Around 11:30am, according to official reports, several hundred mice traveling at the speed of sounds cut through the downtown area, mowing down pedestrians and causing tens of thousands of dollars in property damage. Max and I flew in to save the day; the mice were unharmed, even if people weren’t as lucky.
At 12:42 there was an attack on a bakery, when a colony of ants assembled into a cooperative body. It moved in the shape of a human, and fought like a soldier. Bystanders were severely bitten, and no matter how many times I blasted the colony wouldn’t be swayed; except by pastries.
Then, at 1:08 there was the boa constrictor that crushed and consumed an SUV… with a family still inside. The two moms and the three kids made it out, with the help of myself and Max, but the car didn’t survive. It was messy, and the less said about it the better.
The day was filled with small victories, but in their place another two disasters would spring up. How were we supposed to keep up?
Max flew behind as we rounded back toward InfiniTech and Professor Danver’s office. The grunts on the street lowered their weapons and tilted their heads; almost as if they’d never seen a girl and a dog passing through the sky before.
We entered the open window and set foot on the carpet. The office was empty.
I bent down beside Max and gave him a scratch behind the ear. “Just sit tight, buddy. I need to talk to some friends, okay? So be on your best behaviour.”
Ahem. I, er, really like dogs…
The doors burst open and figures in white carrying dart guns positioned themselves along the wall. I raised an arm and patted Max to keep him calm, at least until Professor Danvers walked into the office.
“He’s with you?” she queried over her glasses. The professor waved security off and they dispersed, closing the doors behind them.
“Max and I are… friends.”
She kneeled beside him. “Does he bite?” The licks to her hand were answer enough, and the head of research smiled. “Too bad he’s a security risk. He’s going to have everyone around here on their toes.”
“I promise he’s a good dog.”
The professor smiled. “I’m sure. He’s in good company.”
She rounded her desk and flopped into the chair, running her fingers through her hair while stealing a moment to breathe. Her thumb and index finger probed the corners of her eyes to squeeze the exhaustion from them.
“Captain Ramirez has been keeping me up to date on your progress,” she hummed. “We’re very lucky to have you right now, even if he won’t say so.”
“I’m not sure I’m able to hold out much longer,” I sighed.
Professor Danvers raised a brow and grinned. “With any luck you won’t have to. Our team have taken blood samples from a number of animals and we think we’ve found what sets them apart from humans.”
I sat and leaned forward. Max placed his head in my lap.
“Caffeine,” she explained. “We don’t fully understand how or why yet, but the chemical acts as an inhibitor for the power set activated during last night’s meteor shower. Since animals typically don’t consume caffeine they were more susceptible, and that’s how we landed in the situation that we’re in.”
“So what do we do about it?” I pressed. “Unless your answer is to somehow feed coffee and soda to every dog, cat, rodent and bird in the city.”
The Professor stood and gestured to the door. “Nothing so cumbersome. Our team have been working the last few hours on mass producing a caffeine-based aerosol that, in high enough quantities, should negate the super-abilities of animals en masse. It’s not fully refined due to time restrictions, but…”
“I know. Beggars can’t be choosers.”
She lead us along a corridor and to a set of winding stairs. Max bounced behind, every so often needing to be reminded to follow.
Next thing we knew we were in a warehouse facility with even rows of vats, each the size of Olympic swimming pools. All around were figures in hazard suits, clustered around panels, moving back and forth and checking off items on their clipboards. It had all the makings of a supervillain origin story if things didn’t go right.
Professor Danvers turned and pursed her lips. “This is where we get serious. In order to administer the aerosol we need to spread it through the atmosphere, high enough to make it effective.”
“And you want me to deliver it?”
I stared at the tanks; gods, how was I going to move all of that?
“No, we have aeroplanes for that,” she explained. “However, given that there’s hostile birdlife along our flight path getting up there is difficult. What we really need is a line of defense. Given our options…”
“I’ll do it.”
The director smiled. “Always the hero.”
A number of technicians rolled a number of containers on a tray into another area, jogging with as much care as they could manage. Each one contained enough caffeine to keep an average person buzzed for a year; you know, if you got to live that long.
“Ready to gear up?” Professor Danvers beamed.
I furrowed my brow.
She practically read my mind when she patted my shoulder. “You’re leading this convoy, hero; and to do that we need to get you prepped.”
Her faith was disturbing, but I would live up to the challenge. All was hell under the reign of cats and dogs, and someone needed to set it right.
To be continued…