RPG Library

Night City(8): Trouble at Vanguard

Lyle blinks blankly at Adaptor as he crunches on eggshells. He looks as if he's seeing something he knows makes no sense -- he must not be seeing what he thinks he's seeing. But he keeps looking, and it still looks like Adaptor is eating eggshells. As Adaptor finishes off the eggshells, washing them down with tomato juice, he looks around the table, as if making sure no one else wants to talk first. Apparently satisfied, he speaks.

"Lyle, I cannot speak for the others, but I am wondering whether your information on this mission was really as inexact as it seemed to be, or if there was something we weren't told for some reason?" The question has no malice in it, no accusation. From Adaptor's tone, he could be asking who Lyle thinks will win the World Series. But he obviously expects an answer...

Lyle frowns and sighs heavily, but before he can answer Kakker sneers. "If they knew we were being set up, then they're part of it, and wouldn't tell us anyway. Some kind of conspiracy is involved; they got into the building and planted the bombs before we knew they were there. Somehow they got in undetected, and managed to get away without our seeing them.

"Hold on; that's not quite right. The flying woman flew off into the sky, so they don't have personal teleportation. That kid we took prisoner stayed taken, so that's something. Doubt we'll get any information out of him; the feds will be keeping him too close.

"But the thing we =really= need to find out is: Where's Beowulf?"

Krane sits quietly, pondering the night. The senseless death makes his blood boil; but him thoughts keep turning to his vision/near death experience(?). He's not accustomed to visitations from Korean men in his dreams. He can't help but think that these men are real and were contacting him for a reason.

He ponders their riddle. Sometimes the easy path isn't the right path. Sometimes -- oftentimes the hard path is the necessary one. His reverie is interrupted by Kakker's comment.

"Yes! We need to find Beowulf. He and Grendel are obviously linked and in my opinion Grendel just became our priority. He's more dangerous than Doomguard. The casual disrespect for human life..." Krane punches his right fist into his left palm in rage.

"We have to find Grendel, and Beowulf is probably the man with the answers.

Lyle leans back in his chair and closes his eyes. He rubs his eyes with one hand, and he looks like he's in pain.

"Guys, I have no fucking clue what's going on." He opens his eyes and sits up, looking angry and tired, but mostly tired. He fixes Kakker with a stare.

"No fucking clue, OK? Is that what you want to hear? We sent you into a dangerous situation that we thought -- no, that we *hoped* -- you could cope with. I'm sorry Emerald got hurt, I'm sorry the prison blew up, I'm sorry I ever saw every last one of you. OK? I'm sorry. But don't blame me for this. I'm not a superhero, I'm just a guy working on his doctorate in violation physics. I gave you every scrap of info I had on that situation, gave you every bit of info I got from the FBI, did everything I could to help you guys."

"You. Fucked. Up."

Lyle gets up, knocking his chair over backward. He walks away from the table to the back corner of the room, leans his forehead against the wall with his head down and his hands shoulder-width apart. He takes a few deep breaths, tries to calm down.

"I'm sorry about that," he says, in a calmer but no less tired voice. "I'm sure you did the best you could. More than I could do, had I been there. Like I said, I'm just a grad student working on his doctorate." His voice drops a few decibels, to just above a whisper.

"I used to idolize you guys. Vanguard, mostly, but all of you, really. Ever since I was a kid. Superheroes. Flying around, doing brave things, battling evil. Saving the world. It's why I went into violation physics, to learn about superheroes, study you, work with you... hang out with you."

"And it's been hell. What did I find out when I came here eight months ago? That you aren't any better, any wiser than normal humans -- you're just as petty, just as flawed as we are. I get abused by shitheads like Hercules and Nemesis because I can't bench-press trucks or dodge bullets. Blue Star constantly reminding me of how I'm a liability even being here, how easy it would be for Oberon or some other psycho to kill me just for spite. Only Modulator, Dryad, and Dr. Redgrave made me feel like I was an asset instead of a parasite."

"And when I thought I had come to deal with all of that... they get killed. All but Carlotta, dead. I haven't slept more than six hours in the past three days. And she hasn't been the same since Jason died, either. Now this... a whole building full of people killed, Carlotta locked in her lab doing god-knows-what to herself..."

"Christ, I don't even know what I'm doing here anymore...."

Lyle's voice tapers off, and he shakes his head slowly back and forth against the wall.


Adaptor nods.

"I'll take that to mean that your information really was as inexact as it seemed to be. Lyle, I don't know what you expected of us, but I, for one, did everything within my power to bring the situation under control. Obviously, we were unable to. But I don't believe for a moment that because I 'fucked. up.', or whatever coloquialism you wish to use, gives me the right to throw my arms up in the air and give up, as you seem to be doing. If this day has done ANYTHING for me, it has simply proven to me that Vanguard is NEEDED, here, now, in a way that it has never been before. The truth of the matter is that Grendel could have destroyed that prison at ANY TIME. I think the fact that none of the team was killed says something. I also believe the lives of the women who were successfully evacuated mean something."

He leans in to Lyle...

"And I also think that you KNOW these things, as well. If there was not something in you that believed that you were making a difference here, you would be in a Physics Lab at UCLA, and not here. I choose to learn from this experience. If I could have the lives of those prisoners back, I would. But I cannot. All I can do is redouble my efforts to see that nothing like this ever happens again. And if you value OUR lives at all, then I suggest you get some sleep, because you are of no use to anyone in your current state, including yourself. Perhaps it's time we all had a talk with the good Dr. Redgrave, without you around for her to use as a shield."

Without waiting for Lyle's response, he turns to his teammates(?)...

"I wish to remain a member of Vangaurd. Is there still a Vangaurd for me to remain a member of?"

Kakker rises to almost a standing position. His voice rises and and falls in emphasis as if he's trying not to shout. "I THINK that there will more LIKELY be a Vanguard IF we all cool off before we start accusing one another. LYLE here is obviously too exhausted to exercise good JUDGEment, so let's let him get some sleep.

"=I= will venture that many of us here are not functioning at one hundred percent, and could stand some sleep, including me. Tell me what absolutely has to be handled now, and what can wait until morning."

Krane observes Lyle's explosion and subsequent breakdown. "We were a brand new team. Not a team at all actually. We didn't have time to even get to know one another. If there's any blame to be cast, toss it on Grendel. He COULD have blown up the prison at any time.

"Get some sleep Lyle, and anyone else who needs it. I think I'll make use of one of the guest rooms myself. If anything happens give me a call. I'll be thinking."

Assuming that nothing else happens (a big assumption, I know grin), Krane will retire. He will be up with the dawn, flowing through his asanas, preparing to face the challenges of the following day.

Britestar gets a pen and some paper and draws a sketch of the blue skinned bat-like women who attacked him at the prison.

"Does anyone have any idea who this woman is? I still remember what she said:"

"'Lightbringer, you're making this much harder than it has to be. I don't want to kill you, but I didn't track you back through time just to fail again. This time, the stone *will* be mine.'"

"Now what in the world is that supposed to mean? And what, if any, connection to the attack on the prison did she have?"

Lyle pushes himself away from the wall and walks over to Britestar. He takes the sketch of the batwinged woman and squints at it for a few moments, then hands it back to Britestar.

"Never saw her before."

He shuffles to the door of the meeting room and waves without looking backward.

"'night all. See you in the morning."

Assuming no one stops him, he heads down the hall, presumably to his room. The quiet lays heavy on the meeting room after he departs. The coffee-maker hisses and burbles.

Krane looks at the sketch that Britestar has drawn and shakes his head. "Never heard of her before. She either knows more about you than you do about her or she had you confused with someone else."

As the assembled heroes (or what's left of them) gather their wits (or what's left of them), an observant eye might notice that Adaptor doesn't head straight for his room...

Adaptor leaves the Vanguard building and walks down the sidewalk. A block later, he finds a pay phone. A coin and a few buttons later, he speaks hurriedly into the revceiver.

"Ron, it's David. Did you see the News yet?"

The groggy voice of his mentor greets him in the manner mentors are reknowned for:

"Murble, Grumble, Grunt... three in the MORNING! You better be in jail, Dave."

"The prison gig didn't go quite as planned..."

"Oh, holy mother of god, why do I... hang on..." Adaptor could hear the clatter of objects knocked off a table, then the distant chatter of a television being turned on.

After a moment of silence, Ron whistled a long, low note. "Holy geez, Dave; are you OK?"

"I'm fine: the same can't be said for some of the others. I'll give you the whole low-down tomorrow, but right now I have to ask you a couple of questions: First of all, can he tell me anything about any of the villians you see in the newscast?"

"Um, the guy in the cape in Grendel. He's a real bad-ass, but I'm sure you figured that out by now. I -- that is, Captain Paragon -- never actually went up against him. If I remember correctly, he showed up just before Cap retired. The rest of them are new to me."

Retired? But Ron had said Paragon had been killed....

"How about Dr. Redgrave? Do you think its possible that she is really the guiding force behind all this? None of us has actually seen Modulator -- do you think he could he have been killed in the Doomguard attack, as well?"

Ron was silent a moment. "Hell if I know, Dave. It's possible. Yeah, more than possible -- Vanguard was Redgrave's whole life. But that was true of most of us, really."

Adaptor thought about that. Ok, so he wouldn't rule that out just yet.

"What's his take on camera footage of our battle being made available to the media so quickly -- and without our knowledge it was ever taken?. Who might I ask about this?"

"I don't know, Dave. It looks like one of the bad guys was wearing a camera. Don't you recognize the camera angles? If not that, then I don't know what to tell you. I find it kind of hard to believe they had an invisible accomplice just to take pictures."

Adaptor thought about that for a minute. After 30 seconds of silence, Ron's "ahem!" broke his reverie.

"We done Dave? Can I go back to sleep now?"

"Um, sure. Thanks, Ron. I'll call you again tomorrow morning."

"You mean 'tomorrow afternoon.' G'night, Dave."

Adaptor made his way back to the base, thinking heavily. The base was quiet as a tomb: apparently everyone else had gone to bed. Walking down the hall toward his living quarters, Adaptor passed the vault-like door to Redgrave's labs. He stopped for a moment, listening, but he couldn't hear anything but the quiet whisper of the ventilation. Shrugging, he continued down the hall to his room, unlocked the door with his keycard, and entered, closing the door behind him.

And the base was silent.


It's three A.M., or some such hour. Prism has lost track, and at this point he doesn't really care.

He sits in the Vanguard TV room, on a reinforced couch, flipping through umpteen dozen channels of the Vast Wasteland. Reflected images flicker, ghostlike, on the gleaming crystal facets of his motionless body. The single TV screen, and its myriad reflections across the surface of Prism's "skin," are the only light in the room. Right now a newsman is talking.

"...just received word that two more of the injured inmates have died during surgery, bringing the combined death toll to six hundred and forty-four in this unprecedented disaster. Police have still refused to press charges in the matter; several protests are being scheduled for tomorrow morning by outraged citizens. Another--"

click

A massive crystal hand moves imperceptibly, the pencil held between thumb and forefinger presses down on the Channel Up button. The anchorman vanishes in a cloud of electric snow, and Nissei closing prices begin to drift across Prism's forehead, marching backwards into oblivion. He puts the pencil down, concentrating, careful not to break it, to shatter it like he did the first remote control. Anger can do that when you're strong. Strong people have to be careful not to break things.

Or people.

The stock prices march on, accompanied by dramatic synthesized music. The volume is low, so that those who can sleep won't be disturbed. Even if Prism's body could sleep, his mind wouldn't let him. In his memory, FBI agents scatter like bowling pins in a fiery wind, the BOOMroar drowning their screams.

The stock report is no longer sufficiently distracting. Prism picks up the pencil, gently.

click

A shopping channel this time. A smiling woman displays a collection of golden rings, set with huge artificial stones. The studio lights gleam brilliantly off the pseudo-gems, and an answering constellation flickers in the mirrors of Prism's shoulders, knees, heart. "...and LOOK at how they catch the light. Any one of these rings would be worth forty or fifty dollars, but we're offering you the WHOLE SET, all five rings, for only 39.95 if you call us now. We have Judy from Duluth on the line..."

Judy from Duluth begins to discuss how happy these rings will make her daughters. Prism recalls that he once wanted to have a daughter, back when he still could. Denise wanted a daughter, too, but it didn't work out.

How nicely those words summarize so many difficult things! I was completely in love and wanted to marry her, but it didn't work out. I had this great experiment on the Space Shuttle, but it didn't work out. We were going to stop this prison break, but it didn't work out. Oh well.

A faux diamond winks at Prism from the screen.

click

An action movie; the hero is trying to stop someone from killing a President. Prism has seen this one before. Everything goes the hero's way, and he saves the President just in time. Simple. All Vanguard needs is a good scriptwriter.

This was the big plan: Become a hero, and show people that just because his body was horribly deformed, he didn't become a bad person. Save some lives. Make some friends. Come to grips with what you have become. Try to rebuild some semblance of a life.

Good plan. Bad execution. You. Fucked. Up.

click

"...protestors are already assembling near Vanguard's headquarters, demanding that the group be shut down until responsibility for the blast is determined. Allison Shepherd is on the scene now. Alison, what's the mood out there?"

Alison begins to describe the angry, malevolent crowd. Her mirror inage lip- syncs perfectly along on Prism's chest, as marchers gather in the background. Some of them were at the funeral yesterday. Prism watches for a familiar face in the crowd. He doesn't see it.

He always comes back to these channel, to a graphic display of his and Vanguard's failure. He doesn't want to hear about it, but it's like picking a scab. Pain is interesting, even his own. In that, at least, he's still human.

Prism sits and watches, waiting for implacable dawn to come.

Slipping back over the wall behind the building to avoid the small crowd gathered out front, Adaptor pads silently through the halls, his bare feet making only the barest rustle on the carpeted floors. A she passes the kitchen, he's struck with a familiar sensation: an overwhelming craving for a certain kind of food. In this case, it's oatmeal: carbohydrates and roughage, with some honey on it for the immune system. Mix with some steamed spinach for iron, and serve piping hot with a large pitcher of water to rehydrate.

Eager to follow up on Ron's advice to carefully review the tapes from the battle, he heads for the TV room. As he enters, it's immediately apparent that Prism had been here for quite a while; he seems to be channel surfing, not particularly intent on watching any one show. Adaptor knocks quietly on the doorjam before entering the room. "Hello, Prism. I was just grabbing a Midnight snack before I turned in. Am I disturbing you?"

If Prism answers in the affirmative, Adpator merely nods, says 'Goodnight', and goes to sit in the Meetig room.

If he indicates I can join him, I first ask, "Actually, I'm not sure if you need to eat. Can I fix you something, perhaps just for taste's sake? I've been told I'ma semi-decent chef..."

With that intended ice-breaker out of the way, I'll set my food down, but not sit to eat until he indicates wether he'd like anything...

Prism looks to the door and smiles wanly, one side of his face white with the reflected images of a bleach commercial. "No, come on in," he says, motioning Adaptor toward a seat. "I think I'm about as disturbed as I'm gonna get right about now."

Prism shakes his head. "Not only do I not need do eat, I can't." He opens his mouth briefly to show Adaptor; a glance reveals that his oral cavity extends only a few inches back into his head, and ends in a featureless crystal wall. There's no place for any food to go. Adaptor briefly wonders how Prism manages to speak with such an arrangement; vibrating some of his crystals at certain frequencies, perhaps? "I'd give my right arm to eat a steak right now, or an apple, or . . . "

He glances down at Adaptor's oatmeal-spinach-honey mush. "Well, maybe not ANYthing, but almost." He smiles again. "Thanks for the offer, though."

Adaptor sets his food down and takes a seat. He gestures to the television. "Anything you want to watch? I'm just killing time, really." The commercial ends, and American Gladiators comes on. Prism utters a low chuckle it sounds eerie in his sinewave voice. "I never realized how pointless late-night TV programming is before."

After a few moments' pause, if Adaptor doesn't speak first, Prism says without preamble, "Do you think we can still pull this thing out of the fire?"

Prism's review of Adaptor's dinner elicits a grin from the normally stone-faced hero. He only shrugs and sits down to start eating. He shakes his head once to indicate that Prism can continue to channel surf as he sees fit.

Adaptor pauses with the spoon halfway to his lips at Prism's question. He sets the spoon back down and looks Prism directly in the eye. "Things were heated in the meeting room before, but I still believe now what I said then. Today only proves to me that we are needed more than ever before. Something seems to be happening. The world seems to be turning darker, perhaps giving in to entropy, I don't know. There are only two responses when something like that happens. We can either give in, or oppose it. By doing nothing, by giving up, we participate in the downfall...."

Adaptor pauses for a moment.

"And I think that you may understand me better than any of the others when I say that this is one of the things that reminds me that I am human, and not an... (and here he flinches, just for a moment, and the words that follow do so hesitantly at first...) not.. something else. Because any doctor that looked at an X-Ray of me, or dissected me, would tell you I'm not human. The life I used to live was taken from me, not by my choice. But by doing this now, I assert my humanity. Grendel gave that up, but I won't."

Adaptor pauses, realizing he has monopolized the conversation. He looks down at his feet, biting his lip, aware that he has probably offended the gentle giant who has offered him conversation.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to run on like that... Please, tell me, if you don't mind. What compelled you to come here? Don't you still feel it now?"

The question is strangley phrased, but nonetheless completely sincere and totally in earnest. Adaptor's dinner lies forgotten, and he is now starring unblinkingly, expectantly at Prism, awaiting his response...

Prism listens to Adaptor closely, the TV's mumbled drone forgotten in the background. His crystal face is hard to read, but when Adaptor begins to describe how his life was taken from him, there is definitely a change in Prism's featureless blue eyes. Sympathy? Irritation? It's difficult to say.

Adaptor winds down, saying, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to run on like that... Please, tell me, if you don't mind. What compelled you to come here? Don't you still feel it now?"

Prism looks at Adaptor for a long moment without looking or speaking. Adaptor notices, possibly for the first time, that Prism's body does not perform any of the little movements that human flesh is heir to; no blinks, tremors, twitches, itches, shifts or sways. When Prism isn't moving, he's NOT moving.

"Yeah," he says, his voice at a higher pitch than usual. "I feel it all the time." He glances down at his hands, then back at his bald companion. "What 'compelled me to come here' was that I had no place else to go. I couldn't even get up the stairs to my apartment any more, not that they'd have let me in. Everything I had spent years working on was gone, and there's no way I could get another job looking like this." Bitterness begins to give his words a hard edge. "I was living on the streets 'cause the homeless were the only ones who'd take me. I can't eat, I can't sleep, and I can't go anywhere without people whispering and pointing at me.

"I came here because I wanted to find some people who wouldn't treat me like a freak. And I did, for maybe four whole hours, before I had to go do the superhero thing because that's what people that look like me are supposed to do. Now I've helped get a bunch of people killed, and people who've never even SEEN me hate my guts. And here, the place I wanted to call home, we've got the same bullshit finger-pointing going on that I had to deal with in any two-bit lab job I ever had. Except now, I can't quit and go somewhere else. For me, there IS nowhere else."

Abruptly, the fire goes out of Prism, at least a little. He runs one crystal hand back over his scalp, as if smoothing back non-existent hair. "Sorry, man," he says awkwardly. "You didn't need to listen to that shit. You were just unlucky enough to be the first person to sit still long enough for me to say it." He glances at the TV for a moment; Scotty is telling Captain Kirk that he "dinna have any more power to give."

"I think you're right; we do need to try to save this thing somehow. I just don't know if we can."

Adaptor smiles and stands up to go to bed.

"I think we just started. Good night."

He extends his hand to shake Prism's. Assuming the gesture is accepted, he smiles, turns, and heads out to go to bed.

Prism, apparently confused, stands up alongside Adaptor. He looks as though he is about to say something, then stops, contenting himself with a muttered "Whatever, man." He does extend a hand out to meet Adaptor's, though he is obviously being very careful with his strength. "Sleep well," he adds.

As Adaptor leaves, he sees Prism settle back into his reinforced couch, resuming his aimless (?) circuit of the base's many cable channels.

A few moments later, Prism shakes his head. _Nice guy_, he thinks to himself, _but weird._ The irony of that thought never crosses his mind.


The peaceful sleep of the members of Vanguard is interrupted all too soon by a persistent knocking at the doors to their rooms.

"Wake up," Stacy's pleads through the closed door. "There's someone here to talk to Vanguard!" As the team (whoever actually gets up) trudge down the steps to the first floor, they meet up with Prism, who is holding a TV Guide in one crystalline fist.

Stacy looks distressed. "I'm not sure what to do. Someone is here demanding to speak to Vanguard about what happened last night, but I can't find Dr. Redgrave or Lyle! I can't handle this sort of thing by myself; you guys will have to talk to her."

"Whoa, people," Prism says, tapping his hands together in the "time-out" signal. (His hands clink brightly as they make contact.) "Before we accuse anybody of collaborating with anybody, or play 'Name That Bad Guy,' why don't we sit down and get acquainted, and try to find Dr. Redgrave. And has anybody seen Langosto?"

Waving one crystalling hand towards one of the chairs that is still on the floor, Prism says, "Hi, I'm Prism. Sit down, have some coffee, whatever. I'm gonna go try to find the good doctor. Everybody make nice while I'm gone, or I'm gonna turn this headquarters around RIGHT NOW and we're going home." His mood seems curiously cheerful for anyone who noticed his morose behaviour last night; is it genuine, or feigned?

Stacy leads the team down the hall toward the meeting room, where only last night Lyle had voiced his doubts about remaining part of Vanguard. Had he left during the night? And where was Dr. Redgrave?

The meeting room was spotless: there was no trace of last night's heated discussion. The pitchers were dewey with fresh ice water, and the sunlight from the floor-length windows reflected warmly from the freshly polished wood of the meeting room table.

Standing in the meeting room is a woman wearing a knee-length grey overcoat and white knee-high boots. Her eyes are hidden behind black wrap-around sunglasses, and her long black hair is held back in a sleek ponytail.


[A quick sensory scan, if you please, so Glimmer can show off her knowledge of the base. N-Ray and Enhanced Hearing will probably be most useful, though maybe Ultrasonic will pick up something.What does this place "look" like? Are there any interesting things hidden behind the walls?]

Lots of Ultrasonic being pumped from the walls. Motion-sensors, probably. Other than that, the walls are fulll of wires & pipes & stuff. No secret passages, though. There is large area you can't hear anything from -- or through.

[How many people are in the building and where are they located?]

Stacy, Prism, Britestar, Adaptor, Krane, and Kakker, all coming toward you. Snoring from a room on the second floor -- male probably.

[And names. Did Stacy greet people by name when she woke them?]

No.

[Did Glimmer catch Stacy's name in addition to the names "Dr. Redgrave" and "Lyle"?]

We can assume someone said her name when she woke them up.

[Oh, and while she talks to people she'll monitor their vital signs for evidence of truth-bending.]

Stuff that would get her attention: Prism has no "life-signs" at all, Kakker's heartbeat is slower and more regular than normal, and Adaptor's breathing and heartbeat are as regular as a clock.


Within exactly one second of the first knock on his door, Adaptor is fully awake and ready to face another day. Within 15 seconds of the knock, he has emerged from his room in full costume and stands awaiting his comrades, his staff retracted and at his hip, absently scrunching his toes in the hallway's carpet. As the others emerge from thier rooms, he will fall in with them and walk down towards the conference room.

Thinking back, he reaches into his mind and asks for the memory of Lyle explaining the security system of the building, and who can get in and how. Could this be some reporter who has snuck onto the grounds? Perhaps an angry relative of one of the inmates? Whoever they are, they entered the mansion alarmingly easily. Adaptor enters the room purposefully, directly behind Prism, stepping off to his left as they enter the room. He doesn't immediately recognize the woman. There is a moment of tense silence, then Kakker strides into the room, obviously appraising the woman as best he can. Adaptor steps back, folding his hands behind his back, and waits for the woman (or one of his teammates) to commence with the (potential) confrontation...

After looking outside to see what the visitor arrived in, Kakker appears in slacks, blazer, and domino. Apraising the situation with the full force of his PER, he comes to the conclusion that- [Brandon?]

Some minor clarifications:

1) There's no parking on the street for the entire length of the Vanguard base (a zoning wrinkle the team got from the city in thanks for saving city hall from destruction for the umpteenth time).

2) Vanguard has a parking garage on-base, but I'm assuming that going to the garage and looking at the cars parked there is more time-consuming than Kakker is willing to deal with at the moment.

With that taken care of, Kakker's full focused PER tells him that the woman is just, like, standing there waiting.

[Could this be some reporter who has snuck onto the grounds? Perhaps an angry relative of one of the inmates? Whoever they are, they entered the mansion alarmingly easily.]

Nice vein of paranoia going, there, but just in case I've given the wrong impression, Stacy's anxiety mainly seemed due to the lack of any real authority figures in the base, not so much to the presence of the visitor. In any case, she gave no indication that the person got in the base by any unusual method: it would be entirely reasonable to assume that they knocked and she let them in.

The woman in white speaks with a familiar voice.

"good morning. anyone for breakfast?"

Adaptor nods and visibly relaxes at the sound of the voice.

"'Glimmer', I presume?" he says to the woman (assuming we heard that name used sometime as heroes, and not just as players...), and steps up to the table to get himself some water, awaiting her response (or the response of one of his teammates...).

"GRUSS GOTT!!" Kakker exclaims. "It's that phantom from last night!" Kakker snatches up chairs in either hand and interposes himself between the woman and the others.

Glimmer deftly remove her coat and hangs it on the leg of one of Kakker's chairs.

"thank you." she says. "although i prefer the term 'superheroine' to 'phantom.' now, i don't mind if you're not interested in breakfast, but at the very least we need to talk.

"how did you find out about the attack on the prison?"

Glimmer's costume is a white white skirt, a white white blouse and a white white cape -- with matching gloves and boots.

Kakker motions with one hand, flinging the coat across the room to a neutral corner. "No, tell us how =you= knew! Tell us why you were helping Grendel and his forces!"


Stacy's knock brings Krane out of his post-workout meditative state. He quickly towels off and dresses in his costume. Moments later he joins the team in the meeting room.

Since he stayed on the outside of the prison a lot (the night before) he's not at all sure who Glimmer is, but he's willing to believe that Kakker might be overreacting.

Trying to provide a calming influence, "We're all rather new to this Miss . . .

"But we'd be more than glad to be of service. I'm Krane", he says as he offers her his hand, bowing slightly at the waist.

Kakker shouts, "Krane! You could lose that hand- Didn't you see the holes she carved out?"

"Whoa Kakker," Britestar interjects, "I recognize her voice. She alerted me to the killing that Ash was doing."

:showing glimmer the drawing: "I saw you on the roof with this person. What can you tell me about her?"

"Then why was she =also= telling Grendel to look out for the slab dropped on him?" Kakker's tone is more hurt than rhetorical.

"Why did you warn him? Why? TELL ME!" The chairlegs swirl in small circles betraying a tremor in Kakker's grip.

[Assuming Kakker gets something like a satisfactory answer, he'll grudgingly put down the chairs and comandeer a pot of coffee and a can of non-dairy creamer. Oh, and a cup, of course.]

"because that slab would have taken out more people than adaptor intended. he probably couldn't sense the fact that the foundation for that section of the building was crumbling, but i could. without grendel cushioning its landing, that slab could have brought down the hallway. also, if grendel had been knocked out there'd be no chance of negotiating the disarming of the bomb -- something else i knew about that adaptor probably didn't.

"and on top of those somewhat indirect dangers, there was the immediate matter of the unconscious woman at grendel's feet. that slab would have turned her into pizza.

"now, can we stop this silly posturing and talk seriously about what to do next?

"you people are neck-deep in public relations quicksand and sinking fast. you need my help."

Glimmer makes a capital T with her hands.

"time out, boys. let's take this one step at a time, shall we?

"first," she huffs in Kakker's direction. "if you think i was aiding grendel, you don't have a clue about what went down yesterday. i was the one who was busy saving prisoners. the only reason there are *any* surviving inmates is because of what i did.

"second," she says to the group in general. "i found out about the attack on the prison because of some dumb luck and a little detective work. besides, knowing things is what i do. i don't know everything, of course. for example, i have no idea who that bat-winged woman is. i'm not even sure that she was one of grendel's teammates. she only seemed to be there because of britestar.

"third," she concludes, shaking Krane's hand. "it's nice to see that somebody knows how to treat a lady. i take my eggs over easy, by the way, and my bacon crisp."

Adaptor chimes in with Spock-like presicsion and his trademark deadpan manner.

"Actually, the woman was in no danger whatsoever, nor was the building. I did the math."

Apparently, he's completely serious.

Having said that, he pulls out a chair and sits down, awaiting the commencement of what should be an interesting meeting...

Prism, sensing that the immediate danger of a bar fight has lessened, speaks. "Okay, great. You guys make some chow, or whatever; I'll go find Dr. Redgrave." And with that, the crystal man heads off, bound (first) for Dr. Redgrave's lab.


A bit of retro-continuity made necessary by the unfortunate departure of Carlos/J.Ward from the game.

The entity had no name, not in the manner mortals did. It didn't even have a gender, or lack of one. Identity among its kind was far simpler, far more certain than that. It simply was what it was, and all those of its kind knew it, as it knew all of them.

But when passing among mortals, it became necessary to clothe itself in the semblance of flesh, and take a name so that the mortals would have a handle to wrap their tiny minds around. On these occassions, it would usually take the name "Sandra". The form it took varied...

...

Carlos was awakened by a bright light shining in his face.

Madre de Dios, not police. Where did I fall asleep last night?

He didn't remember going home. He didn't remember much of anything at all. The drug still flowed warm within him, making everything OK.

The light got brighter, more piercing. It reminded Carlos of car headlights getting closer... Madre de Dios!

Carlos's eyes snapped open. He saw a bright light, too bright to look at directly. Stumbling, he tried to stand and run, but his feet betrayed him, tangling in the tattered wool blanket he had been wrapped in. He sprawled, trying vainly to scramble away from the onrushing car.

"Carlos!" a warm, somehow familiar female voice called to him. "Carlos! What are you doing here, man? Hey, hey, hold on!"

Carlos felt hands on his shoulders, trying to turn him over. He fought for a minute, but he wasn't able to coordinate his movements enough to fight off whoever, whatever was attacking him.

"Hang on, hombre, I'm not going to hurt you. Calm down a minute, OK? You're safe, just calm down."

Carlos was soothed by the woman's words. He stopped fighting and tried to focus his eyes on the woman above him. They defied him for a moment, then slowly brought her image into clarity. He look up at a dark brown face that was homely, yet warm and friendly. He looked up at...

...Whoopi Goldberg.

"You okay, now? You aren't gonna try to get up again, are you? You almost walked into that wall last time...."

Carlos was not able to believe his eyes. He must be hallucinating. This woman didn't just *look* like Whoopi Goldberg -- she *was* Whoopi Goldberg, from her warm E.T.-like smile to her twisty dreadlocks.

"You are in some bad shape, Carlos," Whoopi said. "Why did you do this to yourself? You think you're helping anybody by this?" She gave Carlos that half-smile, half-frown that only Whoopi Goldberg could give.

Carlos blinked.

"Well, technically I'm not allowed to help you," she winked, "but I have to ask you a few questions, and you're in no shape to answer them like this." Carlos found a warm mug between his hands; it smelled like apples, or cinnamon. No, it smelled like... summer. Whatever, it smelled good.

"Drink this, it'll make you feel a little better."

Carlos sipped the drink at first, then gulped down the warm, sweet liquid. Instantly his head was clear. The broken ribs that had hindered his breathing since last night stopped hurting, and the drug-induced haze he had been living in since... when?... cleared, leaving him calm and level-headed. He looked at the mug he was holding: it was white porcelain, with a delicate gold line along the lip and fine gold filagree along the handle. Carlos looked up at the woman squatting next to him, expecting the Whoopi Goldberg hallucination to have passed as well.

Whoopi Goldberg smiled at him and took back the mug. Her piggy little eyes sparkled merrily above her chubby cheeks. "Better? I though that would do it. Now I don't have much time, so I'd appreciate it if you could answer a couple of questions for me."

Whoopi pulled a photograph from the pocket of her tan suit jacket. She held the photo up where Carlos could see it. It was a scantily-clad woman with blue-grey skin and bat wings. She was beautiful -- Carlos' manhood stirred a bit just looking at her. The quality of the photo was amazing: he could almost see her breathing, he chest rising and falling....

Whoopi shook her head, chuckling, and put the photo back in her pocket. "I think that's enough for you, young man. I'm sure if you'd seen her before, you'd remember, right? So," she finished, rocking back on her heels, "what can you tell me?"

Carlos stands abruptly, pushing himself away from "Whoopi Goldberg."

"Get the fu... I mean, get thee behind me! I know I've fallen from His grace and that you are Legion, but I'm not joining your side!"

"If you want to tempt me, putamadre, you have to do better than that!"

Carlos glances around wildly for a place to run.

Whoopi leans back on her heels, raising an arm to guard herself against the suddenly-excited Carlos.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Carlito, hey, calm down! Hey, what did I do? Geez!"

Whoopi looks around, as if wondering what could have set the young man off like that. When Carlos seems more interested in fleeing than attacking, Whoopi lowers her arm, and her brow creases with irritation. She seems more put out than afraid, now.

"Look Carlos, you need to calm down a little. I don't have a lot of time, here, and this silliness is using it up, okay? C'mon, chill!"

Carlos was in a full panic. He lunged past Whoopi, darting around her grasping arm, avoiding her surprised gaze. He had to get away, save his soul, it wasn't too late to repent...

She ran after him, but he was fast, even faster than normal thanks to what she had given him. She had broken the rules by healing him, and this was the result. It was her choice, and she had the power to make it, but now she had to deal with the consequences of using that power.

"Carlos, wait, it's not what you think!"

He was too fast, too afraid, thinking only of getting away from the deceiver behind him, get thee behind me Satan, bless me father for I have-

The car slammed on breaks, but not fast enough to avoid the young man who ran like a blur directly at it. Standing on the curb, Whoopi saw the crumpled body, so frail despite the gifts he had been given, not much more than dust and breath. "No..."

...

The entity saw the vision clearly in its mind's eye, the tragic image of a possible future. Such clarity, such certainty when dealing with the myriad probabilities of temporal inertia was rare. The entity looked down on the sleeping mortal, his body filled with drugs, his ribs broken from his battle earlier in the evening. What the entity had seen was not the only future, merely the most probable. The interference pattern between her mind and the mind of the boy made the vision it had seen all too likely, however. The entity would have to withdraw from this aspect of reality, and reconsider its plans. The risk to this mortal's sanity was too great.

That which is not forbidden is compulsory.

The entity sometimes known as Sandra withdrew from the timespace around the mortal called Carlos, leaving his sleep undisturbed, never manifesting in physical form.

She had the power to make that decision.

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