The pub door swung open, and a tall, muscular woman entered and looked around the room. Finally her eyes settled on the man she wished to speak to, perched precariously on a bar stool with his wheelchair directly to his right. She marched across the room to him and tapped him lightly on the shoulder, causing him to swivel round.
“Captain Wheels?” she asked.
“Yes,” he replied, “want to take a selfie?”
“No. Actually, I’d like to speak with you in relative privacy, perhaps in one of those booths?” she pointed to the opposite wall which was lined with tall, secluded booths.
“Oh, OK, sure. Give me a minute.” Captain Wheels shifted into his wheelchair, stretched up for the half-drunk pint still on the bar, and followed the woman across the room to the booth in the far corner. He manoeuvred himself from his wheelchair, which couldn’t fit in the booth, onto one of the high-backed, cushioned seats.
“My name is Nicola Rage, and I’m recruiting people with special abilities to form a team,” Nicola began, “In searching the newspapers for reports of such people, I came across several articles discussing your activities, and I decided to that you might be exactly what I’m searching for.”
Captain Wheels raised one eyebrow slightly, “And what exactly is this team for?”
“Government intelligence services has found evidence of a criminal organisation that is in ownership of multiple significant threats that have the potential to destroy entire cities. What these threats are is as yet unknown, but when those threats present themselves, as appears to be inevitable, we need someone to protect us.”
“And that’s me?”
“Potentially, as part of a team of like-minded individuals,” Nicola said calmly, “but first I need to talk to you to discuss what exactly those abilities are, without the exaggeration of excitable journalists.” She flipped open a notepad on which were scrawled a handful of questions, and before Captain Wheels had the chance to say anything else, began questioning him.
“How did you obtain your powers?”
“Well, personally I don’t especially like recounting that experience-“ Captain Wheels began, but was interrupted by Nicola.
“Captain, I realise that asking someone how they obtained their special abilities is a sensitive question, but I am not asking this to satisfy my own personal curiosity. I need to hear it from you.”
“7 years ago doctors found a tumour in my brain. A cancerous one. The operation to remove it went wrong, severely limiting my mobility and putting me in a wheelchair, but while I lost control of my own body, I gained the ability to control other physical objects. I can move things with my mind, get things to levitate very briefly, and can even influence the actions of those around me to some extent.”
“So you’re telekinetic?” Nicola asked in a matter-of-fact voice, almost sounding bored.
“Yeah, I guess so,” came Captain Wheels’ reply.
“And how do you use these powers?”
“Probably my most frequent job is to move extremely heavy objects if someone is trapped, say in a building fire or a collapsed building following an earthquake. I’ve also been able to prevent car accidents and the like, and I can move objects to block and trap criminals allowing them to be caught by the police before they cause any more harm,” Captain Wheels said.
“So, you could perhaps trap terrorists allowing them to be apprehended, or move a bomb to a safe distance away from inhabited buildings and businesses. And you could help anyone stuck within the wreckage if we weren’t fast enough,” Nicola proceeded.
“Could you get them to change their minds about their intentions?”
“It’s possible but not certain, I’m afraid. I may be able to slow them down by making them question their actions, but once an idea is imprinted firmly in someone’s mind, I can do very little to change it,” Captain Wheels explained.
Nicola Rage sat back against her seat in thought, before continuing.
“Would you be willing to be a member of an elite team, all of whom have their own special abilities, to help reduce the threat to our society on an international scale?” she asked.
“If my powers are useful to you, then yes, absolutely,” Captain Wheels said with sincerity.
“Then welcome to the Protection Squad.”
Captain Wheels slowly seated himself in his new wheelchair. Instead of the cold, grey lump of metal he was used to, this was warm and comfortable, more like an armchair on wheels. Like his old wheelchair it was powered, but here the similarities stopped. The batteries had an extra-long life, and could be charged using solar power as well as the charger. The control panel was cluttered with a myriad of buttons, which Nicola guided him through.
“The top one is for stealth mode. It silences the motors and dims the lights on the control panel, activates the chameleon panels which help you blend into the background just like the ones on your uniform, and switches off the horn so you have no chance of alerting someone to your presence accidentally.
“That one is for the jet pack, which will help you levitate your own wheelchair at great heights for longer, so you can focus your powers elsewhere. This one here is for the parachute should something go wrong.
“This one is for the gun incorporated into your left arm rest, and will reload automatically from the magazine of bullets under the seat. We’ve added special receptors that can enhance the effects of your telekinesis, allowing you to aim the gun hands-free.
“Obviously all of these things take some power from the battery, so should be used carefully, but with these batteries I can’t imagine you’ll have to worry about it too much.”
“Wow,” Captain Wheels said slowly, “just wow.”
Nicola smiled, “I had an inkling that you might like it. Are you ready to meet the other team members?”
Captain Wheels nodded, and followed her into the next room. In the centre of the room was an oval-shaped mahogany table, with three men and two women in the same uniform already seated around it as if they were attending the worlds’ most unusual board meeting. Captain Wheels manoeuvred into the space left for him at the table, while Nicola took her seat at the end of the table.
“Welcome all of you,” she said, “you were hand-picked because of your special abilities, and together you are the Protection Squad. I advise that you get to know each other quickly; the latest government intelligence suggests that the first threat is imminent, and we will need you to defend us. Now if you will excuse me, I have a strategy meeting with my superiors to attend, after which you may well be called upon.” She stood up and left.
There was a short, awkward pause before the darker-haired woman introduced herself as Dominique, her power being the ability to shape-shift. The second woman, known only as the Blood Assassin, briefly described the genetic and surgical enhancements she had been subjected to against her will that had turned her into a super-warrior. Doctor Raven described himself as a super-intelligent telepath, and Jerry Lightning introduced his ability to run faster than the speed of sound. Finally there was Thoron, affectionately nicknamed for his strength and odd resemblance to the Nordic God of thunder. The last person to introduce himself was Captain Wheels.
“I’m Dave Heyton, otherwise known as Captain Wheels,” he said as all eyes turned to face him, “and I’m telekinetic. My wheelchair also has special stealth settings, and a jet pack.”
“So what are you without the wheelchair?” Thoron scoffed.
“A telekinetic, cancer-surviving badass,” Captain Wheels kept a straight face as he said this, while Dominique struggled to supress her smile. Before anything else could be said, the door opened and Nicola Rage entered.
“We have a situation,” she said.
Tactics were discussed in the helicopter while they headed to their destination, an allegedly disused block of offices in the financial district of London. It had been reported that a gas-emitting bomb was to be hidden there by the criminal organisation shortly before rush hour, when it would be set off, releasing poisonous gases that would result in horrific widespread disease, essentially turning people into mindless zombies.
“This weapon is designed to cause mass panic on a national scale as much as it is to harm people,” Nicola Rage said, “if it goes off, not only will we have a horrific disease to manage, but the country will be in uproar. The mistrust of governmental departments is bad enough as it is; something like this would push the country into disrepair and self-destruction. And that means that someone new can barge in and take control, because in that situation the public simply want a leader to follow, and they won’t give a damn who that will be.
“You will be dropped off here,” Nicola pointed to a location on the map, “and will make you way through this series of back alleys to the office block in question. Raven; we want you on the top floor of the building providing us with information as to the whereabouts of the criminals in the office. Dominique; follow the gang through the building by blending into the environment, providing us with further intel by thinking it for Doctor Raven, and joining in the fighting when we apprehend the gang. Assassin and Thoron; using the intel provided we will guide you through the building until the right moment, when you will start your attack. Lightning and Wheels; you will use your speed and levitation powers in combination to quickly transport the bomb to our bomb-disposal team in their secret base, in the most remote part of the Scottish highlands. Understood?”
Everyone nodded, and soon the helipad where they were to land came into view. Instead of waiting for the lift to arrive to carry him down to ground level, which was taking far too long, Captain Wheels decided to use the jetpack and go down the stairs, which proved trickier to control than he had anticipated. Quite how the scorch-marks left behind him would be explained to the cleaning staff he didn’t know.
Once they were on the street they moved swiftly through the back alleys until they arrived at the office block. As expected, there was no evidence of activity yet, so they slipped into the building unnoticed. Doctor Raven checked with his telepathic powers that the building was indeed empty, and then set off for the top floor. Dominique disguised herself as a small spider spinning a web in the corner, ready to follow the criminals when they arrived. The rest tucked themselves in the dark underneath the stairs, activated their chameleon suits, and waited for further instructions to be fed to them through their ear pieces.
A short later their earpieces crackled into life, and Nicola Rage’s disembodied voice confirmed sighting of the gang headed towards the office disguised as delivery men, driving an unmarked white van. About two minutes after this Doctor Raven said he could detect ten people, all men, approaching in a white van. While nine of the men were highly anxious that some sort of suspicious activity was going on, only one seemed to actually know what was being delivered. Doctor Raven tracked the men as they entered the building; two stayed on the ground floor, two outside the first floor, and two more stayed outside the door into the second floor while the remaining four entered the offices. Dominique was completely unnoticed as she scuttled into the office underneath the closed door.
At this point Blood Assassin crept out from beneath the stairs and stealthily made her way towards the two men in the reception area. Silently, she knocked them both unconscious simultaneously, and gently placed their bodies on the floor. When she returned she clambered onto Lightnings’ back, and in a flash she was up the stairs, having knocked out both sets of guards. Captain Wheels and Thoron could now make their way up to the second floor, where they grouped together.
Doctor Raven said that the package containing the bomb had been put down, and that the three men who didn’t know what was in it were making their way back towards the stair well. Everyone pressed themselves back against the wall on each side of the door, something Captain Wheels found particularly difficult, blending into the dull grey walls almost perfectly. The three men left the second floor in silence, and once the door had closed behind them Blood Assassin knocked them all unconscious, propping them up against the wall.
As they were about to enter the office to apprehend the one remaining man, Nicola Rage reported that a helicopter was progressing towards them. Once Doctor Raven found the relevant vehicle, he said that there were four men in the helicopter, all in the know. They were planning to kill all the other men involved in the operation, acting as security until the bomb went off, when they would succumb to the disease just like the man already in the building. Thinking quickly, Nicola ordered them to enter the room and apprehend the one man there, telling Lightning and Captain Wheels to remove the bomb while only one man was present, leaving the rest to fight the approaching criminals.
Captain Wheels deactivated stealth mode and violently kicked the door open, which promptly swung back and slammed his legs. Thoron leant across him and pushed the door so hard the hinges snapped. Dominque transformed into her human form, blocking the doors on the other side of the room. The criminal screamed that he was under attack into his own walkie-talkie, before firing his gun at his attackers. Only two bullets had been fired before Blood Assassin had disarmed him, both of which missed their target, at which point Captain Wheels levitated the bomb towards him. Thoron kept the enemy in place while the two women headed up the building to deal with the helicopter that had just landed, and Captain Wheels was propelled out of the building at super speed by Lightning.
Once outside Captain Wheels activated his jet pack, flying close to the buildings so that Lightning could run along them, continuing to push the wheelchair at speed. Within seconds they were out of the city, running along buildings and hilltops, flying in between, and in only a couple of minutes they were approaching the bomb disposal unit. Travelling at such a speed through the cold, wet Scottish highlands was not the most enjoyable experience, nor was it good for slick hair styles, but both men were far more concerned with the bomb than they were about their own discomfort. It was only as they landed, soaked to the skin, that they even noticed just how cold they were. The bomb disposal team took the bomb from them as soon as they had landed, and almost immediately Captain Wheels and Lightning embarked on the return trip.
As they arrived at the office block, they were informed by Doctor Raven that the fighting was already over. Dominque and Blood Assassin had rapidly disarmed the men from the helicopter, and he himself had hacked into the still-working security system to lock the doors of the room they were in once the women had escaped. A police squad were on their way to pick up all the men, and in the meantime the Protection Squad were to wait on the roof of the building for further orders, bar Thoron who was still occupied detaining the apparent mastermind behind the scheme.
From the roof the Protection Squad had a reasonable view of the police arriving in vans and dragging out the unconscious men, before finally putting the rest of the men into high-security vans with the aid of Thoron. As this progressed a crowd gathered, and soon extra police had to be called in for crowd control. Soon enough the police were escorting their prisoners to the nearest station, and the Protection Squad worked their way down the building to meet the enthusiastic people outside, who were particularly interested in Captain Wheels’ chair. Camera’s flashed and journalist yelled questions at the top of their lungs, all trying to find out what exactly had happened. Nicola Rage reminded them not to say a word as she sent a van to pick them up.
The following morning all of the newspapers headlines were as predictable as a B-movie science fiction film; all of them were desperate to know just who the Protection Squad were. Captain Wheels smiled at the photograph plastered across every front page; only the very top of his head could be seen as he sat beside his standing compatriots. He didn’t have long to relax, however, before Nicola Rage called upon him again.