NEW VINDICATORS #81: Brand New Day
Chapter I: Brand New Day
Maria Loder opened her eyes to the touch of her husband. One hand was slipped under her body and hooked around, cupping one of her breasts beneath the sheets, while the other brushed back her long, dark hair to permit his lips to kiss her behind the ears. She giggled as he tickled her ankles by running his chaffed feet back and forth over them. “Good morning, Missus Loder,” the man said as he nuzzled her neck with his black goatee.
“It’s not a good morning,” she groaned. One of her arms slipped behind her and folded around his body before resting on his posterior. As she felt the smooth surface of her husband’s backside, she recalled their wedding night and the realization that Magnus had more hair on his back than her father had on his head. One of the amenities offered by their resort was a full spa, including waxing—something she had insisted he take full advantage of. It was just one of the many things she was going to miss about Jamaica when they went back home, to New York City. “We’re leaving today…”
“Well then,” he said as he walked his hand from her chest and down her stomach. As his fingers continued walking down her body Maria shuddered and closed her eyes as she began to melt. “I guess we just have to make the most out of our time here…”
They spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon in bed; they got out only to finish the laborious chore that was christening every surface of their suite with their love making and to begin packing for the return trip home.
Magnus’ own wedding present to his wife had been that only two people knew where they had gone or how to contact them: in case of a familial emergency, George Espada and Tina Loder had the name and number of the resort. No matter what crisis the Vindicators found themselves wrapped up in, Magnus and Maria were unreachable.
Of course they had heard snippets of news: talk of the odd weather phenomena that had swept over America reached their ears and when Iconoclast attacked the Louvre, most major news agencies had turned their attention to France. It had been a temporary thing though, given that hours later a disc of ice, several miles in diameter, appeared in the sky over Manhattan following a February thunderstorm and record-breaking hailstones.
The newlyweds new that something catastrophic had happened, however, Maria implored her husband to put it out of his mind. “David, Sandy and the others will take care of it,” she told him. “Have faith in our friends.”
Within the hour, reports came in that the ice began to melt, exposing a sky devoid of storm clouds and Magnus Loder rested easy.
It had been over a month since they had seen any evidence of the Vindicators’ battles and Maria took it as a sign that all was well. The blissful couple had returned to a hedonistic lifestyle of eating, making love, falling asleep on the beach, making love, snorkeling, making love, hiking and making love.
The spring equinox signaled an end to their escape and after waiting for what seemed like an eternity at the airport the couple returned to the United States, albeit not the state they considered home: first they landed in Florida where they were forced to wait two hours before boarding a plane to the nation’s capital where they would switch flights once again. After an unexpected layover they finally began boarding and, bound for New York, Magnus shoved their carry-on bags into the overhead compartments. “I’ll be right back,” he whispered to his wife, “I need to tinkle.”
Maria couldn’t help but chuckle at her husband’s use of the word ‘tinkle’ and simply shook her head over how boyish he had become since they had left New York City. For the last few weeks, he hadn’t had to live with the burden of the Lodestone dynasty on one shoulder, the Vindicators on the other, and the albatross that was Senator Amy Bedford hanging around his neck. He smiled. He laughed. He genuinely enjoyed life and she was heartbroken to think that they were now retreating from that life…
With a sigh, Maria slipped down into the middle seat, beside the blonde-headed young man perched beside the window. “Is everything all right?” he asked; though he had said so little, his accent was more than apparent.
At first Maria found herself staring at him: she couldn’t place where it was she had seen him before, but she had the distinct feeling that they had met somewhere before. “Oh, no,” she said, covering her surprise with a smile. “I’m just… sad to be going home, I suppose.”
“I must say I miss my own home,” he said glumly. “Work has kept me from my beloved Norway for too long.” He offered out his hand in greeting. “My name is Darwin. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
Maria smiled sweetly as she accepted his hand. “Likewise,” she said. “I’m Maria. So… what do you do that has you on the road?”
“Oh,” Darwin said absentmindedly, “I’m a doctor.”
That was certainly surprising. “But you look so young. You look like you’re my age…”
“Healthy living,” Darwin said with a shrug. A devilish smile came over his face then. “So, tell me Maria: what paradise are you so reluctant to leave behind?”
“Her honeymoon.” As Darwin looked up and Maria turned, the woman’s smile brightened at the sound of her husband’s voice. Neither recognized the jealous glint in Magnus’ eye as he sat down in the aisle seat.
“Darwin, this is my husband,” said Maria. “Kennedy…” She employed Magnus’ alias; Magnus Loder topped the FBI’s Most Wanted List. “…This is Doctor… I didn’t get your last name, actually.”
“Doctor Straus,” Darwin intoned as he moved to reach past Maria to offer his hand to Magnus. A pinging noise quieted the cabin as the captain announced his intent to takeoff and Darwin sat back into his seat before he could shake Maria’s husband’s hand. “So, what business are you in?”
“Insurance,” Magnus said quickly. He grinned as he leaned back into his seat and fastened the seat belt. “We’re in the business of keeping people safe.” He opened his hand and Maria’s fell into it reflexively as the plane began to ascend.
Darwin watched as the two shared a kiss and then reached between his legs for the small bag that carried his laptop. As the two lovebirds lost themselves in each other’s presence, Darwin delved into his work.
Soon enough the plane landed in New York City and, hand-in-hand, Magnus and Maria disembarked. They navigated the airport lazily and eventually found their way to the luggage claim. Magnus spun Maria around and wrapped his arms around her waist as he kissed her once more. He didn’t intent to let go but the sound of rapid gunfire caused their embrace to shatter.
Six men, each armed with an automatic weapon and garbed in ski masks and bulky winter coats, stood in the sea of cowering people. “You!” the lead gun man snarled as he pointed his gun at Darwin. He motioned towards a luggage cart containing several bulging bags. Some of the bags were open and Maria could see piles of cash stuffed into them. “You’re coming with us!”
“Push the cart!” demanded another of the gunman. His voice was higher than his associate’s was. He rushed forward and hauled Darwin to his feet. Darwin kept his hands in the air as he was lead to the cart and shrieked in terror as the man opened fire into the air. “Who here’s a pilot!?!” he demanded. “We need a plane and someone who can fly it!”
Before either newlywed could do anything they watched as the guns leapt from the masked men’s hand. Maria immediately rounded on her husband but the instant she registered his surprise she knew that he hadn’t used his magnetic abilities on them. As they both pondered who had, the culprit revealed herself…
The blonde woman wore a sleeveless, black leather shirt. Emblazoned over her chest was a white ‘V’: the symbol of the Vindicators. She wore raged blue jeans with faded cowboy boots. Most remarkable about her where the white flames burning where ice blue eyes should have been. She held up her hand and every gun was magnetically drawn to her palm. “In case the uniform didn’t tell you?” she asked, smirking at the men. “You boys are screwed…”
The rest of her team rushed at them then. The first of her teammates were a pair of girls in their late teen years: while the girl with the flaming eyes had a bobbed cut, the first girl had long, hair that curled under her jaw. Her tall, thick frame was garbed in the standard uniform of the Vindicators and covered by a short jacket with a white ‘V’ on the back. The other wore a body suit with thigh-high boots. The cut of her uniform bared her thighs which, at the moment, were covered in white fur. Her ears were tufted and whiskers extended from her nose: the young woman was an anthropomorphic feline.
While her appearance may have been startling, it was not as alarming as the appearance of an ape who wore black scrubs with the same white ‘V’ that the others wore. Over the scrubs he wore a white lab coat.
He led the charge of the young men in their midst: one seemed to be in his mid-teens. His hair had a ruffled look and his standard uniform was accented by the tassels that hung off of his gloves and from the cuff of his boots. Slightly older than him was a young man in black leather pants with an apron tied over his chest to give the monstrous bat wings protruding from his back room to spread.
The next had burning eyes that matched the first of their cadre, save only for the color of their flame. While the woman’s eyes burnt white, his were an eerie black flame that filled his skull.
Behind him was a young man whose head had been shaved bald. He wore a long, black trench coat over the T-shirt that reflected the style that unified the others costumes. His pants conjured the memory of German soldiers: they were bunched out on the sides of his thigh and just under the knee stuffed into his black, military-issue boots.
His eyes flared with an eerie blue glow as azure flames burned inside his skull. With a thought he commanded the moisture in the air; he forced the particles to slow, creating ice from thin air around the gunman’s body.
With an uncanny precision the group eliminated whatever threat the masked men posed and stacked their unconscious bodies one-by-one atop the bags of money that were haphazardly tossed onto the luggage cart. “Are you all right?” the simian asked as he bent down to help Darwin up. The two younger women hurried to lead them both out of the area as the bald hero began to form a dome of ice that would not only hold the gunman until the proper authorities arrived but also keep the crowd from seizing any of the pilfered funds.
“U.S. Marshal!” a man screamed as he trained his pistol on the group of heroes. “Hands where I can see them!”
“They just saved our lives!” cried one of the people in the crowd.
“I don’t need saved by no stinking NS’s!” another screamed.
“It never gets old, does it?” asked the youngest of their group. A breeze wafted through the area as the young man stepped forward. “I know you’re not going to shoot me, Isaiah.” The Marshal trembled as he heard his name uttered by someone he hadn’t given it to. “I know that you’re only doing your job. I know that you actually sympathize with Neo-Sapiens.” In this day and age, that was a rare thing to find: since the end of World War II, the world had known of the existence of Neo-Sapiens, men and women born with fantastic abilities that the rest of humanity both feared and hated them for.
Some saw their animosity as justified, given that an overwhelming majority of the super-powered community had made careers out of misusing their abilities. Some sought personal gain; some strove to grasp vengeance; some simply wanted to make the world quake in fear of their awesome powers. Still, for every being who misused their abilities there was one who dedicated themselves to safeguarding humanity.
The most renowned of these people were the Vindicators—men and women identified for the white ‘V’s worn over their chests on a field of black.
“Your step-son is one,” the youngest Vindicator said. “Colin can make animals obey his will. It’s not an ability he inherited from you or your wife but one you suspect came from his biological father, Jackson.”
Isaiah trembled as he kept the gun trained on the young hero. Finally, Darwin put a hand on the Vindicator’s shoulder and gently pushed him aside to take his place. “These men and women saved me,” he said meekly. “They have committed no crime other than being born differently.”
“Anna?” the bald Vindicator said as he looked to the feline in their midst. “I think it’s time we left…”
“We still have to pick up the love birds,” the simian intoned. His eyes scanned the crowd and lit up at the sight of Magnus and Maria. “Mister Loder! Miss Esp—forgive me…” A warm and loving smile spread over his face as he corrected himself: “Missus Loder.”
“Loder!?!” screamed a man. “Magnus Loder’s here!?!”
“The guy who killed Senator Bedford!?!” screamed another.
The youngest Vindicator pinched the bridge of his nose. “I told you it would be a bad idea to bring Doctor Howell, did I not?”
“I couldn’t wait to see them,” the simian said defensively. “My apologies, Breeze.”
The woman whose eyes had burned with white flames rushed into the crowd and grabbed Magnus and Maria’s hands. “Come on,” she said as she led them towards where the heroes were gathering around the feline. “Let’s get out of here…” Holding their hands, one of her teammates dropped a hand over her shoulder, forming a link from the honeymooners to the fur-covered heroine.
“Tropelet,” she uttered. An instant later their surroundings shifted and they were no longer in an airport but in an unfamiliar chamber. Magnus and Maria Loder had been expecting the nexus of Hub Enterprises—they presumed they would be staring out a massive window at the Manhattan skyline. Instead they were in a windowless room with mismatched furnishings that were hardly the posh lifestyle David Meinstein had made them all accustomed to.
“Where are we?” Magnus asked, spinning slowly to take in the entirety of their alien surroundings. He stopped as he watched Breeze immediately depart their company and vanish through a threshold that led to another room.
“In a complex hidden inside Going-to-the-Sun Mountain,” offered the bald headed hero. Magnus knew him as Ben Altair, the Vindicator codenamed Coldfire. “Mister Mayhem built it in anticipation of reuniting with his temporally scrambled friends. It’s where Hikari trained the Next Vindicators, where Doctor Howell took the school after Black Box attacked the new school and where we went after Deimos trashed David’s house.”
Magnus struggled to process everything he had just been told. “Okay, where…” He trailed off as Breeze emerged again, carrying a kitchen chair. “Where’s David?”
“He’s on leave,” said Chienne Bedford. As a Nephilim, whenever she called upon her abilities, her eyes were engulfed in heatless white flames known as hellfire. “The night of your wedding, he and Cassie were in a car accident. We almost lost her but… Knitter saved her life.”
Breeze put the chair behind Maria and immediately the woman fell backwards and onto it. Magnus stared strangely at him. “Uh, how...? Who…?”
“I’m Josh Cron,” Breeze said. “I know stuff.”
His explanation only perplexed the man further. “I don’t understand…”
“I know you don’t,” Breeze explained. “I know you don’t read comic books. That’s what I do: I know stuff.”
“You get used to it,” Coldfire explained. Some of his team shook their heads in disagreement. “Look, if you want to know what’s going on… I think Doctor Howell could explain it better.” The Vindicators turned towards the simian in their midst. James Howell’s Neo-Sapien power to transform into a gorilla had manifested when he was fourteen-years-old and about to graduate high school.
It was an ability he had never learned to control.
The world feared and hated Neo-Sapiens and trapped with the appearance of a simian, James Howell watched as his scholarships were revoked. He never went to college but that didn’t prevent him from immersing himself in an independent study. In his youth, he had believed his mind contained the solution to some of mankind’s greatest problems. He believed he could cure cancer but couldn’t secure the funding to research his theories. Ultimately he had begun a life of crime in order to further his research.
His criminal career had put him against a different incarnation of the Vindicators. Led by the Aurelius, it had been the third Lodestone, Phenomena, Onyx, Nock and Halogen who had brought him to justice and saw him imprisoned in the home for super-powered criminals: Alcatraz. In time, his model behavior caused the guards there to bring in professors who judged him more than capable and awarded him an honorary doctorate.
When he sided with his jailers during a riot, Doctor James Howell was paroled to the New Vindicators Academy of America where he began working alongside his former enemy, Doctor Natalie Styles—Halogen. He watched as Patrick Goodman succeeded Philip Alston as headmaster and following Patrick’s death, the good doctor was nominated to the position.
His tenure was short lived though as not long after Black Box raided the school and Doctor Howell took his charges into Canada…
To Be Continued... wrote: Michuru81 wrote:
NateDogg5257 wrote:Also, what was the Affiliation up to when Big A came around?
Something more important. It's something that will eventually come out but... there is another mystery from the same period that has yet to be explained; the explanation is the Affiliation. During the war with Apocatastasis, Adonis and company were out of the country.
After six months, NateDogg5257's question is answered...