Bank robbery featuring a super power from a provided list. (UH&VN Contest, 2/18/14).
Sergeant Nix sometimes wished she were more than just a department of one, but the fact of the matter was that they really didn't need anyone else. She'd heard rumors that the NYPD had entire units doing what she did, but the LAPD Special Operations Bureau had exactly one person in their newest Supernatural Cases Section, and that was Natasha "Nix" Nixon.
Back when supernatural powers first manifested themselves, law enforcement quickly realized the necessity of recruiting some of these so-called "Supers" to help police the ones who decided to use their abilities for criminal ends. When someone has bulletproof skin or the power to project plasma blasts from their hands, not even your average S.W.A.T. unit was much of a deterrent. It took Supers to battle Supers.
Every major police department in the country started recruiting Supers, seeking out those who manifested abilities that were particularly useful, like force field generation, mind control, and precognition. When Nix walked through the Academy doors and showed the instructors what she could do, the LAPD knew they had something special.
Even though her work carried her all over the city, Nix's office was in the Harbor Division out of San Pedro. That made it easier for the LAPD to loan her out to the Port of Los Angeles Police for their smuggling and immigration problems. Nix was on call twenty-four/seven and had to serve the entire Greater Los Angeles Area, but she was also the only sergeant pulling a commander's salary and largely working outside the chain of command. As long as she responded to the calls that required her special talents, the brass left her to her own devices.
Just as she was settling into her office for the morning, her cell phone chirped. She checked the text message from dispatch; looks like she was headed to the Port of Los Angeles.
With minimal traffic and no slowdowns along the Vincent Thomas Bridge, it was a quick fifteen minutes to the Port. It didn't take long for Nix to locate the source of the disturbance; sounds of combat were coming from a nearby freighter. Nix pulled up just short of the police barricade and surveyed the scene. From the open freight container and the tiny little Asian man fending off what looked to be an entire platoon of police officers, Nix guessed they had another Super stowaway trying to sneak into the country along with a shipment of iPhones, Nikes, or whatever was coming in from the factories on the other side of the world today.
Nix watched the Asian man fend off the cops. He couldn't be more than five-five and a hundred pounds. Nix watched as several officers surrounded him and started beating him with their nightsticks, closing around him in an ever-tightening circle, until BAM! The Asian guy broke free with a wave of concussive force that sent each officer flying back several feet.
"What's the deal with him?" Nix asked a nearby officer.
"Who the hell are you?" he demanded.
One of the other perks of being her own department was that she had no dress code. She didn't have to wear a regulation uniform except for formal occasions, so the officer could be forgiven for mistaking her leather jacket and tight jeans as civilian. She quickly flashed him her badge.
"Sergeant Nix, Supernatural Cases Section. Any idea what we're dealing with?"
The officer straightened up when he heard the name and saw her badge.
"Thank God!" he said, relieved. "We have no idea what to do with this guy. Every time someone tries to lay a hand on him, he just sets off these force blasts. Here, watch."
He turned to a nearby officer.
"Get ready for another volley of non-lethal rounds."
"Sir," the other officer started, "Last time—"
"Just do it. She needs to see this."
The officer nodded; he and several nearby officers readied their weapons. The remaining officers near the Asian man scattered away as several rounds of rubber bullets and beanbags were fired at the target. Nix watched as the force of the projectiles did nothing to send the man staggering back or knock him down; they just impacted with the man's tiny, slight frame and fell to the ground at his feet.
The Asian man turned to them with a slight smile on his face. Then he turned around, lifted up the freight container he had been stowed away in, and tossed it in their direction like it was nothing more than a horseshoe. Officers scattered and Nix stepped out of the way as the freight container came hurtling toward them... and landed right on Nix's brand new, fully-loaded Dodge Charger, flattening it like a pancake. There was a brief tinkling of broken glass and rending of metal, and then it was quiet. A hush fell over the crowd of police officers and Nix stood stone still and blinked a few times in surprise.
"Oh, that little bastard," Nix said, stepping around the barriers and heading straight for him. "Okay, play time's over."
"Wait! Are you going to be okay? Do you need backup?" the officer called after her.
The relieved officer looked on as Nix strolled straight toward the little Asian man.
As she closed the distance between them, the Asian man regarded her curiously and called out something in another language. Chinese; maybe Vietnamese. It sounded like a warning, but Nix just kept walking.
"I'm giving you this one and only chance to surrender," she called out, not really caring if he understood, and half hoping he didn't.
He presented himself to her, puffing out his chest and practically daring her to hit him. And that's exactly what she did; Nix walked straight up to him and, without breaking stride, coldcocked him with a quick right cross. A look of surprise crossed the tiny Asian man's face before it went slack and he crumpled to the ground in a heap. She checked to make sure he was unconscious, then waved the officer over.
"You can cuff him now."
"How the hell did you do that?" the officer said in amazement. "Everything we threw at this guy he just channeled back at us!"
"Kinetic energy sourcing," Nix said. "He increases his power by acquiring kinetic energy, so every time you hit him with a nightstick, rubber bullet, beanbag, whatever, you were just powering him up rather than subduing him."
"But how were you able to punch him like that?"
"I've got a talent of my own," she said simply.
Before he could ask anything else, her cell phone chirped. She checked it, and then tucked the phone back into her jacket pocket.
"Gotta run; bank robbery in progress on the other side of the bridge. Look, the key to this guy is not to let him feed on any kinetic energy. Lock him down tight, and I mean full restraints. The last thing you want to do is let him move around a cell where he can punch a wall and power himself up enough to escape. Complete restraint and isolation. Got it?"
"Yeah. And thanks."
"Just doing my job."
She stood to leave, and then turned back to the officer.
"Anyone have a car I can borrow?"
As Nix crossed back over the Vincent Thomas Bridge in a loaned police cruiser, she reflected on how much she hated that question: How did you do that?
She hated having to explain her power to others, especially since it was one of the most powerful abilities on record, and yet simultaneously the most unimpressive. She could adjust her power level to that of another Super, either by bringing them down to her level or raising herself up to theirs. The problem was, in the interests of saving lives and avoiding as much collateral damage as possible, there were few times where she had an opportunity to raise her own power level and exhibit superhuman abilities. Most often, she was just a walking power damper that would come in and negate whatever powers some Super was using so that they could be restrained and contained. She was a living, breathing electromagnetic pulse for super powers and she hated the implication that what she did was somehow impressive or noteworthy because all she did was nullify the amazing feats that other people could do. She longed for a super power of her own, or at least the opportunity to manifest someone else's and have a little fun once in a while.
When Nix arrived outside the bank, she found a familiar setting; police officers who had quarantined the location but didn't dare approach for fear of whatever Super waited inside. Nix got out of the car and approached the guy she assumed to be the commanding officer based on the way he was bossing other people around. She flashed her badge and he nodded to her.
"Any idea what we're dealing with in there?" she asked him.
"As far as we can tell, ten hostages and a single bank robber. Some kind of Super but we don't know what he can do yet."
"Well, I guess the first thing we need to do is figure out what we're dealing with."
"Be careful in there. Whatever it is he can do, he took out half a dozen armed security guards like they were nothing. He had one of the hostages confirm over the phone."
Nix took a deep breath and headed toward the front doors of the bank. Even though she was confident in her ability to counteract whatever power a Super was able to manifest, she hated going into situations where she didn't know what to expect. For all Nix knew, she could be walking into a situation where the hostages have all been turned into zombies, or where someone had dragged the interior of the bank into another dimension.
When she stepped through the door into the lobby of the bank, all she saw was a single masked man with a single gun. If she didn't know better, she would have thought this was just a run of the mill bank robbery. Then again, they didn't go to the trouble of calling her in for run of the mill.
"I was wondering when you were going to show up," the masked man said.
She surveyed the scene around her. The hostages had been rounded up into a central area while the downed security guards were sprawled around the room; unconscious, not dead.
"What exactly were you planning on stealing and carrying off all by yourself?" Nix asked.
"Who said anything about stealing? I did all this to meet you."
The bottom dropped out of Nix's stomach. Whatever he meant by that, it probably wasn't good.
"I know all about you, Sergeant Nix," the man said. "Word on the street is that you can nullify a Super's power and make them completely normal for a time. That's how you catch them so easily; not so tough taking down an invincible guy when he's no longer invincible."
"And what's your point?"
"The thing is," he continued, "I remember this one time when you were fresh out of the Academy. You were called out to take on this dude who had the ability to create creatures out of sand. He was terrorizing people on the Venice boardwalk with sand spiders, sand snakes, all that kind of stuff. And after you arrived on the scene, it was the damnedest thing... different sand creatures began attacking the first ones; sand eagles picking up sand snakes and carrying them off, sand tigers attacking this guy's sand lions... it was a hell of a sight to see."
Nix swallowed hard. She knew the case well; it was her first shift out of the Academy. The Super had developed psammokinetic creature creation and was able to generate creatures and objects out of sand. The story didn't end well, though. It was the first and last time Nix had decided to use her equality-based power to level herself up rather than level her opponent down. The sand creature battle destroyed half the boardwalk, caused millions of dollars in property damage, and ended up killing the Super rather than containing him.
It was not her finest moment.
"So that got me thinking," the man with the hostages continued, breaking Nix out of her reverie. "I don't think you can just nullify someone's powers. I think you can adjust your power level up just as easily as you can adjust theirs down."
"So I'm going to offer you a deal," he said as a wide grin spread across his face. "If you power yourself up rather than powering me down, I'll let the hostages go."
"And why would I even entertain that idea?"
"Because if you don't," he said as he grabbed one of the hostages, pulling her close and putting the gun to her head. "Then I'll start shooting them. Remember that I'm not here for a robbery; I'm here for you. If you don't want to play my game, there's no point in me dragging this out any longer."
"That seems like a gamble," Nix said. "Given that I have no idea what your power is."
"Will you allow me a quick demonstration? I promise it won't hurt anyone."
Nix didn't like the way this was going, but if it meant keeping the hostages alive a little longer while she figured out what to do about this whack job, she was all for it. She nodded her agreement.
"I'm going to hold onto the gun, just in case you try something like shutting down my powers during the demonstration. I'm an excellent shot from anywhere in this room, and I don't need a super power to start putting bullets in hostages if you try something sneaky."
Nix conceded and stood back while the man gave himself some space. He started ducking and dodging like a boxer facing an invisible opponent, weaving in and out, practically dancing. It looked like an elaborate capoeira routine and then, suddenly, he started sprinting toward the wall. Just when it looked like he was about to run headfirst into the solid brick, he leapt and landed feet-first... and then started running up the wall.
To Nix's – and everyone else's – shock, he sprinted up the wall as if it were solid ground, then cartwheeled off the wall, spiraled through the air and landed with uncanny balance on the top of the glass separator on the teller windows. He sprinted across the narrow layer of bulletproof glass, leapt, somersaulted in mid-air, and landed with the grace of a cat right where he started next to the hostage.
"I call it flowmotion," he said. "I can just... move around the use the environment to my advantage."
Nix was almost relieved. At least the guy couldn't create supernovas or cause widespread pestilence or anything.
"So here's the deal," the man said. "If I'm right about what you can do, that means you can power yourself up and will be able to do what I do. What I'm proposing is a very simple scenario. I'll let all the hostages go, you power yourself up into the flow zone... and if you catch me, you can take me in."
"Why are you doing this?" Nix asked.
The man shrugged his shoulders. "Why wouldn't I want to do this? I spend my entire life around people who move like snails and are so clumsy they practically trip over themselves. Do you have any idea what it's like to live your life in slow motion? I want to have some fun."
Nix considered her options. She had to admit it didn't seem like the worst idea in the world. It saved the hostages... and she would even get a chance to be more than just the human EMP.
"You've got a deal. Let the hostages go."
The man's grin widened and he waved the hostages toward the door. As they ran for the exit, he faced Nix.
"So how does this work? Do you have to medita—"
Nix charged the masked man, running at first along the ground, then transitioning to the wall before pushing off the wall and going for a tackle. The man flashed a genuine smile and cartwheeled out of her way, then leapt from a desk, to the wall, then to the ceiling. Nix recovered from her missed grab and followed suit, chasing him along arched ceiling of the bank.
Once the hostages had cleared the building, the police started to file into the bank. At first they looked around the empty space with confusion, and then the sounds of a foot chase above them caused everyone to look up at the two Supers racing upside-down across the ceiling.
They raised their weapons trying to track the two rapidly moving figures, but the masked man pushed off from the ceiling, hit the wall at a full speed run, and then landed in the middle of the collection of police officers.
Even though his movements were a blur of speed to everyone else, Nix's own flowmotion ability allowed her to see the combat unfold at regular speed as she tried to catch up with him. She watched as he expertly ducked, dodged, dived, and diverted each of the officers' attacks with the fluidity of a river. A punch deflected so that it connected with a neighboring officer's face. A gun grabbed and stripped before the officer could even get off a shot. Sliding between an officer's legs, coming up behind him, and then pushing him in the way of another officer's swinging baton. He made combat look effortless, turning trained police officers into slow oafs that he gracefully danced and spun around.
Nix was almost to him when the man left the pile of incapacitated officers on the ground and sprinted out the door. She ran down the wall and chased him outside.
If the inside of the bank had been a flowmotion playground, the outside was like Disneyland. The masked man was bouncing around like a pinball, swinging on lampposts and street signs, leap-frogging over parked cars and passerby. Nix followed after him, but soon realized the mistake she had made; while she and her adversary were equal in terms of their level of power and ability, he had been using it for much, much longer and had a better handle on how to use it. Where Nix would bump into and ricochet off things, her opponent glided from object to object, only touching or interacting with the specific ones he wanted in the specific ways he wanted.
Nix struggled in vain to keep up with him as he slid across the hood of a police car, leapt up and swung from a traffic light, and used it to land on the vertical façade of a nearby apartment complex. He ran along the apartment wall as Nix bounded from a car hood to a bus top to an apartment railing. She grinded along the rail, but was too far away to prevent the masked man from double-jumping first from the wall onto a nearby tree, then from the tree onto the skids of a low-flying police helicopter. From the helicopter, he leapt onto a nearby power line, grinding it swiftly away from the action.
Nix made it to the roof of the apartment building just in time to watch him wave goodbye to her as he skated away on the power line.
"See ya, 'round, Sergeant Nix!" he called out. "This was fun; we should do it again sometime!"
Nix hung her head in defeat and used the walls of adjacent buildings to shimmy down to the ground. Even though she felt like she was trudging back to the car, she moved with more grace and fluidity than any normal human. This was now the second time she had learned the hard way that leveling someone down was a safer and smarter bet that leveling herself up.
She had a feeling she'd be seeing the masked man again, and she smiled to herself at the thought... because now she had time to anticipate it. She was pretty sure he didn't realize the greatest part about her power was that while others eventually regained their powers when she wasn't around to contain them, there was no expiration when it came to her holding onto theirs; her power level stayed consistent until she consciously adjusted it up or down to fit her needs, which meant that his flowmotion ability was now hers to control and hone if and until she chose to power herself down.
She would probably get a slap on the wrist for letting the guy escape, but at least he hadn't killed any hostages or stolen anything. And if a competition was what he wanted, she was sure as hell going to give it to him next time. She smiled to herself as she started the car and headed back toward the Port of Los Angeles. With all their cranes and stacked shipping containers and freighters hanging around, it would make the ideal training ground to hone her new skills.
Better hope that you're ready for me next time, Nix thought to herself as she crossed the Vincent Thomas Bridge for the third time that day, 'cause you won't be dealing with an amateur next time.
Written for "Contest 1 with prompt" from "Invalid Item"
Prompt: Bank Robbery using one or more super powers from a provided list. My choices: and , with special appearances of and .