Chapter 14

The news reports must have been wrong and Dale couldn’t have been more relieved. He was a strapping farm boy, all of seventeen but ripped from a lifetime of manual labour. Even so, he hid in the barn peering out at the battle royale taking place by the stables. Riding a rodeo was a picnic compared to the supernatural. If it weren’t for the League, he didn’t know what he’d have done after this latest attack.

Outside, Fever was surrounded by at least a dozen scarecrows while in the distance more lumbered across the fields from other farms, converging on the stand-off.  One of those scarecrows was the real deal – a nasty piece of work who had tormented the graziers and farmhands for years.  His ability to animate scarecrows into an army had forced everyone in the region to pay regular ransoms, often more than they could afford. 

Until now, the League of Superheroes hadn’t come to the farmers’ aid, but Dale guessed it was a question of priority. They were always so busy saving lives, that simple blackmail always ended up at the bottom of the list, even if it did mean their livelihoods were suffering. He was just grateful that the League and finally come to their rescue. He’s expected more of them, but figured one must be enough if that was all they sent.

Dale peeked through the vertical slats of the barn wall again and watched anxiously.  Fever was turning in circles, trying to keep an eye on the entire circumference of scarecrows.  He lashed out with a karate kick, hitting the nearest scarecrow in the gut.  The scarecrow’s stomach caved in from the force of the blow but instantly popped back into shape.

Fever punched another scarecrow in the face but the head bounced upright, barely forcing the tatterdemalion to hesitate in its step.  Instead, it lashed out itself swinging a punch that caught Fever square in the jaw.  It was a sharp blow, as though the scarecrow had solidified its straw innards at will.  Fever staggered backwards into the clutches of another foe.  He struggled as the second scarecrow wrapped its arms around his torso and held him from behind in a crushing grip.

The straw scratched at Fever’s torso, leaving little welts on his chest and back.  The other scarecrows pressed in, encircling him in a tight wall of straw.  His captor forced Fever to his knees, then released him from the bear hug.  On either side of Fever, the closest scarecrows tore open their shirts in anticipation of Fever’s next move.

Fever raised his arms to push them away but instead found his arms swallowed by the straw bodies as his fists passed right through them. The scarecrows solidified their stomachs, cementing Fever’s arms within them. They both took a step back, and Fever yelped as his shoulders felt like they were about to be ripped from him.

His fingertips tingled as he turned on his heat power, but his hands had passed right through the scarecrows before they had trapped his arms.  In front of him, another scarecrow ripped open its tattered shirt and pressed its straw stomach into Fever’s face.  Fever gasped his last breath before the straw solidified, cutting off his oxygen.

On either side, the scarecrows holding his arms took another small step backwards. If he could scream, he would have. It seemed as though they were deliberately taunting him with their tiny steps that increased the pain but didn’t rip him apart entirely.

Fever’s fingertips wiggled and flailed. He bent his wrist inwards and turned up his super-powered heat to maximum. His whole body began to rise in temperature and his hands glowed red with the core of his heat.  Both scarecrows at his side began smouldering as the temperature rose, until a batch of straw on their backs caught alike. His arms were released as the silent creatures disintegrated in a burst of flames that leapt from one scarecrow to the next until the yard was iridescent with the flicker light of the bonfire.  The twelve frontline scarecrows, and those that had joined them all collapsed in a pile of ash, leaving just one scarecrow standing.

Fever rose to his feet and gingerly soothed some of the welts on his chest with his fingers.  He looked around at the piles of ash that now littered the ground.

“That’s what I call a bad case of hay-Fever!” he grinned.

He turned to the last remaining scarecrow.
“The last one standing,” he said. “That must make you The Scarecrow.”  He smiled, then added sarcastically, “Nice costume!”

“Don’t think you’ve won, League Man,” The Scarecrow threatened, and suddenly burst into laughter. “You’re not even League, are you? You’re an apprentice. A sidekick. All you’ve done is dispense with a dozen minions. But can you handle any more?”  He motioned to the fields that were awash with countless more scarecrows lumbering into the property. They would be on Fever within minutes.

Fever stepped up to The Scarecrow with menace.

“The one thing all of you bad-arses seem to have in common,” Fever said, “is ego.  You think you’re hot shit, but I hate to tell you, I’m the one who’s hot. Not you.”  He raised his hand and let it glow red with heat. The Scarecrow staggered back a step as the heat pinched at his face.

Fever smiled, and let the heat subside.  “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m not here to burn you alive. I’m just here to make sure you get burnt.”  And with that, Fever punched out. 

The Scarecrow yelped as the fist connected with his nose.  He staggered backwards as a warm flow of blood began streaming from his nostrils.  Fever swung out again, this time connecting with The Scarecrow’s cheek. The villain fell to the ground, knocked out before his head even hit the ground.

On the outskirts of the property, the possessed scarecrows collapsed as they returned to their inanimate state.

Fever nodded triumphantly, and lifting The Scarecrow into a fireman’s hold, he parted the scene. Behind him, Dale emerged from the barn and viewed the carnage around him.

“Thank you!” he gushed, looking after the receding figure in the distance.

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