by Kirby Ray
Besieged by the Black Star Army, Jay and her friends find help in an ancient power...
CHAPTER 7: WITH ATTITUDE
Minutes before the crash, Star had been careening through the streets of Arboleda, desperately trying to avoid the chaos in the downtown area but ultimately failing. All the side streets were clogged with abandoned cars and people running for their lives; it was all the young driver could do to not hit anyone. She swerved left, right, and even drove onto the sidewalks, but there was no getting around the fact that they were caught up in the pandemonium. Not that it ever crossed Star's mind.
"Dudes, this is, like, almost as bad as the 485 on a Friday afternoon," she chuckled lazily as she narrowly avoided an overturned truck. "They should totally make Driver's Ed courses like this. Just walk in and be like, 'Dude, let me try the War Zone'. That'd be so sick, right, little dudes?"
Her question was met with stony silence, as her charges were too concerned with making it home in piece. Bian was scrunched up in a tight ball, trying her hardest not to hyperventilate, while Jay had an arm around her friend's shoulder and gently squeezed her arm. Warren gripped his seatbelt tight and twisted it like he was wringing a towel, and Davide fared little better as he clenched the armrests on either side of him until his knuckles were pale. Then there was Rosa, who was normally a chatterbox anywhere she went; at that moment, the only things chattering were her teeth.
"Okay, new plan," Jay announced to the other passengers. "It's bad out there--really, really bad--so, rather than trying to run all over town, let's just get to Davide's place and hole up, okay? Is that all right, Davide?"
The hulking boy nodded affirmatively and replied, "I think my mom would be angrier if I let you all go back out there than if you stayed over until it was safe."
"I just hope she's got plenty of food, because I am going to stress eat like crazy once we're safe," Rosa muttered, glancing out the window every few seconds.
Unfortunately, safety seemed out of the question, as the closer they got to Davide's home, the more congested the streets became. Star remained undeterred though, and she told the teens, "Don't worry, guys--I know, like, all the best shortcuts. Just hang tight!"
Even more unfortunately, her shortcuts and zig-zags through the streets only brought her into the heart of the attack. Warren went wide-eyed when he saw the destruction in front of them, and his jaw dropped at the sight of the invading horde. He reached over the divider and frantically slapped Star's shoulder as he shrieked, "That's them! Star, turn around and get us out of here!"
"I'm taking the side street right up here, dude!" the young driver assured her charge as she gunned the limo as hard as she could.
They never made it to the side street. The Saturnights flanking the Grin Reaper hurled grenades at them, and while two went wide, one detonated right in front of the car. Star felt the limo jump from the blast, and she swerved off the road and into a storefront. Airbags burst out the instant she hit, and the teens in the back would have gone flying were it not for their seatbelts. That was not to say they were not impacted, as everyone felt their skulls rattling around in their brains and Bian had squeezed Jay so tight that nail marks were left in her arm.
"Is...is everyone okay?" Jay asked after she found her voice.
Bian nodded after letting go of her friend, and Davide answered, "Still in one piece."
"Not sure," Rosa replied in between gasps of air. "Either my heart's stopped, or it's going so fast that I can't tell if it's beating."
Before a trembling Warren could answer, he peered out the window and turned white as a sheet. He waved to the rest of the group and hissed quietly, "Guys, get down! They're coming this way!"
No one needed to be told twice. With fumbling fingers, the five teens ripped off their seatbelts and fell to the floor of the limousine, with no time to spare. They could hear the heavy footsteps of the Grin Reaper and his Saturnight minions as they marched towards the car, and Jay felt a lump of fear fill her throat. When one of the stoic soldiers attempted to peer through the tinted windows, Davide had to hold a hand over Warren's mouth to muffle a fearful screech. The Saturnight nearly opened the door, but stopped when its commander called out to it.
"Leave it! We have much more mayhem to spread," the Grin Reaper chortled. "No sense in wasting time on a heap of junk when we have an entire city to wreck!"
"As you wish, commander," the Saturnight replied, disregarding the limo to rejoin its squadron.
The heavy footfalls grew more and more distant, and only when they could no longer hear the Black Stars did the group dare to sit up. They all glanced out the windows and, seeing nothing but destruction around them, opened the doors and fell out of the car. There was no other sign of life on the streets; anyone with the good sense to hide had already done so.
As soon as his feet hit the pavement, Warren scrambled to the front seat and found Star slumped forward in her seat, face resting against a slowly deflating airbag. He frantically shook her shoulder and whined, "Star! Star, wake up!"
"Careful--she might have hurt her neck," Davide told his friend as he stepped between the boy and the driver. "Let's get her into the backseat and lay her down, okay?"
"Is...is she all right?" Warren asked, afraid to hear the answer.
Thankfully, Star answered his question by sleepily murmuring, "Chron...Chrono Cross...watch out, Masato Kato!"
"I think she's okay," Davide answered. "Keep her head steady when I get her out, okay?
Warren let out a massive sigh of relief before assisting the beefy jock in pulling Star free of the crumpled driver's seat. The two slid her into the backseat, where the dozing driver immediately sprawled out as if she were safe in her own bed and not in a totaled limousine.
"Yeah, my heart definitely stopped," Rosa remarked. She looked to Jay and asked the de facto leader, "What's the plan, Jay?"
It was a question that gave her pause, as the scholarly girl realized that four pairs of eyes were looking to her for guidance. Only then did it hit her: she had dragged everyone out to the Primogenitor cave, plumbed the depths of the sealed tunnel, and declared the ancient chamber at the end their very own. Jay had become the ringleader of this motley crew, whether she liked it or not--and in that moment, she most definitely did not.
"I don't...I don't know!" the scholarly girl exclaimed as she threw her hands in the air. "Why are you asking me, Rosa?"
"Because you got us this far," her chatty friend replied with a shrug.
"Well, sorry to disappoint you, but I don't have all the answers," Jay huffed and crossed her arms in front of her. It was only then that the others noticed that the gem in her pilfered wristband was glowing, as were theirs. Jay's was a murky red, Bian's a pale blue, Davide's a hazy yellow, Rosa's a cloudy pink, and Warren's a foggy green.
"Um, Jay--" the boy billionaire started.
"Can it, Warren! I don't know what we can do but hide, okay?"
"Yeah, but--" Davide attempted before being cut off.
"Davide, I don't want to hear it!"
"Jay!" Bian squeaked.
The outburst shocked Jay, who was even more surprised when her mousy friend took her wrist and held it up before her eyes. Only then did the girl see that the gem on her wristband was shining more brilliantly by the second; more than that, the band itself was buzzing with energy that coursed up her arm. She gawked at the display and tugged at it with her free hand, only to find the band clinging to her like a second skin.
"Guys, I don't know what's going on, but take off the wristbands!" Jay told the rest of the group.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Davide grunted as he struggled with his band.
As the five fought to remove the wristbands, they heard Star exclaim, "Language synchronization complete!"
"Star, not now!" Warren chided his chauffer, only to look in the backseat and see her still sleeping peacefully. He glanced back to the group and scanned the empty streets as he muttered, "You guys heard that too, right?"
Before anyone could answer, Star asked, "What's up, little dudes? It sounds like you totally need help."
The teens checked in every direction for the source of the voice until the imposter told them, "Like, check your wrists!"
Rosa gazed at the pink gem in her wristband and muttered, "No es cierto."
Jay cocked an eyebrow. It was hard for her to be surprised at this, considering all the new discoveries that day; more than anything, she was glad to find a piece of Primogenitor society that was not trying to kill her and her friends.
"Who is this?" she asked the mysterious voice.
"It's, like, kind of complicated," it answered in Star's lackadaisical voice. "My name is E-Gon, and I'm here to help you out. Looks like you've got a big problem on your hands, dudes--I'mma activate combat mode, okay?"
"Wait, wait, back up," Warren quickly chimed in. "What 'combat mode'? What are you, E-Gon, and why do you sound like Star?"
The green light on his wristband blinked in time with E-Gon's voice as it replied, "See, I've been deactivated for, like, a super-long time, and when I was powering back up, I needed to adapt to your language. Since Star was totally talking the most during the loading process, I learned what I needed to from her! Cool, right?"
"Yeah, real cool," Rosa remarked with a roll of her eyes. "Now, back up to the part about combat mode. What's that about?"
There was a pregnant pause before E-Gon asked in reply, "You mean you dudes aren't with the 5th Squadron? Like, I thought that since you had an armory key, you must be legit, but--"
Before it could finish, the voice was cut off by a Saturnight rounding the corner not a block away from the crash site. The iron-made goon turned down the street and hollered, "I found stragglers!"
Jay's eyes went wide and she asked, "E-Gon, can this combat mode protect us from Saturnights?"
"Oh, totally!" the voice chirped.
"Then turn it on right now, please," Jay hurriedly told E-Gon.
"Gonna need the activation passcode," it replied
Davide's eyes went wide as a gaggle of Saturnights joined their companion, and he shouted at his wristband, "Pretty please, with sugar on top, activate!"
"Incorrect passcode," E-Gon buzzed. "We can change the passcode to that if you want, but it's going to take, like, all day long, and--"
"E-Gon!" the group shouted as the Saturnights drew nearer.
"Right, right--sorry. The passcode is 'Meganize'!"
Just as the enemy horde got within a stone's throw of the teens, they cried out as one, "Meganize!"
Instantly, the five were encircled by a whirlwind of colored lights--red, blue, yellow, pink, and green. The Saturnights backed away at the display of power and intense heat generated by the lightshow, and their presence was forgotten by the teens inside. That buzzing feeling returned in full force, coursing through their bodies from tip to tail and magnifying until they felt more energized than ever before. Muscles clenched and eyes squeezed shut as the group felt something adorning them, though the fantastic force kept them from finding out what had happened.
As suddenly as it started, the transformation ended, but the teens were radically different when the lights disappeared. They were clad from head to toe in skintight armor, complete with gloves, boots, belt, and helmet. The suits were all of a similar design, but each had their own differences, starting with color: Jay was clad in vibrant red, Bian in a cool blue, Davide in a harsh yellow, Rosa in a pastel pink, and Warren in an earthy green. Each one had white gloves and boots, though each had a different number of stripes on both, with Jay having one and Warren having five.
Finally, there were the helmets, which had differently shaped visors and mouthguard. Jay's visor resembled a dumbbell, with two circles connected by a bar in the middle, and her mouthguard was a silver strip split by a single bar down the center. Bian looked out through a horizontal line that tapered into sharp points on either side of the helmet, while her mouthguard was a strip divided by two bars where her lips ended. Davide's visor was a large oval that took up much of his face, and the strip over his mouth had three bars trisecting it. Rosa spied the Saturnights through a large, black circle, and in the center of her mouthguard was a V with a bar running down the middle of it. Warren, last but not least, peered through a rectangle, and had a V in the center of his mouthguard.
Rosa was the first to find her voice, and asked her friends, "You guys...what just happened?"
"I don't know, but I feel really good, like I just scored the winning touchdown," Davide hummed as he hopped up and down on his feet.
"Same, but look at what we're wearing," Warren murmured, marveling at his new garments. "What even is this stuff?"
Bian picked and pulled at her suit as she mumbled in reply, "Stretchy like spandex, but has a metal feel. Helmet has fiberglass feel on the outside, but inside feels like polystyrene. Boots have good tread, and gloves are firm but giving."
"You got all that in the last few seconds?" asked a bewildered and impressed Davide. That was the most the stout girl had said all afternoon, all in the span of ten seconds.
The blue girl fiddled with her fingers and meekly answered, "I just, um...I really like analyzing stuff."
"Guys, focus!" Jay called out to the group, and their attention quickly returned to the Saturnights. The soldiers were milling among themselves, debating on what to do with the transformed teens. "We caught them by surprise, but we still have to deal with them."
"I don't know about you all, but the last fight I was in was a pillow fight in fourth grade, and it didn't end well for me," Warren replied as he shrank back. "What are we going to do?"
The answer came from E-Gon, whose voice now rang through their helmets. "If you dudes don't have a lot of combat prowess, I can go into auto-defense mode. All you would need to do is go with the flow, and I'll handle the rest."
"Let's do that, E-Gon," Jay told the program. She had a brown belt in karate and Davide could probably hold his own, but Bian did not have a violent bone in her body and Rosa was more bark than bite. If they had any hope of walking away from this, they would need E-Gon's help.
"Activating auto-defense," the program buzzed as everyone felt a tug on their limbs. Jay tried to move her hand, but she could not even make her pinky finger twitch. E-Gon was in control; all she could do was hope that the artificial intelligence was a good fighter.
Before either side made a move, the Grin Reaper appeared among his troops and bashed several on the head with his scythe. He bellowed at the stoic soldiers, "Excuse me, but what's all the commotion? No one better be having a party without inviting yours truly!"
"Sir, we have a bit of a situation," one of the Saturnights explained as it pointed to the transformed teens. "What should we do with them?"
The cloaked criminal glowered down the street at the multi-colored group and asked, "And who in the blue moon are you supposed to be?"
Of the five, Jay stared defiantly at the grinning goon and felt a swell of courage rising inside of her. It was just as she pictured when she was a child and her grandfather filled her head with stories of the Way Back People--the cavalcade of colorful champions fighting dark, shadowy forces. All day long, fantasy had become reality, and Jay was now a part of her greatest fantasy of all. She did not have to play pretend anymore; she could be the hero she always wanted to be.
"We're the Mega Knights," she retorted, E-Gon guiding the girl's hand into a defiant point, "and you're not welcome in this town!"
The Grin Reaper leaned against his scythe and chortled. "Oh, is that so? Look around you--there's nothing that can stop the Black Star Army! What chance do you think have against the likes of us?"
"You're about to find out," Jay answered with a hidden smirk.