Night City(13): Secrets Revealed
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
-- Amendment IV to the United States Constitution:
Glimmer is seriously considering making a grab for the confiscated video equipment -- or at least for the tapes. She'd want to do it in a sneaky manner (of course).
A few questions, first.
What kind of security is there which might prevent her from doing this? Are the tapes out in the open or have they been placed in the trunk of a squad car? How likely is it that a simple application of her seeing-through-objects and walking-through-walls powers would put her in possession of the tapes without anybody being the wiser?
When the cops confiscated the stuff, did they tell the owners anything about getting their possessions back? Are any of the owners talking about the incident?
The tapes are put in the trunk of a squad car. It would be highly unlikely that Glimmer would be able to grab them without being seen. The gas tank is under the trunk in these cars, so tunnelling from underneath is not an option, and there's no room in the trunk for Glimmer to Desolid into it and reform.
They gave the people receipts, and told them they would be admitted as evidence and they could get them back after the case has been settled. Any cameras can be claimed after the film itself has been developed, since just the pictures are evidence.
"Good," Arachne says, when Lt. Nichols tells them they are free to go. She turns and heads for the bus.
Whoops! Kakker will slip back into the maintenance closet and restore the building's power before boarding the bus.
Everyone (?) piles back in the Futureworld bus, and Kakker (after restoring power to the building) guides back to Vanguard headquarters (or VHQ). On the way back to to VHQ, Arachne smiles at Prism, and pats his knee with one wickedly-clawed tentacle.
"Don't let it get to you, Prism. I can tell the way the flatlines gawked at you was bothering you. They resent you because you have something they don't have, and will probably never have: power. They're just sheep, all things considered, without the strength or intelligence to control their own lives. Just remember that without shepherds, sheep are food for wolves." She smiles again, a motherly smile, white teeth gleaming beneath the mirrored black gaze of her visor.
"By the way, Kakker, one of the policemen said he recognized you from stories his father used to tell him. He was surprised to see you; he said he thought you were dead. I must assume that you bear a striking resemblance to your father."
As the group is boarding the bus, Krane says to Prism, "Lt. Nichols doesn't seem to understand the difference between those who serve out of duty and responsibility and those who are being paid to serve and protect." He then turns introspective. "On the other hand, maybe I have to think more before I speak also. If I would have said that to her she would have been just as offended as we were by her comments. We're all subject to pettiness, I suppose."
When Arachne starts to rant on the bus, Krane sinks back into his seat. Her statements and attitudes are more than a little scary. Krane prefers a much more laid back approach. He will join the list of Vanguard's members who are keeping an eye on their new leader (grin).
Kakker is driving the bus, trying to think of a prudent response to Arachne's question. Fortunately, he's saved by Krane's piping up.
Kakker turns to face Krane. "Mr. Krane, I don't think you have a complete grasp of our culture if you think that those police officers are chiefly motivated by the pitiful amount they are paid. And may I point out that Vanguard did not exactly work for free themselves?" Kakker resumes driving, thankfully.
"Quite true, Kakker. The police are our allies, and it's important that we don't forget that. If they get in the way, it's only because they don't have the breadth of vision that we do. It's hard for normal people to deal with the kinds of issues and problems we take for granted. We need to be patient with them, and tolerant of their weaknesses. After all, they're only human."
Arachne is obviously feeling very pleased with herself.
By the way, Kakker is looking out carefully to make sure there is no immediate or possible danger before he whips around to rebut Krane's naivette. Also putting on the brakes to cut down on speed, then resuming cruise a couple seconds later when he faces the road again.
Adaptor simply stares expresionlessly at her as Arachne rants.
When she finishes her manifesto, he will remain silent, then sturn to stare out the window at the passing scenery for the rest of the trip, unless someone approaches him for conversation, in which case he will respond...
[cosmic nato secret stuff, yeah!]
I'm going to let one hand down from the wheel and tap out an email to Lyle's account, using the modified newton and upload it when I get a chance. The text will read "Lyle, need to speak with you re Dr. R surgery soon."
Glimmer sits in a contemplative silence, taking in far more information than she imparts.
She knows something of what waits for them back at the base -- or rather, doesn't wait for them. Lyle has picked a fine time for his disappearing act. He was the only person whom Glimmer felt she could open up to. The only one with whom she could be -- well, certainly not completely honest, but somewhat honest. More or less.
Glimmer sighs quietly.
When Arachne gives Prism her "motherly counsel," he appears utterly uncertain of how to react. He merely stares at her, uncomprehending and openmouthed, for a long moment while she, Kakker and Krane discuss the attitudes and responsibilities of the local police. Finally, as Arachne finishes the end of her schpiel on the _untermenschen_, he seems finally to have gathered some words together.
"'Only human?'" he says, incredulously. "Lady, have I got some news for you. There's nothing 'only' about being human. I'd give up all the power and strength you seem so in love with if I could go see a goddamn movie without people staring at me like I was some kind of giant bug. I'd give up everything I ever owned if I could eat a steak dinner with a woman who could actually stand to touch me, if I could actually taste the food. I'd give up being Indestructible Man in half a second if I could get married, work in a crappy day job and die of a coronary on my couch in front of my TV set. Instead, I got this." He gestures brusquely at his crystalline body, thumping his torso with one faceted fist to produce a muffled ringing sound.
"So what I'm gonna do is, I'm gonna make sure that all those other people out there can live long enough to have THEIR coronaries on their goddamn couches. They're not flatlines, and they're not sheep, and they're not some goddamn yardstick that you can measure yourself by in order to feel superior. They're what this organization is all about. They're the people that we need to protect from the bad guys, and the more I hear you talk, the more I think one of the people we need to protect them from is you."
He stares defiantly into Arachne's eyes (or eye covers), waiting for a response.
Krane looks to Kakker. "It's not Mr. Krane, it's Krane.
"I didn't mean to step on anybody's toes. They have a job to do and so do we. I don't know about you, but this isn't how I earn my living. This is strictly volunteer work. I do it out of a sense of duty and pride."
When Arachne gives her speech, Krane becomes silent. He's very concerned by her apparent racism toward 'normal' humans. This is not a good situation.
When Prism makes his speech, Krane will give him a nod of support (in front of Arachne). He's not trying for open rebellion but it would be nice if she realized that not everyone agrees with her little ideas and programs.
Arachne looks at Prism and Krane quietly, not speaking for several seconds while the bus lurches and glides over the freeway, the air conditioning humming in the background.
"Ah," she says finally. She looks once more at Prism, then Krane.
"I see." She nods, almost imperceptibly, then turns to face the front of the bus, looking away from everyone but Kakker. Kakker seems to be busy negotiating through traffic, and he's hunched over the wheel. In any case, Arachne doesn't seem to be looking at him anyway: her gaze is directed outside, at the freeway ahead.
[If no one objects, the next scene will be back at VHQ.]
Amanda was tired beyond imagining. She felt drained, and nearly fell asleep in the shower, lulled by the rhythmic drumming of the water against her bare flesh. She roused herself, finished bathing and stepped out, sluicing the water drops from her arms and legs, drying herself off with a stiff white hotel towel. She wrapped the towel around her and tucked the end in. Drowsy and relaxed, she stepped out of the bathroom.
The lamp was a heartbeat away from being another addition to their hotel bill. Instictively, she reached out along the lines of force around her, grabbing the lamp and bringing it upright. Anger flaring, she glared at Jerrod and snapped "GO and SIT DOWN!" Jerrod looked contrite, and slumped over to his bed. He picked up the remote and turned off the TV, sitting staring at the blank screen.
Oh, please, Jerrod, not now, she thought. Well, he's been through a lot, but he'll survive. Maybe we can put him in school if we stay around here long enough. Yeah, that would be good for him, to be around kids his own age.
Amanda crawled under the starched sheets of the second twin bed, and after snuggling down under the covers, she untangled the damp towel from around her torso and dropped it on the floor. Sleep....
Green. Everything was green. Her hands were stuck, she couldn't move them. Her feet, too. She was trapped underwater, green water, and she couldn't breathe. She could feel the breath being taken from her, the heavy weight in her lungs from the pressure of the glowing green water around her.
She saw a face through the water, through the glass. A face peering in, beady eyes lit by the lurid green glow of the water in which she was drowning.
Amanda woke up with a start, sitting bolt upright and almost flashing Jerrod in the process. She pulled the blankets up hastily, but Jerrod wasn't looking at her. He was talking on the phone. When he saw her looking at him, he put the phone down and sat on his bed, facing her.
"You sleep OK? You've been out for a few of hours. I just ordered a pizza," he says, pointing at the phone. "It should be here soon. I hope you don't mind, but I wanted to celebrate you being on the news. So where are we going tonight?" He looks interested in this evening's plans.
Prism spends the rest of the bus ride looking simultaneously pissed and worried, with a "what the hell did I just do?" expression on his craggy face.
The bus pulls up to the rear gate, which opens automatically as they approach. The rear of the estate is mercifully free of protestors, who apparently haven't discovered the rear entrace yet.
Arachne does not wait for the team; as soon as the bus stops, she heads for the main building, striding purposefully toward the base, chrome tentacles swaying slightly in time with her pace.
Stacy, barefoot and wearing jeans and a baggy Metropolitan Museum of Art t-shirt, meets Arachne at the rear door. "Dr. Redgrave?" she says, but the doctor brushes her aside and heads for her lab. Stacy looks uncertain whether to follow and persist, but the vault door sliding shut behind the tentacled doctor removes that option.
Eventually, the other heroes make their way to the door. Stacy looks at them as they enter, obviously wanting to talk to someone, but unsure of who to talk to. Just as it was this morning, she urgently needed to talk to someone, but the only people she knew of as "in charge" were either missing or locked behind a vault door...
"Mr. Prism, Madre de Dios!" she says, looking immensely relieved when the crystal hero walks through the door. A strand of her long brown hair has escaped from her ponytail; she brushes it back from her face, leaving a white mark of flour on her forehead.
In a rush, she tells Prism everything that is bursting inside of her. "I'm so glad you're back. Lyle has moved out, and I don't know where he is! Rasputin is acting weird! And there's a really old man waiting to talk to you: he says it's urgent to talk to someone here that's 'gifted', but he won't tell me what it's about! The doctor has locked herself in her lab again, and she won't even talk to me!"
Stacy looks up at Prism with an expression close to panic, deep brown eyes pleading with him to tell her what to do.
Adaptor watches all the outbursts with his charactersistic flattened affect. Once the bus pulls in, he disembarks with the others, entering and expecting a debreifing. Once it becomes clear that Dr. Redgrave has better things to do than review the mission with her team, he turns to the others,
"Excuse me. I have some personal business to attend to. I'll be leaving for half an hour or so, but I'll leave my com-link on in case you need to contact me."
Looking directly one by one into each of his teammate's eyes, he adds,
"Perhaps when I return, we could all go for a run, or perhaps simply meet for dinner somewhere. Outside. Please keep me posted on our visitor."
WIth that, he turns and exits out the back door (provided no-one wants to talk to him, which he will pause for if they do...).
Grabbing a long, light coat and a hat from the general clothing supply, he heads towards the back of the estate, donning the makeshift disguise as he walks. Several running steps and staff-assisted leap vault him with mechanical precision exactly high enough to clear the wall, and he hits the pavement running, retracting his staff and slding it smoothly into its sheath. His easy, loping gait carries him several blocks in only a few minutes to a nearby bus station, where he ducks into one of the enclosed phone booths and pulls a quarter from his uniform's small utility pocket, replacing it with the comm ring he has removed from his finger. His fingers fly over the numbers, dialing a well-remembered sequence....
[Assuming Ron is home, I will relate the entire story of our most recent mission, with particular emphasis on our encounter with Oberon, whom Ron has encountered before himself. I'll also recount verbatim (Eidetic Memory, dont'ya know...) Arachne's little tirade. I'm interested in more info on Oberon if possible, as well as any 'mentorly' advice on how to handle the situation with Arachne. My general thoughts are that confrontation is not yet warranted, but that we ought to have a 'just in case' plan ready. I'll ask for any suggestions he might have. Brandon, if you want to play this out, that's cool, if not, just let me know what I find out. Either way's fine with me...]
Ron answers the phone, his nasal voice warm with recognition at hearing Adaptor's voice.
"Dave, hi man, how's the biz?"
[Adaptor relates Oberon story.]
"He bagged it, huh? He's a weird one. Either you guys scared him off -- no offense to you guys, but I personally kind of doubt that -- or he had some other caper cooking. He's like that: he never holds a grudge, he never tries to get revenge, and he'll kill you -- or an innocent bystander -- without even thinking twice about it. It's not like he's vicious, the way I hear Grendel is. It's more like he doesn't care: people are there to use, and he doesn't mean anything more evil by it that when we use a paper towel to mop up a spill."
"I could never figure him out. It's like the whole time he's fighting you, he's playing some kind of chess game. There were times I got the feeling that even when we beat him, we were playing into some game he wanted us to play. Of course, Cap just said I was too negative, and that we should be proud to have defended the innocent, yadda yadda yadda. Big yutz."
Adaptor can almost hear Ron shrugging on the other end of the phone.
"Well, hey man, he left, and that's about all we were ever able to do to the guy. You probably don't know, but he's got some kind of force field in addition to his armor, and it stays up even if you manage to stun him for a couple of seconds. He usually goes gunning for innocent bystanders when he wakes up, then while you're busy digging them out of the rubble, he cooks off into the sunset. Actually, he literally flew off into the sunset a couple of times. We figure he has some kind of underwater base out in the ocean. NOAA helped us look for it a couple of times with sonar and stuff, but we never found it."
[Adaptor relates Arachne's comments, word for word.]
"Oh, man, she sounds like bad news. Captain Socialist -- I am not kidding, that was the guy's name -- was a part-timer with us for a couple of weeks as part of an exchange deal with East Germany, and he used to talk like that all the time about the "common man" and the "worker". He'd go one and on about that "from each by his ability, to each his neediness" crap, and how the greedy capitalists at IBM and GM and all were abusing the workers, and how he was here to defend them, but the whole time he talks you get the feeling that this guy doesn't give a good god damn about the workers, he's kicking ass when he wants and getting a free ride out of the deal. Blue Star kicked the creep out after a couple of weeks. I think Barclay's took him in for the rest of the exchange."
"But Doctor Redgrave? She's cold, but for pete's sake she's not some kind of super-racist. I never thought she cared about that kind of thing at all; it never seemed to interest her when I was part of the team. Like it was beneath her, or something. I don't know what to tell you. Are you sure it's really her? A few years back during the Doppelganger Plague we had a real problem with people getting killed and replaced by impersonators. Damn convincing, too. You have to give them a blood test to tell they're fake: the blood screams and runs away. Man, what a mess that was! Oh, but about Doctor Redgrave... geez, man, every time you tell me about her she gets weirder and weirder. I have no idea what to tell you other than to keep an eye on her. Maybe Mesmeron is controlling her mind or something." Adaptor could hear Ron shrugging again.
"Anything else, Dave? This is pretty cool. I get to be the cool mentor and give out sage advice without having to actually do anything! I can get used to this." Ron chuckles.
Amanda looks at Jerrod for a second. He seems much older than ten for a brief moment. Then it fades...
"What 'cha looking at 'manda?" He falls back into his bed and rolls around for a second.
"Nothing Squirt. No more phone calls. I don't know if the people chasing us have tapped the phones." Looking at the clock it is 6:33pm. The thought hits her that Vanguard probably has a life and doesn't just hang around the headquarters. Jerrod has turned on the television but is still talking, "'Manda where are we going? Is it McDonald's... CHUCKIE CHEESE PLEASE!" He starts jumping on thebed.
"Jerrod sit down. I'm going to take us to the movies... I think. I'm going to call the theatre to see when they start. I think 'Babe' is at the dollar movie." Amanda grabs the phone and 'accidently' shorts it out with a magnetic pulse. "DAMN! I shorted the phone... Jerrod you have to be quiet while I go to the front office use the phone, ok?"
"Alright." The little boy is stuck to the television.
Amanda steps out to the phone booth on the other side of the hotel parking lot. It gives her a clear angle to see the apartment. Quickly looking up Vanguard's number and dialing the digits, Amanda looks worriedly up at the apartment and the surrounding area.... Wary.
"Please somebody pick up the PHONE!"
Adaptor absorbs all of Ron's comments and advice, filing them away in the tightly organized corridors of his mind. A romantic observer might even think that a tiny hint of a smile curls up one corner of his mouth as his mentor pauses to enjoy his patriarchal status, but it's gone as he speaks, before its appearance can be substantiated.
Adaptor breifly thanks Ron for the advice, telling him he's decided to take a 'wait and see' stance with Dr. Redgrave (which should come as no Earth-shattering surprise to Ron...), then, as an afterthought, asks about Kakker, and the reference to a senior Kakker who may or may not be the same person, strictly out of curiosity.
When he receives an answer, he earnestly warns Ron to "Beware of any villians who wish to use a mentor as bait for his student", which hopefully gets at least a snort from Ron, wishes him well, and hangs up.
Another quick jog brings him back to the back door of Vanguard for a leap over the wall he's coming to know well. He checks back in with the others, then goes back outside and spends some time studying (what he assumes is) Dryad's tree a little more in-depth than he did before, getting whatever tools may be available from inside (for core samples, perhaps, etc), trusting the others to let him know if anyone calls...
"don't worry about lyle," Glimmer says to Stacy, trying to add a supportive tone to her whispery voice. "he's okay. a little confused, but okay."
Glimmer tries to maintain a cool exterior in spite of the mild panic she's experiencing. There's a certain someone -- a someone whom Glimmer definitely doesn't want to see -- who might be described as an "old man." If it's him . . . If he tells the heroes her secret . . .
"an old man?" Glimmer asks in a semi-interested fashion. "what kind of old man?"
As she waits for Stacy's reply with her best impersonation of patience, Glimmer examines the surrounding area with her enhanced senses. If this is the old man, it'd be better for her to see him before he sees her.
"Kakker senior?" Ron snorts. "You mean there was another superhero who went by that name?? You MUST be kidding. No, I never heard of him."
"A little old Chinese man. I think he's upset, but he won't tell me why he's here, and he won't talk to me. He just says he wants to talk one of the 'gifted'." Stacy looks frustrated and afraid, but she also looks like she's getting a little angry. "No one will talk to me!" she finally blurts out helplessly.
Prism looks slightly aghast at Stacy's torrent of troubles, but then apparently decides to make the best of it. "Okay, Stacy, calm down, everything's under control." Honesty then compels him to add, "More or less."
He ruminates for a moment, hopefully before the rest of the team (save, perhaps, Adaptor) has a chance to disperse. "Okay, Lyle we can't do anything about right now; he'll come back if and when he's ready. Rasputin -- that's the computer, right? Anybody here got some computer experience that we can use to check it out? If it's not chemical analysis software, I can't run it.
"As for Dr. Redgrave, I don't think I'd be the best choice to talk to her right now. If anybody feels diplomatic, give it your best shot; I'd suggest Glimmer, since she's a non-member of Vanguard and thus maybe less threatening to Arachne's authority, but it doesn't seem like those two's relationship got off to such a good start. If anybody else feels up to it, go for it.
"Which, I guess, leaves me to talk with the old man; I don't know what he means by 'gifted,' but maybe 'weird-looking' will do in a pinch. Anybody else wanna come? No rest for the weary..." With that, Prism motions Stacy to lead on to the team's visitor.
The young Hispanic woman looks immensely relieved at Prism's reassurances. Nodding, she turns and leads Prism (and whoever else is following her) to the lobby.
The lobby is bright and cool, sunlight streaming through the tinted glass at the entranceway and hidden flourescent lights chasing all shadows from the room. The beige carpet and pale rose chairs give the wide lobby a professional, yet comfortable look.
The elderly Asian man waiting paitently looks anything but comfortable. His shoulders beneath his pale blue cardigan are stiff and straight, his face utterly composed. He stares ahead, showing no interest in the Science and Discover magazines on the table next to him. His hands are folded in the lap of his tan slacks, the creases of his pants making straight vertical lines down to his worn blue tennis shoes.
When Stacy and the heroes come into the lobby from the interior of the base, the elderly man stands and faces them, his hands relaxed at his sides. He gives Stacy a short nod, then directs his gaze at Prism.
"My name is Sung Hyung Park." His voice is flat, unemotional, but it is perilously close to breaking from the stress the man is feeling.
"I am here for my granddaugter. You will please give her to me. Now."
"Good afternoon, Mr. Park," says Prism in his best formal manner, his clear, ringing voice oddly suited to the formalities. "My name is Prism. I hope we'll be able to assist you, but I think we'll need a little more information first. If you can tell us who your granddaughter is, and why you think she's here, we can discuss it with her and see if she'd like to leave with you. We have no intention of keeping anyone here aginst their will." Prism gazes levelly at Mr. Park. "On the other hand, we have no intention of seeing anyone taken away from this building against their will, either." He motions calmly towards a chair. "Please sit down so we can talk more comfortably."
The little old man looks up (and up, and up) at Prism, his little borwn eyes cold and defiant.
"I do not need to sit, thank you. My grandaughter's name is Soon Li Park. I believe the name she used while working was "Emerald". I know that she was here, and I know that she found out something that you people were doing, and that she was afraid for her safety. I am here to take her home, if she is still here, and find out what you have done with her, if she is not."
Kakker is tailing along with Stacy, trying to see if he can help out with the computer problems. If something involved happens where she/they are, let me know, please.
Stacy shrugs when Kakker asks about Rasputin.
"Well, I'm not sure there's much you can do. Rasputin is in there --" she says, pointing at the vault door to the lab.
I've already listed Adaptor's duties for the next couple of hours. If I can, I'm also going to try and access whatever records are on-site for Dryad. I'm interested in wether she was buried in the cemetary with the rest of the team, what the state of her body was at the time of her death, info on her origin, etc. Adaptor believe she has found a mission here; it may not be possible, but he's going to try every possible route to try and 'resurrect' or possibly 'recover' Dryad, since it's his area of expertise, and she was ostensibly immortal (and it's just SO genre)... It may not work, but he's nowhere near ready to just dismiss the idea because Arachne blew it off (and he'd like to speak firsthand to someone involved in the first Vanguard's final battle...). He'll work away at that until something else pulls him away...
Adaptor spends the next couple of hours digging through old hardcopy records, looking for information on Dryad (history, powers, origin, etc.).
While Amanda hears the phone ringing at Vanguard, she's only dimly aware of a sound slowly growing louder. Finally, the noise impinges on her consciousness: the sound of approaching hoverbikes.
They've found her again.
"Come on, come oon!" Thump-thump thump. "No, no, DAMNIT NO!!"
Frantically looking around Amanda's heart started to pound. A tear rolls down her left cheek..
They are here.
"Jerrod... Jerrod!" Dropping the phone as it continued to ring. Amanda RAN to the hotel and scurried up the stairs. "Got to get out!" Hurried paniced thoughts ran through her mind. The whine of the hoverbikes was beginning to grow. Scrambling with the door key, Amanda busted in. Jerrod jumped with a surprised look on his face.
Rushing up to the boy Amanda grabs him around the waist. The pounding of her heart was intense. She grabbed nothing else and as she was making her way to the door, "Be good Jerrod and keep quiet." Her eyes changed to opaque black orbs. She listened to the whine.. it was louder.. coming from the west.
Drawing magnetic lines around her and Jerrod Amanda rose... And quickly (at noncombat speed) began to fly to the northeast.
[The hotel Amanda is at is a Best Western three miles from UCLA. Moving northeast might take her to the Vanguard base.]
"Gamma nine to gamma eight. Target has been flushed and we have a lock. VN-750 and IP-121 headed northeast from your position."
"Roger that, gamma niner. Moving to intercept."
[There aren't nine hoverbikes, btw. There are currently only three: two behind Amanda and one ahead.]
As soon as he hears the word "Emerald," Prism's eye crystals lighten to a pale, almost invisible blue -- the impression is that his eyes are widening, although the crystals themselves don't change in size. His attitude abruptly changes from one of stiff formality to one of slightly embarassed apology.
"Mr. Park, I am SO sorry. We didn't know that Emerald had any relatives, and unfortunately we haven't had much time to check since last night...I'm sorry." He composes himself, then speaks as calmly as possible to Mr. Park, with the attitude of a man probing the borders of a minefield to find out just how far it extends.
"Emerald was working with our team last night [it WAS just last night, wasn't it, gang?] in an attempt to prevent a prison break at the Orange County Women's Penitentiary. You may have heard about it on the news." If he still had lungs, Prism would be taking a deep breath at this point; as it is, he just pauses for a moment. "Unfortunately, several paranormal villains were involved, and there was an explosion. Your granddaughter is in the hospital right now. She's in stable condition, recovering from some burns and a broken leg.
"Again, I'm sorry we didn't let you know before, but we didn't have any information on Emerald's relatives. In fact, if you don't mind, I'm sure some members of the team would like to come along if you're going to visit her. I know I would."
The rest of Park's statement, including his implications that Emerald may have been afraid of something within Vanguard, seems to have slipped Prism's mind.
Mr. Park seems cautiously relieved to hear that Emerald is in the hospital. His eyes flick from one Vangard member to another, revealing little of what he's thinking.
"Thank you. I accept your offer to take me to her. Since I rode the bus here, it will not be a problem for me to ride there with you."
[BTW, the paramedics (who were civilians) last night said they were taking Emerald (and the other casualties) to Kaiser-Permanente in Anaheim. As far as you know, that's where she is.]
Adaptor sits in one of the storage rooms beneath VHQ, surrounded by aging manilla file folders. The one in his hands is marked "VANGUARD JUN12-JUN30 1976". With inhuman amounts of patience, he reads every form, digests every tedious detail of the dead heroine's life with Vanguard. One detail is missing: where she came from, and how she cam to be a member. The earliest records Adaptor can find all mention Dryad and Scarlet Avenger as existing members of the group, even before it was called Vanguard. The oldest document Adaptor has found is a newspaper clipping, which lists the name of the group as the "Avengers"; specifically, it mentions "the five courageous Avengers: Scarlet Avenger, Dryad, the Atomic Man, Night Woman, and The Enigma".
The task Adaptor has set for himself isn't an easy one. To say that the stacks of boxes are organized in chronological order would be a charitable exaggeration. What's more, as the leadership of the group changed over the years, it appears the emphasis placed on daily -- or even weekly -- status reports changed as well. Records before 1952 are sporadic, at best, consisting mainly of newspaper clippings, and there are several years for which reports are entirely missing: 1937-39, 1944-45, and 1949-50. Fortunately for Adaptor, Scarlet Avenger's successor, Quantum Man, was more interested in documenting the group's activities. From 1951 until Quantum Man's abdication in 1976 (during the Omega Ray scandal, when Omega Ray was kicked out of the group after it was discovered that he was the result of a WW2 Nazi eugenics experiment), records are copious and detailed.
Still, there have been no clues as to Dryad's origin, and precious few concrete details about the extent of her powers. She seemed to be able to control plantlife, sometimes to an astonishing degree. When the race of alien fungi called the Spore invaded the earth in 1952, she apparently was able to prevent them from reproducing as long as they remained on the planet Earth. Quantum Man added a note to the report documenting the fact that she flatly refused an order to kill the Spore, even though she admitted it was within her powers to do so.
However, in a file from 1957 Adaptor finds a reference to attacks on Dryad's tree by the Queen of Air and Darkness, a mystical villainess with some conection to a group called Arnhem (which isn't explained -- apparently the author of the report assumed that the reader would know who Arnhem was). An hour later, in a file from 1970, there is a transcript of a report from Dryad herself (Dryad was apparently illiterate, and dictated the report to a "Rebecca Rothman") concerning another attack. In it she says:
"The Queen of Air and Darkness has once again tried to open the Black Gate and enter our world, bringing all of Arnhem with her. Once again, I, my kind, and my mortal friends have held the Gate against her, and banished her back to her domain. She grows stronegr each time, but I have faith that we will continue to prevail against her. As with so many of the great evils my mortal friends and I oppose, we have no choice. If we fail, all is lost."
The rest of the report is by Quantum Man, who concentrates more on property damage, cost of repairs to the base, and the effectiveness of the team's tactics than upon what actually transpired during the conflict. As with all of Quantum Man's reports, he goes into great detail with cost/benefit ratios, statistics concerning the number of successful attacks during the combat, stress analysis of various materials, etc. Adaptor gets the impression that Quantum Man was a scientist or mathematician of some sort. He analyzes everything, but he leaves out a lot of information that would help one make sense of the analyses; unfortunately, he assumes that the reader would know what he's talking about.
No further mention of The Queen of Air and Darkness or Arnhem are found (up through 1976, anyway). However, Adaptor has found out something he did not know before: Dryad specifically referred to "my kind" as something separate from the other members of Vanguard (which is what Adaptor assumes she meant by "mortal friends"). So where (and who) are the rest of Dryad's "kind"?
Krane follows prism into the lobby to talk to Mr. Park. He's waiting for a chance to talk to Prism and Adaptor about the overly zealous Arachne. She's making him a little nervous. The fact that Krane is standing behind Prism (when he's speaking to Mr. Park) makes him a spectator. Prism's bulk dwarfs the martial artist who appears to be happy to be an observer. But when the phone begins to ring and no one is answering it, he will take the initiative. "Vanguard Headquarters, this is Krane speaking."
Adaptor sits with what could only be described as inhuman patience. Anyone observing him during his contemplation would note that he stands and does a ten minute streching routine exactly every 1 hour and 20 minutes, never droppping whatever document he may be scanning. As he delves deeper and deeper into the past of Vanguard, he comes to realize that he and his teammates are part of a legacy streching back not just years, but generations.
Dryad was a living part of that legacy. Adaptor is growing more and more intrigued with her and her mysterious 'people'. Despite a lack of answers here, the tiny tidbits he has gleaned have only strengthened his resolve to determine a way to perform what should be an impossible feat; but the events of recent years have considerably broadened his definition of the possible, so he continues, confident that every day he spends with his new friends will broaden that definition further still.
Once completed with his Dryad research, he continues poring through the old documents, absorbing the data contained in them, distilling it, saving it for the future when it may be useful. Over the next several days (or weeks, as necessary) whenever his teammates need him, Adaptor can be found poring over the old records, organizing them, cross-referencing them, and absorbing them into his seemingly limitlessly rapacious memory.
[Brandon, if it's all right with you, I'd like to spend Adaptor's free time between the next several missions (maybe, say the next two and a half weeks of real time?) doing what I described. Hopefully it will make me the resident expert on team history, with perhaps some general knowledge of villians the team may have faced before, and so on. Since I only have access to what records are available, it should serve to give you a way to easily disseminate history to us without upsetting the game balance any. I am alos paying particularly close attnetion to any information on both Ron AND Cap I may come across, in particular Cap's staff, although I don't expect to uncover much of anything important.]
And when he is done, he will begin his own record, carefully recording Vanguard's role in the unfolding events of the time. Something tells him that these are important days, that the events that transpire here will lead someday to grand things. And even if they don't, the future should know that though the members came and went, the ideal of Vanguard lived on, here, in these people...
Kakker nods and inquires after Rasputin's unusual behavior. If the response is equally informative, he wanders off to Lyle's old duty station(s), hopefully to find out more about the local computer setup.
She looks baffled. "He asks me questions that don't go anywhere, then he'll completely change the subject. Or I'll ask him a question about something, like about where the Doctor is, and he'll tell me something from history instead. Like, earlier today he said, 'Roger Corman once made a movie that prominently featured time travel.' He just doesn't make any sense," she concludes, shaking her head. "I think he's broken."
She looks at the carpet for a few seconds, then looks up at Kakker; her brows are knit, but brown eyes are calm and clear.
"Mr. Kakker, what's going on? I thought with all of you new people, everything would be okay again, but I'm getting the feeling that it's not okay. That it might not be okay ever again."
"You know," she says, looking at the carpet again, digging her toes into its plush softness, "I used to really like working here."
Amanda can hear the hoverbike ahead of her before she can see it. Then it rises above the roofline, a sleek black two-seater just a little bigger than one of those road-hog motorcycles that middle-aged bikers ride. These aren't like the vehicles the last strike team used. They look larger, more menacing. Maybe they were learning from experience. Maybe they were learning too much.
The people on the craft are wearing smooth black jumpsuits of some nonreflective material. The rider in front is the pilot of the machine, while the passenger operates the cannon mounted underneath the hoverbike. Both riders are wearing shiny skullcaps and bug-eyed goggles.
With a hum and a whine, the vehicle rises swiftly into the air, and the sinister looking cannon swivels toward Amanda and the child in her arms.
Jerrod begins to cry, "Momma -sniff- I wwwant MMOOMMA!" The tears start to flow. Amanda can feel her own starting to roll down her cheeks. The differencebetween Jerrod and hers were the emotion. Amanda is filling up on hatred... Genocide had 'created' her family. Her father was an agent and they killed her mother when she didn't play the game. Now they want her and her little brother in some lab... Hell no.
She cuddles Jerrod, "Jerrod -shhh- Momma would want you to be brave right nowokay? Be brave with me because I need you 'kay?" Think girl, you can't fail.. not this time.
Jerrod begins to sniff alot but the tears slow down. The electromagnetic field surrounding them flares brightly in the darkness. "Jerrod I need you to hold on to me really tight. Wrap your arms around my neck and put your head close to my chest." The little boy complies and shows surprising strength.
Looking around Amanda sees the other two hoverbikes behind her. "Boxed in.."Without slowing Amanda charges the front hoverbike at full movement (20"). Holding her action if they attack then she will dive for cover. That means I'm moving at my full movement in the air and if they attack then I fly fully out of the way. Instead of making tight dodges I'm making full sweeps away fromthe attacks. Don't want Jerrod hurt.
I want to put distance between the hoverbikes and Amanda/Jerrod. If that front hoverbike lets me pass then it will take at least two phases building up max acceleration. The two behind me are already behind me and I hope I have a good enough head start.
"How can I contact anyone? I need a way to attract attention..." Waiting for the first attack as she flys by Amanda desperately thinks.
Jerrod squirms in Amanda's arms, tears running down his cheeks.
"I want my DAAAAADDDDDEEEEEEE!"
Flying like a banshee out of hell and holding this child is difficult enough... "Please Jerrod, please stop squirming. Those people want to hurt us! I've got to get us away."
"Come on you bastards... Make a move."
Prism isn't really sure that he offered to have the team take Mr. Park to the hospital, but thinking back, he desides his words could have been interpreted that way. Besides, he's feeling a little too guilty to argue right now. He smiles his sparkling (literally) smile.
"Great, Mr. Park. Please have a seat; we'll need to make a few transportation arrangements, and then we can be on our way. I'll go and arrange things; will you excuse me?" Assuming there are no objections, Prism will make his way back towards the kitchen or wherever else team members may be gathered, in an attempt to find out what is happening with the Rasputin and Arachne situations and to apprise others that he'll be going on a surprise hospital visit. Then he'll try to figure out if Vanguard or anyone therein actually has a vehicle that he can use to transport himself and Mr. Park (and anyone else who wants to go) to Anaheim...
"'time trackers,'" Glimmer adds. "corman did 'time trackers.' and about a hundred or more other bad sci-fi flicks. i think wil shriner was in it. and i'm sure that ned beatty was.
"but i think corman produced and somebody else directed. corman didn't direct in the eighties."
She pauses, apparently startled with the probably uselessness of this information.
"but that's probably not relevant, is it?"
"kakker, i'd been planning to use this afternoon to hunt down some clues about the prison situation, but now i'm thinking i might be needed here. would you like my help with rasputin?
"i don't know a thing about computers, but i can get into that lab if i have to. and if rasputin wants to talk about obscure films, hey, i'm your girl."
The phone Krane is holding is dead. The other end is off the hook, the only sound being a faint hum.
The hoverbike ahead of Amanda takes a course that will circle to her left, keeping its distance relatively constant. The undercannon swivels out, aiming at Amanda. She waits for the flash, then leaps aside, pushing herself to the limits of powers. The projectile -- some kind of net, it looks like -- passes beneath her, missing her by less than a meter. Her desperate flight has taken her up, far above the office buildings below.
And right into the hands of her pursuers. Concentrating on the lead vehicle, pushing herself to avoid the attack, she is open to the follow-up attacks by the other two vehicles. The nets hit her in mid-air, entangling Amanda and Jerrod in a constricting web of some tough plastic material. It doesn't keep her from flying, but the nets are tethered to the hoverbikes that fired them. Positioning themselves on either side of her, they keep tension on the tethers and prevent her from flying away. She struggles against the material of the nets with her electrokinetic powers, but it slips and slides away from her; it has nothing metallic in it she can get a grip on.
Thr third vehicle fires again. Now she's firmly trapped, pinned between the three hoverbikes. She reaches out, trying to seize one of the craft in a magnetic field, to no avail. They've learned from previous attempts to capture her. Slowly, the vehicles reel in their tethers and lock into formation, preparing to take Amanda and her brother to wherever it is these hunters came from.
As Amanda considers her options, Jerrod mumbles and cries.
"I just want to go back to Daddy," he says, sniffling back the tears. "Why can't we go back to Daddy, 'Manda? Why do we have to run away and get in a fight every time we start to be happy? Can't we just go home? I just want to go home!"
"I'll go and arrange things," Prism asks the small Asian gentleman. "Will you excuse me?"
Mr. Park thinks about it for a moment before replying. "Yes." He sits down where we was sitting before, feet together and back straight.
Prism walks back to where Kakker, Stacy, and Glimmer are discussing Rasputin. As they look uo to see what the deal is with the little old Asian guy, Prism explains briefly who Mr. Park is, and that he and Mr. Park are going to Kaiser-Permanente in Anaheim.
When Prism asks if Stacy knows if there's a vehicle around that will carry him (other than the bus), she drops Kakker and Glimmer (who is in mid-sentence) and immediately leads Prism down the hall, past the TV room, to the garage.
The garage is actually underneath the base. Flourescent tubes overhead light the large open space. The garage is big, but not mutli-level like the one at the mall. There are about a dozen cars, most of them new and expensive. There is also a helicopter and a thing that looks like a black Dodge Viper with little stubby wings.
"Hercules used to use the jeep," she says, pointing to a red jeep convertible parked in the corner. "I'm sure it will carry you, Mr. Prism; Hercules was really heavy. We used to joke that he was dense." She smiles a little, a little sadly.
"Anyway, it's full of fuel and ready to go. And the controls are all modified for someone with big hands and feet, so you should even be able to drive it," she says hopefully. If Prism seems to be aggreeable to the jeep, Stacy goes over to a metal cabinet, and gets out the keys for him.
Looking into the red eyes of her brother... Amanda's tears stop. Her eyes return to their normal dark brown and see tips Jerrod's head so he is looking in her eyes. "Jerrod.. Daddy doesn't love us. He wants us to do bad things and growup to hurt people. People who haven't done anything to us. Daddy had Momma killed... I'm not going to let Daddy hurt us too. I promise Jerrod, no more moving.. We are going to be happy... right here."
Looking around Amanda sees that there isn't anything to grab hold of. Just too high in the air. "So we do this the hard way." The three hoverbikes form a triangle in the air with Amanda and Jerrod at the center hanging. "Jerrod, I want you to hold on to my waist. We're going flying again."
Making sure the Genocide agents are comfortable with their 'grab' Amanda waits a little while. If they try to drug her or Jerrod then she'll begin.
Concentrating all of her power (switching all pts. to Energy Blast), "Hold on Jerrod!", Amanda blasts at the bottom of the net and PUSHES IT (8d6 armorpiercing). "AAARRGGHH!!" The pain shoots through her like a bullet. Every nerve is on fire (8 Stun). disadvantage
Prism accepts the keys from Stacy with a smile. "Thanks, Stacy. And by the way, please don't call me 'Mr. Prism' -- it makes me feel old. Just 'Prism' will do." He smiles again to show that he's not taking it seriously, then heads over to the Jeep and clambers in.
He puts the keys in the ignition, then sits in the driver's seat for a long moment without moving. This will be the first time he's driven a car since the incident -- he still can't think of it as anything but "the incident" -- and he's not sure if he can make his new body work the way it needs to. "What the hell," he finally decides, turning the keys and putting the Jeep in gear, "it's like riding a bike, only a lot more dangerous to pedestrians." With a smile (and a wave to Stacy if she's still in sight), he pulls out of the garage and circles around to pick up Mr. Park.
Okay, so Prism, Britestar (who is really quiet), and Mr. Park are heading to the hospital, yes? And Adaptor is reading in the basement. Kakker is going to try talking to Rasputin, right? What of Glimmer and Krane?
Amanda's powers rip through the polymer mesh, and send shooting pain through her arms. Wicning against the pain, she grips Jerrod tightly as they begin to fall, and he screams.
Spinning, falling, using the power of gravity to elude her pursuers, she glimpses a man on a rooftop below. He's dressed in arterial red and royal blue, and he's wearing a helmet that covers his entire head. She can almost imagine she can see his eyes through the T-shaped eye-slit. His blood-red cape flows behind him, and he is enveloped in what looks like a shimmering soap bubble.
Krane hangs up the phone. "Funny, there was no one there."
When Prism comes to collect Mr. Parks, Krane tags along. He enjoyed having Emerald on the team (even if it was only for a short time) and would like to visit with her in the hospital.
As Amanda begins to plummet she concentrates her energy and fires at the underbelly of one of the hoverbikes (8 Body Armorpiercing). Jerrod is screaming"AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! 'MANDA STOOOOOOOOP!!!" surprise attack
Amanda manipulates the magnetic lines around her to land on a building across from where the costumed figure is, "HELP ME PLEASE! THOSE ARE AGENTS OF GENOCIDE AND THEY'RE TRYING TO KIDNAP ME AND MY BROTHER! PLEASE HELP!!"
Looking at the hoverbikes circle to come back Amanda's heart continues to pound and sweat covers her shirt. Her black opaque eyes flash as she puts her arm around Jerrod and prepares to engage the hoverbikes... Looking at the costumed figure she shouts, "PLEASE IF ANYTHING CALL VANGUARD AND TELL THEM POWERSURGE ISIN TROUBLE HERE!!"
The whine of the hoverbikes drown out whatever else she said... Let's get ready to rumble.
The man nods at Amanda's pleas for help.
"I know who they are, girl. I also know who you are."
The man crosses his arms and concentrates on the furthest of the three hoverbikes. Suddenly, its motor roars, and it dives full-throttle toward Amanda and her brother, dragging the other two tethered vehicles with it. The passenger of the diving bike is slapping the driver on the shoulder, shaking the driver, to no avail.
One of the other two bikes cuts loose its tetherline, and after a wobbly start it veers off to the east. The other tethered hoverbike is spinning out of control, its driver and passenger flailing helplessly as they're dragged behind the earth-bound vehicle. Still, the lead bike bears down on Amanda, obviously intent on ramming her.
[I will assume Powersurge jumps out of the way, yes?]
The hoverbike slams into the building, catapulting the two riders head over heels into the unforgiving tarmac surface. The vehicle rolls and smashes itself up, crushing the body of one of the riders in the process. The noise is tremendous; the bikes engines whine and grind as strips of bonded polycarbonate are broken loose and sucked into its intake jets. Finally, it comes to rest, a non-metallic sculpture that could be entitled "Don't drink and drive".
The second bike doesn't fare much better. It slammed into the side of the building, shattering windows and terrifying a group of real-estate agents deciding whether to invest in an apartment building in San Bernadino. The bike bounced off the wall, spinning lazily through the air as the stunned driver tries to reach the controls before the craft hit the ground six stories below. She fails. The hoverbike bounces once, then comes to rest in a No Parking zone.
The third bike, which tarried in the eastern sky just long enough to see what happened to the other two, decides that discretion is the better part of valor and zooms off into the east.
"The next time they come after you, it won't be this easy. They'll be better prepared."
The man steps off the roof and descends slowly to the ground, soap-bubble force field shimmering in the afternoon sun.