Glimmer Girl created and owned by Miranda Sparks.
Bonfire and related concepts created and owned by Crystal Frasier.
Story co-plotted by Miranda Sparks and Crystal Frasier, written by Miranda Sparks.
So, here’s the story so far:
My name is Glimmer Girl, a superhero.
The girl in red; Bonfire, a prefect at the Apex Institute. Her job was to convince me that superhero school would be a step in the right direction.
In front of us: robots. Lots of robots. Under the control of school network-raider HaXX0r, their job was to convince me that enrolling would be a bad, bad idea. Unofficially. It was more of their hobby, really. Killing all humans seemed to be their nine-to-five.
Oh, and those metal things clasped to our wrists? Those weren’t fashion accessories; they were power inhibitors, meaning that Bonfire and I only had our wits to survive.
Not exactly an ideal start to the weekend.
“If we can get to the lockers on the next floor I can get these off.” Bonfire clasped her shackle and ground her teeth; they were fastened tight.
“What’s in the lockers?”
She jumped into a full sprint and ducked the buzzsaw flying overhead. “Just listen for once! Interrogate me later!”
Was she nuts!? Maybe I was as well; with her being my only way out I threw myself after Bonfire into the gauntlet of death. Blades and blasts were easy to dodge when you could fly; one trip up without my powers and I was done for!
I dropped under the blanket of fire and rolled from the drop of an axe. Each passing second delivered new danger, and I was not prepared.
Meanwhile, Bonfire was on the other side of the robot wall running for her life.
“Stall them!” she cried, as though I stood a chance! I mean, easy for her to say when I was the one targeted for death!
With a backward roll I pushed out of the firing line and crawled from the trail of bullets following me to the wall. The robots shifted, and I had zero time to get to my feet and high tail to whatever safe corner was next.
Okay, maybe I did need Bonfire’s help; but never let her know that.
I charged down the path, making sure to split away from Bonfire. The plan was to distract them, right? Hey, if I was going to die, at least I could die according to her super-by-the-book plan; then the other girl would have to explain what happened to my mom and dad.
The robots were slow, but they made up for it in strides; meanwhile, I was running low on hallway. A steel wall sealed the escape, and I was huddled into the corner with laser sights tracing my body.
“LOOKS LIKE GAME OVER FOR YOU, N00B,” Haxx0r giggled.
Maybe if I tried to slide through them again… that would be pushing my luck. The machines were more organized this time, better coordinated; still, I had to try…
“Bonfire!” I screamed. “I stalled them! Where the hell are you!?”
I pressed a foot forward, but pulled back as a blade swished across its destination. There was nowhere left to run; all I could do was wait for the axe to fall when it came down on my head. I didn’t flinch; I didn’t want my last moments to be in darkness…
…but the darkness didn’t come.
The axe stopped, and so did the robots.
Haxx0r said it before I had the chance, “WHAT THE CRAP-?”
“You are a smart boy to figure out how to hack into the school network,” Bonfire chuckled, “but not smart enough to think training robots are three-laws safe?” She grinned ear-to-ear before reaching a hand through the metal bodies to pull me out. “Did you really think a publically-funded high school would allow a student to be put in real danger? The robots shut down automatically if a student is about to be harmed.” She pulled something off my back; a hall monitor badge?!
I paused to collect my breath, and my heartbeat. “You mean that whole time I was scared of getting chopped into sushi for no reason?”
“It was a teachable moment. You needed a valuable lesson in not taking your powers for granted,” she grinned.
“You’re a real b-”
“You are welcome,” Bonfire injected. “Let us keep moving. We have still got a lot of ground to cover.”
She snaked through the inanimate frames and to the stairs, and didn’t stop to look back. Could she really be that cold?
“YOU’RE WALKING AROUND LIKE POWER PLAYERS, BUT YOU’D BE NOWHERE WITHOUT YOUR CHEAT CODES,” Haxx0r roared. “MAYBE I’LL LET YOU GO… IF YOU GO STRAIGHT TO THE KITCHEN AND MAKE ME SOME SAMMICHES.”
No way was this kid for real.
Finally we made it to the lockers, and Bonfire homed toward the one that belonged to her. She ran her fingers over the data pad – no cheap combination locks at the Apex Institute – and opened it to reveal a series of devices. From them she removed a tube which hummed as it passed over the braces. A moment later the braces and fell to the ground.
Already I could feel a surge of power welling in my chest.
“Thank the gods!” I blasted the nearest camera, but not before sharing some choice nonverbal communication with our host. “Seriously, though. Why didn’t you tell me about the robots? You’re all by-the-book and children’s safety.”
“I did not want him to know.” Her voice warbled for a moment; the first thing she’d said today that didn’t sound rehearsed. “Darren and I… used to be friends, and I know he is very intelligent.”
“So if he could get into the school’s computer security once,” I finished, “there’s no reason he couldn’t turn off the safety shutdown if he knew it was there?”
The prefect nodded, flexed her fingers and brought a tumbling ball of flame to life in her palm. She grinned, sighed and rolled her shoulders.
“We will follow the emergency stairs the rest of the way topside,” she planned aloud. “Once we are out in the open we can mount an attack on the Kent building.”
“That is where the school servers are located,” she reasoned, “and given the security that surrounds it the most likely place for Haxx0r to take refuge.”
“What are we waiting for? Let’s rock and roll!”
Bonfire frowned; I guess she wasn’t one for action movie dialogue, but a girl has to make the most of a situation. She pressed on back to the stairs, but stopped short when the uniform clunk of machines echoed down the chamber.
“Why are we stopping?” I pressed. “They can’t hurt us, can they? Analogue failsafes and all that.”
Bonfire shook her head. “Once the analogue failsafes are tripped every machine on campus is placed on automatic shutdown. If those robots are active it can only mean the Haxx0r has bypassed that and rebooted the system. We cannot count on the same method a second time.”
“Wow, you’re right. He is fast.” My fists tightened. “So, what; do we fight our way through?” I peered across the clearing to where another pair of doors stood. “Or we could use the elevator.”
“Do not be ridiculous. Haxx0r has control of the-”
Both arms took aim at the steel doors and warped them with a solid blast. Inside was a chasm following the depths of the institute, and the seemingly bottomless shaft into which I stepped. I flew above the gap, lingering in place, as I turned to offer a hand to my guide.
The girl sneered, turned her nose up and flicked her hair. “No, I do not think so. I would be a mad woman if I were to trust you to carry me.”
“You’d be a mad woman trying to scorch the machine army back there,” I huffed. “Seriously, do yourself a favor and quit being a stubborn ass.”
“It is not happening,” she continued. “Please execute your plan without me. I am sure I can find a better way on my own.”
The droning was closing in, and the last thing I needed was attitude.
Whatever; Bonfire could protest all she wanted as I grabbed her, held her to my waist, pushed against gravity and shot to the roof like a firework. She screamed every step of the way, but I was beyond that; my mind was on avoiding the collapse as my blast tore through to the surface.
An explosion rocked the shaft and rolled over with searing light, but soon made way for the sun. Moments later we slowed, then collapsed to the grass.
Bonfire rolled and clutched her limbs. Soon she had her breathing under control and was starting to find her feet.
“Never,” she rasped, “do that again!”
“You’re welcome,” I sneered; call it payback for not divulging about the failsafe.
Save for the crater the school looked innocuous as ever, with brick buildings and cement paths running between them; but of course appearances could be deceiving. At any moment I expected a flurry of traps to spring up.
“The Kent building is this way,” Bonfire declared as she sprinted across the lawn.
I lifted from the ground and flew beside her, cruising at my lowest gear. We had to stick together, and flying was easier; she probably thought I was showing off.
HaXX0r’s voice blared across the school, “THIS ISN’T FAIR! YOU WERE CHEATING! YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME? RAMPAGE MODE TOO TOUGH FOR YOU? IF YOU WHERE ANY KIND OF GAMER OR HERO OR WHATEVER YOU N00BS WOULD GO BACK AND-”
“Seriously, does he ever shut up?”
“I am thankful he is using PG language and not lambasting us with homophobia,” she remarked.
My frown contorted. “Killer robots I can handle; homophobia, not so much.”
We arrived at the building where we were greeted by windows paneled with steel. More security measures, more like Fort Knox than a school; the Apex Institute looked so much nicer in the brochure.
I took a swing and hurled a blast. Hard light struck the mettle with a thump, not even leaving a scuff.
“GOOD LUCK BREAKING THROUGH,” HaXX0r teased. “I’M SITTING BEHIND SIX INCHES OF COMPRESSED STEEL. EVEN IF YOU COULD CUT YOUR WAY INSIDE, IT WOULD TAKE HOURS!”
“So how do we get in?”
Bonfire frowned at the wall and bit her lip. “We do not. We smoke him out.”
“Go to the other window,” she instructed. “Apply as much heat as your powers are able. If he is going to sit behind his computer, the least we can do is make the experience unpleasant.”
She rolled her shoulders again and held her palms outstretched. Her eyes rolled back as the air started to ripple. It wasn’t as flashy as a laser-beam, but the beads of sweat breaking out and the paint peeling from the side of the building told me everything I needed to know about what she was doing. The least I could do was match the effort.
I flew around the corner and pointed a wide beam at the building, cracking the brick as it scoured the wall. The power inside, deeper than I’d ever felt, burned like the sun and was focused on that one spot where I swore I could see the villain leaning back, covered in cheese dust and sipping soda.
“YOU’LL… YOU’LL NEVER MAKE IT THROUGH!” HaXX0r betrayed a gasp.
“Do not let up!” Bonfire roared.
Minutes passed, I don’t know how many. Holding my powers to task was a strain, but even more so for Bonfire; her knees were starting to buckle. Never let it be said that slow roasting a greaseball was easy, especially when you’re doing it manually.
Finally the windows dropped, as did the door, and a plump figure came stumbling out. He fanned his fedora over his face, clearing away the steam he was choking on, and leaned on a nearby post.
He lifted a hand and eased back. “Okay, okay, I give up! Game over!”
It wasn’t over; not by a long shot. Bonfire and I circled around him, with me grinding a fist into my palm and cracking my knuckles. There was only one way this was going to end.
“W-wait, you-you can’t hit me,” HaXX0r stammered. He turned to Bonfire. “Tell her! You’re a prefect! You can’t encourage this kind of thing! There are rules against hitting other students!”
She looked to him, then to me, and shook her head. “I am afraid my hands are tied, Darren. Glimmer Girl is not a student here. I have no jurisdiction over…”
He leered, and was probably about to protest, but an uppercut laid him outcold. It was lucky for him that I’d powered down, or else I might have broken his jaw, or worse.
“Technically I should report you to the administration,” the other girl hummed. A wry smile betrayed her.
Another voice loomed over us. “You can rest assured that should the administration become aware of anything that they will take the appropriate action.” Stepping from the ether was a portly man with a diamond decorated mask; Dr. Ghost/Geist, whatever name he was using for himself.
Bonfire straightened her uniform and cleared her throat. “Sir.”
“Rest assured that this young man will not be stepping away from this event unscathed,” he continued. “One month of weekend detentions, plus working to clear up what damage has been caused by this incident. He’s fortunate that I’m not going to give an academic demerit; he should be relieved to hear that, once he comes to.”
It seemed hard to believe that he was being so lenient with someone who’d just endangered other students; if it were me I would have expelled him. Then again, would you really want to expel a dangerous, superhuman hacker onto an unsuspecting world?
Dr. Geist smiled and tilted his head. “I hope this experience hasn’t tainted your view of the Apex Institute, Glimmer Girl. We really do have a lot to offer, especially to someone of your talents.”
I nodded. “Oh, I’m sure.”
“You don’t sound entirely convinced.”
“Well…” What was I supposed to say? “I’m not sure this is the place for me, I guess. I’ve got a lot going on in my own life, and I’m still trying to work myself out. It’s not just the hero stuff, it’s everything. It’s complicated.”
Bonfire rolled her eyes; like she knew anything about it.
Dr. Geist merely grinned and offered a hand. “I understand, and if there’s anything you need, please, remember that myself and my students are here to help. You may not be a part of the institute, but there is no reason we cannot part as friends.”
I shook his hand, and Bonfire’s too. She gripped firmly and stared me down.
“Take care of yourself, Glimmer Girl,” she said, “and remember not to get cocky.”
“If you ever need a taste of the real world give me a call,” I grinned at her.
Maybe I’d see her again, or maybe not. Who knows what part the Apex Institute would play in future? If nothing else I was glad to have them on my side.
Bonfire knocked at the door and stared at her feet. Her eyes wandered back and forth, glossing over details as her fingers danced with one another. She snapped upright again when called upon, and entered the office.
“Hello again, Bonnie.” The headmaster’s eyes crinkled as he smiled. He stood from his desk and gestured toward the chair by the window. “I trust you’re recovering well,” he continued.
The girl sat, bit her lip and clasped her hands together. “Yes, sir. I was not hurt during HaXX0r’s takeover.”
“I have no doubt. But events such as these can rattle the nerves.” He eased himself down and drew a heavy breath, and paused his gaze somewhere between his student and the window. “I wanted to tell you that your actions made the Institute proud,” he added, “and, should you be comfortable, the missus would remind you that there’s an open invitation to our dinner table.”
Bonfire smiled, though was swallowed her shoulders. “Thank you, sir…”
“Bonnie?” He leaned forward and caught her gaze. “Your mother and father would be proud of you as well. I’m certain of that.”
Her eyes darted away from his. “Thank you.”
“I’m thankful you had some help today, even though Ms. Glimmer Girl has not been sold on the benefits of the Apex Institute.”
A smile curled in the corner of her lip. “If you do not mind my saying, sir, I do not think she would be suited to this place at all.”
Dr. Geist raised a brow. “You don’t think much of her, then.”
“To be honest I found her prideful, impulsive, obnoxious and too convinced of her own effectiveness as a superhero to act appropriately in the given situation.”
He smirked, crossed his legs and leaned back into the leather chair. “That’s really a shame. Given her candidacy screening I thought the two of you would have found some common ground.”
“With all due respect, sir, I have strong family commitments, and high academic aspirations. I am not Indian enough for my family or white enough for my peers, and the few people who liked me despite that, like Darren, had no time for me once I transitioned. I do not believe I have much common ground to share with anyone, let alone with someone such as Glimmer Girl.”
“All of those things you listed are things to be proud of, and you’d do well not to sell yourself short,” the doctor told her.
The sun waned on the horizon and cast amber across the yard. Another day had come to an end at the Apex Institute.