Authors: Matthew Phillion
The Indestructibles: Breakout
The Indestructibles: Breakout
144 Tenney Street
Georgetown, MA 01833
Printed in the United States of America
© 2014 Matthew Phillion
First PFP edition © 2014
(also available in print format)
Front cover photos:
Biohazard Symbol on Grungy Texture
© Peter Zelei - Getty Images
Brooklyn Bridge Sunset Panorama
© Wenjie Qiao - Getty Images
Back cover author photo:
© Joe Williams - JWLenswerk
It occurs to me that, when writing acknowledgements for a sequel, you're not actually thanking people for their help with the second book so much as you're thanking them for everything they did to help the first book be successful enough that you’re allowed the privilege to write another one. And so, for that reason, I have to once again thank the people who made
possible in the first place:
Stephanie Buck, thank you for letting me play mad scientist all summer working on both the first and second books while you kept everything else from falling apart. I'm sure there’s a Pepper Potts and Tony Stark joke here I should make.
My early draft readers: Stephanie, Rebecca Gianotti, Christian Hegg, Colin Carlton. You kept me honest, helped me figure out if I was being true to the characters, and most of all, let me know that these were characters who deserved another adventure in the first place. Jay Kumar: thank you for turning your editor's eye on a late draft to save me from myself (as you have for years in so many other editorial endeavors).
My family. Thank you for forever letting me be the weird one, for tolerating my comic book obsessions, and for supporting the pursuit of my dreams. A very big thank you to my parents for always supporting imagination and creativity. You both made this possible just by being you.
My far-flung friends. From Florida to California and everywhere in between, thank you for everything you've done to help keep me sane during the writing process, and for being my advocates for the book from afar.
Peter Sarno and PFP Publishing. Thanks again for taking a shot on the book, and for supporting the idea of a sequel. There was no way
would be taking flight a second time without your ongoing efforts.
The reviewers who took the time to give
a shot. As a new, unknown author, my appreciation for your enthusiasm and support cannot be overstated. A special thank you to the Young Adult and superhero bloggers who gave me a chance to write guest posts on the social issues in this genre — those were important topics near and dear to my heart, and I very much appreciate your giving me the chance to weigh in.
A special thanks to Hank Phillippi Ryan and The Jungle Red writers — I had a wonderful time visiting your site and taking part in the discussion in such prestigious company. It was an experience I'll never forget.
The artists and writers I've met at comic book conventions throughout New England — as a kid I always hoped but never expected I'd be behind a table signing copies of my own book at a Comic-Con, and when it finally happened I was scared out of my mind. I couldn't have asked for a warmer welcome. Thank you for letting me become a part of your community.
And lastly, but most of all: the readers. To everyone I've had a chance to speak with at a convention, or who has reached out to let me know your favorite hero, or taken the time to let me know what you thought. This book is for you. I hope you'll allow me the privilege to continue to tell stories about these young heroes for a long time to come.
- Matthew Phillion
For my family, both by birth and by choice.
You are my Indestructibles, every one of you.
The Plague Season
The sounds of humanity filled the diner: the clinking of silverware on plates, the rumble of banal conversation, the laughter and crying of children. Regulars made up most of the crowd, so when the young man walked in alone and wobbled up to the counter, the manager took notice.
"You don't look too good, son," the manager said.
He thought about saying something more accurate,
you look like you're dying, son
, because the kid really did look like a corpse. A thin, greasy sheen of sweat covered his exposed skin, which was taut across his face, revealing the bones of his skull. Bruises formed around the sockets of his yellowed eyes. When the boy smiled, his grin was a death's mask.
"Don't worry, I'm not catchy," the skeletal boy said. Even his voice sounded deathlike, raspy and hollow.
Behind him, an older man, a regular who'd been coming to the diner every Saturday morning for ten years, began coughing. Soft at first, the man tried to be polite, stifling himself into a napkin, but the cough grew louder. The manager watched the older man excuse himself to step outside.
A ceiling-mounted television nattered on at the end of the counter, tuned to a news station. The manager glanced at it for a moment. The hosts were talking about those kids again, the ones with the special powers who had stopped some sort of attack out at sea last year. Old footage played over the talking head's shoulder of one of the kids, the pretty girl with the red-gold hair, speaking to the camera. She seemed to be their spokesperson. People liked her.
The manager turned back to the young man, who was staring at the screen with a hint of anger in his eyes, his mouth a thin, hard line.
you sick, then?" the manager asked. Somewhere out of sight, another person began coughing. It sounded like a woman, but the cough was very harsh, as if she'd swallowed her coffee wrong. "I don't mean to pry, but . . ."
"It's okay. I know how bad I look," the young man said, returning his attention to the manager. He brushed back his thin, brittle hair from his brow. "I've been sick most of my life, actually. But that's about to change."
Now the manager heard several people coughing. He watched one patron comfort a small child, patting him on the back as the child turned red in the face. Someone near the windows cursed loudly, a tired, uncomfortable single-syllable swear word, holding his stomach.
"What the hell is happening here?" the manager said.
He found himself suddenly worried about food poisoning, bad meat or dairy, and all the consequences of that, the inspections, the loss of revenue, started running through his head. They ran a clean restaurant, though, never skimped or used expired products. Maybe one of the distributors delivered a bad batch of something.
The manager felt a little tickle at the back of his throat and barked a single, rough cough. He could sense the onset of one of those ugly fevers, the kind that makes you cloudy-headed and useless. I hope I'm not getting sick, he thought.
"I'm sorry," the manager said to the boy. "I'm suddenly not feeling that great myself."
"It happens sometimes around me," the boy said.
Then a twenty-something man vomited violently in the middle of the dining room. There was a collective gasp at the sound, his fellow diners taking a step back, the man himself looking too ill to be embarrassed. He clutched his throat, tried to speak, unable to get words past his lips.
Someone else broke into a coughing fit intense enough to make her sink to one knee, fall out of her chair. One of her companions stood up quickly to help, but he began to sway on his own feet, falling to the floor beside her. The manager watched in horror as patrons slid or fell out of their chairs, gasping for air, reaching out for help.
He stared at the young man in front of him. The boy no longer appeared quite as sick. He certainly didn't seem healthy — not by a long shot — but the circles under his eyes were less pronounced, his hair looked fuller, his skin less clammy, his smile less tight and pained.
The boy reached across the counter and took a full plate of pancakes from in front of another patron, who had slumped down onto the tabletop. The manager couldn't tell if the diner was still breathing. The boy dug into the pancakes happily, dousing them in too much syrup. The sight of it, the food, the boy's sickly face, the dripping syrup, turned the manager's stomach. He leaned back, resting his elbow against the service counter.
doing this?" the manager said. His voice sounded whispery and weak. He wasn't sure how much longer he could stay on his own feet.
"I am," the boy said, shoveling a sopping forkful of pancakes into his mouth.
"What are you?" the manager said. His voice was now barely audible. His vision had narrowed to pinholes. It seemed as if the whole world had been reduced to this strange young man's eerie, dying face.
"I don't know," the boy said. He looked at the television. "But I know who does. And plan on finding out."
The manager fell to the ground, unconscious. The boy slowly, and with great relish, finished his pancakes, then stole a fistful of bacon from a neighboring plate, and stuffed a whole piece in his mouth. He stood up, the only human being in the restaurant still conscious, and walked out into the street. Outside, the first man to start coughing, the older patron, lay on his stomach, rasping for air, dying in the morning sun.
Jane Hawkins touched down in a field in the middle of nowhere, a vast open space under a big sky.
It was not a graceful landing.
Jane, known to the public as the hero Solar, landed with enough force to kick up a cloud of dirt twenty feet tall, her impact created a ten-foot crater in the ground.
Covered in dirt and dust, she hauled herself out of the crater, and yelled into an earpiece she wore to communicate with her teammates.
"This is not going well," she said. "I could use a little help here. Billy?"
"On my way," Billy, also known as Straylight, said.
That was when the dinosaur landed on the ground in front of Jane and bellowed a screeching war cry.
This wasn't exactly a dinosaur out of an archeology textbook, Jane thought. Rather, he was more like a lot of different dinosaurs all mashed together. The massive head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, his tail spiked with four prongs like a Stegosaurus, the wings of a Pterodactyl where his arms should be, and enormous, scythe-like Velociraptor claws on his toes. Cretaceous Man, one of the remaining escapees from the lab the Indestructibles had raided last year, had been wrecking havoc across several states for weeks. After having defeated a living hurricane, the team had expected a fight with a human-dinosaur hybrid to be easy, but from Jane's point of view, they'd definitely underestimated him. He'd proven tougher, and smarter, than any of the team had anticipated.
The creature roared again, the ground shook as he set down his eight-foot tall frame of muscle and scales. The dinosaur bellowed again, daring Jane to step out of the crater.
Jane roared back. The dinosaur blinked a few times, confused, opening his mouth to take a bite out of her. She punched him in the nose, which had thus far proven ineffective, and he lashed out with that spiked tail and sent Jane sprawling.
"Any day now Billy," she said.
Jane heard the strange humming noise Billy's energy field created when he flew at his top speeds and looked up to see his signature white-blue glow approaching fast. Unfortunately, the dinosaur followed her eyes and saw it too.
"Billy, I think I just — "
With comical delicacy, the dinosaur took a light step back and let Billy fly right past him. Billy, clearly planning to crash into the dinosaur and take the creature down, lost control of his trajectory and started skipping across the field like a glowing stone along the surface of a pond.
"You accidentally warned him, didn't you," Billy said through the earpiece, his voice muffled with dirt.
"Why do you keep doing that?" Jane asked.
The dinosaur took another step at her and Jane punched him again. Ineffective or not, it was all she could do to keep those T-Rex jaws from clamping down on her.
"It's my signature move," Billy said.
Entropy Emily's voice piped up over Jane's earpiece.
"Did he try the Sparkly Torpedo Attack again?" Emily said.
"Can we not call it that?" Billy said.
"I love when he does that. It never works," Emily said.
"It does too work!" he said.
"Never not once have you ever done that right. Never not even once, Billy Case."
The dinosaur lashed out with his tail at Jane again. This time she caught it, using those boney spikes for leverage. He tried to shake her off with a few big, sweeping swings, but she held on.
"Can we talk about this later? Emily?"
"I just want to point out, for the record, that the Stegosaurus existed during the Jurassic period."
"And this is relevant why?" Billy asked.
"The spikes on his tail. Those are from a Stegosaurus. So calling him Cretaceous Man is a misnomer."
"A little help, Professor Emily!" Jane yelled as the dinosaur shook her free, sending her sprawling back into the crater where she first landed.
The dinosaur charged Jane, his eyes widened, and Jane saw him lift slowly off the ground. Those ridiculous wings flapped uselessly as he drifted, his eyes searched wildly, and the sharp-toothed maw continued to roar furiously.
Emily touched down next to Jane, her hands outstretched.
"Hey look, a Floatasaurus!" Emily said.
"Why didn't you do that an hour ago?" Jane asked.
"You looked like you were having fun."
Jane inspected her tattered cape and pulled leaves and twigs out of her hair.
"Yeah, fun," she said.
"Kate and Titus have fun when we fight," Emily said.
"Well, Titus is off on his little soul-searching expedition, and Kate is pouting and being anti-social, so you're stuck with me," Jane said. "And I don't fight for fun."
"Says you," Emily said.
"Says me," said Jane.
She gazed at Cretaceous Man, who stared back with a look of panic in his eyes. "Well, we can't leave you floating there forever. Someone call Sam Barren and ask if he knows where we can put him."
Billy walked up to join her, his blue and white form-fitting costume a wreck of dirt and debris.
"Don't look at me. Where am I going to put a cell phone in this suit?"
"Emily?" Jane asked.
"What do you mean, what? Do you have your phone with you? You always have it with you."
"I am bubbling of floating like wow right now. My phone's in my pocket."
Jane rummaged awkwardly through Emily's pocket, pulling out a cell phone with a plastic cover that looked like the Tardis covering it. Billy motioned for Jane to look at something in the distance.
"We have company."
"News van," Jane said.
"News van? They're really following us this far out?" Billy said.
Jane tossed him Emily's cell phone.
"You call Sam. Emily, bubble of float Cretaceous Man up to ten thousand feet so the news cameras can't get a peak at him. I'll deal with the press."
"You always deal with the press," Emily said.
"We let you say one thing on camera one time and it became an internet meme. You're not allowed to talk to the press. Go," Jane said.
Emily drifted skyward like a loose balloon. Billy winked at Jane once and then took off to join Emily in the sky, cell phone to his ear, clearly laughing at something Sam had said on the other line.
Jane sighed. Leading this team of lunatics was difficult enough, but being the unofficial press liaison was the part that was really going to drive her insane.