Saturday, January 7, 2017

Eleanor Washington vs. the Board of Supers | Heroes & Villains 1.9

“Ellie,” Ben said breathlessly as he ran over to her desk. She glanced up from her computer, a pen in her mouth. “I need you.” Ellie’s eyes narrowed and she reached up to grab the pen.
“Is something wrong?” Ellie asked. Ben opened his mouth to speak, then shut it again. He bit his lower lip and glanced around at Ellie’s coworkers, all staring towards them, a few even standing at their desks to get a better look at their boss’s son. Ellie’s supervisor Rylie was standing at her desk, arms crossed, staring towards them with a pout.
“I don’t think I’m supposed to give you all the information just yet,” Ben said, still cautiously glancing around. “But it’s very time sensitive and I need your help now.” Ellie lifted an eyebrow.
“Is it BS?” She asked. Ben smiled at Ellie’s nickname for the Board of Supers, her comment allowing his body to relax, but only a bit.
“Yes,” Ben replied. Ellie looked back down at her computer and tapped a few keys on her keyboard to lock the screen. She stood and pulled her purse out from under her desk, pulling her coat off the back of her chair.
“Where are we talking?” Ellie asked.
“I’ll drive,” Ben replied turning and walking back towards the exit. Ellie frowned, surprised they weren’t going to his secret lair beneath Bakersfield and ran along behind his large strides, trying to ignore the many eyes watching them leave and not think about what was most likely on their minds.

Ben hadn’t spoken during the short ride and Ellie had been too fascinated by his car to say much. She had never ridden in a sports car before. Ben’s car cost more than everything she owned and she was so paranoid of ruining anything she sat still in the leather passenger seat, trying to keep small. Ben parked at BOS Movie Theaters and leapt out of the car, circling the vehicle and just caught Ellie’s door as she opened it and stepped out. They crossed the parking lot in silence, except for Ellie’s heels clicking on the pavement, her eyes down trying not to slip on ice. Ben held open the door for her as they entered. Ben walked up to the ticket desk. The college girl at the counter, chewing loudly on her gum, lit up when she caught sight of him.
“Benjamin Baker!” She exclaimed, sitting up straight. “Hi, welcome.”
“Hey,” Ben said casually. “I should have two tickets waiting for me under my name.” The girl began typing on her computer in front of her, her eyes darting up and down between Ben and the screen. She pressed a few commands and the tickets began to print out.
“Here you go Mr. Baker, enjoy your movie.” She said as she handed over the tickets. Ben flashed her a smile and thanked her as he turned and led Ellie away. Ellie glanced back at the girl, still in a daze as she watched Ben leave.
“You just made that girl’s day,” Ellie muttered. Ben repressed a smile as he handed his tickets to the waiting teller. The man glanced down at the tickets and tore them in half, handing them back to Ben.
“Down the hall and to the left.” He said. Ben nodded and Ellie and Ben started off down the hall. Ellie frowned.
“To the left?” She asked. “There is no left.” Ben laughed. They stopped at the end of the hall and Ben glanced around to see if they were being watched. He held up his ticket stubs to one of the wall tiles on the left side of the hallway. There was a small ding and the wall began to slide open, revealing an elevator.
“How many elevators are bought specifically for superheroes?” Ellie wondered aloud. Ben laughed again and pulled her inside as the door began to close. Ben pressed a down arrow button and they began descending below the theater. Ellie chewed on her tongue, trying to repress the many questions going through her head, unsuccessfully.
“So,” She blurted. “If the movie theater employees know about this place, how many people really know your secret identity?” Ben winced.
“Surprisingly few.” He answered. “The ticket and concessions workers don’t know the truth about what this place is. Only the ushers know what’s going on and they keep the hallway clear when a hero wants to go down into the headquarters. But even then they don’t know much about what the BOS is.”
“They don’t realize that THE Benjamin Baker visiting their movie theater so often means he’s a superhero?” Ellie asked.
“Not exactly.” The elevator doors opened and they stepped out into a large lobby. Ellie’s eyes widened. There were dozens of people roaming around, reading papers or tablet screens as they moved, watching television screens, and racing to meetings. In the center of the lobby was a large golden statue of the Golden Man. Ellie glanced towards Ben.
“Someone here idolizes your dad,” Ellie said. Ben rolled his eyes.
“That would be the whole city,” Ben replied. “But he also helped fund this place so he gets special treatment here. It helps explain my presence here as well, so fewer people realize I’m a super too.” They were stopped by a pair of security guards. They took the tickets from Ben and began to scan Ellie and Ben with metal detectors before sending them on their way. They passed by the statue and Ellie stared up at it.
“There are so many heroes out there. This place isn’t showing favoritism at all.” Ellie teased.
“Please, the Golden Man is everyone’s favorite hero.” Ben groaned. “No one can stand up to his legacy.”
“He’s not my favorite,” Ellie said eyeing Ben. He allowed a crooked smile to grace his lips, but it never met his eyes. There was a slight pain in his expression. Ellie assumed being the son of the greatest hero and businessman wasn't easy.  A small woman, dressed professionally, struggled to run in her heels toward them, clutching a clipboard against her chest.
“Hello, Mr. Baker,” She smiled up at him. Ellie had come to recognize the smile she gave Ben. It was the same smile the college girl upstairs had given him and the same smile Rylie always did. It seemed like every girl in Apple Creek had a crush on Benjamin Baker. The woman turned to look at Ellie. “And Benjamin’s friend. I am supposed to escort the two of you to Miss Evans’ office.”
“Hey Debbie,” Ben smiled. “You look lovely today. I like your new hair color.” Debbie flushed, reaching up to catch a lock of her hair between her fingers. Ellie suppressed an eyeroll. Ben didn’t help his reputation with how easily flirting was to him.
“How is she today?” Ben asked warily as Debbie began guiding them to a short hallway. Debbie exhaled loudly, her shoulder drooping.
“She’s in one of her moods.” She replied. “Too many heroes have been injured over this. She wants to get this taken care of and fast.” Ben nodded. Ellie frowned and skipped a bit closer, opening her mouth to ask questions. Debbie stopped in front of a door and gave a knock.
“Come in,” Came a voice from inside. Debbie pushed the door open and held it open for them as Ben led Ellie inside. Once they were in, Debbie closed the door and left. Ellie glanced around the small office. There were almost no decorations, just a small desk near the center of the room and blank walls. A woman with dark skin and braided hair stood from the desk and approached them.
“Eleanor Washington,” The woman spoke up, extending her hand to Ellie. “My name is Cassandra Evans, I am the director of operations here at the Board of Supers. We are currently up against a threat that requires a  little extra help, and we were hoping that you could assist us.” Ellie frowned and glanced back at Ben.
Cassandra continued on. “The Knight Dragon has given a glowing review on his tech support and we believe you can assist us with our latest villain encounter.” Ellie was still frowning, unsure she could be much help to a whole society of superheroes.
“I’m willing to try,” Ellie replied.
“Good,” Cassandra said reaching for a remote on her desk. She turned and pointed the remote up to a projector behind her. The picture fell over Ben and Ellie and they took a few steps towards Cassandra’s desk to get sight of the full image up on the wall as Cassandra dimmed the lights. Ellie looked carefully at the man on the screen. He wore thick rimmed glasses, his mousy brown hair was a few inches long and untidy, he had fantastically bright blue eyes, but other than that he was rather plain.
“Who’s this?” Ellie asked.
“This is Professor Oliver Totem,” Cassandra answered. “He works at the university teaching physics. He has always been described by his students and fellow professors as timid, anti-social, and dull. Many students even go out of their way to avoid taking a class with him.”
“Is being generally unliked his superpower?” Ellie blurted. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. It was a comment she would have been comfortable saying with just Ben around, but Cassandra made her nervous and made Ellie feel she should be on her best behavior. Ellie turned and glanced back at her.
“Sorry, that wasn’t funny.” Ellie apologized. Cassandra’s face remained emotionless. She eyed Ellie silently for a moment then looked back to the image on the wall, clicking the remote once more.
“Professor Totem was identified as a super fifteen years ago and was deemed a hero by the BOS,” Cassandra said.
“What’s his power?” Ellie asked. Cassandra again eyed her with a stern look.
“Invisibility.” She replied, sounding irritated. “Yet, despite the decision he would be a hero, Professor Totem has recently decided to turn his powers to evil, though we’re not quite sure why.”
“Perhaps telling people what they should grow up to be isn’t in your best interest,” Ellie said softly. Again, she immediately regretted it. “I’m so sorry, you can ask Ben when I get nervous I ramble. I talk a lot and make stupid jokes and I’m sorry. I won’t interject anymore, I promise.” Cassandra frowned, creasing her brow, and glanced over at Ben.
“She can talk a lot but she’ll be able to help,” Ben said calmly. “I can vouch for her.”
“I should hope you’ll take full responsibility for her and her mouth as well,” Cassandra said, her voice growing sharp and angry. Ellie bit down on her tongue and lowered her head.
“Of course,” Ben replied, still sounding just as relaxed. Cassandra let out an irritated sigh and turned back to the image, which was now of a map of the city marked with various red circles and numbers.
“These are the places which Professor Totem has hit in the order which he struck.” Cassandra moved on. “He is using his power of invisibility to break into these secure locations and steal various technological and medical equipment.”
“Bakersfield isn’t on there,” Ellie remarked. She bit down on her tongue again and hoped Cassandra would ignore her comment.
“We have to conclude that’s where he’ll strike next, as Bakersfield is the leader in technology in the city,” Cassandra said. “We’re assuming he took everything he could from the lower end places but is going to Bakersfield for the things not available anywhere else.”
“What has he stolen so far?” Ellie asked. Cassandra frowned. Ellie was about to apologize again for speaking up when Cassandra changed the image again and the layouts of a handgun with a needle on the end appeared on the wall. Ellie’s eyes widened and she stepped towards it, reading through the parts list and looking over the blueprints of the design, the color draining from her face.
“This was found in Professor Totem’s desk in the university,” Cassandra said. “Our best analysts have yet to figure out its exact purpose but…”
“It’s a biological bomb launcher.” Ellie interrupted. Cassandra and Ben both turned to her frowning.
“A what?” Ben asked. Ellie didn’t move, staring at the familiar image in front of her.
“The Master, the Golden Man’s now deceased nemesis, used to have one just like this but it was destroyed along with the design plans,” Ellie muttered, her voice distant. “This looks exactly the same.”
“How do you know that?” Ben asked, his body tense at the mention of the Master.
“I’ve done a lot of research on weapons technology since joining your team,” Ellie replied, her eyes never leaving the image. “I saw a picture of the weapon. I’m more than capable of reverse engineering, it’s not hard for me to figure out what it took to make the thing. This is it.”
“What does it do?” Ben asked.
“It injects an individual with a biological bomb that reacts to their own blood in order to explode. The person then becomes a ticking time bomb, depending on how much of the fluid got in their system and how fast it can get into their heart.” Ellie replied. She turned to Cassandra. “When this man turns invisible, do the things he touch turn invisible as well?” Cassandra stared at Ellie blankly for a moment, then nodded. Ellie bit down on the inside of her cheek.
“So he will be able to inject people without them knowing?” Ben asked glancing towards Cassandra.
“They would feel it,” Ellie said. “But essentially, yes.” Cassandra cleared her throat.
“Despite now knowing what this weapon is for,” Cassandra said, her voice taking command of the room again. “We brought you in here, Ms. Washington, to help create a way to find him while he is invisible. We have sent many heroes out to bring him in, but they lose track of him. We need a solution to find him.” Ellie frowned, still looking over the design plans.
“You said you believe Bakersfield is his next target,” Ellie said. She pointed towards the wall. “Which pieces from this design have not been stolen yet?” Cassandra used the laser pointer on her remote to circle a few pieces on the list, not attempting to pronounce their long technical names. Ellie nodded. “And how consistent have his robberies been?”
“He’s hit one every night around midnight,” Cassandra replied. Ellie smirked, ideas forming in her mind.
“Bakersfield has all those items, so we’re correct to assume it’s next,” Ellie said. “Give me one hour to draw up some plans but I think I have a way to set a trap for him.”
“Ms. Washington,” Cassandra spoke up. “Despite not being finished with this particular weapon, Professor Totem does use weapons and technology with each of his robberies. As a physics teacher, he has somehow created a device which breaks the law of physics and causes a room to lose gravity. In many cases, it has caused my heroes to become disoriented and ineffective in the field, leaving them vulnerable to attack. I have a wing of injured heroes at Professor Totem’s expense. I refuse to put any more of my heroes in danger.”
“No one will get hurt,” Ellie said confidently. “You put team Knight Dragon on the case and they’ll get this finished up cleanly.” Ben fought back a smile, lowering his head so Cassandra wouldn’t see his pride.
“I have held off putting, what you call ‘Team Knight Dragon’ on this particular case because having a flamethrower attempting to attack an invisible man seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. I did not call you both in here to put Mr. Baker on the case. He claimed your tech was the best and I decided it wouldn’t hurt to bring you in to test out your designs. I do have other heroes and their technology adept friends working on solutions to our problem as well. If yours proves to be the best then we will use it.” Ellie frowned.
“Right.” She said slowly. “I can have my design plans ready in less than an hour, but I can tell you right now, mine will be the best.” The corner of Cassandra’s mouth twitched.
“We’ll see.” She replied. “You are both excused. Mr. Baker, please take Ms. Washington to office space 4B to work. And please keep an eye on her.” Ben nodded and began ushering Ellie from Cassandra’s office. As they crossed the lobby area, a tall confident man was walking with a small, glasses-clad man by his side. Ellie eyed them carefully, they were clearly a hero-tech support duo competing for this case. But Ellie was confident she would win. She knew exactly what Professor Totem was creating, which was why she knew how important it was that her tech didn’t fail.

Ben sat on a stool in the corner of the small room watching Ellie work. Ellie was leaning over the desk, the chair shoved back against the wall after getting in her way too many times. She was constantly circling the small rectangular desk placed in the center of the room. She drew and wrote from every angle, putting in every small detail as precisely as possible. Ben couldn’t keep the grin off his face as he watched her work. She was clearly in her element and it was refreshing to see up close Ellie’s real talent.
Ben hadn’t said much since entering the room. He had tried to make conversation at first but soon realized Ellie was too focused to respond. It had been nearly twenty minutes since he had given up speaking to her, and he had kept quiet, just listening to her pencil scratches and her occasional mumbling to herself. Ben crossed his arms over his chest and leaned his head back against the wall, closing his eyes. He was useless in this situation; he was simply her chaperone for Cassandra’s sake.
It was clear Cassandra had not taken a liking to Ellie. Ben hadn’t expected much, though. Cassandra was hard to all her employees and the heroes. Ben had often felt he received special treatment, as the Golden Man had always been Cassandra’s favorite hero. Despite his personal distaste for the woman, Ben had much more leeway than other heroes did. Even then, all the heroes had complete respect for their leader. Yet, Cassandra seemed to believe that she still had to fight for her commanding position, though she had gotten her career through a unanimous decision by the BOS staff and heroes. She always acted as if her position could be taken from her at any minute, so she never made a mistake, and never let her guard down. Someone like Ellie, with humor and charm, was Cassandra’s polar opposite.
“I don’t think you would blindly shoot your flamethrower,” Ellie said suddenly. Ben opened his eyes and stared at her. She was staring back, her head tilted slightly. “Back in her office Cassandra said she didn’t put you on the case because she didn’t want you shooting at something you couldn’t see, but I don’t think you would blindly shoot fire around. You’re smarter than that.”
“And what do you think I would do?” Ben asked with a slight smile.
“Call me of course,” Ellie replied with a grin. Ben laughed. “They’re not thinking straight if they think they need more than just my tech.”
“They don’t know you well enough,” Ben said.
“And my first impression was not a good one,” Ellie said lowering her head. Ben sat up quickly.
“Hey, you give a great first impression,” Ben said reassuringly. “Why do you think I hired you on the spot?”
“Because finding someone who already worked in the same office building as you seemed like the most convenient option?” Ellie shrugged. Ellie’s phone began to ring, playing a current popular pop song. Ellie glanced towards where it sat on the work table and tapped the screen a few times.
“Hey Art,” She said aloud. Ben breathed in, shuffling uncomfortably in his chair as Art’s voice came over the speaker.
“Ellie, what time do you think you’ll be home tonight?” Ellie glanced towards Ben for an answer. He shrugged in response.
“Late. Why?” Ellie said, leaning back over the table, editing her design plans.
“The new Bio-Man game comes out tonight.” Art said. “I was hoping we could get it at midnight and spend all night playing.” Ben watched as a smile spread across Ellie’s face.
“Sounds fun.” She replied. “I probably won’t be back till after midnight, though.”
“Why?” Art asked, sounding upset.
“Things are a little chaotic here right now.” Ellie sighed. “Some theft issues in the warehouses.”  
“Why do they need you?” Art asked.
“Because I know what everything is from that time I stayed late doing inventory.” She lied like a natural and Ben was impressed.
“Well just hurry.” Art groaned. “I will start without you.”
“I know you will,” Ellie replied. “I’ll see you later. Love you.” Art didn’t respond before hanging up. Ellie didn’t seem to mind as she kept on scribbling across the paper.
“I would have never pegged you for a gamer,” Ben spoke up. Ellie looked towards him with a smile.
“You’d be surprised what virtual reality games can do for a child in therapy,” Ellie replied. “Escaping into a different world where rules don’t exist and there are no consequences is possibly the best way to occupy a messed up child.” Ben looked over her carefully.
“You know, you’re kind of amazing,” Ben said. Ellie frowned and straightened up, staring at him. “Your parents died at a young age, you grew up in the Island, and yet you are honestly the smartest, kindest, and most resourceful person I’ve ever met.” Ellie’s expression remained the same.
“Growing up in the Island is hardly a disadvantage.” She finally said with a hint of irritation. Ben didn’t reply. He wished he could agree with her, but the majority of the villains he faced grew up in the Island. Ellie leaned back over the table and continued to work.
“I still think you’re amazing,” Ben said after a while. Ellie smiled, her cheeks flushing.
“Thank you. I think you’re rather amazing as well.”

Ben waited outside the conference room as Ellie gave her presentation to the whole board. He paced the floor, hearing only a few things behind the thick doors. Ellie had shown him her plan and prototype once she finished it. Ellie had designed a laser grid that could fill a room and detect mass. She claimed that even if he was invisible, Professor Totem would still have weight and mass. The laser grid filled the whole room and would detect any mass in the area. Even if Professor Totem used his anti-gravity device and was off the ground, Ellie would still be able to know his exact coordinates. Ben thought it was brilliant and once again felt pride for finding Ellie hiding in an entry-level position at Bakersfield.
The doors opened and Ellie stepped out, looking upset. She no longer had her plans in her hands, having left the blueprints behind with the board. Ben approached her quickly.
“What happened?”
“They hate me.” Ellie pouted.
“Nobody could hate you.” Ben protested, shaking his head.
“Somehow it leaked that I don’t actually work in the technology department in Bakersfield and that I grew up in the Island.” Ellie scowled. “They’re judging me based on that and not on my actual design plans. They don’t trust me to make something that works.”
“Cassandra knows what you’ve done for me,” Ben said sternly. “She knows you’re capable of building amazing things.”
“Ben, they aren’t going to pick my idea based on my background. Because of the high school I went to!” Ellie was growing angry. “They have to pick my idea! They have to get moving on this! They have to stop this guy tonight!”
“Ellie calm down,” Ben frowned.
“We cannot let him build this gun,” Ellie said sternly. Ben had never seen her so emotional before.
“Ellie, why are you so concerned about this? Even if we don’t catch him tonight it may take him a while to assemble the gun. We may still have a chance to catch him.” Ben said. Ellie exhaled, leaning her head back.
“Ben, The Master was involved in the bombing that killed my parents,” Ellie said. Ben’s face immediately turned solemn and he stared at her, trying to find a way to respond. “This is The Master’s gun and anything that has to do with The Master should be destroyed immediately.” Ben nodded in response.
“You know The Master was my dad’s nemesis,” Ben replied. “I can’t tell you how many times we thought we would lose our dad because of that man. I don’t need any reminders of him, either.”
“Cassandra has to take my plan.” Ellie narrowed her eyes. “This gun cannot be made. They don’t seem to realize how important the situation is.”
“I’m sure they do.”
“Ben, I’ve spent a lifetime with people thinking I’m not capable of doing anything, but this is the only time that it really matters to me. My plan will work. I have to stop this guy. I will not allow that gun to be made again.” Ben placed his hands on her shoulders and stared down at her.
“You trust me, don’t you?” Ben asked. Ellie nodded without any hesitation. “I promise you that gun will not be made. We are going to stop him.”
“But the board said…”
“I’ll talk to them.” Ben interrupted. Ellie continued to frown, staring up at him. Ben reached into his pant’s pocket and pulled out his keys. “Take my car, get back to work before Rylie tries to fire you, and I will take care of this.”
“Ben, please make them take my idea,” Ellie said. Ben smiled.
“It helps to be the son of the city’s most favorite superhero. It won’t be a problem.” Ben smirked. Ellie smiled weakly and took his keys from him. She turned and began walking away. Ben’s smile faded and he drew in a deep breath before turning and pushing through the auditorium doors.
“Mr. Baker?” Ryan Fletcher spoke up curiously as Ben stormed into the room.
“You have to take Ellie’s plan,” Ben said sternly. Cassandra’s eyes narrowed towards him.
“You failed to mention to me that she only has an entry-level job at Bakersfield. She’s never done any designs for your father’s company. She doesn’t work in engineering or technology at all. She stares at a computer and makes sure numbers are correct.”
“Her college experience alone should be enough for you to hire her.” Ben argued. “But you should also take into account everything she’s done for me.”
“You’ve known her a couple months.” Cassandra rolled her eyes.
“And in that time she’s built new suits for the Speedster and myself and was the only reason I succeeded on some of my recent cases.” Ben was speaking quickly, a fury building within him. “You have to trust me that she is the best person for this job.”
“I voted for her.” Peter Mason, the eldest member of the board spoke up. “Her plan is brilliant and simple. Too many of our plans were over complicated, unlikely to complete by our short time frame.” Ben gave him a grateful smile before turning back to Cassandra, her eyes had never left him with her icy stare.
“Regardless,” Cassandra spoke up, her voice commanding the room immediately. “Ms. Washington has the least amount of field work.” Ben scowled.
“Why does that matter? Without even knowing the other plans, I know hers is the best. She’s the smartest person you have and you have to believe in her. She wants this guy stopped just as much as you do.”
“Are you sure you aren’t biased in your opinion of her?” Another board member, Ben didn’t recognize, droned on, fighting back a yawn.
“Look, when I set out to find someone to help me build a new suit I researched every employee in Bakersfield,” Ben explained. “This included all the department heads, engineers, and designers. I have the access to the history of every employee there and despite all the intellect of our engineers, none of them compare to Ellie. She has a gift. She’s a genius and you cannot hold her past against her.”
“You do remember the majority of villains are born in the Island?” Cassandra asked.
“Ellie doesn’t have powers, she can’t be a villain.”
“But that doesn’t make her good,” Cassandra argued. “The people there never succeed at anything. Why do you think she’s in an entry-level position with your company? Because she’s from the Island. Bakersfield is smart enough not to promote those people.”
“Cassandra, you can’t assume everyone in the Island is bad,” Ben said angrily. “You are going to use Ellie’s plan. If you don’t, then this mission will fail and you will be an aid in this guy’s plan by not using your best resource to stop him. The deaths of hundreds of people because of this weapon would be on your hands. Now I know you, I know you don’t want that, and the only way to avoid that is to take Ellie’s plan.”
No one spoke for a moment. Cassandra had not relinquished her death glare towards him. The other board members were glancing between Cassandra and Ben, waiting to see who would crumble first. Ben knew Cassandra was stubborn, she never gave into demands. Getting her to crack was nearly impossible, but this was about Ellie. He was never going to back down.
“I will not speak to her again,” Cassandra said. Ben scowled. “If I allow this, you are in charge of her. If she slips up at all then you will be punished for it. I will send the actual heroes assigned to this case to Bakersfield once it closes. Keep your phone on, I’ll let you know who to expect. You, Knight Dragon, are not on this case. Do you understand?”
Ben remained still for a moment. There was nothing he hated more than when Cassandra treated him like a child. Nothing, but not being able to do hero work.
“Yes,” Ben said through gritted teeth.
“Alright then.” Cassandra sighed, looking exhausted and annoyed by their conversation. “Ms. Washington is hired.”

To be continued...

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