Mighty Hero Force Epsilon, Season 1 Finale

Season Notes: violence, magical coercion and related self harm, references to suicide, cliffhanger

Salem got the text while they were holed up in a no-tell motel. It was crowded with five, which would have been bad enough. But it had only one bed and the floor was the type of thing you didn’t want to walk on without shoes, never mind sleep on. They were eager to get gone.

The address was halfway across the country, which had the advantage that no one would look for them there. And the satellite view from a map app was enough direction for their teleport. They couldn’t have brought their new ‘Mentor’ with them, but he wasn’t at the motel anyway. At Mobb’s insistence, no one had gone to Lawerence Park yet.

Scouting the place was Salem’s job, of course. But she needed backup. So Salem had Mobb piggyback, and they clasped wrists to help keep her steady without strangling Salem. And Salem just… faded out.

“Oh my god,” Quickmoon said. “Hold up, did you see that?”

“What?” Mobb dropped down from Salem’s back and went for her weapon — and Salem immediately reappeared.

Blade shook his head. “Come here, Guns, I want to try something.”

“What’s wrong?” Salem asked. “We have places to be.”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Quick said, “I don’t think.”

“Come on, Guns,” Blade repeated, “Just hop on me the way you did Speed.”

Then they were all talking over each other.

“Stop!” Astaroth barked, putting a bit of force behind the word, enough to shake them. “Speed, Guns, when you grabbed wrists, Speed faded out too. Like your camo spread to cover her or something.

“Blade, you’re right: we need to test that. But not now. Let’s scope out the new place and get under cover. We shouldn’t meet up with Mentor before dark, so we’ll have a few hours to check it out.”

“He’s not ‘mentor’ yet,” Mobb grumped, climbing back on Salem’s back. Salem faded out again, and Quickmoon’s voice trailed after them.

“We wouldn’t even have a place if it wasn’t for him…”

A few moments later, Salem zipped up to a large cabin in the wood. Unlike the old one, it was way out in the woods. No power lines, not even a mailbox. Leaves and clutter piled in front of the door. No one around for miles.

Salem explored the outside while Mobb searched the inside. Of all of them, Mobb had the best chance of spotting any bugs or tampering. As specified, the key was under the doormat. A lean-to had a working well-pump and generator.

The inside looked like some rich guy’s old hunting lodge — animal heads on the walls, fur rugs on the floors. Salem, when she came in after scoping out the exterior, thought it was creepy. But the water ran, and the lights turned on. The cabinets and fridge were stocked with food.

On the kitchen table was a note. “C.S.M.,

“I called in a few favors of my own and managed to keep everything but ‘I need a safehouse’ between us. My own people swept it for bugs, but I can’t promise someone else here in Alphabet Land won’t get curious. Stay safe and call me when you have something good.

“You Know Who.”

“Shit. Alphabet Land.” Mobb muttered.

“What?” Salem asked, coming up behind her, “What the hell’s Alphabet land?”

“Washington DC. Our… friend has a government official who owes him favors. Big time.”

“What the fuck!”

“Yuuup. We’ve been fucking lucky so far that the Feebs or spooks haven’t pinned us down. I’m sure they’ve been trying. Now…”

“Temporary safe house. Very temporary.”

“Yeah.”

They finished searching, but Mobb wasn’t worried about finding anything. If You Know Who owed Mentor this big, then they’d have made sure their people swept good. It bugged her — what could Mentor have done to get this kind of favor from Alphabet Land? And what was it going to cost them later?

After a dozen years in the guard reserves, that almost scared Mobb more than Mourningdagger.

They left the note where they found it, and Salem zipped to bring in the others.

The team got ready to go — mostly emptying out their backpacks so they’d have room for the supplies they were grabbing. Then spent the next few hours watching the clock, exploring the new place, and taking turns playing piggyback with Mobb.

The problem with teleporting was you never knew what was at the other end. So they waited until after sundown and aimed for a secluded corner under some trees. They still lucked out to not be spotted — that ‘secluded corner’ would have been a likely spot for some homeless kid to hide for the night. And there were lots of homeless kids even before MourningDagger tore the city apart and built his fortress in the middle of it. Blade and Salem took the backpacks to the pile of leaf litter under some trees the supplies were hidden in. Astaroth, Quicksilver, and Mobb spread out to search the park.

It wasn’t that big a park, and it didn’t take long to be sure that the only other person there was a homeless man wrapped in a blanket under a bench.

“This isn’t good,” Quickmoon said. “He should be here.”

Mobb snorted. “Look, he took off. Can’t exactly blame the bastard. Let’s get this shit out of here and get home.”

“We’ll wait a bit.” Astaroth started heading back toward Blade and Salem. “He maybe could camp out here, but he’d still need to step away for food or to find a bathroom.”

“You think he’s taking a piss?!”

Quickmoon giggled. “Hey, since when are bladders convenient?”

Mobb grumbled, but as she jogged to catch up with Astaroth, admitted, “Never.”

Blade decided to pass the time catching up on social media. Barely a minute had passed when he said, “Team? We have a problem.”

They all crowded around, and Blade pulled up a photograph from a recent tweet.

The scene was lit by the glow of the shield surrounding MourningDagger’s castle. It cast everything in a creepy purplish light, distorting colors. It took the team a moment to recognize what they were seeing.

Just inside the shield, Mentor knelt with MourningDagger’s hand on the back of his neck.

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Mighty Hero Force Epsilon S1, E1
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E9)

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Webserial Catalog
How NOT to Save the World (S1 E1)


Mea culpa, mea culpa. I said I’d try not to have season cliffhangers, but sometimes the story goes where it will regardless of what I want.

Anyway, time for a new story. Well, new to here anyway: Next week we will be starting the first season of The Bargain.

It takes a rare and desperate human to deliberately seek out a fae noble. But rumor says that not all nobles are the same, and Mattin Brenson is desperate. Desperate enough to bargain with Countess Jahlene n’Erida for the highest of stakes.

Bargains with the fae are dangerous, but sometimes what starts as a bargain, can become something more.

The Bargain is a multi-season story that melds chosen family aromance and noncon kinky fantasy, with a very little sex. The Bargain was previously released as a novel, it has been heavily revised for this new ‘edition.’

 

Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E9)

Season Notes: violence, magical coercion and related self harm, references to suicide, cliffhange

“You have not done everything you could, child.” He hissed.

It had been five days since he rubbed their noses in the need to move, and they had no idea what to do. His mood had gone from sardonic, to caustic, to angry. In response to Blade’s claim that they were doing all they could, he finally exploded. “You have not made use of one of your most powerful resources.

“Me.”

“We still have no fucking reason to trust you.” Mobb rebutted.

More practically, Blade asked, “How could you help?”

“Several ways,” he replied, “Though perhaps the easiest and fastest would be to make a phone call.”

“A phone call?”

“A phone call.”

Mobb snorted, “You aren’t any good at this answering fully thing, are you?”

He blinked. “No, I suppose not.” He shrugged. “For over a thousand years, I have guarded my tongue lest the wrong word be used against me. Can I trust you to be different?”

He held up a hand to stop their response.

“If I make this call, I may expose one of my more useful and powerful contacts in the modern world. I have managed to keep knowledge of this contact from Mourningdagger and all his enemies. This contact does not know who they have been dealing with. Only that I have been helpful, and they are in my debt.”

The five looked at each other.

Finally, Quickmoon said, “He didn’t need to even mention this… whoever this is, you know.”

“How do you figure that?” Mobb asked.

“He said there were ‘several ways’ he could help. He could have told us another way he could help, and it would have been an honest answer, right?”

He looked away. Blade laughed. “I think you’ve nailed it, Quick.

“Okay, so why did you tell us about this guy?”

“Because it will be the quickest and possibly best solution right now, and you need that.”

It was a crossroads, and they all knew it. Whatever they chose would determine their future — possibly even their survival.

To everyone’s surprise, even hers, it was Mobb who pulled out an unused burner phone and handed it to him. “Make the call.”

He dialed a number from memory and put the phone to his ear. “No names.

“Chicago, maybe. Plans might have changed. I’m out; I won’t have intel for you anymore.” He pulled the phone away from his ear a moment. “Worse news: I’m calling in my first favor.”

He paused a moment but didn’t pull the phone from his ear. “Safehouse, sized for a large group, completely off the books. Text me the address at this number within the day. Leave the keys under the mat, and you and everyone involved forgets it exists.”

Another pause.

“Get it then. It doesn’t matter who you talk to anymore as long as they understand the rules. Betray me, and it’ll be the last thing they do.”

He hung up and tossed the phone back to Mobb.

“We’re not going to let you kill anyone,” she said.

“He doesn’t know that.”

“How do you know we can trust him?” Salem asked.

“We’ve got a good… working relationship, you might call it. He isn’t going to want to lose my help any more than I want to lose his. It’s the other people involved I don’t know if we can trust. But you need a place now, and he’ll get it for you.”

“Alright,” Blade nodded, “So this is another temp safe house; we use it as a base while we figure out something long-term that no one will know about.”

He took a breath and glanced at Astaroth, who nodded. “Now. You and Sword and I are going to talk while the others start packing.”

Astaroth, Mobb, and Salem cleared out, Mobb rather reluctantly. But they had all recognized that he seemed to loosen up when it was just Blade in the room, and Quick was the one who had figured him out. So let the two of them handle it.

One of the things that constantly surprised them was how well they had come to understand each other without words. They might disagree, but they understood. Was it part of the magic? Maybe. By that point, they didn’t care.

He didn’t come out of ‘his’ corner when they left, but he did relax a bit.

“Alright,” Blade said after a moment. “We’ve let things ride the past few days. Mostly because you and Sword gave us a hell of a shock the other day. Now, though, we’re putting our lives in your hands.

“I’m not going to give any orders right now, but I want, we need, answers. And you know Sword will likely read between the lines of anything you don’t say.”

Blade paused, but he didn’t respond. After a moment, Quick got up and got three glasses of water. Ey gave Blade a glass, kept one for emself, and put the third at an empty spot on the table.

“It would be really nice to have something to call you,” ey said. ” ‘That bastard’ doesn’t fit anymore, and ‘he’ just gets confusing after a while. Also, I’m curious about the ‘no name’ thing. How does that even happen?”

“Time. In enough time, anything can be forgotten.”

“So you used to have a name and… what, no one used it for so long even you forgot it? That’s rough.”

Again, no response.

Blade leaned back in his chair. “I gotta agree with Sword. The no-name thing is a pain. And I can’t imagine you’re happy with it.”

“It has its advantages.”

“Oh?”

For a moment, it seemed he wouldn’t answer again, then he sighed and said, “Certain magics are difficult without a name to tie them to. It’s likely the only reason Mourningdagger hasn’t been able to track me down. A spell to find ‘Lieutenant’ is slightly unspecific.”

Quickmoon snorted, and he almost smiled.

“Names can be unspecific too. Try finding ‘Mr. Smith’ sometime.” Blade said, “But I get you. If not a name, then a label, a title, would be useful.”

“What am I then?” a hint of bitterness slipped out with the words. “I am whatever you make of me.”

Quickmoon and Blade looked at each other, confused and disturbed.

“What do you mean?”

He caught himself, looked away.

Blade kicked out a chair, “Oh, si–” he stopped abruptly. “Will you please sit down?”

To everyone’s surprise, he did.

For a moment, his masks slipped, and they saw the haggard face he hid behind them. “Children, untainted by the world.” He shook his head. “Sooner or later, you will die, and I will pass to the hands of another. Any name you give me will be stripped away eventually. So call me as you will.”

He sipped the water and leaned back in the chair.

“Why?” Blade asked. “That’s what we really want to know. Why did you serve Mourningdagger, why are you… bound to us?”

“Oh, that?” his sardonic grin was back now, though weaker than usual. “That is simple. I was cursed.”

“Cursed?!”

“And you can’t die?”

“I can be killed, but I don’t age or ill. And I can’t take my own life by my own will. It’s certainly made for an… interesting life.”

They sat in silence for a time. Blade and Quick didn’t have all their questions answered, but they understood then that the most important answers were theirs. That made only one answer possible.

A good barracks lawyer doesn’t break the rules; they use the rules. And an effective rules lawyer didn’t waste a powerful, world-breaking combo on a goblin. They save it for when it will cripple the red dragon.

Blade, Mobb, and Salem had spent a lot of time talking about loopholes and gaming the rules. Quick hadn’t been part of those conversations, but ey knew they had happened, that Blade thought he had found his ‘mother of all loopholes.’

Blade looked at Quickmoon, and ey nodded. It was time to see if their game-breaking combo really would break the game.

“We will not — cannot — have you as a minion. And we cannot release you to be grabbed up by the next person who comes by, or — worse — back in Mourningdagger’s clutches.”

“As you will.” He sighed. “I could be a powerful tool in your hands, but I would also be a dangerous one. In your place, I might choose the same.”

Quickmoon cocked eir head at that. A moment later eir eyebrows rose, then ey covered eir mouth with eir hand.

Blade looked at eir, but ey shook eir head and gestured for him to continue.

Blade shrugged and looked back at him. “I have one last order for you,” Blade said slowly, making sure he got his wording right. “From now on, any order you have received in the past and any order may receive in the future, from us or from anyone else, you will treat as a suggestion. You may obey or not, as you decide.”

His mouth gaped, his eyes bulged out of his head. “You can’t mean that.”

Blade blinked, and Quickmoon started laughing.

“Does it matter? I said it, that should be enough for your curse.”

He growled. “You fools. With all my powers, with all I know of you. I could be a greater threat to you than Mourningdagger at this moment, and you simply set me loose!”

Blade shook his head. “What? You said…”

“He thought we were going to kill him,” Quick said. “He thought we wouldn’t want him as a minion because he is a threat. Not because we have no use for any minion.”

Ey turned to him. “You’re right,” ey said, “You could be a great threat. You were also right that you could be a great help.

“You can still be a great help, and Mourningdagger is your enemy too.

“You’ve called us children, and we are children compared to you. So teach us. We don’t need or want a slave, but we could definitely use a mentor. Someone to guide us, who understands magic and warfare and safehouses. We sure don’t.”

“I–”

Whatever he was going to say was cut off by an explosion from the driveway.

“Fuck!” Salem yelled from down the hallway.

“Out of time,” Astaroth called. “Guns, has that address come in yet?”

“No, damn it.”

He pushed his chair back from the table. It clattered to the floor. “It would be best if I were elsewhere.”

“Agreed. Everyone suit up.” Astaroth said, striding back into the room.

He stepped further out of the way as Astaroth, Blade, and Quick triggered their transformations. When they finished, Astaroth turned to him. “We heard everything, and I second everything Heals and Sword said. If you want a title from us still, it is Mentor.

Or go your own way and find your own name.

“Now get out of here. If you want to meet us later…”

“Lawrence Park,” Salem yelled from down the hallway. “Bl- Heals and I set up an emergency cache there, so one of us will be there to grab stuff.”

“Right.”

He — Mentor — hesitated a moment, then opened his mouth and a shining silver ball emerged. Before anyone could ask what he was doing, the ball flared, blinding them. A moment later (or at least that’s what it seemed like to them), he had disappeared.

A few moments later, Salem and Mobb ran into the kitchen. They were already transformed and carried a handful of backpacks. “I think we got everything that could be used to identify us,” Mobb said.

“Good, let’s go.”
They grabbed wrists and teleported, just as the first monsters burst through the walls.

Return to:
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon S1, E1
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E8)

Continue to:
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon, Season 1 Finale

Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E8)

Season Notes: violence, magical coercion and related self harm, references to suicide, cliffhanger

“I think it’s my turn to ask,” he said, without looking away from the stove. In spite of his injured hand, his getting up and cooking breakfast for everyone had quickly become a thing. That morning, Blade and Salem were on security, so it was Mobb, Quickmoon, and Astaroth gathered in the kitchen. As he set plates of eggs and toast down in front of them, he asked, “Why are you here?”

“Because you made food,” Quickmoon replied.

“So if I stop making breakfast, you will pack up and move to another hideout? If I’d known that, I never would have started cooking in the first place.”

All three turned to stare at him. “What?”

“Another hideout?”

“Explain.”

That last was Mobb.

He took his own plate and leaned against the corner, not even glancing at the bloodstain they hadn’t been able to get off the wall. “I found you. If I found you, others can. If I found you, Mourningdagger can. None of us want that. Why haven’t you begun relocating?”

The three heroes looked at each other in shock. He looked at them in dawning horror.

With a curse, he flung his plate, splatting eggs all over the kitchen, and stalked out of the room.

“We are so screwed,” Astaroth muttered.

The team had already, before he showed up, known their current headquarters had to be temporary. That they would need someplace to turn into a real headquarters where they wouldn’t need to worry about the dead owners’ heirs showing up to claim it or (hopefully?) the owners themselves. Salem had been keeping an eye out for word on them, and they were still on the ‘missing’ list. They might have survived.

But while it would be great if they had survived, it wouldn’t change the team’s problem.

His question didn’t change anything except the timeline. Which went from ‘soon’ to ‘immediately.’

Unfortunately, they didn’t have any more ideas about where they could move to.

Astaroth was almost relieved when his wrist lit up Thursday morning, two days after he’d rubbed their faces in the need to move.

In under a minute, the full team was assembled in the living room. They transformed as they arrived and were ready to go… but they had no idea where.

“There’s nothing on the news,” Salem said.

Mobb, scrolling her phone, “Nothing in the chat from my reserve group. Don’t know if there would be.”

Blade had pulled out his laptop, “Even Twitter has nothing. What in the world?”

He hovered in the doorway, watching them.

“How can we stop them if we don’t know where they are? There has to be something we can do!”

“Poinard.”

They all stopped and stared at him. “What?”

He smirked. “If I am here, I can’t be leading the attack. So it’s Poinard.”

“And? Is this supposed to help, or are you just being a pain in the ass?”

“Oh, both. I think I like both.”

“Would it work?” Blade asked.

He shrugged. “Teleporting is not one of my skills, but it should.”

“Can you fuckers please talk sense?” Salem demanded.

“We don’t know where,” Quickmoon said, “But we know who. Use that to direct us.”

“Do it.” Astaroth held his hands out, and the others circled around and grabbed wrists.

“Captain Poinard…”

As they shimmered out of existence, they heard slow clapping, and Mobb had a clear view of his mocking grin.

They shimmered into existence again on the edge of a manmade lake. Captain Poinard hovered above the lake with a handful of the grey monsters. All of them had giant bags of powder they were dumping into the lake.

“Oh fuck,” Mobb hissed. “It’s a reservoir. They’re poisoning the water.”

On the far side of the lake, a handful of cars were parked, their owners nowhere to be seen.

“Mobb, try to take them. Salem? You have an objection to blasphemy?”

“What does that mean? Does everyone have to turn into Blade?!”

Mobb started shooting at Poinard, drawing her attention.

“See if you can run on water. If Mobb hits them, you’ll need to catch those bags.”

“Oh!”

Salem took off, calling over her shoulder, “Not everyone is Christian, you know! How was I supposed to…”

Mobb hit one of the monsters, who tumbled out of the air. Salem stopped talking to focus on running. She caught the monster in one hand and its bag in the other, hauling both back to shore.

Astaroth caught the bag while Quickmoon dispatched the monster. Peering inside, he saw a glittery purple powder. “Heals, take a look at this.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Blade said. He reached his hand in and brushed a finger across the powder. “Ouch!” He yanked his hand back and shook it. “It… bites.”

“A bunch of it already got in the lake.”

“Yeah.” Blade’s HUD scrolled an analysis of the powder. Short version: It was very bad stuff. “I think it’ll poison the whole lake. And if Mobb’s right and it’s a reservoir… Well, the water treatment plants might filter it out, but they’re meant for known problems.”

“That assumes the water treatment plant is actually doing its job.” Astaroth had family that lived in Flint. Add that way police had constantly hassled him for ‘walking while Black’ and his cynicism about anything government was a legend in the team. Though at that point even he was starting to trust FEMA.

“Yeah…”

Blad began digging into his pockets and pouches. According to his HUD, he needed to combine three…

He was slammed from behind by one of the pink ostiches.

“Frontman, Sword, keep them the hell off us!” Mobb yelled, trying to sight on Poinard again.

Quickmoon stepped between Mobb and another grey, eir greatsword beginning its whirling dance.

Blade crouched down behind Astaroth, who shouted, taking down a handful of greys as they shimmered into existence.

On the lake, Salem took a running leap and grabbed for one of the grey monster’s bags. She couldn’t get high enough and came down hard. The greys dropped their bags of poison to chase after her.

Finding her feet, Salem backtracked to grab one of the bags before it hit the lake, but the other plunged into the water and sank.

“Fuck!”

Captain Poinard laughed, dumped out the remainder of her bag, and shimmered away.

Back on shore, the pinks were getting past Astaroth and Quickmoon. Mobb dropped her rifle and instinctively reached for her sidearm. It appeared in her hand, a semiauto pistol, and she started taking down the pinks that slipped past Quick’s guard.

Behind the defense Quick, Astaroth and Mobb provided, Blade was doing bathtub chemistry on the shore of the lake. He muttered to himself as he worked, trusting his teammates to protect him while he combined magic powders and healing potions and other impossible things. When he was finished, he had what looked like a glowing ball, so bright it hurt to look at. “Speed!” he called, “Take this. It needs to be dropped into the center of the lake.”

“The center?” Salem asked, racing in to grab the ball. “It isn’t a fucking circle, you know. How the hell am I supposed to know where the center is!”

But she dashed back out onto the lake. The grey monsters were waiting for her. Having been unable to catch her, they tried to get in her way. Mobb grabbed up her rifle and shot one of them out of the way. Salem leaped over the other, landing at a run.

“Now!” Blade called, and Salem spiked the ball into the lake.

The water closed over the ball, and it exploded, spears of light shooting up into the air, turning the water of the lake golden. A giant wave spread out from the center of the lake. Salem raced ahead of it, barely making it to shore before the wall of water.

Salem scooped up Blade and Astaroth, Quickmoon and Mobb started running behind her. Luckily, the wave slowed down when it reached the shore, and they were able to get out of reach.

The pinks were not so lucky. The wave knocked them off their feet and caught them up, tumbling them across the ground. Blade caught a glimpse of them shimmering away before the wave could draw them fully back into the lake.

Then the waters subsided. The gold faded. Five minutes later, there was no sign that the lake had ever been disturbed. No soaked or downed trees, no puddles or pools along the shore. No fish flopping above the waterline.

Just a quiet lake, shining in the afternoon sun.

“Well,” Mobb finally said. “I’m ready to go home now.”

No one disagreed.

Of course, at ‘home,’ they still had other problems waiting.

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Mighty Hero Force Epsilon S1, E1
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E7)

Continue to:
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E9)

Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E7)

Season Notes: violence, magical coercion and related self harm, references to suicide, cliffhanger

At Quickmoon’s command, he dropped his plate and slammed the knife through his hand and into the wall. Pinning himself like a bug in a box.

Mobb dashed across the room and grabbed for the knife. Blade yelled at her, “Don’t! Leave it in,” while he dove for the first aid kit he kept by the front door. Salem and Astaroth had both made it to the sink before they threw up. Barely, in Astaroth’s case.

Through it all, he and Quickmoon never broke their stare. Ey mouthing, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” over and over again. He with a calm face but breathing heavily and clenching and releasing his free hand. The eggs he had been eating were scattered across the floor at his feet.

Mobb, ignoring Blade, kept trying to pull the knife out, but it had been driven in up to its hilt and wouldn’t budge.

Blade jostled Quickmoon as he ran back into the room, and ey looked away, breaking the weird staredown.

Bandages at the ready, Blade joined Mobb in trying to get the knife free. Astaroth stood from the sink, wiped his mouth, and went to join them. But stopped when he realized that he’d just get in the way.

He ignored Mobb and Blade trying to free his hand. Still watching Quickmoon, he said, “May I?”

“Yes,” Quick gasped out, “God yes. Get it out.”

Pushing aside Blade and Mobb’s hands, he gripped the knife with his free hand, took a deep breath, and yanked it out on the exhale.

Blade was on him at once, spraying the wound down with disinfectant and wrapping it in bandages.

“Next time you require a demonstration child, may I suggest a flesh wound? I will be a week or more healing this.” He flipped the knife so he held it by the bloody blade and offered the hilt to Mobb.

She grabbed it and stepped back, staring at him. He looked away.

“Sword,” Astaroth said. “What kind of demonstration was that? And why the hell did you think we needed it?”

“He… oh my god, Frontman, I thought I was imagining it. I expected him to laugh at me, but he did it. I told him to, and he nearly did it, and I wasn’t dreaming, this is real.

“It’s real. He’ll do it. Whatever we tell him to. Like, he has to. Even if it kills him.”

Quickmoon’s voice trailed off, and for a moment, no one said anything.

Then Astaroth murmured, ” ‘My lord commanded I gain him a foothold. So I shall or die trying,’ ”

Blade, remembering a more recent discussion, reached up and touched his own throat. “An accident.”

“Is Sword right?” Astaroth asked him.

“Yes.” He was leaning against the wall, examining the nails of his uninjured hand. “Congratulations, you have gained your first minion.”

“But why…” Astaroth trailed off, and Blade snorted.

“The obvious questions,” Blade said, “usually have obvious answers.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Salem gasped.

“It means what it means. Think about it. Why surrender to us? Come on, Guns, If you had to choose between us and Mourningdagger…

“Why not tell us before now? Well, just because we’re a better choice than Mourningdagger doesn’t mean he has any reason to trust us.”

“I’ve got one,” Mobb said. “Assuming any of this is true, why was he able to surrender to us at all?”

“Loophole. I’d bet after, what, hundreds of years? Thousands? he’s become one hell of a barrack’s lawyer.”

Gripping the knife like she wanted to use it, Mobb growled at him — HIM-him, that is. “Is Heals right?” she demanded.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what a ‘barrack’s lawyer’ is,” he replied, ignoring the knife.

Mobb startled herself with a chuckle. “Barrack’s lawyer. We’ve got a barrack’s lawyer for a minion. I, for one, never wanted a damn minion.”

Salem, still looking green around the edges, stalked up to Quickmoon and shoved em against the wall. “You knew.

“You knew what would happen, that he would… that he would have to do what you told him.”

He looked up, actually looking at them for the first time since Quickmoon had started talking. If any of the team had been paying attention to him, rather than Salem and Quick, they might have seen his jaw drop.

“What the hell is wrong with you!” Salem yelled right in Quickmoon’s face. “You don’t fucking do shit like that. You don’t hurt people like that, you don’t…

Blade grabbed Salem and pulled her back, pulled her into a hug. “Shh, Speed.”

“You needed to know,” Quick cried, tears breaking free finally. “You needed to know, and M– Guns wouldn’t have listened. And we would have argued. And I hoped he’d leave. I hoped he’d just… disappear into the night and be free of us and Mourningdagger and all of it, and we wouldn’t need to figure out what to do with him!

“I don’t want a minion either, you know.”

Mobb, with a last glare at him, tucked the knife away and went to give Quick a hug. “You’re damn right I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m still not sure I believe it. Or I don’t bloody want to believe it. You probably did need to do something drastic — but that bastard is right about one thing — flesh wound next time or kill him outright.”

Quickmoon chuckled a bit and Salem reached out and took her hand.

“I’m not sorry I yelled,” Salem said, “but I understand.”

Astaroth shook his head and looked back at him. “That does kind of bring us back to Sword’s first question. Why are you still here?”

He said nothing for a moment, and Quickmoon whispered, “Please.”

So he sighed and said, “I am too easily recognized. If your ‘police’ or army find me, either I must kill them and end up all over your news, or let myself be captured, and then they would hold my leash. In either case, Mourningdagger would know where to find me.”

“And then you’re right back in the shit with nothing to show for it but a lot of dead people,” Mobb said. “Makes sense. Not saying I believe it, but it makes sense.”

The next several days passed quietly.

The team hadn’t figured out how to treat their… house guest. Mobb and Blade had insisted on laying a few, carefully thought out commands on him to make sure he couldn’t harm or betray them. They agreed they couldn’t send him away or turn him over to the humor justice system. Even if the human justice system knew how to handle an infinitely old supernatural something that had committed horrific acts under magical coercion — he was right. It would be way too easy for Mourningdagger to swoop in and steal him away from the cops. Aside from that, they were at a loss.

It made things awkward. Quickmoon dealt with the awkward by turning his sardonic humor back on him. Salem avoided him. Mobb glared suspiciously any time they were in the same room. Astaroth got quiet, afraid to accidentally say something that would become a magically-enforced order. Blade was the only one who seemed comfortable with him.

While Salem was avoiding him, she also didn’t talk about anything else. It got so the rest of the team tried to avoid her just to have some peace.

“We can’t do this,” she said when she cornered Mobb in the laundry room. “It’s… it’s fucking horrible. It’s like he’s our damn slave, only worse because he can’t even run away or even fucking try to rebel.”

“And?” Mobb replied.

“And? And! Is that all you have to say?”

“What do you want me to say?” Mobb slammed the lid on the washer machine and started it running.

“Salem, we are trespassing on what might be dead people’s property, all of us but you have faked our deaths, and god only knows how our families are dealing with that. Hell, Quick’s transformation was based on em trying to defend eir damn family, and ey can’t even tell them that defending them didn’t get em killed!

“We are fighting some… some anime villain with powers we don’t bloody understand. We have no idea where our powers came from or even if they are ‘good guy’ powers–”

Salem tried to interrupt, but Mobb drove right over her, “–because if it hasn’t occurred to you that whoever gave us these powers might be ANOTHER evil asshole, you are too naive to handle this gig. And all you can think about is an enemy who committed multiple war crimes ‘under orders.’ Oh, and he willingly put himself in our hands and claims to be under some magical… something from generations before we met him that makes him innocent of all his crimes?

“Assuming this isn’t a trick, it’s a horror. But it’s a magical horror. None of us are mages. We’re like… magical knights with no training who are trying to save the fucking world. We don’t know how to free him, and anything we try might just make things worse.

“That’s if everything he’s telling us is true and we shouldn’t be executing him for war crimes.

“So lay the fuck off.”

Salem walked off in a rage.

She was still in a rage later that day when she overheard Blade say, “Have you had a lot of experience with barracks lawyers?”

Mobb snorted. “More than anyone else here, since I’m the closest we’ve got to a soldier. And no, I’m not going to tell you how to trap that bastard. I don’t trust him farther than I can throw him, but I’m not gonna help anyone else screw him over. Let him have his damn loopholes. Not like he has anything else going for him.”

“Nothing like that. I want to give him loopholes. Hell, what if we could give him the mother of all loopholes?”

If there was one thing about Blade that drove Salem crazy, it was that he could never just come out and say what he was thinking. She had no clue what he meant about ‘mother of all loopholes.’ But…

She tapped on the door to let them know she was there.

“I don’t know any barrack’s lawyers, but I knew some D&D rules lawyers. Could that help?”

Blade smiled and waved her in. Mobb grumbled, “I hate it when you talk that jargon,” but patted the bed next to her for Salem to come sit.

And they all practiced, and watched, and held their breath waiting for Mourningdagger’s next attack.

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Mighty Hero Force Epsilon S1, E1
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E6)

Continue to:
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E8)

Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E5)

Season Notes: violence, magical coercion, references to suicide, cliffhanger

HE walked out of the darkness with his hands raised. Mobb had a bead on him the minute he appeared but didn’t recognize him right away. Partly the darkness, partly, well, who the hell would believe it?

“I’ve come to surrender,” he called, and Mobb told him to step out into the light. He did, and she immediately stepped back a couple of paces. “Speed,” she said into her Bluetooth. “Speed, I need backup. Right fucking now.”

“Quickmoon’s on eir way. I’m monitoring.”

He looked like a cross between Idris Elba with a goatee and Doctor Strange (from the ’90s comics, before they changed him to look like Cumberbatch). Mobb knew him, of course, knew how dangerous he was. How impossible it was that he would appear, unarmed and alone.

But there he was.

Mobb should have waited for backup, but backup would take time. So when he did nothing, said nothing, when no ambush or trap sprung from the surrounding darkness, she unhooked the restraints from her belt and tossed them at his feet.

“Put those on.”

He bent to pick them up, and she braced herself for him to try something. But he didn’t. Just cuffed his wrists behind his back — not in front like she expected — and waited.

“Kneel.”

The damp from the earlier rain immediately soaked into the knees of his jeans, but he gave no sign that he noticed. She took a step toward him. Another. Another. When she was two yards away, she started circling around until she was directly behind him, her weapon aimed at the back of his head.

He had no weapon in his hands, no bomb or knife he’d palmed out of a pocket. His hands hung, open and limp.

“What’s on the security monitors?”

“Nothing.” Came the immediate response. “Nothing but you and… is that really…”

“Looks like it.”

“Right,” Salem took a shuddery breath. She could have gotten to them in an instant, but someone needed to watch the cameras, and Mobb needed armed backup more than escape. Probably. “Sword is almost to you. Try not to get yourself killed in the next minute or so.”

For the first time since he had stepped into the light, Mobb believed that this might not be a trap. “I should kill you now,” she growled.

“I’m surprised you didn’t already,” he replied. His voice held the sardonic edge that was the closest to humor anyone had ever heard from him.

Before she could respond — or decide what response she wanted to give — Quickmoon came running out of the woods that surrounded their headquarters — their supposedly secret headquarters.

Quick had taken the time to invoke eir transformation, and all three of them knew eir sword could take his head before he could twitch. Mobb grimaced and slung her rifle, then grabbed his arm and pulled him to his feet.

Astaroth came over their coms, “Bring him in. If he gives you any trouble Quick, you know what to do.”

They uncuffed him and stood him facing the kitchen wall, with his hands over his head. He said nothing while they searched him. After some discussion, they had him strip his clothes off. He showed no hint of modesty, stripping down with no sign there was anything unusual about it. But he smirked a bit when several of them turned away from embarrassment. Salem stared at him defiantly. He was, most definitely, human.

They destroyed his clothing (and any electronics or weapons they might have hidden) and gave him a plain white t-shirt and sweatpants that were too small. But neither they nor he cared about the fit of his clothing at that point. Blade transformed briefly and dumped an entire vial of the anti-magic powder on him.

Taking prisoners had been no part of their conflict, so the team had no experience or plans for dealing with him. The restraints Mobb and the rest carried were because Mobb and Blade insisted on the precaution. Not because anyone expected powerful and high-ranking enemies to walk right up to their secret hideout.

For he — the ‘he’ now cuffed to a chair, wearing poorly fitting sweat pants and t-shirt — he was an incredibly high-ranking enemy. He was one of Mourningdagger’s lieutenants, perhaps the most important of them. Mourningdagger’s followers and slaves called him ‘lord.’ The team, after their second run-in with him, had simply referred to him as ‘that bastard.’ If he had a name, no one outside of Mourningdagger’s fortress had ever heard it.

He sat just as relaxed and apparently unconcerned now as he had been with Mobb’s weapon trained on his head. Of course they’d all seen how little effect bullets had when his defenses were up.

“What is your name,” Blade asked.

“I don’t have one.”

Mobb snorted. “Right, likely fucking story.”

He managed to shrug. “I can’t lie to you; that doesn’t mean you have to believe me.”

They stared at him. He stared back.

“Okay,” Blade started again, “Let’s say we believe you. You don’t have a name, and you can’t lie. Why not?”

“Magic.”

“Magic.” Blade leaned back and looked at him. “You want some water?”

“Not particularly.”

“So what brought you to Earth.”

“I thought that would be obvious. Mourningdagger.”

“What brought Mourningdagger to Earth?”

He said nothing.

“I thought you couldn’t lie, so why aren’t you answering?”

“I thought I was fluent in this language, but maybe not. I never said that I have to answer you.”

Mobb grabbed his hair and yanked his head back. “If you’re fluent, you might know the phrase good cop/bad cop? Blade is the good cop; I’m the fucking bad cop. You better answer his questions, so I don’t need to get involved.”

He rolled his eyes.

“What was that for?”

“Child, I served Mourningdagger for millennia. Do you think I care for your ‘bad cop’?”

“Enough,” Astaroth said. Mobb glared at him. “Enough, Guns. He’s toying with us, don’t make it easy for him.”

After a moment, Mobb nodded and stepped back. Astaroth sat on the edge of the table and crossed his arms. “It’s late, and I, for one, am not interested in wasting any more time when I could be sleeping. I have one question. Give me a straight answer. Is anyone following you here?”

“No,” he paused, “Not tonight, and not by my intention.”

“Fine.” Astaroth looked at the rest of the team. “He isn’t lying. Don’t ask me how I know I just…” He shrugged. Mobb grimaced, but the others nodded. They’d all experienced the strange surety of their powers more than once since their first transformation. “So I say we lock him up somehow and figure out what to do with him tomorrow after we get some rest.”

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Mighty Hero Force Epsilon S1, E1
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E4)

Continue to:
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E6)

Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E4)

Season Notes: violence, magical coercion, references to suicide, cliffhanger

Quick slammed eir sword into the ground, knocking over the surrounding monsters and leaving an opening for Speed to take a running attack at ‘Captain Poniard,’ another one of Mourningdagger’s lieutenants. Using the overturned cars that littered the roadway to help conceal her approach she got within ten feet of Poniard before being seen. Close enough Poniard didn’t have time to muster an attack before Salem hit.

She bounced off, of course. Getting through the shields the Poniard wore was a trick and a half. But Mobb followed up her attack with a full-auto burst that knocked Poniard back on their ass.

Poniard laughed. “Foolish mortals! You will never defeat me.” They flipped back up onto their feet and waved their hands. Another ring of monsters appeared around them. “I, Captain Poniard, have led the conquest of a dozen worlds. You are a temporary annoyance.”

Unlike the greys the team usually saw, these new monsters looked like bright pink ostriches with weasel heads.

“Oh fuck,” Mobb muttered.”

Quick giggled. “Oh my god. Ostriches? Seriously?”

One of them darted in toward Quick, lashing out with one wickedly clawed foot. “Fuck!” Its reach was nearly as long as Quick’s greatsword.

“Very seriously,” Mobb said. “Regular ostriches can kill lions. These things?”

“Alright, I’m starting to see the problem.”

The Ostrich-weasels were smart, too. Instead of all mobbing Quick, most of them ignored eir verbal aggros. Two flanked em, one on each side, the rest darted away, dashing for the human refugees Blade and Astaroth were trying to get out of range.

Mobb cursed again. “I can’t get a lock on them. They’re moving too fast and jagging all over the place.”

“I’ll get the fuckers,” Salem said, “Keep them off Sword and keep fucking ‘Poniard’ occupied.”

“Never thought I’d say this, but I wish we were fighting that bastard again.”

Six weeks, six attacks. They were coming to know their enemies.

‘That bastard’ had become their term for the first lieutenant they’d faced. Unlike Poniard, he never bragged, never gave a name, and never backed down. He always had a new trick up his sleeve and, as he’d demonstrated in their first battle, would fight to the death unless Mourningdagger called him off.

But he seemed to prefer pinpoint attacks and deceptive tactics. Their first battle with him had resulted in under a dozen deaths, only one damaged building. Partly because he preferred to make his appearances in large parks, partly because he was just as happy to scare humans away as to attack them.

Today, Poniard had appeared in a burst of fire in a major intersection. The battlefield was littered with overturned cars and bodies the team tried not to look at too closely. Several of the surrounding buildings were on fire though none had collapsed. (Yet.)

Prince Mourningdagger hadn’t managed to break the shield over his fortress, but that didn’t stop em from sending attacks into other cities across the country. The team had figured out that when a large enough area was cleared of humans, Mourningdagger’s minions were able to establish some kind of beachhead. That was what had allowed em to create eir fortress. It was only the shield the team had set around the fortress that kept Mourningdagger from bringing eir full power into the world. Since the first battle, Mourningdagger had stayed at the fortress, letting two of eir lieutenants lead the attacks. There had been three lieutenants with Mourningdagger in that first attack, but no one knew what the third one was up to. The team hoped she was trapped in the fortress with Mourningdagger and not making some kind of sneaky trouble elsewhere in the world.

The one bright spot of the whole disaster was FEMA, which had mobilized impossibly well, especially against later attacks. The FEMA director had become a national hero and was able to push congress to divert a billion dollars from the military budget to his department. Which, after all, was desperately needed.

Especially after battles with Poniard.

Blade had stepped out of the fighting a moment to pull a burner phone. (His uniform came with an unlimited supply.) Pulling up Twitter, he skimmed the reactions to the alert he’d sent out on arrival. Acknowledgments by police, local media — FEMA was on the ground again. There! “Speed, family trapped on the fourth floor of that building on the northwest corner.”

“On it!”

Another reply loaded, and he stopped, blinked. Nearly cheered. “We got locals on the ground. Help for refugees in the basement of 405 1st Street. Local self-defense orgs holding the stairs.”

Astaroth growled. “Can we trust them?”

“To hold? Don’t know them, can’t say. Knew another chapter of this group.”

Blade tucked the phone away and took off at a jog for 405 1st street. “You know Redneck Revolt?”

“No,” Astaroth yelled, his sound blast slamming three greys into a wall.

“Their patron saint is John Brown.”

“I don’t care who the hell they are,” Mobb said, her words interspersed with the chatter of gunfire. “As long as they hold that damn base, Poniard can’t take their beachhead.”

“Right,” Astaroth said, “And as soon as Poniard realizes they’re there, all hell will break loose.

“Speed, Heals, get to ‘Harpers Ferry.’ Let them know what’s coming down on them. Guns, cover them. Sword, you and I need to distract Poniard.”

Mobb watched Blade make his way down the two blocks to 1st Street. Salem, of course, reached the hideout almost immediately but waited outside for Blade to catch up. Mobb didn’t have much liking for ‘self defense’ forces (aka militias). The best of them were weekend warriors and the worst heavily armed nutcases. But she’d take help from the devil himself against Mourningdagger.

So she kept the monsters off of Blade and kept an eye on Astaroth and Quick. The pink monsters were trouble. “Frontman, Pinkies on your six.” Astaroth whirled around and shouted, knocking the monsters down, and Quick raced in with a series of low slashing attacks that diced the monsters up. Then they were back on Poniard.

With the pinks down, Mobb thought Poniard was almost out of monsters, so… “Ignore Poniard, take out the monsters. When the monsters are gone, they’ll pull out.”

“What?”

“That bastard will fight to the death, but we know Poniard won’t. With the monsters gone, they’re on their own. They’ll pull out.”

“Won’t they pull in more fucking monsters?” Salem asked.

“I don’t think so,” Mobb shot a burst at a group of greys trying to sneak up (badly) on Salem. “Since we sealed the fortress, we’ve never seen an attack with more than 30 of the damn things. Either they can’t bring more than that in, or… or something…”

“We’ll try it,” Astaroth said. “Everyone on the monsters except Sword — Sword, you keep Poniard busy.

“Speed, if our friends are armed up, see if a few of them want to come topside for target practice. If they do, cover them.”

“Got it.”

If Mobb was right, they had a plan — not just for today, but for every time they faced Poniard. Thank fucking God.

Bonus: it was a plan that didn’t ask her to do anything more complicated than find cover and shoot stuff. Which she did, happily.

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Mighty Hero Force Epsilon S1, E1
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E3)

Continue to:
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E5)

Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E3)

Season Notes: violence, magical coercion, references to suicide, cliffhanger

The safe house they found belonged to a family that had gone missing in the first attack. It was a vacation home, tucked away in the woods where they could hopefully hide for a time without attracting notice. They weren’t happy about just taking it over, but none of them had resources to buy a place, and even if they did — paper trails to your safe house were generally a bad thing for a sentai group.

It was a temporary solution, but it worked.

Officially, all of them but Salem were missing. Salem had waited a couple of days, then started sprinting into the city each day. Her employer was on the outskirts of the city, so she was able to go back to work and hopefully keep some money coming in. On her days off, she zipped around the city. She did some recon, retrieved stuff for the others, kept an eye on the fortress, and ran errands as needed.

At the new base, Mobb used the money Salem brought back to set up perimeter security. The others monitored the news, got supplies, and (discretely) practiced their powers. Quickmoon, in particular, spent a lot of time in practice. Not just in eir transformed state but also as emself. Ey kept it simple — not a lot of fancy moves. One kick, one cut, one high guard, one low guard. Thrusting with a greatsword was, ey figured, a technique for later. Within 5 days, ey had practiced eir one kick 10,000 times and didn’t think ey would ever walk right again.

The news was being very official and referring to them as the ‘unknown possibly supernatural defenders.’ Well, the news shows that didn’t denounce them as demons. But folks on social media were more relaxed; it wasn’t long before some anime buffs started calling them — “Mighty Hero Force Epsilon.” Epsilon because it was the fifth letter of the Greek alphabet, and there were five of them. (Of course, in the old shows most sentai teams had five members. Apparently, ‘Mighty Hero Force’ was too short for a proper sentai name.) The rest was self-explanatory. Quickmoon, Astaroth, and Salem were amused. Mobb and Blade didn’t get it. Either way, it became popular and had trended on Twitter for three days.

It was on the sixth day that the next attack came.

Quickmoon came racing into the house waving around eir wrist, which had a glowing patch on it. “Guys, something’s going on!

Blade came racing out of the kitchen where he’d been watching the news. “Kansas City! We need to get to Kansas City!”

They had no idea how to get to Kansas City. It was a couple hundred miles away, not exactly next door.

“Transform first,” Astaroth said.

It was the first time they’d gone through the transformation sequence while all in the same place and able to watch each other transform. It was… impressive.

When they landed, they knew what they needed to do. And that it would come with some severe limitations.

They gathered in a tight circle, in the same order they had been in when they surrounded Mourningdagger’s fortress. Then they reached out, first right hand reaching right, grabbing each others’ right wrist. Then left hand reaching left, grabbing each other’s left wrists.

They had channeled their power into the ground when surrounding the fortress. Now, they channeled their power into the circle formed by their arms, the connection they forged between them. And Astaroth said, “Kansas City, near the fighting.”

They shimmered out of existence.

One of Mourningdagger’s lieutenants led the attack. The man who had worn modern clothing and stood to Mourningdagger’s right. He led a force of humanoid monsters, their skins (or perhaps some weird clothing? it was hard to tell) a silverish grey and their faces (if they had faces) masked by a featureless oval.

As they flashed into existence, Mourningdagger’s voice boomed over the city. “Gain me a foothold, lieutenant!”

The man did not reply but immediately began ordering his forces out into the city. The monsters split up into groups and began driving people out and away from where the lieutenant stood. Unlike in the first attack, they ignored those who ran. Any who tried to stand or fight back would be swarmed by a half dozen or more of the things. Some went into buildings, breaking open doors and driving out any people they found.

The team shimmered into existence on the top of a building under attack. Salem and Quickmoon jumped off the building, landing with sidewalk-shattering force. Quickmoon immediately drew eir sword and began aggroing the monsters.

Salem took off at a run, grabbing up civilians and getting them to safety.

Mobb lay down at the edge of the roof and put down covering fire for Salem. She loved her magical, magazineless gun and put it to good use.

Blade and Astaroth went through the building. They took down the monsters and helped people there get down the stairs and out to the street.

Blade’s HUD projected an escape route every step of the way. As soon as they had folks moving out of the building, the HUD updated with safe regions for people to retreat to. “West!” He shouted, “Head northwest, get to Andrew Drips Park on 16th. Move!”

Salem heard him as she zipped in and out of the buildings surrounding the park area the invaders had landed in. She took up the call, shouting to each group as she ran past, “Andrew Drips on 16th. It’ll be clear of the damn fighting.”

“Get your asses in gear, folks: west.”

“West is fucking that way. Andrew Drips, move it!”

Astaroth, once clear of the building they landed on, worked his way through the monsters to stand beside Quick. Between the two of them, they had almost all the remaining monsters aggro’d on them.

It was Mobb who saw it first, the way he — the lieutenant — watched them tying up his monsters and smirked. She swung her scope around and assessed the situation. Her teammates had the monsters under control. So she zeroed in on him. She was no sniper, but she had a magical gun and a clear shot.

She took it.

The bullet might have been on target — or not — she was never sure. It got within a couple yards of him and ricocheted away, bouncing off of clear air. She cursed and lined up another shot. He winked at her, and she saw him gather a ball of magic between his hands.

“Speed! Get that bastard before he does… whatever he’s doing.”

Salem was near the roof of another building when the call came. Rather than going down the stairs, she burst through the roof access and leaped out into the air. She landed halfway to him and ran the rest of the way in a split second.

She bounced off the same shield that sent Mobb’s bullet off on a ricochet.

He grinned at her. “Thank you for your help… Speed was it? With the humans clear, I can now open the door.”

“Fuck!”

Blade, racing (much more slowly) out of the building he’d been clearing, called, “Speed, get me there.”

“Why?” she replied, but she was already halfway to him.

“I got this,” he said. He was digging through his pouches even as she hauled Blade out to where he stood in his protective bubble. “I think.”

“Sword, Frontman?” Mobb asked.

“We’re here, Guns,” Astaroth replied. “Time to stop playing.”

Quick slammed eir sword into the ground, repeating the shock effect that knocked the monsters off their feet. Astaroth, following the intuition none of them ever understood, growled, “Stay down.” And the monsters froze, not even trying to get up.

Leaving the grey-skinned monsters behind, they rushed to converge on Mourningdagger’s lieutenant.

Before they had even downed the monsters, Salem was back at the bubble with Blade. Blade pulled a hand out of one of his vest pockets, holding a small vial of powder. He poured the powder into his palm and tossed it toward the lieutenant. For a moment, it settled on the bubble, and then the bubble… popped.

Mobb, who’d been watching for her chance, immediately took another shot. This time he reached up and caught the bullet out of midair. In doing so, he had to release the magic he had been holding. It exploded outward, shaking Salem, Blade, Quick, and Astaroth, but destroying his spell.

He laughed. “Impressive, children. Let’s see what else you have.”

From nowhere, he drew a pair of swords and attacked.

Quickmoon lunged forward, meeting his attack head-on and parrying it. Astaroth shouted, each yell knocking him off balance, but the bastard recovered almost immediately, too quickly for Quick to take advantage of.

Mobb took every clear shot she could get, but he dodged or deflected them, all while evading Salem’s speed runs.

Blade stayed clear and kept the powder coming, shutting down every magical attack he tried to gather and giving small boosts to the rest of the team.

“Thanks, Heals,” Quick called as Blade tossed a blood-red powder over em that left em feeling refreshed and strong, even after wielding eir sword nonstop for nearly half an hour.

“Incoming,” Salem yelled, and Quick and Astaroth jumped out of the way to give her a clear shot at him. He dodged, but barely.

“He’s tiring,” Astaroth yelled, “Now!”

It was too perfect to be spontaneous — but it couldn’t be anything else. Quick came in with a cross attack that drove him back just as Astaroth’s shout slammed him from the side, and Salem rushed in behind him and slammed his knee as she dashed by.

He went down, and Quickmoon’s sword stopped just above his throat.

“Surrender,” Astaroth demanded.

He smirked. “My lord commanded I gain him a foothold. So I shall or die trying.”

They were sentai but new to it, and they were, with the exception of Mobb, not trained for battle. So Quickmoon hesitated, and the other’s froze, and he twisted himself around and knocked eir feet out from under em.

He rolled to his feet, breathing heavily and with only one sword now, but still prepared to fight.

Before the fight could begin again, Mourningdagger’s voice echoed through the air, “Retreat, lieutenant!”

“Ah, my master’s orders.” He smirked as he saluted them. “Next time.”

And he and all the monsters shimmered and vanished.

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Mighty Hero Force Epsilon S1, E1
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon, S1, E2

Continue to:
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E4)

Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E2)

Season Notes: violence, magical coercion, references to suicide, cliffhanger

Prince Mourningdagger and eir three lieutenants hovered over the fortress that had just appeared in the middle of the city.

Watching them were the five who had just transformed. Later, they would struggle to come to terms with the power that had invaded them and the destruction of their homes. But the power filling them shoved their confusion aside and let them focus on what needed to be done.

“What are your names?” Mobb demanded.

“Astaroth. I suspect I’m the frontman,” he said, giving his glowing look a once over.

“Quickmoon,” ey tested the heft of the magic sword as ey spoke. “I’ve got a greatsword. And I think I know how to use it! I guess that makes me defense?”

“If you say so. Mobb, and it looks like I’m still the fucking grunt.”

“Blades. I’m fairly well supplied. I think the grunt would call me the REMF.

“Salem. I got speed. For whatever damn good it does. Anyone got a bloody plan? Cause I’m guessing running isn’t an option anymore.”

“Was it ever?”

“Hell yeah.”

“If we’re sentai,” Quickmoon said, “we’re supposed to work together. Where can we meet up?”

“I’m at 5th and Overhall; the Guard is mobilizing here. We should coordinate with them.”

“No.” Astaroth wasn’t going to get bogged down in discussion with government… people. And how could they coordinate when they had no idea what was going on? “We go straight in. Meet at the fortress. Clear civilians and take down bad guys as we go.”

“Works.”

“Okay.”

“Don’t keep me waiting, assholes.”

“Moving out.”

Quickmoon took a moment to tell eir family to barricade the door. Mobb grabbed a radio off one of the soldiers who saw her transform. Then they were all moving. Four mostly straight lines drawn across the city. And one crazy zig-zag.

Salem did indeed have speed, a lot of it. She focused on pulling people out of the danger zone, bringing them back to the park she had collapsed at a few moments and an eternity ago. It would take the others a while to reach the end, so she didn’t need to rush.

Astaroth strode straight down the middle of the street. Boldness against bullies was an old habit, and the ability to slam them into walls with a shout just made it better.

A greatsword is meant for defense; Quickmoon was right about that — defense against a group attack. So ey decided it was time to tank. As ey moved toward the fortress, ey used ‘verbal aggros’ against every one of the monsters ey saw. They rushed in, getting in each other’s way as they attacked em and the reach of the greatsword kept them off of em. It spun and flashed in eir hands, drawing oddly colored blood that rained off the blade as ey led them back toward the fortress and away from the many survivors.

“Any other gamers here?” Ey called with a laugh.

“1v1 me, bitch.”

“Well, I’m gonna need some DPS pretty soon. Maybe some support heals. Going full Jenkins has never been an ambition of mine.”

“Lee-rooooy!!!!”

“What the hell are you two talking about?” A burst of gunfire came through as Mobb spoke.

“Our tank with the flashy sword set themself up as bait and needs someone to be the ambusher,” Blade translated. “I’ve got potions, but I don’t think AoE is on the menu.”

“Someone stop them!”

“My six is clear,” Blade continued, “but I’ve only got a sidearm, and the area ahead is full of hostiles. This may turn into a massive FUBAR.”

“Now you’re speaking my fucking language!”

“I do recognize the word ‘hostiles,'” Astaroth put in, pushing on the word ‘hostiles’ to swat another monster. “Does jargon-man need an assist?”

“I think I can go around.”

In an odd way, they got to know their powers and each other while fighting their way to the fortress. It worked, somehow.

They reached the fortress at about the same time, the five of them and a few dozen monsters who hadn’t yet figured out how to get past Quickmoon’s sword.

“Okay, what now?”

“Do you feel that?”

“I think so…”

“Fucking creepy.”

“Can you pull it off, Quick?”

They had no idea how they knew what to do, then or later. But they all knew it. In a move that no one else should try, ever, Quick pulled eir sword back into high guard, then twisted and slammed the point into the ground. It stuck there like the sword in the stone. The ripple it created knocked the monsters off their feet for yards around.

Quickmoon took a knee next to the sword. All around the fortress, the others did the same: planting their hands on the ground and pulling, pulling up. As they pulled, a blue shimmer rose out of the ground. Pulling still, pulling against the whole weight of the Earth, standing, straining, lifting, raising, one last effort, hands flung over heads, up and out. The world froze as that shimmer spread up and over the fortress and Prince Mourningdagger, locking them away from the city.

Everyone — including Our Heroes — stared in shock. Then Mourningdagger flew down and smashed into the shield. Right in front of Astaroth. The whole city shook, but the shield held.

“Who dares!”

“Us.”

“I am Prince Mourningdagger, ruler of the ten legions and conqueror of–”

“Yeah, I heard the speech.” Astaroth’s words weren’t a weapon now, but they were somehow heard by everyone in the city. “You’re the biggest bully on the block, and you’re going to beat us up until we give you all our lunch money.”

Salem burst out laughing. “You tell ’em!”

Mourningdagger glared at Astaroth. “Who gave you this power!”

Astaroth blinked. “You don’t know? I mean, shouldn’t it be your ancient enemy you’ve been battling against for eons but isn’t willing to face you directly?”

Mourningdagger roared and slammed into the shield.

“Um, team? A little help here?” Quickmoon called.

The monsters Quickmoon’s power had knocked over had found their feet. Eir sword was in eir hands again, but they were circling em. Now that ey wasn’t on the move, they had managed to pull together to coordinate attacks that were getting harder for em to fend off.

“On my way!” Salem replied, from nearly halfway around the fortress. She took off, moving fast enough she was nothing but a blur. But no matter how fast she went, her HUD not only let her see clearly but kept updating and mapping out routes for her. “Heals, incoming!” she yelled only a breath before she reached Blade’s position and grabbed him up in an over-the-shoulder carry. “Damn, I think I love this gig.”

Moments later, she bowled right through the monsters to deposit Blade next to Quickmoon. She dodged around and jumped over Quickmoon’s swing before the fighter even knew she was there. Then Salem was dashing on toward Mobb’s position.

Astaroth grinned at Mourningdagger. “Excuse me, we have some cleanup to do.” Then turned and walked away.

“This is not the last you have seen of me!” the invader shouted.

“Of course not.”

They finished clearing out the monsters, then did what they could to help the survivors. Blade and Salem especially were a godsend to many people across the city. Thankfully, the government hadn’t sat on its ass for once — FEMA was called out the same time as the National Guard. They had their act together, too.

No matter how magical the team was, there definitely came a point where quantity counted.

So after discretely checking on their families, they left the city. They need to figure out how to turn their powers off and decide what next.

They picked a nearby state park, and Salem zipped them over one at a time to avoid being followed or spied on.

In a movie, one of them would have wanted out, would have been afraid, or said ‘not my job’ or something. But all of them, even Salem, were in from the first moment. “I ran away because I couldn’t do anything else,” she said later, “Once I could fight, I didn’t need to run. Away.”

Un-transforming was surprisingly easy. Finding a place to use a team headquarters and safe house was… more difficult. But they managed it. Eventually.

Return to:
Mighty Hero Force Epsilon S1, E1

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Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E3)

Mighty Hero Force Epsilon (S1 E1)

There are certain rules a sentai team is supposed to follow. They’re supposed to have matching uniforms, and a theme. And they ALWAYS have a guide or mentor. Someone who gave them their powers and can tell them how to use those powers. Someone who tells them what their team name is supposed to be and the history of their enemy.

The rules have been broken. They have no team uniform, they have no guide. They have magic powers they don’t understand and an unknown enemy taking over random cities.

At least they get along, right?


Season Notes: violence, magical coercion, references to suicide, cliffhanger

At one time or another, everyone Blade knew had mocked him for his obsessions with safety and being prepared. Today was worth every bit of scorn he’d ever taken. It had taken him all of five minutes to get his emergency supplies loaded on his bike — and only that long because he’d grabbed the community supplies along with his go-bag. Having a bicycle let him get ahead of both the evacuees on foot and the drivers (trapped in gridlock). But he didn’t run and keep running. He had a plan (he always had a plan). Based on his research, he knew that folks escaping west would start collapsing at Lansford Park. Far enough that fear couldn’t drive people further and big enough to have room for a crowd. By the time the first folks on foot arrived, Blade had a blanket out piled with water, first aid supplies, and energy bars. It wouldn’t last long, but it would help. He hoped.

Salem staggered to a stop, glancing over her shoulder every few seconds. As soon as she could, she began stumbling onward. Where? She didn’t know. Away. Behind her, the city she had lived in her whole life was dying. Around her others — dozens, no hundreds — ran or stumbled or crawled away from the monsters that had appeared and started attacking everyone and everything in the city center. As well as she knew the city, Salem had lost track of where she was in her frantic race away. She’d been running for what felt like hours but didn’t know how much longer she could keep going.

Quickmoon stood bracing emself in the sunken doorway that led to an old root cellar. Inside the root cellar hid eir siblings and grandmother. Gran couldn’t run, and none of the grandkids had been willing to abandon her. Since Quickmoon had taken classes in everything from judo to HEMA… (She never stuck with anything for more than a year, and the saying about the martial artist who practiced one kick 10,000 times was echoing through eir mind now…) Ey had convinced the others to let eir hold the door. Ten thousand kicks practiced 10 times might make for a shitty martial artist, but it was more than either Noam or Amanda had learned.

So far, the monsters had been running past, not noticing eir below street level. Ey didn’t think that would last long.

Mobb cheered when she saw the National Guard rolling down the street toward the aliens. She thought they were aliens. Whatever they were, they were about to get their asses kicked. She had no idea where her unit was, but she was reaching for her Reserve ID card when a boom like the deepest drum ever reverberated through the sky. A rip had opened, a bruise-purple blot across the blue sky. Out of the rip — rift? — stepped… a person? Mobb thought it was a person. Even though they were easily a mile away, Mobb saw them — and the three who followed them — as if they were right in front of eir. They were skinny, their pinkish skin contrasted with their dark hair and green eyes. They laughed, nearly as deep as the echoing boom that had announced their arrival. And Mobb knew the Guard wasn’t going to be enough.

Astaroth hated his name. He felt foolish thinking about it as some interdimensional menace loomed over his city. But it was exactly the kind of name an interdimensional menace should have. Thinking about how much his name sucked was better than listening to the Villain Monologue spewing from the Evil Overlord wannabe. Astaroth hated bullies. Had hated them for as long as he could remember. This guy, whatever they called themself, might be a bigger bully than anyone he’d faced before. As far as Astaroth was concerned, they were just another bully. And Astaroth was done running from bullies.

Why them? Why those five out of all the thousands — millions — of people in the city that day? Who knows. Luck, the hand of God (or gods), some mystical requirements they met. But it was them. And it was a hair’s breadth too late.

A soundless explosion ripped through the city center, lightning-bright and blinding everyone who looked. When it faded, the city center was gone. In its place stood a fortress of gleaming metal.

At that moment, that same moment, the five were touched — no, overwhelmed — with an unearthly power.

Blade was lifted off his feet, spun and twisted, his clothing sheeting from his body like water. He was wrapped in power, transformed. A uniform slithered across him — dark blue with a neon green ‘vest’ like first responders wore with more pockets and pouches than a mall ninja. A helmet formed over his head, the same blue as the outfit with a heads-up display that showed him the health and general status of everyone in view.

Not knowing why, Salem took a running leap, and something held her in mid aid. Her clothing flowed into a skin-tight tracksuit that gleamed pale gold in the impossible darkness that surrounded her. Dark sunglasses shielded her eyes, and an aerodynamic helmet wrapped around her head. Her HUD flickered to life with distance, time-to, and best route information. She came down to earth like a runner on the blocks, this time facing toward the enemy.

Quickmoon settled into a solid high guard. Eir clothing evaporated into glittering motes that reformed into a gleaming HEMA ‘uniform’ — white fencing jacket over long shirt, loose black pants, sturdy boots, and shin guards. A great sword formed in eir hands. Ey sprang forward in the great sword’s slashing, spinning defense. A fencing helmet with dark, glass faceguard snapped over eir, highlighting strengths and weaknesses of every enemy in sight.

Mobb’s ID card shattered in her hand, reforming into an automatic rifle (sans magazine). Her clothing twisted and rewove itself into a shimmering camo bodysuit that blurred her outline. She nearly disappeared into the background. The dark glasses that wrapped around her head sharpened her vision and gave her targeting information for whatever she focused on. She settled into a crouch and instinctively sighted on the big bad — impossibly far away though they were.

Astaroth somehow saw each of the others transform even as power wrapped around him, lifting him on a shining pillar. Light exploded out for him, searing his clothing. Blue swirled around him, reforming in loose pants and a robe that shone with strange symbols and sigils. He closed his eyes against the brightness, but pressure built behind his lids, forcing his eyes open, forcing his mouth open. Light beamed out of his eyes and mouth, piercing the sky above him. He alone received no helmet, no glasses. The light shimmered around him, somehow highlighting and concealing his face. As the rest of the lights faded, a single word burst from him, “Enough!”

The word rolled around the city like a great wind and bowled over the enemies nearest him.

And as it rolled over the city, each of the others heard it clearly, transmitted through their helmets.

“What the fuck?

“Oh hell no.”

“Incoming!”

“I’m a damn sentai…”

So the team was formed, but only after Prince Mourningdagger had a foothold on the world. It was up to the team to push them back off it.

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Mighty Hero Force Epsilon, S1, E2


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