April Newton stood patiently in line at Dos Hermanos. Here, one could safely count on finding the best damn street tacos anywhere in Century City. Best of all, the mega-popular food truck always parked at a pavilion just a few blocks down the street from the Chronicle
, where April worked. It had become something of a weekly tradition for her to go pick up lunch there; even though it meant contending with the usual crowd, the food was every bit worth the wait. Besides, on a beautiful day like today -- as so many Century City days were -- April relished the opportunity to get out of the stuffy office and stand under the bright California sun for a bit.
The line was moving particularly slowly today, and before long, the smartly-dressed young reporter had run out of things to check on her phone. Returning the device to the pocket of her heather grey pantsuit, April looked up with disappointment to find that the line had made very little progress. Sighing, she brought a hand to the back of her neck and began massaging the ache that had formed sometime around her third hour of hunching over a computer screen. As she rolled her head from side to side to loosen the stiff muscle, her eyes found one of the Chronicle's
newspaper boxes on the corner.
Despite it having now become a common occurrence, April still hadn't gotten used to seeing her face plastered on the front page. Of course, it wasn't her
face, per se; it was the face of the hero that Century City had come to call their own. "MISS MEGATON SUBDUES SHOOTER," the headline read above an action shot of April's alter ego in full glow. And though the photo credit was hidden beneath the fold, April would've bet the entirety of her meager savings that it belonged to one Peyton Campbell. She does have a habit of capturing me in a flattering light,
April thought appreciatively. Even so, she forced herself to look away.
It really was amazing how quickly Miss Megaton had become part of the fabric of everyday life in Century City. In the wake of the Sentinel drone attack, her coming-out party, the city had embraced the hero with open arms. The Mayor even put out an invitation for Miss Megaton to accept a key to the city, but April hadn't felt comfortable attending; she was already paranoid enough that Mickey Holtz -- or any of the dozens of trained reporters she worked with -- would recognize her from Peyton's photos, much less a televised public appearance. Fortunately, they hadn't, and after a while, she got over her fear enough to once again patrol the city as Miss M.
The line at Dos Hermanos finally inched forward a bit, but April had been too lost in thought to notice. Suddenly, she was jolted back to the present by a small collision from behind. Snapping out of her stupor, April turned to identify the source of the disturbance. Her eyes found a little girl, no older than eight, with a mop of curly red hair. Around her shoulders, the girl had knotted a well-loved crimson blanket; April smiled at the sight of it. The girl met her gaze, blushed, and scurried back behind her mother's legs. The auburn-haired woman made a slightly embarrassed expression and said, "I'm sorry about her."
April shook her head. "It's no problem,"
she answered assuringly. Turning her attention back to the little girl, she offered, "I like your cape!"
That brought the girl a little bit out of her shell. She shuffled out from behind her mother, made tentative eye contact, and then grinned as she turned to look away once more. The girl's mother placed a hand on her shoulder and explained, "She's insisted on wearing it ever since... well, you know."
April nodded. "Well, it looks very good on you,"
she said by way of compliment. "You know, I have one just like it, but I think I like yours better!"
That earned another smile. The girl's mother chuckled, too, neither of them the wiser regarding the honesty of April's last admission. Being seen as a role model was definitely strange, but April had to admit that it brought her a certain sense of pride. Now in high spirits, she turned back around and stepped forward in line, being only three customers removed from that delicious taco goodness.
Just then, April felt a buzzing in her pocket. Reaching in to retrieve her phone, she drew it out and checked the caller ID. "Jefferson Boone," her friend and lone confidant. If Miss Megaton was the brawn of their little crime-fighting operation, then Jefferson was definitely the brains. While it hadn't exactly been April's choice to let Jefferson in on the secret -- he had sought her
out -- she couldn't imagine how she would've gotten this far without his help. It was a bit strange that he was calling her in the middle of the day like this, but April trusted that he had his reasons. Answering the call, she brought the phone to her ear and said, "Hey, Jeff, everything alright?"
His voice came through the end of the line muffled and distant. "April! There you are. I tried you at your off---. Somethi----------appening."
April frowned. "Say that again? I think we have a bad connection."
If he heard her, he gave no indication. Instead, he pressed on, though she now had to strain to hear him. "You need to-----------r suit. There's a--------h--ded for S-------cisco, and there's more f--ling every minute... April, did you------me? You need to--"
And with that, the call finally dropped.
Puzzled, April lowered the phone and examined it. It seemed that she had lost all reception. Glancing around at the other patrons seated by the food truck, she noted that they, too, seemed to be experiencing similar interruptions. That was odd; odder still had been Jefferson's words, the few that made it through the other end of the line, anyway. What concerned April most, however, was the tone in his voice. She had never heard him sound like that, and Jeff was not someone who spooked easily. Figuring that the matter must be more important than food -- even the best Mexican food in the city -- April stepped out of line in hopes of finding a cell signal.
She heard what happened next before she felt it: a low rumble accompanied by the distant blaring of car alarms. As the sound drew nearer, the shaking followed. Like any Californian metropolis, Century City was no stranger to the occasional earthquake, but April sensed immediately that this one was different. She hardly had time to prepare herself for the shockwave when it finally hit; the pavement beneath her feet shifted, attempting to topple her, as the rumble became a roar. The terrified screams of unaware citygoers were swiftly drowned out by the rattling of the surrounding buildings.
April heard a crash and looked up to see that the windows of the glass office building above the pavilion had shattered. The shards began to rain down, threatening the safety of everyone below, and April realized that there was no time to be cautious; figuring that no one would be too concerned with looking her way in that moment, she lowered her glasses and focused her vision. A fan of bright green energy shot out from her eyes, forming a solid plane over all their heads. As the glass shards fell into the searing radiation, they were vaporized, turned into harmless dust. The pedestrians, who had been cowering and covering their heads, hadn't seen... all save for the little girl, who stared with her jaw slacked.
There was little time to address it. April pressed a finger to her lips, and the girl nodded uncertainly. Wasting no more time, April sprinted away from the pavilion, the tremors making it increasingly difficult to remain upright. When she finally reached an abandoned alleyway, she began stripping off her pantsuit. Wearing a costume underneath her clothes was pretty far from comfortable, but days like today proved why it was necessary. As her cape unfurled, April at last removed her glasses and took to the sky as Miss Megaton.
The first thing she did was put on the earpiece that connected her with Jeff. The receiver crackled for a moment, until finally she heard a distorted voice coming through weakly. After a moment, the reception stabilized enough that she could hear Jeff somewhat clearly. "April, thank God! I couldn't hear you at all on the phone,"
he explained. "With everything going on, I guess the cell networks are on the fritz."
She quickly decided she didn't like the way he said "everything." Frowning, she said, "Well, I'm here now. Downtown's in chaos! I've never seen an earthquake like this...""It's not just an earthquake,"
Jefferson responded, the signal weakening considerably. "That's what I was trying to tell you earlier. A meteorite just struck San Francisco. I'm watching the live feed now; it's... really bad."
The news landed in April's stomach like a stone. "And not just there, either. There are reported impacts all over the globe. God, April... it's like the end of the world.""Hey, keep it together for me, okay?"
she replied, assuming an air of manufactured confidence. Jefferson was usually pretty collected, so if even he
was shaken by what he had witnessed... There was no point in thinking about it. Miss Megaton had a job to do; she could worry about the apocalypse later. As she flew into the heart of downtown, she noted the sudden silence on the other end of the line. With concern in her voice, she said, "Jeff? Jeff, are you still there?"
At first, static was the only response. Then, Jefferson's voice returned distantly. "-- a lot of interference. Not sure how long our connection will hold.""Just point me in a direction for now,"
she answered."Can do,"
his voice crackled. "Head north. Looks like there's trouble by the freeway. I'll work on creating a more stable connection back here.""Okay,"
she said, "Be safe.""You t--"
She'd be lying if she said she wasn't concerned for Jeff, but it helped that she knew where he lived. That part of town was much newer and thus built to higher specifications where earthquake safety was concerned. As much as she may worry about him, he didn't need her help nearly as much as the folks on the edge of town; there, the older buildings had only been retrofitted sparsely. Indeed, as she raced towards the freeway that passed through Century City, she saw firsthand the devastation that the initial shockwave had caused. Some buildings had partially collapsed, and the street was strewn with glass and rubble.
As the freeway drew near, Miss Megaton immediately saw the threat. An oil tanker had overturned and was spilling its contents across the roadway. Smoke billowed from the tanker's hood, suggesting that a fire had broken out inside the engine. Worse yet, the line of traffic that had been following the truck was now trapped, causing a massive backup of cars. If she could, Miss Megaton would simply pick up the tanker and fly it to a safe distance away, but she dare not disturb it for fear of triggering an explosion. No, she would have to do this the hard
way, meaning that she needed to get everyone out of the potential blast zone. No small feat.
First, there was the small matter of rescuing the truck driver. Landing gently on the side of the overturned cabin, Miss Megaton grabbed hold of the passenger-side door and wrenched it off its hinges. She discarded the useless piece of scrap metal and ducked her head inside. The driver was bleeding from a blow to his head, and his hands fumbled uselessly at the seatbelt. "Move your hands,"
Miss Megaton instructed calmly. Once he did, she fired a concentrated beam from her fingertips that cut through the buckle. "Now, grab onto me and hang on."
He did as she asked, taking her outstretched hand, and she flew him up and away from the truck. Eventually, she set him down at street level, checking that he was alright before returning to the elevated roadway.
Assessing the situation, Miss Megaton swiftly realized that transporting the civilians or their vehicles one by one was no option at all. The engine fire created a ticking clock, and she would never get everyone out in time. I need to move them en masse,
she mused without the faintest idea how she'd accomplish that. "I can't move the tanker, so maybe I'll just move everything else,"
she wondered aloud. The idea which was formulating in her head was risky to say the least, but she didn't have time to workshop anything else. Darting down to the freeway, she landed at the edge of the oil spill.
The nearest car was only a few feet away, which wouldn't do for what she was planning. Making eye contact with the terrified driver inside the vehicle, Miss Megaton did her best to project confidence. "Hold on!"
she shouted, loud enough to be heard. "Don't move for me, alright?"
That earned barely a nod, but it would have to do. Placing her hands on the hood of the car, she began pushing it backwards. Before long, she felt it bump up against the next car in line, but she kept pushing. She pushed and pushed until the row of cars -- now scrunched up bumper-to-bumper -- had been moved a fair distance away from the overturned tanker.
She repeated the process for the other three lanes of traffic until finally there stood an empty gulf between the area of the spill and the motorists. A few cars coming from the opposing lanes also had to be moved before she could put her plan in action. Taking to the skies, Miss Megaton stretched out both hands and fired beams at the unoccupied stretches of roadway. Once two clean cuts had been made from end to end, she looped around underneath the elevated freeway and took hold of the girders supporting the structure. Two large, concrete columns supported the weight of the whole thing, but they were no match for Miss Megaton's radiation vision. As she burned through the columns, she felt the weight of the severed freeway section slump down on top of her.
Truth be told, Miss Megaton had never tried lifting anything this heavy before. The steel girders alone made it oppressively heavy, to say nothing of the roadway itself or
the tanker resting at the very top. Plus, she had to be careful not to jostle the broken segment, lest she cause a chain reaction that ended with the oil catching fire. Still, straining mightily though she was, it seemed that Miss Megaton's strength would hold up. After a moment, she was able to begin gaining altitude as she carried the length of freeway up and away from the street. She broke west, towards the open water, whereupon she gave a great heave and hurtled the broken roadway as far as she could manage. Like a skilled skeet-shooter, she fired a blast that connected with the tumbling tanker in mid-air, creating a brilliant fireball that vaporized everything but the steel girders. The resulting shockwave carried across the water and sent her cape flapping a few moments later."April, are you there?"
came Jefferson's voice suddenly, still quiet but finally stable.
Relieved, she responded, "Hey, Jeff. Good to hear your voice again. I dealt with the disaster on the freeway; going to circle back now and assist with the cleanup.""About that..."
As he spoke, Miss Megaton noticed a shadow spreading across the water. She turned back towards the city, shielding her eyes as she glanced up at the sun. A large object was passing in front of it, appearing like nothing more than a formless black shape. As her eyes adjusted, however, she began to make out the details clearly. Even so, what she was seeing defied all belief or reason. She blinked a few times to make sure she wasn't imagining things. "... you may have a bigger problem,"
Jeff concluded."No kidding,"
Miss Megaton gasped, curling her hands into fists. Just then, a door at the bottom of the spaceship slid open, and dozens of tiny black shapes came spilling out.