Chapter 23

Jackhammer looked over his army and suppressed a sigh. They were better than nothing but gave him little comfort in a war against experienced combatants.

The Brotherhood sat in a clump to one side of the classroom – five apprentice heroes; all oozing potential but none with the experience or intuition to face what was asked of them. At the back of them, Gill and Simmi sat hand in hand and Jackhammer tried hard not to show his distain. If romance was in the air for those two, then trouble loomed. The last thing he needed was for any of the team to be distracted emotionally.

Only two of The Brotherhood offered any real hope – Vis, with his ability to remain invisible and unfortunately, Gill, with good fighting skills so long as he was wet. Nowadays, no building lacked fire sprinklers, so activating them would immediately active Gill’s powers while providing a distraction to the enemy. The rest of The Brotherhood had benefits but Jackhammer feared they may prove a disadvantage when it came to crunch time. Brains would be of little use in a fight, useless unless he had time to plan and outwit; Hawk had nowhere to fly if the battle was indoors; and Simmi had nowhere to scale except up his boyfriend’s arse if the battleground ended up being in a simple room.

Beside The Brotherhood sat Gyan. As a tutor he was exceptional, if not disliked. But his psychic powers were weak and his resentment of that fact had quickly become apparent in Jackhammer’s regular conversations with him over the past few days. His usefulness in the coming war seemed limited to him being a recognised authority that The Brotherhood would respond to. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And then there was the Irish Nuisance, O’Shay, sitting in the back corner whittling away at a pencil as if he was preparing to take notes for an all-important lecture. With no powers and a restricted intelligence, he was a liability more than anything, but Jackhammer couldn’t let himself just dump the guy after already bringing him this far. Besides, the Headmaster had already made it clear that O’Shay couldn’t be left behind at the school, and O’Shay himself was insisting he be allowed to “do his duty for his country”.

Masking his thoughts, Jackhammer cleared his throat and began:

“This isn’t a game, and it’s not one of your classroom assignments, although you should all be clear by now why you’ve been assigned the tasks you’ve been given recently. You are each about to face someone who is NOT your equal. They are each far beyond your skills and experience. But these people are not in control of themselves and they’ll put you through a wall just as soon as they look at you.”

The room broke into murmurs but Jackhammer spoke over them: “Your powers don’t make you strong unless you have that particular gift like me. That’s why your training in this school has always included so much exercise. To be strong, you have to make yourself strong. You are flesh and blood and you will die just like Normals unless you can use your brains and your powers to outsmart your enemy. Your only advantage over Normals is your regenerative powers but they don't make you immortal. No one is immortal. Vis – how would you take down someone like me?”

Vis looked at his classmates and shrugged. “Umm… I’d turn myself invisible and sneak up on you? Hit you on the back of the head with something?”

“The one thing we all have in common is a quick recovery. I’d be on my feet in seconds, assuming I didn’t see what you were holding and attack you first. Brains?”

“Chloroform,” he replied, without hesitation. “I’d knock you out with chloroform and then tie the rag to your face so you stayed unconscious.”

Jackhammer raised an eyebrow and smiled. “How many others thought of that?”

His audience glanced to each other, but no one raised their hand.

“Don’t try to be clever. Be direct and be quick. Brains’ suggestion is simple and effective, so long as he can get close enough to administer the drug. Alone, he probably couldn’t. But working together as a team, you could easily use your numbers to distract and attack. Understand?”

The room nodded.

Jackhammer continued: “Our goal will be capture and convert. Every one of Seduction’s army is under his spell. When we find his lair, our goal will be twofold – first, to capture as many of his men as we can. Then once they’re in our hands, we can break Seduction’s control and bring them back to our side.”

“But how?” Hawk asked.

“Remember, Seduction controls his victims by impregnating his sperm into them. The microbes carried in the sperm allows him to telepathically manipulate the person. The only known way to countermand that hold is to inject our own sperm into each person. The fresh sperm easily neutralises his from the sheer fact that it’s fresh and therefore stronger. So once we’ve captured and neutralised Seduction’s army and we’re clear of the battle zone, we can start releasing his control on them.

“Tonight, I want you all well rested. Read the dossier I’ve prepared then pack your bags and get some sleep. Tomorrow we return to League Headquarters. The interior of place is destroyed but it’s still the most secure facility we’ve got. Seduction won’t be expecting us to return home, so we’ll shack up there where we can protect ourselves, and then begin the hunt for his lair. No one in the League knows what any of you look like, so you will all be my eyes and ears on the street, and under no circumstances are any of you to reveal your abilities. If Seduction hears you’re in the city, you’ll be snatched before any of us know it.”

Nearly everyone looked worried and that gave Jackhammer some hope. If they were scared – as they should be – then they would be more likely to obey and survive. Only O’Shay looked like he was embarking on a big adventure and Jackhammer was surprised to find himself beginning to worry for him.

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