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#123646 - 05/15/12 11:30 AM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
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Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

As they followed the trail left by Quislet and Shifter, sweat rolled down Blizzard's back like a stream. He couldn't remember ever feeling this out of breath back home!

He glanced back at Kinetix, who was levitating both to avoid making unnecessary noise and to avoid the decidedly dirty jungle floor. Time was he'd have scoffed at her vanity, but he could appreciate how new this whole thing was for her, and how well she was handling it.

He wanted to say something encouraging, but didn't want to come across as condescending. Perhaps something appreciative? Or...

Kinetix looked in his direction, and their eyes met. Blizzard blushed.

"Are you okay?" Kinetix asked. "You look flushed! My gosh, you're so red. You're much paler than I am. You really should have let me morph your clothes into something cooler."

Blizzard mentally kicked himself. He'd almost been caught. "Ah... can't risk it. We have to blend into the jungle. Your changing of our costume's colors was more than enough."

Kinetix frowned. "Are you sure? I was going to give you a tank top, but..." She thought for a second. "I think I can at least make the fabric lighter so you won't sweat as much."

Blizzard hesitated, then nodded. "That would be good." He jerked in surprise as a green aura enveloped him. His costume didn't change, but the sticky wetness disappeared, and he felt much more comfortable. "Thank you."

Kinetix smiled. "Sure you don't want me to give you a tank top? You'd look good in it."

Blizzard blushed again, and hoped the heat would explain it. "I wouldn't want my white skin to give us away. I hate to say it, but I am much lighter than you and almost all of the girls on the team."

Kinetix giggled at that, which made Blizzard smile all the more. "Think," he thought. "What else can I joke about? Maybe how the girls from back home would love her designs..."

Before he could say anything, he heard a lot pop! "You two so slooooooow! Shifter getting impatient, sent me to find you. I said maybe you got lost and having a picnic!"

Blizzard crossed his arms and scowled. "I told you, I'm a trained tracker. We just have to go slowly so we won't be heard."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Hurry up though, we've found the source of the magic."

Kinetix leaned forward excitedly. "How far away is it?"

"Few minutes for me. Much longer for you for sure! Maybe 20 if you don't dawdle? I cleared path for you to make it easier! Just follow!"

And with that, Quislet popped back into the ground.

Kinetix turned back to Blizzard. "So, which way do we go, my guide? 20 bucks if you can get us there in less than 20 minutes."

Blizzard smiled. At least he was still playing a valuable role here. And impressing Kinetix, it seemed. "I wouldn't normally take money for a job well done, so if you'll make it a pizza instead..."

Kinetix smiled as she followed him deeper into the jungle.

*************************************************

"... and so we had to use our earplugs. I'm just glad they're so small and not tacky at all! Though I wished I could have gotten them in fuchsia. They'd look so cute with my costume!"

"That's nice, Amazon," Kid Quantum said politely. Time was she'd have said something snarky, but Amazon had earned her respect. "So, you're sure you got all the statues?"

"Checked the areas in a 2km radius. All clear," Flash said.

"Great. And Element Lad's caged the yetis, and he and I have the Druk and the Naga under wraps." Kid Quantum glanced back at the two dragon-like creatures, who were mercifully still stunned. Her stasis bubble would see to it that they wouldn't recover for a while, while Element Lad's titanium cocoon would make a good secondary defense. "As for the ghosts..."

"I can't be certain I've defeated them outright, but I've created plenty of pillars all around our area," Element Lad said. "And as long as we wear the pendants I've created, they shouldn't be able to harm us."

"Then what are we waiting for? Let's go after our teammates!" Wildfire exclaimed. "We just mopped all these guys up, with all 14 of us together we should be able to take on anything!"

Rebound shook his head. "Shifter wanted us to wait, and I agree. It might be better to scope out the situation first."

"But..."

"No buts," Kid Quantum said firmly. "I don't like waiting either, but this is a real mission. We play it carefully. And I know you may be worried, Wildfire, but they will be alright. I'm sure of it. So we stay put, okay?"

"Well, when you put it that way..."

Amihan suddenly froze in place. "Something seems wrong. Do you sense that?"

"What...?" Kid Quantum asked.

"I can feel something too," Starboy said. "A rumbling..."

Without any more warning, the ground exploded beneath their feet.

#123647 - 05/15/12 11:50 PM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
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Lion Rock, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka


The final famous element of the 'Cultural Triangle', Sigiriya, offers a wonderful, but comfortable climb to its summit. The impressive approach to Sigiriya, through sculpted gardens and rocks, is surpassed by the impressive stone carvings of lion's feet and the famous frescoes (ancient cave paintings) tourist view on the ascent. The view from the top, as you wander around the palace ruins, is breathtaking and well worth the energy.


- Sri Lanka Wide Tours

Sigiriya was built around the 6th century AD on a 200 meter high rock by King Kasyapa I as a safeguard to his enemies. King Kasyapa I was said to have killed his father King Dhatusena by walling him alive. Kasyapa's brother Mogallana, the rightful heir, fled to India.

It is believed that Sigiriya was intended to be a fortress and a pleasure palace. It did not help Kasyapa much though, as when Mogallana returned from India with an army, Kasyapa's own forces abandoned him. He committed suicide by falling on his sword.


- Sri Lanka travel guide


"Amazing," Kinetix breathed as she drank in the sight of the Lion's Rock. She'd seen pictures of it earlier, but only the lion's feet had remained. Now, magic had restored the magnificent structure so that one once again had to crawl through the lion's mouth to reach the fortress.

Magic had improved it as well, far beyond anything that could have existed even in the present. The walls of the fortress shone with a material unlike the stone it had been built from originally. Sunlight glinted off several wicked-looking cannons on the fortress roof. And on the roof, a large column of glowing energy was shooting up into the sky.

Quislet popped up again. "Shifter and I will wait near the roof. Hurry up, slowpokes!"

"If he weren't so useful, I'd fuse some iron around his jaw," Kinetix muttered as she telekinetically lifted herself and Blizzard into the sky.

"Wait, I have an idea," Blizzard interrupted. "The fortress walls look like red stone. Can you gather dust around us so we can blend in? I can create an ice sphere to make it easier for you."

"Good idea," Kinetix smiled. Blizzard awkwardly smiled back, trying not to seem too pleased.

As soon as their sphere was ready, they lifted off into the sky.

*************************************************

Kid Quantum pulled herself shakily to her feet. What was happening? She could hear groans all around. She quickly helped Rebound up, then Flash. "Flash, can you check if all of us are okay?" Her teammate nodded and sped off.

"Jazmin, is your bubble..." Rebound asked urgently.

Cursing to herself, Kid Quantum reactivated her bubble. Luckily, their prisoners hadn't stirred.

Flash sped back up. "Everyone's okay, but not for long. I think we're in trouble..."

Before she could continue, the ground erupted again. Only this time, the rock began to form itself into the shape of a man.

A very large man.

"Great... Why can't we ever have an easy battle?" Kid Quantum thought to herself as she began barking orders.

*************************************************

The dust-covered sphere alit on the rooftop, and Kinetix and Blizzard quickly disposed of the evidence. "Where are they?" Kinetix whispered. Blizzard put a finger to his lips in the "sssh" sign and shrugged his shoulders.

He motioned for Kinetix to join him against the wall, then scanned the area intently. No sign of any trail, nor of his two teammates...

"You honestly did not expect this would be so easy, did you?", a cruel voice sounded. And then Blizzard felt pain.

Unconsciousness came mercifully soon after.

*************************************************

"It's like the whole island's come to life!" shouted Amihan as her winds ripped into tree branches that reached menacingly for them. Behind her, Hygeia was concentrating on keeping the Yetis and their other prisoners dosed. With everything going on, they couldn't be sure that even the metal bars caging them wouldn't suddenly spring to life.

Above them, Wildfire dodged punches from the rock-creature as he blasted it with all his might. It reformed just as easily as he shattered it, though.

"What's taking them so long?" he yelled as it reformed for the umpteenth time. Amihan didn't know, but she prayed they would all live to find out.

*************************************************

Kinetix felt awful, truly awful. Just thinking about the pain she'd felt earlier made her cringe.

She slowly opened her eyes. She was lying in a sphere that looked like glass. In spheres beside her were her teammates.

"Welcome to my kingdom, young one. It seems you have much to learn about the rules of the royal court. You entered my fortress without bearing gifts."

A cloaked figure stepped forward out of the shadows. Kinetix felt even queasier as she studied him. The clothes were fine and regal, but the figure himself was emaciated and rotten.

She quickly looked away until she could steel herself. The room around her was similarly fine. In the middle of the room, dozens of orbs floated, glowing in various colors. These were just like the orbs they'd encountered earlier. In their center, the vast column of energy rose from seemingly out of nowhere.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" The figure stuck his hand into the column, and the energy shifted, somewhat like colored sand. "This is what will birth my kingdom again, and make it more powerful than ever."

"But... there hasn't been a kingdom here in centuries..."

"Why, of course, silly girl. Ah, but I haven't introduced myself properly." The figure made a smooth bow, surprisingly graceful for one who looked so old. "I am King Kasyapa I, the ruler of this proud fortress. I am more than 12 centuries old."

Kinetix couldn't help but gasp at that, and turned to look away. Surreptitiously, she tried to touch the sphere she was in. She nearly jumped as it sparked, and seemed to push back against her.

"Your powers won't work on that, and every time you touch it in any way, it gets a little smaller," smirked the king.

Out of the corner of her eye, Kinetix saw Blizzard begin to stir. She needed to keep the king talking, and hope he could think of something.

"So, did Mordru reanimate you, or were you alive all this time?"

"Curious, my dear? He reanimated me, and magically gifted me with understanding of this world's language. And he will give me eternal youth as well if I can deliver Asia to his empire."

"So why keep us alive? Are you going to use magic to turn us into your slaves?"

"Partly, yes. I need more knowledge about the current world. And also because you and your friends are providing me with much-needed power." He waved his hand and the very air itself seemed to part, like a television screen had been placed in such a way that she could see the moving pictures, and not the screen. She gasped as she saw Polarity bending metal into a shield as rocks rained down on him. Every time he moved his hands to twist a strand of metal, she could see thin tendrils of magic - the same color as the column of energy in the room - rising from him.

"You're feeding off our energies?!"

"I am feeding off chaos! Every instance of violence and destruction makes me even stronger. You can see how I am slowly transforming this island kingdom into a true fortress. As my power grows, I will spread it across Asia."

"That's why I spent precious magical energy to summon forth mystical creatures all across Asia. I knew the ensuing chaos would return that energy back a hundredfold." He stepped closer to her sphere, and despite herself, Kinetix shrank back a little. He smiled a thoroughly wicked smile. "And imagine my surprise when I found out that you could also manipulate said magical energy. That is why I allowed you to come here. I couldn't very well let you run free. And I wanted to pick your brain to see whether there were any more like you who could possibly foil my plans. And when I have succeeded, you will be my slave. And your teammates will be dead."

Kinetix could barely hold in her despair as she watched Element Lad and Amazon struggling to hold back what looked like a snake made of rock. What could she hope to do now?

#123648 - 05/20/12 05:06 PM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
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Lion Rock, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Kinetix cursed silently as she watched Blizzard groan and writhe. Behind him, Quislet moved feebly, then lay still again. She could see Shifter's legs behind him, and he too lay still.

She stretched her arm out and tried to manipulate the floor beside her. Nothing. It seemed the sphere she was in blocked her powers from affecting anything outside of it, too. If so, it would do the same for her teammates.

Desperate, she slammed her shoulder into it. Nothing.

The king wasn't even bothering to pay attention to them. He'd turned his back and was marveling at the transformation slowly spreading across the island. "You know, I was once thwarted by an army led by my brother. But nothing can stop me now."

"Wanna bet?" Came a voice from above. Both Kinetix and the king looked up in surprise to see an anvil falling from the ceiling and hit the king on the head.

With a yelp of pain, he hit the floor. That same instant, the spheres began to shimmer, as if weakening.

Kinetix stared at the anvil for a second, then quickly collected herself. She morphed the floor under her and dug her way out. She quickly did the same for Blizzard, then Quislet.

As she was about to free Shifter, a hand tapped her back. "No need, that isn't me at all."

"I kind of figured, since I've never seen a talking anvil before. Heck, I don't think I have seen any anvil before. So how did you..."

"Quislet. His practice has been paying off - he morphed some wood into a pretty good likeness of me. A little makeup did the rest, and I guess we got lucky that the king's eyesight isn't what it used to be." Shifter knelt down and checked on their teammate. "Poor little guy's going to be out for a while, though."

"We'd better make sure the king will be too," Kinetix said as she helped Blizzard up. He held onto her shoulder for support, then after realizing what he'd done, withdrew his hand like he'd touched a hot stove. Kinetix mentally rolled her eyes. Men and their pride.

A beam of energy interrupted her thought as it nearly singed her hair. "Get down!" Blizzard yelled, pushing her to the side as he generated a shield of ice. The king stood with one arm inside the energy beam in the middle of the room, channeling the energy through his arm.

"I'd guess he doesn't have magical powers of his own, but Mordru probably gave him the ability to channel that magic," Shifter said as he carried Quislet to where they huddled.

"So we just have to separate him from that," Blizzard said.

Shifter shook his head. "He wasn't touching it when he cast the spheres that imprisoned us. I think we have to wrest control of the magical energy from him..."

"Which means I have to do that," Kinetix finished. "Let's do it."

Blizzard paused and raised his hand, then let it fall as he saw the determined look on Kinetix's face. He quickly formed a small crack in his shield, peeked through and sent a flurry of icicles flying at the king. One hit his arm, causing another angry scream of pain. Blizzard took the opportunity to form a wall of ice that smashed the king into the wall.

"Now, Kinetix!" The words had barely left Blizzard's lips when Kinetix ran to the column of energy. She closed her eyes and plunged both hands in.

She screamed at the pure rapture of feeling so alive.

*************************************************

The Jungles of Sri Lanka

Rebound was trying to take stock of the situation, but the chaos around him made it difficult. He could only see half of his teammates.

Luckily, he didn't have to work so hard at dodging attacks because of his durability. He settled with his back to a tree and tried to see...

His whole world suddenly blurred, and his stomach lurched. When he regained his bearings, he saw a solicitous Flash leaning over him. Before he could ask, she answered. "Sorry for being so abrupt. Had to get you out of the way so Polarity could stop that." Turning, Rebound saw jagged shards of metal littering the bark behind him, and writhing vines on the ground. Still breathless, he muttered his thanks.

"This isn't working, Flash. Can you gather everyone for me? We need to regroup. Start with Kid Quantum and Element Lad. Their powers can help us build a shelter." With a nod, Flash dashed off.

In short order, a titanium structure was being reinforced by a quantum bubble, and ten exhausted Legionnaires were huddling together and planning strategy while Wildfire provided covering fire.

"What do we do next?" Flash asked.

Rebound wasn't sure how to answer that. He was getting much more confident at leading his teammates, but he preferred the consultative approach. And Kid Quantum and Shifter were both busy. He couldn't let his teammates down, though. "I... First, we get more information. Flash, can you..."

He was interrupted by a bright flash of light. In an instant, a green glowing figure shaped like Kinetix stood in front of a portal, through which they could see the rest of their teammates. She beckoned. "With me, hurry!"

Rebound didn't know if he was leading the team out of the frying pan and into the fire. Looking at the shaking of their titanium wall, though, he didn't have much of a choice. "You heard her, let's go!"

************************************************

Lion's Rock

Blizzard was sweating like crazy. Although his powers couldn't do much to keep his skin from burning in the sun, they had been able to keep him cool earlier. Now he was using every ounce of his energy to occupy the king.

His every wave of ice was being melted like butter. He tried changing tactics by icing the floor and forcing the king of balance, but the king levitated. He sent a flurry of snow to blind the king, but it was dissipated. A flood of icicles met with a wall of flame that melted most of them. The king stared at him with hateful eyes. "You will have to do much better than that."

"I know," blizzard thought. He spared a glance for Kinetix, who was kneeling down under the weight of the power. He had to give her a chance.

He blasted another wave of icicles. The king melted these and laughed. "Do you not learn, little one? You cannot try the same trick on me -"

He was cut off as Blizzard slammed into him. With the floor iced under them, Blizzard and the king slid into the balcony and off the railing onto the ground below.

*************************************************

"Was that Blizzard we just saw practicing for Disney on Ice?" Amazon gasped as the team stepped through the portal.

"Wildfire!" Shifter yelled. "No need to tell me!" came the reply.

"No time to explain, but Kid Quantum, Element Lad, Polarity, with me. Hygeia, see to Quislet. The rest of you, keep the guy Blizzard was fighting busy!"

There was a flurry of activity as the Legionnaires scrambled off to their assignments. Shifter turned to the three he'd picked. "We need to keep the magical energy contained around Kinetix, so she can use it to basically fix everything. Can you surround her in a bubble that will keep it from escaping and reaching the bad guy?"

The three looked at each other. "Can't hurt to try," Kid Quantum said. "I'm sure magic is affected by time..."

"And it is said iron can block magic..." Element Lad added.

"I have no idea what magnetism will do to magic, but it can't possibly make things any worse, right?" Polarity quipped.

"Maybe Quislet can help!" came the familiar high-pitched voice. Four Legionnaires looked on in shock as Hygeia stepped forward. "I was able to jumpstart him, so to speak, by giving him a mild dose of fever."

"Now Quislet lead you!" The imp flew around the column of energy, and Kinetix, then tsked. "Too much, too much. You need to contain flow!" He dove into the floor, causing the tiles to morph into a shape similar to an hourglass.

"Make like this, fast! Hurry, slowpokes!"

Element Lad and Polarity studiously grafted iron to model what Quislet was showing them. As Kid Quantum began coating it with quantum particles, she muttered to Hygeia, "Wish there was a disease that would keep him from talking."

************************************************

Blizzard clung to the king as they fell, ignoring the stench from his robes. He was hoping that by staying close, the king wouldn't be able to blast him off while he figured out how to cushion his own fall.

"Unhand me, you filthy child!" screamed the king as he flailed about, sending blasts flying off in every direction. Blizzard hesitated. At this range a stray blast could still hit him. He began coating himself in ice. Once he was covered, he'd let go and pray he had enough time to make a snow dune...

Suddenly, he felt himself being lifted. His heart pounded. Had the king summoned something or...

"Ask nicely! Jeez, you MUST be ancient, you cranky old fart!" came a familiar voice as an energy blast hit the king right in the chest.

"Wildfire?! How..."

"Kinetix brought us here so we could watch you dive out the window. Nice skating, pal!" came the reply as another blast of energy hit the king.

As their opponent flew backwards, Rebound bounced up and sent him flying towards Amazon. "Such a dear you are, your highness! Inviting us to a lovely game of catch!" she smiled as she punched him into the sky.

A gust of wind pushed him back down, then a cyclone began spinning him around. Amihan smiled as she hovered in the air. "Lovely toss, Amazon. Would you care to join in, Flash?"

"Don't mind if I do," Flash answered as the winds petered out and the king fell. She grabbed hold of his robes and ran, dragging him behind her as she smashed into walls. After a dizzying run through the courtyard, she screeched to a halt and let go, causing the king to fly into a wall. "All yours, Starboy!"

"With pleasure," grinned the Aussie as his gravity powers rooted the king to the ground.

"You wretches! I will watch you die horribly!" The king grabbed the walls behind him. The stone glowed and began to tremble, and tendrils rose out of the ground around the Legionnaires. They were crude, though, and not nearly so fast as the trees and rock that had attacked them in the jungle.

"He's losing his control over the magic!" Blizzard yelled to his teammates. "Keep pressing on!"

"No! No! I won't be thwarted!" The king yelled as he began to glow.

"Fall back!" Rebound's voice was tinged with fear.

The king exploded in a blaze of light.

#123649 - 05/27/12 12:14 AM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
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Lion Rock, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Kinetix's mind swam as she tread a fine line between controlling the flow of magic and surrendering to it. She'd learned that she had to walk this fine line to get it to listen to her.

She felt like a leaf in a storm, though. She couldn't find a stable berth on which to perch. It was like she'd caged a pack of wolves to help her, but couldn't dare release any or they'd tear her and her friends apart.

Remembering her success in bringing her teammates over, she slowly bent the energy around her to her will. She mouthed a quick "thank you" to her teammates and dove in.

"I want this island back the way it was. Change it back. Change it back."

The tendrils twisted around her. The one closest her began to turn, then suddenly cracked like a whip against the ceiling of the room they were in. In her mind's eye, Kinetix saw Shifter push Element Lad out of the way.

"No! No... Listen to me. Change it back. Please. Please..."

The tendrils whipped around her like a pack of wild dogs. Wild dogs struggling to be free.

And at that moment, Kinetix new. It was like how she'd struggled to be free of her mother's shadow and find her place in the world.

She needed to set the magic free.

she couldn't explain how she knew. She just did.

With a leap of faith, she let it all go.

*************************************************

Kinetix awoke to the sun shining in through a hole in the ruin walls and pain all over her body. She reached up to soothe her aching head. She gave a start when she felt a plastic tube.

"Just a little precaution from the docs. Take it easy, girl." Kid Quantum glided over from near the window with a smile. "You deserve a break after you pretty much fixed everything."

"So... we beat the king?"

"Yes, and just in time, too," came Blizzard's relieved voice. "He had just let loose a big wave of energy which my ice shields probably wouldn't have stopped. I don't know what it is you did, but it somehow turned the energy back into him, and, well..." Blizzard's gesture indicated a jar of ash kept in a sealed transparent vault. That explained his relief, then. He and the others had almost died battling the king.

Maybe that also explained his sheepish look. He might have thought that he had failed. Kinetix smiled in reassurance. "I couldn't have done it without all of you running interference. The way you tackled him, in particular, was really brave."

Blizzard's cheeks colored. He opened his mouth as if to reply, but was cut off by Rebound's entry. "Great to see you awake, Kinetix. The doctors said you'd be alright with a little rest. You should be ready to return to active duty in a few days."

Kinetix sat bolt upright, drawing a testy glare from a nurse in the room. "Days? Can we wait that long? Isn't Asia still under attack?"

"You took care of most of that. SHIELD says that right after the wave of light erupted here, the island returned to normal. The various animated statues returned to their normal places. In Angkor and other places, all animated rock, stone, you name it - they're all back to normal. Even the mythical creatures we captured vanished."

"There have been a few stragglers," Rebound continued, "but they've been few. Wildfire, Flash, and a few others have helped clean up the worst of it. For all intents and purposes, the Asian battlefront is stable, just like the American one."

"Kinetix, if you're up to it..." Blizzard reached out with his hand, then withdrew it. "The SHIELD personnel want to ask about what happened in there. The orbs, the column of energy... they're all gone now. SHIELD was hoping they could harness the energy somehow against Mordru. The war in Europe is still ongoing."

Kinetix closed her eyes. She still felt some regret, but no doubt. "I really didn't do all that much besides tell - well, not really tell, since the magic wasn't alive, but - I asked the magic to set things back to normal. And I told it I would let it free. And that's just what I did."

Everyone in the room stared at her. She shrugged. "I can't really explain it myself. I just knew I had to let the magic go, since it was wild. Part of the problem was that it was being restrained in the first place. I wish I could have kept it for us to use, but I just knew it wouldn't be any good to us if we did. It was too unpredictable, and I didn't know enough about it to control it."

Blizzard moved closer and broke the silence. "I think you did the right thing." Rebound and Kid Quantum looked at each other, then nodded. "It was probably for the best," Rebound agreed. "Your ability to tap into the magic was useful, but we could all tell how difficult it was. I'm sure SHIELD would agree."

"You rest up now, and let us handle the paperwork," Kid Quantum added. "Hopefully if we make it complete enough, we won't have to report to the Director personally."

"Thanks," Kinetix sighed as she settled back into her bed with a smile. Blizzard turned to look back wistfully as he followed the others out of the room.

None of the four, Kinetix included, noticed the green glow that flickered above Kinetix's head for just the briefest of moments. She was already sleeping soundly.

#123650 - 05/29/12 10:02 AM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
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If you don't want my peaches, ...
Earth War
Part 5: Belli Finem


The Red Sea,
Aboard the Black Pirate’s Ship


As the ghost ship glided over the waters of the Red Sea, the passengers inhaled the fresh air that smelled of salt and sea and felt a sense of calm from the motion. It moved quickly and kept them hidden from the view of others, which gave a momentary sense of serenity.

The five of them stood together on the deck overlooking the sea itself. Though most of them had just recently met, they had been the best of friends since their earliest memories. Others referred to them as the “telepathic circle”: Tela, Sensor, Umbra, Dreamer and the White Witch. Only one, the Emerald Empress was missing.

Often the events of the last year seamed so grandiose that it was hard for them, and their fellow Legionnaires, to put it in perspective. But when they considered how the six girls had been in contact for so long and now each had arrived separately at this moment, it all seemed very logical. As if everything that had ever happened had been a prelude—a build up even—to this.

Umbra looked to her side at Sensor and smiled at her friend. They were all linked telepathically by Tela and could communicate that way, but none felt the need just now. Rather, they simply lent each other strength and comfort. Umbra’s smile said it all: This was a good plan. I believe in it.

Once Sensor had heard the Song of the White Witch, she remembered a suggestion by Flare earlier in one of their planning stages and came up with the plan. The others would attack, providing a distraction. While the rest of them slipped into Xerox to confront Mordru.

None said it but they all shared doubts. What could the five of them do against Mordru? They knew the Dark Lord’s daughter, Maziah, would be critical to his downfall, yet they still doubted themselves. “We have always been strong for one another in our own way,” said Tela to them before they left. “Maybe that will be enough again.” It was so hard to grasp why, but it made sense to them.

Nearby, the Black Pirate steered the ship through the sea, sending them ever closer to Yemen, and then within to Xerox, the Secret City. He was not his usual talkative, mischievous self. Instead, he was serious and focused. He knew the endgame had come and he must now play his part. “Perhaps,” he said after thinking over their request for safe travel, “this is the reason I’ve been a ghost for so long?” The idea seemed to please him, as if it finally justified his existence with a purpose.

The five girls had tensions between them. Tela was horrified by Mon-El’s actions and Umbra knew it. Sensor suspected some of them questioned how she had handled Sara throughout the years. But those tensions were set aside. There was a bond between them, this Circle.

Some of the girls could feel the others thinking about the boys they had left behind. Umbra loved Mon-El fiercely and they could all feel it. It reconfirmed for Tela what she already knew—that she loved Livewire with all her heart. Sensor too had fallen in love; with Valor, whom made everything feel so right. The quiet goodbyes each one shared were still fresh in their memories, and while none of them pried into each other’s thoughts, the emotions were reassuring to the rest.

Dreamer, perhaps the most beautiful girl any of them had ever seen, smiled to herself when she felt those emotions coming from the others. In a way she did not understand, it provided her strength to know love could be found in such a way. And she channeled that strength to Maziah. Her sister might not need it, but she welcomed it.

********************************

Quote
Originally posted by Cobalt Kid:
All was quiet, and then Dr. Occult turned and another figure walked out into the light of the street lamp. Maziah had not meant him before, but recognized him from her friend’s description. It was Jason Blood.

“The Demon and I have reached an agreement,” said Blood. “And have straitened out the terms. We shall work together, for once, to destroy Mordru. Therefore, we can come to you now, White Witch, and pledge our allegiance in this endeavor, promising there will be no betrayal or ill intentions towards you or your allies, as there once was before. All that matters to both of us is that Mordru should fall. For Etrigan has revenge in his heart and it is a lie to say I feel differently.”

Maziah was hesitant towards Jason Blood, whom she did not trust at all. But she understood the rules of magic and knew that with this pledge, neither Blood nor Etrigan could break it if they fought in the upcoming war. “I’ll accept,” she said, recalling Dr. Occult’s words well and knowing he would offer no guidance on this matter.

Dr. Occult nodded. “When it matters, we will be there. Until then, I offer you this token of allegiance,” he said, and handed her a bundle wrapped in cloth. “With it comes no binding of obligation or payment.”

She took it and unwrapped it. It was a beautifully crafted horn, made of ivory with gold embroidery and a gold tip where the mouth was.

“It is an ancient item and its own history has many chapters, where many heroes wielded it. Mordru has corrupted many great cities and lands, and his evil influence will forever be a stain on this Earth even after his downfall. It shall be stain of corruption on magic itself. Know that with this horn, which was first blown in Ekron long ago, and once used by both Charlemagne and then Thor, it can blast away that evil, and clean the land and clean the magic of Mordru’s influence. Should Mordru ever be defeated, use this horn with both hope and love in your heart, and your pure influence will be able to wipe away Mordru’s memory.” Dr. Occult now smiled. “Should the day come when I hear that horn—when we, all of us, hear that horn, many of us can at last smile once more, and perhaps some of us can at last rest.”

Maziah took the horn as her own, accepting it. She understood in her heart all that had been told to her, and now stepped backwards, this meeting at an end. “Hile Dr. Occult and Jason Blood,” she said in a loud voice. “When next we meet, it shall be in prelude to the final battle.”

“Fare thee well,” said Occult and at once the darkness began to clear.
The Black Pirate steered his ship through the Gulf of Aden and into the river channels of Yemen, moving against the waters of the rivers. Soon he found an unkown, unmapped channel that would lead them up the right way through the country. Xerox had its own secret port, unknown to man.

The landscape began to change and the sky grew darker even in midday. A reddish tinge could be seen on the land and in the sky at all times. Mordru poisoned the Earth just by being in its vicinity.

“We are here,” said the White Witch softly. “We have entered Xerox, though not yet the city’s walls.”

“We’re right here by your side, Maziah,” said her sister Nura.

Maziah reached into her long sleeves and put her hand in the secret pocket within. Though it looked like a small pocket, it’s magic allowed for it to hold much larger items. She pulled out an ornate horn made of ivory with gold embroidery and a gold tip.

“What is that?” asked Umbra quizzically.

Maziah smiled. “It is for cleansing,” she replied. She took the beautiful horn and placed it up to her lips. The others watched curiously. She inhaled deeply and let out a loud blow.

The sound trumpeted across the water and then the land and even far into the dessert. It was loud but not booming; rather, it was melodic and rhythmic. She blew the horn again, this time slightly louder, and holding the note a bit longer.

The others were confused at first but then Tela motioned outwards to the landscape. They could see something happening. Fauna, which looked like it had been crushed, seemed to be standing up straighter. The reddish tinge seemed to be going away. Even the desert seemed more vibrant and full of life.

Maziah blew the horn again. In response, they could hear noises where there was silence. The sound of the river. Insects. Even birds calling back. It was as if life was being restored.

“He’ll know we’re coming,” said Umbra.

“He knows already,” replied Maziah. “Now all things will know.”

****************************

The river opened up into a lakeside dock that was centuries out of use. Clearly no normal vessel could dock here; but the Black Pirate captained no normal vessel.

“I guess we’re here,” said Dreamer with some trepidation. They had half-expected Mordru to attack them while they were on the ship but he had not come. Now the anticipation of seeing him again was causing their anxiety to build. Surely father is waiting for us… she thought.

“Are you joining us, Black Pirate?” asked Umbra surprised.

The Black Pirate had jumped off his boat and began to walk with them. He smiled his rogue smile at her. “I admit that part of my reason is that I may continue to gaze upon such loveliness as yourselves.” This was no surprise to Tatiana as she had grown accustomed to his innuendos. “And another part of me cannot tame the fiery hunger to see the Dark Lord brought to his knees,” he added. “But there is a third reason. I come to lend you support, as do so many others.”

“Others?” said Tela, surprised. Her telepathy was having trouble in Xerox—the magic was blocking it. She did not like the idea of others creeping up on them.

“Yes,” said the White Witch. “Many others have come. To observe. To lend strength. They have heard the call and have answered.”

The White Witch looked up as they continued to walk. Their path had entered a valley with two high ridges on either side, as if they were walking towards a doorway into the city. Maziah looked to the tops of the ridges and the others did too and they could see the ridges were filled with people.

No, not people, thought Umbra. Beings like us. Magic-users.

They did not know most of them but they knew they were friends. They were sorcerers and wizards; mages and witches; tricksters and summoners; invokers and diviners. Some were ancient and some were new. All of them had a connection to the ethereal power of magic and all of them knew this was a turning point.

Maziah recognized Dr. Occult among their number, who stood foremost among them. By his side was another fedora-hat wearing entity that she knew was infinitely more powerful; he wore purple and his face was concealed. He was a Phantom Stranger.

There were others equally as powerful. One day some of the girls would learn who some of them were; others would forever remain a mystery. The boy Dragonmage was there, feeling overcome with awe yet believing he had a place there. Jason Blood was also there, conflicted on whether he should unleash Etrigan the Demon or hold him in check. A bookish woman named Thessaly had come to observe, rooting for neither combatant but curious to the outcome. Cluracon, a dashing rogue of the court of Titania and the Fairie folk had also come with similar intentions. From the hidden mountains of the Far East was perhaps the oldest being of all save Mordru, the Ancient One, and his onetime student who would one day surpass him, Dr. Strange. The High Priests of Atlantis were also in attendance causing some of their fellows to stare in disbelief. The last to arrive had been the charming yet complex John Constantine, who tried to convince the hermetic Baron Winters to leave his tower to no avail.

Beyond even the senses of the great host assembled were others who looked on. With her powers, Sensor could sense them, though they remained beyond even her sight. Seven of them, who in concept were Endless.

And there were many more beyond them. The Black Pirate walked up the side of the ridge to join them, and Sensor was shocked to see who helped him up. The Countess Winema Wazzo was there as well—perhaps Tina had influenced her mother more than she’d ever know.

“They give us strength,” said the White Witch to them. “Let us use it as best we can.”

***************************

The crossed the threshold of the City’s Gate and their supporters fell out of view. Before them was the city of Xerox, ancient and powerful. It was quiet, all but abandoned as Mordru’s agents were off at war. A slight breeze blew against some of the old ancient buildings.

“Even all together, you stand no chance,” they heard. It was a voice they all knew well—Sara Romanescu, the Emerald Empress.

She looked regal and proud before them, with the Emerald Eye floating above her. Her hair had become a vibrant shade of green, and she had grown taller. She looked beautiful and terrible. “I knew you would come Maziah, and Jacquie would follow. But I admit I did not expect you all.”

Sara was the last of their telepathic circle; while the five girls fought for humanity and Earth, Sara had turned towards the side of evil and Mordru.

“Sara…” began Tela. She had never met her childhood friend in person before. “There is still time. Join us, as you did years ago. Let’s all reunite, like when we were children.”

The Emerald Empress looked as if she might cry; seeing them all together like this stung. She remembered the last words Jacquie and she shared. ”I still love you…but I don’t know why…” Jacquie had said. “I am your enemy, Irma,” replied the Empress.

“But you do not have to be, Sara,” replied Maziah. “Mordru is a wicked creature on this Earth and you must know that. Nura and I are his daughters; it took us a long time to accept it but the truth is self-evident. Serving him does you no honor.”

“We were 6 once,” said Dreamer. “We can be 6 again.”

The Emerald Empress was hearing the words she desired but still resisted. “I came here to fight you,” she said. “Not to join you.”

Umbra spoke and swallowed her pride. She desperately wanted to battle the Empress after their last confrontation. “We were brought together in our youth for a reason, Sara. It is wrong that you are not with us now.”

They all nodded in agreement and the Emerald Empress could see most felt that way. She turned her attention at last to Sensor, who she hated the most. “Do you want that, Jacquie?” she said.

Sensor hesitated at first but realized she could only speak truth. “I find it hard to forgive you Sara,” she said. “But I love as I do my other sisters. If you were by my side, rather than blocking my path, I know we could do this. Together.” Sensor looked at the Emerald Empress firmly. “What say you?”

The Emerald Empress considered her options. Fight her oldest friends or join them as she had in her earliest days. A tear rolled down her cheek as she choose. “We’ll complete our circle one final time then.”

#123651 - 05/30/12 07:20 AM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 34,598
Cobalt Kid Offline
Bold Flavors
Cobalt Kid  Offline
Bold Flavors

Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 34,598
If you don't want my peaches, ...
Khundia

The streets of Khundia were ablaze with rioting. Cars were overturned, Khundian Government buildings set on fire and chaos all around. In response, the Khundian military was firing into crowds and trying desperately to put an end to it. The citizens were battling the military, inspired by the Song of the White Witch to set aside their fears.

“It’s the perfect setting,” said King Faraday. “Revolutions always have been.”

Shrinking Violet did not like the sound of that. King Faraday was their ally and had shown a great trust in the Legion but he was maybe just a bit too hardcore of a spy for her. Still, right now, they really needed him. “It’s time then?” she asked him.

“Yes,” he replied.

She leapt off King Faraday, who stayed back in the shadows of an alleyway with Matter-Eater Lad. Using her powers to stay unseen, she made her way forward to the front of the Capital Building of Khundia and landed on an invisible friend—the Legionnaire Invisible Kid. “It’s time,” she said.

Lyle moved immediately, tapping Fantomas, who led the charge. Unseen, Spirit followed while phased into the Earth.

They had not been idle. Through their espionage prone powers, they had been able to learn that Danielle Focquart was housed in the main building. She was too important and therefore Zaryan wanted her nearby. “She’s somewhere on the lower levels,” said Jacques. He was desperate to find his sister, forcing himself not to think about what they may have done to her.

They moved down the stairs slowly, trying not to make noise. Every so often, Spirit would phase into view when she could not hide in an adjacent room because it was occupied. Most of the soldiers were in the streets fighting the citizenry but the Capital Building was still heavily fortified.

As they approached the bottom of the stairwell, they could see an elevator with two guards. Fantomas moved forward and swiftly took out one guard. Shrinking Violet leapt off his shoulder and knocked out another. Jacques pressed a button and the elevator arrived; they knew this was the only way to the sub-level.

“There are two sub-levels,” said Jacques in surprise. “We’ll have to split up.”

“Okay,” said Invisible Kid. To the others he looked calm and collected but inside he was nervous and scared.

“Vi, go with Lyle,” said Jacques. “Tina, you’re with me. You’re powers have the most risk of being seen so better you stay by me.”

Normally Spirit would take offense but she was too nervous to protest. She simply nodded. “Let’s go, then,” he said.

*************************

“C’mon kid,” said King Faraday to Matter-Eater Lad.

“What?” said Tenz, surprised. “I thought we were staying out here?”

“Change of plan,” said King. We have a window of opportunity here we may never have again. I’m sure a few resourceful guys like ourselves can find our own way in.”

“We can? For what?” said Matter-Eater Lad. He did like where this was going.

“To find Zaryan,” said King Faraday.

************************

Invisible Kid took a deep breath as the elevator doors opened. Several guards turned and saw absolutely nothing and that made them instantly suspicious. Trying to be as quiet as possible, Lyle was also as fast as possible to get out of the way on the off chance one of them fired their gun into the elevator.

Shrinking Violet said nothing, tucked into the folds of Lyle’s costume. Her heart was pounding. If the soldiers caught them, they were dead.

“Who is there?” yelled one soldier in Khundian. “Show yourself!” The guards were not stupid. They knew there were super-powered people everywhere. They all took their guns off their shoulders and held them.

Beyond, Lyle could see a series of prison cells and he knew instantly that they had taken the right path. A pretty black girl sat in one, looking relatively unharmed. Danielle Focquart, he thought. He counted and there were five guards in total. This wasn’t going to be easy.

Invisible Kid moved to the side of the wall and held his breath. As he stood there, Violet quietly emerged and took in the room herself. She had an idea.

Almost microscopic, she leapt forward into the middle of the room. By now three guards had moved forward to investigate the elevator opening while two remained near Danielle’s cell. She was right in the middle of them. If I can confuse them, maybe we could trick them into surrendering…? she thought.

Suddenly she grew to full size, as a pretty brunette, white girl stood in the middle of the room. “Hello gentlemen!” she said with a smile, and then immediately she shrunk back down.

What happened next was a shock to both of them. Without hesitation, three of the soldiers, one on Lyle’s left and two on his right, immediately began firing their guns. Somewhere Vi was screaming but they could not hear her over the gunfire. Lyle ducked down in terror, as the soldiers fired into the middle, missing Violet and shooting onwards at each other. Pure, utter chaos took over the room.

And in an instant, it was over. Invisible Kid approached as Shrinking Violet grew to normal size with a horrified look on their face. All five men were dead.

“Oh no…” whispered Sally. “It’s my fault…” she said.

“Sally, we have no time,” he said. He turned to the girl in the cell, as he saw all the other cells were empty. “Danielle Focquart?” he asked.

She looked up. She was tired and scared but Lyle could see up close she was not beaten or bruised. They obviously needed her in good health for her powers. “Y-Yes?” she said. “I am Danielle.”

“We’re friends of your brother,” said Lyle. “And we’re here to free you.”

“Jacques?” she said with a surprise. They had told her Jacques was dead. “Where is he?”

“Good question,” said Lyle as he opened up the prison cell.

****************************

It did not take long for Fantomas to figure out they were in the wrong place. Danielle is not here, he thought as he took in the room. It was full of science equipment, almost like a makeshift laboratory. What is this place?

Still invisible, he began to investigate the room. Nearby, Spirit rose from the floor, still phased. To anyone observing, she was clearly visible, though her ability let her be almost invulnerable. She began wandering around the room, looking for signs of someone being there.

She could see several science related experiments freshly abandoned but paid them no attention. Beyond, she saw a book shelf with several files and papers. A fresh dossier was on the table and she could see the words ‘Dark Circle’ on it. After her previous encounters with them, she was too curious not to take a look. Just for a moment, she unphased to open the dossier.

A moment was all it took.

“Stupid witch,” said a voice as a hand grabbed hold of her wrist. It felt like fire, burning through her costume and into her skin all at once. “You are mine now!” he yelled disgustingly and she turned to see it was one of the Khundian Legionnaires. Firefist—their leader and the most vicious.

“Get off me!” she said, trying to pull away instinctively because of the burn. She realized too late she should have just phased, but he capitalized on yet another mistake and backhanded her across the face, sending her to the floor.

In an instant he was on top of her, pulling at her hair and yanking her cloak backwards to choke her. His hot breath was on her face soon and using his powers, he burnt her costume and then her arm. He then leaned forward and licked her face, laughing.

She struggled and kicked and screamed but panic was setting in. He’s going to kill me! she thought. And then she thought maybe he would so something worse. A tear went down her cheek as she fought.

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

Three shots were fired loudly into the air and the struggle stopped. Tina felt the weight of Firefist falling forward on top of her and she suddenly got a hold of herself and phased through him.

Standing behind her was Jacques Focquart, visible again with his gun pointed outwards, steam rising off of it.

Tina saw the body of Firefist, now dead, and unphased again. He walked over to her and she started to cry. “I…I think…he was going to…”

“Shh,” said Jacques. “He’s gone now. You were scared for a moment but you would have used your powers. He can’t hurt you now.”

She was crying but tried to get a hold of herself. She looked up and nodded and was so thankful Jacques was there. “H-He can’t hurt me now,” she said assuring.

Jacques nodded. “We have to go,” he said.

*****************************

Danielle Focquart, once called Oracle when she was a member of the Suicide Squad, did her best to keep up behind Invisible Kid. Her adrenaline was pumping and she found the strength to make her way out of the hellhole she had been in for so many weeks.

Once outside, though, she collapsed. Invisible Kid picked her up, and Shrinking Violet went large again, and the two began to walk her to the alleyway. Soldiers were swarming around them to fight the citizenry and she was sure they’d be shot at, but it never happened.

“Danielle,” said Lyle, “the most important thing is we have to make sure the Khunds no longer tap into your powers,” he said. “I need you to shut them off—so the Allies can start using their technology again.”

Danielle nodded. As Lyle was talking, Violet was looking around the alleyway. “Where’s Faraday?” she said, alarmed.

****************************

Inside the Capital Bulidng, Zaryan the Conqueror concluded another war council and dismissed all his generals in anger. He yelled at them right up until the left the room. His voice hoarse, he walked over to a bottle of brande and filled up a glass. He took a deep swallow but felt no satisfaction—the stress of the war was getting to him.

He retired to the adjacent room, his private office, and turned on the lights. Over by the desk he could turn his chair around and look out the window. The view overlooked the city but unfortunately all he could see now was the riots in the streets.

He went over to look anyway. “Foolish,” he said out loud. “You’ll only get yourselves gunned down.” There was almost regret in his voice though there was no remorse.

He held the glass back up to his lips and looked out into the streets again.

He never heard the gunshot that ended everything for him. The THUMP sound of the silencer only was recognizable after the bullet passed through his brain and out his face. Blood splattered the window and the bullet continued outwards through the glass. The brande fell onto the floor but the glass did not break. Zaryan fell out of the chair onto the floor as well, and the chair swiveled in a circle.

King Faraday stood behind him with an outstretched gun. His face was void of any emotion. He took no pleasure in killing but felt it had to be done.

He turned to Matter-Eater Lad, who was horrified by what he saw. “We’re done here,” he said.

#123652 - 06/05/12 10:16 AM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 34,598
Cobalt Kid Offline
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Cobalt Kid  Offline
Bold Flavors

Joined: Sep 2003
Posts: 34,598
If you don't want my peaches, ...
Khundia

At the same moment the citizens were rioting in the streets and the Espionage Squad was freeing Danielle Focquart, the Legion’s plan went into full effect. The Khundian military was now refocusing on its own people, calling back its soldiers to its borders—some of which were already on the run.

But the combined might of Mordru and the Khunds remained beyond the Khundian Capital City and it was there that the most good could be done while distracting Mordru and his allies at the same time.

The recent convert to the Legion’s side Veilmist was at their center, and used her powers to full effect, teleporting the group of remaining Legionnaires and their Allies into Khundia. Leviathan, Legion Leader, led the charge and by his side were fellow Legionnaires Livewire, Catalyst, Ferro and Valor, the last of whom had declared he was healed enough to join in the final battle. Atmos, the French hero who they suspected would become a Legionnaire was also with them, as was Conal Kent, Ferro’s friend who had previously been brain-washed by Mordru. And lastly, the remaining Sentinels joined them: Flare, Ultra Boy, Dawnstar and Mon-El, who also insisted on his inclusion in the final battle.

They knew what their goals were: shock & awe the Khunds and Mordru’s private army, but at the same time find and eliminate the biggest threats. Foremost among them was Glaurung, Father of the Dragons.

“Glaurung!” yelled Ultra Boy at the top of his lungs. “Show yourself you coward! I plan to turn your hide into a pair of boots!”

Dawnstar couldn’t help but laugh at the comment. “Not really your style. More Dirk’s, actually,” she said.

He shrugged. “I doubt he can even hear me…” he started to say but suddenly they heard a massive roar. “Okay. Maybe he can. Damn…” continued and suddenly memories of his first encounter with the dragon—which started it all for Joe—came back to him.

The dragon’s massive form rose in the distance into the sky.

“Here we go,” said Atmos, next to them both. He was also itching for a rematch.

************************

As the battle began in the sky, down below another battle raged. Leviathan led them into the fray against Mordru’s army. It was still peppered with Khunds but he noticed a clear lack of Khundian resistance. Either they’re all fighting the civilian uprising, he thought, or they’ve turned tail and ran. Unknown to him, the Khundian military had lost its Messiah like figure and now found themselves without leadership or direction.

Catalyst used his power to cause the enemies guns and tanks to rust as Livewire covered him shooting lightning forward.

Mon-El made a difference where he could but he was still weakened from his battle with Dev Em. The sun was replenishing his strength and invulnerability but it would take a few days before he was one hundred percent.

Close by, Ferro and Conal Kent smashed through the military. They stayed close to one another, watching each other’s back. Ferro had specifically asked Valor and Conal to do that, wanting to make sure both where okay. Conal had followed Ferro’s plan but now Ferro could not find Val among the chaos. Where is he? he wondered, but he did not have time to consider it further.

****************************

Valor slipped through the jungle area, remaining hidden and stalking his pray. He must be here, he thought to himself. He’s too arrogant to leave before the final battle.

The jungle opened to a clearing and there, waiting for him, he stood. Nemesis, the Turkish metahuman Hasim Diyarbikar. Nemesis had always been honest about his hate for Valor, but he lied about everything else. About being their friend in Europe and Asia and then about joining the Legion. He would forever be known as the Legion Traitor; the one who killed RJ Brande. And who beat Valor in order to do it.

“I knew you would come,” said Nemesis. “You’re too much like me not to,” he added. “I was interrupted that day and knew I had to leave before I was caught. But I do not have to leave now. We can finally pick up where we left off in Russia that day. In Nardo’s Gulag.”

“Yes,” said Val in agreement. “That fight never finished, I can see now. I should never have let you think you could have won. I should have just finished you there and then.”

Nemesis let out an arrogant laugh. “We’ll see, Valor,” he said.

He raised his hands.

Valor did the same.

The fight began.

**************************

Flare ran through the soldiers, using his flame to scare them backwards. He could blast them with a non-lethal blast but it took concentration. When he felt overwhelmed, he would let loose a massive, lethal blast with no direction, meant more to scare than anything else. He did so now and looked around.

“Amilah?” he said out loud, looking for Veilmist.

“I’m here, Dirk Morgna,” she replied, moving closer to his side. She had a funny way of calling him by his full name.

Dirk felt responsible for her. Beyond the one night romance they shared months earlier, it was he who convinced her to come over to their side and fight for something she actually believed in. That meant she was marked as a traitor and the Khunds would be gunning for her. He felt obligated to make sure they did not achieve that goal.

“Look out!” she said, suddenly grabbing him and teleporting them both several feet away. “My apologies,” she added, “but too many bullets. We would not have survived.”

Flare regained his footing and nodded. “No apologies necessary,” he said. “I’d rather live.”

“Up ahead,” she said suddenly, fear going into her eyes.

They saw him standing three feet taller than even the tallest Khunds. Blood Claw, the Khundian Legionnaire whose super strength rivaled a fully powered Mon-El. His eyes locked on theirs.

“Ah, the pretty boy comes bearing gifts!” he exclaimed. “I will find glory in your death, Sun Boy, and then I’ll take the traitorous witch as my concubine!” He rushed forward through the soldiers to get at them.

“Over my dead body,” said Flare, embracing for the impact as he fired a sun powered beam at Blood Claw.

“That’s the idea!” yelled Blood Claw as the flames did him no harm.

*********************

Glaurung the Dragon could not be overestimated yet Ultra Boy, Dawnstar and Atmos felt as if they still had not accounted for the sheer power the creature had. The three of them flew in a criss-crossing pattern meant to confuse him and then leave him open for Ultra Boy and Atmos to land a blow when needed.

Yet Glaurung felt little of the effect, and came ever closer to hitting them with his fire breath. He was quick too. Too quick. With a glancing blow, he nailed Ultra Boy with a claw, and his tail just missed Dawnstar’s body. If it had connected, she would surely have been killed.

“We have to find a way to beat him,” said Ultra Boy to Dawnstar as they regrouped. “Maybe if we can bring him out into the sea…”

“We do it right here, right now!” said Atmos, who became increasingly frustrated. “Fall in behind me and I’ll take care of it right now!”

Atmos flew off, and Ultra Boy and Dawstar followed, hoping Atmos had a plan. He flew strait at the dragon who after all the trickery was caught by surprise at such a forward attack.

Atmos had been charging his power for some time, and now let loose its full fury. He remembered the embarrassment from their first encounter and that spurred him on all the more. The blast echoed outwards, sending shockwaves down to the fighting below and the dragon fell backwards reeling.

But it was not enough. It hurt the dragon, and Glaurung screamed in response. But in Atmos haste, he miscalculated the dragon’s reach. Glaurung fell backwards and Atmos pulled in closer, just as Ultra Boy yelled “NOOO!!!” Glaurung snapped his tail, knowing he had Atmos in his grasp, and tail came forcefully behind Atmos and caught him from behind.

SNAP

Atmos’s lifeless, broken body began to fall from the sky.

Glaurung laughed mercilessly, still in pain but delighting in the death of a foe.

Downward Atmos fell, landing on the ground, broken and gone. The first casualty had been on the Legion’s side, as the French hero, hot-headed though brave, met his demise.

#123653 - 06/06/12 07:15 AM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
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Xerox, the Secret City
Yemen


The six girls walked forward, feeling trepidation for what was to come but also drawing strength from one another. For perhaps the last time, the telepathic circle was united again: Tela, Umbra, Sensor, the Emerald Empress, Dreamer and the White Witch. As girls they found comfort and humor in each other when they felt pain, fear and loneliness in their real lives. Now their camaraderie could not get any more real.

“He’s waiting for us within,” said Dreamer. Whether through usage of her powers or just because she had insight in her father, she knew he would be there.

“Yes,” said Maziah confirming her own suspicion. “Once we enter we cannot turn back.”

“There’s already no turning back,” said the Emerald Empress.

Sensor nodded in agreement with her nemesis. Indeed. Everything that has ever happened in our whole lives has led to this moment. Everything else was a illusion.

“Let’s get to it then,” said Umbra bravely. Her background was the most modern and normal of all of them, yet she was the most warrior-like.

The six of them stood there at the threshold of Mordru’s great basilica, built into the mountain many centuries ago. Each of them knew what they had to do though at this moment they each felt a tremendous sense of doubt and fear.

It was Tela who took the first step. Irma, who was the least magical of them all, yet was perhaps the strongest. With that step, the doubt and fear began to subside and the six of them entered Mordru’s halls.

“It’s empty,” said Umbra, surprised.

“The Dark Lord has sent all his agents out into the world,” said the Emerald Empress. “Only he remains here now. As it was when he built this place.”

“Follow the path straight ahead,” said Dreamer, “to the throne room.” She knew these halls very well indeed; she was raised here.

They walked through the halls directly to him and indeed, he was waiting. He sat upon his throne, made not of gold, but of iron. Iron had a natural resistance to magic that could only be overcome by pure willpower. Mordru’s throne was a statement: even when he was looking for comfort, he could manage the willpower to overcome this resistance. He watched as they entered, filing into the room and then spreading out side by side, so the six of them lined up to face him in a row.

At first his face was void of any emotion and he simply was an observer. He was beyond old and while his long hair and beard were white, he maintained an energetic and strong visage. He radiated power, even when he tried to appear meek—he did not have that much self-control.

He did not smile but he hid his rage well, if he still had any. It’s in his eyes, thought Sensor, whose powers let her see things others could not. They are burning right now. He is like a snake coiled and ready to strike.

“My daughters,” he said calmly. “Both of you have returned home at long last, as I’d always wished. And yet your intentions are most vile. Patricide.”

“No father,” said Dreamer. Though Maziah was clearly the focal point of the opposition, Nura was her older sister. She felt it was her place to speak against him.

“You deny your intent to kill your own father? Then you’re a liar as well.”

“We wish to save lives, not end them,” replied Nura. “And Maziah and I, your own daughters, know you better than any others. We know you would destroy all living creatures if they will not bend to your will. We cannot let that come to pass.”

Mordru smiled a vicious smile. “You split hairs with your terminologies. I know why you are here. You might think a father would admire your bravery. But I only scowl at your stupidity. I gave you a chance to submit in Khundia when it was clear you had no chance. You learned nothing from this and try again? The time has come children, to stop teaching lessons…and start treating you as the enemies truly you are.”

Tela looked at Nura to see if she would respond but Dreamer was done speaking. Tela, not knowing how to proceed against the most terrifying of all enemies, simply prayed Maziah would have the answers and she could lend her friend strength.

“You are ancient and old father,” said Maziah. Her voice was as soft as ever, but now it had an edge to it. A confidence; a finality. “But you have lived because for centuries history has repeated itself over and over. Much has changed. You have daughters now when before you had never did. You know in your heart that you are vulnerable for the first time. You feel fear.”

Mordru stood up from his throne now and moved forward a few steps towards them. He towered over them and using an enchantment they knew he preferred, he appeared to grow to twenty, perhaps thirty feet. “I fear nothing,” he said and the words echoed off the walls. “My two most ancient enemies, Ro Jath and the Brotherless One, are dead. You think I fear little girls?”

“Yes,” said Maziah. With that, she began to levitate upwards, floating so her robes flowed as if caught in a wind even though there was none. She rose to meet his gaze eye to eye and as she did, the other girls could hear something from outside. Something growing louder and louder.

It was chanting. It was singing. It was the Song of the White Witch, being sung here as it was in Khundia. Only this time, it was the assembled magic-users who were singing it.

Sensor could not comprehend the true meaning of the song or what spell it wove, but she knew it would weaken Mordru and strengthen Maziah. She knew the conflict had begun.

Mordru could hide his rage no more. “Foolish girl. I should have drowned you at birth—both of you! I need no heirs, for my rule shall be eternal!”

Mordru suddenly fired a bolt of magical lightning at the White Witch, who was prepared for it and deflected it, but still the impact knocked her backwards.

Moving as if he was a lion, he turned upon the other girls and fired a similar bolt of magical lightning around them. They tried to dodge it or move out of its way, but it simply curved around, flying low to the floor and found them, knocking them down with an impact.

Umbra immediately began to unleash her darkness at Mordru in hopes to blind him, and the Emerald Empress fired the Emerald Eye at him.

“I have been killing Mallors since the dawn of time,” he said to Umbra, “one more is hardly a thrill.” He fired something else at her—this time a circular orb that exploded above her and then rained down magical ooze as if it were a barrel of burning pitch.

“And you!” he yelled at the Emerald Empress. “I would have had you as my concubine! You would have been an Empress in more than just name! Instead you betray me as my daughters have!” He did the same to her, except now it exploded from below her and rained upwards.

Tela scattered with Dreamer and Sensor, trying to huddle together. «We need to come up with a way to participate here,» she said. «Otherwise, we’re just additional targets.»

«We need to lend Maziah strength» replied Dreamer.

Sensor focused on Mordru and used her powers of illusions. She created an image of RJ Brande, announcing himself to Mordru as still living and still ready for battle.

“Again, you are foolish little one!” yelled Mordru in response. “If Ro Jath were still alive, he would reveal himself in his true visage! Not this façade he let you all believe!” Mordru pointed at the three girls and below them in the dirt, it turned into a muddy quicksand like substance as a number of hands began to reach out. They grabbed at the three girls legs and began pulling them down into the mud to suffocate to death.

By now the White Witch was ready to re-engage her father, and while he was distracted she let loose a giant thunderbolt, which caused a tremendous noise, rocking the cavern itself. A pink being was summoned forth, zigging and zagging like lightning and then firing right into Mordru. She summoned it only briefly to inflict damage and soon it was gone, but the shock of it surprised Mordru and knocked him off his feet.

“Impressive child,” he said though not in a complimentary tone. “For that transgression you shall pay.”

Mordru stood as the other girls regrouped below, and the White Witch prepared to attack once more.

#123654 - 06/07/12 07:00 AM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
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All across the Earth, the war raged. In South America, Columbia invaded its neighbors hoping to expand its borders. In secret its Government had sworn allegiance to Mordru in hopes to be his vassal in the aftermath and rule the entire continent.

In San Francisco, the young Kid Psycho defended the Legion Outpost with his psi-shield as Dr. Mayavale made sure the others were safe. Within the city itself, the legendary Bucky fought once more as he did almost 70 years earlier; he saved an elderly couple from attack and the man swore he recognized him but it just couldn’t be. Nearby, Bucky’s ally Nightcrawler also defended a city he was sure would hate him, shocked to find people were thankful and perhaps not quite as ready to judge him as he originally thought.

In the streets of Detroit, Michigan, riots were spurred on by Mordru’s vampires in hopes to charm the frustrated youth of the city into full fledged riots. Ready to defend the city, though he could not say why, was the street gang member T-Rock. He was always ready for a fight—but now with a cause, he finally felt like he was doing something right.

In Chicago, anxiety from the war led to the city’s criminal element to grow even more brazen. Unknown to its citizens and existing only as a myth in their minds, the vigilante known as Batman did what he could to keep the city safe.

Elsewhere ordinary people fought back as best they could. Scientist and investigator Mark Merlin discovered the secret to defeating the fire elemental ravaging Cuba through sheer ingenuity. Sargent Joe Rock held out against the Khundian army in Sicily for three days while the NATO forces regrouped for a new assault, this time accompanied by air support once the technological blackout ended. Even airline flight attendant Bonnie Taylor showed heroism by remaining calm once Oceanic Flight 824 was caught in the technological blackout, and while the pilot and co-pilot panicked, she landed the jumbo passenger plane on her own in South Africa, thanking her lucky stars she took amateur flying lessons.

It was the same all over—people standing against Mordru. Some ordinary and some extraordinary. Every act of defiance was heroic. In Chechnya, the Dark Circle unleashed its own assault back at Mordru, destroying his lycanthrope army there. They had told Flare they were going underground and would not participate. But they now saw hiding was futile and it was time to stand their ground.

Everywhere people fought for their lives and their loved ones.

#123655 - 06/08/12 08:25 AM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
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Khundia

He was still hurt and days of fighting had exhausted him, but Valor held nothing back as he battled Nemesis, the Legion Traitor and the one person Val truly hated in this world.

Nemesis, always a cruel, lonely boy, would normally have insulted his opponent and measured each attack for maximum cruelty but now he did nothing of the sort. He knew Valor was the greatest opponent he would ever face and so he fought for his life as well. He hated Val more than anything and simply wanted to remove him permanently.

They fought in silence, punching, kicking, chopping and grappling with one another in the jungle brush far removed from the others.

Valor was a master fighter—perhaps the greatest in the entire world. So much so, he earned a spot on the Legion of Super-Heroes simply because of his fighting abilities. But Nemesis had an advantage Valor did not: he had super-powers; or rather, magical powers that harnessed through alchemy and let him adapt to his scenario and gain an upper-hand to beat any one opponent. They had never asked him the origin of these magical powers though now the answer was obvious. They came from Mordru, the Dark Lord.

Valor fought on, harder than ever, landing blows and taking Hasim down when he could. Each minor victory was hard felt by his opponent. But still Nemesis rose to fight more and Valor could see his time was dwindling. Hasim’s advantage was too great. Soon he would be overcome. Soon Nemesis would kill him just as he killed RJ Brande.

**************************

Nearby the true battle raged as the Legionnaires battled the Khundian military and Mordru’s agents. They were now joined by the Khundian citizenry, who had risen up in rebellion to overthrow the cruel dictatorship. The Legionnaires were too distracted by battle to get details but it was clear something had changed. Zaryan the Conqueror was dead.

In the sky above them, Ultra Boy and Dawnstar watched in horror as the French superhero Atmos fell to the ground dead, murdered by the Father of Dragons, Glaurung. The dragon now turned to them, hoping to make his victory complete.

“Perhaps we have bitten off more than we can chew,” said Dawnstar, now full of doubt that they could actually beat the dragon.

“Perhaps…” said Ultra Boy, “but let’s not tell him that…” he added and immediately he began to fly in the opposite direction.

Dawnstar followed and she looked to see Mon-El joining them from below. The dragon followed them in hot pursuit. “Are we heading to the Mediterranean?” she asked.

“I’m making it up as I go,” said Ultra Boy. She was not sure if he was serious or not.

*****************************

Leviathan, Livewire, Catalyst, Ferro and Conal Kent plowed through the Khundian military with the intent of seeking out Mordru’s agents and destroying them. While his armies were deployed all over the world, he had made sure he had agents within the Khundian ranks to add support. Some were easy to find—a ghoul heckled at them ten feet away; some were not—what seemed to be an ordinary Khundian citizen revealed itself to be a tentacled creature looking to consume them.

“Conal,” asked Ferro to his best friend. “Have you seen Val? Where is he?”

“I haven’t Andy,” said Conal, who was trying to cut loose with his powers. “Sorry,” he added. Conal could not bring himself to use his powers at full capacity. He was not long under Mordru’s control but he had committed horrible atrocities during that time. He had murdered people. He pushed those memories aside for now but knew they would haunt him forever.

Ferro wanted to stay by his friend. He knew he wasn’t doing well. But he was worried about Valor. “I’m going to look for him,” he said to Conal. “Stay safe. Stay by the Legionnaires.”

“I got it,” said Conal with a firm nod, trying to make sure Andy would stop worrying about him and worry about himself.

“So big man,” said Livewire, “I assume all is going to plan?” He blasted several Khunds as he yelled up to Leviathan.

“I guess so,” said Leviathan unsure. “We’re waiting on the girls now, I think. They said we would know whether they succeeded or not…”

Livewire said nothing. He knew that already though he tried not to think about it. If anything happened to Irma…

*****************************

The Khundian Legionnaire called Blood Claw swung his razor sharp claws at Flare and Veilmist, backed by the force of his super-strength. They ducked the blow, spilling to their right side, knowing full well that if Blood Claw made impact, they were dead instantly.

Veilmist fell forward and Flare tripped over her, and they both fell down. Not good, thought Dirk simply, and rolled to his side as Veilmist was still down and trying to regain her footing. I only have a moment, he thought, as he let loose a cascade of flames at Blood Claw in an attempt to infuriate him and draw his attention.

It worked. Blood Claw turned in anger towards the handsome young Sentinel. “Your flames can’t hurt me,” said the monstrous foe. “Have you not realized that yet?” he yelled, running at Dirk once more.

Flare turned to dodge on the oncoming assault but it was no use. He had nowhere to go. Behind him was a giant tree and dense bushes; one side had an overturned motorcar; the other side had too may citizens fighting soldiers. I’ll just have to take it… he thought instantly, knowing he was done for.

“NO!!!!” yelled Veilmist suddenly, seeing what was going to happen.

Dirk closed his eyes and braced for the impact. But nothing came. He only heard two sounds. *POP*. And then several seconds later, another. *POP*. He looked up to see Veimist standing in front of him breathing heavy, and as realization set in, she fell forward, exhausted from the effort.

He caught her and held her close to his chest. “Y-you…you saved me?” he said surprised. “Did you…send him away?”

“Yes,” she said, hugging him closely, knowing she likely just killed Blood Claw. “I sent him somewhere far away.”

Veilmist and Blood Claw had teleported out far into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean thousands of miles into the air. She teleported back, leaving him there, knowing either the fall or drowning would kill him.

“Good,” said Flare, realizing he was not going to die after all.

********************

Nemesis and Valor hacked at one another again, both now bruised, bloody and exhausted. The fight continued to drag on though both were winded. Valor had been put purely into defensive mode, though he had been thus far been able to deflect every attack Nemesis threw his way.

Nemesis could feel himself changing; his powers were kicking in. Soon he would magically gain an upper hand, either an evolution of his power or sheer chance would fall in his favor. When the time came, he would end Valor once and for all.

Valor knew he had one chance and so he went for it. He feigned an injury following Nemesis landing a blow, letting himself fall backwards as if he was going down. Nemesis lunged forward to capitalize on the mistake but soon realized it was a ploy. Valor shifted his weight downwards to steady his center of gravity and then exploded upwards with proficient quickness, sending a blow into Hasim’s ribcage. It landed and knocked back Nemesis, but in the effort, it took everything out of Valor that he had left.

Both of them landed on the ground in pain.

But it was Nemesis who rose first. His magic powers were kicking in and he began to feel another adrenaline rush as well as a healing effect take hold of his body. He knew he had mere moments and he was soon right on top of Valor.

“ENOUGH!” came a shout as Ferro rushed forward from the jungle brush in metallic form, tackling Hasim to the ground. He punched Nemesis with every ounce of strength that he had.

Hasim cursed his powerset and its weird effects, knowing that with two opponents, the magical enhancements would cease to work. If he could just get Ferro far enough away from Valor…

But Valor rose again. He would not fall. His will was unbreakable and he would not fall.

“Andy…” said Val, walking over to help him.

“You don’t have to do this alone, Val,” said Andy almost in tears. “We’re a team. Friends. Brothers!” he said, punching Nemesis. “We’re Legionnaires…and we work together…”

“Yes…” said Valor, leaning forward to pull Ferro off of Nemesis. “He is beaten,” he said, leaning on forward to Andy could pull him off.

Below them, Nemesis lied bloody and beaten. Ferro’s assault finished what Valor started as Nemesis slipped into unconsciousness. RJ Brande’s killer was captured.

**********************

Ultra Boy, Dawnstar and Mon-El flew threw the air at full speed and not far behind them, the dragon Glaurung followed. The creature was gaining on them even at their fastest, and when they turned back its massive frame took up more and more of their line of sight.

“Are you sure this will work?” asked Dawnstar.

“No,” replied Ultra Boy, “but we’re running out of ideas…” he said. With those words, he suddenly veered off from them, shooting off to the right, as Dawnstar and Mon-El curved ever slightly to the left.

Ultra Boy held his breath for several seconds as he waited to see what the dragon would do. He had banked on the creature’s immense greed—that it would follow two opponents instead of one so it could have the glory of two kills. Still holding his breath, Joe looked back. And exhaled with a sigh. Okay, that worked. It’s following Dawny and Mon. Step one: check. Now the hard part…

Ultra Boy turned back to Khundia and flew as fast as he could. Below he saw all kinds of chaos as figures were running to and from one another, people were fighting from a distance and up close, and all kinds of melees were taking place. In the distance he could make out the identifiable shape of Leviathan towering above the rest. He turned down sharply, looking through the debris with his vision. Fallen tree. Hunk of masonry. Anything. Ah, scrap iron.

He saw a large spear-like cylinder of scrap iron among the debris and picked it up. Iron had a better chance against something magical than wood, he remembered. No magic swords or magic tipped arrows here today, I guess, he thought.

Holding up the giant cylinder like a lance, he immediately set back off against the dragon.

*********************

Dawnstar and Mon-El had taken Glaurung far out into the Medittereanan and it was almost upon them. It let loose a flurry of dragonsfire at them, singing Mon-El’s cape and almost hitting Dawnstar’s wings.

“It’s time,” she said firmly. “We have to turn back.”

“Maybe we could wait a few more minutes…” said Mon-El, worried about the danger to his friend.

“No Mon,” she said. “If he’s not ready, then it just won’t work.”

Mon-El knew she was right. He liked that about Dawnstar. Ultra Boy and he shared a deep bond of friendship; Dawnstar was becoming the ‘third’ of their friends. They appreciated her abrupt manner.

They began flying back to Khundia. “You shall tire far earlier than I, humans,” said the dragon with a roar and it gave chase. Glaurung was a highly intelligent creature yet it had given into its baser instincts for far too many centuries. A serious challenge had not presented itself in ages and it had grown lacking in discipline and caution.

Dawnstar and Mon-El flew full speed to the jungle trees, knowing that the dragon might be able to swipe them with its claws if it wanted to. Instead, it snapped at them with its jaw, hoping to impale them with teeth.

They came in low and Glaurung altered its trajectory slightly, giving it just the right position to take them both easily. The creature braced itself for the attack…and just in time, from the trees, Ultra Boy made himself known again.

With a lance of scrap iron, Joe flew through the air and plunged it deep into the beast’s stomach. He’d read the tales of dragons having a weak spot in their stomachs; he figured with a sharp object and ultra-strength, that just might be true.

Glaurung let out a howl of pain and fire sprayed the air. The scrap iron spear came through its stomach and out its back, lodging into its body and staying there. The dragon began slashing its claws and tail about, hoping to destroy any enemy that might be in its vicinity.

But Ultra Boy, Mon-El and Dawnstar were gone. Far away, viewing from a distance, they watched the dragon howl and begin to go down towards the ground. “Nice shot,” said Mon-El to Joe, who only nodded.

Everything began for Joe when a chance encounter with the dragon led to his having super-powers. Now, watching the dragon fall to its death gave Joe a sense of irony. Of balance.

It landed with a huge thunderous BANG!!. They flew over to make sure it was not a danger to anyone nearby. But as they did, the dragon was gone.

“Is it dead?” asked Dawnstar. “Do they disappear when they die?”

“I have no idea,” said Ultra Boy.

“Whatever the case, it won’t provide us any more trouble. Nice work, Dragon-Slayer,” he said to Joe.

Joe groaned, “I hope that doesn’t stick.”

Dawnstar did not take part in the joking. “Let’s get back. The battle has turned in our favor. We might as well wrap things up.”

“None of it will make any difference,” said Mon-El grimly. “Unless the girls can defeat Mordru.”

#123656 - 06/11/12 07:46 AM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
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Xerox, the Secret City
Yemen


Mordru and the White Witch hurled spells at one another offensively in combat. Likewise, each worked to block the other’s spells defensively. The duel seemed to go on and on as lightning, ethereal arrows, bright colors and thunderous noise filled the sky.

“She’s not losing,” said Sensor. The others began to understand. By all rights, Mordru was expected to destroy Maziah easily. But yet she was standing her ground. She was his equal. That knowledge must be eating away at him inside.

“The singing is getting louder,” said the Emerald Empress in surprise. “It’s doing something.”

“The song is drawing away my father’s power,” said Dreamer. “The spell removes fear and it removes order. Those are the things my father thrives on. The song is weakening him.”

“We should take part, then,” said Umbra.

“No,” said Tela. “I don’t understand all of what’s happening but we’re here for a reason. If Mordru is weakening, then we need to make Maziah stronger. And we can do that.”

Sensor nodded. “Yes,” she said, “Irma is right.” Sensor extended her hand to Irma’s and held it. Tela then turned to right and extended hers to Dreamer. Dreamer smiled, understanding and did the same, holding Umbra’s hand. Umbra extended hers to the Emerald Empress. Sara looked at it and hesitated but took it. And then she turned, realizing whose hand she must hold. Jacque only looked at her with her own hand open to grasp. Sara nodded and took it.

Tela connected them all telepathically and then connected directly to Maziah.

«Maziah, here us. You are so close. You can do this. You must do this. Let us lend you our willpower so you can crush the Dark Lord.»

The White Witch felt the strength and willpower of her sisters flooding into her being. She dueled Mordru spell to spell, all while watching him grow more and more frustrated. Suddenly, she simply stopped fighting. She reached forward and grabbed him by the hands.

He was shocked by the tenacity of the move, and meant to fall backwards. In his mind he realized something deadly: he was indeed, scared. “NO!” he yelled, shaking it off and then squeezing his hands around Maziah’s to try to inflict pain of some kind.

The two were locked, hand to hand, casting unspoken spells at one another. It had become a battle of wills. Mordru’s visage began to shrink again to its normal form, as both the White Witch and he became normal sized.

“Despicable child…” he muttered, “…I could have killed you in the womb…”

Maziah was silent, concentrating and drawing on her friend’s willpower. She concentrated with all of her might. A drop of blood ran through her nose. She cried out from the pain but refocused. “When I was a girl…they called me the White Witch…” she said.

The telepathic circle now walked over to them and formed in a circle around them, so both Maziah and Mordru were in the middle. They concentrated equally as hard, lending her the willpower to succeed and sharing all of her pain.

Outside the singing was so loud that it was shaking the rafters. The building itself began to collapse and they knew it was a sign of Mordru growing weaker.

“I will not…be…undone…by some girl…” said Mordru threw his gritted teeth.

Maziah stared him right back in the eyes with her own teeth gritted. “I am the White Witch,” she said clearly. “Daughter of Mordru the Merciless. Protector of the Earth. And you will be undone!

A flash of light suddenly flooded the room, blasting off Maziah’s hands as the physical bond between the two was broken.

Instantly, all of them fell backwards to the floor, including Mordru and Maziah. As the girls regained their senses, they realized the basilica was falling down around them.

Dreamer stood up, looking around. “Maziah!” she called out. “Are you okay?!”

“I am,” said the White Witch struggling to her feet. “I…I believe he is…defeated?” as she said the words, she almost could not believe it herself. She was now entirely white, including her hair. Only a trickle of red blood ran down her nose giving her color.

“…not…yet…child…” said a cruel, rough voice as they turned to see Mordru struggling to rise to his feet. For the first time, they could see him as he truly was. His skin was shriveled up as a prune; he was hairless except for some white fuzz along the top of his head. He was gaunt and old, almost a skeleton.

The Dark Lord had been beaten. Maziah dueled her father—and had won!

“Stand down, father!” commanded Maziah.

“…foolish witch…so long as I live, I can kill you all…” he said, rising to his feet. In his heart he knew he was beaten. But he had decided long ago that if he would die, he would take everything he could with him.

No, Mordru. You will not kill anything ever again.

The six girls heard the voice and were filled in confusion. It came from no single source but was everywhere around them. Five of them did not know it at first, but Maziah knew who it was.

Tears ran down her face. “Blok?” she said. “I knew I would see you again!” she almost yelled, smiling.

“I have returned one last time, Maziah. For the Earth has suffered long and hard under Mordru. It now comes to judge him once and for all, and to carry out the sentence”

Mordru was looking around as well. “Show yourself brotherless one!” he tried to yell, his voice barely above a whisper.

”I AM HERE” said the voice, and suddenly the Earth rumbled and the girls were gain knocked off their feet. A giant Earthquake ripped through Yemen, centered on Xerox the Secret City. A giant fissure opened up across the floor below them, and all at once, the city itself began falling into it.

“…no...not like this…” said Mordru in one last act of defiance but he was too weak to resist, and as another rumble occurred, the ground shook and Mordru too fell into the fissure.

The six girls looked up, realizing they had to get out of the danger zone. The Earth in front of them suddenly lifted high into the sky, and they could see it come barreling forward, going into the fissure, as if burying Mordru in a vast, endless tomb within the core of the Earth itself.

As the dirt fell forward, a figure formed within the cascade of falling dirt and sand, and it was the image of Blok.

You have done well child, as I always knew you would. I am proud of you.

The White Witch floated forward to where Blok was, holding out her hand to grasp him but it was only dirt and sand running back into the Earth. He would be there only another moment. “I will miss you, Blok,” she said, a tear running down her face.

“I will always be with you. Feel no sadness in your heart, Maziah. You and your friends have accomplished a great thing. The world has cured itself of a blight long left untreated. Now it will heal. Now it will grow. At the forefront will be you and your allies.

“Thank you,” she said. She could see the last droplets of dirt and sand running down into where the fissure was. The fissure was now gone, filled up to where the level ground now stood.

No, Maziah. Thank you.

And he was gone forever, as was the Dark Lord.

#123657 - 06/11/12 07:47 AM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
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If you don't want my peaches, ...
Xerox, the Secret City
Yemen


Maziah turned to the others to see that the city of Xerox was now gone—fallen all around them with not even ruins to show it had been there. The five other girls looked at her, and beyond them, the assembled magic users could now see in; there were no caves or mountains or valleys barring their vision. It was all gone.

The earthquake had stopped but suddenly another rumbling began to occur. This one began slower with a deep hum. Then it began to build and everything began to shake. Not just the ground—it was as if the sky itself was shaking.

And then a great light shot forth from the Earth, exploding outwards once again.

This time no one was knocked off their feet, though the wisest among them realized this quake was much, much more powerful.

“What was that?” asked Tela to Sensor, confused.

Sensor did not understand herself but her powers gave her insight. “A spellquake of some kind…? Something magical has happened.”

“Yes,” said the voice of Dr. Occult, who approached them from a distance. “A spellquake could be the correct term. For thousands of years Mordru has inflicted the world with spells and enchantments. With his undoing, they are all undone.”

“That much and more, Occult,” said his companion, the Phantom Stranger. “Most if not all spells are being undone. Mordru’s fall is the greatest shift since the fall of Ekron. The ramifications are unknown. This age of magic is now at an end; a new one begins henceforth.”

“What does it mean?” asked Umbra, confused.

“It means goodbye, for me,” said the Black Pirate, as he approached them. Already, he had begun to fade.

“Goodbye?” said Umbra. A sudden sadness overtook her, realizing the truth of his words.

“Do not be sad, fair one,” he said. “A curse that long ago should have run its course is being snuffed out. I can depart this plane now for good. I can also bask in the knowledge of the important role I played in altering the course of magic history.”

“I’ll miss you Jon Valor,” she said, surprised by the words.

“Give my farewells to the other lovelies,” he said with a wicked, dashing smile. And suddenly he was gone.

Umbra turned to Sensor, somewhat confused by the whole thing. Sensor could see outwards with her powers and see it was happening all over. She knew they would never know the full effects of what happened.

“Jacquie,” said a quiet voice. She turned to see Sara Romanescu, the Emerald Empress, by her side. She looked as exhausted as Sensor was, and the tone of her voice suggested this was not going to be another confrontation. Even if they wished to, neither had the strength to fight one another right now.

“Sara,” replied Jacquie. “Thank you. I…you…I—thank you.” She smiled at her.

Sara nodded. There was too much between them now and it was better to leave it unsaid. She had killed over a hundred innocents and that could not be forgotten. She spoke once more, this time with finality. “Good bye, Jacquie. I know I’ll see you again.”

Sensor nodded, a tear running down her cheek as she realized that for the briefest of moments, she had her friend back. And now she never would be again. “Until then,” she replied.

And the Emerald Empress flew off and the telepathic circle was broken forever.

To the side, Maziah was still in shock over the defeat of her father and the final farewell to Blok. Dreamer walked over to her and wrapped her arms around her in a hug. “It’s over, Maziah,” she said, equally as surprised. “He’s gone. Father is gone.”

“I believed it could be done. In the end, I started to believe. And now it is.” The White Witch felt a sudden wave of emotion well up inside her and she grabbed her sister tight and hugged her. “Everything I’ve ever known is gone now,” she said to Nura. “I do not know what place I have in the world,” she said.

Before Nura could answer, the man named Dr. Occult answered for her. Among the remaining magic-users he shouted “All Hail the White Witch!”. The crowd responded:

All Hail the White Witch!”.

*******************************

The magic-users dispersed on their own, and the girls were left with just each other again. The Emerald Empress now gone, it was the five who journeyed on the Black Pirate’s ship there: Tela, Dreamer, Sensor, Umbra and the White Witch.

Mordru was defeated and the world seemed a little brighter. The Earth was healing itself. People felt less anxiety and fear.

“It won’t last though,” said Tela, sensing their common thoughts. “Others will try to instill that same kind of evil on the world.”

Sensor understood where she was going with it. “And we’ll be there, waiting to stop them. And we will be Legion.”

END

#123658 - 06/11/12 07:47 AM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
Joined: Sep 2003
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If you don't want my peaches, ...
Earth War
Epilogues


All around the world, celebrations erupted in cities, towns and everywhere. The Earth War, brief yet devastating was now over. And the victors were content that the good side won.

In Khundia, there were celebrations in the streets. A military dictatorship had been overthrown and the darkness had been cast aside for light. People were cheering and feeling optimistic for the first time in living memory. Zaryan was dead and the war was over. They would try for a democracy now; it would not be easy, but they would try.

In Paris, the Legionnaires celebrated equally as hard. They had reached their lowest point and came out the other side victorious. Tensions were set aside as they embraced one another and cheered. Those who fought in Khundia, those who fought through espionage and those who fought the Dark Lord were all reunited.

Lovers kissed deeply and friends held each other tightly. Tears of joy, and tears of sadness, were shed in remembrance of all that occurred. The Earth War was over.

*********************

The Legionnaires gathered in front of United Nations General-Secretary Chu, Ambassador Relnic and the Countess Winema Wazzo. “I plan on awarding you publicly, and with great ceremony,” she said with a smile. “And as glamorous as I can make it, it will never be enough. But first…I just wanted to tell you thank you. Thank all of you,” she said, and even she could not resist a tear going down her cheek.

“And you non-Legionnaires as well,” said Relnic in reference to the Sentinels.

“We’re all Legionnaires, sir,” said Leviathan firmly.

Catalyst smiled at the comment.

“Does that mean what I think it means…?” said Matter-Eater Lad with a smile.

“I think so,” said Flare smiling back at him. “I think we just got inducted into the Legion!” he cheered and they all cheered.

“Will this cause you problems with your superiors?” asked Mon-El to Leviathan.

“Yes,” he replied, “but I just don’t care about that for the moment.” He had a big smile on his face. He intended for Mon-El, Umbra, the White Witch, Flare, Matter-Eater Lad, Dawnstar and Ultra Boy to join the Legion and for Spirit to rejoin. They deserved it.

Mon-El studied him for a minute. “Jim, thank you. And I’m sorry for shouting at you that day. I was—“

As Mon-El reached for the words, Leviathan cut him off. “It was an honor,” he said. “And it will be an honor every day to serve with you,” he added.

Mon-El shook his hand.

***********************

“I’m going to make sure Blok and Atmos are inducted too,” said Tela to Livewire. “Posthumously. It feels like the right thing to do.”

Livewire nodded. “And one other. Even if only honorary,” he said.

She looked at him curiously as if to ask Who?.

“RJ,” he said.

She nodded as he eyes teared up and he hugged her again.

*************************

Spirit hugged her mom as tight as she could. “Mother,” she said with a smile. “What’s this I hear about you showing up in Yemen?”

“Shh dear,” said the Countess, “that would be ridiculous,” she added sarcastically. “What’s this I hear about this Ultra Boy and you sharing a moment before your little mission…?” she asked right back at Tina.

“Moooooooother!” said Tina but with a smile. For the first time in her life, it felt so right to be around her mother.

As she hugged her, Tina spied Fantomas across the room to the side. “One moment, Mother,” she said. “I have to thank someone for something.”

************************

Fantomas, the spy Jacques Focquart, was standing beside his sister Danielle. Nearby, King Faraday was talking to the US Ambassador to the United Nations, George Whittington. Spirit walked up to him, interrupting his conversation with his sister.

“Jacques,” she said.

He turned, saw who it was and smiled. “Hello Tina, I was just—“

Before he could finish, she gave him a tight hug. Tighter than any she had ever given before. “Thank you,” she said, a tear running down her face. She remembered how he saved her from Firefist—she would always remember.

“My pleasure,” he said firmly.

Invisible Kid was suddenly by their side. “I’m requesting that you be made an Honorary Member too, Jacques,” he said. “We felt after what we went through, that…well, it just felt right.”

“I would indeed be honored,” said Jacques sincerely. He motioned towards King Faraday. “You’re not doing the same for old skull and bones are you? I’m not sure what he’d say.”

“No, I don’t think so,” said Lyle seriously. He looked over at Matter-Eater Lad who was laughing with Flare. “He’s not quite Legion material.”

Tenz had told them all how Faraday assassinated Zaryan and they were all horrified—especially because in a way they were co-conspirators. As far as Lyle was concerned, he hoped he never saw King Faraday again.

****************************

Valor and Sensor held each other close, elated to be reunited and knowing the other was safe. When Sensor went off to spend time with her ‘sisters’ of the telepathic circle, Valor made sure to check on Ferro.

Andy seemed to be fitting in better though he remained quiet and a little aloof. He still wore the metal mask over this face to everyone’s horror, but it provided him some comfort.

Val could not help but notice that he was distraught over something though. “What’s the matter, Andy?” he asked frankly. “Something has been bothering you since we won. You should be happy!”

“It’s Conal,” he said sadly. “I never found him after Khundia. It’s like he just cut out. I was hoping…well, I was hoping he’d join the Legion. Or I don’t know, at least say goodbye. He just took off without even a word.”

*************************

The Legionnaires could hardly sleep that evening despite being beyond exhausted. But they eventually did, after spending several days in Paris helping clean up and put everything in order. Throughout that time, the anticipation continued to build as the Legionnaires knew that soon, they were going home.

“So we’ll finally get to see Legion HQ?” said Flare with a smile.

“Yes,” replied Sensor. “Though everything will be different now. It will be new to everyone.”

“Okaaaaay,” said Matter-Eater Lad with a laugh at the cryptic comment. “At least no more UN Ambassadors and political tip-towing!” he added.

“Yeah, right,” said Catalyst with a smile. “Wait until you meet Metternich.”

“Or President Luthor!” said Invisible Kid and they both laughed.

*************************

At last the day came where they were leaving Paris. For the Sentinels—now Legionnaires which would soon be made official—it felt odd. As if they were leaving one home for another, even though they technically never had a home.

It fees like we’re leaving a lot behind though, thought Sensor. Our whole quest. Our purpose. Blok.

She waited some distance away from Dreamer and the White Witch who gazed out at the city of Paris as it underwent massive reconstruction. She knew in her heart what Maziah was going to tell Nura, and she knew Nura had not realized.

“It will be rebuilt,” said Dreamer to the White Witch with a smile. “All of it. Paris, Marseille, Palermo. They were hit hard but they survived and they can rebuild. It inspires a certain amount of optimism,” she added with a sincere smile.

She put her arm around Maziah’s as they overlooked the city. “Spring is here,” said Maziah suddenly. “The winter chill is going away. Things are growing again.”

“I’d forgotten all about it, to be honest,” said Dreamer. It had been easy to lose track of the time elapsed during the Earth War. All in all, it was only several, albeit deadly, weeks.

“Nura,” said Maziah, turning to her sister. “I’m not going to come with you. To the Legion, I mean. I…want to. But there are other things I must tend to.”

Dreamer was confused. She did not foresee this. “Like what, Maziah? We can help you with those things. The Legion is our home now.”

“No, Nura,” she replied. “It’s your home. And it’s a good one. They are good people and I’m so happy you are with them. But I have a different path now. The path of the White Witch.”

Dreamer was surprised by the bombshell but after a few moments realized she should not be. Perhaps she always knew Maziah would not join the Legion. “Please tell me we’ll see each other though. Regularly.” Her voice was soft and Maziah knew it could break into tears at any moment.

“Of course,” she replied. She held her sister tight.

*************************

Once news spread of Maziah’s pending exit from the group, it was Spirit who decided to get them all together one last time. She told some of them outright why they should meet in the study room, and others she just gave a sly excuse. She sought out Maziah last and asked her to accompany her to the study with a smile on her face. Maziah was initially cautious but Tina’s smile became infectious. They had become friends, Tina and Maziah, though neither were each other’s closest confidante. Perhaps we’ve become better friends that I thought, thought Spirit with a little bit of sadness.

Spirit led the White Witch into the room and there they had all gathered: The Sentinels of Magic. That was the name they had come up with jokingly but it had stuck. Now that they were going to be Legionnaires, the name would fade away. This moment would the last time it had any use. Umbra. Mon-El. Sensor. Flare. Matter-Eater Lad. Valor. Spirit. Dawnstar. Ultra Boy. And the White Witch.

Maziah felt a tear run down her cheek and saw that a lot of them were crying too. They all hugged her tightly to say good bye, most of them unable to find the words.

#123659 - 06/23/12 06:38 PM Re: 21st Century Legion (vol. 2)  
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 56,676
Invisible Brainiac Offline
Unseen, not unheard
Invisible Brainiac  Offline
Unseen, not unheard

Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 56,676
Wouldn't you like to know?
Earth War
Epilogues


"I'm going to miss Asia," Flash said wistfully as the Legionnaires' plane got ready for take off.

"Maybe, but I'll miss missing our victory celebration even more!" Kinetix retorted. "Amazon and I have been Skype-ing with Spirit and Violet, and we have one big bash planned when we're all back."

"We DID think of making it a girls-only thing," Amazon teased, "but you boys did prove yourselves useful so you get an invite."

"Aw, and here I was hoping I'd get to do my Chu interpretation," Shifter joked. He gave a mock scowl and pointed a finger at Amazon, "Isn't it way past your bedtime, young lady? But you can stay up late if you invite me!"

"Yeah, like we'd really invite her," Amihan giggled. "She'd probably have a banquet and snap at us for using the wrong spoons for our soup. Or getting food stains on the napkins. Sorry, ma'am," she said in her most serious voice as she made a mock curtsy.

Everyone, even Wildfire and Hygeia, laughed. Though they'd only met her a handful of times, they all knew of Chu's manner.

"If you did make an all-girls thing, we'd just make an all-boys thing too," Starboy quipped. "Although we definitely would not invite Metternich either!"

"Maybe we could tell him Earthwar was continuing in Antarctica," Polarity said with a straight face.

"And if he asks for a Legionnaire escort, we'll volunteer you, Polarity!" Flash teased.

"And if he can't find anything in Antarctica, we'll tell him the enemy's invisible!" Wildfire roared.

The joking around continued on for a bit before the Legionnaires settled down. Spirits were running high; after all, they'd successfully defended Asia against unimaginable forces.

They had won.

*************************************************

Wildfire handed Hygeia a can of soda, and raised his open can. "Cheers to our successful first mission as Legionnaires!"

Hygeia smiled at his thoughtfulness. "Yes, we managed to survive and not destroy anything important along the way."

"Hey, if anything did blow up it wasn't me!" Wildfire laughed.

"And if anyone did come down with cholera, it wasn't me either!"

The two toasted their success, with Wildfire destroying his can as a way of "consuming" it. They were both excited to see what else would come their way.

*************************************************

"Thanks again for all your help," Kinetix smiled at Blizzard.

"Erm, ah... It was no bother. I was glad to assist you while you were recovering," Blizzard stammered.

"Oh, I meant in the jungle, guiding me to the castle, and tackling the king. But yes, I'd heard you stayed watch from time to time. That was really nice too."

Blizzard blushed a deep crimson, though he tried to hide it. He disliked how awkward he was being. But he didn't really know how to approach foreign girls. Back home, strong customs governed courtship and everything was quite predictable. If a man and a woman did not like one another, that was it. These foreign girls could be so independent and unpredictable.

What was it that the other boys on the tea had advised him? Just be cool. He tried to appear casual and leaned back. "Well, we are teammates after all. And I could not let Quislet take watch over you. That would not have been good at all."

Kinetix gave a small laugh. "I'd probably ask to still be in the hospital now if so!" She touched him lightly on the arm. "Thanks again," she said as she stood up to sit beside Amazon and Flash.

Blizzard wiped his brow as Starboy gave him a thumbs-up. Perhaps he would not mess up after all.

*************************************************
"I can't wait to meet the others," Element Lad added. Though they'd made introductions briefly over Skype, meeting them in person would be much more different. "They seem interesting, and our team will be all the better for it with our new additions."

Kid Quantum nodded. "We NEED to meet them. We can't function well as a team if we're not familiar with each others' powers. And there are so many of us now."

"You are really beginning to sound like a leader."

Kid Quantum blushed slightly at that compliment. "I'm just doing my job. Cos did put me in charge on the way here."

"Although many cultures would say that everything that did happen was opportune and for a reason. Many of the powers of the reinforcements were crucial to our win - and so were your insights and tactics. We may not have won if even one of us had been absent. Perhaps even the new Legionnaires, and the changes in our organization as a result of Earthwar, are happening for a reason. As the ancient Greeks would describe it - "Kairos", or the supreme moment. We must take advantage of changing times."

Kid Quantum nodded. "That is wise, but... well, let's just say we as a team have a lot to discuss when we get back home."

"You are right. And we must work together as a team to prepare for our future." Element Lad looked thoughtful for a moment. "You know, Kairos would make a nice code name for you. You always do know how to use your powers at the best times."

Kid Quantum was slightly taken aback. "Are you implying something about my code name?"

"No, no, nothing like that. Although Kairos is shorter and easier to remember... it is not in English, but then not many people are familiar with quantum physics either."

Kid Quantum thought for a moment. She HAD been the subject of teasing by Spark, Kinetix and others before about her Kid Quantum name. Finally, she smiled. "I like that suggestion." Picking up her IPod, she quickly drafted an email to Cos and Leviathan. "Effective immediately, I'd like to change my code name to Kairos..."

*************************************************

Rebound raised his eyebrow as he saw his IPod. Copied were himself, Shifter, Kid Quantum (Cos really was serious about putting her in charge of the reinforcements, he thought), Leviathan, Live Wire and Tela - the Legionnaires-in-charge of each mission. "Did you get Cos' email, Shifter?"

His teammate nodded. "Makes sense, though. With our new additions, and the things we've all been through, we do have a lot to discuss."

Rebound nodded mournfully. "I just hope nobody leaves. After all, the world is a big place - you can't ever have too many Legionnaires."

"And it would be nice if we could all stay together, huh? Especially the "early waves". You, me, Cos, Trinity..." Shifter emphasized the last name. Rebound pretended not to catch it. "Yes, all of us."

Shifter gace him a quizzical glance, then patted him on the shoulder. "She'll be alright. We all will."

Rebound allowed his friend a smile. "Yeah, we will."

*************************************************

Everyone settled back and smiled peacefully as they dozed off to sleep. Tomorrow, they would be home. For many of them, it was, and always would be their first real home.

#123660 - 07/05/12 07:36 PM 21CL: Legionnaires #9 & Academy L #6, part 1  
Joined: Jul 2003
Posts: 10,958
Reboot Offline
I want to escape, back to sweeter days-kinder days
Reboot  Offline

I want to escape, back to sweeter days-kinder days

Joined: Jul 2003
Posts: 10,958
The Mainframe
Earth War: Casualties of War
Part One


Day Three of the Earth War.
Two days after the Academy Siege, one day after the Coast City Collapse.


Dani Moonstar sat alone in the corridor, waiting for the verdict. She was alone by choice, even though she would have preferred deep down to have Shan, or Sofia or... someone there. This was something she had to face herself.
___________

In the aftermath of the Academy siege, most of the students had been taken to the Legion's medibay - where those who had been knocked out where kept overnight for observation out of routine and discharged, while Sandy's wounds were stitched and Sul's shoulder and ankle strapped up.

Now, only two patients remained, their friends at their bedside - Rocco McCloud and Noriko Ashida. The rampaging monster and the girl who'd stopped him. Both stripped of their accoutrements - the spell that had mutated Rocco so and sent him mad, the collar that had made control for Nori possible. And both deeply, deeply unconscious.
___________

The sound of feet tapping irregularly on the ground made Dani look up. A redhaired girl... Spark, wasn't it?... had come out of the lab and was walking toward her. Almost unconsciously, Dani noted that the irregular tapping was because her left ankle was in plaster, and that she was carrying a walking stick without using it every step, her mind picking up on facts to avoid what was coming.

Spark reached her, and smiled, "Hi, I'm Ella. Do you want to come in?"

"No." Dani forced a grin to pretend she didn't mean it, and followed Ella into the lab.

Inside were two people. One - the Legion's resident brainiac, Quentin "Dox" Docks - was already standing, facing her, his green face carrying a look of mild irritation. The other, lying unconscious on a table, was what Dani's visit was all about - the scarred, one-eyed duplicate of herself who had killed one student herself, then twisted Rocco into the rampage that had injured several students and lead to his and Nori's comas. She - it - was the last thing Dani wanted to look at, but she forced herself to stare, carefully noting where the scars were. If the worst was confirmed, she had to make sure she didn’t just give one or more of them an origin. She would not, could not, become that.

Rather than greet her, Dox immediately said "Before we start, what are your powers?"

Out of the corner of her eye, Dani could see Spark glare at Dox, but just answered "Basal telepathic manipulation and illusion-casting - I can generate an illusion based on what someone's image of joy, desire, pride, fear, despair and so forth is with them in the centre; or generate a simple bolt to stun them."

"Nothing animal-related?"

"If what you're asking is 'do I have powers like her'," she spat the pronoun out, "mine have varied considerably since they originally emerged a decade ago - it took years and a lot of effort to achieve even a degree of stability. There was a time when I could fully communicate with animals, and I still get an occasional low-level read from them - but that isn't consistent, so I rarely try."

"Could you give me a quick demonstration of your current powerset, please? For the record, as much as anything else."

"Here, on you?" Dani wanted to get this over with. Prolonging it by being on the other side of some impromptu emergent assessment wasn't what she had in mind.

"Why not?"

"Sometimes the subject has a very strong reaction, or shows something really embarrassing. You might not want your colleague here to see..."

"I think I'm intelligent enough to deal with a little illusion."

Something inside Dani just snapped at that. It wasn't just the patronising tone, or the smirk on his face, or the fact she REALLY wanted to know what the f██king deal was with her double and anything that delayed that just got in the way. It was all three. And she knew exactly the emotion to teach him a lesson.

Without another word, the room seemed to darken. Spark was inclined to move in, but Dani held her back - Dox wouldn't see her anyway, Dani was pushing hard enough that the outside world probably wouldn't register for him short of an earthquake. Everyone would see it, but only he would feel the psychic backwash.

Eleven figures gradually appeared, five male and six female. All were young children. And all had numbers instead of faces, By number, they alternated in pairs - two males, then two females - in a half-circle around Dox, except that there was no young boy bearing a 5. Dani heard Spark mutter something about a "Brainiac Program" and guessed that Dox himself was the missing figure.

"Really, is this the best you can do?" Dox's words were as arrogant as before as he called toward Dani, but was his voice that bit quicker, or was it just her imagination?

"Why did you forget about us?" 4 spoke with the voice of a young girl to match her figure.

"Can't you even remember our faces?" 8, another girl.

"You don't even care, do you?" 6, a boy.

"Do you know how to care?" 9.

Dox had seemed to be ignoring the questions, but was that beads of sweat Dani had begun to see on his forehead?

"Did you just like being the 'successful' one?" 3.

Suddenly, Dox began to speak, in a low, level voice, "You were all ill from birth, and you vanished while a young child. Logically, you had all died."

Curious now despite herself, Dani began to change course, from guilt to frustration...

"And yet, you didn't even check." 12.

"Even if you were right, would STAR simply throw away material they could use for something else?" 6.

"Were you glad we seemed gone so we didn't compete with you for access?" 2.

"Until you realised Brainiacs were the Intellectual Property of STAR Labs, and your 'free' reign was nothing of the sort, at least." 10.

"When they threw you in a cage after causing trouble." 7.

"And to get out, even just on parole with the Legion, you agreed to sign everything you ever make over to them and never quit." 11.

"Such a stupid thing to do." 1.

"Enough." Dox's voice rang clear out for Dani to hear. Moments later, the numbered children dissolved.

If he was rattled, good, thought Dani. "Can we get on? You're intelligent enough to deal with a little illusion."

He stared at her for one hard second, then said "I'll be back in a moment," and left the room.

"Was there any need for that?" Spark demanded

"He asked for it. Literally. I'm just here to find out what the deal with THAT thing is." Dani pointed to her double on the table.
___________

Back in the medibay, Ming Sul (whose name, by Western standards, would have been ordered as "Sul Ming") sat back in her chair and stared at the ceiling. Her own injuries from the siege had been patched up for now, but she'd remained to sit by Nori's bedside, hoping her close friend and former roommate would wake up. Her current roommate - Sofia Mantega, Dani's adoptive daughter - was also there, nearer Nori's head, staring forward. She wondered who Sofia was thinking of more, Nori or Dani.

"Hi girl."

Caught by surprise at the familiar voice, Sul spun round to see Igor Kuria standing there. Hopping up, she threw her good arm around him until he winced with pain. She backed off and answered her roommate's quizzical look, "Sofia, this is Igor, one of the guys I met on my travels. We found him when we were looking for help for Nori, and he made her collar before he joined the Legion. Igor, this is Sofia, my roommate."

"You been in the wars too?"

"Horde of rampaging animals attacked the school, I got thrown off the back of my possessed classmate into a tree. You know how it is. You?"

"Triple-crash. A booby trap in equipment disagreed with me, I flattened rock monsters with a truck and was on a building when it fell down. The last one was the killer - I'm all rewired and cross-patched inside to keep going while I heal," He popped open his right arm to demonstrate, and Sul saw that rather than the usual neatly-arranged circuitry, there was a tangle of wiring around a visibly damaged core. "hence being here instead of back out there like Tom is." He clipped the skin-plate back on his arm and nodded his head in Nori's direction. "How is she?"

"The doctor says she might wake up any time - they took her for some scans yesterday, and they said that not only can't they see any brain injury, but her overall brain activity is good; it looks more like she's just, well, sleeping than comatose.

"What gets me though is that the lights haven't flickered once, and with the size of her last burst she was probably completely discharged. You weren't there in Siberia when her charge ran low, but she was half-dead then - so if she's not taking anything on, I don't know if she'll wake up until she does." Sul paused for a moment, before asking "Anything you can do?"

"Tol' you - I'm using everything I've got spare to keep me upright. But even aside from that, if I tried again her neck would be nothing but scar tissue before long."

Sul murmured something unintelligible, then said "Tik's going to go spare if she's still like this when he sees her."

"He doesn't know?"

"He gated most of the Academy into hiding, and they're meant to stay out-of-contact for at least a week unless the all-clear's given sooner. Nori was meant to go with them, but... well, it's Nori. She had her own ideas. And she must have known her collar was about to go. I'd bet she wanted to go out in a blaze of glory." Her injured arm at her side, Sul clasped its' elbow with her left hand and looked down at the Japanese girl, sighing. Igor put his hand around her good shoulder to tried to reassure her.
_______

"So, on the subject of your duplicate," Dox said as he strode back into the lab, catching both Dani and Ella off-guard, "she doesn't seem to be an imposter, per se."

"Meaning?" Cold dread clutched at Dani as his words sank in.

"The DNA ’fingerprint’ and surviving retina print match. We couldn’t access the fingerprints for comparison - the armour had an undersheath of sorts that enveloped most of her body from the shoulders downward, which we haven't been able to remove - but if the retina print matches, they're likely to as well. I think we can say with reasonable certainty that this is as much Danielle Moonstar as you."

Dani nodded, resigned. She would have to put her affairs in order quickly. Sofia would be hard - she probably wouldn't understand anyway, but as a Catholic, she had especially strong opinions about sui...

"But it isn’t you."

She wanted to react, explode with a loud "WHAT?!". Instead, her knees threatened to give way, and she folded herself downward, squatting on tiptoe, her torso resting on her legs. After a moment like that, the relief abated enough for her to raise her head up and ask "How?"

"The teeth. A few points were suggested, but the primary diagnostic one was the second molar on the upper left. It's virtually unworn, which means the corresponding adult tooth on the lower left must have been lost very soon after it grew in. By comparison, you have both the teeth in question, and the upper one has what a dentist considered to be a normal level of wear for a decade or so of use."

Pulling herself up using the nearest table, Dani took a moment to consider what he had said. As the shakiness in her legs abated, there was only one important question left. "So... what IS she?" She chided herself for admitting her double's personhood, but didn't take it back.

"I don't know." In the background, Ella giggled lightly at Dox's admission, but he continued. "I could speculate, true - it may be a servant of Mordru who was imperfectly transformed into a copy of you, either through a spell or under their own power. It may be some sort of clone, although the retina print being identical and tooth wear would be hard to explain in that event. There's even an indication from another case that Mordru had some level of interaction with alternate realities, and it may be a literal alternate version of you. But there's no hard data to say how she came to be."

"Have you asked...?"

"We haven't dared let her awaken - Ryker's power-damping cells are already full, and given her attack on the Academy, allowing her to regain consciousness outside one is not an option. Outside of examinations, we've been forced to keep her in an old McCauley stasis booth - which is a legal minefield, at best, and certainly isn't a long-term solution." A thought suddenly occurred to him, "The Academy has a power-dam--"

"NO!" Dani almost screamed the word, shocking herself. She tried to pull herself back together, "It hardly makes sense to expect pupils to share a building with-- with someone who killed one of them, left two comatose, injured others and forced the whole school to be evacuated, does it?"

"There may be no alternative. It will take months to construct an extension of, or alternative to, Ryker's. Takron Corp's Galtos prison ship was already under construction pre-war, but even that's at least four months away."

"Isn't there someone less risky? Even the monkey guy who brainwashed women hasn't tried to kill a whole school!"

"They can't transfer anyone tried and convicted outside of prison. On the other hand, this copy of you may never come to trial - depending on the outcome of the war, she may even be exchanged in some sort of prisoner exchange. "

"Look, for now we'll keep her on ice. But this isn't a solution, and you should prepare yourself for the worst."
_____

Outside, Dani leaned heavily against the wall. The worst... the worst hadn't come to be. It wasn't herself from the future.

But some of what had been said was bad enough, especially the suggestion that this... clone-thing... might end up in the Academy basement.

She needed a friend to talk to.

And lots of alcohol.

She pulled out her phone and tapped out a number she knew well. "Shan, it's Dani. Are you busy tonight?"
__________

"Q, are you okay?" Quentin was trying to act as if everything was normal, but Spark could see faint traces of... uncertainty?... in her best friend.

"I'm fine."

"You don't LOOK fine. And you've barely mentioned anything about the Brainiac Program, let alone that something like that's been eating away at you since before we first met."

"It's not been 'eating away' - as the apparitions said, I've hardly thought about them in years."

"Are they--"

"Representations of the other subjects from the Brainiac program, yes. It's not a major concern." Spark snorted, but Dox simply continued, "If anything, I've been wondering more about what you've been wanting to tell me since California but have seized up every time you were about to say it."

Ella blushed, and said "Stop trying to change the subject. Your--"

"--'problem' is an old hurt at most. Whatever you want to discuss is more urgent, surely. Tell me."

"Q..."

"Well, if you won't, let me guess." He stared at her for five seconds, then continued, "I suppose you want to resign, but being aware that I can't is making you nervous about saying so to me."

Spark almost objected, but ended up sitting with her mouth open, stuck in about-to-speak mode for several seconds. It was true, after all. Damn him - how did he--? "...yeah," she ended up stating weakly. A raised eyebrow made her continue. "Every time I try to sleep, I'm seeing stuff like that SHIELD agent's sleeve and the great big crater. It just made me realise I'm not cut out to be a soldier, and that's what I have to be, to be here. You're right. Hell, Laurel was right when she Got Out. It's a stupid thing to want to be, and I was just being stubborn when I insisted. Obviously, I can't quit in mid-war, bad leg or no, so if I'm healed before it's done I'll have to go back out - but when we win, as soon as I can I'm gone."

'When' they won? Dox wondered if she'd not been keeping up with news from the European front, or whether she was just being optimistic. "If that's what you want to do, I'm not going to try and keep you. I'm not that much of a hypocrite." He forced a smile. He nearly added 'Enjoy your freedom', but decided it would sound too sarcastic.

Ella limped over and hugged him tight for a minute, then broke. "I'm just sorry you can't escape too."

"You're not out yet." He continued to force a smile.

"True." She started limping toward the door, then remembered her walking stick. As she picking up her stick on the way, and began leaning on it at least 40% harder, Dox adjudged, than she had to, then was gone.

Quentin looked at the clock. A full hour until Agent Carpenter was due to arrive. He went to his chair and rested his head in his hand for a minute, resisting the urge to smash. As a Legionnaire, he was nothing - untrusted with any sort of classified material he might be able to decipher and so help the war effort, not allowed to invent anything that might aid the team, he was virtually limited to being some sort of auxiliary doctor - when they already had a perfectly competent specimen!

All because he'd refused to play along with the concept that he was the property of Cadmus/STAR. As a result, he had been imprisoned, and ultimately "freed" to a strictly limited parole as a mascot.

If the other eleven brainiacs were dead, he decided, they were the lucky ones.

He spent five minutes considering what to do, an eternity for him. Then he went to a bag and pulled out a phone. The phone was unremarkable in any detail, except for its' incongruity in the lab full of bleeding-edge, up-to-date equipment. Instead, it was several years old - practically ancient in phone terms - and had been a very basic model even when new. It wasn't like him at all. And that was the whole point.

He looked at it. A voice seemed to run through his head, saying You're being emotional. That mindf██k and Ella quitting's rattled you. You shouldn't do this. For a moment, he almost thought the residue of the "maze incident" had come loose in his head, but dismissed it. It was just him, internally-vocalising some of his own fears.

But the larger fear went in the opposite direction. A fear of growing old, still trapped.

There would be a price to pay, but...

He shook his head, turned the phone on, and began to tap out a text...

To be continued


My views are my own and do not reflect those of everyone else... and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Cobalt, Reboot & iB present 21st Century Legion: Earth War .
#123661 - 08/06/12 04:13 AM 21CL: Legionnaires #9 & Academy L #6, part 2  
Joined: Jul 2003
Posts: 10,958
Reboot Offline
I want to escape, back to sweeter days-kinder days
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I want to escape, back to sweeter days-kinder days

Joined: Jul 2003
Posts: 10,958
The Mainframe
Earth War: Casualties of War
Part Two


Day Three of the Earth War, late afternoon

Dox was looking over the reply to the text message when there was a buzz at the door, and he barely had time to put the phone away before Agent Carpenter walked in. She'd stayed in one of the Legion's ever-shrinking number of guest rooms - a corollary to their ever-growing roster - overnight, but while she'd cleaned herself up and changed out of her SHIELD uniform into a casual black and white outfit, she was yet another person who didn't look like they'd slept a wink.

Ignoring this, he motioned her to a seat near a monitor before sitting in front of it himself, though he didn't disturb the screensaver just yet. "Where do you want to start?" He didn't necessarily want a long conversation, but her biodata was some of the most interesting he'd been allowed to see for some time.

"My head." Julia opened simply, before continuing, "my memory problems are getting more frequent. Now, it isn't just my second in command's name or a specific clause in SHIELD regulations. Sometimes, like now, I'm alright, but I'm having... vague spells. Times I can barely remember my own name." She didn't have to add that she was scared. It was written all over her face.

Inwardly, Dox sighed. He'd wanted to leave that until a telepath was around - preferably Tela, since she had by far the most experience in these matters - since he had little actual information to give her. But if it had to be done... "I haven't seen the data for myself, but I'm told that the magnetic resonance scan you had this morning showed nothing particularly unusual in your brain's physical structure. Certainly nothing which would explain any cognitive degradation, anyway."

"Which, in practical terms, means what?"

"The doctors are baffled."

"Some help..."

"I have an idea, myself, but it could be wrong - I need more data first. You said you had some photos to show me."

Slightly confused, Julia pulled out a picture from her pocket and handed it to Dox. "Just one. Take a look at my right bicep and my belly."

The photo had been taken at a beach resort and featured Julia, wearing a black bikini, and a young girl Dox presumed was her daughter. Looking at the areas indicated, Dox saw a prominent white scar against the tanned skin on her right arm, but only a couple of faint stretch marks on her abdomen.

"I see. And now...?"

Julia shrugged her jacket off, and pulled up the short sleeve of her blouse to shoulder level. "Firstly, the scar on my right arm has gone."

"And your 'belly'?"

She unbuttoned the lower half of her blouse and pulled it open, to show a vertical scar running from her navel to below the waistband of her slacks. "This is a caesarian section scar. Now, I was fairly sure even before I saw that picture, but with my memory... problems... I double-checked with my doctor before looking for a photo to be sure - and, yes, I had a natural birth for my one and only child. Are you saying that's related to my memory trouble?"

Dox struggled to hide his excitement. Logically, he knew the dangers of twisting data to fit theories, but this all fit... "I'm sure it's all related. Certainly, it fits with what I had been thinking about, at least."

"Which is..."

"That isn't your body."

"What?! I mean, I know I'm... different, since I couldn't lift a car before, but isn't that going too far for a couple of scars?"

"There are various reasons, even before that scar on your abdomen virtually proved it to me - the disappearing arm scar is helpful, but not definitive, since your new powers may have involved some sort of healing factor. Another reason is that, while your DNA has certainly been altered, you don't have a metagene. I've not seen any DNA from individuals with genetically-derived 'super-powers' that didn't have that one identifiable gene. And a third is that, after you didn't recall what happened inside the cauldron which altered you, I asked Cosmic Boy to talk to Trinity about what she saw there when you caught her as she was about to fall in. Apparently, she described reflections which resembled her to some degree, but had different clothing, hair or number of bodies."

"And this means for the body thing...?"

"I suspect that the cauldron somehow exchanged or 'overwrote' your body with that a possible or alternate version of yourself, while preserving your consciousness."

Blinking hard, Julia tried to suspend her disbelief on the alternate reality thing, telling herself to keep focused on the important part, "So, why does this mean my brain is crapping out if my 'consciousness' was 'preserved'?"

"Various possibilities. Perhaps your own memories weren't quite written properly. Or perhaps the 'original' memories weren't deleted and are interfering. We'll need a telepath to examine your memories more directly, and make repairs if possible."
_______

Warriors' bar, Manhattan

"I'm telling you Shan, I don't know what I'm going to do."

Dani took another large drink from her beer glass, then looked across the booth to Shannon Manh (Mạnh Cối Xoŕn to the government; Shan to her friends), who was sitting there with her girlfriend Luna dePaula. An orphan, Shan was one of Dani's best friends, and her only friend in NYC itself. The two had met some years before at college - Dani was there to undergo teacher training (a necessary prelude to setting herself up as a powers tutor) when Shan, who had already started on her way to the MLIS masters degree she now possessed, first encountered her. They'd gone on to become firm friends, and now, with Dani working only a hour or so away from the Big City, they'd met up for dinner a few times in the previous couple of months.

Even so, Shan had had never seen Dani like this, either recently or at college. True, her friend had never taken the pledge - she'd always been strict with her need for self-control and had taken at most two drinks in a night, usually only one - but now she was downing beer ŕ un taux de noeuds.

Luna saw the frown on her girlfriend's face and squeezed the young Vietnamese-American woman's hand. Even though they'd been living together for months now, with Shan moving to NYC to be with the coffee shop owner as soon as she managed to find a (junior) librarian job there, the bloom hadn't yet come off their relationship, and Shan hoped it never would. They were even wearing cutesy T-shirts referencing each other's professions - Luna's pink T-shirt said "She blinded me with library science!", and Shan's golden one had "Life's too short for bad coffee!" emblazoned across her chest.

Shan appreciated the moral support, but Luna didn't know Dani that well, and the distance of unfamiliarity meant there wasn't much she could say that would help. She looked at Dani, but bit her lip for a moment before responding. "Well, your suspension's been lifted, yes? Now that they know it wasn't really you."

"Not official yet. I've been told it's going to happen tomorrow tho."

"So it isn't you, they can prove it isn't you... where's the problem?"

"It's still something like me. Same DNA and everything."

"Then it's a magic clone or something. The news said the blackhats were pulling all sorts of stunts. Your angsting about it, well, that's probably why they did it!"

"You're not the one who has to look the kids who got hurt, or their pal got killed, in the eye."

"My twin brother was in Vietnam seeing my uncle when the war started, and I haven't heard from him since before the first attacks there. I'm hoping he just can't get to a phone, but if something HAS happened, I'm going to have to tell Luke and Naomi why they won't be seeing their big brother again. Bad things happen to good people Dani. Just count yourself lucky they didn't send a whole army after the school like they did in Paris."

"But--"

"Enough." The atypical self-pity radiating from Dani was getting to be too much for Shan. She adopted the tone she used on her young siblings when they caused trouble. "Lots of people have lost friends or family in this war already, Dani. That's why it's not called 'play'. So, the bad guy borrowed your face - you've got a whole school full of people who can do stuff like change their faces. I think they'll be able to understand the difference between you and whatever this armoured woman is. So what you're going to do is crash on our couch tonight, since you can't go anywhere in this state, and then go back to the school tomorrow, confirm your suspension's been lifted and get back to work making sure those kids are safe doing what they do!"

As Shan finished, Dani sat there in apparently stunned silence. After a minute, Luna nudged Shan, and the two left the booth, heading toward the toilet.

"What's wrong?" Shan asked as they entered the ladies' room.

Luna leaned back against a sink, and replied "I just thought she needed a minute after your forty lashes."

Shan went beet red. "I didn't mean it like that! She just needed a jolt. Do you think I went too far?"

"Hey, you know her better than me. I'll take it she's needed a 'jolt' before!"

"I could be wrong. You're a fresh pair of eyes."

"Well, with a fresh pair of eyes... If you ever broke my heart, I'd be interested in whether she likes girls."

Shan mock-punched her "Seriously!"

"I think she'll be fine. She's had a few bad shocks. Most people do at some point - and from everything you've said, she'll bounce back." Luna began to lean in for a kiss. "You have."

As Shan's arms went around her girlfriend, she hoped Luna was right. Then their lips met, and she was... distracted... for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, outside in the bar, Dani looked at her reflection in her half-empty glass of beer. After a minute, she shoved the glass away in disgust.
_______________

The Pier, Dox's private workshop

The sky was completely dark by the time Dox reached the riverfront area where he kept a private workshop, since the session with Agent Carpenter had overrun his plan by a full hour. The frustrating thing was that he really didn't have much to add to what he said earlier on the part she was really interested in, namely, her memory. They would need a telepath to get any further, end of. They hadn't even got to discussing her powers, he thought, as he punched in the 12-digit entry code to "The Pier".

As soon as he walked in, Dox saw that things were out of place. Not by much - there seemed to have been an attempt to replace everything just as it had been, but he knew where he'd left things. And then he sensed the tell-tale scraping in his brain that told him someone was trying to break and enter. Sighing at the irony, he called out to the intruder, "Don't bother. Better telepaths than you have tried and failed."

"Touché." A deep, feminine voice came from across the room, as Meta Ure - once Enrapture of the Workforce - walked out of the shadows, dressed in a light blue skirt-suit. "I presume you disabled all surveillance devices, as requested."

"If I had any, I might have. Surveillance is something I have philosophical problems with. Even before considering that it is far too easy for others to hack and use against me."

"Never mind. In any case, they tend to fail when we show up." She paused and continued with a raised eyebrow, "Should I be worried that a Legionnaire would cry for help to us?"

"Hardly. I'm sure an organisation like yours is aware of how I came to be a Legionnaire."

"The little green boy wanted out of STAR's cage."

"Well, the Legion of Super-Heroes is hardly less of a cage, with STAR always there staring at me. I'm sick of it."

"Then what do you want from us? Asylum?" Meta chuckled mockingly.

Dox ignored the laugh. "Two things. First, a disguise worthy of the name, so I can go about my business without this" - he jabbed at his own face to indicate his bright green skin - "giving me away immediately. And, second, identity documents to go with it. Ones which would pass Homeland Security, not just a nickel-and-dime clerk."

"And I presume you're aware of the price."

"Anything which doesn't involve betraying a friend or giving myself away."

"On the latter, provided you honour your commitments, you shouldn't be concerned. And if you're referring to a possible follow-up to the incident with the Raineses on the former, that was a purely personal matter on their part. As an organisation, we have no position on it."

"In that case, when should I expect delivery?"

"The disguise and documents will probably take at least two weeks - there is a war on. Network commitments... those will come as you're required. I couldn't possibly say when you may be called upon. We try not to be too onerous." She sneered, slightly, "Final decision, you will commit?"

Dox held out his hand. They shook, not cordially.

"Welcome to the Network, Quentin Docks."

Meanwhile, in the shadows nearby, a man who appeared to be deep in shadow even in the rare occasions he stepped into bright daylight looked at the heads-up display that had recently been installed in his helmet. Everything read clear - Dox wasn't radiating any sign of a signal, nor was there any evidence of other Legionnaires in the vicinity that anyone had detected.

«Mano.» Enrapture's telepathic 'voice', calling out his only name, echoed through his brain. «As we suspected, I couldn't scan him. I presume there's no sign of treachery?»

«Nothing identifiable.» Mano was curt - the Network was far from his ideal. Still, he had called on them to break McCauley's programming when given the chance. And then he had chosen to remain full-time, even taking a place on Cosmic King's advisory council rather than leaving for extended service - as Wolf and Tellus had, and Dox was now taking up - all for one reason and one reason alone.

He wanted to remember who he had once been.

McCauley had apparently been thorough in destroying all trace of his personal memories, and the process which had mutated him so had obliterated any identifying features of his body. Several attempts to discover the truth had already failed, and insisting that they kept trying just kept adding to his debt. And yet, and yet...

On his shoulder stood the other member of the former Secret Workforce who had chosen to remain. Unlike him, Micro had no special reason to stay. He just liked the work. Most of the time.

«Tell me that doesn't mean what I think it means.» He winced at the prospect of what was to come.

«It means exactly that.» Enrapture didn't smile for Dox to see, but Micro was damn convinced she was smirking inside. Still, unhappy as he was, Micro made his way down to Mano's gloved hand and shrunk to smaller than the naked eye to see. Once committed, you didn't cross Cosmic King - he'd seen the evidence of what happened if you did. The only consolation for this stunt was that he might get the chance to deal some of the retribution on Dox if he tried to cross the Network.

Mano flicked his hand, and Micro was away. On his first tumble through the air, he saw Mano already disappearing through a yellow portal, and knew Meta would have gone first. Steering himself by kicking from dust particle to dust particle with strength that was well out of proportion to his size, he wished they had a bug they were willing to chance on Dox. Smart as he was, he couldn't be all-knowing, surely?

On landing in Dox's hair, still dust-mite sized, the first thing he did was barf.

To be continued


My views are my own and do not reflect those of everyone else... and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Cobalt, Reboot & iB present 21st Century Legion: Earth War .
#123662 - 08/27/12 07:33 PM 21CL: Legionnaires #9 & Academy L #6, part 3  
Joined: Jul 2003
Posts: 10,958
Reboot Offline
I want to escape, back to sweeter days-kinder days
Reboot  Offline

I want to escape, back to sweeter days-kinder days

Joined: Jul 2003
Posts: 10,958
The Mainframe
Earth War: Casualties of War
Part Three


Day Four of the Earth War, 8am EST
Apartment of Shannon Manh & Luna dePaula

"Dani. Dani."

The pounding in Dani's head nearly obliterated the shaking on her shoulder as someone called her name. With what seemed like an obscene effort, she forced her eyelids open to see Shan standing over her, clearly dressed for work.

"Whatimeisit?" she mumbled.

"Just past eight. Luna wanted to wake you up earlier to see if you wanted a ride out to Westchester when she headed to the Grind Stone, but I said you'd need the extra time."

"D'I need to be gone when you go?"

"No," Shan chuckled, "I'd need to carry you out the door for that. I just wanted to check on you before I went to the library. Last night, you were a bit..."

"Self-pitying?"

"Not quite the word I was going to use."

"Y'wouldn't have been wrong." Trying to sit up, Dani settled for rolling onto her side. "I'm not usually like that, am I?"

"Don't worry, I never would have put up with you if you were!"

Swearing gently, Dani finally pulled herself upright; just as Shan glanced at the clock and cursed inwardly. She had to be out of the apartment within two minutes if she wanted to make her subway train for work. "Anyway, are you going to be okay? I need to get moving super-quick if I want to make it in on time."

"I'll be fine."

"All right." Shan wasn't entirely sure, but time was pressing and she couldn't afford to be late. Bosses waited for no friend. "If you need coffee, I'm pretty sure Luke and Naomi didn't drink all Luna's roast before they went to school. It's in the red tub beside the breadbin."

Dani forced a smile. "Thanks." Shan smiled back, nodded, and was gone a few moments later.

After a few minutes debating whether to try going back to sleep, Dani reluctantly pulled herself from the couch. Entering the kitchenette, she found that Shan’s young siblings had indeed left some coffee.

Five minutes later, she had a steaming mug of freshly-ground coffee in her hand. And as the coffee smell percolated through the room, and her multiplied-by-hangover morning fog began to dissipate, she began to realise that she was sitting in clothes she'd been wearing for twenty-four hours and stank of stale beer. Gagging on the realisation, she finished her coffee quickly, got her clothes into the washer/drier and headed for the bathroom.

Before stepping into the shower, she noticed a full-length mirror. She hadn't looked at herself properly since the silver-clad figure was revealed. She hadn't been able to bear it. If she was going to throw her self-pity in the bin where it belonged, though, she had to be able to face herself.

With care, she unpicked her trademark pair of braids and pulled her hair as tight as she could behind her head to have it out the way. Then she looked herself over. Unlike her double, her tan skin was almost unmarked - the only visible scars were a few whitish dots on her abdomen dating from a childhood bout of chickenpox. Stepping closer, she focused in on her face and neck. Both eyes were obviously present and correct, but ignoring that and the scars... Closing her eyes, she tried to compare. Did her... its... cheekbones show more? Was it just thinner? Was she just trying to invent additional differences?

She shook her head at the useless speculation and went to wash herself.

____________

9:30am EST
LSH HQ

Stretching, Sofia walked into the cafeteria for a late breakfast. She and Sul had decided that one of them should be with Nori at all times in the hope she would awaken, and it had been her turn the night before. Tired as she was, though, she didn't feel that bad - after Sul had relieved her, instead of going straight for breakfast, she'd gone to the roof for a quick blast, which had helped matters.

As she twisted the lever to put milk on her cereal, she looked around - the cafeteria itself was nearly deserted - most of the Legion themselves were scattered far and wide, and she supposed the remaining few had already been and gone. The only other figure was another student watching over a comatose friend - the pink-haired Jennifer Adra ("Particon"), who'd been watching over Rocco McCloud solo - all of Rocco's friends bar Jennifer had evacuated; having been judged too young, not powerful enough or simply not good enough to be asked to stay behind and defend the school.

Noting that Jennifer was unenthusiastically nursing a glass of orange juice and nothing else, Sofia decided that she shouldn't be left alone - it was stressful enough taking shifts to watch over someone. Without asking, she slid into the bench opposite Jennifer at her table and said "I thought the doctor had told you to eat?"

Jennifer's head inched up slightly, so that Sofia couldn't see her eyes through her heavily-tinted glasses. "I'm not hungry."

"How is Rocco?"

"No different." She paused for a moment, then mumbled, "How's Noriko?"

"Unchanging." A few seconds of awkward silence ensued, before Sofia changed the subject yet again to try and get an actual conversation going. "So, how did your powers emerge?"

Jennifer looked at Sofia for a good three seconds. Evidently, she had three options - get up and walk away, stab her in the throat with her power lance, or submit to the questioning. And she was too tired for the first two just yet... "A few years ago, I was out walking and there was a crash and a bright flash over the hill. I ran over to see what it was, and there was this crater with a green rock in the middle. And since I was young and stupid, I picked the thing up. Straight away, I had this big pink lightsaber knock it out of my hand."

Rather than replying straight away, Sofia had a strange look on her face. "Did it feel strange to the touch, not like ordinary rock?"

"Yeah, it felt really weird. In fact, it felt like--" Jennifer was interrupted as Sofia's phone rang. She leaned back as the girl sitting opposite talked for a couple of minutes, not wanting to listen in.

When the call ended, Sofia turned back toward her, an apologetic look on her face, "Sorry, Dani wanted to know if the condition of Nori and Rocco had improved."

Exactly where they left off had slipped Jennifer's mind, so she just asked "I was just going to ask if you found one of those bizarre meteors too, then. Did it gave you your powers?"

"Yes, but it had landed quite some time, possibly days, before I reached it, rather than seeing it crash. As my power over the wind started, I nearly blew it away by accident, but held onto it and took it home to my mother - though my cousins grabbed it first. It did nothing with anyone else, however."

Jennifer sat back at that. She'd left an opening, and if she wasn't going to let her alone, at least she could do the talking. "Come on, then, what's your life story?

"There is not much to tell. I grew up in Caracas with my mother, near my cousins, and we were happy, even after I found the rock and my powers emerged. Then my mother died when I was thirteen and I was sent to my father in the USA. He did not like me, told me not to use my powers, and ignored me all he could, as did most others. Eventually, after half a year, I grew tired of being ignored. If Dani had not saved me, I do not know what would have happened."

"When you say you got tired of being ignored..."

Sofia blushed, "I caused a tornado in one of his stores."

Behind her glasses, Jennifer's eyes widened, "You were the Barrett store kid? AND the owner's daughter?"

"Yesss..."

Jennifer wanted to laugh, and pinched her leg to hold it in. "So that's how you hooked up with Moonstar? I wondered how a Native and a Latina 'daughter' two-thirds her age went together."

"She said she saw me on the news. I did not and have not asked why she took pity on me as she did. You should not question a generous act."

"That's one way to look at it." Before Sofia could continue, or change the subject again, Jennifer drained the last of her orange juice, made her excuses quickly and left. She was feeling like it was time to go see Rocco again. And pray.

Sofia, meanwhile, lingered a few moments longer. She had occasionally speculated why Dani had adopted her, and so saved her from her vengeful father. But there was always one, inescapable, thought underlying her speculation - it ultimately didn't matter. Whatever the original reason might have been, Dani had shown clearly in the couple of years since that she'd come to care about Sofia. And Sofia cared in return.

And whatever the double was (some attempt to frame Dani if the direct attack didn't work, to weaken the Academy or even get it closed down, Sofia thought), it was clearly taking a toll on Dani. She'd sounded better on the telephone than when Sofia had last seen her, but that could just be a brave face. Sofia sincerely hoped it wasn't.

____________

11am EST
Shan & Luna's apartment

As Dani finished dressing, clipping her decorative belt of large green plates around her waistband, she decided finally what she was going to do. The only thing she could do, really.

From the call, Sofia had said she, Sul & Jennifer were fine and the others were at least stable - if Nori or Rocco woke up she would want to be there, but that could take five minutes, or weeks (Or never?). And while she'd briefly considered running away - sorry, "asking for some time off to get her head in order" - to the Colorado mountains where the cabin the grateful van Dynes had gifted her when paying her fee stood, that had never really been a serious option.

For three days she'd been on tenterhooks. Was that... thing... her future, was she condemned to be a murderer if she lived, was suicide the only way out? Now she knew - whatever it actually was - her future was unwritten, her choices were her own. And Shan was right. If she was going to be true to herself, she had no choice at all - she had to go back.

Besides anything else, after recent events, she didn't dare to leave Shikari in charge of her department when the younger kids returned soon.

Next: Back to School


My views are my own and do not reflect those of everyone else... and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Cobalt, Reboot & iB present 21st Century Legion: Earth War .
#762923 - 01/31/13 12:36 PM 21CL: Legionnaires #9 & Academy L #6, part 4 [Re: Reboot]  
Joined: Jul 2003
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I want to escape, back to sweeter days-kinder days
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I want to escape, back to sweeter days-kinder days

Joined: Jul 2003
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The Mainframe
Earth War: Casualties of War
Part Four


Day Four of the Earth War, Noon EST
LSH HQ, guest quarters

Spark, sick of limping along on her sprained and plastered ankle, floated down the guest corridors towards Agent Carpenter's room using her flight ring. She'd promised Julia that she would look in on her every now & then, in case her bouts of confusion became more serious, so her 2-1-1 knock on the door produced a rapid invitation to enter. Almost immediately, she was stopped in her tracks. "Show-off."

Julia was 'standing', upside down, on the suspended ceiling. "Says the girl a foot off the ground."

Ella blushed, and realised something as she looked again. "Wait, how are you doing that? I know you can stick to stuff, but I'm sure styrene titles aren't meant to take someone's weight."

"I don't know." Julia unstuck herself, and flipped in mid-air to land smoothly on her feet. "I didn't think about it."

"Is it even smart - doing it alone, I mean, given your problems?"

"Perhaps not. But I'm still okay most of the time, and I've already spent too much of the time I can think thinking about when I can't. After that talk with Dox yesterday, I want to make the most of the time that I have - but I'm stuck here for now, and I'm not used to having nothing, not even paperwork, to do. So I started experimenting."

"Did you ask Q about your powers when you saw him?"

"Dox? Not exactly. I wanted answers too much about what's happening to me up here," she tapped her head, "to think about powers."

"We'll go and see him now then."

"Wait, I thought he didn't want people going to see him unannounced."

"He'll be bothered and glad simultaneously - he doesn't like people dropping in, but no matter how bored you get he's always more bored than you."
_____________

Entrance Hall, Legion Academy

The large door clicked shut behind Dani, echoing in the large, woodpanelled space, adding to her unease. As she'd walked up the drive, Akasha had circled overhead, she'd seen Tanya on the roof staring out, and she couldn't shake the impression there were others looking on as well. The nerves - what did everyone know, how would they react to her double? - took her back to when she was twelve, standing in this very hall for the first time.

The Professor had gone to make sure her room was set up, and she'd been standing there, slightly agog, when one now-long-gone facet of her powers had kicked in accidentally, a sort of telekinetic weightlessness. Unable to steer or land, she remembered taking her jacket off and desperately flapping it, trying to generate enough force to push herself over to the staircase, where the Professor had ultimately discoverd her clinging on tight, flushed from the effort.

She smiled at the memory as she ascended the staircase, stopping a moment to look at the spot she'd grasped so hard, arms burning. That moment encapsulated why she'd become a teacher, reinforced by several similar scenes over the years as her powers changed and she'd had to learn all over again, she thought as she moved on. To help those who needed to control their powers to live a normal life. Not to produce some sort of super-hero conveyor belt...

...unlike her. Her smile had faded as she reached the top of the stairs and turned to see the grey-skinned woman standing there. The "Earth War" crisis had given Shikari a very clear chance to show that she felt that was exactly what they should be doing. True, Dani didn't feel anywhere near as strongly as Tikhik - who would happily abolish not only the Legion, but the armed forces too. She recognised that both should exist, but she didn't think the Academy should be acting as some sort of Legion Cadet force, the way her colleague had so readily organised a dozen of the top students (plus Nori, now lying in a coma; as was Rocco) the moment the crisis hit.

"John wants to see you." Shikari's tone was clipped, matter-of-fact.

"I was going to see him anyway." Dani kept her voice as level as she could. If she still had a job, she'd still have to work with 'Ms. Lonestar'. Telling her exactly what she thought of her attitude during the night of the siege didn't seem like such a good idea in retrospect.

"Good."

"Anything else?"

"No."

Dani was going to leave be, but just as she was turning to go, something occurred to her. "Where's Everett?" she asked, referring to the single student who had been there when they first saw her double's face.

"Sleeping. He is on the night watch."

Inwardly cringing at 'night watch', Dani struggled out a "Fine. Excuse me." and headed for her room.
_____________

As they headed down the corridor together, a casual observer might mistaken Spark and Agent Carpenter for relatives, since they shared similar features - ginger hair, pale skin and even a certain facial resemblance - despite the fact their body types were rather different: Ella was short, wiry and flat-chested, perhaps looking younger than her seventeen years; while Julia was taller, curvier and, with her current strains, perhaps looked slightly older than the 31 she was. But while Ella wasn't thinking about this, the issue of one of Julia's actual relatives had come to mind.

"Have you gone to see her yet?"

"Who?"

"Your sister. The Slasher."

Rather than looking away, Julia fixed Ella with a hard stare for a few seconds, to the point Ella felt the need to look away. They moved on in awkward silence for half a minute after that, then Julia suddenly answered, "No."

"Why not?" The words had left Ella's mouth before the tact department of her brain caught up with them.

Why not indeed?, thought Julia. On any other day of her life, the news that her "baby" sister had confessed to being an unrepentant serial killer would have seemed the worst news imaginable, and taken up her thought processes in every spare moment for days on end. The fact that it had been followed by her own transformation into a superhuman and the severe side-effects thereof AND the news that her entire unit had been killed... it was all too much for her to cope with, and Jenn Carpenter's corruption by the forces that had inflicted the other wounds on her while waging an "Earth War" had fallen by the wayside even when she could think. "I... I..." she trailed off.

A minute passed, and Spark watched with dawning horror as Julia's face relaxed into a blank mask. Crap, this looked like a bad one. She looked around - there were no seats in the corridor. They were just about to pass the lobby but, she thought as Julia began to splutter something intelligible, she couldn't put her in a public place like this. Instead, she gently shushed her and just sat her down on the floor against the wall. And waited for her to come back.

To Be Continued


My views are my own and do not reflect those of everyone else... and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Cobalt, Reboot & iB present 21st Century Legion: Earth War .
#929107 - 05/18/17 07:42 PM 21CL: Earth War: Casualties of War - Blink [Re: Reboot]  
Joined: Jul 2003
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I want to escape, back to sweeter days-kinder days
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Joined: Jul 2003
Posts: 10,958
The Mainframe
Earth War: Casualties of War
Blink Interlude


She stared into the dark, trembling uncontrollably. Of course, this wasn't an uncommon occurrence for Clarice. She'd always been shy, but the events of the past couple of years had nearly finished her. She might say, in one of her (many) dark moments that she deserved it, she'd killed her brother.

Others might point out, in a reasonable manner, that wasn't her fault. In fact, they had – repeatedly – but it hadn't stopped her locking herself away inside her own head, not saying a word for over a year, barely moving. In desperation her parents had turned to a "radical therapy" in America. That had gone worse – while it had "woken her up", it had resulted in her being tossed into another level of hell; one of McCauley's puppets, codenamed "Blink", forced to use her teleportation powers to aid things she couldn't conscience. Even if she was "responsive" now, she still hadn't talked about anything that happened there since she got home.

One suggestion her counsellor had made was to keep a diary. Her parents had even bought her an old-fashioned paper one to go with it, complete with a "proper" lock, to reassure her that no-one could read it without her knowledge. She could 'tell' it anything, he'd said, even things she wouldn't tell him or them. It sat in the corner of her room, unused.

And still she trembled sleeplessly. It was going to be another long night.

* * *

Morning came, as it usually does. Clarice had finally collapsed, exhausted, into sleep, but it hadn't lasted long, and shortly after the dawn she had got up to brush her teeth. Sitting still too long wasn't helpful after her 'treatment', but neither did she really want to go out. She spent a lot of time pacing unless or until her mother could convince her to go for at least a walk. Looking at her phone, she forced herself to flick to a news site. She didn't really want news of the war, but she knew at least some of the Legionnaires who'd helped save her were fighting on the front lines. She felt she had to, if nothing else, know if they'd been reported dead.

No news on that front seemed to be good news, at least. It wasn't as if there was much else good news. France and the southern US seemed to be the major frontlines for now, much of central America and north Africa having already fallen in the first strikes. How long before it reached Scotland in earnest? And what would she do if it did? She shivered, memories of waking up covered in her brother's blood running through her head. She would never enlist, but if the war came to her town, her home? Could she fight?

Her mother interrupted this particular vein of despondency by coming into the room to brush her own teeth. She would say she understood why Clarice wanted to close herself off, but she was 'a young woman with her life to live' and saw it as her job to pull her daughter out of the thick shell events had pushed her into.

Not even slightly in the mood for it, Clarice pulled her hoodie and sunglasses on and left the house.

* * *

Life was still going on surprisingly normally in the face of potential Armageddon. People still had jobs to go to, after all, even if there were distinctly fewer cars on the road. The flipside was that there were a lot more people forced to walk, and Clarice actually liked blending in with the crowds that resulted. It meant fewer people would actually look at her – with her lilac skin and facial birthmarks, the best-case scenario was a lot of double-takes. After about fifteen minutes, she broke off from the flow down a side street, toward a place that people avoided. Which made it one of her favourite places.

She knew if they could have spared the manpower, the crater would have been heavily guarded. But it was far from the only one - even if there wasn't yet a full-scale Blitz, there were odd sorties, almost as if to tell Britain their day would come. It was fenced off, true, but that was no obstacle to Clarice as she "blinked" through it without difficulty. Scrambling halfway down the sides of the crater, she stared at the odd sight before her, not for the first time since the bomb had fallen.

What was so strange about it was that the centre was molten, glowing redly and occasionally bubbling. There were rumours of radiation, officially denied. There were rumours that the bombs punched right through the Earth's crust and made actual volcanoes, which Clarice found ridiculous – if it had, surely it wouldn't be like this. If it somehow didn't trigger a full-scale eruption, the surface would have "frozen" into a sort of crazy paving broken by the molten lava below, like 'lava lakes' elsewhere. This was something different to still be... like this. It didn't matter anyway, that wasn't why she was there. It was deserted and had something interesting to look at, that was all.

And then she realised it wasn't deserted.

A boy, maybe around twelve or so, was falling down the crater's side, toward the "lava". She was moving almost before she knew what she was doing, getting into position below him, and managing to stop him before he tumbled in.

She started berating him for being an idiot, shouldn't he be in school? Then she stopped. This wasn't like her, what was she doing? And then she realised it had once been like her, but only when dealing with one person. John. Her brother.

Looking at the boy again, the resemblance was fairly slight, but enough that looking at him from a distance or without full care... she could see how it could have clicked in her brain to react like that. She shook her head and got the boy out of the crater without saying another word, ignoring his various questions, then teleported straight home.

She didn't need to be crying in public.

It was the first cry she'd had in a long time. Before John's...death. That boy nearly dying in front of her, the way she'd reacted once he was safe, it had touched something in her. Something she wanted to go away now, please. She was used to being scared, even terrified. This was different. It felt worse.

It took a while for her to stop crying. The house was empty, with her parents at work, so there was no external reason to stop. At one point she even grabbed her phone to look at pictures of her & John, which only prolonged it.

Eventually it wore out, though. And while she had her phone in-hand, she started looking at the news sites again, and got her second shock of the day.

A city in America had fallen. Literally – some sort of attack had undermined it totally, and it had collapsed into the sea. And, in one of the pictures of the disaster, was Trinity. Some of her rescuers were among the few to make it out. But what really got her was the look on Trinity's face in the picture. It was a look she knew well – a look she'd seen in the mirror a lot, back after John's death.

It went beyond fear, to almost a sort of calmness. Eyes not quite focused. It was the face of someone who'd snapped.

This didn't trigger more crying. Nor flashbacks. Instead she just collapsed back into bed, like a puppet whose strings had been cut. She lay there, blankly, for a while. She had things she needed to say to her. To all of them, really, but especially to Trinity. But there was no way to contact her.

She looked at the book in the corner. The diary was lying open, blank.

And then she grabbed a pen.


My views are my own and do not reflect those of everyone else... and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Cobalt, Reboot & iB present 21st Century Legion: Earth War .
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