NEW VINDICATORS (Books I - XIII)

This is the place to recount your superheroic deeds for all to gaze upon with astonishment and wonder.
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Michuru81
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Post by Michuru81 » Mon Feb 26, 2007 6:12 pm

smashed247 wrote:Like I didn't see that coming
LOL What part? Lex's predictable move, giving up his secret identity for Jacque? Magnus opting to leave the prefects out of the information loop to make himself look better? Coriolis' infatuation with Maria [EDIT: Er... Jacque... my mistake...] or his using Saffron's infatuation with Maria to recruit her to the Affiliation?

Admittedly, New Vindicators #10 stunk. Through out the actual campaign, the PCs were kept involved through frequent training in the Wreck Room. They're mentioned a few times through the story... but not reflected here. They were the main source of action (and the main reason why so many of the PCs loathe Rumble...) and yet... #10 was more story than anything. Even I was bored, GMing this issue.

I've got to admit, I'm not overtly satisfied by the dailies of this portion of the story. Hopefully, I can manage to redeem myself in the days to come with the backstory of a character referenced but never shown. If not then, I'm still confident that everyone reading will still be surprised by the revelations coming in less than two weeks.

The Leader is coming...
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Post by smashed247 » Mon Feb 26, 2007 8:23 pm

D. All of the above...Except for Saffron's infatuation with Maria, I got that she was infuatuated with Jaque but not Maria!

Ohhh! So Drew did actualy beat the crap out of Ben with his own powers. Ha!

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Post by Michuru81 » Mon Feb 26, 2007 8:46 pm

smashed247 wrote:D. All of the above...Except for Saffron's infatuation with Maria, I got that she was infuatuated with Jaque but not Maria!

Ohhh! So Drew did actualy beat the crap out of Ben with his own powers. Ha!
That was a mistake on my part. I do that every so often. :) [Okay, okay... I do it a lot...]

There was a fight in Tokyo not used in the narrative. Drew first used Magnus' powers to set sprinklers off, then synched to Ben's powers- freeze the area to let it rain ice needles. Everyone got overtly creative in Japan though. Portal (who didn't appear in the narrative's issue #6) had Lodestone use magnetism to split and guide his electrical blasts.

Another time he synched up with Ben to create a wall of ice. He made excessive use of the precise feat to put a ventilation tunnel through it to a hollow core. When everything was ready he latched onto Gale's powers to electrify the ice. An electrical current seperates the hydrogen and oxygen molecules, which due to the variation in weight, rise differently. A surge of fire to the core and the wall exploded into chunks of ice. If memory serves right, that exploding wall of ice did take out Frostbite...

Admittedly, half the stuff Drew has done in the game session Frostbite couldn't do without someone else's powers. It's only because of Drew's abilities that he's able to mix effects for these sorts of things.

On a sidenote- our group went through New Vindicators #23 last Friday night and... as a result of everything that happened- Issue #24 begins with Hourglass and Frostbite (the only two graduates remaining at the school) teaching a new class of PCs. Thus, Frostbite really has come into his own. He's a lot more confident and competent when it comes to his powers... which... is good as he's leading a squad of high schoolers now.
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New Vindicators, Chapter 90

Post by Michuru81 » Mon Feb 26, 2007 9:34 pm

Chapter XC: Eye of the Tiger
With the revelations brought by Alexander Sway, the night was officially a bust. A few couples had slipped out, making their way for seedy motel rooms. Some had left the moment a Neo-Sapien outed himself, fearing the worst was hot on his heels. Magnus Loder and Maria Espada had remained through to the end though, actually beginning to enjoy just simply being with each other and not plotting the downfall of a secret organization.

“Hey, Loder!”

One arm slipped around Maria’s waist, Magnus stopped and craned his neck to find the caller and was surprised to find Jack Olsen coming towards him. He didn’t think the treasured quarterback even knew his name. “Loder!”

“Um… Olsen?” Olsen didn’t sound good, but Magnus mentally shrugged; he wasn’t about to be intimidated by the rudimentary tactics of a teenager. He was a trained negotiator; he knew what people wanted to hear and what they needed to hear. He knew how to play on their emotions and pick up what was really behind the words they were saying. Rage slithered across the Enforcer’s tone and was all the forewarning he needed. He pushed Maria aside and ducked just as the big man swung for him.

Magnus’ eyes ran over the youth’s tuxedo. Metal buttons and metal cufflinks. He was sure he could control them. He felt out with his powers, just enough to confirm it. He could easily control them but quick movements combined with weight would pull them right off the rented garments. There was no advantage there—not unless he was looking to make the quarterback pay more when he took his clothes back to Savy Formalwear.

Instinct told him to find the reason Jack Olsen was angry. No one just randomly exploded at someone they had never even spoken to; there had to be a trigger to his rage. There she was, not far behind Jack; she was the very image of radiance and for a fleeting moment Magnus wondered just why he had ever broken things off with Chienne Bedford to begin with. ‘If we were still together,’ he thought, ‘right now we’d be-’ He knew exactly where they’d be; it was the very reason he had broken things off with her. They would be exactly where she and Adonis had been. He would have slept with her and who knows how long he had before she learned of his Neo-Sapien powers.

“What did Chienne tell you, Jack?” Magnus asked, dodging wild swing after wild swing. “Did she tell you she’d sleep with you if you beat me up? What? She’ll take you to paradise if you send me to the hospital?”

“She told me about how you treated her!” Jack snarled. “You kept pushing her to sleep with you… You pushed and you pushed and when she wouldn’t, you raped her and broke things off!”

Magnus slipped around knuckles as jagged as saw’s teeth and connected with one of his own. His size left little impact in the athlete’s chiseled form. Rather than the desired effect, the blow had a reverse outcome; Magnus withdrew, cradling his fist and wondering if he had broken anything.

Magnus staggered back and felt the press of chains brush against his back. He spun around and found that their melee had them traversing upon a small neighborhood park. With his powers he could use that swing set as a weapon; with them he could end this fight in no time. ‘No!’ he told himself as he looked around to the crowd of their peers Jack’s rampage had attracted. ‘Lex screwed things up by outing himself! You won’t do the same!’

‘Kill him!’ the voice in his head screamed. ‘If she’s telling people we bumped uglies, we might as well make it true! Kill him and take the girl… see if Maria’s into the kinky stuff!’

“Shut up!” Magnus screamed. Magnus was only a vessel for two beings: the red and blue, positive and negative Magnus Loder. The two normally kept each other in constant check; normally there was a balance. Right here, right now though, the blue Magnus had bested his twin. He had gotten away and it was only a matter of time before he manifested himself physically.

Jack let out a savage cry as he barreled forward. Thinking quick, Magnus spun around to put the chains between them. He dodged the strike and with his hands coiled the chain around the quarterback’s wrist. He didn’t have much strength… but he could compensate with his own body weight. “I’m sorry!” he exclaimed as he kicked up, dropping his feet onto the thick, rubber mat which formed a seat. The chain tightened and Jack howled in pain as his wrist snapped. “You brought it on yourself though!” he said as he grabbed the chain and pulled himself up. “If you’re going to fight someone, make sure you know how to actually fight!”

Magnus’ feet connected with Jack’s chest and threw him backwards. Jack’s swagger was broken as he fell against the cemented steel bars of the playground. “You don’t need to know how to fight,” Jack grumbled, “so long as you’ve got an edge!”

Magnus’ eyes widened in horror as the woodchips laid down on the playground levitated into the air and shattered through the night for Magnus. He swung his body around, hoping to let them fly past them but it was to little avail; one of the chips stabbed into his shoulder. “Tele—telekinesis?” he asked as he wretched it out of his body with his other hand. “You—you’re a Neo-Sapien!?!”

Chienne’s fervor grew at the sight of Jack Olsen using powers against Magnus Loder. “No,” Jack grumbled. “I’m not a Neo-Sapien… My—my biological father was though. At least, we think he was. My brother had to get his powers from somewhere.”

Jack vanished from sight and the wood mulch covering the ground parted as he blazed across the distance between them. Magnus went sailing through the air and landed in a hand formed of the earth itself. As Magnus’ skin brushed against the grass he recognized Maria’s power signature. Thankfully, given the size of the crowd, her identity would not be exposed.

Magnus got to his feet shakily and looked across the yard to Jack. The man had flung him fifty feet back and unless Magnus’ eyes had played tricks on him he had used super-speed to do it. “Exactly what are you?” the Neo-Sapien asked.

“I’m just a guy, trying to protect his girl.”

“I don’t imagine it would help if I said she was lying? That I never even had sex with her?”

Energy rippled around Jack’s left arm—the one without the broken wrist—invisible but for the distortion of the air that gave it away. Magnus watched it and he thought back to what he had learned from Doctor Styles on power recognition.

“His name is Unno Rokuro,” she had said, “a shinobi capable of manipulating kinetic energy. He can use it to move objects, throwing them really. His power lacks the sort of grace Mister Loder or Miss Espada have with their own kinetic talents. He can also fling aside projectiles, using force to counteract the momentum of a barrage of high caliber bullets. With an explosion of force behind him he has super speed or he can hurl it forward for his most devastating effect.”

“Kinetickinesis?” Magnus asked, finding the power slightly redundant in name. Still, it was all the same. But Jack Olsen claimed he wasn’t a Neo-Sapien… how was he doing this?

Moonlight glinted off the necklace that had slipped out from under his shirt and suddenly Magnus knew. He recognized it from his trip to Japan some five months ago. It was Yasakani no Magatama—one of the Imperial Treasures of Japan. “The gem,” he said. “How did you get it?”

“I found it a few weeks ago,” Jack said. “I was out for a jog one morning and… there it was, right in my path. I started wearing it as a lucky charm and… surprise, surprise… it gave me powers like a Neo-Sapien. My step-dad… he’s had experience with costumed heroes. He helped me get some control over it.”

“So that’s why they call you the Enforcer, huh?”

“Actually, I’ve had the nickname longer than I’ve had the jewel.”

“I didn’t rape her, Jack. She’s lying.”

“I can’t believe that.”

“I didn’t have sex with her. I’ve never had sex with anyone. Do you really think an eighteen-year-old is going to lie about something like that?”

Jack punched the air and set a shock wave of kinetic energy burning through the space between them. Magnus closed his eyes… and reached out… and when he opened them he was hardly surprised by what he saw…

Jack Olsen had thrown everything he had into one surge of kinetic energy. It seemed that his all wasn’t enough. At least, it wasn’t enough to breach the patchwork armor Magnus Loder had created. The chains from the swing coiled around his arms, like long and course maille gauntlets. A nearby slide had been shaped to cling perfectly to his breast while a hubcap adorned his chest for decoration and added support.

His legs were clad in expensive watches and jewelry spoilt young girls had pilfered from their mother’s rooms. Cold, angry eyes flashed out from behind a molten helm of cuff links- communicating to his opponent that he was now serious. “Why so surprised, Jack? You look as if you didn’t know that I was a Neo-Sapien.” Chienne’s mouth contorted as she realized she had spent months kissing and holding hands with such an abomination. “You mean she didn’t tell you that I used my Neo-Sapien powers to hold her captive when I forced myself upon her?” Magnus’ nervous laughter rattled inside the helm as he trembled from the humor he alone found in her lies. “Chienne! You do me too much honor! I mean, here I had thought that I was so physically unimposing but… you went and told Jack that I over-powered you by myself!? That’s just too funny… What’s the matter, Jack? Don’t you think this is hilarious?”

“Magnus-”

With a wave of his hand he stalled Maria’s outburst. Perhaps it wasn’t obedience which stilled her tongue but simply raw fear. “What happened to it, Jack?”

“Ex—excuse me?”

“The fight in you: where did it go? I mean… a minute ago, you were so content to slam into me and throw energy blasts around. Why is it that the second I show you my hand—the second it becomes a fair fight you back down?”

The young man couldn’t understand why so many onlookers remained. At the sight of what Jack was capable of, many should have become terrified of being so close to a Neo-Sapien. Magnus’ own display should have sent them running for the hills. Perhaps they were scared to the spot or perhaps it was the attraction of it all that kept them there… Magnus felt out with his power and grinned. “Anyone got a quarter?” Spare change tore from the onlooker’s pockets and gathered above his upturned palm. “Funny thing about the coinage of the United States… Pennies, nickels… they’re copper and zinc—non-ferrous metals, really. Dimes and quarters were originally mostly silver, but after 1965, their composition changed. Cupronickel is an alloy of copper, nickel and strengthening impurity—like iron and manganese. It’s been around for millennia. I’d be lost without it.”

The coins propelled through the air, pelting Jack’s flesh with a speed reminiscent of a bullet. Still, with the jewel his flesh was impervious. Such attacks had little effect on him. Magnus’ trick with the chain had only been a fluke before. Now Jack understood that he couldn’t take his opponent lightly. “Nice trick, Loder! What else have you got? Gunna cut out my tongue with my own fillings?”

“Hardly. Dental fillings are mostly mercurial: a non-ferrous element that’s mostly diamagnetic. I can however…” Magnus raised his arms for the oncoming behemoth and the chains unraveled towards Jack, coiling tightly around his arms instead. Magnus turned then and Jack’s rampaging form tethered to his own. He began to spin, ultimately releasing Jack into the air and sending him flying as he himself had just moments before.

“Do you know what the most ironic part of this whole thing is!?” exclaimed Magnus as he reached up for the helm obscuring his face. “I’m guessing that each and every one of you is going to call for my expulsion for this. Your parents will complain to the school board about how dangerous I am to be allowed near you all… and yet, I’ve been here all year. I’ve never hurt a one of you… not until tonight. Not until Jack Olsen attacked me.” Long, blue hair fell from the inside of the helmet as Magnus shook himself free of the metal mask. “Neo-Sapiens aren’t the danger here… bigots are.”

“You’ve had your fun,” the other Magnus called from the sidelines. “It’s time to come back now. This has to end.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

“It will end without shedding blood!”

“Our aunt preaches that if humanity is content to paint us as monsters… we may as well dress the part.”

“And look where it got her.”

“Do you mean Alcatraz?” the blue-haired Lodestone asked of his counterpart. “The Order of Chaos was unleashed from that hell… they’ll be baptizing this country in terror soon enough.”

The red-haired Magnus shook his head as he began to advance slowly. He had prepared an inspiring retort to everything his negative side embraced but those words were lost to the sound of his ribs breaking from the force of the Enforcer’s punch.

“You see?” the other Magnus asked. “They never learn… humanity ought to know when it’s beaten and keep its head down… lest someone come along and lob it off!”

He reached out, pulling everything magnetic he could and turning it on those foolish enough to stand spellbound by their melee. Accuracy was no problem- not when the cloud of shrapnel exploded outward and flew for everyone present.

As the junior and senior classes screamed and cringed… nothing happened. One-by-one they looked up, only to find the metal shards frozen in the air inches from them. Maria was equally surprised; she looked to the red-haired Magnus lying not far from her but he appeared barely coherent.

Scanning the crowd her eyes fell on another couple who had paused to watch the battle. Donna-Anne Manther seemed genuinely surprised by her date; Cloud Goodman stood amongst the sidelines, a hand raised to command the chaos to cease. Maria Espada knew that Cloud Goodman was actually Chimera and she knew Silvia Li’s power to switch bodies was now instilled in Richard Jorgenson’s form—utilizing his own talent for morphing. Still, it was something neither Maria nor Magnus had been able to rationalize…

Twice now Drew had used his powers while Cloud was present and twice he has lost control over the magnetic and gravitational manipulation. There was no denying that those powers were coming from Chimera now—with each occurrence the possible suspects had dwindled considerably. What allowed Chimera to manipulate the very forces that kept the earth turning?

And why did Chimera possess powers so similar to those of Atlas?

None of the other students seemed to notice that Cloud had done anything. Most were either too terrified or too relieved to take notice. Still, Maria had… and Donna-Anne seemed just as suspicious.

The Spanish girl moved to the red-haired Magnus’ side, helping him shakily to his feet. “Jack and the other you are stunned,” she said. “Now is your chance!”

Magnus grabbed hold of his other self and the two reabsorbed into their collective form. Falling to his knees, Magnus panted and fought to catch his breath. Over his labored breathing he failed to notice the sound of police cars approaching but the others had. Cloud pulled Donna-Anne away and into the night and Jack Olsen had hurried Chienne away. “We need to get away,” Maria said. “We can’t stay here… You know what everyone will tell the police!”

“I can... hardly… move…”

Maria pulled him close and lowered her free arm to the earth. A chunk of the playground uprooted itself and began to carry the pair off into the darkness. “Magnus… when the other you—was it you who stopped him?”

“He held everyone,” Magnus said. “He didn’t… didn’t just stop the attack… He kept them from…”

“Who?”

“I felt… I felt that before… in Patriot Robotics. His powers… they didn’t work on me then either.”

“Who, Magnus? Whose powers didn’t work on you?”

Magnus heaved again and managed the name barely- not out of his physical impairment but out of the fear that traveled up his spine and out his mouth at the utterance of such a name. “Atlas.”
Michuru81 wrote:Next up... After Prom Excitement!
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Post by smashed247 » Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:38 pm

God! She's such a Chienne!

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New Vindicators, Chapter 91

Post by Michuru81 » Wed Feb 28, 2007 7:59 pm

Chapter XCI: Monkey Wrench
Lex Sway, Jacque Webber, Magnus Loder and Maria Espada sat in the Wreck Room before a disgruntled gathering of faculty members. All four of the heroes who had composed the Vindicators IV in the 1970s were seated here: Mister and Missus Goodman were wedged between Professor Alston and Doctor Bradley. Miss Pandora DiMera leaned against the wall by the door and though Miss Breanne Jordan mirrored her expression by standing beside her the differences in the two women were more than apparent. Miss Jordan was several years Miss DiMera’s junior and her body was slender and straight; the Greek-born educator accented her curvaceous form with clothing choices that were far from modest.

Doctor James Howell appeared more nervous than angry; he had only joined the faculty here a few months ago and only after being paroled from Alcatraz. Some assessed that it was Doctor Natalie Styles’ status at the school which left him so uncomfortable; she had been a member of the sixth incarnation of the Vindicators and had been one of the heroes who had made his conviction possible. He had never been as malicious as the other super-powered villains the Vindicators encountered and as his crimes were committed to gather the funds he needed for research he believed would benefit the world he endeavored to never harm a living being in his illicit acts. As such, he never felt the need to apologize to her for the circumstances that arose when the pair met in battle; he simply perceived that she would be the hardest to win over due to their shared past.

Aside from the simian clad in the white lab coat, the only other adult here not wearing something resembling a scowl was the eldest of the collective. The aged aborigine known as Mister Jacob Lang sat in the back of the room, beaming proudly at the foursome fidgeting before them.

Every so often his drifted to the last of the group and fell upon Colonel John Sidell. Affectionately known to some as Colonel Crowbar, the man served as the Director of SPB Affairs, a branch of the United Nations’ Security Council. The task of policing Super-Powered Beings on behalf of the citizens of Earth fell on his shoulders which left the operations of the New Vindicators Academy—all three campuses—under his jurisdiction. “Does she plan on coming?” he spat as he continued to pace back and forth, anxious to begin—and subsequently end—this inquest.

“I told you I couldn’t reach her on her cell,” growled Miss DiMera. “She has it turned off.”

“Wonderful,” Colonel Sidell grumbled, thrusting one hand into his pockets and rubbing the back of his neck nervously with the other. “The one of you who’s overseen Project: Reunification isn’t here to discuss how the entire social experiment might just have been flushed down the drain with the end in sight.”

He looked to the four students seated before them all and shook his head in disgust. “Did any of you think about what was at stake? What in the name of all you hold holy were you kids thinking revealing yourselves like that tonight!?!”

“With all due respect,” offered Lex cautiously, “Jacque and Maria have not been outed as Neo-Sapiens. Shouldn’t your judgment be reserved for Magnus and myself alone?”

“Always the martyr, eh, Sway?” asked the colonel. He pointed to the cylinder screen that sat in the middle of the room and to the various news stories being reported from the island. Reporters were infesting Roosevelt Island and, like the remora they were, attached themselves to any young person in a tuxedo or gown to delve into all that had happened tonight. “They don’t have any video footage, just testimony, but the secret is definitely out! As of tonight the students at Eleanor Roosevelt High School know that Alexander Sway and Magnus Loder are Neo-Sapiens!”

“That’s my point, sir,” began Lex. The colonel quickly cut him off.

“They’re going to start asking themselves questions! An overwhelming portion of the population despises your kind, Sway! They’re going to start wondering why Webber would be dating a Neo-Sapien! Worse… she could be attacked now! It’s believed that Adonis Skraag got his abilities from his dad… so why was his mom killed? We believe she was just a normal human being but yet… she’s still six feet under, Sway! People hate Neo-Sapiens because they fear them! You got that? Fear makes people do stupid things… They won’t come after you because they’re afraid of you… but that doesn’t change that they hate you and they want to make you hurt! In their eyes the easiest way to do that will be to go through her! They’re going to view Webber as your Achilles’’ heel! So what happens when you’re attacked, Webber? What happens when the only way to save your sorry hide is to fling everyone to the floor?”

Jacque lowered her eyes in shame. She was guilty of nothing yet, but that didn’t change that she felt so responsible for the entire situation.

“We were counting on you, Lex. You were the one in the program who was actively engaged in any form of athletics at the school-”

“What difference does it make?” asked Lex. “Are you suggesting that if all had went according to plan and our status had been revealed after graduation that my performance on the field wouldn’t be suspect then? I’m sorry sir but that’s laughable! Whether or now or a month from now they were going to be suspicious!”

“That’s beside the point, Sway.” Colonel Sidell looked at the clock hovering over the door and then to his naked wrist. “Someone call Natalie again,” he growled. “She should be here for this…”

Miss DiMera was shaking her head as she produced her cell phone and dialed her best-friend’s number again. Again it went straight to voice mail and again she merely hung up without leaving a message.

“So what now?” asked Magnus Loder. “What happens to Lex and I now?”

“As of right now, I want all four of you pulled from that school,” Colonel Sidell said meekly. “It won’t be long before Webber is attacked to get to Sway and Espada… well, at some point someone is going to start to wonder who made that hand of earth that caught Loder and… like I said before, some people are going to be smart enough to question why a normal girl would knowingly date a Neo-Sapien.”

“I won’t leave,” Lex said.

“What?” asked Colonel Sidell, Mister Goodman and Magnus Loder in unison.

“Sir?” asked Lex, choosing his words carefully, “you said this experiment was conducted to show the world that we could overcome the pressure to use our powers and… even though Magnus used his powers against Jack Olsen he was just defending himself against another SPB and that has to be overlooked!

“You wanted to prove that we could fit into society and refrain from using our abilities, despite overwhelming pressure to let loose… and this is the perfect test. I can’t speak for the others but… let them say what they want and let them do what they want—I’m devoted to this project and I would like to see it through to the end.”

Jacque and Maria were nodding in agreement. Magnus looked from Lex to Maria and then to Colonel Sidell. He sighed and then nodded his agreement as well.

“All right,” the man said after a few quiet moments of reflection. “We’ve done it with Adonis and we’ll do it with you too. You can all stay as Eleanor Roosevelt High School provided you assure me there will be no further incidents like these.” He didn’t have to motion to the monitors—they knew what he meant.

“I can’t make that promise,” Lex said as he stood up, “but I promise I will do my best to make you all proud.”

For Colonel Sidell that seemed to be enough. “Dismissed, kids.”

Two-by-two the New Vindicators left the faculty in the War Room to debate the night’s events. Still, one thing was still nagging at the colonel’s subconscious. “Exactly what is so important that Natalie has her cell phone turned off?” he demanded.
Michuru81 wrote:Next up... the unabridged biography of Bridget Hart, the fallen Vindicator known simply as Bio...
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New Vindicators, Chapter 92

Post by Michuru81 » Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:57 am

Chapter XCII: The Glory of Love
Natalie couldn’t stop grinning. She sat in the cushy arm chair with her knees hugged into her chest, her chin resting softly atop them. Across the table she took in every bit of him: the long brown hair tinged just slightly with grey, tied in back by a leather chord. His jagged face that never seemed to cease to show worry and weariness—a child of the early eighties, the man had borrowed a term from Jim Henson’s body of work and dubbed it ‘wembling’. He was a grim companion and yet… the very essence of Michuru Bradshaw was an intoxicating thing to Doctor Natalie Styles. “Check,” he said, luring her from her daydreams and back to the chess board.

“Where?” she asked, her eyes fumbling across the board.

“Knight.” He barely even gestured to the board; his hands were folded, hiding the lower half of his face as he leaned forward. She assumed he had entered into such a state to engineer the perfect strategy against her. The truth was he simply gazed over the tops of his hands and wondered why a girl as intelligent and funny and beautiful and alluring as she was would ever want to spend a fraction of a moment with him.

She had come to know the way he thought from playing these games with him. In Chess, he valued the knights above all other pieces. She had always relied heavily on the queen—being able to move any which way seemed an asset few could overlook. Still, he had shown her the value in the horses. “A knight may not be able to move anyway they want or go as far as they want… but they can move in such a way that you confuse and beguile; you hide your true intent behind a veil and strike without warning.” He put so much thought into every game he played. Above all else, he was a brilliant Go player; he had tried to teach her but even though the game seemed so simple the reality of it was that it was so complicated; she had a hard time wrapping her mind around the subtle intricacies of the ancient game.

“Tell me about her,” she said, shattering the silence suddenly as she continued to search the chess board for a way out of her boyfriend’s trap.

“Excuse me?” Michuru asked.

“Bridget… you—you mentioned once that she played these games. Did she play Go?”

“She picked it up fairly quickly but… she always fell for my corner eyes. Every time she’d realize my agenda too late and would move to disrupt the line and… every time she would only end up losing more stones. She knew that I loved to play the Tengen as my opening move and she would start right there—just to infuriate me.”

Natalie smiled sincerely as she imagined those times: the man who dwelt in her head playing archaic board games with the woman he couldn’t forget. She had never met Bridget Hart but when she started to have feelings for her fellow educator so many months ago, she had pulled up whatever files the Vindicators had kept on the young woman. There was only so much you could learn from a file though. “Why the interest?” he asked.

“I just… I dunno. I guess I just want to know about her.”

“You could read her file-”

“I know. I have. It’s just…” Natalie sighed and took a deep breath as she stepped to the edge. She was willing to take the chance and plunge in head-first. “I love you.” It felt so weird to tell him that, considering how she felt about those words. It had only been a week since he had said those three small words to her and she had argued them before recanting. She grinned as she thought back on the memory of that night and blushed as she recalled where that night had taken them… “I love you and… and you loved—you love her and… and I know that she made you happy when she was- I—I love her too. I love her for… for being there for you and for being your friend and for… for treating those feelings you gave her so well and sharing some of hers with you and… and… I just… I just want to know her the way you do, I suppose.”

Michuru said nothing and the logs in the fireplace broke the awkward silence with their crackling. “I swear to God, if you don’t say something, I just may actually explode and ruin this carpet.”

“I’d been thinking about tearing it up anyway… maybe try hard-wood flooring.”

“Mich!”

“I—what, Natalie? What do you want me to say? I—I really… I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

“You could try, oh, I don’t know… at the beginning?”

“I never ask you about Alex Higgins.”

Natalie imagined herself overturning the chess board, knocking all the pieces to his feet as she cracked his skull open with the door. She managed to compose herself though. “There was nothing between Alex and me.”

“Rosa told me about how the team before ours disbanded. She said that Alex was the first to leave… that he couldn’t handle being around you.”

Natalie threw back her head and sank into the chair. “God… you know… you can’t know what it’s like to be responsible for something that you never did. I—I was a kid, all right. I was younger than most of the students at the academy are and… You want to know what happened between me and Alex Higgins? Here it is: I was a kid who couldn’t mesh with any of the adults on the team. Stephen and Scarlet were married and had Atlanta. Jacob was married and raising Magnus. Rosa was dating that news reporter and Alex was a nation apart from his girlfriend. He felt as cast aside as I did in our downtime and Alex started… he started to fantasize about having a relationship with me. He didn’t like thinking that way about a thirteen-year-old girl and he quit, went home, and married his girlfriend. We never spoke again. We didn’t have a relationship but… there you go. Satisfied?”

He was not—not with himself at least. “I’m sorry.”

“You should be.”

“Sore subject?”

“Very.”

“So is Bridget.”

Natalie placed her finger on the top of her queen’s rook and idly began to spin it, tipped on the side of its base. “I’m sorry… I guess… I dunno. I wish I could just take it all back. I mean…” She sighed. “I’m not sure what I mean, Mich.”

Michuru leaned back and sighed as his eyes began counting the boards in the rafters. His mind surged to his youth and Sunday mornings spent at a small church in the country. At five-years-old, the preacher’s sermons were wasted on him. Instead he had lain between his grandmother and mother, counting the boards in the rafters. “The Harts were very well-known in Phoenix. Bartholomew was the most sought after attorney in Arizona and his wife, Bethany was a cardiologist who people said worked miracles. They were more than rich and famous socialites though… they—they were philanthropists.

“To most philanthropists, it’s enough to just throw money around. Donate this or buy that… The Harts weren’t like that though. They were very involved in their community. Mister Hart would volunteer in hospitals and Missus Hart played the piano in a retirement home every Saturday afternoon. The two had spent every Thanksgiving together serving diner at the rescue mission. They took hot meals to shut-ins. They—they were a huge part of Habitat for Humanity. They even have Jimmy Carter’s home number. It’s staggering...

“Still, before the Harts had become the civil champions of mankind they were, they had been proud parents…
  • ...
It was the summer of 1979 when the Harts gave birth to a set of twins. Brian was the first born; he would forever assert that the reason big brothers are born first was to protect the younger children. For the Harts, that meant Bridget.

For twins, they were as different as night and day. Brian’s hair was dark and wavy while Bridget’s hair was long and straight—a shimmering blonde halo that framed her soft features. Like all parents, the Harts were proud of their children. Perhaps on some level they had more reason that most though. Bridget, who hated being messy, potty trained herself before her first birthday. Brian was able to walk—however unsteadily—while most children were learning to crawl. As the twins reached three years old, they were able to read and write, not merely recite the alphabet. It was then that their parents realized they had given birth to two very gifted children…

They never knew how gifted.

Society feared and hated Neo-Sapiens and the Harts knew what they were and dreaded the day one of the twins manifested either of their abilities. They had done their best to hide their talents; they had done everything they could to discourage them. Their father was able to siphon energy from those around him: a trick he often used in court to subtly drain the prosecutor’s intellect or a judge’s wisdom and add it to his own. His wife had used her powers in her career as well: Bethany Hart was blessed with the Neo-Sapien ability to heal any injury she touched and this talent she applied on the operating table, buying her patients years more with their loved ones.

“What happens if they inherit your other ability?” Bartholomew had asked his wife one night as he turned down the covers for bed. “Your regeneration, I mean? If Brian scrapes his knee or Bridget cuts herself… it might trigger their latent ability and expose them for what they are?” It was to put such fears to bed that the twins had been home schooled. Still, there was always the concern that either might manifest their father’s talents and siphon off their parents’ mental faculties. They could forget themselves and reveal the Hart’s dirty little secret.

It was for that reason that the Harts withdrew from their children emotionally… hiring a caretaker to govern over their wellbeing, their development and their education. The Harts hired Linda Lawlins… and would forever come to regret having done such a thing…
  • ...
Bridget fell backwards and landed down on the cushion right beside where her twin brother had been sitting. His eyes lifted from the medical journal he was reading to fix the young woman with an agitated look. “Do you mind? I’m trying to read.”

“We’re fourteen, Brian. We’re not supposed to be reading. We’re supposed to be enjoying life and all that it has to offer.”

Brian raised an eyebrow at his twin’s behavior and instinctively he knew. “Oh, God,” he said, rolling his eyes and tossing the journal into the air. “God…”

Bridget bit her bottom lip and turned to face him. She sat on her legs and was anxiously rocking back and forth, dying to tell someone what had happened. The reclusive tendencies of their parents had stripped them of a normal childhood. Their only friends were the children of those in their parent’s circles. At times like this, Brian and Bridget relied on each other. “He kissed me!”

“It’s so creepy, Bridge… I mean, Kyle is four years older than you are! He—he’s in college! We should only just be starting high school.”

Bridget punched the youth in the shoulder; her small frame didn’t deliver much of a hit but he rubbed the offended appendage for her sake. It was all a part of Brian Hart’s upstanding character: he always put his sister first. He did anything to make sure she was happy. He may not have liked that she was dating a college freshman, but he wouldn’t stand in her way.

“I thought he never would!” she groaned. “We’ve been going out for five months now. Five months! I get that the age difference probably made him nervous but… Oh, you have to check this out!” Bridget produced a thin, silver chain from under her shirt. Suspended from those intricately woven bands was a single ring. It caught the light as it rocked back and forth, spinning side to side. At the sight of it, Bridget was enchanted. Her eyes sparkled and her lips parsed as she watched it sway between them.

“Don’t tell me he proposed?”

“Of course not!” Bridget thundered. “It—it’s a promise ring. Kyle said he—he didn’t want me to feel pressured or anything by his age. I’ve got to admit, I’d been thinking about it… I mean, he’s in college and… I guess—I guess I was just worried that he’d drop me for a college girl if it meant she’d jump into bed with him. He—he said he’ll wait for me. For us to get married one day… after we both graduate from law school, I mean.”

Brian rolled his eyes. He had never understood what she found so alluring about their father’s career. Sure, Bartholomew Hart was in a place where he could proclaim that he only defended the innocent but Bridget and Kyle would have to work their way up. Sure, it was likely the two would be taken on by their fathers’ firm but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t have to defend the guilty. Brian wasn’t sure he could live with himself knowing he had helped a murderer or rapist walk free.

Then again, Bridget wasn’t suited for medicine. It was Brian’s intention to follow in their mother’s footsteps. He had sat in on some of her surgeries and observed from the deck overlooking the room. Bridget had tried to watch one once, but she had fled for the halls in terror. Bridget was hemophobic—she was terrified of the sight of blood.

Perhaps, he realized then, that they weren’t meant for some things. He knew he couldn’t have lived with his conscience as an attorney and Bridget would never have lasted an hour in medicine.

“But why!?”

The twins spun at the sound of Linda Lawlins, the educator and caretaker. It was a rare occasion to see their father and, no matter for how fleeting, they savored the moment. “I can’t defend him!” Bartholomew exclaimed. “Linda… he—your brother told me that those—those things… he did those things. He really did kidnap, molest, and murder five little boys and… and I’m sorry but I can’t help him to avoid paying for those crimes.”

“You have to!” Linda proclaimed. “My brothers—they—my family is poor, Mister Hart! We can’t afford an attorney.”

“The State of Arizona will provide-”

“They will provide some green eared child and trust him to save my brother’s life!”

“Linda… I—I’m sorry. I truly am… but you have to understand… this—all of this—Lyle brought it all on himself.”
  • ...
“The thing was,” Michuru explained, regaling his current girlfriend with the harrowing tale of his last, “Linda was the eldest of six children. Their parents had died when the boys were young still and Linda did her best to raise them. The trouble was, the Lawlins brothers had a habit for getting into trouble. Generally, it was minor offenses. Shoplifting, for instance. The young brother, Lester, had just been paroled. He had been arrested for grand theft auto and… as he was coming out, his brother Leonard was going in for drug trafficking. Lyle was in the most serious trouble though and Linda had hoped that her employer could be of some help. Still, Mister Hart’s Ben Matlock-syndrome kept him from taking the case.

“Three months later, Lyle’s trial came to a close and he was found guilty on all counts… He was looking at the death penalty.

“No matter how protective of the twins the Harts had been, they had let Linda Lawlins get close to them. Brian and Bridget didn’t go to school. They didn’t have many friends. They rarely left the house. Still, they hadn’t been able to rationalize forbidding their daughter to date. Kyle Jennings had to clear everything with the Harts. To take Bridget out, he had to go through Linda. She knew right where they would be… and she told her brothers were to find her.

“Desperate, Linda had concocted a plan. The trouble was, she had trusted her brothers to carry out that plan. She had trusted them to abduct Kyle Jennings and Bridget with the intent to ransom them for Lyle’s safety…”
  • ...
The four men jumped the couple as they sat at a fountain nestled deep in Tobias Kline Park.

Lester Lawlins hammered a heavy fist into the back of Kyle’s skull. His strong hands pushed Kyle’s face into the pavement. Through the sea of pain, Kyle looked for Bridget, praying she had escaped the attack—praying she had gotten away.

The ringing in his ears left him and he immediately wished for it back. Without the ringing, Bridget’s screams and sobs were all but apparent. He strained to see her—to see what was happening. He wrestled to turn his head and immediately Luke Lawlins cracked the barrel of his pistol across the young collegian’s face. His vision blurred in and out, slowly revealing the sight of two of his teeth lying in a spattering of his blood on the pavement. The cool steel pressed against the base of his skull and was drug around his head and forced into his mouth.

Guided by the pistol, Kyle Jennings turned his head slowly and found Bridget easily pinned beneath Leonard. Her clothes were torn and his hands were violating her every curve.

His scream for them to stop was muffled by the steel pressed into his maw. The threat of death was hardly enough to keep him from attempting to wriggle free of their grapple. The fourth of the Lawlins boys, Lawrence, joined his brothers in holding the young man down. It had taken all three to hold him back as Leonard forced Bridget onto her back and guided a switchblade up her stomach, sundering blouse and flesh alike.

Try as he did, Kyle was helpless as he watched them each take turns beating, cutting and raping Bridget.

Relying on a gag reflex he had outgrown as a child, he vomited and forced the barrel out. Lawrence was sitting on Bridget’s chest and slapping her hard to force her to regain consciousness. He had insisted she be awake through it all—the Lawlins brothers had decided this would teach Bartholomew Hart a lesson. He would forever regret not saving their brother from the legal repercussions of his crimes.

Kyle screamed and begged and bargained; he did everything he could think of to get them to stop. Larry took his turn victimizing the young woman and moved to trade off with Luke. As the man let up to switch places, Kyle had his chance. He threw the other two off of him and tackled Luke to the earth. Hammering him with punch after punch, Kyle Jennings had become a wild beast from an age lost to man’s knowledge. He didn’t stop when he had dislocated Luke’s jaw. He didn’t stop when Luke’s screams were cut off as he gargled on his own blood. He didn’t stop when he broke the man’s nose or when he couldn’t even recognize the man as a human being anymore.

He didn’t stop even after Luke Lawlins’ heart had given.

Behind him, the remaining trio fumbled in the folds of shadows for the gun; it had been lost to the darkness when Kyle had thrown them off him. Lester’s hand felt the cold steel of the pistol. Kyle lunged from Luke’s lifeless form and threw himself for Leonard.

Lester opened fire.

For a split second, Kyle froze and his fingers groped at his left shoulder and the sticky sensation of his crimson essence spilling out. Two more slugs were unloaded into his chest, the force causing him to stagger backwards. His foot caught on Luke’s corpse and Kyle fell backwards, cracking his skull on the pavement just inches from Bridget’s still shape.
She had been paralyzed by all she had seen—by her rape and Kyle’s assault. His blood forming a pool under his skull was the final push. She thawed out and split the night with a scream.

In his panic Lester turned and fired three rounds into Bridget’s stomach. As her body doubled over around the wounds he emptied the remainder of the clip into her back. Leonard and Lawrence looked to each other, sharing a terrified look between them. Neither of them had ever been involved in anything as serious as murder and they had surely just seen two innocent people killed. The pair wasted no time in hurrying from the scene, abandoning Lester there to act as he wanted.

Left alone with the ramifications of his actions, Lester dropped the pistol by their bodies and he fled into the night.

The regenerative powers Bridget had inherited from her mother manifested then and there. Her wounds began to knit together and her eyes snapped open as she regained consciousness. She gagged and was shocked to find her mouth full of the metal slugs from the bullets she had taken. One-by-one she spat them out… down beside Kyle…

Her eyes snapped open wide at the sight of him and the rust-red pool he laid in. The blood glistened in the starlight and she felt as if she were about to be sick. She didn’t know it yet, but all it would have taken was a touch—a single touch from her fingertips would bestow on Kyle the same miraculous healing she possessed…

The same abilities her mother used to extend lives.

Bridget crawled forward, inching her way towards the love of her life, little by little. A breeze rippled through the night and chilled her exposed flesh. Shivers ran up her spine as she reached for his skill form.

Kyle’s chest heaved suddenly as he fought for his right to live and Bridget screamed. Her heart raced out of control and her hands trembled. She had withdrawn but she pushed on- reaching for him once more and finding herself incapable of doing anything more than reaching… She froze then… and Kyle breathed his last.

When the police arrived they found Kyle Jenning’s dead body beside the corpse that dental records revealed as Luke Lawlins.

Bridget Hart was nearby and deep into a catatonic state.

A month after Mister and Missus Jennings buried their son, Mister and Missus Hart had their daughter committed…
  • ...

“It was three years later when Bridget was released from Sacred Heart Mental Hospital. The sixth incarnation of the Vindicators had disbanded. The Aurelius and his wife Phenomena wanted to focus their attention on the family they had begun and Lodestone wanted to do the same. Nock left… and…”

“And my parents brought me home,” Doctor Natalie Styles said. “I’d served for two years as a Vindicator and I was only fifteen. It was around the time Nathan began to get worse and mom was beginning to break. Dad brought me home… for her.”

Michuru nodded and continued his exposition. “The only member of that team who remained active was Onyx. No one knew where the other team was… it was like they had disappeared off the face of the earth. It was a year before Crusader’s team returned from that alternate dimension—telling tales of an earth that were Neo-Sapiens had instead appeared during the Civil War. Rosa Freeman was left alone against the coming storm…

“The Order of Chaos had attacked New York City and Onyx was alone against them.

“The United States government had… a weapon in the reserves. They had taken in a Neo-Sapien youth—a child by all accounts, and had placed him in the care of seasoned heroes to attempt to help him reign in his wild, uncontrollable powers.

“They had found me at my junior high in Chicago. My powers had manifested, fighting a kid intent to pick a fight over my ethnicity. I—I’m not sure what my father was but my mother was the daughter of Japanese immigrants. Her father had been born in a concentration camp here in the states. Sure, state-side we didn’t call them concentration camps… but that’s what they were. I- I’m not sure what our family’s real name is. My great-grandmother died giving birth and the father was nowhere to be found. An American soldier adopted my grandfather—gave him his name. ‘Bradshaw’.

“Pop loved his adopted parents but… he was always uneasy. He always said there was no feeling worse than loneliness—no matter how many people were around. When he was old enough, he went to Japan and met Kondou Hatchimaru. To have the name Kondou meant mastery in Tennin Rishin-ryu, the school of martial arts elevated by the members of the Shinsengumi. Pop stayed to learn about his heritage but he took so much more… he left Japan with the teachings of Tennin Rishin-ryu and Hatchimaru’s daughter’s hand in marriage. When they came back to America, she was two months pregnant with my mom.

“Pop had taught me Tennin Rishin-ryu… but he never taught me to fight. He taught me to defend. Patrick Sipka was… was a bully of the worst kind. He antagonized those weaker than him and… I got tired of sitting by, doing nothing but watch him pick on the defenseless. We started to fight and… and my powers manifested.

“My mother? Her parents? None of them were Neo-Sapiens. We can only assume I inherited my powers from my father. My mother was only sixteen-years-old, dating a senior… Gary Logan. My mom was on wrestling auxiliary and Gary was their star grappler. She had stolen a couple bottles of sake from Pop’s study and snuck them over to Gary’s. His parents were out of town and she thought to take advantage of it. So did Gary though. Mom showed up and… there’s Gary making out on the couch with some other girl. Mom ended up in the parking lot of a church and thought to just drink the pain away. That was when she met my dad. They—they made me together that night and never saw each other again. I don’t have his name—I don’t even know it—but I guess I got his powers.

“I burned him pretty bad. Part of my sentence was that I not have any contact with Patrick. I—I’ve never even been able to say I’m sorry.

“The government intervened and I didn’t go to juvie. Instead, I was sent to train under each respective member of the Vindicators IV. That’s—that’s why I’m so close to Cloud and Cassandra. They were seven when I was sent to stay with the Goodman’s to learn what I could about my ability to manipulate earth and air.

“I didn’t get very far… when the Order of Chaos attacked, I was activated. It was me—a fifteen-year-old kid—and Onyx, alone against a team of super villains. It goes without saying that we had our backsides handed to us. Thankfully, we had some help. Brian Hart was close to graduating high school and looking to attend medical school as far from Bridget as he could… he was trying so hard to get away from her and yet… we took him right back to what he was running from. Brian had… had inherited his father’s powers. He was able to siphon more than just… just a person’s inherent abilities. He could transfer a fraction of their Neo-Sapien abilities as well. In fact, Brian was about the only thing that kept us alive.

“Brian siphoned off my abilities and was able to control them much better than I could have ever hoped to. He told us about his sister… the Harts had laid everything on the table after—after what happened. They told him about their abilities and… and what they assumed she was capable of. The powers that be thought that Bridget’s powers would be useful… even if she was in no condition to use them. Brian had to be close enough for Brian to be able to use her powers and… she was made a Vindicator.

“As time went on, our little group expanded. We met Richard and Silvia, their son Quinton too. Chimera and Xianbei were a huge help early on—they were both experts in covert tactics and decent combatants to boot. The biggest boost they gave us was… well, Brian and Bridget were only seventeen when we came together. I was fifteen and Breanne? Breanne was only eleven. The Jorgensons spared Rosa from leading a team of high school kids. The Vindicators VII came together and… I felt so stupid. Bridget and I were brought along on missions purely to fuel Brian’s abilities. My job was simple: Bridget was in a stupor so I was to help her along and keep us close enough to Brian. Even with my powers transferred to him, I had my martial arts to rely on if the fight came to us.

“I was young and… and pretty naïve. I constantly talked to Bridget. She never showed any signs of response but that didn’t stop me. I told her about my life and… well, I told her everything. Sometimes I would just ramble on. I dunno… Brian told me what had happened to his sister and I—well, I hated what the Lawlins brothers had done to her—I really did—but the thing I thought saddest about her story was that the person she loved more than anything in this world was taken away from her, when she had the power to keep them here. I knew what it was like to be failed by your emotions—be it your anger destroying everything or your fears holding you back. I told her how I had begun to cope with my abilities and… for months I whispered to her, confiding in her and imbuing her with words of confidence. Breanne’s words were always chiding, often scathing and Brian… Brian just didn’t believe his sister would ever come back to him. It was almost like he had convinced himself she had died.

“I was actually right in the middle of yelling at them—arguing that she could hear me and that she would come out of it one day… when she opened her mouth and…

‘Sometimes,’ she whispered, ‘I think I can hear him.’

“I hadn’t been surprised to hear her speak but… for Brian it was a momentous occasion. ‘Bridge?’ he asked, stunned and struggling to formulate words. ‘Mich, did—did she just-’

“Silvia smiled as us all as the Vendetta flew onward. ‘It’s never too late,’ she whispered. I stopped and I looked up and… I remember wondering if she was talking about Bridget… or talking to her husband. Richard didn’t take his eyes off the skies as he steered our vessel through the heavens. ‘Never,’ she reiterated.

“Little by little, Bridget opened up to me. She told me about Kyle and… and about how she had heard my voice calling to her—guiding to her and she… she had sworn it was him. It was so strange; since coming out of her shell she didn’t recognize her brother. Brian had called their parents the second we landed and they rushed to see her. She couldn’t recognize them either. Her family… they were strangers to her but me? Me she claimed to have known since forever. I’m not sure she mistook me for Kyle though—she seemed able to separate me from him. She told me everything about Kyle and she told me how they had parted. The story Brian had told me had so much more gravity, coming from her mouth. After our little field trip in Chicago, we had gone to Phoenix… so that she could visit his grave…

“It was about three years later that she surprised me by—by just grabbing my hand. We were out for a walk… I love the sound of dried leaves crunching under your feet in the fall. We were walking through a leaf-littered park and Bridget grabbed my hand and… I turned and looked at her, unsure what she was doing and that’s when she gave me my first kiss. She—she started laughing. Here we are, in the middle of Central Park, hand-in-hand, lips-to-lips and she starts laughing. I thought I had done something wrong and she—I dunno, it was like she read my mind. She shook her head and told me, ‘It’s not you. It—that was good. I just… I just got so tired of waiting for you to make the move.’

“When Brian found out about it he was furious and… I left the team for a while. I came back and… and Bridget and I started officially dating. It wasn’t long after that she—she-” Michuru reached under his shirt, pulling at the thin, silver chain he wore and Natalie’s eyes were caught on the ring suspended from his neck. “She slipped this around my neck and told me she-” He began to blush. “Well, she—it was… She and Kyle made a promise and then… so did she and I.” Natalie smiled sweetly and Michuru pretended to scratch his nose—so that she might not see him begin to cry. “It wasn’t long after… that she died.”

Most people can testify where they were when man touched down on the moon or when Kennedy was assassinated. Natalie Styles had not been born for either event… but she could clearly remember where she was during the Ragnarok—during that week that the earth literally stood still in September of 2001. Natalie herself was twenty-years-old and was attending medical school, working her way to becoming a veterinarian. For days she had done her best to avoid the chaos erupting in the streets. Most were convinced that Atlas was bringing about the end of the world. She had been one of the few to try and keep her normal life on track- sure that the Vindicators VII would find him soon enough and put an end to this threat. She had half-way considered joining them herself—several other heroes had returned to contribute something. It felt odd having her powers and her experience… and yet doing nothing.

Natalie knew what the official report was on the incident known as the Ragnarok. Atlas had held the earth in its rotation—creating perpetual night and day and announcing his intent to bring about a new ice age. He had claimed the idea was whispered to him by a woman in a long, green dress. It only helped to validate his insanity to the world.

According to the dossiers on the event, John Sidell had phoned Michuru Bradshaw. At the time, the Vindicator was twenty-years-old; the Harts were two years his senior and Breanne Jordan, the young hero codenamed Rift was only sixteen-years-old.

The news had been rife with reports that the Vindicators had been successful. Vindicators Plaza, the tower that served as both the heroes’ headquarters and their physical face, had released what they could. According to the heroes’ public relations agents, they had received a transmission from the Vendetta that Atlas had been defeated. Seeking to capitalize on their victory, the press was gathered when the plane touched down. Only Onyx and Rift stepped off the plane.

Natalie’s face had been glued to the television as the vultures known as the media began to badger the heroes. It didn’t take much for Onyx to snap at them—telling them that Chimera was on board, mourning the passing of a spouse and in critical condition from the loss of an arm. Michuru and Siphon remained on board, consoling each other over the passing of a lover and sister.

Bridget Hart, the Vindicator known as Bio, had been impaled by a stalagmite shaken loose courtesy of Atlas’ abilities. The sight of her passing had driven Michuru into a rage unlike any his teammates had ever known.

When he was happy and content, he manipulated air. If he was hurt or sad, he could shape the earth. So long as he was calm and tranquil, water moved at his whim. When he was angry he had incredible pyrokinetic abilities—so powerful he was unable to control them. They learned then that something else happened whenever Michuru felt nothing. When he became dead inside—when all emotion left him—a different power took over.

“It was then that Michuru Bradshaw hovered in the air,” Rosa Freeman had written in her official report—her last before disbanding the Vindicators VII. “His eyes glowed with a light unlike anything I have ever seen… they were more than white… they were hollow. It was almost as if they were windows into a hollow husk of a man… a man who was an endless well of this strange energy.

“This energy poured from Michuru, solidifying into an exoskeleton of heights I cannot estimate. That energy formed a monster and Michuru was like the heart, soul and mind of the beast. It reared back and howled and its head brushed the top of the cavern. As the lair began to collapse, I gave the command for my people to retreat. Brian Hart had to be physically moved; he was shocked into a stupor at his sister’s death. Breanne Jordan led us to safety, phasing the three of us through the walls and up to the surface. I regret that we failed to make our way back to Richard Jorgenson—Breanne claimed to have found him weeping in another part of the subterranean labyrinth, cradling his wife’s dead body and missing an arm.

“Despite even the distance we had traveled, the sounds of their battle reached us. Who knows how many miles under our feet Michuru and Atlas were fighting? As the sounds of battle came to a close, the mountains sank into the earth and we feared for our companion as surely as we dreaded the monster’s emergence.

“Michuru emerged from the rubble then—the strange, heatless flames were bleeding off of his body as the exoskeleton dissipated. In his arms he carried a figure we mistook for Bridget Hart. As we grew closer we realized Michuru had pulled Richard from the collapse.

“Michuru Bradshaw claims to have no recollection of his battle with Atlas, nor of his saving Richard. He insists that he blacked out when Bridget was slain before him and regained consciousness onboard the Vendetta.

“Silvia’s death has been confirmed by Breanne and Richard and all present confirm Bridget’s passing from this world. However, we have our doubts as to Atlas’ demise. Given the young man’s abilities, I strongly doubt dropping a mountain on him would kill him. However, he would have had to have survived against the white beast in order to have a prayer.”

Natalie slipped down beside Michuru—beside her boyfriend—and slipped her arms around him, hugging him gently. Try as she may to comfort the man she had fallen in love with, she had concerns of her own now. Bridget’s power to regenerate and heal the inflictions of the flesh she or others received. Was it so preposterous to believe she could have survived being impaled on a spike? In the five years since her death, had Michuru considered that? Bridget may have survived such a mortal wound… but how could she be resurrected, buried under the mountains?

Natalie looked at him sadly, terrified for him that he may have condemned the first woman he had ever loved… and wondering if out there in the infinite realm of possibilities… was there a chance she could come back? Was it possible that Bridget Hart could still breathe and remind Michuru Bradshaw of all the promises they had made?

Was it possible that Natalie might lose the man she loved more than life itself?

Michuru continued to weep for his love… and Natalie began to join him.
To Be Continued... wrote:The Beginning of the End.
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Post by Michuru81 » Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:49 pm

[Dead Space]
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Post by Michuru81 » Sat Mar 03, 2007 4:42 pm

[Dead Space]
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Post by Michuru81 » Sat Mar 03, 2007 8:37 pm

[Dead Space]
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New Vindicators, Chapter 93

Post by Michuru81 » Sat Mar 03, 2007 8:45 pm

NEW VINDICATORS #11: In the End, Part I of II


Chapter XCIII: (Just Like) Starting Over
Adonis Skraag sat on the edge of his bed, listening to Drew Jenkins snoring away in the bunk above him. Out the corner of his eye he noticed Magnus Loder roll over in his sleep while their younger roommate, Shannon Sharp, kicked the last of his sheets off. They were unimportant to Adonis at the moment though; his full attention was focused on their closet door and the trio of robes that hung on the inside. The students would each be clad in the same white gowns whilst the faculty of Eleanor Roosevelt High School would be decked in black.

Adonis fixed his calendar with a look. Drew had been crossing out the days each night with a bright red marker. Today was Sunday, May 27, 2007 and in six hours, the seniors would be graduating high school. Many were commencing their careers as students… and beginning their lives as heroes. Still, Adonis had been faced with the harsh reality that his powers simply didn’t place him in the same league as his cohorts. He knew he wasn’t hero material; he had no illusions of ever putting on ever again wearing the black and white uniforms that hung on the other closet doors—the uniform of the Vindicators.

Then again, perhaps it wasn’t merely Adonis’ feelings of inadequacy that left him this way. The last year had been a rough one for the young man. It had been at the start of this school year that he had watched Chienne Bedford—the girl he had harbored a crush on since the second grade—have a painfully public break up with her long term boyfriend Jack Olsen. Adonis had meant to reestablish the friendship that had been put on hiatus years ago when her older brother had been killed. Chienne had transformed herself during her mourning period and her best-friend had not fit into the formula for a new Chienne.

It was at that moment that Adonis’ Neo-Sapien powers manifested. They were still evolving, evidenced by his experiences in Tokyo six months prior. Back then however, his power simply allowed him to lower the common sense of any who might otherwise be attracted to him. All it took was for them to lay eyes on them and they began to lose their sense of reason. It only made it better for another aspect of his abilities; Adonis was capable of making anyone fall head-over-heels in love with him. At least, almost anyone. He had begun to discover that his abilities seemed based on attraction—if they would otherwise be attracted to men, their minds were putty in his hands. Subconsciously, he had used those powers on Chienne. She had been willing to do anything for him and he had allowed her to do anything.

He had awoken the next morning to her father coming into her room. The pair had been in her bed, naked and in each other’s arms, and in the shock of the moment Adonis’ power over Chienne crumbled. Suddenly she had no recollection of her time under his influence and her father knew what had happened.

Forrest N. Bedford was the leader of the Church of Genetic Purity, a church born from the Ku-Klux Klan. Bedford himself was a Grand Dragon who had adapted the Klan’s bigotry to encompass Neo-Sapiens. Still, it wasn’t enough and the man had founded the religious organization bent on destroying the genetic abnormalities he and his congregation believed Neo-Sapiens to be.

Adonis fled from the man’s wrath and made it home. He quickly told his parents what had happened in the short respite before Bedford’s congregation had rallied en masse on the Skraag’s doorsteps. Adonis had done as his parents insisted and had hidden himself under the basement stairs. Still, Bedford was an intelligent man and knew that Neo-Sapien abilities were inherited from one or more parent. Wanting to make an example and avenge his daughter, Arthur and Denise Skraag were beaten and hung and their home burnt to the ground.

Adonis had been spared by Breanne Jordan, a young woman who five years prior had been known as Rift—the youngest member of the Vindicators VII. Breanne had been the first graduate of the New Vindicators Academy—an organization dedicated to training young Neo-Sapiens in the use of their powers in a secure and protected environment. Their stated purpose was to train Neo-Sapiens to protect both themselves and their loved ones in the event they were discovered for what they truly were. The school existed to help Neo-Sapiens assimilate into society, though many were dedicated to joining the next generation of Vindicators.

Still, for a place that consistently declared that they were a safe place for young Neo-Sapiens to learn about their powers, so many students had lost their lives in the last year. Much of the tragedy Adonis had witnessed was attributed to a mysterious organization known as the Affiliation. It had begun with Addison Truman, the young woman known as Avian. She had been deformed by her powers; large feathered wings protruded from her back and her hands and feet were tipped with talons. Her large eyes heightened her senses and further lent itself to her unsettling appearance. It had made her quick friends with Lawanda Murphy, the African-American youth codenamed Black Widow due to her extra four arms. Lawanda had been recruited to the Affiliation and had gleefully told Addison about the clandestine group.

Addison had not shared her enthusiasm and had told one of the instructors at the school. Unfortunately, the one she trusted had also been a member of the organization and moved to quickly silence her. One of the group’s number had smothered her in her sleep, even going so far as to spirit away her Morph Buckle—a device that allowed Addison to hide her appearance to better blend in with society.

The students had mourned her passing and struggled to return to normal. Their efforts were in vain however, as another was soon to be slain. Lucas Howell, the telepath codenamed Psion, had been using his gifts to help Magnus Loder find a date for Drew Jenkins. Scanning the minds of the female half of the student body for anything resembling affection for the youth, Lucas saw the truth of Lawanda’s involvement in Addison’s death. He too made the mistake of trusting the wrong instructor and was murdered on camera by one appearing as Deimos.

Deimos had an alibi though: Atlanta White had been with him as the two had been volunteering their time at a retirement home. While some tried to believe that the stolen Morph Buckle could have allowed any to take Deimos’ form, most realized there was no denying the shapeshifting Chimera had played a part in the dark dealings.

As an investigation began Chimera’s son, Quinton, became the next victim. His death was reported by his best-friend, Cloud Goodman and news of the youth’s demise had Chimera turn up missing. Some doubted that the former-hero would go so far as to murder his own son while some cited Quinton’s powers would allow him to easily fake his death. While many debated the true motive and culprit a fourth student had been cut down.

Malachi Brown had gone to walk Atlanta home—fearing her safety in a time when students were apparently dying one-by-one. He had stumbled upon something huge however and immediately called Deimos.
Deimos was told parts of Kai’s story as the young man ran for his life. He claimed Atlanta had attacked him, insinuating that the young woman had been mind controlled. Further, he told Deimos he had learned the identity of the Affiliation’s leader, but died before he was able to warn Deimos of the true mastermind.

The man’s identity was something that had been bothering several students. Alexander Sway and Jacquelyn Webber—Amalgam and Tripper, respectively—were attacked by two people claiming to be sent by the Affiliation to recruit the couple. The two were able to defeat Lazarus and Singe, and learned that only two members of the Affiliation are trusted enough to know their leader’s true identity. One, they identified as Blitzkrieg, a graduate of the institute. Blitzkrieg himself arrived to stop them from uttering the other name—leading many to wonder not only who pulls the Affiliation’s strings but also who’s name Blitzkrieg did not want them to learn.

Adonis had speculated over the possibilities some scant few weeks prior. He had learned little from interrogating the British assassin, B.B. Jones; still, he had determined that the Affiliation had recruited more former students of the New Vindicators Academy. Citing that Deimos, and likely Rumble, had been scouted for the team and that many of their students had already defected to the side of evil, Adonis had used his superior intellect to theorize that the Affiliation existed amongst them and was using the school’s resources to gather an army.

Though they knew so little about the mysterious group, the faculty and students of the New Vindicators Academy were hurt by the existence of the Affiliation and distraught over the confusion of just who they could still trust.

Still, the young man had come to know personal heartache as well in the past few months. Chienne, apparently wanting to hurt Adonis, asked out Magnus Loder upon seeing the two together. Magnus showed little care for Adonis’ feelings in the matter and pursued a relationship with the young woman, all the while lying to her by not revealing his status as a Neo-Sapien. Though the two had split four months ago Adonis could not look past his feelings of betrayal and bring himself to trust Magnus Loder again. Adonis claimed that Magnus had broken a cardinal law of the Brotherhood of Man by dating someone he yearned for.

Adonis had attempted to rebound with Cassandra Goodman, only to reject her on the grounds that she was not attracted to him but was under the influence of his abilities. Unable to tell if he was using his abilities, Adonis took himself off the market and had withdrawn into the armor he had created shortly after the deaths of his parents. The young man truly didn’t believe that it was possible for any woman to honestly love him and yet he sincerely prayed for a way for Chienne to return his feelings. Like how Cassandra Goodman couldn’t help but fall under the spell of Adonis’ powers, Adonis couldn’t help but love Chienne despite everything she and her family had done to him.

Now, the morning of their high school graduation, he realized that this might be the last time he would ever see her again. With a heavy sigh Adonis realized this was the end of the road for him. He knew that the story was coming to an end.

“Everything will change,” he whispered as the alarm clock sounded and raised his roommates. “Today’s the day I get out of this dump…”
To Be Continued... wrote:Repeat Performance.
Last edited by Michuru81 on Sun Jan 11, 2009 11:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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New Vindicators, Chapter 94

Post by Michuru81 » Sun Mar 04, 2007 11:32 am

Chapter XCIV: Pomp and Circumstance [Part I]
Lex meandered his way up the iron-wrought stairwell that led from the lower levels to the kitchen. For nearly half a year he had been living the subterranean life, out of fear that he might subconsciously transform in his sleep. It had yet to happen, but still… he believed in being prepared for anything.

What he was not prepared for was the sight of his girlfriend still in the same place she had been sitting when he kissed her goodnight. By the look in her eyes she hadn’t sleep all night. On the counter before her were unfolded roadmaps and notebooks… every tool she was utilizing as she planned the road trip he had agreed to join her on. “What’s that?” he asked, nodding to the browser open on the laptop by her side. He quickly stifled a yawn as she turned to look at him, as if confused why he was here, then flashed a quizzical look to the computer.

Her lack of sleep was catching up with her.

“Oh… I was—I was looking up places of interest to hit up while we’re in Wyoming.”

“There are places of interest in Wyoming?”

“Old Faithful?”

“Anything else?”

Jacque looked back to the screen before turning back to Lex, shaking her head sadly. “Have you been up all night, honey?”

She closed her eyes as she nodded and the young man slipped forward, gently brushing her lips with his and intertwining his fingers into hers. “I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m looking forward to this,” he said. “Three months, just you and me and the open road.”

“Ya’all hittin’ the road?” Atlanta asked, dropping down stacks of boxes, a few suitcases and her bags.

“Not if I can’t figure out how to budget on what little we have,” the young woman said to the blonde Georgian peach. “You look like you’re hitting the road too, Atlanta.”

Atlanta smiled sweetly and looked down to the boxes labeled ‘medical text books’. “Ah wanna head on out to muh daddy’s before Ah start school in the fall… Considerin’ that he’s already called and told me somethin’ is keepin’ him from comin’ to muh graduation, Ah figure it’ll take me all of three months to get an hour of his attention.”

“So, you’re not coming back next year?” Lex asked.

“It—it ain’t for me, Lex.”

Lex shook his head. “Atlanta… you-” He cut himself off before he began to argue the point with her. Today wasn’t a day for fighting but for celebrating. “You’re going to be an incredible doctor one day.”

Atlanta flashed him her most winning smile before raiding the cabinet for whatever cereal she could find. She was stopped by Doctor Styles, putting an envelope with her name on it into her hands. “What’s this?” she asked as the woman made her way to Lex and Jacque. Behind her, Donna-Anne had already opened hers and was recoiling from what she found inside. “ATM card to your account, statements… all the information is there, Atlanta.”

“Five thousand dollars?” the southern belle asked, her voice more curiosity than surprise.

“It’s for being a part of this project,” Doctor Styles explained. “When the United Nations founded the first New Vindicators Academy it was with the intention of helping Neo-Sapiens assimilate themselves back into society. You all remember Peter Titus… Tide? After graduating from this school he went off to med school, the same as Rumble is. This is what helped pay his tuition, room, board, books…”

“There—there must be a mistake,” managed Jacquelyn as her eyes scanned her statement a fifth time. “Mine says… well… Doctor Styles? This says I have twenty-thousand dollars!”

“You do. Five thousand for every year you attend this school… enough to help you wherever life takes you now.”

Donna-Anne’s eyes were still as wide as saucers. “With this kind of money, my mom and dad could feed all ten of us kids!”

“You know, Donna… despite what we’ve been trying to drill into your heads, you don’t always have to be the hero. You could use it to go to college and start a new life-”

“Doctor Styles?” Donna-Anne asked. “I’m going to be staying on. I don’t know if I’ll need to go to college but… I wanna be like you and Miss DiMera and Miss Jordan. I wanna stay at the school and… and be a teacher. If I don’t have to go to college to teach other kids about their powers then… then I won’t need this money. My family back in Kentucky could use it though…”

“Yeah,” said Lex, “some of us intend to stay. Jacque and I had been talking about possibly joining the Vindicators or—or maybe the Guardians. It would be good to work beside Caliber again.”

Doctor Styles looked at them nervously, as if wrestling with the inevitable truth they would all have to know at some point. “It… may not be so simple, Lex. Since the Vindicators just reformed this last year, the government decided to up the criteria on getting in. Just graduating from the New Vindicators Academy won’t make you a Vindicator or a Guardian. It entitles you to try out… to audition.”

“And what happens if we don’t have what it takes?” Doctor Styles turned and shook her head at Magnus Loder, adjusting his tie as he stepped into the common room. He had been looking for Maria Espada—he had not seen his girlfriend since kissing her goodnight just nine hours before—but had been distracted by the possibility that his entrance into the Vindicators was not guaranteed. “Are we just sent home? Do we get a pat on the back and a ‘better luck next time’?”

“Those who don’t make it are welcome to stay on as graduates,” the veteran offered. “Like Donna was hoping, those who remain would be utilized as teachers, recruiters… Like you all saw, there are so many Neo-Sapiens discovering their powers each year. We could use people to look for actives and recruit them to the school… we could use you to teach them and protect them. No one will be turned away, Magnus.

“Near the end of summer, you’ll each be contacted. This is still new but… from what I’ve heard you’ll be tested by the administrator of each school and… they’ll pick one graduate from each of the three academies.”

“Tested?” Magnus inquired. “Tested how?”

“All I know is… you’ll be competing against the students from the other schools in five trials—each one testing your aptitude as a hero.” The white-haired woman smiled warmly at her students—her former students. “Look,” she said, rubbing the back of her neck nervously as she thought on where to start. “I—I want you all to know how very proud of you all I truly am. Some of you I’ve been with for four years and some… some I wish I had had more time with. This was supposed to be a school—it was supposed to be a place for you to learn about your powers safely and instead… you’ve each be fighting in the trenches. You haven’t just been fighting the Suicide Dave’s of the world—you came through when you were really needed.” Her proud smiled warmed each of them. “You saved me from my brother and other escaped Neo-Sapiens—people who had not only much more experience in using their powers than you all, but had even killed with them. You—you don’t know how huge that is…

“We’ve lost a lot of people… Addison, Lucas, Malachi and Quinton…”
Donna-Anne muttered Cloud’s name to herself.

“…and some… we lost to the other side. I know it hasn’t been easy on any of you but… you’ve done more than carry yourselves through the fire—you came out of it tempered and ready to deal with anything life throws at you. I—I couldn’t be more proud of you if you were my own children.” She smiled and brushed the back of her hand across her eyes. “Hey, you’d all better get ready… you’re graduating in a few hours.”

She led the way out of the common area—having to get ready for the ceremonies herself. She wasn’t surprised to see Michuru meet her in the hallway; the two had planned on going to the graduation together. No, her surprise was from seeing him suited up in his uniform. “What’s wrong?” she asked, sensing the tension from him and from James Howell behind him.

“Atlas,” Michuru muttered. “Colonel Crowbar just called to tip me off. Atlas contacted the United Nations and hour ago. They don’t want to throw the world into a panic like we saw during the Ragnarok—they’re not making this public.”

“Where?” she asked.

“The North Pole.”

“From there he could-” She shook her head and moved to slip past the duo. “I’ll get suited up and go with you!”

“No!” barked Michuru, grabbing her arms and pulling her to the side. “You’re staying! I-” He looked past her, to their students watching not far off. On some level, he was still determined to keep them in the dark concerning their relationship. He sighed, finally realizing that he didn’t always need to be so guarded. “You’re staying. The only thing I want repeated from five years ago is Atlas going down. I don’t know how I stopped him last time and I don’t know why he’s taken so long to come back… but… I don’t want to lose you too, Natalie. I… I don’t think I could take it.”

He craned his neck, lowering his lips to meet hers. He had intended to merely brush her mouth gently and fleeting but she quickly slipped her arms around his neck, pulling herself in for longer-lasting embrace. The solemn figure reciprocated her passion, slipping his arms around her waist and holding her tight. The simian doctor looked on proudly while the students grinned, happy for them both. Only Breanne Jordan, fresh on the scene, seemed upset by the display.

“That’s really cute and all,” Cassandra Goodman grumbled as Michuru slipped off a silver chain from around his neck and slipped it over Doctor Styles’ head. “But… what are we supposed to do? Just… go to our high school graduation and pretend the world’s not about to be flung into the sun?”

“If we put out lives on hold every time some costumed megalomaniac threatened to conquer-slash-destroy the world… we’d never leave the house.” Michuru smiled at his former charge nonetheless, intent to reassure her that everything would be fine. “The world is not about to be flung into the sun. I won’t let Atlas do that… this… this is where I keep all my stuff.”

With Doctor Howell accompanying him as a pilot, Michuru left them to try and put the possible tragedy far from their minds… and leave for a happier place.

The next few hours passed on in silence. Some of the students hadn’t heard the news about the Neo-Sapien terrorist, but the somber mood the others had succumbed to was unusually contagious.

Inclement weather had prevented the ceremonies from being held on the football field—instead, the graduation was moved into the reconstructed gymnasium. Benjamin Altair’s mood was only soured as he recalled the day so many months ago when the gym was partially destroyed. It was the day his girlfriend had fallen into a coma, thanks to the violent beating she had received from ZERO. The Neo-Sapien hunter had mistaken Katie Merrick for the arsonist responsible for the deaths of some of ERHS’ student body. It had turned out to be Ryan Mueller though—a young man still at large…

The bleachers were packed with family and friends, onlookers and well-wishers. Proud, beaming smiles came together in a mural of touching sentiment as a flock of white-robed young adults made their way onto the floor. Magnus Loder stood surrounded by his parents and his grandfather, all proudly beaming down at the young man before them. He didn’t think anything could have shattered that moment but Cassandra’s arrival came precariously close to it. “Magnus!” she exclaimed, fighting to be heard over the cacophony that filled the stadium. “Have you seen Maria? Her dad and brother are here and said they haven’t seen her yet.”

Magnus was suddenly reminded of her disappearance this morning and worry slowly encroached on his bliss. “Your girlfriend?” asked his mother. Tina Loder fixed him a wide grin when he nodded shyly. “Go find her,” she said. “We’re anxious to meet her.”

He hurried off to help Cassandra search for her roommate and in their haste they shattered past his own roommates. “Hi, dad!” exclaimed Drew over the band as he spotted his father. It was a sentiment that shook Adonis Skraag as he watched a proud father embrace his beaming son—the young man knew he had no one here to see him graduate.

Lex was thankful Colonel Sidell had been able to pull some strings to keep him and Magnus in school. In the last few weeks both had exposed their status as Neo-Sapiens to the student body. Enraged parents were calling for their expulsions but thanks to pull from the Department of SPB Affairs, no move had been made against either. Still, that didn’t make this process any easier; as Lex took his seat those human students nearby him shifted uncomfortably, as if afraid he might use his powers to destroy them here and now.

For several sweaty minutes the mandatory drivel that proceeded all high school graduations continued. The minute applause at the end of Jacquelyn Webber’s valedictorian speech was influenced heavily by her leaving the prom on the arm of a noted Neo-Sapien. She was simply thankful that the student body hadn’t booed her or thrown anything.

“Felicia Elise Akron,” called the assistant principal of ERHS. Michael Connors had been forced to stand in when Missus Reice had been unavailable to lead the ceremonies. “Genevieve Christine Almond. Benjamin Michael Altair.” The young Neo-Sapien known as Frostbite rose and stepped onto the dais for his diploma, not bothering to look to see if his mother had come to see him walk—he knew very well she was on a cruise in Alaska with her new beau, Jonathan. “Joseph Michael Anderson. Mariah Grace Anderson. Sarah Nicole Anderson. Eric Matthew Arnold. Samantha Rene Ashe. Melissa Renee Aspen. Mathew Atherton…

“Gina Lynn Balk. Anthony Edward Barnes. Joshua Marcus Barrie. Chienne Victoria Bedford. Hayward James Boston, IV. Francis Edward Cain. Jeremy Carlson.” Deimos rolled his eyes and threw himself forward, ejecting himself from his seat and swaggering up the steps, the smell of alcohol and cigarettes heavy around him. “Sarah Carter…” More and more names were called, and one-by-one the students of Eleanor Roosevelt High School made their way up to the dais to receive their diplomas.

As they made their way into the ‘E’s Magnus frowned; he and Cassandra had been unable to find Maria before they were forced to take their seats. When her name wasn’t called Magnus only became more worried. That sensation faded though as the calling of names continued closer to his own. Soon enough he was marching across the platform to receive his diploma and soon thoughts of Maria’s mysterious absence faded from his mind.

“Dustin Sanders,” Mister Connors called as he made his way down the list. “Andrea Denise Sego. Victor James Sigund. Adonis Michelle Skraag.”

Magnus chortled. “Michelle?” he asked himself. Still, as soon as Adonis’ name had left the lips of the assistant principal… it happened. The lightning-blue blur of energy blazed in and over the dais. Before anyone could decipher what had just happened Adonis was gone… and the Affiliation began their attack.

“PRETTIES!” snarled Tusk.

Christopher Tribe barely had time to scream as the Neo-Sapien’s molar shattered through his chest, coating Alan Sours in his friend’s blood. “I hate pretties,” grumbled the titan as his massive fist swung into Andross Snell. The young man was still alive, though hurting from the few ribs Tusk’s punch had broken.

As Andross slipped out of the embrace of consciousness, Alan shook his friend’s lifeless body. “Chris?” he asked, stunned. “Chris!?”

“He was fodder… like the rest of your kind.” The accent was perhaps what terrified Alan the worst. He knew that voice. He knew it all too well. Still, the way Girth had chosen to phrase things left him slightly confused.
“Your kind?” he asked as he faced the rotund young man and his albino friend.

“Round ‘em up, Girth,” Mirth said casually.

As Girth sped away his face barreled into Atlanta White’s fist. “Sway, Webber and White: ready for whompin’!” she exclaimed as she crackled her knuckles. “Ain’t y’all so glad we’re low on the alphabet?”

Scattered across the room and dispersed amongst the chaos, the trio of would-be heroes had no way of knowing what their teammates were involved in. They didn’t register that at that exact moment Lurker lunged from the shadow cast by Sarah Carter and tackled Deimos into another. They also failed to notice Black Widow grapple Donna-Anne, riding the young woman into the ground and standing victorious over her unconscious form.

“You need help?” Lawanda asked, looking to Mae O’Connell, the young woman codenamed Circe.

“Nah… I got this.” She opened her mouth, singing her siren’s song and enchanting Cassandra Goodman. Ben Altair blinked in surprise as he watched the young woman openly betray them.

Cassandra turned to her sand form and spun around, blasting a spray of minute particles past the young cold controller. “Darn,” Circe muttered, snapping her fingers in frustration. “Oh, well… Try it again, Sandy!” Her mental command over Hourglass had the pulchritudinous puppet advance once more and blast at Ben again…

All around the room the New Vindicators found themselves systematically attacked while other members of the Affiliation apparently worked to simply birth chaos into the auditorium. Still, there were veteran heroes present—Doctor Styles cursed her fellow teachers for finding reasons not to come to the commencement ceremonies. At least the Goodman’s had come to watch their son and daughter walk; on the ground below Halogen watched as Coach Crag and Miss Mist worked in tandem, same as the second and third Lodestone fought to contain the growing threat.

Just as the students were oblivious to what was happening to each other, so were their instructors naïve to the return of Blitzkrieg. The young speedster thundered through the herd, and stopped right before David Meinstein.

“Yoink,” Blitzkrieg said as he ripped the watch from David’s arm.

“Da-Dan?” David asked. “Dan? It is you, isn’t it?”

Blitzkrieg sighed as he shook his head sadly. “I can’t have you getting involved in this, Dave. I don’t want to see you getting hurt.”

David looked to the watch—the key to the Portal armor he had stolen so many months ago from his father’s laboratory. So long as he was wearing it, he could interface with machines and even pilot the armor from a remote location. It was a sophisticated piece of technology… and it had been so easily taken from him. “You don’t want me to get hurt… so you take away my protection?”

“You won’t fight without it,” Blitzkrieg said. “You can’t. Besides, Dave… you know what this is. You know why dad created this.”

“He made it to stop you,” David said simply. “The electrical aura absorbs and counteracts your own electrical powers while the teleportation and flight allow the user to simulate your top speeds.”

“Dad did a number on it,” Blitzkrieg said, “but… he didn’t build it to stop me, David. He made it to stop us… Because he couldn’t handle having Neo-Sapiens for sons. That’s why he killed mom… why he made that drug to stunt your powers and… and why he tried to use it on me.”

“Until you ran away.”

“I never looked back.”

“What do you call this?”

Blitzkrieg grinned knowingly. “Fighting back.”
To Be Continued... wrote:Fighting back.
Last edited by Michuru81 on Sun Jan 11, 2009 11:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Manintights » Sun Mar 04, 2007 1:22 pm

I knew it I knew it I knew it.

It had to be david meinstein in the portal armor, this is so f-ing cool.

MIT
"As my father taught, 'Training will raise your shield to the blow, but courage fills the gaps the shield leaves open.'"

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New Vindicators: [Gae Bolg]

Michuru81
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Post by Michuru81 » Sun Mar 04, 2007 7:16 pm

Manintights wrote:I knew it I knew it I knew it.

It had to be david meinstein in the portal armor, this is so f-ing cool.

MIT
What gave him away? Was it that David Meinstein was the host of G4's awesomely-awesome Portal or the various referrences to Obi-wan Kenobi? Really because... we're all hoping there's someone else out there who remembers the Drifter, Bloody Dove and Groover. :)
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Michuru81
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Posts: 5693
Joined: Wed Apr 05, 2006 9:17 pm
Location: Pekin, IL

New Vindicators, Chapter 95

Post by Michuru81 » Mon Mar 05, 2007 3:21 pm

Chapter XCV: Pomp and Circumstance [Part II]
“Hey there, gorgeous!” Alexa Hawk spun around and at the sight of Tide she immediately transformed to her liquid state. It was in that form that she was immune to most of his combat tactics. “We could make beautiful fluids together,” he laughed as her body contorted around his elongated arms.

“Can you believe that he actually stayed up all night thinking up clever pick-up lines to toss your way?” Forecast asked. Lightning struck the skylight and showered the crowd in glass. Suddenly, Fathom realized the weather outside had been her doing; the Affiliation wanted the civilians trapped inside a building as outside it would be easier to escape their attack. “This is simple, Alexa Whore—I mean, Hawk—your human form can’t withstand Tide’s attacks but your water form is vulnerable to mine. The choice is yours: who do you want to be dropped by?”

Fathom turned back into Alexa—she was doomed by the lightning either way, though she knew it would hurt worse in her aquatic state. Still, she knew she had a weapon greater than any power she had ever inherited from Doctor Splash. “This storm, Gale,” she said, unzipping the front of her graduation gown and slithering her sinuous, curvy form out of the collar. “It’s so… humid. So muggy. I can barely take it.” She tugged at the neckline of the sundress she had worn under the robes and Tide slithered closer.

“You—you look dehydrated. I should probably keep you saturated.”

“What are you doing, you idiot!?” Forecast thundered.

“Um…” Tide’s tendrils slid over Alexa’s shoulders and down her body. The young woman rolled her head suggestively and groaned softly. “Sat—saturating her?”

“You know the plan! Stick to it! Suffocate her!”

“With what?” asked Alexa playfully. “His tongue? Maybe-”

Thunder rolled in the distance, indicative of the African-American woman’s growing impatience. “If you won’t, I-” Forecast had no time to finish her threat—her words cut off in a gurgle as Tide raised his hands against her and began filling her lungs and plugging her nostrils with the warping tendrils that had once been his arms.

Lightning shattered through the air and struck Tide—his weakness for electrical attacks had him incapacitated instantly and their connection carried part of the attack to Forecast. She staggered, but found her bearing quickly enough. It wasn’t quick enough however; the respite gave Alexa time to transform once more and without Tide to trouble her… she was able to deal with Forecast on her own. “Choke on this!” Fathom snarled, mimicking Tide’s attempt to suffocate the girl. Forecast flailed and fought and slowly fell to her knees… consciousness sliding slowly from her grasp.

She collapsed in a heap over Peter Tidus’ still form and Fathom quickly made her way through the crowd to find the remnant of her friends…

“Wh—what happened?” she asked as she stared off into the now-vacant auditorium. Chairs were overturned, bodies lay strewn about; the discarded instruments from the band littered the gym. “Where is everyone?” Fathom spun around and was shocked to find Tide and Forecast gone as well. “No!” she exclaimed. Her heartbeat began to race as she ran for the doors.

Fathom’s body collided with the door and every molecule in her body sprayed from its edges. She reformed on the outside, shocked to find a peaceful scene awaiting her—a full parking lot but not a soul in sight. How had they done this? How had the Affiliation managed to spirit everyone away? “Don’t…” she uttered weakly. “Don’t leave me!” Fathom reverted to her natural state as she dropped to her knees. She began to rock back and forth as the silence bombarded her. “Don’t leave me alone.”

Tusk struggled to free himself from the binds Anomaly and Rumble had put on him—just inches from where Fathom rocked herself in an almost completely catatonic state. “What’s wrong with her?” Rumble asked as the duo pulled Mirth’s arms tight in a knot to bind the big man’s wrists and ankles.

Anomaly spun around, panicked himself. “Wh—where’s Jacquelyn?” he asked. “Where is she? What happened to her?”

Rumble looked to Tripper, standing not far from Anomaly, not sure if she understood what was happening to them. “Oh my God!” the man exclaimed as he reverted back to his other form. His eyes fell on Alexa and he rushed to her side. “No… No. No, no, no… no, she—she can’t be… She can’t be… Jacque! Don’t you dare die on me!”

“It’s Mara,” Halogen said, running up beside Tripper. “She’s able to induce phantasms based on what you’re most afraid of. She was the one responsible for the disturbance at homecoming.”

“How do we get them out of it?” Tripper asked, moving to run to Lex’s side as he joined Alexa, quivering on the floor.

“We have to find her and take her down!” Halogen proclaimed. “We should split up. We’ll go this way,” she said to Rumble. “You… go… somewhere.”

“Wait… why aren’t we being affected?” Tripper asked. “I mean… the first time she conjured up my mom…”

“Maybe y’all don’t fear her anymore,” Rumble said with a shrug, eyeing Halogen suspiciously. “After what she did to Lex? Maybe your feelings have changed. As for me… the body shunts blood from the body viscera to the peripherals when we’re afraid… like in fight-or-flight… Maybe because muh powers put me in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight… Ah’m always afraid?”

“That’s great,” grumbled Halogen, grabbing Tripper’s wrist and tugging at her to follow. “Look, girl… why don’t you stay with them and we’ll find Mara.”

“How do ya’ll know what this person’s name is?” Rumble asked.

Tripper blinked in surprise, not sure why the girl would suddenly question their teacher. Still, Halogen had no answer. “Ah got another question for ya’ll: what’s my name?”

An indignant look came over Halogen’s face as she pulled at Tripper’s wrist once more. “C’mon, Jacquelyn! We’ve got to find Mara!”

“Thing about muh powers is that they make me pretty focused. Ah notice a lot more’n people think Ah do. I notice things like how you haven’t used muh name at all and how ya’ll are so keen on getting’ Tripper all to yourself. That way Ah figure you must be that Saffron gal Lex was nice enough to warn us about.”

She glared at Rumble before dropping the façade. Tripper was astonished to watch the proof of Lex’s claims that Saffron was indeed a Neo-Sapien. “Gal, Ah hope you took advantage of the chaos and just now decided to make your move… cause if ya’ll been in bed with the enemy… we’re gunna be a lot less tolerant.”

Rumble moved to attack the girl, but she was beaten to the punch by Tripper. “Brace yourself, Atlanta!” the raven-haired girl exclaimed. She put her all into a massive burst and detonated the Trip Field over the area. Saffron was forced down quickly and Sarah Cohen, the fear-manipulating girl who had taken to calling herself Mara, dropped just as painfully. “I’ll take care of them!” Tripper commanded. “Go help the others!”

Rumble nodded and hurried off to try and regroup the New Vindicators. Her heightened senses quickly drew her attention away from her hunt.
Chienne’s scream cut off as she fought for breath. Magnus turned in time to witness her fall in the midst of the stampeding graduates. “Chienne!” he screamed. No matter what had happened between them she was his first girlfriend; she was his first kiss and his first love. He wouldn’t let her be trampled like this—he would give his all to protecting her.

Folding chairs formed a barricade around her, pushing the throng aside and giving him room as he dropped beside her. “What happened?” he asked, surprised to find her unconscious.

“I happened,” came the voice of Coriolis. “It’s a simple trick: changing my rotation to draw air in and siphon it from her lungs. Michuru taught it to me, actually. I need to remember to thank him.”

“She has nothing to do with this!”

Coriolis laughed. “She has a lot to do with this you moron. Do you know who her dad is? Of course you do. You were dating her.” The Brazilian youth chuckled as he shook his head at Lodestone. “You are I weren’t so different, Magnus: we were both born to powerful men; we both lived in the shadow of legacies we have no change of upholding; we both want two women…” He looked down to Chienne and a fiendish grin came over his face. “Was this girl the appetizer to the main course, Magnus? Alexa was my appetizer too. It’s something else we have in common… we’re both really in love with Maria.”

Magnus eyes widened as fear set in; it was not the sort created by Mara, but the sort from being genuinely terrified for the one he loved. “Where is she?” He had been looking for her when he heard Chienne cry out.

“We found out she was a spy, Magnus and my orders were to take care of her.”

Magnus’ eyes widened even more as rage began to build up inside of him. “What did you do to her!?!” he snarled.

“She’s alive,” Coriolis said. “The Affiliation’s promised her to me now. Well, her and Alexa.”

“Where is she!?!”

“At our new base, waiting for me to come home to her.” The Brazilian’s roguish grin was the last straw for Magnus Loder.

“I know your weakness though. Lex told me on the docks, when Bogart transferred some of your power to him.”

“Are you strong enough to stop me?” Coriolis mused.

“Maybe not by myself… but…” Magnus split into two and Coriolis seemed unfazed by the odds shifting slightly in Magnus’ favor.

“Two-on-one? Please… I doubt that’ll be enough…”

“How about four-on-one?” Coriolis’ eyes widened as a red-haired Drew and a blue-haired Drew stepped up to each side of the Lodestones.

Coriolis’ right leg slid back across the ground as he shifted in his stance. Lodestone grinned at the idea that Copycat was mimicking his powers—quadrupling his effectiveness against Coriolis. “His powers are weakened by magnetic current,” the red-haired Lodestone said. The red-haired Drew nodded, understanding the plan. The blue-haired Drew rolled his eyes.

“Come on! This isn’t some Wreck Room exercise! We could actually die here. We’re talkin’ game over, man! GAME OVER!”

“Oh, great!” exclaimed the blue-haired Lodestone. “A whiner! We get a whiner!”

“Well… one is positive and one’s negative…” The red Lodestone never took his eyes from Coriolis—the youth had not moved since shifting his form. He was worried; he was looking for his opening before he began to attack. “It just so happens that when we split we’re more or less… good and bad.”

“Plus, blue’s a really pretty color!” the red Copycat exclaimed. “I’ll bet you’re both more powerful because of it!”

“So… he gets to split into a cheerleader and depressing beatnik poet?”

“I prefer emo,” the blue-haired Copycat corrected. “Cutting turns me on.”

“God, can—can I please just beat on little boy blue here instead!?”

The red Lodestone braced as he watched something flash in Coriolis’ eyes. As the young man charged forward he began to leap and twirl, generating a high pressure gale blast with each kick of his legs. Each blast pelted for a different member of their group. “Blue Drew!” Lodestone commanded. “Try to resuscitate Chienne! Everyone else, follow my lead!”

Coriolis ceased his attacks as each of his opponents followed the red Lodestone in hurling folding chairs at Coriolis from every direction. He began to spin, quickly generating a cyclone to deflect the attacks from him. Chairs went flying in all directions—some that Coriolis rebounded the others caught and rebounded back on him. “It’s no good!” the blue-haired Lodestone screamed over the cyclone’s roar. “We—we have to try to hold him!”

The positive Lodestone nodded in agreement and Drew watched carefully—following the duo exactly. Directing the magnetic force at Coriolis they tried to reverse his rotation and slow him down. It was the way to best hurt him. It was the way to take him out of commission and force him to tell where he had taken Maria.

The blue-haired Drew lifted his head from Chienne as she began to cough. He had resuscitated her, breathing life back into her. “We need to get-” Chienne slapped him across the face and began to crawl away from the young man. “What- what’s wrong?”

“Don’t you dare touch me!” she snapped. “I won’t have a Neo-Sapien touch me!”

The blue Drew looked up to the man who had suddenly appeared behind her. He barely had time to recognize Blitzkrieg when an electric blast pierced through him. He began to topple backwards and slowly became transparent. The red Copycat screamed as he two became opaque. The two were transformed into an energy and quickly pulled together. Where they collided, only Drew Jenkins remained—falling forward and passing out on the battle-ravaged ground.

Blitzkrieg looked down at Chienne and immediately she rose and moved to run. She barely had taken a step when the man blurred past her. He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her close. “Seems like you’ll have to endure a Neo-Sapien touching you for just a bit longer,” he said, his voice full of disgust for what the Bedford’s represented.

“You have no idea who I am, do you?”

“You’re Chienne Bedford.”

“Do you know who my parents are? Do you know what they’ll do to your kind for this!?”

“Do you know what they’ve BEEN DOING!?” the speedster thundered. His voice was vehement and Chienne glared at him as his spittle sprayed her face. “They declared war on MY KIND years ago—don’t blame me for fighting back.”

“Get your hands off of her!” the red-haired Lodestone screamed, realizing something had happened to Copycat and turning to see what. A blast of Coriolis’ wind flung the blue-haired Lodestone across the room and his better half spun around, eyes wide from the realization that he was fighting a losing battle.

“We need her…” Blitzkrieg said, looking down to the indignant young woman. “And we need you too.”

“What?” Lodestone asked. Coriolis grabbed him by the back of his collar, spinning him around and into a head butt. Lodestone swaggered on the spot and the Brazilian quickly scooped him into his arms. With a nod from Blitzkrieg… the two left the school with their captives…
To Be Continued... wrote:With just five chapters until the Affiliation's leader comes forward the New Vindicators take a time out to collect themselves...
Last edited by Michuru81 on Sun Jan 11, 2009 11:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
OUBLIETTE - NVAE: IC | OOC

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