Sorry for taking so long to update. I got sidetracked writing something almost completely (but not quite completely) unrelated to this, and it hijacked my life for the last week and a half. So, we're back, and I'm shooting for two or three updates this week. So, let's get down to business!
emperordaniel: She's bad news, dude. Something pretty awful is going down. Keep in mind we now have a confirmation that Halloran's got a team and Victory is down. Not looking up, things are.
Schulmanator: She's a bad little wasp!
PREVIOUSLY, on The Best Defense: Halloran raised his head out from where he was hiding, and promptly went back into hiding after taunting the Defenders. What is he really up to? And who is Shar Pen?
Defenders' HQ, the next day...
Hoshi-Hime: Shar Pen? Who's Shar Pen?
Hoshi-Hime was confused by the dark looks on all the Defenders' faces (except Sensational Girl who also looked as unfazed as the three magical girls, she also had no experience with Shar Pen).
Pierce: She's a mind[expletive] in a weird mass of robes and [expletive] and wants to eat all of reality and puke it back up in her twisted, sickening image. I'm gonna go see how Victory's doing. Lemme know when I'm on next.
They watched him brusquely leave and then Hoshi-Hime was given attention again.
Hoshi-Hime: Well, we're working with you again, so, like, you don't have to worry that much about her, right?
Cosmette: Uh... You should probably read the file...
Cosmette handed her a tablet. Hoshi-Hime slid her finger across it, flicking across pictures and images, skimming it quickly so as not to keep the Defenders waiting.
Hoshi-Hime: So, she's like some kind of demon. We just got done fighting something like that, you know? No big deal.
Cosmette: Zama was probably more powerful than her, but she's just... Like Pierce said, she's twisted.
Fearless: This is one of the reasons we asked you to help us. With all the villains on the loose, Halloran putting a team together, and the Shar Pen case, we're stretched a bit thin. Victory being down doesn't help, either, but we'll get her back soon enough. Anyways, it's a big deal that you're helping us out like this.
Hoshi-Hime: Well, okay...
Hoshi-Hime took another look around the room. A malaise seemed to have descended upon them, making them all look a bit tired and droopy.
Hoshi-Hime: You guys don't have to look so excited about it.
Eikyou: We are all very pleased that you have chosen to help us out again. Let's see what Fearless has in store for us today.
All eyes, bleary and bright, turned to Fearless for the day's orders. He took a breath and began.
Fearless: I am taking the morning off with Victory and Cosmette. Cosmette and I will then be on standby for the afternoon. Pierce and Titus will be active this morning. Hoshi-Hime, I want you and your team to go through the Shar Pen files and read Professor Stark's updates. We've marked who has been arrested since we started, then it would be wonderful if you are willing to meet up with Red Bear for lunch.
Mizu-no-Hime: Red Bear? I haven't seen him since the thing! How nice it'll be to see him again!
Hoshi-Hime: No problem on that, Fearless...
Fearless: Then this afternoon and evening, you'll be on active patrol with me and Cosmette. Overnight we'll all be on alert, but I think we'll cancel the patrols.
His intent was to use a bit of randomness. Whether or not they actually appeared in the skies was less important than the citizens knowing that they could and would at any time. Their island-wide response time was very good, even when woken up suddenly in the middle of the night. But he was also thinking about Halloran's team. If they were out there, it made them targets, mobile targets over a large, innocent civilian population. That would not do. He also imagined that Halloran would be perturbed by their absence, and it made him smile on the inside to imagine the man throwing a fit over it.
Fearless: Any questions?
Sensational Girl: Uh, am I with Eikyou again all day?
Fearless: Nope. You're coming with me, we're going to bring Victory here to the clubhouse and get her some sun. If you're with me, Pierce might be nicer, too.
Sensational Girl: Heh, okay.
Fearless: Alright, we'll be back later.
Fearless left the room with Sensational Girl and Cosmette, and Hoshi-Hime glanced around at the remaining Defenders. Eikyou had her eyes closed and was apparently falling asleep in her chair. Titus stood up and and left to go meet Pierce. Her teammates had each picked up a tablet and were flicking through the information a bit more carefully than Hoshi-Hime had a few moments earlier. She picked her tablet up and began reading through the information. She never liked this kind of work, but when she first began training with the Defenders, it had been pressed upon her how important it was to research foes, especially when you knew who they were. Thankfully, not every villain was an unknown quantity like Zama, although at the same time knowing what a nightmare certain villains were did not help much, either. So, she read, and did her best to memorize it.
Fearless: You're on with Titus, Pierce. He's waiting for you, it's up to you to decide whether you want to patrol or man the computers.
Pierce looked up, annoyance on his face, then stood up from the chair beside Victory's bed and skulked towards the door.
Pierce: Thanks for allowing us that, much, fearless leader.
He left the room, brushing past Fearless and Sensational Girl. Cosmette was out of his way, but he didn't spare a glance for her before disappearing down the hallway.
Sensational Girl: He's in a fine mood today...
Fearless: Don't worry too much about it. It's all Victory's fault anyways. Isn't that right?
He smiled sincerely down at the still quite sickly-looking blonde girl and she smiled weakly back at him.
Victory: He's just sensitive. I'm doing better, I don't know what Snakeskin stabbed me with...
Fearless: Dr. Brooks tells me that the wounds on your leg will take a week or so at least to heal. You're not going to be active until late next week at the earliest. We'll get you set up for some rehab before then, though, so it won't be a sudden thing.
Victory: Well, thanks for that, I guess...
She turned her head and gazed longingly out at the city. Being stuck in a room with an IV full of antivenom with stab wounds on her thigh that prevented her from walking around properly was frustrating. On top of that, the cocktail of poisons that Snakeskin had injected into her attacked her body, and she was almost immediately in critical condition. This was the first day since the fight that she was conscious. Dr. Brooks and his nurses and a pair of doctors from the PMU School of Medicine had worked diligently to counteract the poisons, and they were confident that she would make a complete recovery. She just needed time.
Fearless: I was thinking about how Sensational Girl helped Cosmette feel better after our fight with Island Hopper a few weeks ago, and I wondered if there was something more we could do for you. So, I got Dr. Brooks to give us permission to take you to the roof for some sunlight, maybe that would help you out some.
Victory: That sounds nice! Wait. Does that mean you're going to carry me?
Fearless: Heh, no, we've got a wheelchair for that. Here, let's go.
They helped transfer Victory to the chair and took an elevator to the roof. There wasn't much to see, just a helipad in a corner, the perimeter was lined with the climate-control units, and the middle was open to the area just below the roof where their aircraft were stored. An energy field, similar to the windows at the Stranahan Hills Mall, protected the craft from the elements, allowing only light to pass through. They stood atop a platform spanning the middle of the building between the climate-control units and took in the sights. The Cliffs behind them, they had a magnificent view of the bay and the sea beyond, Kardon at the tip of the eastern peninsula, and the suburban sprawl along the east coast further away. The Financial District with the PM Fuji TV Building was to their left and the New Crossing/Shinbashi leading to East Bank and the Mori Tower and the All-Seeing Eye were to their right. It was dull, a warm, hazy day that looked as though the island was completely enveloped in the spray of the sea. The sunlight shone lazily through the thin clouds overhead. It was not a beautiful day, but Victory was overjoyed to be out of the infirmary and in the late spring air.
Victory: This feels awesome. I feel loads better already.
Sensational Girl: That's great! Fresh air like, does wonders for the soul!
Cosmette was seeing something different from Sensational Girl.
Cosmette: Hm, yes... Fresh air, and sunlight. You knew about this, Fearless?
Fearless: Austin told me.
Fearless glanced down at Victory. She had a quizzical look on her face.
Fearless: He tells me that the magical girls get a lot of their energy from nature. Mizu-no-Hime obviously gets hers from water, Hi-no-Hime from fire, and Victory here from sunlight.
Victory: I do work better during the day than at night.
Fearless: Well, since we're so close to the sun, it doesn't especially matter. Same thing with Mizu-no-Hime: the earth is covered by so much water that she could be in the middle of the Sahara Desert and still be quite powerful. So, a bit of direct sunlight, even filtered through the humidity, will help speed your healing up a bit. The power boost from Sensational Girl I imagine helps, too. There was so much damage from the poisons, though, it will still be a while before you can return to active duty.
Victory: A while? How long?
Fearless: At least another week, but we'll get you out of bed a lot more, and in a few days you should be able to move around by yourself and get back into a bit of a rehab-and-training routine.
Victory: What about you guys? We're so busy right now, with all the crazy running around.
Cosmette: Hoshi-Hime and her friends are downstairs now. They're going to help us while we search for Shar Pen.
Victory's face lost what meager color it had.
Victory: Oh... Shar Pen... I almost forgot about her...
Fearless: You're cleared to forget her. Focus on your health. I'll keep Pierce busy enough to keep his mind right, and free enough to spend time with you. I know how close you two are.
Victory's cheeks flushed pink.
Victory: Close? We're just friends.
Fearless: Of course you are.
Fearless smiled back, but with an air of condescension he was sure wouldn't be lost on the girl. It wasn't and she shot him a glare.
Victory: You are... You are something else.
Fearless: I am indeed. Now, there are a few things I need to take care of. Cosmette, Sensational Girl, whenever Victory's ready, you can take her back downstairs. Don't miss lunch, it's zucchini lasagna today.
Sensational Girl: Alright.
With that, he left the three girls on the roof to stare into the hazy sky. He returned to his quarters and laid down and took a much-needed nap.