‘Nightingale’ Excerpt: The Chicago Incident

Nightingale-The-League-by-Anthony-KarczThis is still one of my favorite superhero fights in the book and one of the more cinematic (fitting, considering I wrote it while completely hyped up on my viewing of Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Fingers crossed, Nightingale will be back in time for New Book Day next week!

The Chicago Incident

The facade of the building was gorgeous. Composed of brown brick with white accents, it was the very definition of “brownstone.” But unlike those innumerable copies, this was authentic. It exuded the distinct air of age and grandeur that only came from those buildings time put in to them, meant to stand for something other than just being pretty. This wasn’t just someone’s home, this was someone saying to the world, “I want to show you something.”

Magnificent had just enough time to appreciate all this as the facade crumbled towards her, peeling away from the rest of the building like a bandage. She raised her hands above her head to shield her face from the collapsing debris.

After the dust had settled, she wrenched herself upright, her gray costume torn in more places than should be allowed in mixed company. She barked into the communicator at her wrist. “Damn it, Fred, I thought you said you had the fire under control!”

“I did! I didn’t say I could undo all the structural damage to the building. I make ice, not rebar.” With the front of the building gone, she could see that he had actually put out the blaze. His defiant tone would be tolerated.

“Johnny, tell me that you got everyone out.”

He appeared next to her, clicking a button at the wrist of his black unitard. As the LED glowed blue, he seemed to coalesce from the blur that he had been. “Barely. Found one girl hiding under her bed upstairs.” He gave the smoldering apartment building an appraising look. “That should be all of them, though.”

She ran her fingers through her short white hair with a vigorous shake, dislodging debris. “At least something has gone right today.” She wiped away crusted blood from where her cuts had healed over.

Johnny glanced to the right. “You OK, Mags? That looked like it hurt.”

She ignored him and brought the communicator up again. “Warden, any idea where Nick is now?”

A distant explosion was her answer.

“Damn it, get to the car, people!” She turned to face Johnny, who had already thumbed off his inhibitor, the force of the kinetic energy he controlled sounding like a hive of angry bees. “Rescue only. Don’t engage.”

She stuck her arm out, grabbing ahold of him before he sped off. She gritted her teeth as the vibration settled into her shoulder, threatening to wrench it from the socket. “And Johnny? Am I dolled up? Does it look like we’re on a date?”

That there was any pause at all before he answered meant he took a considerable amount of time thinking about his answer. Good. “No, you’re not.”

“Correct. My name. Is not. Mags. It is Magnificent. You’d do well to remember that.” She held in a sigh of relief as she released him.

He might have given her a thumbs up before he disappeared entirely, a dust devil marking his passage.

She shook her head at his reckless impertinence as she ran towards the hovering VTOL, looking for all the world like a species of mechanical dragonfly. She hooked her arm around the hanging ladder and hauled herself in. Warden scowled from the pilot’s seat and took off. He hated her calling his transport “the car” almost as much as she enjoyed how much it bothered him.


The smoke flowed around the armored form of Pyrotech Nick like a jungle snake, testing to see if it could crack the case and decant the meat inside. That armor was the deep orange of a guttering forest fire, and while he appreciated the clear acrylic helmet in that he wasn’t choking on the smoke from the fires, it kept him from connecting with that visceral reminder. After all, no one fire smelled the same, they all had their various chemical components. No one else appreciated that like him.

Which is why the armor was nice, but totally unwanted.

He tried for what seemed like the hundredth time to remove the dome over his head, only to be met with the same resistance, the same flash of alarms as the HUD activated and barked warnings at him.

He dropped his arms back to his sides with an annoyed grunt, took aim at a rooftop air conditioning unit across the street, and closed his fist. A fireball erupted from his oversized gauntlet and engulfed the hunk of metal, reducing it to so much molten slag in the space of a minute. Nick dropped his shoulders and breathed out, it wasn’t getting out of this tin can the League had stuck him in, but it was something.

He saw a blur out of the corner of his eye, Johnny Dodge. So they’d managed to wrap up the brownstone fire quicker than he thought. Looking to the east, he saw that the billowing smoke was now wisps drifting on the afternoon wind. They’d be here soon and he needed them pissed off. He lifted his arm and pointed towards the stairwell entrance, palm out.

There was a light smack on his outstretched arm. Not much, but enough to divert his aim. He gritted his teeth and raised his arm again.

Only to get smacked harder, this time the force nearly turning him around.

Johnny thought he was so clever, that bitch Magnificent probably told him not to fight him until she got here, so he was just going to annoy Nick until then.

That was fine, let Johnny think he’d accomplished something. It wasn’t Nick’s only trick.

He dropped his arm to his side and clenched both fists. When he screamed, it was a guttural howl, the warped screech of air from a backdraft. A jet of flame shot simultaneously into the air and downwards into the building below Pyrotech Nick’s feet.

He dropped through the building like he was thrown, floors exploding in his wake.

Magnificent watched the building collapse as they came from the air, floors pancaking onto each other until there was nothing left but flaming rubble. Her communicator flashed, she clicked the channel open, never looking away from the fire.

“I didn’t touch him!”

She didn’t say anything, leaned in towards Warden and pointed to a clear spot on the street one hundred yards from the site.

“OK. I touched him a little.”

She winced as Fred broke a chunk of his arm off while extracting a reinforced IV needle. Heated water, the only way he could replenish fluids in the field, sprayed from the tip. The spot on his arm filled in a second later.

“Fine. I pissed him off. Cleared the building, though!”

About fifty feet from the ground, Fred leapt from the open door of the transport, ice lancing out from his fingers as he targeted hot spots, a column of ice forming beneath him to break his fall.

“You may want to bring some whiplash kits from the car.”

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