop joined him, tugging on the cables. With both of them tugging and pulling, the cables finally gave way. With the duplicator in hand, they joined the others; just in time for an alarm to start blaring.
Clip looked around frantically, "Yep, that's it, we gotta get out of here!"
They ran back the way they came, jumping over the felled guards. At first, it seemed they were in the clear. No guards met them in the halls. They pushed open the unlocked door and stepped out into the courtyard. Immediately, their hearts sank.
A tall man stood in front of them, tapping a cane on the ground impatiently. He wore a perfectly pressed three-piece suit, and a velvet top hat. He flashed a devilish grin at the group, "Thought you'd won, did you?"
Trigger spat at the man, "Baron Tempest. God, I should have known this was your fortress..."
Baron Tempest continued to wear an evil smile, "Oh Trigger, you really do suit your name. Constantly jumping the gun. Tell me, did you even research-"
The Baron's words were stopped short as a shower of paperclips smacked into his face. "Run!" Clip shouted as she pointed at the wall.
The group tore off toward the wall, Rob clutching the duplicator to his chest.
Baron Tempest's smile was gone. "Why you little, how dare you strike me in the face?!" A strong wind swept across the courtyard. The group found themselves being pushed backwards - back toward the Baron.
"We'll never make it like this! And there's no way my paperclips can fight against this wind!" Clip shouted, a defeated tone in her voice.
Teardrop looked at the group, at his friends, struggling against the gale force winds. "No. We're gonna make it." He pried his eyes open, struggling not to blink as the wind buffeted his face. Tears welled up, the water whipping around in front of him.
A hearty laughed issue from Baron Tempest, "Are you crying at me, boy? You think I'll show you pity? Oh, I have no pity for thieves."
Teardrop continued to push his eyes open. "Will you, just..." He said through clenched teeth, "Shut up!" A torrent of water erupted from his face, flooding the ground around them. Like the contents of a broken dam, it rushed toward the Baron.
Shock entered Baron Tempest's eyes as he was picked up by the river of tears, carried along like a ragdoll in a storm. He began to shout in anger, but was cut off abruptly as his mouth filled with water. His tirade was replaced with gagging and choking as he struggled against Teardrop's attack.
The others knew they didn't have time to relish on Teardrop's awesome use of his power. Clip sprang toward the wall, constructing a ladder. One by one they made their way up and over, just as they'd come in. As he watched Baron Tempest get washed way, Teardrop let out an excited yip and ran to the ladder.
The crew didn't stop to catch their breath on the other side. They ran hard, getting as much distance as they could between them and the fortress.
After a few hours of running, they finally stopped for a break. All eyes fell on the duplicator. They'd done it. They may not be the strongest heroes, or the most well dressed, but they could still make a difference. And after all, The Useful Useless were all the world had.