We are putting the shine on Issue 6, so while you wait, please enjoy this story that’s…
Part detective story, part family drama, part superhero action, all fun: Annalee Flower Horne delivers the goods and a well-placed Hamilton reference.
The Indigo Ace and the High-Low Split
by Annalee Flower Horne
Izzie Benitez was halfway through her chemistry homework when the red phone rang. She barreled through the coat closet and slid down the banister into her dad’s secret lair to answer it. “Azure Ace’s line.”
“This is the Mayor,” said the mayor, as if anyone else ever called the red phone. “Tell the Ace he’s needed at the Gem Depository. There’s a theft in progress.”
Izzie pulled out her mobile and called her father’s encrypted line.
“Azure Ace,” he greeted, in a voice auto-tuned to booming.
“The mayor called. You’re wanted over at the Coaltown Gem Depository.”
“Are there giant robots at the Gem Depository? Rampaging towards Steel City?” Something exploded on his end of the line.
“No, just thieves.”
“I hope they enjoy their thieving, then.”
“Can I take it?”
“Is your homework done?”
“You suck at lying.”
“Mom lets me fight crime when I’m at her house.”
“Does she? ¡Oye, Capitán!” he called. “¿Debo dejar a La As Índiga a luchar a crimen antes de que termine su tarea?”
There was another explosion on the line, followed by Izzie’s mother shouting “¡Tiene escuela mañana!¡Ni lo pienses!“
Her father turned off his voice changer. “You really suck at lying.”
“But I’m oh so good at stopping thieves. There could be hostages?”
“At nine-thirty at night?”
“The Gem Depository is next to a dog park, Dad. Think of the poor, terrified puppies.”
He sighed. “If you use up my razor cards again, I’m not writing you a note for your homework.”
The explosions had stopped. It sounded like Doctor Alabaster was monologuing.
Izzie pulled her Indigo Ace costume out of the dryer. “You’re the best, Papa.”
“¡No la deja olvidar a su tarea!” Izzie’s mother called.
“You owe me,” her dad said, but Izzie was already pulling on her second boot and hopping out the door.
The depository’s alarm interfered with Izzie’s super-hearing. She couldn’t get an accurate count of boots on the ground until she cleared the dog park fence.
When she landed on the other side, she found three security guards kneeling on the blacktop in the halo of the gem depository’s safety lights, hands on their heads. Three women in ski masks stood behind them, menacing them with M-16s. Two more were loading cases into a beat-up van.
Izzie pulled out her razor cards. “Drop ’em, ladies.”
One of them shot her.
The force of the impact knocked her back into the wooden fence.
The woman laughed. “Everybody knows the Aces don’t have superpowers. What’s the matter, honey? The big guy’s fancy body armor doesn’t fit?”
Izzie brushed the bullet off her shoulder and flicked a razor card at the offending M16. It cut diagonally through the barrel and the magazine, slicing the weapon in three.
The shooter jumped back in surprise as the bottom of the magazine fell to the ground with a clatter. “Shoot her!”
Izzie put a card through a second gun. She was reaching for a third when the last gun flew out of the thief’s hand and went flying towards the roof line.
A girl with flawless brown skin and glossy black curls caught it and detangled it from her whip. “The Indigo Ace has been fighting crime in this town for four years and you idiots still haven’t figured out that she’s bulletproof? Wow.”
The last thief reached for the handgun on her hip. “Bullshit.”
Izzie grabbed the gun and dismantled it. She was back in her place by the fence before the pieces hit the pavement.
The thief stared, wide-eyed, at her empty hand and the remains of her gun.
Izzie grinned. Her dad didn’t have any superpowers, but her mother had a lot of them.
Up on the roof, Coaltown’s newest crime-fighter cracked her whip. The thief put her hands in the air. The other two followed suit.
Izzie put her cards away. “Thanks for the assist, Miss Starling.”
“We’ve got to stop meeting this way,” Miss Starling said. “I think I saw their fearless leader running towards Second Street. Spare a girl a run in heels?”
“You’ve got these?” Izzie nodded at the thieves.
“Please.” Miss Starling cracked her whip and the two by the van dropped their cases.
Apparently Miss Starling didn’t need a wingman to convince anyone she was a badass. Never mind that she wasn’t bulletproof. She carried herself like a rockabilly bombshell.
Izzie took off towards Second Street. She didn’t see anyone on the way, which was odd, because Izzie could run two miles in a minute. It was as if the missing thief had just vanished into thin air.
She was on her way back when she saw a light under the door at Nightstock’s bar. The door was locked, but a low hum of voices drifted to the street.
“Whoops, clumsy me,” Izzie said, as the door banged open.
Every conversation in the room stopped. Someone in the back room was breathing heavily.
Izzie stepped inside and put the remains of the lock on the bar. “Sorry about that. Honest.” The place smelled like cigar smoke and cedar. Also dog poop.
A grey-haired woman eyed her from the pool table. “Hey Dan,” she called. “The Azure Deuce is here.”
Izzie frowned. “Azure Deuce? Really? How long have you been sitting on that one?”
Dan Tinsley, aka “Nightstock,” former terror of the world’s finest heroes, walked out from the back room. The floor’s cedar shavings hushed his shiny wingtipped footsteps. “Oh, it’s you. And here I was thinking I was going to have to set the table for company. Private party, sidekick. See your way out.”
“You wouldn’t happen to know anything about a robbery over at the gem depository, would you?”
“You caught me, pipsqueak,” Nightstock deadpanned. “I have invented a terrible device that allows me to pour drinks and commit heists at the same time. Coaltown will bow before me.”
The others laughed—but Izzie could still hear that breathing.
She ran for the back room, vaulting the pool table’s sticky velvet surface. Nightstock tried to step in her way, but she dodged him and skidded through the door.
A tall white guy with bright blue eyes was standing near the alleyway exit. He had dog poop smeared on the side of his right shoe.
He took one look at her and bolted through the door.
Izzie followed, but a steel security door clanged shut in her face. She spun to find Nightstock in the doorway, his patrons gathered in a crowd behind him.
“Did you miss the sign, kid? Employees Only.”
In the alley, a motorcycle revved up and screeched away.
It took Izzie ten minutes to get past Nightstock and his pack of henchman washouts. By the time she got out, the thief was long gone.
When she got back to the depository, three police cars were parked along the dog park fence. Their flashing blue lights intermittently lit the thieves where they sat along the depository’s brick wall, cuffed.
Miss Starling was standing with the mayor and Detective al-Busiri—Coaltown’s lead detective.
“So good of one of the Aces to join us,” the mayor said. “As you can see, the situation is well in hand.”
“I was running down the last thief,” Izzie said.
The mayor glanced around behind Izzie. “And?”
Izzie crossed her arms in front of her. “He got away.”
Detective al-Busiri pulled out her notepad. “White guy? Late teens or early twenties? ‘Distinctive’ blue eyes? About 6’4?”
Izzie nodded. “Friend of yours?”
“He helped himself to some high-tech ceramics from Morgan Engineering last week,” al-Busiri said. “Shame he got away. Samara Morgan is on my case like you wouldn’t believe.”
“Well, at least the night wasn’t a total loss, thanks to Miss Starling!” The mayor clapped an arm on Miss Starling’s shoulder. “This was excellent work, my dear. The city is in your debt.”
“Now, now,” Miss Starling said, trying to shrug the mayor’s arm off. “It was a team effort.”
“You’re too modest! Oh look, the press is here. Come on out front and pose for some photos, will you?”
Detective al-Busiri stood next to Izzie and watched the mayor walk Miss Starling to the front of the building. “So that was rude.”
“The mayor wanted my boss to show,” Izzie said.
“You did just fine without him.” Al-Busiri bumped Izzie’s shoulder. “No one’s hurt and you prevented millions in losses.”
Izzie beamed. “This thief. Any leads on him?”
Al-Busiri flipped through her notebook. “The safe money’s on corporate espionage. Before Morgan Engineering, there was an experimental new battery from the nerds at Curie Industries in Motor City. A few other things—all high-tech prototypes.”
Izzie had never heard of a corporate spy hanging out at Nightstock’s before, but maybe it was just a port of convenience. “You’d think a professional would know how to bypass the alarms.”
“Yeah well. You’d think we’d know how to respond to them faster.”
The next morning, Izzie stomped through the coat closet and jumped off the stairs into her dad’s secret lair.
She landed on his lumpy old sofa and bounced. “I hate everything.”
Mateo Benitez was standing in front of his giant bank of computer screens, loading his utility belt. “Thieves get away?”
“Only one of them. Miss Starling caught the rest. The mayor thanked her in front of the press and everything.”
Her father was still wearing his blue-and-white Azure Ace costume, with his jacket unzipped and his high-tech flight goggles dangling around his neck. “Wow, that’s—what, the fifth time in seven weeks? I should meet that kid. She sounds like real sidekick material.”
“You say these things to wound me.”
“I bet she wouldn’t use up my razor cards after I asked her not to.”
“You didn’t ask me not to. You said you wouldn’t write me a note for my homework. I bet Miss Starling wouldn’t have put two more decks into the sharpener for you while she was finishing up her lab report.”
He laughed and closed his smoke-bomb pouch. “Best of daughters.”
“And best of sidekicks,” Izzie said. Her mother’s footsteps echoed through the network of tunnels that led out from the lair into Coaltown.
“Morning news is saying the mayor’s considering giving Miss Starling a key to the city,” her dad said, from the sharpener.
“Oh, come on, Iz. I thought you liked Miss Starling.”
“I did! I mean—I do. She’s great. Everyone likes her. But I was in Coaltown first, you know? Where’s my key to the city?”
“You really don’t want one. The mayor is a drunkdialer.”
“You know what I mean,” Izzie said. “People took you seriously the second you put on the uniform. I go out there and these idiots don’t even remember I’m bulletproof.”
He spun to face her. “Did someone shoot you?”
“Hit me, even. It left a bruise, and—oh jeez, Dad, what happened to your face?”
His right cheek was red and swollen. “I got punched by a giant robot. What the heck did they shoot you with that was big enough to leave a bruise?”
“M16 at close range.”
He crossed back to his workbench. “I am way too busy for that pendejo.”
“I’m fine, Dad.”
“I know you are, Iz. But you want to talk about respect—I’ve told Nightstock twice not to move that kind of hardware in Coaltown. If he’s not going to listen when I ask nicely, I’m going to have to go over there and knock over some furniture.”
“I kind of already did?”
“You took on Nightstock by yourself?”
“He was hiding my thief.”
Her father sighed. “Your mother’s gonna have me cleaning training rooms till you’re thirty.”
One of the vault-like doors into the tunnels creaked open. Izzie’s father dropped his belt and put on his goggles. He had his jacket halfway zipped when Raquel Romero, aka La Capitán, stepped into the room.
Izzie’s father pushed his goggles to his forehead. “I’d appreciate it if you’d trip my proximity alarms, Raquel.”
Izzie winced. She knew her dad didn’t have super-hearing, but she was always forgetting just how much he couldn’t hear. She could have warned him her mother was coming.
“Isobel, what were you doing crimefighting on a school night?”
Izzie’s dad slid the razor cards into a pouch on his belt. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young crimefighter in possession of a stylish costume must be in want of a nemesis. Izzie has some competition for Coaltown’s most eligible delinquents.”
“So you picked a fight with Nightstock?”
“I won a fight with Nightstock. And don’t blame Dad—he didn’t know Nightstock was involved.”
“Your father and I will be discussing your crimefighting on school nights later—at length. Right now, Mateo, we have to go.”
Izzie frowned. “You’re heading back out now?”
Her dad put on his belt. “Alabaster’s robots busted her out last night—along with half the inmates at Longwing Penitentiary. They’ve got Freedom’s Belle and Updraft.”
“Are they okay?”
“We’ll find out when we catch up with Doctor Alabaster.”
Izzie’s phone chimed a new message.
“We need to move, Mateo,” her mother said.
“Yeah.” He turned towards Izzie and pulled her into a fierce embrace. “I love you.”
“Jeez, Dad—it’s just a giant robot. You’ve got this.”
“Your lips to God’s ears, babygirl.” He kissed her forehead, then headed for the tunnel with her mom. “Have a good day at school, okay?”
“Yeah, okay,” Izzie said, unlocking her phone. The new message was from Detective al-Busiri: “911.”
Izzie traced the GPS on Detective al-Busiri’s phone to Nightstock’s, but the back room was deserted. She pulled a couple of razor cards from the previous night’s fight out of the wall on her way to the bar.
Nightstock grabbed her and slammed her into the pool table as soon as she walked into the room. “You made a goddamn wreck of this place last night, sidekick.”
He wasn’t kidding. Two of the tables were busted, half the chairs were in a pile against the bar, and her razor cards had brought three of the lights down. Their bare bulbs dangled, flickering, from loose wires.
But aside from her and Nightstock, the place was empty.
Izzie spun Nightstock into the wall and pinned him. “Where is the detective?”
Nightstock coughed up a laugh. “I owe that skinny freak a crisp Tubman—I told him you wouldn’t show.”
“You know, Tinsley, I may not have my boss’s ‘dangle washed-up losers off of rooftops until they squeal’ routine down yet, but I do know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves.” She twisted his arm.
“Aah—Jesus, kid! In my back pocket.”
She slid her free hand into the back of his jeans and pulled out the detective’s phone. The background image on the home screen was a picture of Detective al-Busiri, eyes closed and tied up, with the morning paper sitting on the floor in front of her.
Izzie’s heart started racing. She searched the image, frantic for a sign of life. Detective al-Busiri had been the first person in city hall to take Izzie seriously as a superhero. She sent her cases, gave her leads—
Nightstock’s breath caught, and Izzie realized she was wrenching the hell out of his arm. She eased off a little.
“The guy told me to give you the phone, and to tell you he’ll text you further instructions,” Nightstock said. “I don’t know a damn thing.”
“The hell you don’t. I went over the list of all the heists that match this guy’s pattern. All cutting-edge prototypes and weapons components—your kind of gear. I’m thinking you hired him to collect them for you so you could build something that’d get you back in the game.”
“No way, kid. I told him where to find the parts—that’s it.”
“I didn’t ask—and that’s the truth.”
Izzie took a deep breath. Nightstock smelled like sweat and stale beer. “What’s he building?”
“With that gear? An energy ray. It’ll pack a hell of a punch.”
“How big a punch?“
“If he finds the kowalite gem he was looking for last night, it’ll cut through your boss’s armor like it’s paper.”
Someone banged on the door to the bar. “Police, Tinsley.”
A new message chimed on the detective’s phone. “Don’t answer that door,” it said. “If the police get anywhere near this, you’ll need a new friend in the police department.”
Al-Busiri had probably sent the police a 911, too—but the blue-eyed thief had eyes on them.
Izzie shoved Nightstock towards the pool table and took the back way out.
Izzie’s dad wasn’t answering his phone. Her mother either. She tried league headquarters.
“Klecha Repossession Services. We cover your assets!”
“Hey Dave, it’s the Indigo Ace. I’m trying to reach my boss.”
“Yeah, he’s off comms.”
“What about La Capitán?”
“They’re tracking down last night’s jailbreakers to get a lead on Doctor Alabaster. Radio silence.”
“Can you tell them to call me?”
“Are you dying? Like, right now? Because they’re kinda busy.”
“It’s important, Dave.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thanks,” she said. She hung up the call, and said a silent prayer for al-Busiri.
The thief called at four that afternoon, while Izzie was researching kowalite crystals on her dad’s supercomputer.
She answered on the first ring.
“Good afternoon, sidekick.”
Izzie keyed his number into her father’s tracer program. “Proof of life or I hang up.”
The phone chimed, and another image of the detective appeared—awake this time, and wearing what looked like an orange prison jumpsuit. She was in front of a TV displaying the latest on the Longwing Pen jailbreak. Relief washed over Izzie like a wave: al-Busiri was all right.
“Satisfied?” the thief asked.
The phone trace came back. Burner. GPS disabled.
“What do you want?” Izzie asked.
“Conrad Mining purchased the Depository’s kowalite gem. I trust Nightstock told you I need it?”
“Well then you’ve already looked up what they are and you can run along and fetch it from Conrad for me.”
“If you want it, why didn’t you just steal it yourself instead of kidnapping the detective?”
“My employer is tired of Coaltown’s wannabe heroes interfering with my assignment.”
Great, so this was on her and Miss Starling for showing up at the gem depository in the first place. She tried to put the thought out of her mind, and assure herself that Detective al-Busiri wouldn’t see it that way. “If the detective so much as breaks a nail, you are going to need a much bigger death ray.”
“As long as my employer gets that gem, the detective will be in perfect health. I’ll see you at Nightstock’s in one hour.”
Getting into Conrad Mining’s facility wasn’t hard. She pulled up their floor plan and inventory system on her dad’s computer, and snuck in through the air ducts in what she hoped would pass for thieving clothes. But as she lowered herself into the secure storage room where they were keeping the kowalite gem, something caught her ankle and pulled her down.
An alarm sounded as she crashed to the hard tile floor.
Miss Starling stood over her and snapped her whip.
Izzie grabbed it and jumped to her feet. She didn’t have time to convince Miss Starling—and Conrad Mining’s security team—to let her take the gem. She yanked on the whip.
Miss Starling staggered forward, trying to keep hold of it.
Izzie gave it another yank, but that pulled Miss Starling off balance completely. Izzie jumped forward to catch her. “Easy!”
Miss Starling straightened up and stepped back. “Way to scare a girl. I thought you were here for the gem! Why are you dressed like that?”
Indigo fumbled for a lie.
Miss Starling stared. “You are here for the gem.”
Izzie’s face burned. “I’m sorry.”
“…You’ve been the thief this whole time?”
“What? No! I—”
The storage room door’s knob rattled. “Where’s the key?” someone called.
Miss Starling started for the door.
Izzie darted in front of her, pulling the detective’s phone out of her pocket. “The thief has Detective al-Busiri.”
Miss Starling stopped and stared at the image on the home screen.
“He’s holding her ransom,” Izzie said. “For the gem.”
Miss Starling looked up from the screen. “Police?”
“He’s watching them.”
“What about the Azure Ace?”
“I’ve been trying to reach him all day. Miss Starling, believe me, if there were any other way—”
Footsteps and jangling keys sounded through the shiny metal door. Miss Starling glanced towards it, then back at Izzie.
She held out the gem. “Go.”
Izzie changed into her costume behind Nightstock’s trash bins before entering the stockroom.
The blue-eyed thief was leaning against the wall, alone.
She stopped in the doorway. “Where’s the detective?”
The thief crossed his arms. “Where’s the gem?”
“You’ll find out as soon as you release the detective.”
“Nice try, sidekick. My employer will text you the detective’s location as soon as she has the gem in hand.”
“You expect me to take your word on that?”
He tapped a key on his phone, and the detective’s phone chimed. “Look a little closer this time.”
He’d sent another picture of al-Busiri, still wearing the orange jumpsuit—but now she was pointing at the name tag.
Izzie zoomed in on the image. Doctor Alabaster’s name and prisoner ID number were stitched into the lefthand pocket in stocky capital letters.
She looked back at the thief. “Dude, if you’re using Alabaster’s name without her permission—”
“She would kill me and you’d dance on my grave, I’m sure.” He held out his hand for the gem. “The detective has two hours of air left.”
Izzie eyed the photo again. Prisoner numbers weren’t public. That had to be Doctor Alabaster’s real jumpsuit. And she never went back on a deal. It was a thing with her.
Izzie pulled the gem out of her belt and handed it off.
“There’s a good sidekick,” he said, and punched her in the gut.
Izzie slumped against Nightstock’s cheap metal shelves, winded. She took a tracking tag out of her belt and threw it at the thief just as he slipped through the alleyway door.
She pulled out her phone and dialed.
“Klecha Repossession Services.” Dave sounded tense.
“Any word from my boss?”
“Freedom’s Belle sent up a flare from Alabaster’s base,” he said. “The entire team went in. We lost comms on them about twenty minutes ago—everything’s being jammed.”
Izzie adjusted her goggles. Her father would tell her to stay in Coaltown and save the detective. But Doctor Alabaster’s grudge against the Azure Ace was older than Izzie. If that gem was the last piece Alabaster needed for a death ray that could get through his armor, Izzie’s dad was in serious trouble.
She headed for the door. “I need a location.”
“La Capitán makes the rules, not me. I’m not telling you where to find Doctor Alabaster.”
“I hate your face, Dave.”
“Yeah, I get that a lot.”
Izzie cut the call and placed another.
“Hey, Miss Starling, it’s Indigo. Can you meet me?”
According to the tracking tag she’d put on the thief, he was halfway to Steel City by the time Izzie had given Miss Starling the detective’s phone. She had to run like hell to catch up.
She’d nearly managed it when she hit a roadblock. State Troopers had Mariotti Pass completely blocked.
Izzie ditched the road and started running towards the clang of giant robot footsteps.
She turned on her mic. “Miss Starling, do you have a location yet?”
“No. Do you have eyes on him?”
Izzie cleared the ridge and stopped.
Bright emergency lights illuminated a hillside littered with robot parts—and her parents’ teammates.
More heroes than robot parts.
The ones that were still up were entangled in a knock-down, drag-out fight with a gigantic steel monstrosity that seemed to be made of nothing but knives. It was guarding the entrance to what looked like an old hangar set into the hillside.
Izzie’s mom was taunting the giant robot so the others could get in under its whirling death-limbs, but Izzie didn’t see her dad anywhere. She scanned the rocks and trees, looking for his blue-and-white jacket.
When she started down the hill for a closer look, static crackled from her earpiece.
Miss Starling cut in and out through the noise. “In— kshhhhk—go?”
“Sorry, stand by.” Izzie stepped back onto the ridge, clear of the jamming.
A flash of white caught her eye on the walkway above the hangar, but it wasn’t her father. It was Doctor Alabaster, pacing back and forth with an ugly-looking gun. The others hadn’t noticed her yet. She was hidden behind the hangar’s concrete frame.
The door behind Doctor Alabaster opened, and the thief stepped out.
“I’ve got eyes,” Izzie said.
The thief pulled out the kowalite gem and handed it off.
Doctor Alabaster held it up to the harsh artificial lights, then nodded. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a phone. The robot whirled and sliced as Doctor Alabaster typed.
She put the phone away.
“I’ve got a location,” Miss Starling said.
The robot turned for a moment, giving Izzie a glimpse of her father. He was climbing the back of its barbed metal chassis.
“Can you get to it?”
“It’s the old mine south of town,” Miss Starling said. “I can get there.”
“Okay, I’m about to lose comms,” Izzie said. “Good luck.”
Static cut off Miss Starling’s response as Izzie started down the hill.
The giant robot punched Freedom’s Belle, sending her flying towards Izzie. Izzie threw herself into Belle’s path to break her crash into the rocks.
The impact sent Izzie and Belle skidding back into a boulder. Izzie straightened and helped Belle to her feet. “Hey, Belle.”
Belle’s costume was torn to shreds. “Indigo! What are you doing here?”
“This is a trap.”
Belle was cradling her left arm like it was broken. “Yeah. We’re getting that feeling.”
“No, I mean Doctor Alabaster. She’s got a death ray behind that—” Izzie looked back to the hangar to point, and saw Doctor Alabaster aiming the gun at the robot’s back.
Izzie bolted for the walkway.
She didn’t look at the fight, or Doctor Alabaster, or the gun. She kept her eyes dead ahead, on the fallen pines and flying rubble, jumping and dodging with every ounce of speed she had in her.
Doctor Alabaster turned just in time to watch Izzie barrel right into her.
Izzie’s shove pushed Doctor Alabaster clear to the end of the walkway. Doctor Alabaster grabbed hold of the railing as they tumbled over it. Izzie overshot her. She slid down the hill towards the robot as Doctor Alabaster climbed to her feet, still clutching the gun.
By the time Izzie got her feet back under her, Doctor Alabaster was lining up another shot. The robot was turned away from them now. Izzie’s father was perched on its back, reaching into a hole he’d cut in the chassis.
“¡CUIDADO!” Izzie shouted, but he didn’t respond—he probably couldn’t hear her over the drive trains and whirling blades.
When Izzie turned to sprint back up the hill, Doctor Alabaster pulled the trigger.
Izzie took two steps and threw herself into the line of fire.
It was a reflex. Izzie was used to taking hits other people couldn’t. But as the green light of the kowalite laser flashed in front of her, she had a fraction of a second to consider that she didn’t know if she was immune to death rays.
Then the beam hit her like a kiln opening right in her face. There was an even brighter flash of light, and she and Doctor Alabaster went flying in opposite directions.
Doctor Alabaster was knocked back into the rocky hillside, where she collapsed. Izzie flew backwards towards the robot.
Before she hit the bot, the grinding of motors and the snick snick snick of blades went quiet. The Azure Ace said, “Gotcha,” just before Izzie crashed into him.
The impact knocked the wind out of her. She dropped like a stone and hit the gravel with a bone-jarring crunch.
The giant robot crashed to the ground beside her a moment later.
Her father jumped down off of it. “Indigo! Are you all right!?” At that range, she could hear both his real voice and the deep boom of his voice-changer.
Footsteps sounded through the rubble as the rest of the team converged on her and her father.
Izzie got up on her hands and knees, then sat.
Her father whipped off his armored jacket and handed it to her.
Izzie glanced down at the thing he wasn’t looking at—the giant hole in her suit centered on her sternum. The skin in the gap was red and peeling.
Her mother approached with a crunch of gravel underfoot. Doctor Alabaster hung unconscious in her arms. “¿Estás bien?”
Izzie nodded and put the jacket on. It didn’t seem like a good time to brag about being death-ray-resistant.
Her father turned down his voice-changer. “What are you doing here?”
“My thief was working for Doctor Alabaster,” she said. “The prototypes he was stealing were to build a kowalite-focused laser gun. She took Updraft and Belle to lure you here so she could kill you, but you crashed her party early.”
Her mother handed Doctor Alabaster off to Slate, the team’s medic. “¿Por qué no nos llamaste?”
“I tried. Doctor Alabaster’s been jamming your comms.”
“How did you knock out the doc?” Freedom’s Belle asked.
“Her death ray backfired.”
Izzie’s father gave her a sidelong glance. “Backfired.”
Izzie zipped up the jacket. If she told her father she’d put herself in harm’s way for his sake, he’d ground her until the third of never. “Yup. Backfired.”
He wiped a smudge off her goggles. “You suck at lying.”
Izzie’s father waited in the car while she dropped off a get-well card for Detective al-Busiri. She’d taped it to a gift box containing the stolen prototypes from Doctor Alabaster’s ray gun.
When she got back to the car, her dad turned down the radio. “Miss Starling’s getting a key to the city,” he said.
“Good for her,” Izzie said—and she meant it.
Izzie buckled her seatbelt. “No one died, so I’m calling this one a win.”
“It was a win, Iz.” He started the car. “Seriously—you did good.”
“I think I pissed off Doctor Alabaster. Mom said she cussed me out at her arraignment.”
“Are you trying to poach my nemesis?”
“Her? No. But now that I’m on her hit list, you wanna bet Coaltown’s Least Wanted will start taking me seriously?”
He laughed. “Speaking of Coaltown’s Least Wanted, I found Nightstock’s suppliers. Black-market weapons out of Steel City. Wanna help me take ’em out?”
Izzie looked up. “You’re going to let me fight crime in Steel City?”
“Your mom and I think you’re ready. Dave got us tickets to Hamilton for tonight. What do you say we see the show, grab dessert, then go scare the piss out of some gun dealers?”
Izzie didn’t know how normal kids bonded with their dads, but she truly, deeply pitied them.
Annalee Flower Horne is a science fiction writer and co-editor of feminist geek culture blog The Bias. She likes her superheroes like she likes her coffee: sweet, fun, and not terribly gritty. Her fiction has previously appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and on her parents’ fridge.