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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Re: NEW VINDICATORS: Prologue and Chapter 1101

Post by Michuru81 » Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:07 pm

Horsenhero wrote:
flynnarrel wrote:Just reading the description for NV#105 on January 4th 2010 made my anxiety increase.


Why? Are you thinking that the students are going to become involved with powers beyond human ken(der)? :twisted:
I have no idea what flynn is talking about...
...But I Do! wrote:Book IX, Chapter XLIV: Movies
“He’s like Mister Mxyzptlk, Impossible Man, the Great Gazoo and Robin Williams all rolled into the body of Tasslehoff Burrfoot,” explained David. “He warps reality at his will. He… he put us in the Sims.”

“You weren’t there when he came back,” said Ben. “He took our powers away, replacing them with ineffectual abilities designed to make Steve Potter look good.”

“You’re both forgetting the time I showed up and made Magnus and Chienne’s students go through my badly conceived movie script!”

The five men stared blankly at him. “What?” asked Magnus.

Elemenoh produced a day planner and flipped through the pages. “Oh, sorry,” he said, stopping on the event in question. “That doesn’t happen until New Vindicators #105… right before Justice comes back. Huh. Go figure."
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Re: NEW VINDICATORS: Prologue and Chapter 1101

Post by GPrime » Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:36 pm

Yay!

Michuru81
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New Vindicators, Chapter 1102

Post by Michuru81 » Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:41 pm

Chapter II: New Slang
Things had been awkward between Owen and Adrianna ever since their first flying lesson.

Not counting the Curler, the oldest of the Vindicators was David Meinstein, a man who would not turn twenty-one until November. It was the decision of Colonel Sidell, the Director of the Department of SPB Affairs, that each member—except for the Curler—would be required to continue their education in order to remain actively on the team. While Quinton and Clarissa had both found themselves accepted to Columbia University—studying computer engineering and history, respectively—Adrianna Covington and Owen Reagan were unsure what direction they should steer their educational pursuits in.

Exceptions were made for them. The purpose, as Colonel Sidell had explained it, was to expose the team to knowledge and skills they didn’t have. “Being a Vindicator is more than slugging it out with one villain or another. What if that villain has a bomb strapped to a civilian’s chest? How will you disarm it? What if you’re dealing with a serial killer who leaves clues hinting at his next move, but the clues are all riddles based on Arthurian legend? What if a villain is just copying the crimes depicted in Hitchcock’s films? There’s no telling what could come in handy in the field…” He had gone on to praise Magnus Loder for learning everything he could about his powers: he knew what metals were used in the composition of everyday things—he knew what he could and could not do with his abilities, which meant he could use his powers to strengthen the collapsing supports of a skyscraper hit by an explosion, if necessary.

Adrianna Covington’s spells were fairly simple and Owen’s core contribution to the team was found in his ability to regenerate himself by siphoning life energy from an opponent, making him slightly more resilient in battle than his teammates. Neither of them felt they had much to learn about how their abilities worked until Owen was reminded that not understanding his abilities kept him from touching another person.

Still, both had protested that they were not the college type: “What good will writing papers about Sally do us in battle?” Adrianna had argued. She had heard Clarissa discussing an assignment concerning Lucy, a hominid skeleton discovered in 1972, and had mistaken it for a Peanuts character of another name.

Owen had already been training with their teammate, Alex Winters, to try and develop some sort of martial ability. After all, his power was contingent upon being able to make flesh-to-flesh contact with an opponent: if he faced someone like Sclera, who had considerable martial training under his belt, Owen would have been useless in combat. At their boss’ instruction, Adrianna was now joining Owen and Alex every weekday for two hours.

Three days a week, they met up with Captain Remus, a retired Army officer responsible for Colonel Sidell’s training. A Vietnam veteran and former P.O.W., he taught the pair everything he knew about survival—many of the nuggets of knowledge they gleamed from him made the pair want to vomit. Once he was finished with them, they were put behind flight simulators…

Owen found it strange that out of their routine, it was the flight instructions Adrianna had so vehemently protested. There was not a day that Alex and Captain Remus had forced them to use muscles they didn’t know they possessed. They were given an hour after each session to ice their sore, aching bodies. Compared to the rest of their training regiment, their flight lessons were hardly so exhausting. Still, they were the classes the sorceress balked at.

“David’s armor opens gateways to any place and I can cast a teleportation spell to instantly move the team anywhere! Why do we need to learn to fly a plane!?!”

“What if the group’s teleporters were disabled?” Colonel Sidell had countered with.

“Then how would I be flying the damn plane!?!”

He never answered her. He simply smiled and stared at her until she rolled her eyes and went back to logging more time in the simulators. Then, two weeks ago, Colonel Sidell decided to put the two teenagers at the controls of a real plane, where their actions would have consequences. The experience had been exhilarating and both of the heroes had left the plane thankful they had been forced into this. Laughing, Owen asked Adrianna if she wanted to grab a late lunch.

There, over a pizza, the conjurer exposed her adoration for the works of Nicholas Sparks. That transitioned into her proclaiming her love for The Notebook and how Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams were her favorite actors ever, which led to her confession: “Her new movie’s been out for, like, weeks and I still haven’t seen it.”

When Owen suggested they go see it now, she shrugged saying, “Why the hell not?”

At the pizzeria and the theatre, he insisted on paying for everything. Despite having just downed two slices of Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza, Adrianna snagged a bag of popcorn. Before leaving the counter, she stole a straw and stabbed it onto the nozzle that dispensed butter. Owen watched in wonder as Adrianna explained that the makeshift pipeline permitted her to inject butter into the bag’s core, allowing for a more even distribution of butter with a little shaking.

Close to two hours later, the Time Traveler’s Wife was over and the pair walked outside to find it raining. Garbed only in a pale sundress, Adrianna grimaced at the grey sky. Perhaps he had been inspired by the romantic movie or perhaps he was just feeling gentlemanly; whatever the catalyst behind his actions, Owen slid out of his leather jacket and draped it over Adrianna’s shoulders. It was a gesture she couldn’t help but laugh at. “It’s not problem…” she said as she started to weave her hands through the air.

Realizing what she was doing, Wilt put an arm around her and the pair teleported from the street to the Vindicators’ renovated penthouse inside Hub Enterprises. Ever since Deimos’ attack on the school, David had felt it best for the students if the Vindicators weren’t stationed on the campus, lest any of their other enemies came looking for a fight.

Owen couldn’t help but laugh as he turned and leaned against the kitchen countertop. “I completely forgot you could do that,” he admitted. “I mean, here I was, thinking you were worried about walking home in the rain…”
“How could you forget that I teleport?” the magus asked, sharing in the man’s mirth. She rummaged through the fridge before producing two bottles of water. Once he took the offered drink, she unscrewed the cap and spun to lean against the counter beside him. “Sometimes, I think it’s the only reason they have me on this team.”

“No! There’s other reasons… Those weird tentacle things, for instance?”

Adrianna couldn’t help but spit the water she had just taken a swig of. “Weird tentacle things, huh?” Adrianna asked. Once she had dried her mouth on the back of her arm, she playfully jabbed him in the gut with her elbow. “You think my tentacles are weird?”

“Did I say weird?”

“You did.” She turned on him with an expression of faux hurt. “You called my tentacles weird.”

“Well, I apologize. I meant to say ‘extravagant’: your extravagant tentacle things.”

Just when she thought she had her laughter under control, it started again. “I’ll bet you say that to all the girls…”

“God, no. On any other girl, I find tentacles to be weird but… somehow you pull it off. Hence the extravagancy of them.” The two continued to laugh. Adrianna risked raising the bottle to her lips. “I, uh… I really want to kiss you right now.” She froze. “Just… just so you know, I mean…”

Her eyes shifted in her skull to look at him from the side. “Huh?”

“I just… I can’t, because of my powers—not yet anyway! I mean, I’m working with my aunt and all and I… The night Deimos attacked something happened with Miss Hawk and… I want to kiss you but I can’t. I just… I didn’t want you to think that I… didn’t… want to…” Owen’s face was turning red. “I mean, you-”

“Oh, my God, please stop talking.”

“Huh?”

Adrianna stood paralyzed by Owen’s confession. She turned and set the bottle down on the counter. Her hand pulled away only for her to hesitate. Her arm jerked as if she were about to take the bottle back up but then she turned away mechanically. “Anna?” he asked. She silenced him by pointed her index finger upwards. Her hand shook before she finally started to walk away. “Anna, what’s-”

“You want to kiss me!?!” she thundered, rounding on him with unbridled intensity in her eyes.

“Ye-yeah…” stammered Owen. “I mean, some guys don’t kiss on the first date but I-”

“You thought this was a date!?!”

Owen froze. He didn’t know what to say now.

“Owen… No. It’s not…” She let out a whine of frustration.

“I just thought that-” She thrust her arm out towards him, holding out her index finger again to silence him. While it worked for a moment, Owen soon continued. “You’re single. I’m single.”

“Aren’t you dating that one girl who can’t touch people?”

“We’ve been getting along these last few months and today was fun and I just-”

“Friends, Owen! We’re friends! Friends get along! Friends have fun!”

“I just thought… I mean, I thought… The signals…”

“What signals!?!”

Owen couldn’t bear to look at her anymore. “I wish I could teleport,” he grumbled.

Adrianna stomped out of the room. Owen remained in the kitchen, shaking his head and mentally berating himself. Suddenly, Adrianna stormed the kitchen once more and his spirits soared. “Here’s your jacket,” she grumbled, pulling the coat off of her back and offering it over to the young man before retreating once again.

Ever since that day, they had avoided each other. They said nothing to each other while training. If anything, they were both thankful that David had included soundproofing each room: if Connor had heard their spat, he never would have let up on it. For two weeks, Owen and Adrianna had expertly danced around the subject and each believed that no one was the wiser.

They were horribly wrong. Alex had noticed. Captain Remus had noticed. Colonel Sidell had noticed. David, Cassandra, Quinton, Clarissa and Connor had noticed. It was why, when David found out about the arrival of two new students from Georgia, he asked Doctor Howell to let him handle it. Hoping that the time together would force them to confront whatever had transpired between them, David had ordered Owen and Adrianna to pick up two of the school’s new recruits at the airport…

“This is so stupid,” Adrianna grumbled as she watched the people disembarking the plane greeted by their loved ones. All around them, people were hugging, laughing and crying tears of joy. “One simple spell and I can teleport them from here to the school. Why did they send us by car?”

Owen shrugged. “Beats me,” he muttered apathetically. In his hands was a crude sign that simply read, “LUMANTA.”

“God, grandpa!” the sorceress snapped at a middle-aged businessman she had caught staring at her rear. “What don’t you take a picture, huh?” As she spun around to face the gate, she pushed her sunglasses back up her nose. “Perv.”

An awkward silence fell over the pair as they waited. Unsettled by it, Adrianna grumbled, “Why even send us at all? We’re full-fledged superheroes now! We’ve got important crap to do! They can’t expect us to just… come pick up some brats from the airport! God, why can’t Ben or Chienne or one of them come and do this?”

Owen merely shrugged in response.

“‘Don’t teleport, Anna’,” she said in her best impersonation of David Meinstein. “‘You’ll freak out the new kids, Anna. Take Cassie’s car, Anna.’ And why the hell was he so insistent you had to come?”

“No clue.”

Adrianna stared at him sideways. “Stop it.”

“What?” Owen asked, never taking his eyes from the gate the arrivals from Atlanta were funneling out of.

“This quiet treatment. It’s…”

“I’m not being quiet.”

“The hell you aren’t! You haven’t said like ten words this whole day!”

“I figured you didn’t want to talk to me.”

“This is about the other week, isn’t it? About the kitchen?”

Owen shrugged.

“God dammit, Owen! Just talk to me!”

Finally, he rounded on her. His face flew towards hers and her eyes bulged. She was terrified that he might carry through with that secret wish he had confessed just two weeks ago: she was afraid he really would kiss her and drain her of her energy.

When Owen stopped with his lips just inches from hers, he stared into her eyes with a look brimming with ardor. “You want me to talk? Fine. I like you, Anna. I think you’re gorgeous. I enjoy spending time around you. I can even handle when you’re being a total bitch. Actually, I think I’m even starting to think it’s cute when you’re a bitch. I like you and… I want to have a relationship with you. I think you do too.

“I’ve seen the way you look at David and Cassie or Quinton and Rissa—Magnus and Maria, Ben and Alicia… For God’s sake, Anna: you scowl at half of them and sneer at the rest! I see you and… and I see someone jealous. I think you want what they have and now that someone is standing in front of you, saying he’s willing to give that to you, you’re shaking! Now I’m not sure if you know what you want… Now, I can’t help but think that all this time, I’ve been falling for a scarred little girl!”

He drew back slowly but maintained eye contact. He folded his arms across his chest—holding the sign under his armpit—before turning away and refusing to look at her.

“You’re right,” she reluctantly hissed. Her hands were balled into fists—fists that shook with rage. Her gaze fell on the tiled floor of the airport. “When the Aurelius was training me, there was this guy…” She stopped to consider the other students the Aurelius had taken on: Dana O’Laughlin and Josh Cron were dead now, and there was no telling where the Damned had gone; there was one other who was missing… “A.J. Tharivol. He was goofy and his teeth were messed up but he… I don’t know. I kind of liked him. Now, I don’t know. I mean, I found him—back when we were getting sick thanks to Contagion? Anyway, I found him and he just… He took off. He left me behind and… he never came back for me. He knows where to find me but he just…” A dejected sigh escaped between her lips. “I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing’s going to happen there but before that? At Magnus and Maria’s wedding? I had a little too much wine and I… I kissed Rissa.” Suddenly her gaze shot up towards him. His was already on her; his eyes were bulging. “You ever tell anyone and I will kill you, got it?” Only when he gave her a slow, terror-inspired nod did she even think of continuing. “When she started shacking up with Corey, I put the moves on Phobos. The night he died, we made out on Ben and Alicia’s couch. I took off my shirt and he took off.” She shrugged. “My whole life, I’ve been alone. My sister and my brother ran away and mom barely noticed. Did you know that she was one of the refugees Gabby’s group sprang from that concentration camp? God, I was right there—I was one of the people who helped them escape. She had to see me but she never said a word. Soon as they were in Canada, she split.

“Thing is, I don’t like being alone. I especially don’t like that it feels like everyone around me is in a relationship. I mean, okay, I get Cassie but… Rissa’s got some padding on her, Alicia’s face has all those freckles and Maria? Yeah, she looked gorgeous at her wedding but she dresses like she shops at a store for fat guys. Meanwhile, I look like… like this and I’m…” The magus shook her head. “I’m alone and I’m hurting but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to jump on the first guy to show me any interest.

“Look, you’re… you’re not ugly. You’re actually kind of hot. You’ve got this whole… Ian Somerhalder thing going for you and it totally works and I like being around you too but…” She vacillated; only when Owen pushed her to go on did she persist. “You can’t touch anyone, Owen.”

The young man’s heart sank. He had no control over his Neo-Sapien ability: when his flesh touched another person’s, he immediately began to drain them of their life-force. It was a power that killed his first girlfriend. It was a power that turned his adoptive parents against him. It was a power that left him alone…

“I want to be with someone so much it hurts but… I want to be with someone I can hold hands with. I want someone I can hug without having to be careful to avoid touching skin-to-skin. I want to be able to kiss—to screw! I want a normal relationship and… I’m sorry, Owen but I know you can’t give me what I want.”

Owen said nothing. He simply continued to try and do his best not to cry in front of Adrianna.

“I’m sorry,” she said as she put a hand on his arm. Though it had been too warm for the jacket, it helped to keep the youth from his powers accidentally triggering at times like this. “I really do like being around you and I want to keep being your friend. Just your friend though.”

Owen shook his head. “How is that any different from what I was offering you?” he grumbled.

“Excuse me?”

“Adrianna, I… I wanted to kiss you. I told you that because… because I couldn’t! I know I can’t kiss you and I know we couldn’t have sex but… we could hold hands if I wore gloves. We could go out to eat or grab a movie. We could go dancing and-”

“And get attached? What happens the first time we… I don’t know, Owen! What if we rent a movie? What if we’re sitting on my sofa, watching it and I just nuzzle up against your chest? What happens if you ever get the urge to just hold me?”

“I can! We can! We just have to be safe-”

“It isn’t going to work, Owen… It’s not fair to either of us to pretend it could.”

Owen stood with jaw clenched, looking away from the fetching young woman by his side. Adrianna flashed him a hurt look before casting her sad eyes downward. Both were oblivious to the pair timidly approaching them. “Excuse me?”

“What!?!” The Vindicators thundered in unison as they rounded on two fifteen-year-old Filipinos. The boy and the girl fixed them with odd expressions: while the girl regarded them with a look of boredom, the boy was grinning luridly at Adrianna.

“I take it your from the school?” the girl apathetically asked, pointing to the sign. “That’s us. Raanan and Razi Lumanta.” She gestured from the boy to herself and then to the sign. “Unless you’re expecting some other Lumanta…”

The Vindicators hastily composed themselves. “Were you two fighting?” Raanan asked.

“No,” both snapped.

“Did you just break up or something?”

“We’re not dating,” Owen icily explained.

“So, she’s single.” Raanan turned his smile back onto Adrianna before bouncing his eyebrows up and down over the tops of his sunglasses. “What’s your name, baby?”

Adrianna raised an eyebrow at the boy’s advances. “What are you, like… eleven?”

Raanan nodded. Razi merely shook her head. “We’re fifteen,” she offered.

“Oh, she was askin’ for my age?” Raanan laughed. “I thought she was asking me how long my-”

“Okay!” Owen said loudly. “Why don’t we grab your bags and get you guys over to the school…”

“Sounds great,” Raanan said as he took the messenger back he had used as his carry on off his shoulder. He pressed the bag into Owen’s hands. “I don’t have any other luggage—I never trust the airlines with my things so everything is being shipped to the school.”

Owen looked from the bag to Adrianna; when the magus looked away, the New Jersey native shoved the bag back at its owner. “You can carry your own things,” Owen growled before turning on Razi. “What about you? Any other baggage?”

The girl nodded slowly before turning and making her way through the crowded airport. Left alone with the pair of graduates, Raanan smiled at Adrianna. “So, you guys go to this school too, huh? Looking for a study buddy? Someone to help you learn about… human anatomy?”

Adrianna feigned gagging. “We’re both graduates,” Owen explained as he watched the diminutive girl vanished into the crowd. “We’re just doing a favor for the school by picking you up.”

“Don’t wait for the school to ask, baby,” Raanan said with a wink his sunglasses obscured. “You can pick me up anytime.”

Owen looked to the diminutive boy; he couldn’t have been but an inch or two taller than five feet. “Yeah,” the elder boy said as he waved his hand through the air, judging where on his chest Raanan would come up to. “I’ll bet she could, actually…”

The boy ignored Owen and smiled sweetly at Adrianna. “So what are your powers?” Adrianna’s eyes bulged at the question while Owen hurriedly looked around. Even though the Vindicators were on the road to improving the public’s attitudes towards Neo-Sapiens, they weren’t so popular that they could just openly talk about their nature in public. “I, uh… I morph into a half-human, half-cat,” Adrianna whispered.

“Mmm,” Raanan said. As he nodded his head, his hand remained stationary; still, his fingers stroked his chin. “I would love to see your pussy…”

“Excuse me!?!” Owen thundered.

“…Form!” Raanan laughed. “I would love to see your pussy form! You need to learn to let people finish their sentences, man!” He couldn’t help but grin at the outraged expression on the man’s face. “Man, for someone who isn’t hitting this fine piece of ass, you sure are protective of it.”

Owen thrust his arm out and stopped with his open palm just an inch from Raanan’s face. “Keep running your mouth and you’ll find out firsthand what I do, kid.”

“First you refuse to carry my bags, then you threaten me? Keep this up and you can kiss that tip goodbye!”
Adrianna grabbed Owen by the shoulder and lead him a few feet away from the short, brown-haired boy. “Look, he’s obviously just trying to get under your skin. Just let it roll off you. I mean, he’s just a kid!” Suddenly her eyes bulged and she rose up onto her tiptoes. She turned and Owen leaned to the side to look around her: Raanan had slipped up behind them and placed his hand firmly on the sorceress’ posterior.

“Don’t mind me,” he said as he gave it a playful squeeze, “just trying to figure out where the tail would come out.”

Adrianna swelled up with rage. She turned on the boy and Owen dreaded she would shift into her feline form here in the airport. Looking to stop her, he grabbed her arms and his powers triggered. Immediately, Adrianna could feel her strength vacating her body. She felt drained and tired—her knees felt as though they might give out at any moment.

Realizing what he had done, Owen let go and Adrianna stumbled. Raanan moved to catch her—to help support her. One hand fell on her back while another softly clamped over her breast. His groping seemed to restore some of the energy Owen had drained and the woman pushed the boy away. “I don’t know whose touch is worse,” she growled, throwing the keys to Cassandra’s car into Owen’s chest. “You can drive the midget—I’m finding his sister and teleporting out of here!”

Owen and Raanan watched Adrianna storm away in search of Razi before looking mournfully to each other. “She’s not my sister,” Raanan grumbled as he shouldered his messenger bag.

“She’s not?” asked a perplexed Owen. “So, what is she? Are you guys cousins or something?”

“She’s Razi,” Raanan said matter-of-factly. “So, what do you drive? Hopefully nothing too embarrassing. It’s going to be hard as hell picking up trim with you riding shotgun, let alone you riding shotgun in a clunker.”

“You’re fifteen,” Owen said as they made their way out of the airport. “You’re not driving.”

“I’m an excellent driver.”

“So was Rain Man.”

“You really wanna tap that ass, don’t you? Bad.”

“You really want me to punch you, don’t you?”
To Be Continued... wrote:Solar Flare
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Re: NEW VINDICATORS: Prologue, Chapter 1101 & 1102

Post by Solarflare » Wed Jul 06, 2011 12:40 pm

I just had to say that it was a great pleasure to play in your games. Even when you walk circles around me in what is happening. I had to say that you got Raanan down to a T. Once you spend any time with him he would drive people to murder. I can confirm this as it did happen. So keep up the story and i would not mind playing in this world again.

Michuru81
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Re: NEW VINDICATORS: Prologue, Chapter 1101 & 1102

Post by Michuru81 » Wed Jul 06, 2011 3:19 pm

Solarflare wrote:I just had to say that it was a great pleasure to play in your games. Even when you walk circles around me in what is happening. I had to say that you got Raanan down to a T. Once you spend any time with him he would drive people to murder. I can confirm this as it did happen. So keep up the story and i would not mind playing in this world again.
One of the main reasons for the hiatus on the tabletop game was that I was taking the story where I do not feel it would have naturally progressed. I needed to stop, step back, and find where it should have been. Hopefully, now that I'm writing these chapters, I can discover what the world is supposed to look like again and continue from that point on.

In the meantime, you have anvils to shoot at people and I have cats to build houses inside... ;)
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New Vindicators, Chapter 1103

Post by Michuru81 » Thu Jul 07, 2011 4:40 pm

Chapter III: To the Light
“So much for a quiet, peaceful afternoon, huh?” David Meinstein looked out across the skyline of Manhattan’s Herald Square, towards the column of light that connected the city to the farthest reaches of infinity. He turned and took in the excited look on his girlfriend’s face as she realized this meant they were on the clock.

Cassandra had been happy with Colonel Crowbar’s decree that the Vindicators would be continuing their education until she realized he didn’t just mean the school’s most recent graduates. Despite that she was only two years older than the youngest member of their squad, she considered herself to be an adult worthy of their veneration while they were children who needed to better know the world they would be serving.

It wasn’t until she learned she was included in this that she opposed the idea. She had hated high school—she had worked hard to skirt around every reading assignment, paper and test placed in her path by the teachers of the New Vindicators Academy of America. It hadn’t been easy: in her time as a student, her mother had taught English at the school and Victoria Goodman had expected more from her children. Still, Cassandra had always had her father wrapped around her finger and easily manipulated him into intervening on her behalf when she procrastinated an assignment or failed to read the book they were being tested on.

She thought that she had long ago said goodbye to her academic work; in her mind, she had traded homework for a life as a Vindicator. For her, little else compared to the rush she got whenever she heard about an attack on Washington or Langley. She lived for the moment when Portal opened a doorway or the Aurelia cast a spell that took them from one place to the next.

She relished talking shop and often recounted old battles with her teammates. Along with Mirage, Hourglass was one of the only members of the team to compete in the Trials. She told them all about how she had led her team to the Final Trial; she narrated her battle with Hubris and the free-for-all with Anomaly, Fathom and Saya. She bragged that she had never been eliminated—that had it not been for Moksha’s interruption of the test, she likely would have continued to advance.

She loved her uniform. She loved the way it felt. She loved the way it looked on her. In the last few months, there had been too many times where David had looked up from his computer screen to see her walking towards him garbed in the black and white Kevlar costume. While the standard uniform was a one-piece suit, hers cut off into a miniskirt. Without a word, she would straddle his lap and begin to kiss him with more passion than she did outside of the uniform. While it had been exciting the first time, David was getting tired of her wanting to have sex while wearing the uniform; she had even tried to get him to make love to her wearing the standard suit he had wore as Blitzkrieg.

She loved being a Vindicator and that was starting to creep into their love life. While mildly disturbing to the team’s leader, David had genuinely hoped that being forced to adapt some semblance of a normal life might be good for his girlfriend. He thought that Colonel Sidell’s mandate would do her good but, as usual, Cassandra found a way to shirk what she didn’t like…

Cassandra Goodman was double-majoring in business and communications—the same disciplines David had chosen after all he’d been through the last few months…

As the CEO of Hub Enterprises and the man behind the Meinstein Institute for Higher Learning, David Meinstein had been in the news fairly frequently lately. Deimos’ attack on David’s building had not gone unnoticed: on Groundhogs Day, a smoke-grey orb appeared atop the tower, amidst a sudden hail storm and just before a disc of ice appeared above Manhattan. Publicly, David had announced that a developer he was sponsoring, Louis Daners, was trying out an invention designed to protect an area against Neo-Sapien activity.

Daners, a camera shy graduate of MIT who held a Master’s Degree in Engineering, released a statement about the incident: “An unidentified SPB with cold-based abilities laid siege to my lab in an attempt to steal my work. I apologize to the people of New York for having drawn this sort of element to our fair city and will work to ensure this sort of incident is not repeated.”

It was, however, albeit at a lesser extent. While the falling ice—be it from the hail or the fractured disc—had caused billions of dollars of damage to the city, Deimos’ attack on the school hadn’t cost FEMA a dime. Still, it had caused other types of damage…

Publicly, the New Vindicators Academy of America was known as the Meinstein Institute for Gifted Youngsters—a private school and think tank for young people demonstrating genius-level IQs. Deimos’ monstrous forms had somehow eluded cameras, but the effects of Libra’s powers were again recorded on camera.

Thankfully, the hazy barrier prevented those the camera was able to pick up from being identified. Many of their abilities were hardly noticeable: Wilt’s energy leeching powers were not something the naked eye could see and the Aurelia’s magical attacks were hardly recognizable. Ultimately, only Hourglass’ stone form, Horde’s sheer numbers and Portal’s frame were identified, leaving David forced to explain why the private school he owned was surrounded by the barrier the elusive Louis Daners was responsible for and why the Vindicators were present.

The next day, a press conference had been called from the United Nations’ offices. Colonel Sidell introduced David Meinstein, who provided the media with a portion of the truth: he told them that while Daners waited for his workspace to be rebuilt, he was moved to the Meinstein Institute. “A Neo-Sapien capable of becoming invisible broke into the school. While he eluded cameras, a thermal detection system identified him and the Vindicators were notified. Upon their arrival, Daners activated his device, locking the thief inside until the Vindicators were able to detain him.”

It was then that David had turned things over to Portal, who read from a prepared statement. No one gathered before them knew that it was actually Quinton Jorgenson inside the armor; few knew that David Meinstein was actually the armored hero.

Portal proceeded to tell the public that their interrogation of the criminal had not even yielded his identity, let alone his reasons for invading the school. However, they had their suspicions that he was actually employed by whoever had sent the Neo-Sapien who pelted Manhattan with ice four months earlier. With promises that the heroes were continuing to investigate those responsible, Portal turned away from the podium, while Colonel Sidell read another statement from Louis Daners.

With Deimos restrained and the Libra rings trapped inside his self-made prison, there was no fear that the smoke-grey barrier would be seen again. Daners announced that he would leave New York for an undisclosed location, to prevent drawing any other Neo-Sapien mercenaries to his adoptive city.

While the stories sufficed to placate the media, they had put David on national news more times than he wanted. When it came time for him to join the others in the pursuit of knowledge, David enrolled in online classes in order to avoid whatever fame his recent publicity had won him.

His decision to study business was a no-brainer: most of what he knew came from watching his father run Patriot Robotics but he felt he could manage Hub Enterprises more efficiently by learning the ins and outs of the business world. Factor in how he was essentially handling the Vindicators’ public relations and a degree in communications seemed fitting.

Cassandra had no interest in running a business or in acting as a spokesperson—not unless it meant making an appearance as Hourglass and talking to one talk show host or another about the life of a Vindicator. Cassandra merely realized she could squeak by on having to do any work by riding her lover’s coattails.

Two weeks into their courses, Cassandra had copied a majority of his work. He was anxious to see how she planned to get around writing a paper on the Lorenz Curve.

For the better part of an hour, he had watched her from the top of his laptop. As he wrote his paper, she sat cross-legged on their bed, skimming through the Wikipedia article on their subject. Within minutes he distinctly heard Carrie Underwood’s voice rise up from the speakers and he knew she had been distracted by Pandora. A minute later she was laughing at a picture of Ben and Alicia’s kids she found on Facebook. Before she got up to go fetch a yogurt from the fridge, she had picked up her BlackBerry and started chatting with Alexa.

When David had noticed the pillar of light, his girlfriend was catching up on Grey’s Anatomy. “I needed a break anyway,” she said as she raised her arms over her head, slipping off her shirt.

As she began to strip, David closed his laptop and lamented that he couldn’t simply sit and watch her undress. He rose up from his chair and let his gaze linger on her as she slithered out of her sweats. He had to force himself to move forward to the vault where the 001 was kept. By the time he had donned the mechanized armor, Hourglass sitting on the edge of their bed, rolling the black and white stripped socks over her thighs. “HUD’s showing Connor on the couch—Alex and Quint are in the War Room.”

Portal’s arm reached out and a surge of electricity leapt from the back of the gauntlet. The energy struck the space ahead of him, forming into a ball of energy that expanded as it revolved. Soon enough, the Vindicator had opened a pathway that connected the penthouse to the heroes’ living room. As usual, the Curler was sitting on the couch, watching television.

Of the team’s eight members, only Portal and the Curler did not wear any variation of the standard uniform of the Vindicators. Once upon a time, Portal’s father had given the 001 a red, white and blue paint job—customary for most things produced by Patriot Robotics. Battle after battle had caused the paint to chip and flake away and then it had been completely destroyed. Horde had taken the main components and assembled them together, giving it more of a black and gold appearance in the process.

The Curler, however, wore something else entirely. Due to how time consuming it was for him to get in and out of the uniform, the behemoth had simply begun wearing his custom costume at all hours of the day. Though predominantly white the right-hand side of the costume was red. On his left side was a red maple lead that extended onto the left sleeve. It was patterned after Guardian, the leader of the fictional Alpha Flight, a team of Canadian superheroes in the Marvel Comics Universe. For some time, the colossus had been insisting he was a Canadian, for reasons no one could understand…

Then again, there were a lot of things about the Curler that no one understood. “Somebody better be dying,” the golem-like man grumbled as he rose to his full height. Eight feet tall, the ceilings were high to accommodate the biggest member of the group. “Colleen’s dreams of teaching art history just got crushed by that video Victor posted on the interweb!” As Portal generated another gateway to the rest of their group, the goliath gently prodded Hourglass with his elbow. “Here’s to hoping Davey never finds that video of you and me, right?”

“What video?” Mirage asked as the trio stormed the chamber.

“The one where Cassie and me are getting freaky!”

After only a few months of working with him, the martial artist had come to realize that the key to enduring the Curler was to pay little mind to the things that came out of his mouth. Horde, however, had spent more time with the Curler than Mirage had and had learned how to turn it around on the stone hero: “Haven’t seen that one—just the one Dave and Cassie made and passed around to everyone…”

The Curler turned towards him with his craggy face contorted into a look of astonishment. “Uh-buh?”
Horde flashed the couple a devious grin as he left the titan trying to figure out whether or not he was joking. While Hourglass smiled mirthfully at Horde’s comment, Portal was rolling his eyes behind the visor. “So, I take it you saw the pillar of light come crashing into the ground too. What’s the plan, boss?”

“We need to get there—if anything to make an appearance. I take it you pinpointed the site of impact?” Portal looked at the wall of monitors set into the half-circle alcove that rested opposite the double doors of the room. “Even if it turns out to be nothing, the people need to see that we’re doing everything we can.”

“Great, but… what about Rissa and the others?”

“I loaned ‘em to the school. We’ll be running this one solo. Everyone ready to jump?” When the others nodded Portal looked at the city map Horde had on one of the monitors. He opened a portal to what he hoped was close to the phenomena and only when he hurried through behind the rest of his team did he come close to understanding the scope of the situation…

The column of light filled the intersection and hopped up onto the sidewalks. All around it, New Yorkers stood gawking at it in wonder. Honking filled the air down every street: the pillar’s existence was congesting traffic. “About damn time you showed up!” a cab driver shouted from his rig. “You maybe wanna move the damn thing so I can get movin’ here!?!”

Portal raised a gauntlet towards the man and gave him a thumbs up. “We’ll work as fast as we can,” he promised. He turned and his shoulder pads shifted: speakers tilted up and out of them. “Attention!” His electronically garbled voice was carried by Horde’s latest addition to the battlesuit. “We apologize for the inconvenience! Everyone stay calm and we’ll work to resolve this as swiftly as possible!” The speakers retreated into the shoulders of his arm as he turned back to Horde. “Give me good news, man…”

The thin young man was staring up at the light with a strange visor over his head. “Infrared scans are picking up something inside of it… Most of it might be rubble—no discernable heat signature—but there’s something just faintly inside of it… It’s almost the same temperature as the light… Let’s say the column itself measures about… four-hundred terahertz. Well, the shape inside is about three-ninety-nine: close, but off just enough that the distinction is noticed.”

“What about you, Curler?” Portal asked, careful to use his teammates’ codename in the field. “You sense anything through the ground?”

“I sense that there’s nothing for me to hit,” the Curler said. “I would like it very much if this mission turned into hitting things.” The hero punctuated his statement by pounding his fist into his hand repeated. It was a sentiment Mirage and Hourglass shared: the trio’s lone contribution to the team was hitting things as effectively as they possibly could.

“Great,” Portal mused. “So, we can see it on the infrared but it’s not sending vibrations through the ground?”

“Well,” Horde said, “the shorter the wavelength of light, the higher the frequency vibration. What if that’s able to mask whatever’s inside from Curly’s radar?”

“Infrared measures it off the charts but it has a shorter wavelength?” Portal looked back at the pillar in awe. “What the frick is it?”

A young man only a few years younger than most of the heroes gathered came running towards them once he had pushed his way out of the crowd. Neatly combed, light-blonde hair topped his skull and crystal blue eyes reflected at them. Occupied with their analysis, Portal and Horde were oblivious to his approach but Mirage was ever aware. The bald man shifted and planted himself in the youth’s path. “Sorry,” he said, “but I’ll need you to stand back. We don’t know what we’re dealing with yet-”

“It’s light,” the boy said.

Mirage rolled his eyes. “Yes, I can see that. Regard-”

“I control light!”

Hourglass turned to eye the boy with curiosity. “What?” she asked.

The youth stepped past Mirage and approached the heroes slowly. His eyes wandered up the shaft of energy and soon his head was tilting back further and further. “I… I’m a Neo-Sapien—just like you guys. I can generate light and do other things with it. I actually came here looking for you-”

“And making a big pillar of light in the middle of the city is how you get our attention?” the Curler feruled. “Dude! We’re in the phonebook!”

“We’re not in the phonebook,” Horde muttered over his shoulder.

“We’re not in the phonebook!” the Curler proclaimed proudly, resting his knuckles on his hips.

“I didn’t do this,” the boy said. There was a hint of wonder in his voice as he advanced towards the column of light. He moved his arm as if to put his palm to it. Portal swung his arm down and grabbed the youth’s wrist. “I’ll be fine,” the boy said, turning to look at the man hidden inside the bulky armor. “I can’t be hurt by it…”

“That’s great, but we don’t know what this is. What if it’s some sort of trap one of our enemies set for us? What if touching it… teleports you to Moksha or the moon or something?”

The youth grinned. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut: going into space would be pretty cool.”

“Look, kid, I just don’t think that’s such a-” Portal’s words cut off at the light began to pull towards the young man’s palm. The energy spiraled around itself, turning into a funnel that just barely touched his skin. Suddenly, his rich, blue eyes were gone—replaced by a growing luminescence that gained more and more intensity as the light was sucked into his body.

For several tense moments the Vindicators watched in wonder as a boy—likely about seventeen-years-old by the look of him—siphoned the pillar that seemed to stretch into infinity into his body. The more energy he drank, the more his skin began to take on an uncanny radiance. Soon, it hurt to look directly at the teen and soon he had forced the pillar to disappear.

“Dude…” the Curler said. “I’m blind and even I thought that was Lundgren.”

With most eyes on the youth who had absorbed the pillar of light, no one noticed a naked man rise up out of the debris left in the column’s wake. His skin was pale and his hair was long and black. He was missing one arm—in its place was a cybernetic attachment that looked at home in a science fiction movie.

He looked around with a wild, confused look on his face. In a panic he scrambled out of what appeared to be a pile of robot parts. He tried to run on foot but without shoes, treading the rough pavement was uncomfortable and hindered the progress. A brilliant aura of light surrounded him and suddenly he shot into the air and blazed a path down the streets of New York.

Another figure stirred inside the fractured robot bodies. Arms, legs, torsos and heads tumbled out of the way as another nude figure rose up from the wreckage. “Sol Invictus,” he said before collapsing atop the heap.

“Someone want to explain what just happened?” Hourglass asked, looking about in confusion.

“A giant beam of light dropped a bunch of busted up robots in the middle of the street… and there’s a naked kid inside them…” Horde looked after the trail the escaped nudist had left in his flight. “Two naked people…”

Portal looked to the honking cars and sighed. “First order of business, we need to clear this all out of here as fast as we can. Then we need to get that kid to a hospital—maybe try to track down the other naked guy.”

“And then figure out where the hell this all came from, right?” Hourglass asked, looking skyward as if she expected another column of light to drop more mechanical rubble atop them.

Portal sighed and shook his head. “I have a bad feeling about this,” he muttered as he moved to clearing the street.
To Be Continued... wrote:Dipole's blast from the past...
Last edited by Michuru81 on Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Michuru81
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New Vindicators, Chapter 1104

Post by Michuru81 » Thu Jul 07, 2011 4:43 pm

Chapter IV: Yes I’m Cold
The access road was rough and made for a bumpy ride. The young man in the passenger seat braced himself with the handle hovering above the window—what he had dubbed an “Oh, Crap Handle”. Deep down, he wanted to blame the driver for the quality of the drive. After all, James Loder could have easily used his Neo-Sapien ability to manipulate ferrous metals to make the car rise above the road and float smoothly towards their destination. It was an access road—it wasn’t like they expected to pass anyone who would be startled by the sight of a levitating car.

Really though, Will simply wanted to begrudge the man anything he could. Theirs was a complicated relationship: Will was James’ father and James was old enough to be Will’s grandfather.

Will’s strange tale began in 1945, when he first encountered the Vindicators. He was a young boy then—almost the same age he was now—who had discovered he possessed an uncanny gift for manipulating magnetic waves. His father, Johann Meinstein, was a proud German and a loyal soldier during the Second World War. In the wake of the Japanese surrender, the man employed his telepathic powers to take command of the Allied troops and boasted that the war was far from over.

Calling himself the Fuhrer and leading the Fourth Reich, Johann became the catalyst for the Vindicators—five brave men and women with astonishing powers banded together to bring him down. Wilhelm, as Will was known then, had been used by his father as well—controlled into fighting the heroes. With his father’s defeat, Will was free to be his own man…

In order to avoid being associated with the legacy his father had left, he changed his name from Wilhelm Meinstein to William Loder. He came to America, claiming Portugal as his native land, and moved to start a new life in a new land. As he grew into adulthood, he watched as the Vindicators disbanded and moved to join a new group of heroes…

Under the direction of NATO, William was one of the twelve who became the second incarnation of Vindicators. He crafted the identity of Lodestone and fought to save the world from the Cold Warriors—a group of super-powered people who hailed from Communist nations. In 1958, both teams responded to a crisis in Iraq and were never heard from again. With the exception of Cecaelia, Falkenburg and Tick-Tock no bodies were every recovered; those three had no memory of what they had faced or what fate had befallen their allies and adversaries.

Fifty years later, the truth came out: the Sixth Reich—in an attempt to revive the Fuhrer’s philosophies in modern times—moved to strike at their oldest adversaries. To the public’s knowledge, only Crusader still survived from the first team of Vindicators; the ageless woman led a team of veteran Vindicators in their crusade against terror. The Fuhrer’s allies had learned that two more of their enemies still breathed: the Iron Curtain, a Vindicator turned Cold Warrior, and the original Lodestone, the son of the Fuhrer, were both still alive but unaware of the lives they had led.

As it turned out, one of William’s teammates, the Archmagus, had manipulated a primal, ancient force to obliterate his teammates. The world’s heroes were robbed of their memories and given new lives—lives where they remained oblivious of their extraordinary abilities. William Loder, the first Lodestone, had grown old in Florida. He had married but had not sired any children—other than the son he had with his first wife.

Seeing him as a traitor to his father’s cause, the Sixth Reich stole him from the retirement home where he lived. When it became apparent that he had no recollection of who they were, they moved to break the arcane seal on his memories; they wanted him to know what crime he was being executed for. With the seal shattered, the elderly man had access to his powers once more and used them to fight the villains back.

Realizing that they couldn’t beat the enemies even with old age aiding them, the Sixth Reich attempted to de-age Lodestone and the Iron Curtain to infancy. They reverted them to their teenage years.

With his age approximated at fourteen-years-old, Will Loder was placed with his family—the grownup son he had never met, his adult grandson and great-grandson. Due to his age, he was enrolled at the New Vindicators Academy of America.

When the school was raided by Black Box, Will—as he now preferred to be called—escaped and joined the Loder family. Now, with the school reopening, he had considered declining the invitation to return: he remembered growing up and growing old—what use was high school now?

Two weeks ago, Will’s adult son James returned home to find the boy making out with the girl next door. She was lying on top of him. His shirt was off; his hands were down the back of her jeans. If James hadn’t come in when he did, he wondered how much further it would have gone.

After Brenda had gone home, father and son sat down to have an awkward talk. Will asserted that as he was technically a senior citizen, he should have been able to do what he wanted. James disputed that the girl was underage. “So am I!” Will thundered in retort, defeating his original argument.

As the two argued, James’ true feelings came to light: the Archmagus had taken Will from his family in 1958—when James was still in his mother’s womb. James’ mother had died before Will had been returned to them and James felt it was betraying her memory to so much as look at another woman.

“What am I supposed to do!?!” Will demanded. “For God’s sake, James—I have another long life ahead of me! Am I supposed to remain celibate? Ignore the hormones this body is brimming with? I loved your mother, James but… I’m sorry, I have to move on…”

James didn’t understand and couldn’t—wouldn’t—be made to understand. If Will hoped to be free of him, he knew his only chance at peace would be by enrolling at the New Vindicators Academy. Before the son dropped the father off at the school, however, Colonel Sidell had asked them to meet him in Bar Harbor, Maine.

As they made their way around Mount Desert Island, they finally came to the warehouse where the stout, middle-aged man stood waiting for them.

“James, Will,” Colonel Sidell offered a hand to the physically-elder Loder as the pair stepped out of the vehicle. “I was sorry to hear about Jacob. I wish I could have made the funeral.”

Jacob only nodded somberly. A month ago, his daughter-in-law woke to find her husband had died in his sleep. For the last year, Jacob had been going steadily going downhill, fighting a losing battle with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

“Thank you,” James said politely. He was quick to change the subject however; there had been too much misfortune in his family of late and the less he dwelt on it, the better he was. “So, what brings us out here?”

“Some time ago, we received a package we think may have been from the Affiliation. Seems like Adonis’ hounds have been sniffing out Black Box’s facilities. They’ve forced them to abandon their headquarters in Peoria and, thanks to their intelligence, we’ve successfully raided three other compounds.” He pushed open the doors to the warehouse and led the two former Vindicators into the seized base. There was little here save for long tables and crates full of M.R.E.’s. Larger crates had been opened, showing small motors and various engines. A miniature workshop was pushed into the corner of the room where spools of electrical wire, pliers, and odd tools were strewn about.

“It’s starting to seem like each one has a different purpose: as I understand it, the Peoria base was where they telepathically reprogrammed captured Neo-Sapiens. The base we found in Troy, Ohio looks like it was training center while the one in West Virginia was apparently a munitions factory. This one, though… I wanted to get Will’s take on it—confirm whether or not I’m looking at what I think I’m looking at.”

The chamber Colonel Sidell led them into was an enclosed dock: the massive door could be retracted to bring in something as large as a cruise ship, if necessary. Stranger still, the entire room was refrigerated—no doubt to preserve the room’s only feature…

In the middle of the chamber—left sitting in the frozen water—was an iceberg. “What were they planning to do with this?” James Loder asked. Suddenly, it clicked with him what the purpose of the other room was: the motors were there to keep this room perpetually refrigerated. An army of motors worked to keep the iceberg from melting but with the chamber open to the sea, the motors would undoubtedly give after so long.

Colonel Sidell led them around the glacier and stopped just before a dark shape incased in ice. It vaguely appeared human but the depth of the ice prevented the trio from clearly making out any details. Still, the military man’s eyes went to Will as the young man approached the floe. He watched as Will moved with caution, as if afraid of what he might discover when he looked closer…

“Gregaro?” Will asked. He was partly unsure—the ice prevented him from getting a clear look—but also stunned to see the long trench coat and fedora garbing the still figure.

“Who?” James asked, surprised that his father had any connection to the trapped boy.

“It was… maybe a month before Quar-Quar, if that… We had gone to Kaffeklubben Island to help protect Doctor Meinstein’s newest gizmo… The Cold Warriors showed up; there was a fight and he fell—he fell into the sea… We never found him—we had no way to…”

“Who is he?” James asked.

“Gregaro Vincentsson. Vinnie’s kid. After his mom was killed, he started coming with us on missions. Kid was a helluva boxer—wanted to be a flatfoot.” Will shook his head at the sight of him. “Broke Ginny’s heart when we lost him. She stopped eating—barely slept… She stopped talking to Vinnie altogether… Never knew why but she blamed him for what happened. Always seemed like she blamed herself too…”

“When I heard what they found here, my mind went to him,” Colonel Sidell explained. “I remembered the story of what happened—how Gregaro fell into the sea and was never seen again. Given his father’s ability, it makes sense that this would happen…”

“What are you talking about?” James asked. “What ability? Who’s his father?”

“Vincent Stefansson,” Will said. “He was one of the Vindicators I served with, James. You’d know him better as Absolute Zero.”

“The guy who emitted cold?” James asked.

Will nodded. “Gregaro’s powers must have manifested when he fell into the water. Our powers manifest out of necessity—that’s what you’ve all concluded, right?” He put his hand on the ice and rubbed his palm slowly over its surface. “Gregaro couldn’t swim. He was drowning and… his powers kicked in under water—must have froze everything around him.” Something else hit Will then—something he remembered about Absolute Zero. “We need to get him out of there!”

James and the colonel eyed the youth perplexedly. “In time,” the Colonel said. “I wanted to be sure we weren’t walking into some trap Black Box-”

“Gregaro is still alive!” Will thundered. With a thought he stripped the metal sheeting adorning the walls and began using them to slice away at the ice. “It was when Ginny joined us! We were fighting King Hades! He shot the Flying Dutchman out of the sky! Most of us were fine—Cecaelia and I could fly on our own; I caught Joe and Charles cast a spell that made him fall slowly. Simon was able to levitate himself and grabbed Steven but the others… they hit the sea.

“Nothing can kill Bernard so he was fine and Pierre was partly an amphibian anyway. Veronica and Vincent weren’t so lucky though… They were pulled under. Veronica drowned and Vincent… He incased himself in ice and floated to the surface. By the time we found him, we were afraid it was too late. We chipped him out, thinking the least we could do was bury the body but he had survived. He went into some sort of trance and just woke up as soon as he was free…”

Colonel Sidell looked at the dark figure frozen in ice. If Will’s memory was accurate, Gregaro Vincentsson fell into the sea and was frozen in 1958. He had missed the last fifty-one years. Adjusting was going to be a problem but, then again, given Gregaro’s age, it wasn’t Colonel Sidell’s problem but Doctor Howell’s. The only thing that bothered the colonel was the nagging question of what purpose Black Box had for the youth? Even more troubling, why was an entire base devoted to keeping him sealed in ice?

Were they making a mistake freeing the time-lost teenager or acquiring a weapon Black Box had gone to great lengths to keep out of their hands?
To Be Continued... wrote:Return to the White Pawn.
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Re: NEW VINDICATORS: Chapters 1103 and 1104

Post by Arthur Eld » Fri Jul 08, 2011 12:49 pm

Poor Will. Getting your youth back isn't all its cracked up to be.

The more I learn about this Charles Tharivol, the worse I feel for Jay.

Michuru81
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New Vindicators, Chapter 1105

Post by Michuru81 » Sun Jul 10, 2011 5:28 pm

Chapter V: Where Did You Go?
Two years ago, Sam White had disappeared without a trace. Ironically, the only one to notice was a blind boy…

Gage Morris blew fifteen candles out on his birthday cake the day the White War erupted. One-hundred and thirty-seven thousand people lost their lives that day—his mother included. A bartender at the Water Street Restaurant, Corrine Morris had requested the day off weeks in advance but with most of her coworkers playing hot-potato with a flu bug, the establishment was understaffed and Corrine had no choice but to go in…

The bar was one of the areas obliterated by the massive beast covered in white flames. The debris had mangled her body beyond recognition—she had been identified by her dental records.

The funeral took a chunk out of Wade’s savings. He and his wife had been saving for Gage’s college education but that was still years off… Wade Morris continued to deliver furniture for Prague Kolektiv by day and by night he had started delivering pizza. He said it was to replenish the funds but really, he was just retreating into work: every moment he spent at home, he thought about Corrine. Every time he looked at Gage, he saw Corrine. He loved the boy, but he loved his wife all the more and missed her terribly.

In order to avoid thinking about her, Wade Morris retreated into work and so did Gage.

Before the White War, the boy had begun frequenting White Pawn, a small pawn shop on Plymoth. Gage had been drawn here by cousins: as his freshman year of high school began, Bret and Kyle had holed themselves up inside of the shop. There, they had murdered a woman and her child. There, Kyle had died when an unidentified boy transformed into a being forged from white-hot light…

Gage knew it as Bret’s Neo-Sapien power. Kyle never manifested but Bret had inherited his father’s power to become a being made of pure, radiant light. Ultimately, it was a watered down version of their grandmother’s ability: Nana Morris was able to both wield and transform her body into pure, electromagnetic radiation. She could transform into light and wield the energy as a weapon. She could become living microwaves and emit them or she could turn into pure electricity and command it.

Regardless of where it came from, Gage knew what it had been used to do. In a small way, he felt responsible. It was his family’s gift that had caused so much damage and he had been determined to make things right.

It began with him asking the eccentric shopkeeper if he could help fix the place up after the shootout. Gage had a talent when it came to electrical devices: even though he couldn’t see what he was working on, he could feel the way it conducted energy; he could “see” the flow of an electric current through the wiring and instinctively knew how to correct its path and revive its function.

What Gage couldn’t see was the knowing smile on the peculiar merchant’s face as he watched the boy work.

When Gage finished with the repairs, Sam White had offered Gage a job: he was given a workshop in the back where he hid himself after school. There, he resurrected the electronics Sam acquired and made them suitable for selling. All through Gage’s freshman year of high school, he worked in the backroom of White Pawn.

Then his birthday came. His mother died and Sam White was never to be seen or heard from again…

Gage had his own key—an early birthday present Sam had bestowed upon the blind boy the last time they had met. Gage was able to get into the shop and went right to work but Sam never came to open up.

It was like that all week long before Gage finally called the police. There were no pictures of Sam that they could find. Even if they could, Gage couldn’t have identified the man. Blind from birth, Gage was helpless as they asked for a description.

Further complicating things, there was no record of his birth. Sam White had no birth certificate, no Social Security number, no immigration papers—Passport, driver’s license… He was listed as the owner of the shop and his property taxes had been paid promptly and in full. The utilities were in his name but he had no bank account.

Stranger still, no one else came forward looking for Sam. No family members appeared saying that he hadn’t called lately or that he had missed a family dinner. No friends stopped by to see him. Little by little, Gage was beginning to believe that he was the man’s only friend in the world. Just as he was almost convinced of that fact, Sam’s nephew showed up…

Drew smoothed things out with the police: his uncle had retired and Drew was going to keep the shop open. When they left, Drew expertly dodged Gage’s questions about where Sam had gone. All he said was, “C’mon, Gage, let’s get you to work…”

Drew left the store in the hands of the quietest cashiers Gage had ever known—none of them seemed interested in saying more than a few words to him beyond a casual greeting when he entered and farewells when he left for the night. Only one ever really spoke to him—and only once! A week after Drew had disappeared as suddenly as he appeared, someone named Raphael overheard Gage muttering about wishing Sam would come back and told him, “Sam got caught up in the White War and just couldn’t stick around here anymore.”

Gage pressed him more answers and Raphael quietly told Gage he didn’t have them: no, he didn’t know where Sam was now; no, he didn’t know how to contact Drew; no, he doubted Sam would come back.

Never in his wildest dreams could the blind boy have imagined the pawn shop’s environment becoming more bizarre than it was under Sam’s management. Regardless of the state of the atmosphere, Gage was simply glad for a place to go and take his mind off his mother’s death…

Summer came and went and his sophomore year passed by with uncanny speed. Closing in on his sixteenth birthday—the first anniversary of his mother’s death—the door was kicked in and men began shouting at Gage and his father.

Wade had always worked so hard to keep his abilities hidden—knowing it was the only way to have a normal, peaceful life. Bret’s arrest had made years of caution useless: Bret was a known Neo-Sapien and not long after Senator Bedford’s public execution, someone had moved on the information…

Bret’s birth record listed his father’s name. From there, it was easy enough to connect the dots to Wade and Gage. Still, Wade wasn’t about to be taken—not when he had done nothing wrong. He knew Gage had manifested. He knew that Gage could take the full brunt of his powers. Kneeling in his living room and with his hands on his head, Wade unleashed an unprecedented discharge: he pulled the electricity out of every device in the room—electricity leapt from every outlet and flowed through his body.

As quickly as he absorbed it, Wade unleashed it. Lightning danced madly from his body, striking at the soldiers who had come for them. In that one, glorious moment, Gage could see it all: he watched as his father brimmed with energy and he could see the current lashing out from him in every direction.

He saw each soldier as the current swept through their bodies. He saw them fall to the floor and convulse. He saw some of them survive and others… he saw their last heartbeat.

“Run, Gage!” Wade screamed as he rose to his feet. “We have to run!”

Outside their apartment, a transformer exploded. At Wade’s will, power lines freed themselves and lashed with intention at the soldiers waiting below on the street.

The Morris men vaulted down the stairs. Gage was guided by the wiring in the walls; he could sense the flow of the alternating current. Outside was another story: Gage could faintly sense the current in the buildings all around him and he could register the power lines still intact. He could feel the idling vans the soldiers have poured out of; he could see the engines and the radios they carried.

“Keep moving!” his father screamed. Gage did not hesitate to oblige. He took off at a run, guiding himself by the flow of electricity that powered the traffic lights. He ran until he was out of breath and then he ran some more. Only when he stopped did he realize that he had lost the soldiers. Sadly, he had lost his father as well…

He considered turning back—running back to join the man in fighting these men—when someone grabbed his arm. Something kept him from attacking him—an unexplainable peace washed over him and told him not to pour enough electricity to kill a man through this person’s body. “C’mon, Gage,” he heard Drew whisper, “let’s get you to the shop…”

The soldiers never returned for Gage and he never saw his father again.

The boy never went back to school. He never returned to his home. Sam White lived in one of the back rooms in the pawn shop—his bed was just where he had left it. The boy had everything he needed here at White Pawn and, months later, while his peers were getting ready for their junior year of high school, Gage was still hiding in the White Pawn.

Drew’s was as garrulous as ever: he said nothing about the men who stormed his home. He said nothing about pulling the reserved cashiers from the store. He simply guided Gage to the store, gently pushed him through the doors, and then pulled the door shut.

Though denied a staff, Gage was determined to keep the shop open. With his mother dead, Sam gone, his father missing and Drew elusive, he had no one to help him—nowhere to turn. He had to survive and he had to do it on his own.

His first move was to repair an old television set that employed cathode ray tubes. It was too easy for someone to hand a blind man a dollars when the total came to ten. It was too easy to hand him a blank piece of paper and pretend it was a check. Through a closed circuit security camera, Gage was able to read the stream of electrons the CRT bombarded the inside of the glass stream with, allowing him to see what people were handing him.

It allowed him to continue to buy and sell all manner of things: the front case was filled with jewelry and other baubles while the wall ahead of him displayed used videogames. He had taken to buying only electronics and selling them as refurbished merchandise.

He alone ran the store now. His workshop moved behind the register to allow him to be present as customers slipped in an out. He handled all transactions and deposited everything through the mail. He lived on delivery food, alternating between Chinese and pizza. With electronic bill payment and internet shopping, there was no reason for him to ever venture outside of the store—no reason to risk running into the men who had come that night well over a year ago for he and his father.

Everything changed the day the seventeen-year-old boy sensed more power that he had ever sensed in his life. It was miles away to the north—Manhattan, unless he missed his guess. It was strange: never before had he sensed so much electromagnetic energy from such a distance.

For the first time in over a year, Gage Morris left the White Pawn. He turned and locked the door behind him and, for the third time in his life, he heard Drew’s voice. “C’mon, Gage,” his guardian angel said, “let’s get you to school…”
To Be Continued... wrote:Prompt leads four new recruits on their first mission: rescue their next recruit...
OUBLIETTE - NVAE: IC | OOC

Horsenhero
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Re: NEW VINDICATORS: Chapters 1105

Post by Horsenhero » Sun Jul 10, 2011 5:48 pm

Cool. I'd forgotten the fun of just watching the characters introduced en masse. I'm already beginning to get a feel for who I might like and who I probably won't among this new bunch of students.

And of course I'm looking forward to the reappearance of that little fella flynn fears so much. :)

Michuru81
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New Vindicators, Chapters 1106

Post by Michuru81 » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:18 pm

Chapter VI: My Beautiful Rescue
“-not entirely sure about ‘Augurer’,” Solon was saying as he followed Torrent up the ramp and onto the Blackjack II. “I mean, ‘Warlock’ sounds too pedestrian and ‘Thaumaturge’ doesn’t necessarily roll of the tongue…”

Torrent stopped at the top of the ramp. He threw his head back and unleashed a groan before slowly turning to face the magus. “Dude! I don’t fuggin’ care, okay? No one cares what you call yourself!”

“Apparently they do as they won’t let me call myself ‘the Aurelius’.”

“Because you’re not the fuggin’ Aurelius! Get over it!”

“Boys,” Chienne boomed. She looked to Fossick with a worried expression. “Been like this long?”

“Ever since Detroit.”

“How’d that go?”

As if to answer Chienne’s question, two more boys followed Solon into the cabin. The first was tall and muscular; his head was shaven except for a short Mohawk. The tight jersey he wore had long ago been acquired by his mother during Molly Hatchet’s 1983 tour; though faded and splattered with a little of his blood, it was one of his most prized possessions.

The boy who followed him couldn’t have been more different: a few inches shorter than the other boy and without an ounce of muscle on him, his brown hair was a wild, unkempt mop that capped his skull and partially hid his emerald green eyes. Scrawny legs poked out of plaid shorts and his white T-shirt depicted an eye chart composed of pi—as the numbers became increasingly smaller, they vanished into the hem. Both the shirt and the boy looked as though they had not been washed in days.

Neither of them could have been much older than fifteen. “I give you Lloyd Hilton and Jude Bellows,” Fossick said raggedly, “the newest students of the New Vindicators Academy of America.”

Chienne looked to the two sitting in the back of the plane. Maxwell Swift was a boy she had plucked from the streets of Juneau. Tall and with an athletic build, Max sported a light-brown crew cut and eyes of two different colors: heterochromia left the boy’s left eye red and his right eye blue. Max wore a red and black plaid flannel shirt over his plain black T-shirt and ill-fitting carpenter’s jeans.

Across the aisle from him was Pandora Filash, a short, pudgy girl whose purple hair sported pink highlights. A barbell piecing went through her right eyebrow—just under a subtle burn she had sported since she was young—while a tiny stud rested in her nose and a faint ring pierced her lower lip. Her skirt matched the blood red tie that hung loosely from the open collar of her white dress shirt—her black jacket was folded over the back of her chair.

Like Lloyd and Jude, they were also new additions to the sophomore class.

Once Chienne had introduced them, Torrent looked over their gathered forces. “So, why did we meet up here instead of at the school?”

“I just got word from Doctor Howell—reports of another kid came across the wire, and he wanted to make sure we had all the firepower we needed.

“According to Doctor Howell, this kid’s name is Andrew Woodford and his Neo-Sapien powers only manifested this morning. Apparently, he’s the first SPB most of the people of Clay County, Mississippi have ever seen and they reacted by beating the boy senseless, locking him in the cell normally reserved for the town drunk and are trying to make contact with the Church of Genetic Purity.” She sneered as she pronounced the name of that sect of humanity: the Church of Genetic Purity was an offshoot of the Ku-Klux Klan, devoted specifically to the eradication of all Super-Powered Beings…

It was an organization founded by the man who raised her: Forrest N. Bedford…

“I’m willing to bet that were Mister Woodford offered another alternative, he’d accept it. I’m going to take Prompt, Torrent and whatever Solon wants to call himself into the town, spring the kid and get back to the ship. The rest of you kids can just hang loose with Miss Wellor here in the plane until I get back.”

“No way!” Lloyd bellowed. “When I first got my powers, I got thrown in jail too! I can’t just sit back and do nothing while this kid’s treated like crap for something he has no control over! Besides, I can handle myself in a fight!” As though it might prove his boastings, the boy with the Mohawk flexed.

“Same here,” Pandora declared. “You said he’s in a jail cell, right? My blasts can cut through metal!”

“You’re expecting these guys who locked him up to be a problem?” Max asked. He held out his hand and a flame danced atop his fingertips. With a wave of his hand, it was gone. “I’m very effective at taking out problems.”

“Yeah, and the school would throw a hissy fit if they knew I brought you kids along with me,” Chienne said. “You guys have zero field experience-”

“Neither does Solon,” Jude thundered. “I mean, he’s only been at your school a day and he’s already going on missions!”

“You told me this school would teach me to protect myself!” Pandora boomed. “How am I supposed to learn that sitting in the plane and waiting?”

“Thunder-thighs has a point,” Max said.

“Watch it, homeless boy!” Pandora snapped as Jude thundered, “Don’t talk to her like that!” The young woman folded her arms across her chest and dropped her gaze to the floor. “I’ll melt your face…” she mumbled under her breath.

Through it all, Prompt sat back, watching the bickering spiral further and further out of control. “I think I need to take the new recruits into town while the rest of you stay here,” she announced. Sensing Chienne’s baleful glare on her, Prompt rounded on the would-be educator. “If the town tossed him in jail for being a Neo-Sapien, do you really think they’re going to be pleased when we start making our way down the street dressed like this? The rookies are in street clothes, Chienne! They’ll fit in…” She trailed off as she looked to Pandora, whose pink and purple hair and various facial piercings meant she wouldn’t fit in anywhere south of the Bible Belt. “Most of ‘em will… One of the Espers I met back in Peoria was this bitch who used illusions to morph her appearance. I can make myself look however I want but I won’t be able to use any other powers in the process.

“Look, this kid is in trouble and every second we sit here arguing amongst ourselves is one more minute he’s not getting out of said trouble. By all means, feel free to stand here and argue it but the best course of action is to send the newbies with me into the field.

“If we run into any problems, I can drop the illusion for a different power. Three of the four have combative abilities. All we need to do is get Jude to the cell and he can ‘port the new kid back to the jet, right?”

“They don’t have any training!” Chienne hissed.

“I doubt every person in this town is a black belt in karate!”

“Their odds are not what I’m afraid of,” Chienne said. “What happens if things do escalate into a battle and they’re forced to use their powers? All it takes is one dead Louisianan to have the country back to wanting our heads on pikes, Christmas! One accident here—just one!—and everything we’ve been working towards since the Basileus went down will have been for nothing…”

“I’ll be careful,” Lloyd promised.

“I’m not worried about you…” Chienne said softly. Prompt’s eyes went to Pandora. It was her file Doctor Howell had handed to Chienne—her file he wanted to keep private from Christmas. The only thing that kept the Esper from reaching into the Nephilim’s mind and taking the information was the fear of her dream coming true: months ago, a Neo-Sapien had used his powers to put her and her allies in a state of enchanted slumber. They all dreamt of a life they yearned for. It was so enthralling that they hadn’t wanted to wake up.

While Cassandra had dreamed of a world where her family was together and Owen dreamed of a world where he wasn’t cursed by his powers, Christmas dreamed of a world where she was the most powerful being on Earth—so powerful that she had destroyed all opposition, including the Vindicators.

She was a tyrant. In her dream, she was a tyrant, and she wanted that life so much that she couldn’t free herself from the illusion. Now, she was determined to do whatever it took to deny that part of herself: she was struggling to stamp out any negative feelings for the fear they would give rise to the evil version of herself she dreamed of being.

She couldn’t go into their heads and pry the knowledge away. Similarly, it wouldn’t be right to use Candace Strange’s ability to force them to tell the truth. All she could do was sit back and wonder what had happened in Pandora’s past to merit such secrecy: Prompt hadn’t been allowed to read the file and she had been told to stay on the plane with Max while Chienne went to collect Pandora.

Something wasn’t right and now there was this new wrinkle added: why was Chienne afraid that Pandora might hurt a human? As if to confirm the girl’s suspicions, the next words out of the Nephilim’s mouth were, “Maybe Pandora should stay.” Suddenly, she moved to cover her tracks. “She stands out more than the others do…”

“Fine,” Christmas said. Suddenly, her image changed: she was now a stunningly attractive woman in her early twenties, whose shoulder-length blonde hair was pulled into a ponytail, showing off her high cheekbones and ice blue eyes.

Skin-tight jeans covered her long legs while a white tank top clung to her ample breasts and narrow waist. Standing there in cowboy boots, she was the perfect image of Chienne Bedford, when the woman was not coerced into wearing the standard uniform of the Vindicators. “Don’t wait up for us,” Christmas said as she led the three boys off the jet.

When the group was out of earshot, Max hustled to walk beside Prompt. “So… you can just… look like anyone?”

“Anyone,” she said, flashing him a flirty smile and a wink. “Who did you have in mind?”

“Actually, I’ve always had this thing for Megan Fox…”

It didn’t bother Prompt that he only began showing interest the moment he realized she could be anyone he wanted. It didn’t bother her that he was only attracted to her so long as she looked like someone else. It didn’t bother her that he never a word to her while they waited for Chienne and Pandora on the plane. She had once offered to switch herself and Connor Crete into whatever pair of bodies he wanted, just so she could be with him. She had gone into Jordan Frazier’s head to exercise the memory of his uncle molesting him so that the two could make love. She wasn’t above using her powers in such ways so long as she benefited from it. Suddenly realizing that, however, made her grimace: it was just one more aspect that was guiding her towards the destiny she saw in her dream.

“Sorry,” Prompt growled. “Sometimes what you see isn’t what you get.”

Max froze as the senior continued marching through the forest. Jude hurried after her while Lloyd paused long enough to shrug sympathetically at the other youth. As they continued their march downhill, Jude began to exercise his Neo-Sapien ability to teleport ahead in short sprints. “So, do we all get codenames for this mission? John said his codename’s ‘Torrent’!”

“Yup. All of the good water-codenames were taken.”

“What’s your codename?”

“Prompt.”

“Ooo. Is it, like… Latin for ‘illusion’ or something?”

“It means ‘to activate’. It’s also a synonym for ‘mnemonic’, a learning technique that aids memory. I’m not a Neo-Sapien like you guys—I’m an Esper, someone who simply uses more of their brain than the average person. Every Esper I meet, I catalogue their powers. I can call them up one at a time to fit whatever task I’m facing.”

“Cool,” Jude said, obviously impressed by her ability. “So… about my codename?”

“You teleport? I don’t know. Not a lot of good names for teleporters. ‘Peragrine’, perhaps?”

“You could be Teleport Boy!” Lloyd laughed. “Me? I’m thinking something awesome like ‘Hammer’ or ‘Green Fire’.”

“Those are awesome?” Max laughed.

“Yeah, well… what else do you call what I do?”

“Hellfire,” Prompt said as she continued their march. The copse of trees ended and the New Vindicator found herself standing on the side of the road. “Same power Chienne—Miss Bedford has.” Prompt loathed having to call the teachers by their last names when just months ago, she had been their equal. “All Nephilim do, just with different colors.”

“Nephilim?” Max couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow.

“It’s complicated,” she offered dismissively. A few houses dotted the landscape ahead—a small cul-de-sac or two, some secluded farmland and hopefully then the city. “We should have brought the freaking wizard with us,” she grumbled.

“What about ‘Maalik’?” Lloyd asked.

Prompt turned to him with a confused expression on her face. “Huh?” she asked. “Who’s Maalik?”

“Me, maybe. In Islam, Maalik is the angel who guards hellfire.”

“You’re a Muslim?” Jude asked, failing to mask the surprise in his voice.

“Yeah,” said a guarded Lloyd. “You got a problem with Muslims?”

“But… you’re white?”

Prompt rolled her eyes. “White people can be Muslims, Teleport Boy.” For a brief moment the illusion of Chienne was dispelled while she accessed Fossick’s ability to locate anyone. She concentrated on Andrew Woodford and sensed him to the east of them…

East and miles away…

“Let’s get to walking,” she said as she assumed Chienne’s guise once again. As she led the New Vindicators across the street and across the farmland that surrounded West Point, Mississippi, she found herself forced to endure more of her underclassmen’s prattle.

“It’s kind of how my powers appeared,” Lloyd said. “A while back, my mom and I converted over. Some other kids were giving me lip about it—asking if I was going to blow up the school for my jihad or whatever. They tried pushing me around—got in a couple of good hits—and suddenly I was wielding this flaming hammer.”

“My mom was on my case about me getting a D on this stupid test,” Jude said. “First test I’d taken all year and she goes nuts—starts telling me no more movies until I bring my grade back up… I was mad and didn’t want to hear it anymore. Next thing I know, I’m in my room.”

“My, uh, class was on this field trip… to Alaska. I fell in the water and when they pulled me out… I was cold… My powers warmed me up.”

Prompt stopped long enough to fix Max with a suspicious glance. There was no mistaking that his story sounded phony. Why though? Why lie about something so simple as how his powers manifested?

“Lucky you, man,” Jude said. “After my folks saw what I could do, they tossed my butt out.”

“Why?” Max asked. “I mean, if you’re a speeb, one of your folks had to be, right?”

“I was adopted,” Jude said. “I have no idea who my real parents are. They gave me up at birth…”

“Yeah, same here,” Lloyd said. “Well, okay, not the exact same… I never met my dad—my mom raised me by herself. My dad took off way before I was born… Still, I figure he had to have been a Neo-Sapien: mom never had any sort of ability like this…”

“That you know of,” Max added.

“Oh, no,” Prompt said. “Trust me: it was his dad.”

Lloyd looked at Prompt’s back quizzically. “How would you know?” he asked.

Prompt sighed. “Look, the whole… flaming eyes and energy weapon thing kind of marks you as a Nephilim. You probably hear voices sometimes when you get excited, right? Nephilim are… well, they’re the children of a human woman and…” She trailed off as a truck slowed beside them.

Hurrying up to the side, Prompt looked in through the window and smiled at the truck driver. “Hi,” she said. “Our car broke down some ways back—would you mind givin’ us a lift into town?”

“I can do you one better, pretty lady,” the middle-aged man said through a toothy smile. “You happen to be talkin’ to one of the best mechanics in all of Clay County. I can get my brother-in-law to tow y’all to my garage and-”

“That’s not necessary,” Prompt said. “I couldn’t pay you-”

“Don’t go worryin’ about payin’ me—just doin’ what’s decent.”

“Really, I couldn’t-”

“I insist,” the man said, leaning across the truck’s seat to tug at the door’s handle. With a strong push, the door opened, unleashing a horrible creek as it did.

“It can’t ever be easy, can it?” Prompt asked the sky. Suddenly she reverted to her normal appearance and took control of the man’s body with an ability she had imprinted from her roommate. She forced the mechanic to shift his truck into park and sit quietly in the driver’s seat. “Okay, here’s how this is going to go: we’re not bad people but… desperate times—blah, blah, blah. We’re not going to hurt you but we need your help to save this boy whose life in danger. I’m sorry about this—really didn’t want things to go down like this but… whatever.”

The New Vindicator turned to the trio of boys with her and focused on Max. “Take off your shirt.”

“Turn into Megan Fox.”

Prompt rolled her eyes. “I need something to cover my uniform, jackass. You’re the only one with two shirts so… hand it over.” Max slipped out of the makeshift jacket and handed it over to the young woman. She hastily donned the shirt and buttoned it up before slipping into the cab. “All right,” she said, “get in the back. I’m going to get our new friend here to drive us into town and take us to the county lockup—how are you not sweating in this thing? Once we’re there, Max and Lloyd are going to get Jude inside. Once he knows where he’s going, he can ‘port in, grab this Andrew kid and get out. I’m going to have to stay in the truck and make sure our driver doesn’t try to sic the po-pos on us. Just remember: don’t hurt anybody. Got it?”

One-by-one the boys climbed into the bed of the truck. Once they were in place, Prompt commanded the driver to take off. It was awkward: she was controlling his movements—the amount of pressure his foot applied to the gas or the degree at which his hands turned the steering wheel—but she was doing it from the passenger seat.

At first, the truck moved slowly and then it suddenly accelerated, only to slam on the brakes in an attempt to slow to a more acceptable speed. The truck veered into the other lane and rather that steadily shift over the truck jerked. It careened around corners and tossed the boys in the back about. The ride was rough, but the young woman didn’t see what alternatives she had…

They could have forced him out of the truck and left him stranded alongside the road. It wouldn’t take him more than a few minutes to walk to one of the houses though and from there he could easily contact the sheriff and tell him that he had been carjacked by a girl in a Vindicators uniform. They could have incapacitated him; Prompt lacked any ability that would merely put him to sleep or force him into unconsciousness—at least, none that were pleasant to experience. She could have turned the Damned’s pain-inducing ability on him or let Lloyd or Max have at him but that would just vindicate claims that SPBs were a danger to normal humans.

There existed another route: Tapion’s telepathy included the ability to completely alter someone’s mind. She had had success with using such a power on Jordan—at least until he touched the Black Box. Still, it was a risky thing to try, as Jessie Martinez would verify.

Suddenly, Prompt realized that the Black Box had undone her alteration of Jordan’s mind—it could do the same for the catatonic girl she had abandoned a year ago in Peoria. Making a mental note to pay the comatose Esper a visit, Prompt tried to focus on the mission at hand: they had entered West Point and were getting nearer the young man they had come to save.

Finding the prison was difficult. If Prompt were to use her telelocation to find Andrew, she had to first free their chauffer. The instant he was in possession of his own actions again, he might start screaming or try to make a run for it. If he drew attention to them, this would escalate into something considerably more difficult.

For several minutes, Prompt simply had the driver guide them through the streets in search of something that looked like the county lockup. Jessica Martin’s puppeteer power wasn’t a form of total mind control: she couldn’t demand information from the driver or even let him talk. She had full control over his physical body. She couldn’t give him control over his tongue or jaw—it was all or nothing.

Realizing that they had no idea where they were going, Jude knocked on the back window of the truck and signaled for Prompt to pull them over.

Once the truck began to idle, Jude pounced over the side and nearly fell over in the process. “I have an idea,” he said nervously. He hastily explained his plan and with nothing else to help them, Prompt agreed to let him give it a try. “Just… be ready to follow me.”

“Don’t get shot, broseph,” Lloyd said, thrusting his arm out towards Jude quickly. Jude flinched as if he were about to be punched, only to realize Lloyd was offering his knuckles to the man. Jude hesitantly bumped fists with his would-be classmate and evoked a shared look of confusion between Max and Lloyd in the process.

Prompt watched as a jittery Jude stood on the sidewalk, apprehensively looking both ways down the street. Only when he saw a police car slowly appear from around the corner did he move: the young man began frantically waving for the officer to pull over. Soon, the squad car pulled to the side of the street and the officer got out of the vehicle. “What’s wrong, young man?” the officer asked.

“I… I need you to arrest me,” Jude said. He didn’t need any help in feigning fear: he was terrified the mustachioed black man would draw his pistol and shoot him repeatedly after his confession. “I’m a Neo-Sapien… and I need you to put me with the other one.”

The man stared at Jude strangely. Jude simply took a newspaper out from under his arm; pilfered from a nearby trashcan, it was to be the proof of his powers. He rolled the paper up and held it a safe distance from both himself and the officer. With his other hand he gave a fancy gesture—like he’d seen stage magicians perform—and the tip of the rolled up paper burst into flames.

Jude set the newspaper down and looked at the officer with pleading eyes. “You have to take me in,” he said.

“Kid…” The black man hurriedly stomped out the flames and then began looking around nervously. West Point was a small town but they weren’t exactly alone. His eyes found the truck where the other New Vindicators sat; they then went to a jogger who’s attempt to blow off steam from a long day at work had been stopped by the sight of the combustion. Two men were in the process of stepping into Benny’s Shrimp and Corn Boil until one caught notice of the display of power; he had slapped the other in the shoulder and continued to point towards Jude even after his friend had directed his attention there. “I ain’t too thrilled to be holding one kid who didn’t do anything wrong…”

“For my own safety!” Jude said. “You know what will happen if anyone finds out what I am!”

The officer nodded somberly before putting a hand on Jude’s back. As he led the boy towards the parked squad car, he craned his neck to speak into the radio strapped above his heart. He called in the small fire and informed dispatch he was bringing another Neo-Sapien in.

As the squad car pulled off, Prompt made the mechanic take off in pursuit. Jude’s plan worked: he had successfully been taken in and helped lead his teammates to the jailhouse. With the truck parked outside, Prompt watched as Jude was escorted into the building. “Nothing to do but wait,” she said. “Good thinking, Max.”

“Don’t look at me,” the athletic youth said, “it was all Teleport Boy’s idea. He figured my powers made a better demonstration than his—especially since telling them he teleports might hurt our chances of breaking the other kid out.”

“Yeah, but you heard the cop, right?” Lloyd said. “He didn’t want to bring him in—didn’t even want to lock the other kid up! We probably could have just had the teachers flash their badges or whatever they’ve got, explain why we’re here and they’d have handed the kid over! Not everyone in the south’s a total bigot after all, I guess…”

“Dude was black,” Max muttered. “You expected him to be a bigot? Really?”

“Is it racist to assume black people can’t be bigots?” Lloyd asked.

Prompt could only sigh at the duo’s conversation and wonder if she had sounded so stupid when she was their age. “This kid might have only been locked up to keep the people from lynching him,” Prompt said darkly. “Ten-to-one odds they called the CGP in to help them storm the jail and take the kid out by force.”

Suddenly, Jude was standing outside of the jail, clutching a young man with bleach-blonde hair. An instant later they disappeared and reappeared in the back of the truck. “Drive!” Jude ordered. He was on the verge of hyperventilating.

“This the kid?” Lloyd asked. He sniffed the air. “What smells funny?”

“This is the kid—NOW DRIVE!” Jude thundered.

Prompt hurried to oblige. At her command, the driver pulled away from the jail and began to make his way west.

Jude’s sudden teleport had created confusion inside the jailhouse. The sudden disappearance of two teenage boys from a locked jail cell left the officers watching over them momentarily stunned. The truck had already slipped around a corner before any of them had thought to step outside to investigate the disappearance.

Prompt tried to keep her attention on the road ahead of her but she nervously kept looking through the truck’s rearview mirror, checking for flashing lights. Only when she saw none did she release the breath she was holding. “We did it,” she said. “We actually did it…”

“Who are you people?” Andrew asked from the bed of the truck. “Where are we going?”

“We’re superheroes!” Jude declared triumphantly. His part in the jailbreak left him feeling invincible; he had forgotten how—just minutes ago—he had been on the verge of wetting himself.

“We’re from a school for speebs,” Max said. “Name’s Max; I make fire with my mind.”

“I, uh… I’m Andrew Woodford,” the new boy said timorously. “I make things white.”

“What? Like… bleach?” Lloyd stared at Andrew strangely before sniffing the air again. “That’s it!” he bellowed. “That’s what that smell is! You smell like the stuff my mom puts in with the whites!”

“Yeah,” Andrew said mournfully. “For lunch, the cafeteria was serving pizza. I took a bite out of it and a glob of sauce dropped on my shirt—the brand new, white shirt I just bought! I was s’posed to meet my girlfriend behind the school afterwards and I thought maybe I could get it out, y’know? So, I licked my fingers and I tried to rub the stain out. It worked! I mean, my shirt was a little damp but the stain was out…

“That’s… when the smell started…” he added sheepishly. “Everyone else started to notice it too. I pulled my shirt up over my nose and took a whiff—man, I stank. Everyone around me was sniffing the air… It was a little bit later that people noticed it was me. Some of the kids in my class wanted to know why I smelled like bleach—my girlfriend asked if I’d been bathing in it. Well… someone eventually figured that I must’ve been a Neo-Sapien and that’s when they came after me.

“Officer Gooding saw the crowd and came by—he reckoned they were about to kill me so he took me into custody for my own good.”

“Yeah,” Jude said, “that’s when we got word of what was happening down here.”

“Those people called the Church of Genetic Purity, man,” Lloyd offered sympathetically.

“Not to be a buzzkill or anything,” Max said apathetically, “but shouldn’t we snag his parents? I mean, they may be from the south but they’re not that stupid: they’re going to realize if Andy here is a speeb, his parents are speebs.”

“Dude, stop saying ‘speeb’,” Lloyd growled. “It’s not P.C.”

“Max has a point,” Prompt said over her shoulder. “We need to get Andrew’s parents to safety too.”

Andrew sighed. “It’s just me and my dad, actually,” he said. “He should be at work right now-”

“Wait, they arrested his underage son and he’s still at work?” Prompt asked. The truck swerved out of the right lane as she turned around to look through the back window. “Either the cops in this town are crappy or your dad is…”

“It’s not anyone’s fault,” Andrew said. “Dad drives a truck for a local company—he’s probably only just on his way home from Aberdeen by now…”

“Works for me,” Prompt said. “We’re almost back to the jet. Once we’re in the air, we’ll find your dad and pick him up. Hopefully then we can head back to New York…”
To Be Continued... wrote:Portal's fears, Hourglass' tears.
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Horsenhero
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Re: NEW VINDICATORS: Chapters 1106

Post by Horsenhero » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:41 pm

Nice rescue. Neat, sweet and low on violence. What in the world is this story coming to? :shock:

Michuru81
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Re: NEW VINDICATORS: Chapters 1106

Post by Michuru81 » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:45 pm

Horsenhero wrote:Nice rescue. Neat, sweet and low on violence. What in the world is this story coming to? :shock:
A Few Chapters From Now... wrote:He swung a barstool down and over Max’s back, dropping him to the floor. Barely holding on to consciousness, Max tried to push himself up, only for his attacker to sit on him. “Stay down, hothead!” the fat man laughed.
I'm working to redeem myself as we speak. [salutes]
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Michuru81
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New Vindicators, Chapters 1107

Post by Michuru81 » Tue Jul 12, 2011 8:43 pm

Chapter VII: Don’t Panic
It was good to be in the armor again. Though the hood of the uniform David Meinstein had worn during his time as Blitzkrieg concealed his identity, it did nothing to hide his expressions like the 001 did. On the outside, he appeared calm but behind the visor of his helmet, David was showing nervousness. In the last few months, he had so coolly handled every problem thrown at his team and now… he didn’t know what to do…

He was terrified that today’s events portended his death…

His gaze shifted from Doctor Howell’s back to the room’s other two occupants: Hourglass and Horde flanked the headmaster by sitting in the only two chairs the Wreck Room’s control center possessed. Their postures couldn’t have been more different: Hourglass looked relaxed, leaning back in the chair with one leg crossed over the other; Horde sat forward—hunched over—with both feet flat on the floor and his hands held together between his wide stance. In reality though, Portal saw through their façades: he knew his girlfriend and his best-friend better than anyone—he knew from the way Hourglass bounced her suspended foot that she was nervous and he knew from the way Horde’s head was bowed that he was trying to block everything else out to focus on finding a solution to the problems they now faced.

Doctor Howell, however, was unreadable. Unlike the other two, Portal had not spent enough time with the man to pick up on his tells. When the gorilla’s arms went behind his back and he held his wrist, Portal didn’t know what it meant. Likewise, he didn’t know the difference between the administrator’s saying, “Hmm…” or “Mm-hmm…” He didn’t comprehend the meaning of Doctor Howell’s arms swinging back around; the man held his elbow with one hand and raised his other hand up to prop up his tilted head.

Portal could only stand guard before the doors that led back into the sublevel’s hallway and wait for the headmaster to articulate his thoughts in a language they all could understand.

Doctor Howell was looking down into the Wreck Room where the trio of young men the Vindicators had brought to the school stood around, looking more nervous than Portal ever had. “When you told me you wanted to reopen the school, Mister Meinstein, I never expected you’d be stocking it with students yourself.”

Portal shrugged. “They followed me home. I told mom I’d feed ‘em and walk ‘em but she just didn’t think I was ready for that kind of responsibility…”

“Carl Hamilton, Gage Morris and… What did you say the third one’s name was?”

“We didn’t,” Horde offered. “He says he doesn’t know his name.”

“And we figured since you already had two amnesiacs lying around, we’d toss you a third.” Portal was referring to John Doe—or Sam Peterson, as they were now calling him—and Michael McDougall. Unlike Sam, Michael could remember his past—only the last thirteen months were kept from him. He was hardly in the same boat as Sam was in: he merely couldn’t recall the period of his life he spent under the demonic possession of Asmodeus.

It was strange: the day after Deimos’ attack, Michael had suddenly appeared on campus with no memory of how he got there and no trace of the Fallen’s influence.

If they could only find the Black Box, they could give him back the memory of his lost year. At the late Josh Cron’s and—ironically—Asmodeus’ urging, Portal had deposited the artifact in the wall of Prompt’s room. He had opened a portal to the interior of the wall and simply dropped the indestructible cube into the bulwark.

In Deimos’ raid on the school, that wall had been among the many to be obliterated. Strangely, the memory-restoring relic had not been found in the rubble. Given that Deimos was now trapped inside a bubble of impenetrable force, they were aware that he had not taken the object, but who had and why?

Deep down, Portal theorized that it had been Asmodeus who had taken it. After all, Michael’s slumbering, liberated form was found near where the cube had been hidden and Asmodeus was one of the only three people who knew where it had been. As Portal hadn’t taken it and Josh had been killed by Deimos, that didn’t leave many other culprits.

Had Asmodeus taken the cube and gone on the run to secure their other secret? Only Portal, Asmodeus and Josh had known that the life Sam Peterson couldn’t recall was the life of Asmodeus’ fellow Fallen: Abaddon.

Still, the cube could have helped the boy who the Vindicators found inside the pillar of light…

“So, what do we call him?” Hourglass asked.

“Well, the other guy who has no idea who he is stopped using the ‘John Doe’ moniker,” Horde said. Months ago, Josh Cron had told the amnesic man that his real name was Sam Peterson; for the last few weeks, he had been requesting the other residents of the school address him with it.

“Sergio Leone.” Doctor Howell’s suggestion brought confused looks from his guests. “He directed A Fistful of Dollars—the first film in the ‘Man with No Name’ trilogy.”

“We could run it by him,” Portal said. “See if he likes it. I dunno—maybe he has a suggestion on what we should call him we can figure out who he is…”

“That may be difficult,” Horde said. “I thought maybe we could ID him by his fingerprints—he has no fingerprints.” The young genius sighed and shook his head. “We might try his dental records but… I dunno. I mean, how do you not have fingerprints? Someone had to do that, right? Only reason to do that would be so they couldn’t be identified. Teeth’ll probably be a dead end too…”

“DNA testing?”

Doctor Howell shook his head at Hourglass’ suggestion. “DNA testing can be used to compare his to someone else’s—to see if there’s relation. It’s not as though there’s a huge database of our genetic material. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if Black Box had started one… Honestly, I’m surprised they didn’t sterilize the inmates in their concentration camp…”

Such thoughts acted as the harbinger of silence: none of the four knew what to say to that. Finally, the daughter of two veteran Vindicators offered a suggestion: “What about Christmas? I know she’s not that practiced with it but isn’t part of her power mind reading? Can’t she just go into his head and find whatever’s buried in there?”

“Miss Clark is away on a special assignment,” the headmaster explained. “I dispatched her with Miss Bedford to recruit a few new Neo-Sapiens Colonel Sidell brought to our attention. I received word just before you popped in here; they’re currently on their way back from Mississippi. Still, the idea has merit. When she gets back in, we can have her take a look in this boy’s head and see if she finds anything.”

“Fine,” Portal said, putting a pin in that topic, “now can we talk about the elephant in the room? The blind kid said Drew Jenkins brought him to us.”

“He never actually said ‘Jenkins’,” Horde stated. “And—not to state the obvious here—the kid’s blind so… we’re not going to get much of a description out of him beyond what this mystery man sounded like…”

“Oh, come on!” Hourglass threw her arms into the air as she roared at the three men. “You don’t find it at all weird that at every turning point in this kid’s life that came after the White War—the day Drew died—some guy named Drew showed up and showed him where to go? All that’s missing is for Gage to start going on about not having regrets and this has Drew’s signature all over it!

“Either our Drew—the dead kid who keeps popping up in our lives at opportune moments—is doing this or there’s some other cryptic person out there named Drew who’s able to appear at opportune moments! Which one’s more likely?”

“I haven’t ruled out Uatu,” muttered Portal.

“I think we need to face facts: Drew’s pushing this kid on us.” Hourglass looked each of the men in the eye in turn; when she turned to her boyfriend, she simply gazed up into his helmet’s visor. “The only question is why?”

“What do we know about all of Drew’s appearances so far?” Horde asked. “You guys said he popped into that warehouse in Canada, bringing reinforcements to help fight the Big-A with, right? Then he stuck around to help you guys take him on?”

“Maria told me something…” Hourglass reluctantly offered. “Magnus told her that he keeps seeing Drew in odd places…”

“I know Magnus hadn’t exactly been stable since…” Unsure how to put it, Portal’s rubbed the back of his neck with a gauntleted hand. Three months ago, Magnus Loder had divided his consciousness into two bodies to give himself an edge in the battle against Deimos. The Personification of Dread had slain one aspect of the man’s personality. Everything that was positive about Magnus Loder was dead and ever since, what remained of the man had been difficult to be around…

They all understood what he was reluctant to say. “We’re not really doubting his word on this, are we? We all saw Drew stand in as the Best Man at Magnus and Maria’s wedding. If we’re calling Magnus’ sanity into question for saying he still sees Drew, we all need to be fitted for straight jackets.”

“I’m afraid Mister Loder isn’t the only one the late Mister Jenkins appears to,” explained Doctor Howell. “The night Deimos attacked-” He stopped himself; there had been far too many nights Deimos had attacked in the last year for the heroes to know which one he meant. “The night A.J. Altair was born? One minute, Ben was bald and clean shaven. His wife went into premature labor and suddenly he had a beard and stubble capping his skull. Against my better judgment, I asked what happened: apparently, he stopped time for several weeks.

“He claims that Drew convinced him to—quite literally—let the world start turning again…”

A shiver ran up Horde’s spine. “Wow,” Portal mused, “that’s not creepy at all…”

“See?” Hourglass asked. “Drew keeps popping up when we need him most—why shouldn’t it be the same for Gage!?!”

“Because Gage didn’t know Drew!” Horde said. “Hell, even I didn’t know him—not well anyway!”

“During the White War, Samael talked to us—told us all about the connection between the Fallen and Neo-Sapiens…” Hourglass shuddered to think back to that day. “He told us that he had been preparing the world to fight what was coming—he gave Drew his copycat powers so that he could fight Apocatastasis on his level! When Samael died, his power went into Drew and then when Drew died, he was able to cross the barriers between this world and the afterlife, right?

“Drew inherited Samael’s powers so maybe he inherited Samael’s will too. What if Drew’s trying to prepare the world to fight the next big thing?” Hourglass walked to the window and looked down on the three young men standing below them. Gage, Carl and the amnesic boy were still standing around uncomfortably; they were still not talking to each other. “What if Gage is our weapon against what’s coming next?”

It was nothing that Portal had not already considered. Still, he had thought of something else—something that terrified him… “I’m really not comfortable thinking that.”

“Unless you have a better-”

Portal cut his girlfriend off. “No, I… I get what you’re saying. It makes sense. I just… I’m not comfortable thinking that.” The armored man turned towards Hourglass and hung his head low. “According to Gage, his ability lets him command electricity. If Drew knows what’s coming and he’s stacking the deck against it, that implies that what’s coming may be vulnerable to electricity.

“Why is he getting a new kid ready for war instead of me?” Inside the armor, David Meinstein’s knees were shaking. “If Drew knows what’s coming… he’s seeing further down the street than the rest of us are. What if he saw that for some reason…?

“What if I won’t be in the game at that point?”

Hourglass didn’t want to think about anything happening to her boyfriend. She rose up out of her chair and strode out of the room.

With the doors opened, the occupants of the control room saw their incoming guests: they watched as Hourglass moved past Colonel Sidell and his small procession. The doors slid shut again only to open at the short man’s approach. “Did I come at a bad time?” he asked, pointing his thumb over his shoulder to indicate the heroine.

With him were the first and second men known as Lodestone and a young man none of them had seen before. The boy wore a dark green trench coat—buttoned up and tied at the waist—with his hands stuffed into his pockets. Beneath the brim of his fedora, his eyes darted about at everything nervously. When the doors shut behind him, he gave a slight jump before shifting into an awkward stance.

“We were just finishing up, actually,” Portal said somberly. “What did you need?”

“Actually, I came to speak with Doctor Howell.” Colonel Sidell flashed the simian a roguish grin. “I’d like to introduce you to Gregaro Vincentsson.” He slapped the nervous-looking boy on the back and guided him towards the gorilla.

“He’s your newest student.”
To Be Continued... wrote:Orientation.
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Michuru81
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New Vindicators, Chapters 1108

Post by Michuru81 » Tue Jul 12, 2011 8:47 pm

Chapter VIII: Waking Up
It was a rough night for so many of the students. The Blackjack II arrived late into the night. Propelled solely by Chienne’s consciousness, it took the full focus of her positive and negative sides to keep the craft moving through the air. They routinely landed and took a short break so that she could clear her head before continuing; if ever the mental strain became too much for either of the Nephilim, the plane began to decline and the students started to panic.

By the time they arrived, their living cargo was far too tired to endure a tour of the grounds. They were led to the dorms where several of the other new residents were unable to sleep.

Will Loder slumbered peacefully but his roommate, Gregaro Vincentsson, laid staring at the ceiling, trying to process everything he had been fed today: not unlike Captain America, he had missed five decades trapped in ice. To say that he was reeling from culture shock was putting it mildly.

A room away, Carl Hamilton wrestled with excitement. He was so enthusiastic to be here. All his life he had bounced from foster home to foster home. Ever since his powers had manifested, he had been excited at the prospect of finally belonging to a family: he had come to New York to see the Vindicators—a family of super-powered beings that he might one day be accepted into.

His excitement was such that he hadn’t noticed his roommate—who had accepted the name Sergio Leone—had quietly slipped out of the room. Hardly feeling tired, he ventured downstairs to the still common room. Picking up the remote, he started to flip through the channels, futilely looking for anything worth watching this late at night.

Gage Morris had been given Raanan Lumanta as a roommate—much to the Filipino boy’s chagrin. When Mister McDougall had refused to take the blind youth elsewhere, Raanan had demanded to speak with the headmaster. He did not make a good first impression, calling Doctor Howell “Monkey Man” and trying to bribe him with the promise of bananas. Only when it was obvious that he would not get his way, Raanan chose to leave the man’s office on his own terms. As he walked back to his room, he considered the alternatives: if he had to have a roommate, he was thankful that he was blind…

The other Lumanta was much less problematic when Miss Wellor placed Pandora Filash in the bed across from hers. Once the purple-haired girl was left to get settled, Razi simply turned off her book light and rested Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead on the night stand beside her bed.

As Pandora laid down on her bed, she couldn’t help but think that it was a pointless gesture. Given everything that had happened today, she doubted if she would be able to sleep… It was the same for Max Swift and Lloyd Hilton and again for Jude Bellows and Andrew Woodford.

They had all been given the same notice: breakfast would be served at seven with orientation beginning an hour later. Some rose from their beds more easily than others. Some dragged their feet as they left their rooms. Knowing no one, they tended to stick with their roommates—even if they didn’t know their roommates well.

In the cafeteria, the rookie students were easily spotted in the crowd: those who had been calling the school their home for the last few months conversed with their friends animatedly, while those new to the grounds within the last twenty-four hours ate in relative silence.

After what felt like an eternity to the neophytes, the headmaster stepped to the front of the room and cleared his throat. The only ones talking knew Doctor Howell and had come to respect him. A hush descended over the chamber and was broken only by an excited cry of, “Monkey Man!”

Ignoring Raanan, Doctor Howell smiled to the student body. “Welcome to a new year at the New Vindicators Academy,” he intoned. “For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Doctor James Howell and I am the headmaster here.

“I invite you to look at the people around you. Go ahead, look around. You see, the people all around you are just like you. They have experienced persecution. They have been called names and bullied for the crime of being different. They know what it’s like to have friends look at you differently. They know what it’s like to have family turn their backs on you. They know what it’s like to be hurt.

“It is my sincerest hope that here you will find a place where you may be an individual but not different. Myself and my staff are devoted to trying to make your high school years everything they should be: we want to arm you with knowledge and surround you with friends. It is our deepest desire that when you leave this place, you will be the best person you can be—that you will know prosperity in whatever path you choose to walk.

“We are here to help you succeed in life.”

With his introduction finished, Doctor Howell set about to guiding the new students through the school, showing them the ins and outs of the campus. They toured the schoolhouse and met each teacher in their classrooms before heading down to the sublevels, where they were shown the infirmary, the War Room, the hangar bay and finally, the Wreck Room.

After a quick summary of what purpose the Wreck Room served, the headmaster proceeded to show them the chamber’s full capabilities. The massive, white enclosure suddenly changed and the newest students found themselves standing on the shore of a tropical island. They could hear the wind rustling through leaves of palm trees. They could feel the ocean spray into their faces. They could smell the salt sea. Had they not seen the marvelous transformation occur before their eyes, they would have believed that they were standing on the edge of a deserted paradise.

“You’ll find that you don’t have access to this room without supervision,” Doctor Howell explained. “There are certain safety protocols in place that will keep you from being grievously injured, but that does not mean there are not dangers here.”

Nodding towards the sun, Doctor Howell signaled to whoever was in the control booth to terminate the illusory world and replace it a replica of the Parthenon. Here, the headmaster announced that the students would be picking their classes for the first semester: panes of glass etched with each class, its description and instructor floated about the room. The students were invited to make their way through and add their names to whichever class struck their fancy.

Like that, the school year began. After a short break, the students found themselves walking through their daily schedule for brief, fifteen-minute long sessions wherein the curriculum was outlined for them and textbooks were assigned. Some of them met Mister Peterson, the school’s history teacher, while others met Miss Wellor, the mathematics instructor. The English department was divided between Missus Goodman and Mister McDougall while science was the domain of Missus Glock and Mister Ohnemus. Some of them found themselves in Mister or Missus Altair’s class or with Mister Dane or several of the other teachers the school now employed.

The students only had to endure three full days of classes before the weekend arrived. A moving van arrived at the school’s front gates, bearing the Lumanta’s possessions. Razi pushed the box of her clothes to the foot of her bed, only to delve into one of the many boxes of books she had shipped from Atlanta to New York. She was two pages into The Lovely Bones when the movers came back with one of her bookshelves.

For every box Razi had shipped, Raanan had three. He followed the movers from the truck to his room and then walked back with them to ensure that they did not defy his precise orders on how to transport the boxes. The other students noticed the sheer amount of boxes Raanan expected to fit into the tiny room he shared with Gage; questions were asked and questions were ignored.

Only when Raanan was certain that each of the numbered boxes was secured in his room did he begin to unpack them. He answered visitors knocking with a hasty, “Go away!” Only when Gage returned to his room did any of the students catch so much of a glimpse of the youth’s precious cargo: Andrew Woodford was passing down the hall when the blind youth slipped in—“Shut the door!” he screamed as his roommate entered; with the door open for a brief moment, Andrew saw the Filipino unpacking hordes of potted plants…

For hours, Raanan unpacked in secrecy. Hours passed before he emerged from the room. He made his way down to the Common Room where he found a small audience watching John and Max playing Foosball; Sergio was sitting on the couch, watching The Ghost Whisperer.

It was the emptiest Raanan had seen it: ordinarily, one could find Cale Ueshiba and Kasunda Itou making out, legions of boys surrounding the newly single Jessie Martin or Solon Carlyle trying to impress anyone unfortunate enough to be held up by him.

Raanan sidled up next to Annle Caplan, a freshman in his psychology class. “What are you doing here?” he asked. “It’s Friday night—shouldn’t you be out on a dance floor somewhere, making other girls jealous?”

Annle stared strangely at the boy who—despite being a year her senior, was considerably shorter than she was. “I think I’m a little too young to get into any clubs…” she said slowly.

“Not when you know people.”

“I don’t know people.”

“You know me.” Raanan slipped an arm around her waist. “Come with me and I can promise you we’ll get in.”

“Get in where?” Max asked. Overhearing Raanan’s proposal, he had abandoned the competition for something that sounded infinitely more entertaining.

At first, Raanan grimaced at the prospect of any of the other students tagging along. Then he considered it: Max was an attractive, athletic young man with rugged good looks; if things didn’t work out with the freshman, Max might make a halfway decent wingman once they were inside.

“This club across the river,” Raanan said. “Hell in a Handbasket. Thought I’d check it out—see it it’s lame or not. Whatchu thinkin?”

Annle shrugged out from under Raanan’s grip. “Yeah, pass,” she said as she slipped away from him.

Raanan managed to conceal his hopefulness as he looked to Max: if the sophomore didn’t want to go, he knew his game would suffer. As he waited patiently for taller youth’s response, his entourage unexpectedly grew: “Oh, c’mon, Max!” Lloyd balked. “It’s better than sitting around here on the weekend!” The Mohawk-topped youth flexed and kissed his bicep. “We are way too hot to be sitting in here, playing kid’s games!”

It was a sentiment John shared: the young man nodded in agreement and opened his mouth to echo Lloyd, only for Raanan to speak over him. “Yeah!” the minute youth declared, seeing Lloyd as the way to coerce Max into joining him. “C’mon, bro! Don’t leave us hangin’!”

Jude pounced to his feet. “I’m going to go find Pandora—see if she wants to come!”

Raanan gaped at the youth’s inviting himself along. Lloyd and Max he didn’t mind but Jude was a scrawny, geeky kid who would certainly act as girl-repellent. Just when he thought it couldn’t get worse, Jude’s roommate chimed in: “Can we invite your sister?” Andrew asked.

“She’s not my sister!” Raanan thundered.

“Oh. Okay… Well, can we invite Razi?”

“No, we can’t invite Razi,” Raanan said as he rolled his eyes. “Razi and I don’t hang out.”

“But… I like her. She’s hot.”

The Filipino raised an eyebrow. “Razi and I are near identical.”

“Dude,” Max said as he clamped a hand on Andrew’s shoulder, “pretty sure that makes you gay.”

“I’m not gay! I had a girlfriend!”

“Back in Mississippi.” Max walked away from the young boy. “For all we know, she was your cousin.”

Seeing Max head for the door renewed Raanan’s hope. “You mean you’re coming!?!” he exclaimed, charging after him with John and Lloyd slowly bringing up the rear.

“Eh, why not?” he asked.

“All right!” the Filipino exclaimed, thrusting his fist into the air victoriously. “Let’s hurry up before the nerds follow us!”
To Be Continued... wrote:1337.
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