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Unread 17th of October, 2007, 05:57
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Issue One - Down the Rabbit Hole

The six cylinders of the red Toyota Solara hum quietly as the convertible cruises through the dark of the California night. The cool night air of the high desert playfully teases Gabriella's hair as she speeds along the Three Flags Highway toward the small town of Inyokern.

Hangar 3 - Inyokern Airport - 10:00 o'clock - P

That was the extent of the text she had received from Polnoch about two and a half hours ago.

The Inyokern airport... She can't get there fast enough.

She heard from Polnoch regularly, but not nearly often enough to satisfy her. It seemed that he was letting her have a taste of living her own life - complete with a brand new name and identity, of course - without any outside pressure or interference. There were training sessions now and then. And no lack of financial aid and practical advice whenever she needed it, provided with courtesy and discretion by various anonymous members of his staff. He'd even helped her get a decent, well-paying job as a receptionist in an upscale corporate office, which beat the hell out of working the check-out lane at Wal-Mart.

Is this going to be another training session? Gabriella smiles and increases the pressure of her foot on the Solara's accelerator, thinking that it must be so. She liked to practice her skills, but had little opportunity to do so. Where exactly can you go to practice bursting into flame without drawing a whole lot of unwanted attention to yourself?

Exit 178 Ridgecrest
Inyokern

The green and white sign flashes by, and Gabriella's heart begins to beat a little faster. By the time she glides the red Toyota past the security check point and towards the hanger, she feels herself growing warm in anticipation.

Uh-oh.

Shifting her car into park, Gabriella sits for a moment holding her breath. Deep in the core of her body she feels the tingling, hot-electric sensation as her power grows and begins to manifest. Already she can smell the tell-tale scent of almost-melted plastic that tells her that her faux leather steering wheel cover has begun to heat up. She opens her hands and stares at the tiny motes of light beginning to churn under the skin of her palms. Every cell in her body is pulsing with the desire for release.

She closes her eyes, caught for a moment between fear and longing. If she lets it happen now, she'll lose control. She knows that when she feels like this there is no holding it in check, no way to just create a small fire, like a ball of flame held in her hand. It's all or nothing. And even knowing this, she is still tempted by the all. If she wants to, she can just... let go.

Breathe...

She imagines the fire under her skin running like magma through her veins...

Relax...

...flowing into an indestructible sphere...

Calm...

...trapped...contained...

She opens her eyes and looks at her hands.

Normal

She takes a deep breath and slowly lets it out.

No, she can't just let go.

She turns the Solara's engine off and swings the door open. The air outside feels cool and fresh after the stifling heat inside. She stands and stretches her stiff legs and back, and looks around at the nearly empty parking lot. From deep within the Desert Rose and Navajo White building, the muffled sound of squeaking shoes and indistinct voices catches her attention. With a quick hair and clothing check, Gabriella heads for the side entrance door.

Last edited by -J-; 22nd of October, 2007 at 07:48.
  #2  
Unread 21st of October, 2007, 16:40
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Two large duffle bags rest next to the side door as J.C. and Nick each make their final push to win their game of one-on-one. J.C. squints in a failed attempt to keep the sweat from running into his eyes as he dribbles a basketball in slow, thunderous bounces that echo throughout Hangar 3. He adjusts his position to stay between Nick and the ball.

“See, UCLA” he speaks slowly between labored breaths as he stands at the piece of duct tape that signifies their free throw line. “You’re thinking I’m out of juice, right? Well, here’s the way this is gonna go.” He points to their improvised net made from a piece of iron rebar bent into a circle and wrapped around a bare girder next to the wall. “I’m gonna take this ball, and I’m gonna blow right past you and score, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. The train is coming, and you’re standing on the tracks. I’d just give up now if I were you.”

Nick, in his black Harley Davidson t-shirt and knee length cutoffs, stands between J.C and the goal, his hands up ready to block any shots at the basket. A few beads of sweat roll from his temples. He is breathing hard, but he speaks more freely. “Maybe you should talk less and breathe more. Don’t you SC guys run any during practice?”

"Yeah!" J.C. half shouts hoarsely in a defensive tone, "It's just that... you train to condition different for... you know, a real—

Making a quick move to one side, Nick bats the bouncing basketball away from J.C. After two quick steps, he has the ball under control. After three, it is sailing through the air and through the bent metal ring.

"—sport." J.C. stands in place, looks at his empty hand, then at the hoop. "See... I let you do that. You know...lull you into a false sense of confidence. I'm playin' my mental game, son." He taps his head with his hand. "Sports are only like 75% physical. The other 35% is mental."

Nick laughs out loud as he collects up the ball from under the hoop. "It’s a good thing I don't trust you to keep score. I believe that ties it up." Nick dribbles the ball a couple of times with both hands before bounce passing it to J.C. "It’s your ball mental boy. Let’s see how much gas you got left in the tank."

J.C. turns his head at the sound of the side door opening in time to see a young, blonde woman walk through who could only be described as achingly beautiful. Black lycra workout shorts and a blue tank top frame her perfect body. Her honeyed blonde hair is pulled back into a ponytail, revealing her flawless face with flawless skin. J.C. watches, mesmerized, as he wonders what color her eyes are behind those sunglasses. Blue? No, green. Yeah... green...

(Paco & Dave)

Last edited by Hardball; 21st of October, 2007 at 17:03.
  #3  
Unread 23rd of October, 2007, 09:04
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PANK!

Nick's bounce-pass connects with the side of J.C.'s head.

J.C. glares briefly at Nick before turning to address the new arrival. He stands a little taller and laces his hands behind his head, his goal half to catch his breath and half to show off all his best features from his black, curly hair worn slightly long in a surfer shag, down to his powerful, sculpted, olive-skinned body. "Hi," he says. "Can I help you?"

Gabi hopes that the startled look on her face isn't too apparent. She wasn't expecting to find anyone here. She sweeps her sunglasses up and parks them on top of her head, then glances around the hangar, first at the jet in its accustomed spot and then back around to the impromptu basketball game. .

"I don't know..." she says still looking around. "I'm supposed to meet someone here." Her eyes come back to meet J.C.'s, and she smiles. "I'm ... Gabriella. Have you seen a well-dressed European guy around here somewhere?"

J.C. smiles back. "Did you know that your nose wiggles a little bit when you talk?"

"Oh really?" Gabi asks, obviously a bit unsure of how to take the comment. "I, uh, didn't know that. How... nice of you to notice." She looks past J.C. and raises her eyebrows at Nick. "Is your friend always so observant?"

"Hey. I didn't mean anything by it." J.C.'s voice sounds more warm now and less glib. "It's actually kinda cute. Anyway, I think Polnoch will be here soon. Or at least he'll send someone. I'm J.C. That's Nick behind me. We're waiting for him, too. There really aren't any chairs around here, but you can sit on the cooler over by our bags. There's bottled water in there too if you want one."

Nick laughs as he grabs the ball from the floor. "Or you could join the game. How about a little old school game of HORSE?" Nick bounces the ball to Gabi. "What do you say? You can have the first shot."

Gabi laughs now too. "Oh wow. I really suck at basketball! I'll just watch you guys, if that's OK.

"So... You know Polnoch? You two don't look like... " Her sentence trails off as she looks J.C. up and down, lingering a bit over his tank top-clad chest and well-muscled shoulders. Then she seems to catch herself. "Er... I mean, you guys don't look like the usual... um, you know... you don't look like the people he usually has, um... working with him." She ends lamely, and blushes. "Wow. I said that badly. I'll just shut up and go sit down now." She turns toward the cooler J.C. mentioned earlier, and takes a seat.

"Right." J.C. picks the ball up off the floor. "You ready, bra?"

"Do it."

As J.C. charges forward, Nick side-steps the rampaging surfer. He sweeps his hand out and knocks the ball away from J.C. Now in control of the ball, Nick quickly circles back past the free throw line, then spins around. He lines up the ball for his shot and releases. The result? Nothing but net.

"And that's game," Nick says with a smile.

"Good game, man." J.C. and Nick knock fists, then head off the court.

"Well, I guess that wasn't much to watch." J.C. says to Gabriella. "Basketball isn't really my game."

Nick chuckles a little " You know, dude, you can't play every game the same way you play football. If I played soccer the same way I play lacrosse I'd be looking at a lot of yellow and red cards." Nick heads to his gym bag to retrieve two hand towels. After throwing one to J.C. he wipes the sweat from his hands and forehead. dropping the towel on top of the bag he steps over and holds his right hand out to Gabriella. "Like he said, I'm Nick. Good to meet you."

By:Lisa, Paco & Dave

Last edited by -J-; 23rd of October, 2007 at 09:27.
  #4  
Unread 23rd of October, 2007, 09:37
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J.C. walks over to Gabriella. He puts the ball down on the floor next to her and sits on it, leaning his back against the hangar wall. He leans forward to quickly strip off his tank top and grab a plastic gallon jug of water sitting on his bag. He takes several deep swigs from the jug, then pours the rest of the water over his head and body. With a deep, relaxing groan, he rests back against the hangar wall and closes his eyes.

"So," his eyes are still closed, but his question is clearly directed toward Gabi, "what brings you out to the boonies?"

"Who me?" The question seems to make Gabriella nervous. "I uh... I mean, Polnoch asked me to meet him here. Or something like that. I got a text message from him a few hours ago. It just said to be here at 10 o'clock. So here I am." She shrugs.

"By the way, the reason I said what I said before was, well... You guys don't work for Polnoch, do you?" She says it like she already knows the answer to her own question. "Not like the pilot, Sasha, and that guy who drives him around, whatever his name is. You're like me, I think." Again she seems nervous, like she's trying to find the right words to say something. "He sort of um... recruited me, I don't really know why yet. But he said... there were others... like me. And here you guys are." She looks from one to the other, like she's trying to read their expressions. Then suddenly she seems to regret her candor.

"I think I'll have one of those bottled waters now..." she says, jumping up and digging around in the cooler.

"Like you?" J.C. slowly opens his eys and turns his head toward Gabi. He loses his train of thought as he realizes that she is bent over the cooler.

"I think I get you, but I don't know if this is the place for that conversation," J.C. resumes his answer after a moment. He looks over at the open door to the jet sitting in the hangar. Polnoch has a lot of people who work for him. Safe money says most of his employees don't know what's going on, and they're probably paid well enough that they don't ask too many questions. Caution is definitely in order.

"To answer your question: no. We don't work for Polnoch," he smiles reassuringly. "But that doesn't mean we can't talk."

Nick raises his outstretched hand to run it up through his spiked blonde hair. "The word Polnoch uses most frequently is special" He turns again and kneels on one knee to rummage through his bag again producing a soccer ball which he rolls out onto the floor a few feet away from the group. He jumps up to join the ball. Juggling the ball with his feet for several seconds turning towards the open door of the jet. One small kick from his left foot pops the ball into the air where the right foot connects with setting it in motion. The ball travels the distance to the plane in a relatively flat projectile arc disappearing into the darkness of the unlit plane with a thud and a loud clatter, quickly followed by a burst of Slavic and Spanish cursing. Nick smiles approvingly as he the stream of Russian gets louder. "Lets see if they take the hint."

"OK," J.C. says. "I don't get that hint. Are you trying to invite them to a soccer match?"

"Special!" Gabriella says, her eyes lighting up. "Yes, that's exactly the word he used! So you guys are special too? That's awesome! I've been wanting to meet you for months!"

From the air plane a weathered man with short salt and pepper hair leans out of the door, Nick's soccer ball in hand. "No football in hangar," he says with a thick accent. "I tell you many time, bad for electronics."

"My bad Sasha!" Nick calls out with a grin. The grisled pilot tosses the ball back out into the hangar muttering to himself in Russian. With an annoyed tug he pulls the plane door shut. Still grinning, Nick triumphantly recovers the ball.

"So, do you guys live around here?"

Nick casually strolls back over to the J.C. and Gabi and takes a seat on the floor. "I've never been out here before. Only thing I know about this place is its a stones throw from the Navy Base just East of here. I'm still trying to go to school at UCLA. I live just off campus in LA."

"USC for me," J.C. chimes in.

"How about you?" Nick continues. "You from these parts or did you arrive in another jet that's parked outside?"

"I drove out here," Gabi replies, smiling. "I'm living in Anaheim. I'm curious now to see what Polnoch is up to. I thought it was going to be another training session. He usually finds some out-of-the-way place for me to train. But now that you guys are here, I don't know..."

by Paco, Lisa, Dave, & J
  #5  
Unread 23rd of October, 2007, 15:29
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"So," J.C. asks Gabriella, sensing the impending awkward silence, "what do you do?"
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Unread 24th of October, 2007, 01:47
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Oh, I explode into flames, Gabrielle thinks, looking away to hide her smile.

Of course that isn't what J.C. means when he asks, "What do you do?" But Gabi had been trying to think of a way to ask the guys what it was that made them special. How do you ask that?

"What's your super power?"

She's just dying to know!

"Nothing exciting, really," she answers J.C.'s real question with a sigh. "I work as a receptionist for a big company downtown. Just a voice on the telephone...

"I guess school keeps you guys pretty busy, huh?" she adds after a moment. "Does Polnoch have you... training too?"
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Unread 24th of October, 2007, 02:58
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"School? Yeah, it did." J.C. pauses to collect his thoughts. "We're sort of taking a semester off. Don't know that I'd call it "training", though. Least not any kind of training I'm used to doing. Remember that earthquake in Mexico a few weeks back in August? It was really bad. 8.0 is what I heard my dad say. Well, Nick and I were down there with the relief teams, you know, trying to help."

J.C. absently plays with a loudly colored blue, red, and yellow friendship bracelet on his left wrist as he continues.

"It was crazy down there. Some things happened, and before we knew it, we'd missed the first couple weeks of class and it was too late for this semester. I didn't mind, though. We were helping people. Really helping people, you know?"

"Anyway, we were on our way home and got a message from P Said he wanted us to stay at the air strip and meet him, that there was someone in trouble. So here we are."

Last edited by Hardball; 23rd of November, 2007 at 11:29.
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Unread 25th of October, 2007, 10:55
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Really helping people...

Gabi wonders what it was like. She can imagine the chaos and confusion, the destruction, the people in desperate need. Somehow she can even imagine Nick and J.C. there, tall and strong, like pillars of hope. Like gods.

What she can't imagine is what she would do in the same situation.

She looks down at the floor, and thinks about her training. Sometimes now she can channel the fire inside of her, and even shoot flames from her fingertips. Sometimes. Other times, she can't call up enough of a spark to light a candle. And other times, she loses all control and burns the building down! How will she ever use her power to help people?

"Somebody's in trouble?" she asks, looking up at J.C. "Polnoch said that? I wonder who it is..."

I wonder why he called me here... What can I do to help?
  #9  
Unread 23rd of November, 2007, 07:27
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The sound of a quickly approaching motorcycle grabs the groups attention. Seconds later the ear splitting whine of the modified 1300cc Hayabusa slids to a halt out side the front door, then quickly falls silent. The three metahumans glance questioningly at each other, then turn their attention towards the door.

The thick, steel security door flies open and a raven-haired beauty in tight leather pants and a black Japanese-style racing jacket moves quickly past the trio.

"Hey there," J.C. chimes in a friendly tone. "Can I—"

Eyes hidden behind mirrored wraparound sunglasses stay locked straight ahead as if J.C. isn't even there. Her hair, cut in a fashionable bob that frames her jawline, sways in time with her steps as she makes her way directly toward the plane with crisp, measured strides. She's sort of like a museum, J.C. thinks. Very beautiful, but very cold. And you know you'll be in real trouble if you touch anything.

"—help you?" J.C. pauses for a moment as if unsure of how to react. "She seems friendly," he says sarcastically to Gabi and Nick before realizing that the new arrival didn't come alone.

Gabi stares after the two newcomers. "Hmm," is all she says in reply to J.C.'s comment. She's thinking that the woman's companion - a youngish man, following doggedly in her wake - seems a bit worse for wear. He moves slowly, like he's trying to loosen up stiff limbs. But at least he seems to be taking more of an interest in his surroundings than the Ice Queen is. Gabi moves to intercept him.

"Hello," she says, flashing a smile and hoping for a warmer reaction than J.C. had gotten. "Are you a friend of Polnoch's too?"

"Not much of one apparently. Otherwise, I would have gotten my own bike," the man says with obvious sarcasm and a tired smile. He pulls off his own sunglasses and runs a hand through his dark wavy hair.

Upon closer inspection, Gabi refines her initial guess placing the man in his mid to late twenties. Slight epicanthic folds betray an Asian heritage, though his larger build and striking green eyes indicate a mixed parentage.

"Hi, I'm Colin," he says to Gabi as he reaches out to shake her hand in a warm greeting. "So, are you guys part of this training mission too? I'm a bit in the dark here since my friend," nodding his head in the direction of the other woman walking towards the plane, "is not much of a conversationalist."

"I got that impression when she went by," Gabi says, the brightness of her smile dimming slightly. "I'm Gabriella. That's J.C. and that's Nick over there," she points at each of the guys in turn, "and yeah, I guess we're a part of the training mission. I don't really know much about what's going on. I keep hoping that someone will show up who can tell me where we're going!"

J.C.'s gaze switches back and forth between the current conversation and the woman in leather as she nears the plane. The door opens crisply and Sasha hurries out, his formal pilot's hat on and his jacket precisely buttoned. He stands at the base of the stair, his posture impossibly rigid, and snaps a perfectly clean salute at her approach. She nods an acknowledgment and the two of them begin talking hurriedly in Russian.

"Wow. Nice hat, Sasha." J.C. speaks just loud enough to be heard by the immediate crowd. He leans forward on the basketball as if it will afford him a better look. "And a jacket. With buttons. That he actually buttoned. Omigod. Did he shave?"

"That's gotta be a first," Gabi mutters, thinking of the times the grizzled old pilot had flown her to various training sites. "And he saluted her, did you notice? I wonder what army they're in?"

Sasha salutes again and immediately begins barking orders to Hernando in Spanish. The woman in leather turns sharply and crisply begins walking toward the door.

"Beats the heck out of me," Colin says in response to Gabi's musings. "That is quite possibly the most I have ever heard her speak... not just all at once... I mean ever. Maybe I need to learn Russian...," he trails off with a bemused look on his face. "Anyway," he says looking back at Gabi, "if we're about to depart on another long trip I'm going to need some coffee. A lot. You got any around here?"

"No coffee, but we have a few of these left over from our last trip." J.C. stands up, reaches into the cooler and tosses Colin a Red Bull. "As far as what we're all doing here, I was filling in Gabi on what we know as you and your friend pulled up. Nick and I were coming back from Mexico in the plane when we got a message from P saying to stay at the air strip and meet him. Something about someone in trouble. So here we are. I'm not sure who's in trouble or what the deal is, but we stuck around to help."

Colin deftly snags the can from the air, pops it open and chugs the contents in three quick gulps. With a slightly pained look on his face he nods his thanks to J.C. "Someone in trouble..," Colin says in a quiet voice, a thoughtful expression coming over him. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts which were quickly leading him down a dark and troubled path, Colin puts on a determined smile and says, "Well, let's go help!"

"I think that's what they're gearing up for now," J.C. gestures toward Sasha and Hernando across the hangar as they rush to finish the plane's pre-flight prep work. "Hopefully, they'll be ready soon."

Paco, Lisa, JD & J
  #10  
Unread 26th of November, 2007, 09:20
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"Ey, Raz'yoba," the woman in leather calls out as she walks by Colin. With a nod from her head, she motions for him to follow.

"Excuse me," Colin says to Gabi as he turns and quickly falls in step with the enigmatic woman. The two walk briskly to the far corner of the hanger, and a old metal box that reminded Collin of a chest freezer. Without speaking the woman crouches along the side the chest and slips her hand behind it. A moment later there is a faint click. Righting her self she produces a key and unlocks the lightly rusted padlock on the front.

She slowly opens the container, and immediately Colin notices a series of six Russian mines wired to the cover. Groaning against the weight of the thirty two kilograms of high explosive and twelve thousand fragmentable steel rods, the hinged lid grinds upward and locks into place.


"Here," she says and thrusts a stack of body armor into Colin's chest. Peaking over the edge of crate he can make out neat rows of firearms, explosives, and ammunition.

Colin's eyes go wide at the sight of hardware and a whistle of surprise escapes his suddenly dry lips. This seems to be more than just a training mission.

The Russian beauty strips her long motorcycle jacket off and casually drops it to the floor, revelaing an amply filled, white cotton tank top which clings to her sculpted physique. She leans against the lip of the chest surveying her arsenal, the red silk bands of her thong just peaking over the top her low cut leather pants. With practiced ease, the dark haired woman begins pulling various firearms from the chest and loading them.

"You going to put on party dress, or take picture?"

"Oh..., er.. right," Colin stammers out, suddenly aware that he was indeed staring. Truthfully, he wasn't sure what he was staring at, the unbelievably beautiful woman standing before him, or the enormous amount of weapons she seemed to be stockpiling. He then also realized that he wasn't sure which of the two frightened him more.

Colin then begins to scrutinize the armor. It looks pretty much like the kevlar vests that he has seen worn by those S.W.A.T. guys in the movies. The ripping sound of velcro coming apart can be heard throughout the hangar as Colin opens up the vest and slips it on over his head, then cinching tight all the straps. Once in place he thumps his chest approvingly, feeling the hardened plates between the layers of kevlar covering his vital areas.

He then proceeds to strap on vanbraces and shinguards of the same material, designed to protect the lower parts of his arms and legs without hampering movement too much. To test just that, Colin moves a bit out of the way and starts a kata, slowly at first but quickly gaining momentum. Satisfied that he would be able to move well enough he takes stock of he ensemble.

Black armor, worn over a black t-shirt, black fatigues and black combat boots. He chuckles quietly to himself as he notices his subconcious choice of a color palate. All I need now is a flowing black cloak.

"Ey, Tin Man. You and surfer boy load gear," Sasha's gravely voice calls out from the plane as he jerks a thumb towards the pile of duffle bags they had unloaded not thirty minutes ago.

"Gotcha," J.C. stands up and starts collecting their gear along with Nick. "Dude," he says in a whispered chuckle, "which one of us do you think is 'Tin Man' and which one is 'surfer boy'?"

J.C. looks over at the pair at the weapons locker. "Dude?" he says to Nick, "Is Colin Batman?"

Gabi had been watching the scene over at the weapons locker with undisguised fascination. Guns? Body armor?! This mission isn't going to be anything like earthquake relief, she thinks, feeling a twist of fear in her belly.

But now she giggles at J.C.'s comment.

"Nick is obviously 'surfer boy'. But 'Tin Man'?" she says turning to J.C. "Why would he call you that?"

"Hey!" Nick chimes in. "I want to know why I'm obviously 'surfer boy'? I don't surf."

"It's the tan and the sun-bleached hair," Gabi explains with a laugh.

Nick smiles, "Well since your new around here I'll let it slide this time." Nick's face takes on a more serious look. "This little party is looking more and more like a Delta Force operation by the second. I wonder what kind of trouble were about to get into."

"Got no clue, dude." J.C. responds to Nick. Turning back to Gabi he smiles.

"You still want to know?" J.C. asks playfully. She nods. He tosses Nick the last of the luggage and leads Gabi to the corner of the hangar where they had all originally gathered. He gives a cautious look to make sure that all three of the doors across the front of the hangar--the large one for the plane, the garage door-sized one for vehicles, and the service door that everyone had been coming in through--are closed. His brow furrows slightly, but there is otherwise no sign of necessary concentration. Within the span of a heartbeat, J.C. stands before Gabi, his body no longer flesh and bone, but transmuted into a shiny silver metal.

"This is why." He has a look of reservation as he awaits Gabi's response.

Her jaw drops open at the transformation and she takes a step back. Gabi had known such things were possible, of course, even before her own latent mutant ability had manifested. Supers were always making headlines - you couldn't not know about them. And she'd already guessed that J.C. and Nick had some kind of special powers too, because of things that Polnoch had told her, and because of the conversation she'd had with the two of them earlier. But to see a man turn to metal right in front of her eyes... It's just amazing!

Her expression of stunned astonishment quickly gives way to an eager smile however.

"I knew it!" she says happily. "That is so cool! Have you always been able to do it?" Unable to resist, she reaches out and runs her fingers over the silvery, smooth surface of J.C.'s forearm. It feels tingly like one of those novelty plasma lamps, only colder, as if it had been in a freezer for a couple of hours. Tiny beads of condensated water run along the deep grooves of his musculature, making his limbs look even shinier.

"First time I changed was a couple years ago. Right there on the field at practice a couple of days before my first college game." His tone becomes a little melancholy at the next part. "Hurt one of our guys really bad. They were able to cover up my 'condition' and avoid a scandal. They made something up about a medical condition. Everyone bought it. But I could never play again. Coach pulled some strings for me, though. I stayed on as a trainer. But it wasn't the same. I hated it. Coach always thought I'd go pro. But not now..."

J.C. gets quiet for a moment as he loses the words.

"But, hey. Like Coach always says, 'Everybody tries. Nobody quits. When things get tough, you play hardball.'"

"Hey, Señor J.C., you should get your gear loaded before Sasha blows a vessle," Hernando chides as he scurries down the entry stairs and jogs across the hangar.

"Yeah yeah yeah," J.C. mutters under his breath. "Looks like I have to get back to work," J.C. says to Gabi. "We can talk later."

J.C. grabs the last of the bags and walks over to the plane.

Dave, Paco, Lisa, JD & J

Last edited by -J-; 26th of November, 2007 at 09:35.
  #11  
Unread 27th of November, 2007, 12:11
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Gabi watches J.C. walk away, thinking about the metahuman's story. He'd hurt someone badly the first time his power had manifested, and his dream of playing football had been shattered.

The first time could sure be rough...

She still can't remember all of what happened her first time, just what came before... and after. She'd never heard what had happened to Jerry. She couldn't bring herself to ask Polnoch about it, and she steadfastly refused to watch any news coverage of the "accident" at Sheppard Air Force base. For a long time afterwards she told herself that he'd simply run away.

But deep in her heart she knew what really happened to him. She knew.

Thinking about it makes her feel sick. Where's the bathroom in this place again? she wonders, suddenly worried that she's going to throw up. That would make a great first impression, wouldn't it? Time to board the jet for her fist mission, and there she is with her head in the toilet puking her guts out!

Get a grip... she tells herself, kneeling on the floor and pretending to look through her duffel bag for something. It takes a few minutes to pull herself together.
  #12  
Unread 1st of December, 2007, 09:41
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Cutting a wide path around Colin's exhibition, Hernando comes up behind the stern Russian woman. "I widen Tokarev's ejection port for Sasha," she says and casually passes a holstered pistol to the Cuban pilot. "Here's yours," she adds as she finishes loading a truly massive revolver. "I put in three hundred grain hotload. Try not to break nose again," she drops the pistol into a western style holster and hands it back. Tucking Sasha's pistol under his arm, Hernando loops the gunbelt around his waist and then ties off the holster around his thigh. He grabs a brace of MAC-10s and a satchel of clips and trots back to the plane.

"Raz'yoba, you looks pretty, like girl on first date. Come, pick out corsage," she says as she lines up several firearms for inspection.

Colin walks back over to the chest and looks over the impressive array. Various styles of handguns, machine guns and shotguns are on display. He reaches down and picks up a semi automatic pistol. He stares at it in his hand and tries to imagine himself sighting down the barrell, aiming it at another being and pulling the trigger. With a sickening twist in his gut he shudders slightly and shakes his head. Replacing the gun where he found it he says, "No thanks, I'll just stick with what I know. That's what we've been training so hard for, isn't it? Besides," he says with a sheepish grin, "I'd probably just end up shooting myself with it."

"Hmmm." Setting down the camouflaged AKMS she was finishing loading, she reaches into the crate and works a long, flat case out from between stacked bricks of plastic explosive. With out looking she thrusts the five by three foot case into his hands, then picks up her rifle and resumes inspecting it the firing chamber.

"Ooohhh, a present for me? It's just like Christmas, only with more bullets." Colin is still chuckling at his joke as he decides to take a look at the "present" that he is still clutching awkwardly.

His first thought is that it is about the same size as an electric guitar case, even sporting a handle in the middle of one of the long sides. Who needs Shadow powers, I'm gonna fight the forces of evil with a Flying-V! Colin grabs the handle in his right hand, his left supporting the case from beneath, and gently sets it down on the floor. As he releases the handle he sees that it is carved to resemble a Chinese dragon, it's long and winding tail connected to one hinge while the flames that are shooting from the lion's head connects to the other. The case itself is quite heavy, made from some type of solid hardwood with a dark cherry finish that does nothing to disguise the intricate grain pattern. A thick coat of clear lacquer covers the entirety of the case, protecting it like a transparent suit of medieval armor.

Colin's curiosity is piqued as he wonders what sort of weaponry he will find in such a container. Carefully he flips open the two brass latches and slowly opens the case. Inside were neatly packed daggers, rows of knives and throwing stars, flick batons, a three section staff and various other exotic melee weapons. The lid held a matching set of Chinese sabers, a set of hook swords, and sectional graphite staff with a choice of socketed spear tips.

"You keep. I need room for new fifty caliber." Before Colin can respond, the steel service door swings open.

J&J
  #13  
Unread 1st of December, 2007, 09:43
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As Nick stows the the last of his baggage he spies the gun laden Cuban on his way back to the plane. Nick quickly closes the compartment and makes his way to back to intercept him at the stairs. "Hernando looks like you're ready for world war three there. So what's the game plan man?"

"No sé, señor, I just help fly the plane." The hangar suddenly goes quiet as the heavy steel service door swings open, and a gaunt European in a slightly rumpled suit walks in.

Polnoch.

Dave & J
  #14  
Unread 1st of December, 2007, 09:56
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The plane ride from San Francisco lasted 1:16:32. More than an eternity for Paul to ask Polnoch enough questions that the younger man just needed to stare out the window and breathe. Watch the descent into Inyokern and consider scenarios.

"We all must take risks in order for this mission to succeed," Polnoch said wryly.

Paul never considered risking his life for himself let alone for others. Helping a woman in need sure. Help any one in need. Sure. Especially Paolo. Focus. But what am I doing? Helping someone special like me. Does that make us family?

The flat desert stretches out past the horizon as the plane descends from the mountains. The airfield etched into the surface like a glyph on the amulets. Paul picks out the hangars from 5000 feet and by 4,850 the lack of corporate logos helps him find the unobtrusive private one. Every stray glint of the sun off a wing makes him think of the Man of Steel and the Shapeshifter and the Fire Starter, but a jet blocks his view into the hangar.

Julius, Nick, Gabriella, and Colin The Shadow. He must be a ninja. And Luscinia Mistress of Pain. Paul shudders a hummingbird surprised. What must the Widow be like? He pictures a pant-suited woman who might be Polnoch's sister with a heavy brow and deep throaty European accent. No, Mr. Milwaukee, I expect you to die!

Giggling an octave below the plane's engine, Paul risks a glance at Polnoch only to sober at the sight of a tired old man girding his soul for another in what must seem an endless series of battles over how long? An old man unwilling to leave the field. How can he trust in me? Paul's hand twists the nametag in his pocket 38 times. Breathe, we're landing.

The landing takes another 2:18. The arrival of the steps and opening of the door 1:09. The transition from public landing to private hangar a mere 3:27. Paul raises an eyebrow. Polnoch smiles back with a mischievous glint underneath his ageless authority and aplomb.

They turn the hangar corner and Paul gapes at Atlas Unburdened. Ripped and shining the steel godling crosses the hangar. Paul closes his mouth with a pop and turns toward the hangar in a blur to hide his blush. Luscinia and a man all in black Johnny Cash are at the back wall apparently choosing weaponry. An older man hefting a pistol Pancho Villa listens to a young blond guy Nick? then Johnny Cash must be The Shadow. Paul smoothes his suit jacket with a lightning quick lingering brush of his hands and slowly almost naturally slips half a step behind Polnoch. Where's the Firestarter? Breathe. Her name's Gabriella. Try not to freakem out right away.
  #15  
Unread 3rd of December, 2007, 13:31
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"Luscinia, what's our status?" Polnoch calls out as he walks purposefully into the hangar.
"Fifteen minute," she says as the bolt of her AKMS snaps shut chambering a round.
"Excellent. Any news on Jack?" The woman pauses for a moment then simply shakes her head.
A look of disappoint flashes across his face, "Very well then...very well..." He pulls a dark colored cigarette from a case in his pocket and lights it. After a long inhale he turns to address his onlookers.

"I am very glad that all of you decided to come," his words roll out thick and warm, filled the richly scented smoke. "Now I'm sure you're all very curious as to what you have gotten your selves into..."
  #16  
Unread 4th of December, 2007, 05:00
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Almost on cue, a small side door rolls up with a metallic rumble as the overhead torsion springs effortlessly do their job. Framed against the yellow glare of the exterior sodium lamps is a man of average size and weight, wearing a dusty brown leather jacket and jeans made of heavy denim. His dark hair is cropped short and the shadow that covers his jaw is more than just five o'clock. His confidence of stride and intensity of gaze belie his otherwise ordinary appearance. Dark eyes pass casually over the assembly and cease their searching as they settle on Polnoch.

"You weren't going to start without me, were you?"

Last edited by Gralhruk; 4th of December, 2007 at 10:55.
  #17  
Unread 6th of December, 2007, 04:07
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Nick sizes up the newcomer as he steps aside to let the gun toting Cuban onto the aircraft steps. His gaze quickly shifts and focuses on Polnoch. Not one to waste time with formality or mincing words he gets right to point. “Sounds like you got about fifteen minutes to start explaining.” Thinking to himself of the spin the honey tongued Polnoch will put on the current situation.
  #18  
Unread 7th of December, 2007, 05:04
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Gabi had gotten to her feet just before the service door opened and Polnoch walked in. Something about the sight of the man settles her stomach instantly. Maybe it's his quiet authority. Maybe it's his slightly fussy mannerisms and his outward calm. She smiles when he lights up one of those horrible, stinking cigarettes of his. That spicy, smokey scent always reminds her of the night he'd appeared in her room at the Super 8 and led her away from her old life.

She takes up her bag and walks to where the others are gathering, moving with renewed confidence.
  #19  
Unread 9th of December, 2007, 15:59
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"You weren't going to start without me, were you?"

"Jack," Polnoch says with a friendly smile, "I'm so glad you were able to make it." Taking along drag he gives the dark haired man a moment to set down his worn duffel bag before returning his attention to Nick's statement.

"Quite right, Mr. Archer, quite right. Time is of the essence. So, let us get directly to the point...today at seven thirteen pm, twenty three college student were kidnapped from a house party by a powerful mage known simply as Widow. Among those abducted is a young metahuman named Katherine O'Neal. As we speak Widow is..." he pauses for a moment, his emotions briefly robbing him of his voice.

"She...is...torturing them, and she will continue to torture them until Katherine breaks, at which point she will kill them all." He takes another drag off his cigarette, the crackling of burning paper and tobacco strangely loud in the hushed hangar.

"So that is the crux of the situation. In..." he trails off as he glances at his watch, "...eleven minutes we'll be leaving. It is an impossible thing that I ask of you, I realize that. No one could be expected to risk so much for people they do not even know, so there is no shame in saying no. All I ask is that you consider it."

"Its time," the dark haired Russian calls out from the weapons chest as she finshes buckling on a black tactical vest. She lowers the creaky metal lid and picks up a military style bag bulging with weapons.

"Yes..." he takes a last lungful of rich slate smoke and then grinds his cigarette out with his heel. "I will give you a few minutes to discuss it amongst yourselves." He reaches into his jacket and pulls out a stack of long, brightly colored airline tickets, and sets them on a nearby table. With a nod to Luscinia the two of them board the plane.

Last edited by -J-; 10th of December, 2007 at 03:43.
  #20  
Unread 12th of December, 2007, 14:50
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“I don’t know what there is to discuss,” J.C. says, breaking the awkward silence set upon the group since Polnoch disappeared into the plane.

“It’s true that I don’t really know any of you, and I’ve never met these people in trouble. But Polnoch wants to help them, and he believes that we can. That’s good enough for me.”

J.C. looks squarely at each person in turn as he speaks. His massive silver body gleams under the ceiling lights.

“I think of how alone they must feel right now, and I’m ashamed because recently I thought that I was alone. Now I know that I had no idea what the word really meant. My whole life, I’ve been part of a team. When I lost that, I thought I’d never get it back.”

He hangs his head for a moment, looking at the floor before continuing.

“When I look at us, you know what I see? A second chance. And if your story is anything like mine or Nick’s, then you know just how special that is. For me, this is my second chance.”

His voice seems stronger now—more confident as he projects in a rich baritone that carries across the private hangar.

“We all came here for different reasons, but we found the same thing: each other. Now, I’ve played for a lot of teams in a lot of leagues over the years, but this is way bigger than anything I’ve ever done. This is a league of titans, playing for the ultimate stakes. And I couldn’t have asked for a finer team.”

There isn't a trace of doubt in his voice.

“We can do this. Now let’s go save the day.”

Last edited by Hardball; 12th of December, 2007 at 15:01.
  #21  
Unread 13th of December, 2007, 15:31
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Paul stood very still as Polnoch boarded. His eyes wide open breathe in 1.5 pause just .3 breathe out 1.5. Julius started speaking a rumble soft and slow distant avalanche. Then Paul had not taken a breath for a number seconds. He'd lost count when that herculean gaze rested on him.

"...we can."

After that the world crawled by Julius rumbling on growing bigger his steel spine straightens his shoulders ripple back as the light glints off him dazzling Paul. I'm with him we're with Polnoch fight the witch save the children huddle break.

"...go..."

Paul's at the the table palming tickets McGruder and Milwaukee.

"...save..."

He's at Julius' side.

"...day."

Paul nods wide-eyed and lips pressed shut as he hands Julius his ticket. breathe out 1.5 sec He steps back in a blur flips his olive tie into place and rips his ticket into tiny pieces. He stares at the moving idol for another full second, nods again and streaks up into the plane the remains of the brightly colored plane ticket trailing in his wake like confetti.

Last edited by Reinstadler; 14th of December, 2007 at 01:28. Reason: correct ticketing confusion
  #22  
Unread 14th of December, 2007, 13:54
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Gabriella stands there quietly chewing her lip as the the shining godling speaks.

"We can do this. Now lets go save the day."

Without saying anything she walks over to the table with the tickets and pulls hers out.

Gabriella Smith
From Inyokern Airport (IYK)
To: Open

She turns the ticket over in her hand for a moment as the weight of her nascent decision settle into her stomach.

A year ago she would have taken that ticket and left. She would have gone somewhere, anywhere far, far away and never looked back.

She rolls the ticket upright and in a flash of blue-white flame vaporizes it.

A year ago she was normal.

Today she is a Titan.

Picking up her duffel bag she flashes J.C. a smile and walks toward the plane.
  #23  
Unread 19th of December, 2007, 03:24
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Colin seems transfixed by the moving speech of the metal man, his head nodding of it's own accord, subconciously agreeing with every word. The spellbinding moment is punctuated with a shower of confetti trailing away to the plane's interior and Gabi incinerating her plane ticket in a puff of smoke.

Colin looks back at J.C., "Heck of a speech man. Really, I mean it. I literally want to go kick someone's ass now."

Colin walks over to the table and stares down at the plane ticket with his name on it. He chuckles and then moves up the steps and into the plane. J.C. can hear him say, "Hey Polnoch, I couldn't have left if I wanted to. You misspelled my name again.. It's Colin with one L... one L!"
  #24  
Unread 2nd of January, 2008, 11:25
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Nick had watched the others board with a look of resolution in his eyes. He had made his choice on that dark and lonely road. There would be no going back now. He just had wanted to see what the others would do. Now there was only one remaining.

Looking to the newcomer. “You didn’t come all this way to throw in the towel now did you?”

Without waiting for a response Nick quickly turns to J.C. giving an approving nod before striding the few steps back to the plane’s steps disappearing into the interior.
  #25  
Unread 3rd of January, 2008, 08:17
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Jack watches as one after another of those gathered board the plane, all but the shining man of steel, words from the unexpectedly moving speech still echoing in his mind. When he was young he dreamed about being Superman and saving the day. Typical dreams for a boy, but it had been more than that for him, prisoner as he was in a body aged far beyond his meager years. The words tugged at his soul, put that long abandoned dream within his reach, if only he would reach out and take it. They would find these hostages and free them - become heroes one and all, to earn the adulation of humanity for their superhuman efforts.

The cynic in him knows it for the carefully spun lie it is. Jack didn't know who this metal skinned godling was but his words and his demeanor were a pretty good barometer. There could be no greater difference between the two of them.

Superman never used some mutant ability to horribly warp the laws of nature and bodily suck the life out of the bad guys, so that they shrivelled and died screaming for mercy. Because what would Jack do, confronted by an enemy? Big shiny over there would wade toward them through a hail of artillery, handcuff them with a few artistic twists of their shotgun barrels, then call the police to send them to jail. Jack flexed his fingers and gritted his teeth, knowing what his power could do, knowing that his skin wasn't any kind of protection.

You didn't come all this way to throw in the towel did you?

Why had he come here? He'd been set on doing things he should have done long ago instead of crawling into a bottle. Picking up the pieces of his life and moving forward. Seeing Elizabeth. Polnoch had asked him to come, of course, in his own guiltily-guilt-free way. And Jack should have felt some obligation to do just that, given all that the older man had done for him, or some sense of duty to use his abilities for something other than aging liquor. But Jack, being Jack, had other ideas and other things to do. He'd made up his mind to start by seeing Elizabeth, regardless of the fact that she didn't want to see him. Maybe he had chickened out and let Polnoch's voice convince him he could be something more. Maybe he'd hoped that when he saw her he'd be a hero instead of what he was - for that, he could wait a little longer to make that trip.

He was aware that Superman or Ironman or Titaniumman was staring at him, a supremely open and confident look etched on his metallic features. He would never admit it out loud but he wanted to be that guy, shrugging off bullets and saving the girl. No, he'd never be that guy but maybe this was his second chance. He didn't have to be on the wrong side all the time. He could take what he'd been given and use it for something good - maybe even to save someone, sometime.

Or to save 23 someones, right now.

"Alright."

A single word, but that one word gave birth to acceptance, decision, commitment.

He walks toward the plane, his emotions a conflicting mass of pride and fear, hitching his worn duffel higher on his shoulder. There wasn't much in there that would help him - extra clothes, mostly. He slows as he passes the weapons table outside the aircraft, realizing how unprepared he was for this. No weapons of much use to him there - anything too mechanical was in serious danger of malfunctioning, and he was better bare knuckled than with any simple weapon. But the body armor, on the other hand . . .

He gives a quick glance back, then slides an arm through one kevlar bundle and scoops it up. He pointedly ignores his ticket as he squares his shoulders and boards. He didn't want to think about what he could do.

Last edited by Gralhruk; 3rd of January, 2008 at 08:24.
 

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