I want to break free.

I want to break free.

I want to break free from your lies,

You're so self satisfied I don't need you.

I've got to break free.

God knows, God knows I want to break free

-Queen


She hated Wonderwings.

She wouldn't be here at all if it wasn't for a good cause.

And the fact that she really had no choice.

"Another Iced tea?" said a waitress, who appeared behind her.

"Um… thanks…"

"I'll just take that for you, and all this!" said the waitress removing her glass, her used napkins, and her plate.

"Wait…"

"Jerky Jack, right? Medium, hot, or fold space?"

"But I haven't finished…!"

"Not to worry, they're on the house!" she smiled and quickly left.

Maria slumped in her seat. Irritating.

She, along with Neuro, Howler, and some members of the Alliance, were here for a charity event to raise funds for victims of last week's attack on the Wolf's Lair Casino. Basically it involved posing for high priced autographed selfies for customers. It wasn't TOO bad, but some of these people seemed borderline creepy.

She sighed, recalling the incident. Initially, she, Stryker and Windy were SUPPOSED to provide support for emergency crews while the main team fought the attackers, who happened to be Alrick's girls. The ones who activated the remaining orbs. They were surprised to learn that they had to join the strike team who were trying to control the situation. Apparently, some asshole from the Citadel thought it would help if more heroes were present, despite them being an inexperienced junior team. Add to the fact that the Major ASSURED her that she would not be involved in such situations, not that she blamed him for that fiasco. He, and the rest of the Citadel were in Washington for some photo op with that èstupida Sands!

And Windy was nearly killed.

She wished she could be with her at the hospital instead of farting around here. She was one the few people she considered a friend since she donned this stupid armor. Neuro and Howler were… okay, but they seemed more like the Lenny and Carl of the team. Bianca was a good friend and teammate, but she didn't feel 'open' about certain things. She was currently with Striker at the hospital, checking up on Windy.

She thought about Striker.

She never considered him a friend, but he wasn't a bad person. He seemed to have trouble dealing with new members. Windy was the only one close to him, and she was under intensive care, struggling to stay alive. She felt sorry for him. She knew that they had both trained together before setting up the In Crowd. He tried to be a good leader, but sometimes it was difficult for him.

She looked around. A few tables away, she noticed Jill Hooper and her team setting up to broadcast the event.


As Jill was preparing, Trey and Donna approached her.

"If there's anything you need, please let us know."

"Thank you. Are Jessie and Debbie around?"

"They're off tonight. They should be back tomorrow."

"I see. I was covering the casino's expansion and I saw Debbie. This was before the attack. I don't know why she was there, but I just wanted to make sure she was okay."

Donna and Trey looked at each other briefly with concern. Something Jill noticed.

"Just curious!" she said with a perky smile.

"Of course. I'll let them know you asked!" Said Donna as they walked away. When they were well enough away, she spoke to Trey.

"What do you think?"

"She saw the cub, she may have seen too much."

"We don't know that for sure. She may not have seen anything. Maybe she…"

"You know the rules. We can't take chances. Decharme needs to know and…" Suddenly, they froze. Almost seamlessly, Trey continued his thought. "She saw nothing. She's no threat."

"I agree." Said Donna. Moments later, as if coming out of a trance, they stared at each other blankly. "What… were we talking about?"

"I… forgot. Weird!" They quickly resumed their duties. Meanwhile, Jill, who had been watching them discreetly, adjusted her glasses, and prepared for her broadcast.


"Excuse me, is there somewhere I… can be alone?"

"Um… you can use our break area."

"Thank you."

The waitress led Maria to the back area where the break room was. "I'll just be a few minutes."

"No problem. I'll let the others know you're in here."

"Thank you."

Maria looked around. The room had a table, lockers, a refrigerator, some vending machines, a sofa, and a door to a unisex bathroom. She went in, sat on the sofa, and put her hands to her head.

What a week.

Earlier she had talked to her mom. She was not happy. She heard about what happened at the casino, and was distressed to hear that her daughter nearly got killed. She had spent almost an hour trying to calm her down. She sighed. She knew her mother was not happy. Grandmother had gotten ill (she prayed it would not be fatal), Miguel was having trouble in school, and to top it off, there had been news concerning President Sands treatment toward the Hispanic community. Her family was especially worried. Grandma herself was concerned about a possible immigration problem. She had come to this country from Mexico illegally during the 80s. It wasn't until she married grandfather (Puerto Rican) that she became an American citizen through marriage. Despite this, she feared deportation, after learning some of her friends had been forcibly detained due to trumped up immigration technicalities.

She started to cry. She hated her miserable life, and this STUPID armor! Why did she take the stupid internship? Why did Professor Jaquish run into her? Why can't she get rid of it? WHY?

There was a light knock on the door.

"WHAT?" she yelled.

"Um… Jade? The others asked where you were. Jill Hooper wanted to interview you and the others. Are you okay?"

"Yes. Please give me a second." She then went to the bathroom, grabbed some towels, and started to dry your eyes. There was another knock.

"Excuse me, may I come in? I just have to get something from my locker."

"Yes. Of course." She looked at herself in the mirror, and composed herself. She could do this.

"Is… everything all right?" asked the girl behind her.

"Yes. I… just needed to be alone." She then threw her towels in the trash. "I'm all right!" she said, smiling.

"Okay. If… you need more time…"

"That's okay." She then straightened herself, and left. Moments later, certain she wouldn't return, the girl immediately took the towels from the trash, and headed to the office.


"The turnout here has been impressive. We're glad there are those who will anything to help our teammate, and the others hurt during that horrible incident."

"Thank you Turbo Jade. Jill Hooper, reporting live from Wonderwings. Back to you Rick."

"Aaand… we are off the air. Thank you for your time." Said Jill's cameraman.

"No problem." Said Maria. Well, back to the grind, she thought. Just one more hour.

As she pondered this, she received her next customer. A young Hispanic lady. She looked slightly older than her, and wore a lab coat from Shin Technologies. She took a photo from the pile, paid, and presented it to her. Maria smiled at her. "Who do I make this out to?"

"It's for my Emilia. She's a big fan of yours"

She raised an eyebrow as she signed. She's old enough to be a mother? As she finished. She gave it to her. "Here you go. I hope it will make her happy."

She smiled. "You are such an inspiration to us. It's good to see a Latino sister out there fighting the good fight." Her face became slightly serious. "It is difficult with that idiota Sands and his cronies making our lives a living hell. It's just…" She started to weep.

Maria, understanding her pain, held her hand. "I understand hermana." The girl smiled. The girl continued. "My team is working with the hospital to help your friend. They are good people. They will do everything they can to help her." Maria paused as she heard this. "That is good to hear." A thought occurred to her. "Would you be interested in a selfie with me?"

"Oh… no. I can only afford…"

"Do not worry about it." Indeed, she could charge it to her account. She then indicated to a photographer, and had the young lady stand next to her. It soon printed it out, and Maria started to sign it. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."

"Nichole. Nichole Torres." Maria signed it so. Nichole smiled as she gave it to her. "Thank you hermana! God be with you!"

"God be with you sister!" she said as Nichole left.

Later, when they were on the road, Maria pondered all this. An hour ago, she wanted to get out of there. Now, it felt wrong to leave. You are such an inspiration to us. She never thought of herself as a hero, much less an inspiration. Do the others feel like this sometimes? She didn't know.

Perhaps, in the end, it's all worth it.


But life still goes on

I can't get used to living without, living without

Living without you by my side

I don't want to live alone, hey

God knows, got to make it on my own

So baby can't you see

I've got to break free

-Queen