RP Congress

Library of Congress => Virtue => Topic started by: victoriavictrix on 08 August 2005, 19:00:36



Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 08 August 2005, 19:00:36
New Years' Eve 1988
10 PM
Research Triangle Park
Philadelphia PN

It was cold.  It was desperately cold.  And some yahoo had called for an extra trash pickup.  On New Years' Eve?  Didn't any of these eggheads ever party?

Stan Leibowsky made sure his insulated coveralls were zipped up as tight as he could manage before stepping out of the cab of his truck.  He was working alone tonight.  A-1 Trash Haulers advertised that they could and would pick up, "any time, any place," but he really had not expected a call on New Year's Eve.  He certainly hadn't expected one on New Year's Eve.

And he definitely did not expect the green glow that met his eyes, leaking out from around the edges of the dumpster lid.

Yelping in panic, he scrambled back into his truck, and put in a call to emergency hazmat.

4 AM, New Year's Day
"How the hell is she still alive?  She had to have been in that bin at least five hours, in the cold!!"

The metahuman medtech shrugged.  "She's a mutie.  Who knows?  Until someone can catalog her powers--"

-- not that mutie babies are even supposed to have powers yet --

"But a newborn baby--" the cop persisted.

"Not newborn," the metahuman tech corrected.  "I know you're used to seeing newborns in dumpters, but this one's been around at least a month."

The cop's mouth dropped further open.  "At least a month?  Someone had her a month and then abandoned her?  But why?"

The medtech's lips tightened.  Because he had a guess--and he was about to do some anonymous whistle-blowing.  "My guess?  She didn't come up to spec.  And  someone threw her away."

And I'll get you, you bastard you.  And your little bitch Toto too.

January 2, 1989
Seabourne Facility for Hazardous Metahumans
Upper New York State

"--prognosis isn't good now but tech is changing all the time.  I think with continual containment suit improvements we can keep up with the progressive degeneration."

Doctor Trevore Seabourne smiled wearily at Reaktiskaya, the mutant caretaker whose Powers were most like the newest arrival's.  Skaya looked back at him somberly.  "Da, we can hope.  But--"

"I'd tell you to try not to get too attached, except---Skaya, the more encouragement and support this kid has, the more likely she is to survive.  She's going to have a tough enough row to hoe."

"Da."  Skaya nodded.  "Russians have big hearts.  I gif her plenty uff mine.  I gif her purpose.  With purpose, have reason to liff.  Nyet?"

"Da.  I knew I could count on you."  Once again, Seabourne blessed Stateman for persuading the Cold War Russian hero to come over to the "other side."  Of course, once Reaktiskaya had gotten a good look at what was going on in the gulags....

He couldn't operate "openly," of course, and he was, officially, retired.  But he made the perfect loving, surrogate father for their more radioactive children.  He cherished them, loved them, helped to teach them, and---

---and wasn't afraid to hold them and comfort them when they were dying.

Seabourne hoped this wasn't going to happen with this one.  She was, by far, the youngest child they had ever gotten in.  A glowing green solemn-eyed baby who looked up at them with a gaze far more focussed and knowing than any infant should have.

"What is little one's name?" Skaya asked into the silence.

"Well--when the trash guy that saw the glow called Hazmat, he hadn't looked in there to find out what was there, so Hazmat wasn't in any big hurry to make the pickup.  He bitched them out about every fifteen minutes, and when they finally got there, one of them piped up with 'Patience is a virtue,' just as they flipped the lid and saw her."

"Da.  They name her Patience?"

"No," Seabourne said, looking through the lead-glass into the nursery that held only one sleeping baby girl, a nursery ha'd had built, but had really hoped he would never have to use.  "They named her Virtue."

June 24, 1989
Federal Court, Philadelphia

"For your crimes, 'Doctor' Reynard, this court revokes your right to practice medicine in any state in the Union and sentences you to not less than ten years in the Federal Penitentiary on Long Island."  The judge was barely holding in his anger.  "And if I could give you more, I would.  Only the fact that no evidence of murder has surfaced keeps me from pinning that charge on you as well.  Child abandonment, illegal experimentation on human subjects, kidnapping---"  The simple charges did not even begin to cover the insidiousness and evil of what Reynard had been perpetrating.  And on his own flesh and blood---

The judge's hands were shaking as he faced his unrepentant audience of one.  "I can only hope that someone gives you a taste of your own medicine in prison. Reynard.  Case closed.  Take him away."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Modern Comet on 08 August 2005, 19:21:08
((Hmm, ten years.  Doing the math, that would put him out in '99 at the earliest.  Hmm...))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 09 August 2005, 03:56:08
Teacher's Note:
Assignment: using a song as a pattern, write new lyrics on any subject.

Completed assignment:  Virtue
Pattern:"Beauty Is Within Us" Ghost In The Shell Standalone Complex

Title: Destiny

And who were you
And what was I
Discarded in the cold and left to die?
Why was I born at all?
ANd who were you
That did not care
Who turned and walked away and left me there?
Why was I born at all?

I pay for every goal I win
In anguish and in aching
I trace my dreams in lines of fear
And pain upon awaking
They say,"Living's never easy, oh heaven knows.
And the more you hold the pain in, the more it grows."
They say, "Living's never easy, and so it goes--"
But they cannot see inside me.

And what am I
What should I be
Should I believe I have some destiny?
Why was I born at all?
A broken thing
Can I be whole?
How can I find some peace within my soul
When I feel so alone?

I fight for light against the dark
That joy comes out of grieving
I hope for gladness out of pain
And truth out of deceiving
They say, "Living's never easy, oh heaven knows,
And the more you hold the pain in, the more it grows,"
They say "Living's never easy, and so it goes--"
And I cannot let the dark come and and devour me.

O life is never easy, yes heaven knows
The more I hold the pain in, the more it grows
Life is never easy, and so it goes--
It would be too cruel to have no destiny.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 09 August 2005, 17:33:41
"Doc" Septimus Reynard had researched going into prison the way he did everything else: thoroughly.

Three uncomfortable days, and now he was as secure and well-positioned as anyone in his situation could be.  Nicely tucked into the entourage of one of the Family kingpins as the man's personal "Doctor Feelgood," no one bothered him, he had plenty of privileges and...guards feared to harass him.

And he had access to outside information now.  His test subjects.  He needed to keep tabs on them.  If need be, he needed to be able to remove them.  

There were ten.  The last had proved the most disappointing.  He had thought he had solved all the problems but unexpected new ones had cropped up.  Making the power source coming from within had seemed to be a logical solution; gradual preferential replacement if the calcium in the bones with Strontium90--could have been brilliant.  Too late he had realized that this would also make the bones too brittle for the kind of energetic exertion the subject was going to have to endure.  Even that could have been overcome except--

Except for the fact that rad buildup was also going to cause degeneration of the tissue itself.  There was only so much energy the mitochondria could store.  Without a reliable and steady means of regular discharge, the older the subject got, and the more available energy came online, the more of a problem that became.  Even bringing new powers online would not solve it.

Annoying.  Damned annoying.  Once again natural mutation trumped his carefully calculated genetic manipultaion.

He'd told the tech to dump it.  Hadn't counted on a trash pickup.  Oh well, not his problem now, but he would keep watch.

Ten to watch.  He was reminded of that child's rhyme, oh, so politically incorrect---

Ten little Injuns standin' in a line,
One toddled home and then there were nine;
Nine little Injuns swingin' on a gate,
One tumbled off and then there were eight.
Eight little Injuns gayest under heav'n,
One went to sleep and then there were seven;
Seven little Injuns cutting up their tricks,
One broke his neck and then there were six.
Six little Injuns kickin' all alive,
One kick'd the bucket and then there were five;
Five little Injuns on a cellar door,
One tumbled in and then there were four.
Four little Injuns up on a spree,
One he got fuddled and then there were three;
Three little Injuns out in a canoe,
One tumbled overboard and then there were two.
Two little Injuns foolin' with a gun,
One shot t'other and then there was one;
One little Injuns livin' all alone,
He got married and then there were none.
 
Would Subject 10 count as "toddled home"?  Not his home.  But "a" home, a home for hazardous, dying discards.  Possibly.  More likely Subject 10 would be "one went to sleep."

Time would tell.  And Septimus Reynard would be watching.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Modern Comet on 09 August 2005, 19:37:44
((Two things:

One:  The write-your-own-lyrics-to-a-song idea is neat.  I'll have to try that on different characters sometime to see what I come up with.

Two:  Doc Reynard is a scary, scary fellow.  Just thought I'd say that.))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 10 August 2005, 00:46:36
((Thank you; when I write filk I often use existing songs as my pattern because it keeps my scansion clean.

And writing a song from the VP of your character is a terrific way to get inside his or her head.

Septimus Reynard would be a lot less scary if I didn't know people just like him.  He is one of those villains for whom "the villain thinks he is the hero of his own story" is terrifyingly true.  He thinks he is doing absolutely the right thing .))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 18 August 2005, 02:19:27
The Facility New Year's Eve party was in full swing, and the various age-groups had divided up according to their interests.  The teenagers were dancing or watching the dancers.

Virtue was one of the watchers, set aside not only by her green skin and hair, but by the heavy containment suit, much like medieval armor, that she had to wear.  Other girls, even here at The Facility, got pretty dresses on birthdays and other special occassions.  Virtue was the only one who did not.  Pretty dresses would have looked absurd over the containment suit; like a frilly lampshade set atop a hydraulic pump.

It sometimes made Reaktiskaya's heart ache to see her, standing there in that clumsy contraption.  But it was the only way that she could go to school and interact with the other youngsters.  Proper socialization was important.  And without the containment suit she would slowly poison her fellow students.

She was the only one at her age who had manifested powers.  The first was merely exaggerated endothermia.  You could strip her naked and set her at the South Pole in the dead of winter and she would maintain body temperature.  When she was five, before she'd had to go into the suit, she had fallen down and scraped both knees, and after crying, had promptly healed herself.

At eleven, she had developed some kind of a force blast.  At the moment, discharge limiters on the gloves of the suit kept her from actually using it except when she was allowed to practice using it.  These were children.  They got angry, and struck out.  And although Virtue was by and large a gentle child, a little prevention went a long way.

Now...now she was fifteen....

Poor little devushka.

...and while other girls were getting bodies to fill out those pretty dresses, Virtue...

...poor, poor, little devushka....

....was not.  Because even as her body went into adolescence, the mutation that gave her powers landed her with another cruel joke.  The faster something developed, the more radiation built up in it, destroying the tissue.  Within a six months, Virtue was sterile and within a year, fuctionally neuter.  She might look like a girl, but she was getting none of the hormonal messages of her counterparts, and never would.

So while the other girls danced and flirted and giggled, Virtue watched them with solemn eyes.  Finally, she slipped quietly away from the group and out of the room.

Reaktiskaya did not follow her.  He did not need to.  There were cameras everywhere in the Facility, he merely unlocked the door of one of the monitor rooms and followed her progress via those unobtrusive eyes.

He watched as she made her way down the dark and deserted corridors until she came to one of the workout rooms, the one she herself used all the time.  Like her own bedroom, these could be sealed and locked, and here she could escape from the suit for a while.

She locked and sealed the door, and flipped on the Hazardous: Do Not Enter sign.  There was a small dressing room there; she went to a locker and took out what Reaktiskaya knew was her dance-workout clothing.  A moment later she entered the camera view again, wearing leotard, tights, and little dance-skirt, her hair tied back, and supports on legs and arms to keep her increasingly-fragile bones safe from breaking.  She warmed up for a few moments, then went to the CD player and put in her selection.


First, when there's nothing but a slow glowing dream
That your fear seems to hide deep inside your mind
All alone I have cried silent tears full of pride
In a world made of steel, made of stone

Well I hear the music, close my eyes, feel the rhythm
Wrap around, take a hold of my heart

What a feeling, bein's believin'
I can't have it all, now I'm dancin' for my life
Take your passion, and make it happen
Pictures come alive, you can dance right through your life

It was, if anything, more heartbreaking than seeing her in that clunky suit.  She danced like a butterfly, like a fether on the wind, scarcely making a sound as she leapt and spun, flung herself through the air and tumbled to spring to her feet again in a combination of ballet and gymnastics moves she had first copied from the movie this song came from, then made her own.

And no one would ever see her dance like this except Reaktiskaya and her teachers and caretakers here.  


What a feeling, bein's believin'
I can't have it all, now I'm dancin' for my life
Take your passion, and make it happen
Pictures come alive, you can dance right through your life


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 21 August 2005, 06:13:54
A cheap suit.  A pair of equally cheap shoes.  The personal belongings he had entered tthe prison system with, in a brown paper bag.  The items in his cell properly belonged to "Dom" Cateleone, and would be given to another favorite as soon as one emerged from the primordial ooze that was the prison population.

Septimus Reynard, Doctor in name only now, also had items on his release that could not be enumerated nor taken from him.

Pieces of information.  The progess of his test subjects.  Their whereabouts.  The minutiae of their lives.

Ten little Injuns standin' in a line,
One toddled home and then there were nine---

That would be Seven.  Much to his surprise,  Seven's biological mother found him after the trial.  He had not expected that out of a crack addict.  But she found the child, who had been an utter, utter disappointment as every one of the mutations he had painstakingly engineered somehow managed to reverse itself over the course of gestation.  His mother tracked him down proved via DNA testing he was hers, and after cleaning up her life, got legal custody of him  Maddeningly mundane.  But Reynard kept an eye on him, just in case.

Nine little Injuns swingin' on a gate,
One tumbled off and then there were eight.

That was Two.  One of the psychological mutations that Reynard had played with was what he called "Fearless."  It was a heightening of the Fear-seeking, Stimulus-seeking personality.  It had seemed to him that being without fear would be a very good thing in a minion or a super-soldier.  Unfortunately, Two had proved that without constant watching, this particular mutation was not conducive to long life.  Two had climbed over the gate of a security fence in his barrio neighborhood to play with the Rotweilers owned by the crack dealer that lived there.

Eight little Injuns gayest under heav'n,
One went to sleep and then there were seven;

Four simply failed.  Exactly as in the poem; went to sleep and never woke up.  Officially diagnosed as SIDS, Reynard was terribly frustrated because he had not yet been able to obtain the results of the autopsy.

Seven little Injuns cutting up their tricks,
One broke his neck and then there were six.

A variant on the "Fearless" mutation, Three had heightened resistance to pain.  In fact, so much so that she had fallen from the balance-beam, broken her neck, and proceeded to get up and do her routine on the uneven bars before the fracture broke completely and severed her spinal cord completely.  Death was nearly instantaneous.

Ten subjects; six remained.  Surprisingly, Ten was still alive.  Some well-meaning fools were caring for her and other mutant children who were hazardous to the general public and somehow they were keeping her alive.  He did not have information on her yet, but he would.

As Septimus Reynard stepped out into the thin, gray sunlight of a bleak, overcast winter day, his belongings in the brown paper sack at his side, he was not at all surprised to be approached by a nondescript man in a forgettable brown suit who emerged from an equally forgettable sedan parked across the street from the prison entrance.

"Dr. Septimus Reynard," said the man, the words enunciated with crisp politeness and just faintly accented.  "I believe you are expecting me.  I am Mister Brown."

"I am sure you are," said Reynard, with deadpan irony, for "Brown," certainly was not the man's name.   "Braun," perhaps, though that too was unlikely.  "Yes, your association contacted me.  Your offer is most generous.  I accept."

"Brown''s" flat gray eyes registered a moment of surprise.  His lips parted a trifle.  Clearly he had expected Reynard to bargain at the least.

Which only showed how little his new employers understood Reynard, who never bothered to fling himself at a wall of facts in the hopes that some might tumble down and create an opening.  When the representative of the Fifth Column had approached him six months ago with the offer, he had known then, as he knew now, this was his only viable alternative to a life of paper hats and nametags and "Would you like fries with that."  And it troubled him not at all that it was the Fifth Column that intended to recruit him.  If anything, it was a bonus.  He would never lack for experimental subjects, and the Fifth Column were not plagued with peer-review-boards and ethics committees in their forays into genetic research.

And really, where else could he go?

"In that case," Brown said, after a long moment of collecting his thoughts, "Welcome to the Firm."  He did not offer his hand.  Reynard did not expect him to.  Instead he nodded at the sedan, and Reynard opened the rear door and took a seat on the spotless upholstery.

"First," said Brown,  from the front seat, as the driver pulled away from the curb.  "We will have you fitted with a new suit."  

"Very well," said Reynard, indifferent to such trivilaites.  "But I would rather see my new lab."

Brown smiled.  Reynard examined that patronizing smile in detail, committing it to memory.  Because some day he would be the one smiling in a patronizing fashion, and Braun would be--

--a subject.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Robotech_Master on 21 August 2005, 07:47:00
((Oooh...nicely creepy.  Bravo.

Hmm.

If Reyard experiments on mutating someone without telling him, is that a "subject to change without notice"? :) ))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 21 August 2005, 14:05:53
((You'll see what Reynard has actually been doing in the next passage about him))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 21 August 2005, 15:08:16
((A brief note here: this is the Belladonna Aura from Virtue: slightly different than the one on Pinnacle who is in the CCCP.  For one thing, this one has no rad leakage problem.))

When you lived in the Seabourne Facility, you knew that sometimes bad things happened.  You learned that from a very early age, when some of the kids you played with and learned with started to get an odd, pinched and hollow look about the eyes, and a way of staring for brief moments of time that not even they were aware of.  When the grownups started to give them just a tiny bit more indulgence and tenderness.

That's when you knew they were going to die.

Virtue watched for those signs in the mirror every morning, for the signs in her Uncle Skaya and the others who took care of her.  So far she hadn't seen them.  

Yet.

But the kids like her, who were radioactive...they died more often than most.  Over the course of her fifteen years here, there had been seventy three kids in the radiation wing.  There were fifty two lead coffins in the Facility graveyard, each one tenderly cared for by Dr., Trevore himself....

It had been a near thing at puberty.  At least that's what the doctors told her, when they told her she wasn't going to develop like the other kids.  But by then she already had Bella to add to the encouragement of the Uncle and Aunts she'd known all her life.

And Bella was---special.

Bella was a Hero.  Not just a girl in a costume starting out in Paragon City, but she was already a hero when she got there, a veteran of the Rikti War, where she helped throw the Rikti out of Area 51.  She was only nineteen herself, but when she'd found out about the Facility she had asked if there were any muties like her---

And here was Virtue, with what looked like Defender powers that would be pretty much identical to Belladonna Aura's.    So Bella had shown up.  Doctor Trevore had introduced them.  And they just---hit it off.

Uncle Skaya was wonderful, but he wasn't a girl, and his mutations were stable.  Bella's weren't, though it turned out they stabilized later after she spent some time saving the Terra Volta reactor.  But she and Virtue had that in common.  And the powers.  And that neither of them were safe for---wel.---with boys.  Her rad leakage had been bad enough for a skin-suit, a "containment" suit that looked like nothing more anf felt no worse than Spandex, but she shared that problem until her mutations stabilized.  So they had a lot in common.

Music too, though Bella sang rather than danced.  

It was like having a big sister suddenly.  Bella visited a lot, every weekend usually, and emailed several times a day. talking about everything.  She got into a Super Group with a neat leader who ended up becoming a really famous DJ---but that was later.  It was in those first few months that Virtue had really needed Bella, who had come through like a champ.

Because of what happened.

You knew when someone was dying.  But sometimes people did---worse than die.

And it was right in the middle of World History that it happened.

Terry Emmet was a twelve-year-old pyrokinetic, a firestarter.  Mostly he started fire in and around himself.  And it was under a surprising amount of control and never hurt him, so he didn't have to wear restraining devices or a suit.  

So that was why, when he jumped up from his chair in the middle of History Class with a look of panic on his face and screamed "RUN!" it was all the more shocking.

And some of the others didn't quite react in time as he burst into a ball of  uncontrolled screaming flame.

Two of the kids would have died right there if it had not been for Virtue and Barry, who was a chemical hazmat.  The containment suits that kept them both from leaking all over the class were fireproof to a degree--after all, they had to keep their occupants from becoming hazardous during an emergency too.  And the rad/rad and chem/rad kids all had emergency evac drilled into them in a way that some of the others just didn't.

Virtue and Barry jumped into the danger zone and began pitching kids out of it.  Barry was the closest; he pitched kids at Virtue, who used her dance and gym trainging to throw them at the door.  There were a lot of screams and the smell of burning cloth and scorched hair, and of course, the facility alarms were going off all over the place and the E-team was on the way but---they were first on the ground.  And Bella had told Virtue all about how when you were first on the ground, you acted to get other people out.  Period.

Cause you wouldn't get a second chance.

Kids were piling out of the classroom, and the fireball was building and all the sprinklers seemed to do was to make things worse.  Barry and Virtue were the last out, both their suits were scorched and melting messes on the outside and Virtue didn't have much of her ponytail left when the E-team hit the door.  Two of them grabbed Barry and Virtue and threw them at Uncle Skaya and Chromokey and piled into the room---

The room where there was still screaming, because the teacher, Violet Rush,  was still in there with Terry.

That was all Virtue saw with her own eyes, because Uncle Skaya carried her straight to the Infirmary, and  the whole Facility went into Lockdown.

When it was over, Terry was dead.  So was the teacher, and two of the E-team.  

And Bella was there.  Maybe Uncle Skaya called her, Virtue never did find out, but she told her contacts to send the jobs to other people and she was there, right there, when Lockdown was lifted, and Virtue and everyone else found out what had happened.  So when all of the kids went into hysterics, including Virtue, Bella was there for Virtue and Virtue alone.

Bella was there in a way no one else could have been.  And Bella was able to help her with the hardest lesson a kid can ever learn.

Grownups, the ones who seem to be so omniscient, who are the ones who take care of you, aren't always right.  They aren't always smart.  They can make mistakes.

The people you know and love and care for can die.  Not just slowly, where you  have warning, but swiftly and shockingly and you never get the chance to say goodbye, or make up for things you did or said that were wrong.

Life is a bitch.  And death is worse.  And there is nothing you can do about it but hold onto each other afterwards.

When Bella left three days later, Virtue knew with all her heart that there were three things she intended to do.

She was going to get a better suit, because the clunky thing she'd been wearing had not been easy enough to move in.  If it had been, she might have been able to get the teacher out too.  Through Uncle Skaya she found out about Nash Industries and began a one-person letter campaign that eventuallu resulted in---yes---a much, much better suit.

She was going to get real E-team training.  Evac wasn't enough.  Barry joined her in that, and so did  two other kids.  The rest, in a chance of policy, started the same evac training and drills that the rad/rads and rad/chems took.

And---if there was any way, any way at all---

---one day she was going to leave here.  She was going to Paragon City.  

She was going to be a hero, help people, save lives.  Like Bella.  

It was her destiny.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 25 August 2005, 07:44:00
Dr. Septimus Reynard was...well, "happy" was not exactly the correct term.  "Contented," perhaps.  Certainly "fulfilled."

Brown/Braun/Herscholden--it seemed that Gunther Herscholden was "Brown's" real name--stared at him in drugged blankness from the chair in which he was strapped down.  A fragment from one of the aliens known as a "Nictus" was already working its way into his body.  While Reynard's primary project was still manipulation of the human genome, he had been called in on this project precisely because of that knowledge.  And in a few moments they would all see if what he had planned to happen when this alien lifeforce interacted with a human would come to pass.

Sometimes he had to shake his head in disbelief over what was going on in what had been the Fifth Column and was now calling itself "The Council."  First vampires, now they wanted....

Then again,  there was some logic to it.  When you wanted to frighten people, you invoked the monsters they remembered from their childhood.

Like vampires, and....

"Take the restraints off, and make sure the chains are on securely," he told his underlings.  "Then touch him with the taser."

Hescholden had managed, as Reynard knew he would, to irritate someone in a higher position than he just enough to get him assigned as an experimental subject.  And when that happened, Reynard was waiting with the proper requisition forms already filled out.

Now Herscholder sat, arms and legs burdened with chains too heavy for the man to even lift, even if he had not be drugged, while Reynard's chief assisstant checked the power level on the taser.  "Sir, this is barely sub-lethal," the man said, looking up with concern.

"Yes, I am aware.  In order for the trasformation to take place, he must be just short of dead.  Proceed."

Obediently, the assistant put the taser to Herscholder's neck and fired.

The man's body convulsed.  The convulsed again.  

Then whirled into a blur of motion, and a roar.

And where Herscholder had been now stood a wolf four times his original size.  It pounded its chest and howled, then looked at him dumbly.

"Excallent.  Take it away."

Already programmed to respond to certain subsonics the werewolf---which the top brass wished to be referred to as a Warwolf---shambled away after the assistant.  And Reynard returned to his office.  His role in this project was finished.  They had the technique, they had the results.  They could run it without him

There was a message waiting for him.

Six little Injuns kickin' all alive,
One kick'd the bucket and then there were five

Ironically, it was his own Number Five that had failed this time.  Number Five, who had been conscripted into a program intended to train borderline supers into real supers.  Failed spectacularly too; attempting to build up his energy powers to remove several targets at once, he had built up, then discharged in all directions at once, and had a fatal heat attack.

Five left.

Meanwhile---there was another message on his desk as well.  This time, more disturbing.  He had his own informants among his fellow members of the Council, and all was not right with the world.   There were things going on that did not bode well for those who, like him, had not thrown their full weight behind the winners in the struggle for leadership.  It might be time to move on.  And it wasn't as if he hadn't had other....offers.

He stared blankly at the framed picture of the lunar landscape on his wall.  There was one that was very interesting.  Very.

From a group that called itself "Malta."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 10 September 2005, 13:04:26
"It is what she wants," Skaya said to Trevore Seabourne.  "It is what she wants more than anything."

Sr. Seaborne sighed.  He had been afraid it was going to come to this,.with this child.  She had the need, the drive, the hunger to serve.  It was probably mostly what was keeping her alive.  

But how could he send this child, of all of them, out there?  With bones that would, in a year, maybe two, start to snap?  With radiation that could, unless discharged, kill her?  Of all of the children in this facility, she was physically the least suited to become a hero.

But spiritually?  Psychologically?  She needed this. If he denied it to her--

She would probably give up and die.

"She must do this," Skaya insisted.  "If you do not let her, it will kill her."

The echo of his own thoughts.

He hadn't really thought twice about it when Nash asked him to let some of his people come in to recruit for a new group of teenages, associated with this Alliance of Champions he had started.  If anything, the blip on his radar was "Oh good, they might find a way to mainstream some of the older kids."  The thought of little Virtue. that fragile butterfly of a child, wanting to go out there to Paragon City had not even crossed his mind.

Over the years she had come to mean a great deal to him.  His knife-edge success, she should have died over and over again, and over and over again he and the specialists in rad mutations had managed to keep one step ahead of her body.  She was happy, for the most part.  She had a wonderful role-model, and a caring "older sister" in Belladonna Aura.  She had her dancing.  If he had thought anything, it was that one day she might find a way to bring her dancing to a larger audience.

He should have known better.  He knew that drive to serve.  He'd seen it in her.  He should have realized it was the core of her life.

And now she wanted to go to Paragon.  There was a place waiting for her.  Work, meaningful work.

For as long as she lives.....

But it was in the hands of Nash, and they were the ones on the bleeding edge of the tech that was keeping her alive.  If, somehow, some genius tech got wind of her problems and took the solution sideways....found a fix that was outside the box....

The best place for her to get that visibility was in YC.  

"What happens at the worst?" Skaya was saying, as his eyes glittered with unshed tears.  "She dies, as she will die here, if we do not let her go.  And at the best?  She lives, she prospers, she becomes something---wonderful.  The butterfly comes out of coccoon."

Maybe it was that image that decided him.  He signed the papers.  

And as soon as Skaya was out of the office, he wrrote an email.  Not to Belladonna Aura, but to Bella Dawn Parker.  This was for the "big sister," not the hero.

"Dear Miss Parker.  We're sending Virtue out into Paragon.  A new group called the Alliance of Champions sponsored by Nash Enterprises  has started up, with a teenage auxilliary training program called Young Champions.  She wants this, as I am sure she has already told  you, and I think she needs this as well.   But you also know how fragile she is.  So I am tasking you with something.  Use that intuition of yours.  Find someone to take a personal interest in her at Nash.  Someone who will make it his or her business to save her."   He paused.  SHould he?  Yes, he should.  

"Find someone extraordinary," he finished.  "Find someone who can make us a miracle."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 10 September 2005, 13:26:08
"An interesting proposition," Septimus Reynard said to the Armani-clad woman behind the three acres of highly-polished, black granite desk.  "I am flattered that you considered me."

The woman's perfectly formed lips thinned in an ironic smile.  "You are not flattered, and we both know that, Reynard.  You know better than to consider anything as flattery.  It is a challenge.  You think that you are practiced enougn in decpetion to pull it off.  So do I.  The question is, do you want to?"

"There is something I may want in the future," Reynard said carefully.  "It will require some legal manuevering.  Some very careful and exactling work.  Possibly a new identity.  Not expensiive, given your fleet of lawyers but--"

The Countess waved that away.  "Trivial.  Done.  I already know what you are going to want, and there should be no problem.  Do you accept, or not?"

"Done."  He never haggled.

"Good."  Countess Crey smiled again.  It reminded him of the smile on the lips of the images of the Hindu goddess Kali.  Not obviously cruel...not obviously.  "You are now my inside informant in Malta.  My people will give you all the appropriate information for making contacts and passing information.  Welcome to the firm."

As he covertly returned to his Malta lab, he thought about the ten.  Now four.

Four little Injuns up on a spree,
One he got fuddled and then there were three.

Who knew that alcoholism would prove to be the weakness of the most promising?  There was a great deal that the metahuman metabolism could overcome, but not catastrophic liver failure.  

Three little Injuns out in a canoe,
One tumbled overboard and then there were two.

And pure accident.  A fishing trip on Lake Superior.  And a white squall.  He had it on reliable authority that Number Three had been a true hero, getting everyone else into survival suits and over the side....

Two little Injuns foolin' with a gun,
One shot t'other and then there was one;

Unlike the one who had turned into a thug.  A bullet in the brain put an end to that fatally flawed personality.

One little Injuns livin' all alone,
He got married and then there wre none.

That was the one that had been retrieved by his mother.  Still absolutely normal, married, an insurance adjuster.  A complete failure.

But Ten....ah, Ten.  Ten was, unaccountably, still alive, and growing in power.  Yes....this was going to be interesting.  Someone had solved all the problems he had foreseen with technology.  An angle he had not considered.  And Crey had...resources.

Doctor Septimus Reynard smiled.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 10 September 2005, 13:27:36
"An interesting proposition," Septimus Reynard said to the Armani-clad woman behind the three acres of highly-polished, black granite desk.  "I am flattered that you considered me."

The woman's perfectly formed lips thinned in an ironic smile.  "You are not flattered, and we both know that, Reynard.  You know better than to consider anything as flattery.  It is a challenge.  You think that you are practiced enougn in decpetion to pull it off.  So do I.  The question is, do you want to?"

"There is something I may want in the future," Reynard said carefully.  "It will require some legal manuevering.  Some very careful and exactling work.  Possibly a new identity.  Not expensiive, given your fleet of lawyers but--"

The Countess waved that away.  "Trivial.  Done.  I already know what you are going to want, and there should be no problem.  Do you accept, or not?"

"Done."  He never haggled.

"Good."  Countess Crey smiled again.  It reminded him of the smile on the lips of the images of the Hindu goddess Kali.  Not obviously cruel...not obviously.  "You are now my inside informant in Malta.  My people will give you all the appropriate information for making contacts and passing information.  Welcome to the firm."

As he covertly returned to his Malta lab, he thought about the ten.  Now four.

Four little Injuns up on a spree,
One he got fuddled and then there were three.

Who knew that alcoholism would prove to be the weakness of the most promising?  There was a great deal that the metahuman metabolism could overcome, but not catastrophic liver failure.  

Three little Injuns out in a canoe,
One tumbled overboard and then there were two.

And pure accident.  A fishing trip on Lake Superior.  And a white squall.  He had it on reliable authority that Number Three had been a true hero, getting everyone else into survival suits and over the side....

Two little Injuns foolin' with a gun,
One shot t'other and then there was one;

Unlike the one who had turned into a thug.  A bullet in the brain put an end to that fatally flawed personality.

One little Injuns livin' all alone,
He got married and then there wre none.

That was the one that had been retrieved by his mother.  Still absolutely normal, married, an insurance adjuster.  A complete failure.

But Ten....ah, Ten.  Ten was, unaccountably, still alive, and growing in power.  Yes....this was going to be interesting.  Someone had solved all the problems he had foreseen with technology.  An angle he had not considered.  And Crey had...resources.

Doctor Septimus Reynard smiled.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 10 September 2005, 13:41:22
When she had gotten Seabourne's message, Bella had not been sure just how Trevore expected her to pull that particular hat-trick off.  But she believed in intuition and she believed in being able to take tiny bits of luck and turning them into extraordinary things.

And one of those tiny bits of luck had come her way.  Nash had a shortfall; not huge, but enough to put a temporary strain on the budget for AoC and YC.  And High Flight, well known for philanthropy, was able to step in.  High Flight's CEO, Golden Harrier, the word famous DJ, believed in putting money where it did the most good, and to be able to step in at the right time and help out a new supergroup that stood for cleaning up Paragon--that was where it would do the most good.

So she was meeting with Frost Djinni, the AoC's rep and local head, and about to hand over a check.  And she might not be a telepath, but she knew how to read people and play hunches.  Even people encased in hardshell suits.

He was suspicious, but he had to have checked out High Flight.  And Nash had given his orders, so...he took the check.  And she sensed a tiny, tiny opening and struck.

"There is one small favor you can do for me, me personally," she said---and explained the situation with Virtue---now calling herself Verte Virtue.  The progressive degeneration.  The puzzle.  Her connection.  She sensed that he would not respond to too much tugging on heartstrings, so she kept the emotional overtones to a minimum.  The purzzle would intrigue him, she thought.  And maybe the image of the raw courage of the frail child who was so fiercely determined to do good.  To make her life mean something in the context of service.  He would respond to that.

And she sensed an unrelenting drive to excellence in him.  If anyone could find the right man for this job in Nash, he would.

And when she got his curt nod and assent, she knew she had won.  She left him content.  Her intuition told her that the wheels were in motion.  If there was going to be a miracle. well, this man, this Frost Djinni, would find the means to make it happen.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 29 September 2005, 15:28:10
Verte came in from a run as Blue Streak, and sat down to do her History homework.  She'd be glad to have Miss Daji back again...things around here seemed really out of joint, what with the UDs fallen apart and Miss Daji gone.  Even Aggie was subdued.

The UDs thing....now she was really glad that Bella had given her the heads-up to stay clear.  With one member dead, and Jeez, it was Miss Vic's sister!  Double plus ungood.

She finished the homework, checked her gauges and sighed.  In the yellow--they were never out of the yellow now--and edging towards red.  Again.  Not that she minded going out for runs, and doing heal-and-dashes through the Hollows was kind of fun, but....

But this wasn't good.  The suit couldn't keep up with her anymore.   Her latest med report was that, well, the reason for her even moods these days was that most all of her hormones were just not there anymore.  Which wasn't so bad when she saw how miserable all the romance stuff was making people, and was sure making it easier to be cheerful but....

She wondered if the techs at Nash knew.

Well, a side-effect of being non-hormonal was that  being sensible was automatic.  She sat down and dashed off an email to her contact at the company, attaching the med report and the 24-hour record of her gauge-readouts.

Dear sir; I know I was scheduled for a suit upgrade soon.  How soon is that, please?  These readouts are not looknig real good......

_____________________________________________

The email-intercept in Septimus Reynard's desktop bar pinged and as soon as he finished looking at his latest results, he pulled up what he had received.

His llips pursed as he read it, and the attachments.  Interesting.  Yes.  Better wait, wait until this upgrade was a reality.  Why not let someone else do the research for him, then reap the benefits?  Get the suit and the subject.

He sent a memo to the lawyers, asking for a brief delay.

And smiled.

She would be his, shortly, and he would find out exactly what had gone wrong and create the new, improved, and perfected model.

....and then there were none.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 29 September 2005, 15:37:59
((Wait for it, people.  I am not yet done with the run-up.  When I am, here are the ground-rules.

ONE: This will mostly be done the old-fashioned way, with non ME stand-alone chunks.  If up to four of you want to collab on a chunk in ME fine,  but ALL of Verte's, and probably all of Frost's responses will be in standalone chunks.

TWO: I am the coordinator and will pass the "talking stick" in order to the next in line.  You may play or pass, but you must do so within 24 hours.

THREE: I would like a list now of those who want to weigh in on this.  Yes, others can be added later, but I want a handle on who's coming in initially.

FOUR: Keep your chunks to the size of the two above please.  I'd like this to move along and....hehehehe....be an exercise for the participants in doing the most with the fewest words.  

OK that is all.  Wait for the  "go" signal when Verte cracks 20, gets her suit upgrade, and Reynard pounces.))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Robotech_Master on 29 September 2005, 16:46:34
((Count me in!))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 29 September 2005, 18:04:56
((Please count Mel in as well!))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: TheMannequin on 29 September 2005, 23:31:13
[[Hell, I'll bring Donelda into this.  For those that don't know, Donelda is Virtue's Mannekin, and in Virtue's reality, she was Derrik's mother.]]


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: metalheadlawyer on 30 September 2005, 07:00:17
((I would be happy to be involved, but I still feel like I have no feel whatsoever as to how Storm Adept would react to the other characters.  I simply don't have enough interaction with them to know how to write good dialogue between him and them.  He had a bit of a relationship with Verte, a bit with Asteroid Girl, but other than that there wasn't much to his relationship with the other members, except that most didn't like him very much.   Anyone that wants to use him, feel free to throw him in, but I just don't know how to write for most other characters in the group.)


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Clarion Call on 30 September 2005, 07:31:27
((I would really enjoy playing in this, as Verte and Effie have similar builds and extremely different takes on things. If she's too high tension for the plot though, I fully understand and hope everyone has a ball. ;) ))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moondancer on 30 September 2005, 07:42:25
((Got Miss Daji, Lady M, and Firebird. Count any of them in that would be useful))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 30 September 2005, 13:41:58
((The thrust of this is largely going to be: what YOUR character thinks of the situation as it unfolds and what YOUR character is going to do about it.  Therefore whatever you write will be right!   I have a plot outlined but it is flexible and I will gladly change it depending on what unfolds))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Kid Crisis on 30 September 2005, 16:00:33
((I'd love to get Torch involved.  Speaking of which, we should totally have a YC night sometime soon.  <coughHINTcough>))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 30 September 2005, 16:32:05
((We're trying to get a regular night scheduled.  Wednesday?  And any time you want Torchy to play alongside Verte or Tex,  just yell))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 03 October 2005, 14:34:35
Tim Torres.  The response to her query, her ill-disguised plea about a suit upgrade had come from Tim Torres.  Not someone she knew, but the title: Department Head, Research and Development---

She read it in a daze.  There was a new suit.  It was ready.  It was ready now---

She glanced at her gauges and readouts and blanched.  She'd done a run only an hour ago and already--not high yellow.  Red.  All of them.

She dashed off emails and voice messages on the run.  The reply from Nash came as she was halfway there, essentially, your readouts are redlining, get your ass over here now.  The readouts were dropping as she sped to the door she'd been sent to, bypassing Reception and all the rest, but the look on the tech's face as he opened the door for her told her she was a lot closer to becoming a suit full of green goo than she wanted to think about.

Escorted to a containment room full of techs in rad-suits, she had eyes only for one thing:

It hung on a stand in the middle of the room.  And it was....pretty. m Not clunky like her current suit.  Graceful, quite lovely, like a metallic leotard and tights and boots.  

It also had a full helmet...and there was an operating table next to it.  And a lot of...stuff...on a tray next to it.

Someone in a rad suit came up to her, a stone-faced fellow with untidy hair, very young.  His expressionless voice echoed hollowly from his helmet.  "Miss Virtue, I need you to understand something.  Once in this suit, until we have a replacement, you are not coming out.  You'll be sealed inside it."

Her eyes went wide as she stared at the suit, at the preparations.  "P-permasealed?" she faltered.

"It will be comfortable.  Like a second skin."

"Helmet too?"  That was, well that part was hard.  To have people look at her and only see the visor---she'd be like a 'bot.  And maybe they would start to treat her like a 'bot too.

"Helmet can come off, for brief periods and for sleeping.  For sleeping, we'll give you a soft hood that does about the same things."

She looked down at the readouts on her wrist-comp.  Already edging up again.  This was not something she had a choice about.  She firmed her lips, raised her chin and nodded.

"Let's do it."

And those were the last words she spoke for several hours.  Because for several hours, as needles and tubes and clamps were inserted into her, onto her, and around her, she was in too much pain to speak.  Her initial embarassment at having to strip naked was swallowed up in the pain.

But she didn't cry, or cry out.  These people had to do their work to make her ready.  She would not make them feel badly about doing it.

Through those hours, the stone-faced man, who she came to realize was the mysterious Tim Torres, watched over every tiny detail.  Strangely, she came to feel more confident, and more at ease with him there.  He felt like--like some kind of guardian.  

Finally she stood up, and the suit itself was eased over her body, bit by bit, tiny microcircuit connections made, tubes plugged in, as she closed her eyes and waited it out, knowing that once this was over and the suit was activated part of the pain would end...

She felt, rather than saw, them fitting the helmet over her head.  Heard the click of connections, heard and felt the hiss of seals being made and felt a tingle and a low-frequency hum and---

Her eyes flew open, shocked, as all pain, all pain, suddenly---

---stopped.

Gone.  Vanished.  Wiped out.  For the first time in her life, she knew what it felt like to be---

---to be normal.

The view through the visor was no different than with the helmet off, though there were some HUD displays around the inside, and she expected there would be a long set of training things to go through for her to learn about them.  Right now that didn't matter.

"Oh my God," she said aloud, in wonder.  In more than wonder.  In joy.  In what was rapidly becoming giddy elation.  As if she had taken the full load of her pain-killers and was, frankly, rather high.

"What?  What's wrong?" spmeone asked sharply.

"Nothing---" she gasped.  Then laughed.  "Nothing, nothing, everything's right!  Everything's wonderful!  I don't hurt anymore!"  

She spun around in twenty exuberant fouettes, stopped, then impulsively began going from tech to tech, taking their hands, squeezing and shaking them, saying over and over again, "Thank you!  Thank you!  Oh thank you so much!"  When she got to Tim Torres, she took both his, and looked him in the eyes.  

She felt his--tension.  Not quite withdrawal.  But---

Her mind flashed to Frosty.  Yep, another like him.

She damped down the exuberance.  But she wanted him to know....

"Thank you," she said, calmly.  "This is the first time, ever, I've felt as if I wasn't having to fight myself and everything that was wrong with me just to do my job."

She sensed a tiny relaxation.  And---unexpectedly, a grin, and just a tiny bit of wet glitter to his eyes.  An almost-tear?  If so, she hoped it was from happiness at getting it all done right.  She let go of his hands.

"Now, training I guess?  So I can do my job better."

When she got home, she would dance.

Right now she was going to relearn how to.

And it was going to be good.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 04 October 2005, 15:22:22
Verte regarded her teammates through her helmet-visor, all of them surrounding her in the empty Danger Room.  It was easy to read their expressions.  Headcase--Link--looked profoundly unhappy, Merc looked puzzled, the rest were somewhere in between the two.

"OK," she said evenly.  "This is my new suit.  This is what you're all going to be looking at from now on, because I'm permasealed in here.  I'll be eating special goop that's ultra concentrated and ultra high calorie, so mostly I won't be having meals with you, but I can still eat regular stuff in addition, so keep me in the pizza-party loop, K?"

At the words "permasealed," expressions headed in the direction of Link's.  

"Don't feel sorry for me," she said fiercely.  "This is the best I've ever felt in my life!  I'm happy!  Look--I brought you here so I could show you all something, K?  Clear back to the walls a sec."

She reached down to the boombox in the middle of the room as they cleared out of the way, expressions even more dubious than before.

The familiar drum-beat started, then the keyboards, as she tapped her foot, getting herself into the groove.

Then the lyrics.

Just a still town girl on a saturday night, lookin' for the fight of her life
In the real-time world no one sees her at all, they all say she's crazy

This was not the imitiation of what the stunt-dancer had done on the screen, oh no, not anymore.  This was Verte's own dance now.  Augmented by the suit, her jumps were higher, lighter, freer than any "normal" dancer could do.  And she spun at the top fo them, flinging her arms out like Frosty did when he called up that ice-armor.  

Locking rhythms to the beat of her heart, changing woman into life
She has danced into the danger zone, when a dancer becomes a dance

Oh yes, this was definitely the time when she became the dance.  This was amazing, and she sang along with the song inside her helmet.  Even though she had practiced it, had in fact given an impromptu performance for the techs, it still amazed her.

It can cut you like a knife, if the gift becomes the fire
On a wire between will and what will be

She's a maniac, maniac on the floor
And she's dancing like she's never danced before
She's a maniac, maniac on the floor
And she's dancing like she's never danced before

"Like she's never danced before!" she sang, flinging herself across the room and back, tumbling, turning, flipping, doing things she hadn't dared to do for weeks, months, since her bones became so brittle.

On the ice-build iron sanity is a place most never see
It's a hard warm place of mystery, touch it, but can't hold it
You work all your life for that moment in time, it could come or pass you by
It's a push of the world, but there's always a chance
If the hunger stays the night

There's a cold connective heat, struggling, stretching for defeat
Never stopping with her head against the wind

She's a maniac, maniac, I sure know
And she's dancing like she's never danced before
She's a maniac, maniac, I sure know
And she's dancing like she's never danced before

The guitar solo cut in, and she really cut loose.  She was everywhere, like something out of Cirque Du Soleil.  Like a butterfly, like a martial artist, she saw Merc gaping at her as she imitiated some of his moves.

It can cut you like a knife, if the gift becomes the fire
On a wire between will and what will be

She couldn't resist the move; she went down the line of them, just like the girl in the movie.  Turn, flip, point MERC! Turn, tumble point, MEL! Turn, kick, point, LINK!----

She's a maniac, maniac, I sure know
And she's dancing like she's never danced before

She finished in the center of the room turning in place so fast she looked like a whirlwind, then coming to a complete stop with her arms upraised in triumph as the song ended and silence filled the Danger Room.

"And THAT!" she said, panting and glowing with happiness, "Is why you won't feel sorry for me anymore!"


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 04 October 2005, 15:32:48
Septimus Reynard smiled as he watched the feed.  And chuckled.

__________________________________________________

Endal Twilight looked askance at the courier-delivered package as the courier himself watched him.

"You have to open it in my presence, sir," the young man said, without expression.

Endal did so.

Legal papers.

"Young Champions are hereby required and ordered  to relinquish custody of Tres Eva Reynard, also known as Verte Virtue, to her legal parent and guardian, Septimus Reynard, on this day........."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 04 October 2005, 15:33:20
((OK gang.  Line up.  Let's rock.))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Clarion Call on 04 October 2005, 17:57:02
"First sewers, then flies. Can the man not find a damn fresh corpse for once?"

Kristy peeled off her reeking orange and burgundy suit and tossed it into the washer, grumbling to the empty apartment about doctors and sanitation. Tisha was...well, hell, Kristy was loathe to admit it, but Tisha had found someone better than herself to help her. She tried to keep in touch, but things seemed to pile up in every direction. She was managing to keep daily word, at least. The courts, the classwork (damned if she was gonna give it up after all the hell of starting it), the hero work...she couldn't remember the last time she'd had that much fun. And she missed Tisha's pancakes something fierce.

Fiddling with her comm unit, she jacked in the music unit she had lost some of her funds on at the local electronics shop. "Let's get some tunes going. Tunes never hurt nobody."

I will not make the same mistakes that you did
I will not let myself
Cause my heart so much misery
I will not break the way you did,
You fell so hard
I've learned the hard way
To never let it get that far


Kristy scowled as the song hit too close to home and unplugged the cord. "Frickin' American Idol..." Digging around in the fridge produced a soda and she slid into a chair at the dining table. One hard look at her math book, and she chugged half the fizzy neon green liquid before turning her comm back on. Last chance. She knew kids her own age. They were less troublesome that her, but she liked 'em. And it might even be decent to pretend to be young and cheerful again. Maybe the Champs had the hookup.

 Effulgence here. Sorry, I been silent. Things got...crazy. Anyway, how're things going over on that side of the comm? Anyone doing anything fun, cause I need to hear someone had a good day 'bout now. Verte? Pounce? Give me a jangle if ya get this. Thanks.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 05 October 2005, 02:27:51
((This was all right because it did not directly touch on the action but PLEASE remember.  This is to be done in order.

Endel
Frost
Merc
Pouncey
Mel
Torchy
Donelda
Storm
Daji
Lady M
Firebird
Effie

Play or pass please

And anyone else who wants to weigh in please do so now))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Djinni on 07 October 2005, 01:15:13
“…I want updates on the suit,” he said, his voice a steely rasp through the voice-box.  “I've got it on monitor, but in case I miss anything, let me know.”

Verte stood at attention, and gave Frost Djinni a quick salute.  “Yes sir.”

“Let's go,” he commanded, and they entered the warehouse.

And here they were, at long last - the field test.  Months of work by the dedicated Nash Enterprises R&D departments had poured into this suit, this skin, that bound and sustained the young Verte Virtue.

The mission was laughable, a simple “clear and search”, but that was besides the point.  Every safety issue had been addressed, every system analysed and run through countless diagnostic checks in fine detail.

But nothing, nothing, could beat the data accumulated during a field test.

As the Freakshow threw themselves against Frost, he engaged them calmly, as if they were little more than a nuisance.  He was far more concerned with his HUD, and the data that continually streamed over his field of view.  Verte’s skin seemed to be responding beautifully to each task.  Occasionally, she took damage, but Frost nodded in satisfaction as the skin slowly knit itself back together, accelerated at times by her healing auras.

“Any pain since putting it on?  How's the support function?”

“No pain and support is excellent, sir.  In fact, it feels very good.”

“Hmmm, no hindrance of auras... no blockage of rays... good.  No overheating... flexibility intact...”

“Remarkable movement, sir.”

“... No excess radiation leakage,” Frost continued, absently freezing a Stunner within a block of ice.  “Power outage at optimal levels…”

“… No sir, all under control… Yes, sir…”

“Stay behind me, Miss Virtue,” Frost said, irritated.  “No need to push the skin to it’s limit today.”

She quickly backed up, dodging a Juicer’s energy blast.  “Damage is inevitable, sir.  My job to try and avoid it and keep it repaired.”

“Granted, but humour an old man.  This is a test run.”

“Yes, sir.”

And soon, they stood over the last of them.  As Verte affixed the port tags to each of the fallen, Frost ran through a last check of the vital systems.

“Alright then, any tightening?  Especially around the joints?”

“No, sir.  No tightening, although the increased flexibility will require some adjustment on my part.  I'm over-jumping a bit, but that's me, not the suit.”

“How about when you run?  Do your soles hold up?”

“Soles are holding up better than the old suit.”

He nodded.  “Good.  I think I can report a clean test to Torres.  That should shut him up.”

“Sir?”

“Aye?”

“Next upgrade, I think I need some targeting improvements.  Missing more than I like.”

“That comes mostly from training, Miss Virtue.  The targeting range simulations need an upgrade.  I'll send over moving-target practice programs.”

“Thank you, sir,” she said, and then--"Sir, the foes are getting smarter.”

He shrugged.  “That’s to be expected, Miss Virtue.  As we improve, so will they.  And speaking of improvements, I would say this skin of yours is field ready.”

“Yes, sir.  Thank you for your time and effort, sir.”

Frost crossed his arms, and fell silent.

“Sir…?”

“It's been made painfully clear to me--” he interrupted “--by... certain individuals... that you kids are part of my job.  You might be seeing more of me, now that some have deemed you all ready to step up in this hero game.”

He shook his head.

“But let me make this clear.  Despite what the city and HERO Corps feel is appropriate, and what this "SCL 20" milestone means to them…”

(http://www.elftrance.com/CoH/FieldTest.jpg)

He leaned forward.  Verte suppressed an urge to step back.

“… You all haven't proven a thing to me yet.”

“Yes, sir.”

He backed-off, and seemed to relax.  “It looks like you'll all get that chance.  Despite how I may feel about it.”

“You're the boss, sir.”

“Dismissed, you'd better report back to the Nash complex.  Torres will probably want to see you.”

“Yes, sir.  Thank you again for your time, sir.  I know it's an imposition, sir.”

Frost gave her an impatient grunt.

“I'll go now, sir, and not take up any more of your time.  Thank you again, and goodnight, sir.”

“Goodnight, miss.”

As she swept down the long corridor of the warehouse, she waved a last goodbye.  “Pleasant Journey!”

He watched as she turned the corner, and soon heard a door open, and slam shut.  He reached up softly, and activated the Alliance of Champions channel.

“Aye, Miss Virtue.  Safe Journey to you.”

He snapped the channel off, and looked about.  They had cleared the warehouse, and now he was alone.  He stood there a moment, then slowly started to shake.  He let himself go, and soon the shakes gave way to chuckles, then laughter, then howls of relief.

He clutched madly at his sides, and stopped only to remove his helmet and wipe at the tears streaming down his face.  It was done, the skin worked beautifully…

All the worry and frustration from the past few months fell away, as Tim Torres sat down and continued to laugh, helmet in hand.

They had done it, they had saved Verte Virtue.

“I know you’re watching,”  he said finally, his head bowed, his eyes closed, and his mouth pulled back in a slight grin.  “That was for you, Victoria.  I love you, baby.”

((Alright then, Endal has opted to pass, and so shall Merc at this moment.  Pouncey's up!  Pass or play?))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Robotech_Master on 07 October 2005, 10:39:05
"Coming out of the dark / Finally see the light now / And it's shining on me…"

The old Gloria Estefan tune played out of the TV set at the other end of the nearly-empty cafeteria as Pouncetta sat and toyed with the last bit of her third tray of spaghetti and meatballs. At least she seemed to be getting her appetite back. She wasn't quite up to her usual five helpings, but she wasn't just eating one-tray lunches anymore.  That was good. Spending time in less-depressing environments had definitely helped. Except to sleep, she didn't go back to the old brownstone anymore, spending most of her day on campus, or whizzing around fighting crime.

Pouncetta supposed she should just bite the bullet and ask to move back into the dormitory again. It was just that doing it so soon after she'd gone to so much trouble to get the right to move out kind of smacked of admitting defeat. Which was silly and she knew it, but it was how she was. Maybe there was a third option; perhaps she could get her own apartment on the stipend that Paragon City granted to all full-time heroes. She'd been thumbing through the rental brochures and checking the classifieds, but hadn't found anything that had looked good yet.

"The fifties teen lifestyle and the dot-com era collide!  Joanie Loves Tzotzke, coming up on Paragon TV Sev—" Pouncetta barely seemed to move, but a breeze stirred the napkins on the cafeteria tables as the TV clicked off. Pouncetta checked the nanosecond stopwatch on her wrist. Not bad at all. Definitely getting back into form.

And speaking of getting back into form, how about that Verte Virtue, huh? Pouncetta chuckled, thinking about her. Even if the helmet on that new suit did make her look like she was about to enter the Radioactive Motocross, Pouncetta had to admit it had certainly made a change in her. It was almost like she and Pouncetta had traded emotions, she supposed. Verte had gone from being depressed and in constant pain to being sunny and cheerful at the same time Pouncetta had sunk into depression. Pouncetta hoped that her own recovery would not herald Verte's relapse.

It was weird to think of her being sealed into the unit permanently, though. Never feeling the sunlight on her skin, the touch of another human hand—not that she'd had much chance to feel those things anyway in her life, Pouncetta supposed. It was like that science fiction book she'd read once, except instead of being the Ship Who Sang, Verte was the Suit Who Danced. And perhaps that was good enough for her. Different strokes for different folks, and Verte was about as different as they came. Like I'm one to talk, Pouncetta inwardly chuckled.

Pouncetta only hoped that nothing happened to screw up Verte's newfound happiness. God knew that more than anyone else at the school, she sure deserved some.

((Mel's up! Go Mel!))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 07 October 2005, 11:50:55
A pile of crumpled paper collected next to  Mel's figure as she sat with her sketchpad on the roof of Galaxy High. She'd done her best to find just the right photo to be used as a model, which had proven somewhat difficult. The side of her hand was nearly black from pencil and charcoal, and her tailbone ached from sitting on the rough ground. Mel grimaced at the umpteenth attempt and ripped the page from the spiral-bound pad.

She'd tried to understand the permasealed explanation that Verte had given, but it didn't seem... fair? Fair to whom? It was easy to see how happy and free their friend could now be, even if she could never feel the rush of an autumn breeze on her face or the warmth of the sun against her skin on a lazy afternoon. Mel bit her lip and wiped at her face with the back of her hand. The gesture left streaks of grey across her forehead, but she didn't care. From what Verte had said, permasealed meant that they'd never see her face again. To not ever see a smile again...

Mel began her drawing again. She couldn't forget what her friend looked like, no matter what. Part of her wanted to ensure that Verte herself would remember and not always have to think of herself as some faceless entity in a flawlessly engineered suit.  Gritting her teeth, she attacked the sketchpad again with ferocious determination.

Perhaps it was more for herself than for Verte... but Mel could admit to being selfish. She simply didn't want to forget.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: TheMannequin on 09 October 2005, 15:54:17
[[when it comes to me, I'm gonna have to pass.  I have been trying to write something and even get involved in stuff on Virtue, but it just hasn't been happening.]]


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 03 November 2005, 05:04:00
((Time to get this show back on the road))

Septimus Reynard frowned.  Obviously the people in charge of the Young Champions were wiser in the ways of law than he had thought--or had consulted Nash's own lawyers.  Papers merely filed from a law firm could not be enforced, and they evidently realized this.

Time for phase two.  

The first part, notifying the Crey lawyers to buy a judge and get a court order.  

But this was not fool proof.  It could still be stymied.  Nash had deep, deep pockets and a disinclination to let go of anything that was "his."  His own lawyers could get court orders blocking his court order, or even raise so many questions that he never got a court order in the first place.

So, it was also time for his part of phase two.  

He keyed up a certain file, and ordered it printed and mailed.  He'd had this prepared by a psychologist here at Crey with full access to Verte Virtue's files.  It should push every button she had twice over.

He settled back in his chair with a thin smile.  This might have been all for the best.  He had footage of the subject speeding about on her assigned missions in the new suit.  He had information that she could not be taken out of the suit.  Not without killing her, anyway.  So...Nash certainly would not insist on getting the suit back.

Two prizes instead of one....


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 03 November 2005, 05:25:41
Verte did a double-take when she saw an old-fashioned envelope waiting on her otherwise clean desk.  Complete with stamp---who sent paper mail anymore when there was email?

Curiousity made her open it before she even logged on her computer.

Dear Tanya---yes, I know you call yourself Verte Virtue---but I have thought of you as Tanya for years now, ever since I learned of your existance.  Tanya Reynard.  That was to have been my daughter's name.  Is my daughter's name.  Is your name, actually.  You see, my wife Natasha and I were having difficulty concieving a child, and we went to a particular clinic in Philadelphia that was offering new treatments...Natasha became pregnant, but the doctors insisted that it was a high-risk pregnancy, that she spend the last month of it at the clinic and give birth there, which she did, on the monday of Thanksgiving week.  But our daughter didn't survive, they said, and told me we wouldn't want to see the sad little mutant that had never breathed...

That broke Natasha's heart.  Utterly shattered it.  She never really recovered and died soon after.  I mourned her so much that it never occurred to me to question the truth of what I had been told not even when there was some sort of scandal, some criminal proceedings against the clinic and the doctors there.  I just buried myself in my work and tried to get on with my life.

That is, until a few years ago, when a name in the paper caught my eye.  The doctor who ran the clinic we had gone to was released from prison having served his time, and the story rehashed the particulars of his case.  And to my horror I learned that not only was he the cause of the mutations in the tchildren that had been born there, but that  ten had survived and he had lied to the parents so that he could keep and study them.  And I wondered; could one of them have been my daughter?

It has taken me this long to find you, Tanya.  It has taken private detectives, and begging, and lawyers, and genetics scans.  But there is no doubt.  You are my daughter, and I beg your forgiveness for not trying to find you before, but for so long after Natasha died, I was a broken, lonely man--

Please, Tanya, come and heal this sorrowful old man's heart.  Come and let me tell you about your wonderful mother.  Come and let me treat you like the precious princess you are.

Please, Tanya, come home.

Your hopeful father

Septimus Reynard.


The papers flutered to the floor from fingers gone suddenly limp inside their gloves.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 06 November 2005, 14:32:46
Verte walked slowly into the common room with the letter in her hand.  She still felt as if she was tesla-caged.  Her brain wasn't working.  The words on the page made sense, and yet made no sense.  The Facility---they had legal custody of her, and had transfered guardianship to Nash.  Why had this never come up before?

And her heart---hurt.  A family---  Most of the other kids at the Facility had families, they just couldn't live with those families because of what was wrong with them.  But parents, siblings, came to visit all the time, and---

And it just wasn't the same as what Uncle Skeya and the other guardians did.  There was something more.  There were times, on family visit days, when she just locked herself in the dance studio and didn't come out, or buried herself in a book she had saved so she would have a distraction.  

Maybe some of the other kiids---

She walked into the common room, and there was Torchy with an open box, surrounded by the others who were looking at pictures and laughing and making fun of him while he distributed what were obviously homemade cookies.

"'Ere now, one more smarmy bit out'o ye, an' no more biscuits!" he was saying to Pouncy who was waving a picture at him and laughing.  In the mock struggle between them, the picture went fluttering away, and landed at Verte's feet.  She picked it up.  It was a snapshot of some laughing people who looked very like Torchy.  They surrounded him with sausages on sticks, mugging for the camera while they roasted their sausages in Torchy's fire.

"'ey Verte!  Got a package from me Mum and Da!" Torchy called cheerfully, and she wondered how he could be talking that way when she must have been as pale as grass growing under a tarp, when she realized that they couldn't see her face anymore....   "Kin ye come 'ave a biscuit, then?"

She handed him back the picture.  "I---I got a letter," she said, falteringly, holding it out for whoever would take it.

And all the while, where no one could see,  tears of loneliness and raw envy were trickling down her face inside the darkness of the helmet.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 06 November 2005, 14:34:45
((OK.  Now THAT should give you guys something to react to.  Forget the order, that clearly doesn't work.  If you have a reaction, post!))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moondancer on 06 November 2005, 15:07:45
Dark Firebird and Headcase turned to Verte, concern on their face, but Asha was the one who stood and crossed the room to take the letter.  She read it silently as the other kids looked on and then looked up to Verte, sadness in her eyes.  “  I mean this, its gotta be a shock and all, but ye donna know these people.  This sounds great on paper, but maybe Miss Gizam or someone should look into it.  I mean… “  Asha sighed.  A family.  It was something she had with Miss Gizam and Dante, as hard as it was at times.  Verte deserved it too if it was on the level.  “What you gonna do, sugah?  Ya know we’ll help any way we can.”


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 06 November 2005, 15:30:24
Tharvia listened with a studious expression as Royal Torch read the letter, written with a hand tool in this planet's primitive scrawl, to her in a quiet voice. Subdued, his accent reminded her of her former sexual slave, the aristocrat Jude Law, who now only repeated the hostile phrase "restraining order" to her before hanging up the communication device.

"It is her father?" she whispered to Torch.

"Yeah, appears to be so," he said. They glanced across the room at Verte's expressionless helmet. Her body language told them as much as they needed to know.

"She is not happy?"

"It's more complex than tha', Tharv. She din't know she had one."

"Then she should investigate him. Is not family an important societal construct for your species?"

He nodded, lips pressed together.

Tharvia strolled over to Verte and slapped her on the back, startling her. "Congratulations, my friend! You have a parent again. We rejoice for you."

The alien girl grinned at the rest of the room, waiting for the festivities to begin.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moondancer on 06 November 2005, 15:43:18
((Um... ASha read the letter but not outloud unless she was asked too....))

Asha sighed.  “It’s not always that easy, Tharvia.  These things can get, complicated.”  The dark skinned girl turned back to her friend.  She couldn’t see the expression behind the mask, but the sympathy in her own eyes was obvious.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 06 November 2005, 16:05:55
Quote from: Moondancer";p="6025

((Um... ASha read the letter but not outloud unless she was asked too....))

Asha sighed.  “It’s not always that easy, Tharvia.  These things can get, complicated.”  The dark skinned girl turned back to her friend.  She couldn’t see the expression behind the mask, but the sympathy in her own eyes was obvious.


Tharvia has difficulty reading two dimensional scripts, so Torch had to read it to her. I am presuming that it was done quietly, for her ears only.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 06 November 2005, 18:08:08
Mel narrowed her eyes as she studied her friend's body language. Family wasn't always a good thing, she knew that much from her own experiences. Having one show up when you clearly had all you could ever want couldn't be fair. It almost seemed selfish to have someone outright demand - even nicely, but it was still a demand nonetheless -  that just because of genetics you were supposed to be giddy and overjoyed and ready to run to their open arms.

Verte appeared neither giddy nor overjoyed. Mel had seen that side of Verte, the day she'd shown them her new suit and danced for the sheer thrill of it all in front of them. That was happy Verte. This...

Slowly, Mel stood up and put her sketchbook aside. "Y'want me t'walk with ya t'see whoever's on call t'night? Ain't the sorta thing that should wait until trainin' t'morrow, an' it really ain't what email's for." Gently, she hugged her friend about the shoulders.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Kid Crisis on 06 November 2005, 22:34:18
Torch paused, carefully placing a bag of cookies over a picture of a certain ragged stuffed dog and pushing his shaggy hair out of his eyes.  It didn't hardly seem fair, Verte finally finding someone, an actual family, and then having to be suspicious of them.  But Verte Virtue and fairness weren't very well acquainted, and something... something didn't seem right.

"I don' know, Vert," he said slowly.  "I mean, 'e shows up out a' nowhere, an' says 'e's yer da?  Somethin' abou' tha' don' ring, t' me, anyway."  He shook his head sadly.  "Yeh ask me, yeh should take tha' thing t' Mr. Twiligh' and forge' yeh ever got i'.  I mean, 'e could be anyone, like."

Smiling weakly, he offered her a cookie.  "Still, could be worse, ey?  Yeh still 'ave us!  An' 'o needs a bleedin' family anyway, righ'?  Yeh've go' on smashin' wi'out one so far!"


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Djinni on 06 November 2005, 23:37:27
Being new, and younger than just about everybody, Prim was still very shy around the others.  She had only moved in that day.  They seemed friendly to her.  She especially liked Melilee, who seemed to know just what to say to her.  

But still... new.  Shy.  

She sat on the edges, and watched the others banter and joke.  The cute one, Torch, had given her a cookie.  She had stammered a thank you, and looked down so not to meet his eyes.  She wanted to be around other children, but these teens were almost, well, adults.  Still, she wanted in.  They seemed like family.  That, more than other kids to play with, was what she wanted.  A family again.

I wish Daddy were here.

I know, little one.  I wish the same.

When Verte had appeared, Prim felt an irresistable smile tug at her lips.  She had liked Verte from the very start.  She felt very much like the sister she had always wanted.  She got up, and was about to run across the room to her...

Wait.

Huh?

Just wait.  She is... troubled.

Fury could read people real well.  And he was right.  Even masked by her helmet, Verte wasn't hard to read.  Prim wanted to run to her, tell her she had moved in just fine, that everyone seemed really nice, that she was so happy to be here...

... but Verte moved as if in a trance.  

So she sat, and watched, and listened as the letter made it's rounds.  

Her daddy's found her.  Why isn't she happy?

Perhaps it is a bit much for her right now, little one.

But... it's her daddy!  He can make everything better, can't he?

She felt Fury sigh.  

Not everyone was gifted with a father such as yours, Prim.  Be patient, and watch.  She might very well need you now.  She might need you all.  Be ready.

Prim was confused, but nodded.

Al... alright, Fury.  I'll be ready.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 07 November 2005, 03:34:43
Round Two:

To:  Mr. Endal Twilight, Mr. Alexander Nash, "Frost Djinni"

Dear Sirs;

Attached, you will find all the relevant records verifying that Tanya Reynard, aka Verte Virtue, is truly my biological daughter.  I apologize for my legal firm acting in haste and filing a surrender order with you; they are more used to hostility and tend to launch a pre-emptive strike.  I prefer to think of us all as allies.  After all, your organization has done an immense amount of good for Tanya.

But it is time for her to join her real family now.  You cannot possibly provide that.  

I have already contacted her myself via letter (copy attached).  I am certain that she will be as thrilled to find me as I was to discover her.  If she does not call on me herself, I will be calling her and arranging to visit her in person in two days--this is to allow her to settle her own mind before we meet for the first time.  This will be a momentous moment for both of us

Sincerely

Dr. Septimus Reynard
35 Rue De Fleur
Founders Falls


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Robotech_Master on 07 November 2005, 06:55:53
Pouncetta zipped over to stand behind Ashe and Torchy, and read the entire letter four times over the course of the two seconds it took for it to be handed between them. "Um," she said, as Torchy read it sotto voce for Tharvia's benefit. She thought it over at high speed as the others talked about it, and winced as Tharvia slapped Verte on the back. Then she slowed herself down to speaking speed.

"Um...listen," Pouncetta said.  "This seems kinda suspicious. After years and years he finally finds you, and he immediately wants you to come home? Not even a preliminary meeting on neutral ground to talk about things and see what you have in common? This letter doesn't read like a concerned parent, it reads like someone who—who sees the next door neighbor kid playing with a toy he thought he'd lost and wants it back." She frowned. There were other things she didn't like about the letter's phrasing, but she thought she'd probably said enough.

"Um...listen. I got something I gotta do. Be back in a little bit, bye!" With a yellow flash of speed, Pouncetta was gone.

Forty-seven seconds later (most of it spent in the slow opening and closing of doors so as not to slam them), Pouncetta stood in the S.E.R.A.P.H. office in the basement of the Atlas City Hall. Dr. Jonathan St. John-Smythe reached up to lower his glasses so he could look over them at Pouncetta. "Felicitations, miss feline. How might I render assistance?

Pouncetta took a deep breath and slowed down again. "I need to know anything you can find out for me about a Dr. Septimus Reynard. It may be a matter of life and death—or worse, family."


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Clarion Call on 09 November 2005, 07:38:09
Effie was glad for her low maintence hairstyle and sleek costume as the lower halls of City Hall were subjected to a sudden minor whirlwind. Once the surprise and light swirl of cat hair settled, she was actually glad to have been called in for work today. Missing that visual would have been tragic indeed.

She snickered as prim and proper heroes unwound their capes from around their necks and waists. Even the most noble idealistic young newcomer had a gleam of greed spark in their eyes as one of the trainers dropped a pouch of Freedom Corp training enhancement vouchers across the floor. Trying to decide whether help, or just enjoy the show, her ears caught a familiar voice from the S.E.R.A.P.H. office.

"—or worse, family." Peering around the corner showed a recognizable furry back and a puzzled Dr. St. John-Smythe. Wandering up, she laid a hand on Pouncetta's shoulder.

"Hey Pouncy, if that was your hurricane out there, I owe you a drink for the laughs..." The look of intensity on the feline face brought her humor down a notch, "Whoa, you're on the hunt. Talk to me. Tell me what you need."
Something's wrong. Nothing else is allowed to go wrong. Not with the only people left.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Robotech_Master on 09 November 2005, 11:12:55
Pouncetta frowned, then smiled slightly. "Oh…Effie."  She sighed. "Verte's got this letter that has her in a dither and I don't know what to do."  She started to pace, briefly appeared to be at both ends of the room at the same time, then took a deep breath and slowed down again. "It's from this Doctor Septimus Reynard, claiming to be her long-lost father and wanting her to come home. The way the letter is written…I just don't trust it. And since he's a 'Doctor' I came here hoping maybe Doc could tell me more about him."

Dr. St. John-Smythe looked up from the laptop he had been consulting while Pouncetta explained. "'Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice,'" the scientist quoted. "For all practical purposes, it seems your Doctor Reynard does not exist. Nothing in Google, EBSCO, LEXIS-NEXIS…nothing in the on-line Who's Who either. This immediately arouses my suspicions, as there should at least be some mention of him in the academic databases, if he is indeed a doctor at all."  St. John-Smythe took off his glasses and polished them absently. "All the more infuriating is that I am positive I have heard the name before, now that I think about it. The problem with an eiditic memory is that it can become so cluttered it is a challenge to retrieve what you need when you need it."

Pouncetta frowned. "Then…what's the next step?"

The scientist rubbed his hands together and cracked his knuckles. "The next step is to do some research amid the musty tomes of academe. I shall delve deep into Paragon University's records and see what secrets they might reveal. The only caveat is that this will require time, but rest assured I shall notify you the moment I uncover anything informative."

Pouncetta sighed. "Thanks, Doc. I guess that's about as good as I can hope for. Is there anything I can do for you in return?"

The scientist shrugged. "Think nothing of it. You have engaged my curiosity; now I would not be able to rest until I uncovered the truth regardless."  He paused. "Although, if you plan to be on Talos Island any time soon, I do have something that needs to be delivered to a colleague…"

Pouncetta grinned. "Consider it already there."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 09 November 2005, 13:50:00
Septimus Reynard placed a call to the cybrarian down int the depths of the Crey research library.  "Time for another scan, Walker," he said, keeping his tone pleasant.   "We want to make absolutely sure that no one, no one who access electronic records is going to find any....irregularities about my career."

"Certainly Doctor," Linda Walker's nasal voice on the other end of the line made him cringe.  "But I run one of those once a month...why an extra?"

"Something has come up.  I have found my long-lost daughter and intend to seek custody of her.  But if certain discrepancies in my electronic records were to show up, it would not only jeopardize that, it would...significantly embarass...the Countess."

Walker could not suppress the nervousness in her voice and Reynard smiled to hear it.  "Right away, then, Doctor.  Initiating scan and repair now."

Reynard smiled and turned off the phone.  It was always good to be sure.  Now anyone looking into the clinic scandal would find him listed as whistle-blower rather than the indicted.

He placed his second call of the day.

He did not think that Verte Virtue would be able to resist tickets to the season premier of "Giselle"......

((this is just meant as a quick reminder that upstream I had Reynard alter all electronic records about himself))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 09 November 2005, 14:34:54
"Mister Frost....um....sir...."  Verte stood "at ease."  Something about Frost Djinni made her want to take military poses.  And always say "sir."

"....and you kids will be seeing more of me around your base and---what, Miss Virtue?"

"Is it....um....all right if my.....father....visits here?"

Silence greeted her question.  Autumn Hayse gave her an odd look.

"And....um....is it all right if....um....he takes me....to the...um....ballet Friday night?  It's....the premier....".Giselle.""

She wanted to go.  She wanted to go so badly.  The only ballet performances she had ever seen were on video.  But....

It was kind of the way he had done it.  And a premier...everyone would be in evening gowns and jewels and they were going to be in a box-seat, as he had made sure to tell her.  And there she would be...sticking out like a sore thumb...in the suit.....

"I think these visits should be under AoC supervistion, Miss Virtue," Frost said, with a chill in his voice.  "This man isn't your legal guardian yet."

"I'll go," Autumn volunteered, to Verte's intense relief.  She liked Autumn Hayse.  "My sister Summer used to be a ballet dancer."

"It's...Friday night.  The season premier.   'Giselle.'" Verte said.

"Honey, you don't exactly sound happy about this," Autumn replied quietly, as Frosty prowled around the common room inspecting it.  "You don't have to go if you don't want to."

Verte sighed.  Was she that obvious?  The fact that Frosty was insisting on having an adult AoC member around was frankly relieving rather than otherwise.

"I want to go it's just....he...spends a lot of time telling me how rich he is.   All about the townhouse in the Falls....box seat for the premier...."  Like every other sentence.   And he could buy her this and arrange for that....

Some of it....oh part of her wanted, greedily.  Gymnastics lessons with Illiana Kovenchina, the gold medal Roumanian gymnast.  Ballet classes at the Paragon City School of Ballet.  

But.....he didn't seem to understand that she didn't really want things.  And ballet and gymnastics were great but...they weren't really what she wanted.  Craved.

She wanted a family.

Autumn was saying something about buying her own ticket.  She couldn't help herself.  "He can buy you a ticket," she said, a little sourly.  "He's rich.  He keeps telling me that."

"Like my Grandfather," Autumn shrugged.  "Different generation."

Maybe that was it.  Inside the suit, she sighed.  "Well, I'll call back and tell him its ok to go, but that my guardian is coming too."

She would just put up with looking like a pipe-wrench in a vase of flowers at the premier.  For Giselle, it would be worth it.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 10 November 2005, 04:05:47
One of the perks of working for the Countess was that you never needed to concern yourself about shopping.  It was all done for you.  In Reyanard's case, he had never really used the full service, only enough that the freezer and refridgerator in his townhouse were kept fully stucked at all times.  Now, however, he did.

He sent the service orders to spoil Verte Virtue.  Sent them her measurements and what amounted to an unlimited account.  "Everything a child could want," he ordered.  "Snacks to share with her friends.  Pretty things. "  

"Toys?" asked the service.  For a moment, he was puzzled.  "I suppose so," he said.  After all, what child didn't want toys?  She might play at being a hero, but she was still a child.

The trucks would begin arriving at the YC HQ this afternoon.  He wanted her overwhelmed, astonished, speechless with graittude by the time the limo pulled up Friday night to take her to dinner and the ballet.  Because that was when the opening salvo of the war to claim Verte Virtue would really begin.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 10 November 2005, 04:54:29
Verte sighed.  Another truck had arrived.  First it had been gourmet snacks, candy, cookies and drinks from one of the fancy stores in Founder's Falls.  Then another had disgorged what looked like half a toy store.  Thank heaven they had Prim.  "Take what you want, please," she'd begged the child, who'd looked over the unwanted bounty with widened eyes.  "Anything you don't want, I'll give to the kids out in KR."  At least little Prim would have...

...I guess stuff she's never had.  She said her Dad was poor.  Well, shoot.  This wouldn't make up for losing a father she obviously adored but...might go a long way towards making her feel more at home here.

This time, oh crumbs, it was girly-bedroom stuff.  Frills and pink.  She hated pink.  This she had left in the hall with the note: Whoever wants this, take it.  When she looked again, it was gone.  Maybe Mel....maybe Prim.  Maybe it all got divided up.

Now she sat and  tapped her foot nervously.  Tonight when missions had finally got sorted, she had asked advice of Mr. Hawkeye...who, after she had explained why all this...bounty...bothered her, seemed to think that she had some reason for unease.

It was as if...as if her father was trying to buy her.  Or bury her under a pile of demonstrations of care that were too inappropriate to actually mean anything.

If it were my daughter....I'd have found out her favorite color...books...gosh, whether she was too old for Barbie Dream Condos, for crying out loud!  Oh, she had kept a couple of the Barbies, the Lord of the Rings ones that she had secretly craved, but Prim got the play-stuff.  And those wierd Bratz dolls...

And the ballet....the more she had thought about it, the more unhappy she'd become.  The matinee would have been so much better.  Lots of heroes went to the matinees, often in their costumes and uniforms in case they got a call.  She wouldn't have stood out in that crowd.  But the Premier?  Half of Founder's Falls and all of them looking, staring, to see who was there and who was wearing what and she...

She was going to stand out like...like...

Like a model Crey Tank in a Barbie display, that was what.

Mr. Hawkeye had urged her to write to Nash and Tim Torres and ask for...well she wasn't sure what.  He said something to cover up the suit, some kind of new helmet...

Yeah right.  Like they had nothing more to do than to futz with stuff to make her look normal for one night.  People who were making important armor for heroes...military stuff...sure, they were going to take time off for something that...trivial.  She felt guilty even thinking about asking.  They'd saved her life!  They'd made her life wonderful on top of that!  She was going to sound...ungrateful.

She stared at the blank email, feeling her throat closing.  What was wrong with her?  Why was she even thinking about asking for something so selfish?  

No.  No, it was wrong.  It was absolutely wrong.  She just could not do it.

Besides, what would Frost Djinni think if he found out about it?  She was only just starting to get a teeny little bit of...of respect from him.  A request like this?  No.  He would think, and rightly, that she was...frivolous.

She bit her lip and thought.   If Miss Hayse wouldn't ask Azuria for something to make people look past her, Tex would.  

Dear Mr Hawkeye; I know you told me to ask Nash for...for something different with the suit, but...I just can't.  I can't ask them to take time away from something important for something that trivial.  It would be horribly selfish, and anyway, I'm just being oversensitive or something.  If Mr Djinni found out I was being such a baby, he'd...well, he'd just figure I was too immature to be trusted, thinking something like this was important enough to take valuable time and resources away from real projects.  I'll figure out something, or I'll just go and have a good time and who cares what people think.  Right?  VV.

She hit send.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 10 November 2005, 07:46:57
Mel grumbled from where she sat on the roof, watching the streets for another delivery truck that would inevitably unload a mess of toys and goodies in Verte's name. A few years ago, she might have been jealous and resentful of the attention. Now, she was simply suspicious of the events that had led to this...

This smothering. Materialistic smothering, she decided with a disgusted sigh. That was how you won over stupid people, and Verte was anything but stupid. Levelheaded, empathetic, the closest that any of them had to a big sister, she was theirs before she was ever some rich man's daughter. Mel found herself grinding her teeth at the name of Reynard, wondering how he thought he could ever compete with the family that existed within the YC.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 11 November 2005, 05:01:22
Verte had dropped young Mike off at Icon to get a real hero costume instead of his t-shirt and jeans.   After she ported him back to the tram she stopped to help  out someone else who was clearing out the Tsoo for Serge, and wandered in to stare at the costumes, hoping maybe something would click in her mind.

Maybe you can get something to--cover up--the suit.

Mr. Hawkeye's awkward suggestion still rattled around her in mind.  

Like a tent, maybe, she thought unhappily.  How could you cover up something like this?  The costumes Serge had on display would only make it all look worse....

"That was never an Icon design," said a voice from behind her.

She started, jumped in fact, and the suit's hypersentive augmentation made her jump back about four feet.

Serge himself stood there, fists on hips, eyeing her.

"But---it's not bad," he said, grudgingly, then smiled.   "Three snaps in Z-formation."

"It---was a little out of your line, sir," she said shyly.  "It's---from Nash tech---I---um---have some---problems."

Now Serge prowled around her, and sha had the feeling that his eyes were spotting all manner of things that probably no one else would  "Carson, be a doll and come look at this, would you?"

Her eyes widened as the manager of the more pretigious Founders Falls Icon came from out of the back room and sauntered over.  "We-ell.  Have we a rival?"

"Don't think so, this looks like a one-of.  Am I right, little dear?"  Somehow, the words "little dear" were not at all offensive coming from Serge.  They sounded kindly.

"Yessir," she replied, as Carson moved around and peered at the back of her neck.  

Meanwhile Serge was punching something into his PDA.  "Verte Virtue, mutant, rad/rad defender....hmm.  Yes, definitely something we wouldn't have had the tech for.  Pity.  I would have loved to be able to design something for you.  Swift and purposeful..."  HIs eyes grew distant, and Carson nudged him with an elbow.  "Ah, well if there ever is something we can help with---"

Suddenly her eyes widened.  Would it be possible---

"There...might...maybe...if you could..."

"Oh, spit it out, girlfriend!" Carson laughed.  "We don't bite!  Well, not after we have our coffee anyway."

Awkwardly, and with much hesitation, she outlined her problem.  The corners of Serge's mouth turned down.

"And you need it today...oh honey, I wish you'd come to us with this a week ago!"

"I didn't know a week ago," she said, despondently.

But then Carson's head came up.  "Ravenstorm!" he said.

Both Verte and Serge's heads swiveled to look at him.  But it was Serge who said in delight---"Oh my maiden aunt!  You're right!  It's perfect!"

"Ravenstorm?" Verte asked, bewildered.  "But---that's a televis---"

"Of course it is, but some demented young thing with far too much to spend decided that for her new look she had to have a cloak like Ravenstorm's.  The cloak mind you, hood, floor length, about a hundred yards of velvet and all."

"I tried to tell her," Carson said, shaking his head in mock-sadness.  "But noooooo."

"We made it for her and off she went, and back she came not thirty minutes later.  After a hospital visit.  Wretched thing got her faceplanted, just like we said it would."  Serge's mouth twitched.  "You know, you just can't get cloaks to behave in real life like they do in animation."

"So we took it back and we still have it, and I think it just might solve your problem.  Crystal!"  Carson called to one of the highly fashionable girls behind the counter.  "Call the FF store, and tell them to send the Ravenstorm cloak over by fast courier, there's a dear."

Half an hour later, Verte stood in the dressing room, and stared into the mirror.  She was swathed from the top of her head to the floor in yards of lush, midnight-blue velvet.  And thanks to the impeccable design of Icon's tailors, she didn't look like a drapery sample, she looked....

...mysterious.

Her face-plate was hidden in the artfully sculpted and reinforced hood.    Like the animated character's the hood was ever so slightly reminiscent of a bird head with a pointed beak.  That was what the reinforcement was for, to make it hold its shape.

"Now darling," Carson said, coming to stand next to her, "If it was me, I would take my helmet off in the limo, put the hood back, carry the hemet under my arm  until I got to the box, then put it back on there and put the hood up.  Are you allowed to have it off for that long?"

"---um, yeah, I mean I can have it off for more than that if I need to---"

"Then wait till the house-lights go down then put it on and put the hood up."  Serge smiled.  "You won't look anything out of the ordinary.  Now, walk for us; we'll probably have to coach you on how to move in that much fabric."

They did.  But Verte was a dancer, and a fast learner at that.  It wasn't long before she had mastered the fluid toe-heel stalk with the little crossover at the ankles that models used, and which incidentally made certain she could kick the fabric out and away before she put her foot down.

"Well, who'd have thought we would ever find an owner for that white elephant!" Carson said when both designers were satisfied.  "Darling, you have done us a favor.  Give her the wretched thing at cost, Crystal."  His eyes twinkled.  "I promise, it won't break your little piggy bank.  Now you go and have a good time.  You look Mahvelous!"

Somewhat to her shock, "cost," was less than half what she'd spent on her hero cape here.  The girl showed her how to roll it so the velvet wouldn't get creased, then slid it into its own satin carry-bag with the Icon logo emblazoned on it.  Almost trembling with relief now, Verte sped off back to the HQ in Galaxy, leaving Carson and Serge watching her go.

"You old softy," Serge said to his partner.

Carson only laughed.  "It isn't every day we get to be fairy godmothers now, is it?"

"Well....you're half right," Serge grinned, then turned to a new customer.  "Oh yes, Nullifier!  We have this little Tsoo problem---"


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 12 November 2005, 05:01:28
Septimus Reynard was nothing like Verte had imagined.

Quite frankly, he looked like a statue of some ancient Roman senator.  And when he came into the common room where  Verte and Miss Hayse were waiting, he caused quite a stir.

She had her helmet and her mask both off, and he greeted her with a curious mix of effusiveness and standoffishness.   She introduced him to Miss Hayse, and they were off.

In a long, white, chauffeur-driven limo, where he plied Miss Hayse with drinks and talked.  He kept trying to include Verte in the conversation, but she was feeling painfully shy, and made only very soft, monosyllabic answers.  She'd put her helmet back on; she felt more sheltered that way.  At the restaurant in Founders Falls, she ordered only an appetiser, something with lobster, which, truth be told, she adored.  And she had her helmet off for that, too, though there were a couple other heroes here in uniform, so no one seemed to think her appearance worth a stare.

At least her father didn't chide her for not ordering more to eat, but she really ate now just to taste things; most of her calorie intake came from some rather nice tasting stuff Nash sent over.  Very concentrated, and the suit could handle the...remains.  He gave her a curious look, but perhaps he attributed her lack of appetite to nerves, to a teenager on a diet, or perhaps he assumed she'd eaten earlier.

Then, what she had been longing for and dreading.

She swirled on the cloak as they got into the limo, and when the car disgorged them at the theater, she had already put her hood up.  As they made their way towards the box seat, she realized with relief that --no one was staring at her.   Carson and Serge had been right.  She just looked like anyone else in an opera cloak; a  spectatuclarly well made one, but there were at least five or six other women wearing something similar.

And once the house lights came down, she was able to put her helmet back on and use the tech to give her a really good view of the stage.

And it was wonderful.  

They actually were sharing this box with four other extremely wealthy-looking people that her father seemed to know.  At the intermission,  two bottles of champagne and some soda were delivered, and he insisted on pouring champagne all around.  The talk turned to their work, which rather bored her, until Miss Hayse turned to her.

"Good production."

"Well, I like Giselle a lot.  I just wish it had better music," Verte said, frankly.  "I mean, you compare the Adam score with the score for Swan Lake---take the first scene in the graveyard.  Adam has this mildly triste piece that you probably wouldn't even think twice about if you heard it in the elevator---you compare that to Odette's solo after Siegfiried betrays her.  I mean, golly!  That music just breaks your heart even if you don't know the ballet!"

The gray-haired and much-bejewelled lady who had been looking rather bored with the conversation turned with a look of surprise on her face to Verte.  "Goodness, young lady--you sound quite the expert!   What do you think of Plisetskaya as Giselle?"

"She's the best living Giselle I've ever seen," Verte replied instantly.  "But Margot Fonteyn was the best in the last fifty years, I think.  A true acting dancer.  Honestly she made me cry, and her Juliet was amazing.  When a fifty year old woman can make you believe she's a fourteen-year-old girl in love for the first time, it's magic."

The three of them chattered happily, conparing dancers, while the other conversation faded.  Verte was having such a good time talking with a woman who had actually seen the great Karavina with her own eyes, seen Roland Petit as a dancer, seen Nureyev and Markova and Fonteyn in person, that she didn't even notice that the other conversation had died until the house lights came down for the rest of the performance.  Only then did she realize that she might have been making a fool of herself, and blushed hotly inside the helmet.

But when the ballet was over, and they were all three back in the limo, her father turned to her with a raised eyebrow.  "Well, Tanya, I have certainly made a fool of myself with what I sent you, haven't I?"

She flushed.  "Sir?" she faltered, as Miss Hayse sat back, sipping champagne.

He waved a hand.  "Toys.  I sent you toys, thinking you were a child.  Tonight I heard a sophisticated young lady entertain Mrs. Huntington, who is one of the founding Patrons of the Paragon Ballet, with knowledgable conversation on the lady's favorite subject."

"I---oh---um---" Verte said, feeling very warm inside that helmet.

"I apologize.  Share the toys with the younger members of your group, you clearly have long since outgrown them.  I'll have to be more careful about finding appropriate things in the future."

Then he turned back to Miss Hayse, asking very pointed questions about YC, the AoC, and just how involved Nash was with both.  Verte sat back in confusion, and when they arrived back at HQ, went off to her room in something of a daze.

At least there wouldn't be any more vanloads of toys....

But the next morning---

Another van pulled up.  And this time, it disgorged a library of DVDs and CDs.  Hundreds, maybe thousands of them.  Classical music.  Ballets, operas, musicals.  Every kind of dance performance.  Every DVD she had ever heard of on the subject , and a lot she hadn't.  And a state-of-the-art bookshelf CD player.

And she sat on her bed in her room and stared at the bounty and felt---

---helpless.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 14 November 2005, 05:31:14
Sunday, and there was father, this time with a much smaller limo and permission to take Verte to the Art Museum.

By now, she felt like someone being pulled out to sea by the tide.  It was too strong to fight; there was no choice but to go with it.

Waitron9000 came along as the chaperone this time.  The little bot was polite, but didn't say much.  Her father seemed more comfortable around Waitron than around Miss Hayse, and instead of having any conversation with Waitron, he concentrated entirely on Verte.

And all the way to the museum he had only one topic of conversation.  Her dead mother.  How happy she would be if she could see Verte now.  How much she had longed for a child.  How guilty her father felt about that.  How maybe if he hadn't urged her to the clinic, how maybe if he had just encourged her to adopt instead, she would still be alive.

It was very uncomfortable, especially when he turned away and his shoulder shook.

It got even more uncomfortable on the way home, when they stopped at the cemetary.  She stood there awkwardly, while he knelt beside the grave and---and she thought he was talking to the dead woman.  And she didn't know how to react.  Was she supposed to feel something?  How could she, the person in that grave was less real to her than a character in a book---but she felt guilty about that, too.  Was there something wrong with her?

And his show of grief there made her feel even more guilty, because she didn't know what to say.  She was grateful now for the helmet, since it hid her lack of the same emotions, hid the fact that all she really wanted to do was get out of there.

And the next stop was a visit to the townhouse, "Just so you can see your room, and tell me if I've made any mistakes."  Her room?  He already had a room fixed up for her?  The tide was pulling her further and further out.

"You sound tired, Tanya, would you like some water?" he asked, when they were back in the car.  Grateful for the ordinary question, she nodded, and took off her helmet.

And that was when she heard an odd hiss, and saw her father smile in a way that made her eyes widen---

And then everything went dark.

___________________________________________

She woke up strapped into a chair, in what looked like a high-tech lab.  There was a computer terminal in front of her, and a keyboard.  The suit servos had been disabled.

Across the room from her, to her horror, she saw that Waitron9000  was lying with her cranium cracked open and half dissassembled on a table.

"Well, Verte," said her father from behind her, "I think you can guess where all this is leading.  You are, after all, my child."

She swallowed, her mouth dry with fear.  "You want me to write to the YC and tell them that I've decided to stay with you, and if I don't, you'll trash Waitron."

"Good!  Very good.  Voice recognition software, Verte.  Say the word 'begin' to start and 'cease' to end and send."

Oh Waitron!  I'm so sorry I got you into this!   The poor bot was at least 8 security levels lower than even Verte!  If only she had insisted on someone---someone who could put up a reasonable fight---

She looked around the room for a moment.  White-coated scientists and techs---and she expected Crey personell, but what she saw made her heart race with fear.  These were people she had only seen pictures of.  Not Crey, oh no.  

Malta.

"Begin," she croaked.  "Dear Mr Twilight and Mr Frost and guys.   Dad convinced me to stay with him for a while; I can't tell you how persuasive he was.  He had a room fixed up for me and everything  This place is really nothing like I expected.  And Dad is as persuasive as Dolores Umbridge and when you get to know him, he's just as nice as Mrs. Kretzke, so how could I not want to stay?   It'll be ok, Waitron's here with me and just as pleased about this as I am.    Sincerely, Verte.  Cease."

Now her father came around to where she could see him, and his smile made her shudder.  "Very good.  That was a very appropriate letter.  Now, I'm sure you are quite weary of being in that suit, so my technicians here will help you out of it so you can get a nice rest."

Help her out of it?  She opened her mouth to scream, but felt a cold hypospray against her neck, and blacked out again.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Robotech_Master on 14 November 2005, 12:40:39
Pouncetta was speeding home from helping extinguish a fire in Steel Canyon when her PDAphone buzzed. "Hello?"

"Ah, Miss Pouncetta? This is Doctor St. John-Smythe. I have some disturbing news about your Doctor Reynard."

Pouncetta frowned. "Say no more, Doc, I'll be there in thirty seconds."

"Then I shall anticipate your arrival."

Twenty-seven seconds later, Pouncetta was again in the S.E.R.A.P.H. office, only slightly out of breath. "Tell me."

Only slightly taken aback by her abrupt arrival, the scientist adjusted his glasses and began. "Shortly after you left, I finally found some information in an on-line newspaper morgue. It claimed that your Doctor Septimus Reynard had been the, ah, 'whistle-blower' to use the vernacular, in a medical center scandal that broke in 1989. An unscrupulous geneticist had been experimenting with the intention of creating individuals whose metahuman natures expressed prenatally."

"You mean, super-babies?" Pouncetta asked.

"Is that not what I said?" St. John-Smythe shook his head. "Ahem. Where was I…ah, yes. Whistle-blower."

"But…that would be a good thing, wouldn't it?" Pouncetta asked.

"So it would appear. But I was not convinced. The more I considered it, the more it felt as though I recalled the specific incident, but not the name in that favorable light. And it occurred to me that electronic records are malleable, but paper forms are less so. And so I cleared an afternoon from my calendar and betook myself to the print morgue of the Paragon Times, to get my hands dirty, as it were." He held up his hands, which were smudged with black ink. "Literally, as it happens. And what I found was this." He passed a folder over to Pouncetta.

In a blur, Pouncetta leafed through the pages inside. They were xeroxed copies of old newspaper articles, mostly circa 1989. The first thing that caught Pouncetta's eye was the picture of a sullen-faced, younger Doctor Reynard being led up the steps of the courthouse. Or perhaps "sullen" was not the right word. Maybe "haughty" would suit him more. It was somewhat hard to tell in these old, smudged pages.

Reading the articles, Pouncetta was presented with the story of a brilliant but unprincipled medical researcher who seemed to regard life itself as his own personal plaything. He had not scrupled even to use his own genetic material in test subjects. And there had been many subjects. Ten, to be precise. Several of their fates were laid out in other appended articles—but the one that caught her eye was the story about a glowing green infant who was placed with the Seabourne Facility for Hazardous Metahumans. "Oh my God," Pouncetta gasped. "Verte."

"Indeed." Dr. St. John-Smythe frowned. "Ironically, he very likely is Verte's father, at least in the biological sense. However, I highly doubt the legitimacy of any attempt at paternalism on his part. His interest is more likely that of a researcher toward a specimen. I would suggest that Miss Virtue should be warned away from any further contact as soon as possible."

"Oh my God," Pouncetta gasped. "They were going to the art museum today!" She grabbed her comlink. "Hello, anyone on the line?"

"Salut," Mel offered in greeting. "What's going on?"

"Can you tell me—is Verte back from the art museum trip yet? Or have you heard from her? It's vitally important."

The roar of a truck cut out the first part of the reply. Clearly, Mel had taken up her spot in the alley again as she'd done, watching for Daddy Dearest's newest delivery truck. "Nope, haven't. She left, I think Waitron was with her. I haven't…" She stopped. "Th'hell? Says I got email from Verte. Gimme a sec, I gotta get t'th'lab an' check it. Reception's bad here."

Just then, Pouncetta's PDA beeped with its own harbinger of incoming mail.  "I think I just got the same one."  She tapped the icon on the device to pull up the mail reader. Umbridge…Kretzke…

As she read the mail, Mel's audible Cajun swearing indicated that she'd gotten the same message. "Effin'…aw, hell. We gotta get th' rest of 'em t'gether, this ain't good."

"I'm on my way." Pouncetta slapped the comlink back to her side and turned to the scientist. "I've got to go. Verte's in trouble or I'm a dog."

Dr. St. John-Smythe frowned. "I have been reading up on Miss Virtue's case. If it should happen that she has in fact been abducted—come back in an hour. I might have something that could assist you."

Pouncetta nodded, then was gone.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 14 November 2005, 16:07:39
Septimus Reynard cracked his knuckles in anxiety as the unmarked Crey van sped towards his townhouse. The security call had interrupted him just as he’d finished calibrating the diagnostic equipment for Verte’s metabolism. His desire for the data – her data – mounted in him almost as sexual lust. Oh, the secrets that would be revealed! Then a peon’s voice broke into his reverie: an intruder in his house, his very bedroom, and one who had slipped past every covert security system Crey had put at his disposal.

And thus, the Cryo Tanks and Patrol Guards in the van with him, checking their weaponry. The Infiltrator Agent in charge reviewed floorplans with them.

“Sir,” an operative said, hunched over a mobile scanning console, “we have a visual on the intruder. You’ll want to see this.”

“You’re damned right,” he said, crowding the man to see the monitor. A slender, angular female form stepped out of his bathroom, wearing…

Negligee?

The operative snickered. “A false alarm, sir?”

“Not yet. I wasn’t expecting company.”

The agents surrounded the townhouse, using UV sights to follow the woman’s movements through the walls. Septimus motioned them to wait, then walked in through his front door as if unawares.

“Why, is someone here?” He called.

“Hello, my friend!” The melodious accent would have been unplaceable, had Septimus not studied Verte’s teammates at length.

“Stand down. Get me all the tranq you have in that van,” he whispered into his collar mike. “Be ready.”

“Who’s there?” He edged back to the door, palming the packet of tranquilizers the operative slipped to him.

A tall, beautiful young woman wove into view, swaying as if gravity were fighting her. Her blue hair fluttered like the feathered tale of a hawk. The yellow light of the recessed wall lighting complimented her orange skin. In her lacey garter and panties, she seemed as though she’d stepped off the cover of a racy fifties science fiction pulp for lonely young engineers.

“Septimus. I have been eager to meet you,” she said, slurring her words. He caught a whiff of opiates. “The generous father of my dear friend Verte.”

“Oh, you are one of Tanya’s friends?” he said, as innocently as he could. Despite the Crey operatives monitoring them, and the danger this alien girl posed, he could not deny that her physical charms affected him.

“I am her best friend,” she said. Crossing the carpet in a few long strides, she put her arms around his neck. “My name is Tharvia. From your exorbitant gifts, I have determined you are the Earth equivalent of royalty, and worthy of my company.” Her head darted forward and sniffed him. “You employ personal hygiene products of a high caliber,” she said.

“Ah,” he said, patting her back. “Yes, a man of my standing must keep up appearances.”

“I approve. Would it not be prudent for us to celebrate our new friendship with erotic exercises?”

Septimus stepped back, genuinely surprised. “Excuse me?”

“You don’t find me sexually attractive? I am told by my last lover, the British aristocrat Jude Law, that I am the most beautiful woman on your planet. Such compliments delight me.” She arched an eyebrow.

Septimus smiled, understanding at last. This strange alien woman was no do-gooder hero, like Verte’s unfortunate choice of employers. She had sniffed out power, and he reeked of it. This situation could be molded to his advantage, especially given the technologies she possessed… somewhere.

“I must disagree with Mr. Law,” Septimus said, running a hand up her arm to cup her chin. “You are surely the most beautiful woman of a dozen planets. I would quite like to be your friend.”

“Wonderful!” Tharvia kissed him full on the mouth, her tongue darting in past his teeth. “Let us copulate, then we can purchase luxury products together. You will relieve my boredom.” Her kiss confirmed his suspicion: crack cocaine, ingested orally, so strong that it partially numbed his own tongue.

With a covert flick of his collar mike, he spoke again. “We’ll adjourn to my boudoir, Tharvia my dear, and consummate our new friendship with some fun.” A pass of his hand detached the flimsy top; it fluttered to the ground. Tharvia pressed against him for balance, then licked his ear. “After that… who knows what we might learn?”


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 14 November 2005, 16:42:19
((a brief pause for rolling on the ground laughing hysterically))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moondancer on 14 November 2005, 16:43:07
((okay, I admit this is very disturbing but I have one question...

where did the Crey come from?  I thought he was working with Malta))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 14 November 2005, 16:45:35
((Reynard is playing both ends against the middle.  Malta has Verte and he secretly works for them, but he overtly works for Crey.  Verte is being held in a Malta base and lab.  A small one, but...still....))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 14 November 2005, 16:48:50
Quote from: victoriavictrix";p="6308

((Reynard is playing both ends against the middle.  Malta has Verte and he secretly works for them, but he overtly works for Crey.  Verte is being held in a Malta base and lab.  A small one, but...still....))

((
Oops. You are fancy! Should I switch the Crey in the story to Malta? Which would work better?))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 14 November 2005, 16:51:17
((His personal security will be Crey, so I say leave it at that.  Anything that people can SEE will be Crey.  Just another red herring to lead the rescuers down the garden path))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Heckfire on 14 November 2005, 18:46:23
((Man, you should give lessons on creating villains...I just started reading this today, and already Reynard's gotten under my skin here. Just in general, this is a REALLY good read, BTW))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 15 November 2005, 02:59:25
Pain.

The old friend was back with a vengeance.

Verte woke with a vengeance, the taste of verdigris in her mouth, her limbs feeling leaden.  She didn't have to open her eyes to know that the suit was gone.  Even if she hadn't been in pain, the green glow through her eyelids would have told her as much.  Now uncontained, her rads were a danger to everyone around her as well as herself.  Did Reynard know that?

Pain.

They had made two very basic mistakes.  They had underestimated the amount of tranq it was going to take to knock out someone who had been on opiates most of her life.  And they had probably assumed that even if she did waken, the pain would make her helpless.  But she had been working through pain for as long as she could remember.  This was the same-old, same-old.

She opened her eyes.

This was not a holding cell.  This was the same lab she had last been in, except now she was lying on a gurney instead of strapped to a chair.

Someone had pulled some surgical scrubs on over her naked body, but when she moved she could still feel the clamps, the connections, the little bits of wiring harness that Tim Torres' techs had implanted in her.   They hadn't taken those.  So if she got out---

She gritted her teeth.  When she got out---

---she wouldn't think of anything else.  And she had to take it one step at a time.  

She swung her legs over the edge of the gurney and dropped to the floor.  She wasn't weak, oh no, there was nothing wrong with her muscles.   It was her bones that were problematic.

Weapons.  She looked around, but there was nothing obvious.  Except Waitron---

Got to get her out too---

Couldn't move the bot, not on her own but if---

She didn't understand more than a fraction of what she saw in Waitron's head.  All she could do was to connect up as much as she could, clicking chips back into place, close up the bot's head, and press the reboot button.

Waitron's eyes lit up, but nothing happened.

"Waitron?" she faltered.

The bot's lips didn't move, but the matallic, monotone voice that came from somewhere behind them sounded like hers.   "This is the Waitron9000 food service android.  What are your orders?"

Had she somehow managed to boot Waitron up into her first operational moide?  "Sit up," she ordered.

Waitron did so.  

Weapons...now she had one.  And a helper.   Step one.

Step two: get out of this room.  She gasped as a spasm of pain convulsed her like being Tesla-caged, blinked tears away, and threw an AM aura.  That helped.   Time to move.  

Verte looked up.  Suspended ceiling....


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Djinni on 15 November 2005, 22:16:21
Inside the Frost Djinni armour, Tim Torres was grunting in pain.  

Freakshow, for crying out loud.  I was taken out by Freakshow!

As good as the new armour was, it wasn't good enough.  Compared to the old refrigerator he had to pilot, the energy couplers and coolant systems worked like a dream.  Already, they had implemented all sort of enhancements by improving the freeze ray, upgrading the chilling aura with piercing damagers, and a reverse heat discharger to pad his defenses even further and literally rip energy from his foes to recharge his own servos.

Unfortunately, this had already pushed the suit to it's newfound limits.  

He sat up on the adapted diagnostic table.  That was another thing, diagnostics and repairs were taking too long with this model.  External systems were having problems keeping up with the complexity of the microtech.  What he needed was special autonomous repair systems.  Hell if he knew how he would manage that feat of technological innovation.  Forget the power and coolant problems for a second, this new suit was made to be sleeker than the last.  Where the hell would he put it?  He could add to the bulk again, but that would put him back to square one.  Piloting a mobile refrigerator.      

That's it, we've hit the limits of the capillary coolant.  Already.  This isn't working... might be time to hang up the suit for good.  I won't be much good if I can't handle more than a few lousy...

And one more problem.  The alarms in the helmet emitted ear-shattering sonics.  With a hiss, he ripped the helmet off, and turned off the wail manually.  Why had he never fixed that before?

Oh right.  I've never heard that particular alarm before.  What is it?  All systems are up, a couple are still replenishing.  Won't have use of the discharger and aura damagers for a day or two.  

Dammit... what is that?


He put the helmet back on, called up the HUD, and grimaced as the alarm sounded up again.  His eyes followed the protocols, triggered various by-passes, and came to...

Verte.

He hit the comm.

"Verte!  Come in, Miss Virtue.  Report!"

There followed only static, and Tim fought to control himself.

"Verte!  VERTE!  Dammit, you answer me, girl!"

He silenced the alarm, and ran to the nearest terminal, his fingers flying over the keypad, all the while willing himself to calm down.  To go to ice.  Panic was a luxury right now.  Something was terribly wrong.  He stared at the readout, and immediately keyed in an all-points bulletin to senior Alliance staff.

"Alliance, this is Frost Djinni.  We've got a Code Red here, people.  Verte Virtue's suit has been breached.  I repeat, Verte's suit has been breached.  I need you folks with me, now.  I'm transmitting co-ordinates, meet me there as soon as possible.  We'll reconnoitre and proceed to her location."

After a moment, he was answered with brief affirmatives.  Autumn, Daji, Endal and Hawkeye.  Nothing from Waitron.  

"Waitron!  Come in!"

.......

"Waitron!"

"She was with, oh..." Daji's voice trailed off.  "Frost, she was with Verte, and Reynard!"

"That explains these co-ordinates then.  Move people!"

"What about the Young Champions?" Hawkeye asked.

"What about them?" Frost snapped.

"Should we bring them?  They're very good in a fight, Mr. Djinni."

"Absolutely not!  We've already got to go get one kid.  Let's not put a horde of them in danger."

"But..."

"That's final, Gungdo.  Move your ass.  Frost out."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 16 November 2005, 03:15:19
"Waitron9000 awaiting orders."

Verte blinked back tears of pain.  "Waitron9000.  Change standing orders.  Cancel five minute order request; when orders are completed go to silent wait-state."

"Affirmative."

She studied the suspended ceiling.  There was probably a crawl-space of some sort up there.  The lighting fixtures were recessed, which meant---

"Hnnnnnn."

She gasp-groaned and doubled over as another pain-spasm hit.  They'd told her what something like this meant.  Cells were dying now.  She was---

I am not dying.  I will not die.  Torchy and I have to get good enough that Statesman will send us to  find out what happened to Hero One.  I promised.

There.  There was an outline of the right size in the ceiling.  "Waitron9000.  Examine the ceiling where I am pointing.  Is that a serviice hatch?"

"Probability 70%."

"Position yourself beneath it, then pick me up by the waist and lift me to your shoulders."  

The bot did so, moving smoothly, but mechnically.  Verte got her feet onto the bot's shoulders, holding to  Waitron's head for balance.  "Now release my wiaist and careffully grasp my ankles."

Carefully.  Verte hissed as the bot's fingers closed too tightly.  "Less pressure," she said around clenched teeth, and then stood slowly up.

Not enough.  Her palms were against the panel, her elbows slightly bent, but she couldn't get enough leverage to lift it.  But it moved as she probed it.

"Holding my ankles, continue to slowly raise your arms above your head to their fullest  extent, moving at no more than one inch per second."

I am a dancer.  I can balance on the tip of one toe.  I will not fall.  I will not fall.

She kept her own hands over her head, her eyes on the ceiling, her knees sliglhtly flexed for balance.  Now her palms were flat against the hatch.  Now it was coming up with her.  Now---

She slid the panel to the side,  carefully, and clutched the edge of the ceiling.  Metal.  Thank God, metal.  and fiberglas.  It would hold her.  It would hold Waitron.

She would probably get only one chance at this manuever.  She got a secure grip on the edge, and tested it.

I have used uneven bars in the Danger Room and the Gym.  My muscles are still good.  I can do th---

Another spasm of pain ripped up her legs, and for a moment she saw stars.  And as soon as it passed, she made sure of her grip and gasped out---"Waitron.  Release my ankles on the count of three.  One.  Two.  Three."

The instant she felt the grip slacken, she used the gymnast's mount to pull herself up to edge, then over it, then---

Then with a less-than-controlled tumble, she was in.  Shaking.  Tiny little lightning=bolts of pain dancing all over her body.

No time to lie there.  Rest when the hatch was closed.  Rest somewhere safer.  But first....

"Waitron.  Find a ventialtion grate in the wall that you can remove and do so.  Then return to the position you now hold."

The bot moved smoothly out of sight.  There was a sound of rending metal, then she returned.

"Engage leg servos and jump.  Catch the edge of this hatch with your hands and pull yourself up into this crawlspace to my location."

Waitron executed the move flawlessly as Verte rolled out of the way.

The bot remained on hands and knees since there was no room to stand up as Verte replaced the hatch.  

"Waitron, on hands and knees, making no noise, follow me."  Making no noise meant slow, terribly slow, but Verte wasn't exactly moving fast herself.  Her heart was racing, and she felt as if she couldn't get enough air.  But at least the pain wasn't as bad, moving like this....

Step one.  She had gotten out of the room, and Waitron  with her.  Step two.  Get as far from the room as the crawl space would allow.

The air was stale, hot, and dry.  It wasn't nearly as dark as it ciould have been though.  Light from the recessed fixtures leaked into the crawl-apace, and after her eyes adjusted to it, she saw, as she had suspected, that the walls and ceilings had been retrofitted to a much older building.  The crawl space was full of ducts and wiring bundles.

Whenever she heard voices below her, she stopped  to listen.  If they were moving, she waited until they went away.  If they were not, she went around the area.  So far, there had been no alarm raised.  So far, no one realized she was gone.

She was getting so tired....so tired...how long had she been crawling like this?  It felt like forever.

And then, abruptly---she came to the end.  A wall.

But peering along it in the gloom she saw something else.  Something familiar.

The open, cut-off end of a storm-sewer pipe.  And echoing faintly out of it, the sound of running water in the far, far distance.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 16 November 2005, 04:50:34
((I have been reliably informed by the two people in question that Frost will be coordinating the adult rescue team, and Pouncey the inevitable teen rescue team regardless of the YCs being left out of the loop.  So coordinate your writing efforts with them.  Verte will continue her efforts oblivious to what either of you do, but she is about to go deeper into the sewers than she has ever been before....

If you can't come up with a way to track her, I have an ace in the hole, don't worry.  If I need to use it, you'll find her.

A reminder: Verte is being held by Malta, not Crey, in a small Malta Base and lab in FF.  This is probably not terribly far from Reynard's townhouse, but is not, in fact, the townhouse itself.  Reynard still ostensibly works for Crey.))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 18 November 2005, 04:42:54
It was the end of a cut-off sewer pipe, like the ones she had seen so often on patrols.  More than big enough to hold her and Waitron.  Easy to get into.

Too easy.  When they realized she was gone, they would probably end up here sooner or later.  And she needed to rest---sooner.

"Waitron, I am going to proceed into that pipe.  I want you to follow, but crawling backwards.  Stop when I tell you."

"Affirmative."

Her blasts and eyebolts never damaged objects.  They were only effective against living things.  Only Waitron could do what she hoped could be done.

She got into the pipe.  Waitron followed, crawling backwards, face towards the crawlspace they had just left.Verte moved about six or eight feet into the pipe, leaving Waitron about four feet from the cut-off point.  These were old pipes, made of pottery, not concrete, and often fragile with age.  Fragile enough?

"Waitron.  In your memory banks are martial arts moves.  Can you find them?"

"Affirmative."

"Can you execute them?"  Verte held her breath.

"Affirmative."

She let it out in a sigh.  "I wish you to execute a repeated martial-arts strike at a point in the top of the pipe about two feet from your current postion.  Repeat that strike until the pipe fails.  At that point continue striking until you have clogged the pipe behind us with rubble."

"Affirmative."

She had to hope that if anyone back there noticed the repetative thuds, they would think it was some sort of construction work going on outside the building or in the sewers.  She had to do this, not because the rubble would block pursuit, but because pursuit would see the rubble and assume they had not used the pipe.

At first it seemed as if nothing was happening,  There as no sign that Wairon's metal fists were making any impression.  But the pipe was more fragile than she had thought., and when it gave, it gave way suddenly and far more extensively than she had planned.

And a  huge chunk of viterous pottery crashed down out of the ceiling onto her shins.

She heard the crack of breaking bone before she actually felt anything.  And then, it was too intense to be called pain.

The world went white.

And then black.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 18 November 2005, 12:07:26
The world went white.

And then black.

Tharvia fell back in the pillows, relishing the post-coital afterglow. Older men, though less physically attractive, made better lovers on this world. Older, of course, being a relative term; Tharvia was three hundred-odd years old, but still a young adult by Earth standards. However, her advanced state of evolution surely counted for something when reckoning maturity.

After sex she liked to sample a narcotic or two, but she'd eaten all of her crack cocaine while waiting for Septimus to arrive. Instead, she rolled over to snuggle him. After a brief squeeze and pat on her rump, though, Septimus climbed out of bed to dress.

"What is wrong, my friend?" Tharvia wasn't sure if she was insulted or saddened. "Statistically, you should be ready for intercourse again in six hours."

"Ah, yes. Well, I fear I have business to attend to, my dear." He zipped up his pants. "I will call you."

"Did you not find our congress gratifying? Look." She triggered a quantum bone-implant to project a holograph of the last half hour of lovemaking. Septimus stopped dressing, and watched the video with his jaw open. He closed it with effort.

"You comport yourself well, here. Notice how my orgasm is --"

"Yes, yes," he said quickly. "Very erotic. Now, how did you do that?"

"First I twist my hips --"

"No. How are you projecting that image? Telepathy?"

Tharvia laughed, trying not to sound condescending. "Oh, no! Telepathy is primitive. The Shreeekit have mastered the sub-quantum wavelengths of light. This is a simple bone-graft that records what I do on your world." A shadow passed over her face. "When I turn it on, that is."

Septimus worked over her casual explanation in his head. A device to accomplish what she described would take billions of dollars of research money and decades... not to mention a breakthrough on the grand unifed theory. All in something tiny enough to be grafted onto a bone.

And the girl used it to make dirty home movies.

He sat down on the bed and favored her with his most charming smile. She responded, and he kissed her.

"Tharvia, you have most certainly won my heart. I would be foolish to waste another moment without your company. Please, my dear, accompany me to my lab."

"Will we engage in copulation there?"

For a perverse moment, Septimus thought of the broom closet. "We'll squeeze something in, my lovely."

Before the dissection, that is. Septimus smiled with the ecstatic anticipation only a scientist can feel.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 18 November 2005, 12:26:51
((Excuse me while I pick myself up from the floor and stop laughing hysterically. Poor poor Tharvia.))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 18 November 2005, 15:20:19
((poor Tharvia my behind!  Reynard has no idea what he's toying with))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Modern Comet on 18 November 2005, 18:28:30
(( This is one "relationship" that we can all agree will end...badly. ))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 18 November 2005, 19:41:14
There was no one here to rely on but herself, and the will to survive drove Verte back up into consciouness again.  

"Wai---Waitron.  Are you--fully functional?"

"Affirmative."

The heavy piece of vitrous pottery had fallen off her legs after it had struck them, or she never would have been able to move.  The pain centered in her right; probing the left, then trying to move it, gave her reason to think only the right was broken.  She turned over, crying with the pain, and dragged herself further along the tunnel.

"Waitron--can you--turn around?"

"Affirmative."

"Do so."

Step by step, and pausing get control, however briefly, of the pain, she instructed  Waitron on straightening the broken leg, holding it while she threw AM and Heal Auras, just to get it stabilized.  She had nothing to splint it with, but at least the Heal Auras were discharging built-up rads, numbing the pain.  A little, anyway.

She'd been afraid to throw auras in the crawlspace.  They surely would have shone through the ceiling.  Now she could, and did, until she exhausted the last of her strength.

Finally, with a pile of rubble between her and whatever pursuit there might be, she made herself as comfortable as she could, and rested.

I'll make it out.  I will make it out.  Torchy and I---I promised.  I promised.

And then, with tears of pain cutting through the grit on her cheeks, she began her three-limbed crawl towards the light at the end of the pipe.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 19 November 2005, 06:19:16
Three feet from the end of the pipe, Verte ran out of everything but pain.

And who knew what was in the main sewers, anyway?  Something worse than Vahz, she'd bet.  This was founder's Falls, where Behemoth Masters from the CoT walked the streets.  Whatever was in the sewers was at least that bad.

She felt as if she was burning up, inside, outside.  But she was just too tired to go any further for now.  Rest.  Rest.  There was a smooth place here, nothing to poke into her, and she just let herself go limp here and pillowed her head on her arms.

Sleep...no, that eluded her.  What she fell into was a kind of un-sleep.  Images passed through her mind; her friends, her real family.  Not the phony family that Reynard had promised.  Merc...her big brother. Mel, so cute with Merc, so great with kids, and all that talent.... Pouncy...Sonic like a tiny version of Pouncy.  Firebird and Asha.  The new kid, Mike, sweet but awkward.  Storm, oh she wished she had spent more time with Storm, learned how to meditate....Joey...had so much in common with Joey...wish he was around more.  Other new kids like that AV guy.  Link.  Torchy, another big brother.  Oh Link, Torchy, I wish you were here, I wish you all were here.  Surge.  She missed Surge, they all missed Surge....crazy, exasperating Tharvia.  Little Prim, sweet little Prim...I'd love a little sister like that...

Did they know she was missing?  Did anyone know?  

She knew they'd miss her if she died down here; they'd feel awful and miss her---

I won't die.  I won't.  I can't.  I---

She lost the thought, felt it slip out of mental fingers like the string on a kite in a too-strong wind, watched it whirl away in a confused tumble of faces and half-formed ideas and dream-fragments.

Frost Djinni.  Tim Torres.  She'd lost their suit.  She'd lost their precious, precious suit.  How could she face them and tell them that?

How could she die down here and let that miserable piece of scum keep it?

I won't die.  I can't.  I have to get out and tell them my so-called father has the suit.  They have to get it back, and they can't if I don't live and tell them and---

She started to shake, and cough, and tasted blood.  She roused herself enough to throw heal-auras again, until she ran out of the strength to do so and lay like a flattened rag on the sewer pipe.  With one thought in her mind, and one alone.

I have to get out.  I have to live.  I have to go---home.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 19 November 2005, 14:38:14
Tharvia was not in the least interested in Reynard's lab.  It would be primitive compared to the Shreekit labs, and she was not particularly interested in those,either.  If she could not persuade Raynard to take her shopping, then she would have to find another way to make him stay and amuse her.  

She had, after all, come prepared.

_______________________________________________

Reynard continued to gather up his clothing, a slight smile on his face.

"I have seem many laboratories," Tharvia said, from the bed behind him.  "Your scientific facilities are primitive."

"Then you'll have to help me improve mine, won't you?"  Reynard turned back to the alien, prompted by the slightly sullen tone of her voice.  "Come now, my dear, think of how much more powerful we can become if you help me!"  He sat down on the edge of the bed beside her.

The Malta techs had Verte's suit and were analyzing it even now.  They were happy; he'd come through for them, and now they would leave him alone to do what he pleased at their labs.

The mutant was safely unconscious and would be for hours more; they'd given her enough tranq to take down Hamidon.  Once he got this alien locked up...he'd have not one but two of the most fascinating subjects he'd ever had in his life to investigate.  The big trick would be keeping them alive as long as possible...there was only so much information you could get from a corpse, so much more you could get from the living body.

The thought was almost erotic...

No there was no "almost" about it.  He felt his own arousal just as, to his horror, Tharvia noticed it too.

"Ha!  There, you see, we need not visit your primitive lab just yet!"  She--pounced, there was no other word for it, and she was stronger than he had guessed.  A lot stronger.

A whole lot stronger.

Before he knew what was happening she had handcuffed both his hands to the brass headboard.  Where had the handcuffs come from?  And she was rummaging through his clothing...

"There!" she said in triumph, holding up the collar mic.  "I shall deal with this, so we will not be disturbed.  You humans pay too much attention to this work of yours.  We will play erotic games.  The aristocrat Jude Law enjoyed my erotic games."

The mic crunched under her foot, and there was no way he could reach the panic button in the nightstand from here.

She advanced on him.  a gleam in her eye.  "Now, I wonder...would you enjoy the candle wax or the whipping cream more?"

((There.  We are now set up for the YCs to find them.  Reynard isn't going anywhere any time soon))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 19 November 2005, 15:03:20
((yay! BDSM to the rescue!))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 19 November 2005, 16:28:25
((I am irresistably reminded of the somewhat bewildered comment by one of the other guests at a con we attended this summer.  

The setup: the panel, "Superhero Smackdown": preselected pairs of Superheroes set up, the panelists to state their case for who they thought would win, and a vote to be taken of the panel when arguments were concluded.

The Pair-up: Swamp Thing versus Wonder Woman.  The arguments were interesting, but not compelling, until it came to me.  I looked at the panelists, then at the audience and said, "Swamp Thing controls all plant life.  Two words: Yeast Infections."

It took about ten minutes for the howling laughter to end, and it started right back up again when one of tbe panelists said forlornly, "When I looked at the guest list and saw Mercedes Lackey was the GoH, I thought, 'Gee, this is going to be so wholesome....'"

Just remember.  I am one of the people your parents warned you about.  :D  ))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 19 November 2005, 16:33:23
((My parents didn't warn me about anyone! No wonder I get along with you.

What crappy parents!
))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 19 November 2005, 16:52:49
((btw, don't forget that there are still Crey agents waiting outside. Also...what do they do when Reynard's comm goes off?

Also btw, did I mention i had a singer in a band once whose last name was Reynard?

))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 19 November 2005, 18:07:30
"Comm's off," said the Crey agent monitoring the house security.

There was sniggering.  A lot of it.  Since the last thing anyone had heard were the words,  "We will play erotic games. The aristocrat Jude Law enjoyed my erotic games."

The Crey guards looked at each other.  "Smoke break?" suggested one.  They all looked at the agent commanding them.

"Smoke?" he smirked.  "There's gonna be enough smoking going on there.  Lunch break.  He'll never know.  Make it a long one."

"He'll never care," snickered the one that had suggested smokes.  "Like, what's going to come after him, anyway?  That alien's truant officer?"

They all laughed.

Then they filed out, leaving only the token staff of one guard each at the front and the back entrances, the lowest of the low, bottom men on the totem pole.

((thanks Steve, this should make it a lot easier for the YCs to get in.  Figure the guard is low enough for Pouncy to take out.))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 20 November 2005, 08:14:35
"....I promised, Torchy...."

The sound of her own voice roused Verte out of what had not exactly been sleep.  She still felt as if she was burning up, and her mouth and throat were so dry they would have been painful except that her leg hurt too much to notice anything else.  Her head swam a little as she raised it.  Her lips were dry and cracked, and when she licked them, her mouth tasted of blood and copper.  "...thirsty..." she whispered, not aware she had spoken the word aloud until Waitron replied.

"May I offer you a tasty beverage?"

The voice, and the words, jolted her a little more awake, as she suddenly realized that Waitron still made a habit of stocking a limited number of drink-pouches in her torso.  Which would have been quite a surprise for whoever had gotten that far in dissassmbling her.

"Please?" she said, hoping that there was still something in there.

"I regret my inventory is limited to sports drink."

"Please!" Verte repeated, and the 'bot obediently opened a hatch in her abdomen and extracted a drink-pouch.  

The first sip felt so good she almost cried.  When the pouch was empty, she felt a little more revived.  Enough to throw more auras and try to make it to the end of the pipe and see what was out there--especially after she coughed and tasted blood again.  She was running out of time....

But when she got there, and peered cautiously out, she got a shock.

There was a Crey Crisis Unit--or what was left of one--sprawled in an undignified position below the opening of the pipe.

She stared at it  in disbelief, too startled to think of pulling her head back in the pipe.  How had he gotten here?  Why was he still here?  A hero-team would have tagged him for teleport to the Zig, so if he was still here, that meant--

"Oh, poor man..." she whispered.

And jumped, when, with a crackle and pop, the suit's external speakers came on and a metallic voice emerged from them.

"What's a nice little girl like you doing in a hellhole like this?"


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 21 November 2005, 02:33:12
The sound of painful coughing came over the speakers.  Verte responded instinctively by throwing a heal-aura, then another, and another until---

"Stop!" the Unit ordered, in a voice much stronger than before.  It sat up, painfull, stiffly, straightening legs that had been bent at awkward angles.  "Just what do you tihink you're doing?"

It was her turn to cough, and again, she tasted blood.  "Healing you," she said, simply.  

"Keerist, you can't be a hero, you're too damn young..."  The unit slowly shook its helmet.  "No wait...that kid's group, no, there were two of them.  Juvenile Delinquents and Goody Good Kids.  Which were you?"

She felt herself flush, part with anger, and part with embarassment.  "Why should I---hrnnnnnnn"

She curled into a ball as another terrible spasm of pain took her and shook her like a dog shaking a toy.  Her vision filled with red lightning, and for a moment, she couldn't even hear anything except her own animal whining.  Then, from a far, far distance, as the pain eased---

"Kid?  Kid?  Talk to me, kid!  Look, I didn't mean anything---kid, you sound bad, real bad, talk to me!"

The lightning cleared away, and the pain ebbed.  She coughed, and this time spat blood.  The rads must have built up while she rested...with no way to discharge them....

I won't die.  I won't.

"I---" she managed, "I'm---all right."

"You sure as hell don't sound all right."

She needed something to listen to, something to keep her mind from running in terrified circles like a mouse in a trap.  "How---how did you---end up like that?"

A humorless laugh.  "Search and seize mission on the Rikti down here.  I went down, they left me.  That's the Countess's retirement program, I guess.  Keeps the pension fund solvent."

While he spoke, she took slow, deep breaths, then uncurled and stuck her head out of the hole again.  "I'm going to heal you some more," she said., and started throwing auras, the only way she had of discharging the rads now.  Maybe they'd repair some of her damage too.

She heard a sigh, but she paid no attention to it.  She just threw auras until, once again, she ran out of energy and her leg was a distant gnawing ache.  And that was when she heard a grating sound, and looked up.

The Crisis Unit was standing.

Now the damage that the Rikit had done to him was fully revealed.  Gashes in the armor showing cut tubes and wiring, part of his backpack skiced away, and a scorch that had melted part of his helmet.

"Enough, baby-doll.  You can't heal the suit, and you've got as much of me as is left."  He peered in at her.  "That's not spandex.  You're a runner."  She could almost see his mind moving through the options.  "But I know for a fact we don't have a lab in the direction that pipe goes."

She gave him part of the truth.  "I'm running from my f-f-father."

"Jeezus god."  The unit sounded disgusted.  "Who'd do that to their own kid?  Don't answer that."  

Silence for a moment.

"Look, I'll make you a deal.  You healed me up, I'll try and get you out of here.  I leave you somewhere you can call for help and we never talk about this to anyone.  Deal?"  He peered in again.  "What's that in there with you?  Looks like a 'bot."

"It is."  She couldn't help it, tears of relief at finding an ally oozed out of her eyes.  She wiped them away with an unsteady hand.  "It's Waitron9000, one of the heroes with AoC.  She was being my guardian when f-f-f-father---"  She swallowed hard.  "They took her apart and I can't get her together right.  Her AI isn't online. She does what you tell her to, but that's about all."

"I am the Waitron9000 food service android.  May I offer you a tasty beverage?"

He coughed a laugh, holding one gloved hand to his side.  She threw another aura.  "I"ll have a beer."

"I regret that my inventory is limited to sports-drinks."

He went very still.  "Wait, you mean she actually has something to drink?"

"She was built with a cooler in her chest," Verte replied.

"Keerist, I've been drinking the--what the suit reprocesses.  Yeah, 'bot, gimme what you got.  And come outa there."

He took the drink-pouch from Waitron, and leaning heavily on the wall, inserted the straw into the pouch and the free end into an apeture in the front of his helmet.  The pouch flattened as Waitron climbed mechanically down out of the pipe and stood beside him on the sewer walkway.  He eyed her carefully, as he tossed the empty pouch into the effluent.

"All right, baby-doll.  I can tell you're sick.  WHat else is wrong?"

"My right lieg---I think it's broken, and I don't have anything to splint it with."

"The way you're glowing, I don' think infection's gonna be an issue."

Oh no---her rads---she began to push her way back, when he made a soothing motion with his hands.  "Don't worry about me, baby-doll.  This thing is built to take more than you can hand out. Rads are making you sick, huh?"

She could only nod.

"All the more reason to get you topside.  All right, kiddo, first we get you out of the pipe.  This is gonna hurt."

And it did.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 21 November 2005, 07:42:38
((Um, you guys can chime in any time now?  Please?  I'm beginning to wonder if anyone is reading this besides me and Steve...))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moondancer on 21 November 2005, 07:45:59
((Dennis and Furry said they were handling the adult and kids rescue stuff so not sure what to do until I recieve instrustions from them))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Clarion Call on 21 November 2005, 08:13:32
((Check in ME. There is YC setup already in progress for RM's side of the formula. We promise we're still involved, guys. Just co-ordinating many fronts.))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 21 November 2005, 09:27:13
((I'll echo that... we're trying to coordinate The YC Posse. Really, we want to get her out alive! Promise! Verte will not be sewer rat fodder!))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 21 November 2005, 09:32:15
(( Well, Tharvia's got the Boss' aggro. ;-)


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 21 November 2005, 17:03:26
((Best euphemism ever. You win cookies.))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Clarion Call on 21 November 2005, 17:18:47
((Isn't it more like Tharvia is moonlighting as a controller? Primary: Traps and devices (cuffs count!), Secondary: Erotic amusements))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Hegemon on 21 November 2005, 17:20:20
((Clearly those are Dominator sets...))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 22 November 2005, 04:11:48
"I'm sorry, baby-girl."

Those were the first words Verte heard when the roaring in her ears stopped and her vision cleared again.  She was being held in Waitron's arms, and the Crisis Unit was just finishing splinting her leg with rags and pieces of rebar snapped off to exactly the right size.

"It's okay, honest," she said, mustering a smile.  "You  did what you had to do."

"Yeah well--" he coughed.  "If y'can manage, y'might  throw a few more of those auras.  I think I sprained somethin' breakin' off the rebar."

She had already started throwing auras before he could finish the sentence.  "I hope that helps Mister---what do they call you, anyway?"

"Crey Crisis Unit 4173," he responded automatically.

"No!  Not the suit.  What do they call you," she replied quickly.

He stared at her for a moment as if he couldn't remember his own name.  Then, slowly, "Jerry," he said, as if it had been a long time since he'd used that name.  "I'm--Jerry.  No 'Mister,' anything."

"I'm Verte." she replied, holding out her hand.  Jerry took it in one of his massive gloves, and shook it gingerly.  

"Verte.  Means 'green,' right?"  He tilted his head to one side.  "There anyone who knows you might be down here, baby-girl?"

"I don't--I don't know, not for sure.  My f-f-f-father sort of kidnaped me.  I mean he had permission to take me to the museum, but he didn't have legal custody of me so Mr. Twilight and Mr. Djinni were insisting I have a chaperone with me.  That was Waitron this time because everyone else was busy...."  Her voice trailed off forlornly.  "So it might be a while before anyone knows I'm here.  I don't even know for sure where 'here' is."

"Under Founders' Falls.  Now listen, kiddo.  If these adults in charge of your little gang have anything on the ball, they'll have missed you within thirty seconds of you not turning up where you're supposed to be.  So by now, help has gotta be on the way.  Good kid like you, they'll rip out the canals to find you.  Who knows?  Maybe even one of the Big Cheeses, like Positron or Numina'll get involved."   He still held her hand, carefully, and gave it a little shake by way of emphasis.  "You hold onto that.  Help's coming.  Maybe we'll surprise 'em and meet 'em on the way out."

It was a pep-talk, and she recognized it as such but--he didn't have to make it.  He hadn't had to splint her leg.  He didn't have to help her now.  That meant more than any pep-talk.  "So now what do we do, Jerry?"

"I scout.  Try and find us a way out without fighting, cause frankly, kiddo, there's not much left to fight with."

Verte nodded.  That made sense.  Anything down here she wouldn't be able to hit anyway.

"And I--"

"Stay right here.  You haven't got a prayer.  You can't walk and that robot of yours can't fight.  I can at least go stealthy"

He didn't become invisible, but suddenly he did kind of fade into the wall, hard to see unless he moved.

"Now I go hunting for an exit."


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Heckfire on 22 November 2005, 12:33:14
((Believe me, I'm following this...and, I swear, I'd give my left arm to take part in it if I could, too...LOL))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Robotech_Master on 22 November 2005, 12:48:29
((A reminder to anyone who plays Young Champs characters on Virtue: we're working on the first entry for the kids over in the YC_Rescue file on MoonEdit; if you want your character to say something please pop in and leave some comments! I anticipate our side of it going much faster after this first thing has been posted.))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 22 November 2005, 14:11:11
((i don't use moonedit, but i've conveyed information to Red Djinni. Please email me with questions about Tharvia. Her behavior won't be what you expect.))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Robotech_Master on 23 November 2005, 10:08:49
Pouncetta streaked up out of the basement of the Atlas City Hall like her tail was on fire. As she burst out through the front doors, she switched her comm over to the general talk channel. "Everyonelistenup—" She took a deep breath, slowed down, and tried again. "Everyone listen up! I think Verte's been kidnapped! I've been researching, and—Dr. Reynard is not just her father—he's her creator!"

She was interrupted by a loud obnoxious siren call from her comm unit. The high frequency of the alarm screeched painful decibels into her already sensitive ears, and she cursed in surprise. A chilly voice broke over the comm, dead in tone, and one that demanded attention.

"Young Champions, this is Frost Djinni cutting across all Alliance channels. The situation is in hand. The senior staff is moving to intercept Miss Verte. You are all to remain in the dorm, and we will return with her shortly."

There was a stunned silence, and then, a timid voice echoed over the airwaves.

"Verte is in trouble?" Prim asked.

"Big trouble," Mel's voice came back. "An' trouble ain't half the right word for it," she growled.

Dark Firebird looked over at Headcase. They were silent for a few moments; their constant mental link made verbal communication unnecessary. She nodded once and hit the talk button on the comm. "Verte is our friend too. We can't just sit here and do nothing."

Pouncetta blinked at Frost's words. "Don't you want our help? This is the sort of thing we're training for."

"Aye, training for," Frost responded, carefully biting back words of impatience. "I'm not one to repeat myself. You've been given your orders. Follow them. Frost out."

The comm squawked again, and fell silent. Pouncetta glared at it, then put on a burst of speed for the tram to Galaxy City.

Kristy listened as well to the banter, finally seeing the usefulness of a common chat channel, but barely able to resist clicking the 'talk' button on. Given your orders. Leave it to the man. Aw man, this is f-ing sick. In disgust, she reached down and keyed over to private comm text. She could see where the guy was coming from, and it was damn nice they had somebody hardcore to care about them, but she couldn't agree to it.

To: Pouncetta
From: Effulgence
Msg: Just heard. Tell me where and when. If I'm solo, s'cool, but he ain't got nothing over me.

The response came back moments later, with the brevity of someone typing one-handed on a phone keypad.

To: Effulgence
From: Pouncetta

Msg: Works. Will let you know.



"Trouble…" Lady Marmalade looked around the common room and sighed softly. She wished Dante were here, but it seemed there were many things more important to him in his heart than she and their baby, even with the promise Dante had made her. Now another member of her family had been taken away. She clenched her fist and set her jaw. Like hell she was standing for it this time. Orders or no. "So when we going, sugahs."

"But Mr. Frost gave us orders…" Firebird cut off abroptly. Headcase held her close. Then she nodded. "Tell Pouncetta we are going. I am certain she will want to help Verte too. They are very close."

Lady M changed the comm channel and searched the list of numbers for Pouncetta's private line. "Hey Pounce. What ya say we say screw what the ice man says and go get her ourselves?"

Pouncetta whizzed into the room, the golden glow around her feet fading as she shook her windblown hair back into place. "Exactly what I was thinking. I've been heroing for months longer than that pompous drip. I'll be damned if I'm going to sit this out."

Firebird nodded. "You are correct, you have much more experience in combat then the rest of us here. Will you lead us in this, Pouncetta?"

Pouncetta nodded. "Works for me."

"So…" Lady M pulled a roll of leather strips from her bag and began to slowly wrap her hand with them. "So how do we find her then. Your sniffer good enough to track them from where she was taken?"

"I'll check with Dr. St. John-Smythe, see if he can hook me up with anything." Pouncetta shrugged. "Where there's a will, there's a way. Meanwhile we need to get in touch with all the other kids, get the team together."

"Already on it," Mel drawled, her own comm in hand. She scowled at the display and checked off another line in her sketchpad. "Ain't nobody gonna tell me that I can't go an' get Verte when she's in trouble. I think nearly everyone'll be here soon enough. T'hell with Kretske, this is worth a year of detentions."

ReRisen came into the room. "I-I-can't just wait here and hope she is OK, she was one of the first p-people I met. If you guys are going after to find her, I—am coming."

Mel nodded tersely at the young teen, doing a quick check of the room. Four, five, plus Pouncy and herself… where the hell is everyone else?

Pouncetta glanced at her. "Right. Mel, I hereby appoint you comm officer. Get on the horn, try to round everyone up—Young Champions, Urbz, I don't care. I know Effie at least wants to help. Use the encrypted channels we set up, the ones we're pretty sure the adults can't monitor. Everyone who can get here in fifteen minutes, good. If they can't, they can meet us en route. I'm heading back to Atlas; the Doc told me he might have something useful for us if there was a problem. I'll be on comm when I know more." Pouncetta spun on her heel and was gone in a golden blur.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 25 November 2005, 01:54:45
Verte tried to listen past the rush of effluent for footsteps, splashing that wasn't part of the torrent, anything, really, that might be out of the ordinary.  So she wasn't too startled when Jerry stealthed out of the wall and tapped her shoulder.  

"Will your bot take orders from me, kiddo?" he asked.

She nodded.  "She's got no discrimination right now.  She'd take orders from anyone."

There was movement where Jerry's head would be.  A nod, she thought.  "Good.  There might be a way out about fifty feet from here.  Looks like a shaft  in the ceiling straight up to a manhole cover in the street.  Trouble is, they didn't want anything climbing out, so there's no ladder.  If your 'bot can jump up in there and get a grip on the sides, I can break off rebar for her to pound into the mortar between the bricks.  We'll make our own ladder."

Verte's eyes widened.  "Jerry!  That's smart!"

There was another motion.  A shrug maybe.  "It's only smart if the bot can get up there and cling, baby-girl.  Waitron, please pick Verte up so she can crawl back into the pipe."

The 'bot obeyed, and so did Verte.  It made sense.  If Jerry was taking her only defense with him, she needed to be in hiding.

It seemed like forever before they came back.  Jerry had unstealthed, and the sag of his shoulders told Verte they'd had no luck.

"Here's your 'bot back, baby-girl.  They really don't want anything coming out of that hole.  Back to square one.  I'll try and find a safe route out."  The stealthing flickered for a moment, then stayed on.

Verte nodded, trying not to let her disappointment show.  "Nothing good is every easy, and not much easy is ever good," she said, quoting her Uncle Skaya.  

Jerry chuckled.  "I dunno, there were a couple girls in high school--okay, you stay put.  Waitron, get in there with her and keep yourself between her and the opening."  Verte backed down the pipe a little and Waitron crawled inside.  "And don't worry, kiddo.  One way or another, I'll be back."


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 28 November 2005, 10:43:40
Comm to her mouth, Mel paced the room impatiently. "Salut, chers, Come on back, I gotta know if you're hearin' me or not. Torchy? Xan? Ain't no fun talkin' t'th'empty air." C'mon guys, where are you?

"Gettin' ou' a' th' damn sewers," Torch replied, static crackling across the channel.  "Why?  Wha's up?"

"Have you not checked your email?" She stopped, answering her own question before he could. "'Course not, you've been in th'sewers. Damn. Look, y'gotta get back here, an' y'gotta do it fast. Verte's in trouble."

For a moment, there was only the sound of static.  Then, a stream of harshly muttered profanity, obscured by the interference on the channel and Torch's own accent.

"I'll be there soon, like," he rasped.  "Can yeh fill me in?"

"Kinda. 'Member that freaky letter she got from th'guy who was all about bein' her dad?" Mel couldn't keep the hate from her voice. "Well, she went with him, an' then we all got this... note. Email thing. An' it's all worse, 'cause Pouncy's found out who th'guy really is, an' he ain't nobody any kid should be around." Her voice caught in her throat. "She's effin' screwed, an' all Frost is tellin' us is that we gotta stay put, and y'know that ain't gonna happen. Screw 'im, we're goin' t'get her ourselves."

"Aye, well then, Frosty can si' an' spin, ey?  Tell where yeh're settin' up, I'll be there righ' quick."

She sent him the coordinates that Pouncy had relayed earlier. "An' if you catch anybody else, haul 'em along. Verte's family, damnit."


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Djinni on 28 November 2005, 12:15:35
Indecision, it was torture for a speedster.  Stimulus, response, react, move, formulate an instant plan, and execute.  

You've been given your orders. Follow them. Frost out.

Who the hell was he to give orders like that?

He's your boss.  Your commander, that's who.

But he was also a jerk.  Xander remembered the last time he had run into Frost Djinni.  He had been helping Miss Windaji out, and doing a bad job of it.  They had met a couple of big bosses, nothing fantastic, just Tsoo and mobsters.  But still, they had taken Xander out in an instant.  Miss Windaji had barely escaped.  After reviving, Xander had sped to the nearest exit, screaming for back-up into his comm unit.  

Only Frost answered.  The self-righteous iceman came out of nowhere, landed with the grace of an elephant, and told Xander bluntly to wait outside while he went in to help Miss Windaji.

When Frost emerged minutes later with Miss Windaji in tow, Xander was still fuming.  Angry at Frost for telling him to wait outside like some helpless kid.  Angry at Miss Windaji for letting Frost treat him like that.  And most of all, angry at himself, for simply not being good enough to finish the mission in the first place.

Not this time, no, not when it's Verte on the line.

But if Frost had told them to stay put, then he must have a plan, some way to be sure they would succeed.  Even without the kids.  

Kids.  Stop it, we're not kids.  Not all of us, anyway.  We're good.  We're damned good.  Not that he would know.  Jerk.  Stupid jerk.

But he's my commander.

But he's a asshole.

I can't disobey an order.  I just can't.

He can't have all the answers.  If he did, Verte wouldn't be in this mess in the first place, right?

Verte.


"Mel, honey, tell me where to go."

He listened as Melilee passed him coordinates.  He gritted his teeth, and said he was on his way.

We are so expelled.

...

So?


For Verte.  

We're coming honey.  Hold on.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 29 November 2005, 18:46:58
The sound of gentle piano music guided the young women through their paces.  Verte kept her head up and back straight through the plies and stretches, from first through fifth position.  First demi-pointe, then pointe.  From time to time she gazed with adoration on the slim figure of the aged ballet mistress, Madame Cronskaya, who had in her day been a Prima Ballerina with the Kirov Ballet....

"Baby-girl--"

She looked a bit out of place in her suit among all the pink-tutu'd students, but no one seemed to mind.  In fact, the director was already figuring in a place for her in the annual Nutcracker presentation, as a toy robot.  If she did well in class, next year the part might be upgraded to give her a short solo....

"Kiddo--"

To be able to be a hero and dance....it was a dream, a wonderful dream come true.  Zander and Torchy were so cute about it, even promising to go to the performance even though they'd probably be bored silly.  She was going to get tickets for all of them, the director promised them their very own box seat, just for the YCs.  It didn't matter if she was ever much of a performer, the thing was the dancing it---

"VERTE!"

The gloved hand gently shaking her shoulder awoke pain and woke her.  Jerry was bending over her, concern in the lines of his body.  "Baby-girl, you zoned out.  You can't do that,  OK?  You need to stay alert."  He looked at his hand and muttered, as if to himself, "Jeezus.  You're burning up.  I gotta get you outa here...."

"I'm sorry, Jerry," she said contritely, as he asked Waitron for another pair of drink pouches and gave her one.  "It won't happen again."

"I---sure, you can do it, kiddo.  I know ya can.  Look, downstream is a big no-can-do.  Hydra have camped out at the crossing, and not even stealthed am I gonna get past them.  I'm gonna rest up a sec and try upstream."

Rest up?  Quickly she fired off an AM aura, and for good measure, a couple of heals.  "Hydra?" she replied, puzzled.  "Like those lumpy things in Perez?"

"Yeah," he said grimly.  "Only about a thousand times meaner and nastier.  Sit tight.  I'll go find another way out."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 04 December 2005, 04:17:32
...tired...

She coughed into her hand, tasted copper, felt wetness in the hand and looked at it, dully.  

Blood.

She wiped it off on the dirty scrubs.  Just in time.  Jerry's bulk blocked out the light at the end of the pipe again.  

"Need a little more of your magic, baby-girl.  Then I need to sit."  He moved out of the way as she dragged her throbbing leg past Waitron and he lifted her down, carefully.  He perched her on a bent pipe and sat heavily down onto the concrete walkway.

"Are you hurt?" she asked, firing off heals again, until she ran out of energy...a  moment that came a lot quicker this time.

"Nothing that wasn't hurt before.  Kinda hard to tell exactly how much gets hurt when you're piloting one of these things.  They make 'em so you won't feel pain when you're hurt, so you'll keep fighting while the suit fixes the damage."  He sighed.  "Neuro-electrical stimulation, mostly.  Older models than mine used drugs, but the pilots ended up junkies within weeks.  Not cost-effective.  We're sealed in these things though.  Take it off maybe once a year for a full day of maintainance and upgrade.  Newer suits than mine don't even need that, they're smaller, lighter and stronger, and can take signals from your nervous system to control an exoskeleton built into the suit.  I got downgraded from decent duty in the labs to crap duty in the Folly to finally down here."

"Like--" she had started to say, "like me," but that wasn't true now.  "Like I was.  Except that it was because of my rads."

He reached up and took her hand.  "So I guess we got something in common, huh?"

She nodded.  "I liked my suit," she replied softly.  "It --it let me be ok, for the first time in a long time.  I guess that's what my f-f-father was after."

He started asking her questions.  Haltingly, she told him about being found in the trash, the Facility, what things were like there, then the YCs...it all came pouring out, her life story really.  He listened, sometimes commented, sometimes asked a question, but mostly just listened.  

"What about you?" she asked, finally.  

The shoulders of the suit moved in a shrug.   "Went to high school.  Got average grades.  Only thing I ever had going for me was damn good reflexes.  Football player, but too small for anything past high school.  Graduated, did the Army thing, got out, realized after about three months that there was nothing I was any good at that would make decent money.  Didn't have any close friends, didn't have a girl.  Really wasn't anything I was interested in either, so I answered this ad from Crey..."  He sighed.  "If I'd known then what I know now."  He coughed.  "It wasn't a bad job for a long time.   Mostly where I was we got Freaks trying to bust in, sometiimes Malta.  DE once.  Mostly just like any other guard duty.  Except you live in your guard-shack."

She managed a weak chuckle at that.  And then, for a while, they just sat.  She threw heals when her energy came back and kind of nodded off when it was gone.  Not like the last time but bits of music and flashes of memory, the faces of her friends, mostly, drifted through her mind.  

Then, just as she really did start to nod off,. Jerry stood up.  "Back upstream," he said, sounding stronger.  That patrol should be gone by now."

He picked her up and put her back in the pipe.  She crawled just past Waitron, out of sight, to that smooth patch and just let herself down on it...just for a little...just for a little....

....so tired....


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 05 December 2005, 00:37:30
((nudge.  Big sad eyes.  Please don't make me allow Verte to die down there.))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 05 December 2005, 00:44:57
(hey! I already captured the bad guy. Even handcuffed him. What are those other "friends" doing?

Here, have a thousand human dollars. ))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 05 December 2005, 01:02:41
((don't call my bluff.  I *will* let her die, delete the character, turn over the funds to Waitron.  Don't forget, I already killed off Valeria Victrix.))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 05 December 2005, 01:06:33
((okay...but as of last writing, Tharvia still has no idea that Verte has been captured. She'll find out when the YC's burst into that room and find her and Reynard.

Don't give up hope!))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Kid Crisis on 05 December 2005, 05:36:03
((We're writin'!  We're writin'!  No dying yet!))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Robotech_Master on 05 December 2005, 08:46:35
Pouncetta's third passage through the halls of Atlas City Hall caused barely a stir; apparently the inhabitants were getting used to her rapid transits. Dr. Jonathan St. John-Smythe looked up at her arrival. "Ah, Pouncetta; I see you have returned, and from your expression I gather the news is not good."

Pouncetta nodded. "It's very not good. I'm getting a group of fellow students together to go after Verte—with or without our instructors' approval."

"And you returned here because I had said I might have something that could help." When Pouncetta nodded again, Dr. St. John-Smythe returned it. "One moment, then." He stepped through a door into one of the adjoining laboratories. Pouncetta was anxious, hoping this would not take too long; however, true to his word, the scientist stepped back through a moment later carrying a small box.

"This is one of my most recent projects—something with which I've been tinkering in my spare time." Dr. St. John-Smythe set the box on a nearby table and opened the lid. He took out a small boxy device on a wrist strap, a bit larger than a digital watch. It had a single red button on the front, protected by a flip-up cover, and an LED digital display.

"The principles on which this device works are very complicated—and you are pressed for time so I will spare you the explanation. Essentially, it is similar to the emergency force-field projection device adjoining the Terra Volta reactor core; once activated, it will provide you with an anti-radiation force field for as long as its power supply holds out—four minutes in this implementation. When it exhausts its supply, the circuitry will fuse." The scientist looked away for a moment, his face coloring slightly. "I would strongly advise that you not, ah, still be wearing the device when that occurs."

Pouncetta nodded. "So if Verte's out of her suit, we should be able to approach her for at least long enough to check her condition.  Good. How many of those have you got?"

"I am afraid I only had time to assemble four," Dr. St. John-Smythe said.

"It'll be enough. Rest of us will just have to keep our distance.  Anything else?"

"Only this." The scientist lifted out one of the standard-issue hand-held scanners that SERAPH and DATA commonly used. "I've calibrated it to the specific frequencies of radiation on file for Miss Virtue's aura. It will only be effective at relatively short range, but it should at least enable you to confirm her recent presence in a given location." He put the scanner and the force field unit back in the box and offered it to Pouncetta, who tucked it under her arm.

"Thanks, Doc, you're aces." Pouncetta nodded to him, turned, and was gone.

"Not at all," St. John-Smythe murmured to the empty air. "I do hope you'll let me know how it goes." He shrugged and turned back to his work.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 07 December 2005, 12:06:15
((bump.  If it wasn't apparant from my last post, Verte is actually starting to die.  At the moment she is a very, very sick girl but can be saved...not for much longer.  Jerry knows, the readouts on his suit are telling him as much, that is why he's driving himself to get her out.))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Robotech_Master on 07 December 2005, 12:13:11
((We're writing as fast as we can! But Kid C, who is helping me a great deal with the outlining and so forth, is currently snowed under by school concerns until the weekend.))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moondancer on 07 December 2005, 12:20:39
((Misty this is a crazy time for folks please do not get to frustrated if it take longer then you had hoped.  I am sure no one just doesn't care.  This sould be fun not high pressure))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 07 December 2005, 12:22:04
((OK....

I wasn't going to do this, but to keep the story going....

is ANYONE interested in a Jerry Point Of View entry?))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moondancer on 07 December 2005, 12:25:10
((sure he seems very interesting person would like to see more of him))

((and honestly the story is going fine hun.  Really is.  I would post more but my chars are with Pouncy and do not want to sidetrack the story y'know?))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 07 December 2005, 12:38:18
(( i LOVE jerry. more jerry.))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Heckfire on 07 December 2005, 13:19:22
((*scrabbling outside the narrative like a puppy in a pet store window* Want...to...join...story...dammit...save...little green girl...LMAO

((Yes, more Jerry would be very enjoyable, please...))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 07 December 2005, 18:26:51
((Because no one has said it yet...
JER-RY! JER-RY! JER-RY!))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 07 December 2005, 19:55:00
Quote from: Heckfire";p="7335

((*scrabbling outside the narrative like a puppy in a pet store window* Want...to...join...story...dammit...save...little green girl...LMAO

((Yes, more Jerry would be very enjoyable, please...))


((You need to make a YC character, Heckfire.  Think animated Teen Titans.  We try and save the angst for prose and have fun in-game.))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Heckfire on 07 December 2005, 21:20:41
((Hm...well, I have my teenage spellcaster, Avalon Sainte, from "Drawing the Blade" (http://www.4-thirty-5.com/rpc/viewtopic.php?t=624), way back when I first came here...but I think I could come up with something else, too, without any problems.))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 08 December 2005, 04:09:14
Mel was waiting, silent and invisible as she leaned against the foot of Atlas in the plaza. She'd let the rest of the YC know that if they needed a faster way there, she'd be able to get them the minute they set foot in Atlas Park. The blonde scowled at the comm at her side again. Some people still hadn't checked in, and the lack of a reply made her nervous.

Especially Tharvia's. If it had been anyone else, Mel wouldn't have expected an immediate reply... but this was Verte. Not hearing anything from the Shreeekit made her uneasy.

"M? Hey Mel, got yer ears on? Looking for the party." Effulgence's voice rang from the comm, private channel. She huffed somewhat, as if she'd been running. "Tell ya what. If ya got a place ya need me, just send it. If ya don't...hell, s'girl a bleeding battery. If she's somewhere and she's pissy, I might pick up some rads off her. What the ever, ya got me? Keep the loop going and I'll pass word if I manage to find anyone."

Effie. Mel snatched up the comm, a half-smile of relief on her unseen face. "Yeah, we're gettin' the gang t'gether. Pouncy's been talkin' t'one of th'smart guys out here, gettin' stuff an' notes on this bastard. Once she tells me where t'go, I'll clue ya in."

A black-and-yellow blur turned into Pouncetta with a box under her arm.  "I have our destination.  The info the Doc had on file includes the address of Reynard's townhouse in Founder's Falls."  She handed Mel a slip of paper with a hurried scrawl on it.  "Have everyone you can find meet us there.  I'm going ahead to scout it out."

"Y'got it. Half hour, tops. We ain't as fast as you are, but I bet we can get there without too much trouble." Mel nodded as the catgirl took off in a yellow blur, comm to her mouth again.

"Listen up, chers. We got a lead, coordinates comin'. If you ain't fast as the wind or damned good in the air, you keep your butt in the train station in Talos until someone gets ya. An' if'n ya don't..." The blonde paused, startled by the authority in her voice. "Well, ain't gonna be no Twizzlers for any of ya for a month. No pixie stix neither. Rest of ya, wait just outside th'tunnel that leads int' Founders. We're goin' in t'gether, an' ain't nobody else goin' down."

Mel started jogging, the comm still at her lips. "An' if you got a problem with any of it, y'all can bitch at me later when it's over. I ain't takin' shit from anyone t'day. Melilee out."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 08 December 2005, 06:15:50
Jerry held one gloved hand to his aching side as his eyes flickered along his HUD in patterns so ingrained they were like breathing.  Trouble was, so many of his sensors were dark, or only working intermittently.  IR, down.  UV, down.  Nightvision, down.  Xray, radar, sonar, all down.  He was having to rely on the old fashioned methods of visual scans.  

His radio, both short- and long-range, was out too, otherwise he'd have taken the chance that he could shake the little green girl loose and called Crey.  

There was a dull ache in his side that warned him there was still something seriously wrong with him, despite the little thing's healing auras.  He was pretty sure he wasn't going to make it out of the sewers, actually....still, he had to give it a shot.  For the kid, if not for himself.

Funny.  He knew other Crisis Units had faced kids younger than she was, and had no particular compunction about taking them out.  Most had bitched about it later, taking it as a kind of insult that kids who should have been in class were out there making life difficult for CI.  Jerry knew why, of course.  Every Crisis Unit, every Crey Tank, every Crey Protector knew what the Paragon Protectors really were....

And most put it out of their minds.  Jerry had, for a long, long time.  But seeing that little girl  in those filhty scrubs had made it hit home in a way that made him almost sick.  Kids.  Good, honest kids.  Doing what they were assigned, because it was the right thing to do....somehow when they were masked an in spandex it was easier to make them into faceless little icons in order to take them down.

This one.  First thing she'd done when he spoke up and she knew he was alive had been to throw heals on him.  The Paragon Protectors wouldn't even do that for Crey personnel.

Maybe that selfless act had been what had forged the instant conection between them.  Maybe it was her guts; maybe her determination.  He only knew that suddenly he felt as protective of her as if she had been his child, and as determined to save her.

And she was in a bad, bad way now.  His HUD readout, intended to tell him how an enemy was doing, gave him the grim news.  Fever--or something like a fever, maybe her rads burning her up--106 and climbing.   Endurance and energy draining out of her like she had a hole in her bucket.  Health dropping like the thermometer in Juneau Alaska .

Short form.  She was dying.  And he had to get her out of there some time soon, or she wasn't going to be salvagable.

And it was up to him to get her out.  Brave words about her friends and teachers to the contrary, if they'd had a way to trace her, they'd have been here by now.

"I'll get you out, baby-girl," he murmured.  "I'll get you out, or die trying."


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Djinni on 08 December 2005, 18:08:59
The comm call had stopped Belladonna Aura's heart cold.  The brief explanation of what had happened made her hot with rage.  Why hadn't someone told her about all the gifts, the trips, the whole sordid business?  Verte's notes had been rather brief and cautious, along the lines of "He says he's my father, and I really want a family, but...." with none of the details.  If Bella had known... she'd have smelled a rat a long time ago.

And now this.  Called at the eleventh hour, like an afterthought.

Maybe it was her own fault for being so hands-off, trying to stay out of Verte's life so the girl could make her own way, find her own path....

Damn it.  This was no time for recriminations or self-recriminations.  She had wanted to bring in Harrier, Moggie, Diablo, Glow-Plug...go outside the group to some of the other "Heroes of the City" she knew---Star of America, for instance.  Frost said no.  She throttled down her own reaction when she realized that going in covertly was a lot smarter than bringing in two dozen firebombs and leveling the place.  But one thing she would not allow--

"... she's my responsibility too, Frost," Bella insisted.  "No way in hell you're doing this without me."

"I want to keep this team small," Frost continued.  "We need to move around in there quickly and quietly.  Can't do that with too many.    But aye, it's good that you're here.  You know her condition better than any of us."

Belladonna Aura looked around.  They were huddled together on a rooftop, near what appeared to be an industrial complex in Founders.  She recognized a few of them.  Gizam Windaji and Endal Twilight, of course.  The girl who looked like a member of Longbow had to be Autumn Hayes.  

"All right," Bella said.  This wasn't the time to argue, they had to move.  If Verte was out of her suit, they didn't have much time.  And Frost was right about that at least.  Bella would know what Verte was going through, better than any of them.  "You're the commander.  What are we doing?"

"We get one shot at this," Frost told her.  "That place is crawling with what appear to be Malta."  Bella took a quick peek.  He was right.  The uniforms were non-descript, but she'd seen enough Malta equipment to place them.  That was an army down there.  

"Intel on this installation isn't good," Frost muttered, "but I'm pretty sure a direct assault would get us taken out.  Tracking has her placed directly under the complex.  And so, a couple of minutes to scout.  And a surprise in the wings."

"Surprise?" Daji asked, turning to to raise an eyebrow at him.  "What surprise?  Frost, you know I'm behind you, but Bella's right.  We've got to move."

"Trust me," was all Frost said.  

Daji sighed and nodded subtley.  "You know I do."

"Even in the best battles, we surprise ourselves. Overplanning can be the little death which would bring about failure." Endal said as he studied the building closer. "I eagerly await this newness." His eyes caught the small movements. "We should strike soon."

Frost turned away, scanning the complex.  "Units, report in."

Closed channels flared to life, and they all heard voices begin to babble over their comm units.

"Parks here, Frost," replied a calm, meticulous male voice. "We've got the portable containment/med bay ready.  Tech boys and med staff are suited up, and ready for evac as soon as you retrieve Miss Virtue."

"Sister here," chimed in a melodious female voice, accompanied by sounds of combat.  "I've picked up a bit more than I can chew here, Djinni.  Sooner would be better than later."

And finally...

"Hawkeye here.  You were right, Commander.  Security inside the facility isn't so bad, we should be able to move quickly once in.  It's getting all of you in that'll be the problem.  They've concentrated surveillance to the exterior perimeter, but not even a single camera inside by the looks of it.  I'm picking up signatures of dispersion containment around the exterior."

"Copy that," Frost muttered.  "I've got the same.  Once we're in, we're in.  Hospital ports will be disabled.  No safety net on this one."

"They can do that?" Daji asked.

Bella nodded.  "Council and Thorns have found a way to circumvent the emergency porters for ages now.  Not surprising that Malta have found a way too."

"It's a two-way blockade," Hawk continued.  "I can't port you in, either.  We will have to resort to plan B."

"What's plan B?" Bella asked.

"The surprise," Frost said.  "Have you secured an entry point, Hawk?"

"I have.  Southwest corner.  You'll need to take out the security camera there first though, but that will just alert them.  You need a way to take it out without arousing suspicion."

"Got it covered, Hawk.  Spring the hatch on my mark."  Frost turned to the rest of them.  "And that's when we all make for his position.  On my mark, understood?"

He was answered with nods, some of them masked questions and concerns, but they were with him.

"Sister, you've got the green light."

"About time!"  They heard a thunderous detonation in the distance.  "After this, we're even!"

"Of course," Frost answered coldly.  "Painting the target."

He rose from concealment, and pointed.  A thin laser shot from his hand and rested on the base of the security camera atop the southwest corner of the installation.  He froze in place and the laser came to a still.  The others watched as a ball of light bounded towards them in the distance, followed by--

"Devouring Earth."  Endal noted, a shadow of a smile crossed his face.  "Excellent, a distraction. This will work well. The chaos of an unexpected threat will upset their plans and defenses."

"And that's Sister Shuma drawing them here!"  Bella gasped, turning to Frost.  "How in the world did you ever get her in on this?"

"She owes me a favour," Frost replied, his targeting laser still locked in place.  

"She's a mercenary, Frost," Bella pointed out.  "Her prices are astronomical, influenced no doubt by her colourful past as a prostitute."

Daji shrugged.  She cared very little what occupation someone had, as long as when they were needed to do the right thing, they did.  "I've partnered with her before.  She's good in a fight, and got a fire in her.  May be just what we need to pull this off, people like her."

"Well, I partnered once with her too.  It was....an experience.  But damn, she's good."  Bella considered that statement and amended it.  "Worth every penny, I'd say."

They watched as Sister Shuma bounded onto the complex, dodging boulders and thorn spikes hurled by the montrous DE.  Returning fire, she blasted them with concussive blasts from her glowing hands.  Hardly enough to stop them, but then, stopping them wasn't the point.  She was herding them.

"Got the target in sight," Shuma's voice whispered over the channel.  "Good steady hand you got there, Frosty."

"Just do it already," they heard Frost mutter.

Shuma continued to dodge, flip, and maneouver the DE into position.  A group of them huddled together, taking cover from her return fire.  Satisfied, she darted in, taking them aback.  Up until now, she had seemed content to hit them from afar.  Now, she was closing the distance, and she... exploded.  

In the wake of the blast, the team watched as she scrambled to ground level, drawing the remaining DE away, and now a horde of confused Malta.  She had done it.  The blast had taken out a considerable portion of the complex roof.  They watched in amusement as Hawkeye poked a surprised head out of a destroyed ventilation shaft.  The rooftop cameras were now debris.  And the attention of the local security seemed fixed on Shuma, who was carrying the fight down the street.

"Never underestimate collateral damage as a good diversion," Frost said simply.

"Especially in this town," Autumn added, watching in awe as Shuma continued her roaming streetfight.

"There's your goddamn distraction, Iceboy!" Shuma's voice raged over the comm.  "Get going, I sure as hell don't want to have to do this again!"

"Move!" Frost barked, and as one they sped towards the newly-created opening in the complex roofing.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Rory Hartlan on 08 December 2005, 18:11:25
[[ Written up in MoonEdit, as endorsed by people who said they wanted some comedy, and myself... cause even these guys have their days too.]]

Even through the soundproofing the two guards were becoming bored with the sounds coming from the other room. At first it startled them, as men should not make sounds like that. After a while, it became a little monotonous. This was a high profile client and had the money to help fill the coffers, but boredom began to set in. There was only so many mysterious sounds and odors that one could put up with.

"Hey Jeff."

Thump, thump thump, thud. Waft of lemon smell through the air.

"Hmm?" Jeff looked up from his display.

"Catch the game last night?"

The girlish scream came from behind them, they both shook their heads.

"Nah, had to take the dog to the vet." George looked to the screen display on his wrist. "You'd think she'd get tired of doing that for the thirtieth?"

"You're keeping count?" Jeff looked to George as he adjusted the strap on his weaponry.

"Lost count once already though."  He checked his watch.  "Six hours now."

Something wet hit the inside wall, both the guards looked to each other then hesitated to look at the wrist display which showed the inside of the bedroom.  At first they were intrigued, but the sights they saw, were oddly disturbing. But like a late night infomercial, they could depend on the rhythm of sounds, thumps, and even once a wall cracking.

Jeff nodded to George and held up the wrist display, "20 to 1 says his heart gives before she's done with that thingy she's got attached to him."

George took a look to the wrist display, scowled up his face and debated it a little. "I'll give you five to one, he just lost most of his hair, and that looks oddly... painful, are legs supposed to do that?"

Jeff winced a little as he looked to the display "Just in the comic books. I'll take that five to one."

George looked to the display again, "No way, I mean look at her... now, that's not supposed to fit there."

"I'm never -ever- stuffing a turkey again." Jeff said as he looked to the display, then looked to George seriously. "Hey, you know they aren't going anywhere."

George nodded, "Yeah, I'm hungry but... I don't think there's anything I want to eat after watching -that-. And we're not gonna be paid by a corpse."

"You've got a point." Jeff nodded as he looked up the code on his wrist display. The walls shook a little as they both could hear the alien teenager state her demands.

"I WANT MORE!" The muffled voice rippled through the walls and shook the floor.

"All right, that's it, I don't know about you, but if she's done with him, we're next." George said as he tightened the laces in his boots, keeping an eye on the exit door.

"Give you five to one that I beat you to the door." Jeff tightened his belts a bit, then spoke over the comm lowering his voice to a deep announcer voice. "This is eagle one, we are leaving. It's a code... uhhh..."

"Fourty two." George whispered across to him as the sound of metal bending and ripping came from within the room. The two looked to each other then began backing away quickly.

"It's screwed up. Seriously. In fact, somebody call a cape, we're not getting paid enough to do this. We're outta here." Jeff said as the two bolted for the door.

"Beer?" George asked slightly breathless as they reached the exit.

"Oh, no. The elbow thing she did..." Jeff said as he tried to twist his arm a little.

"Oh yeah." George replied remembering, his face screwed up like he sucked on a rotten lemon. "Man, I would not want to be in that guys shoes. Or what's left of his skin."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moondancer on 08 December 2005, 18:57:01
Daniel shivered in the darkness and coughed.  He didn't know how long he had been here but he ached terribly.  It hurt to breathe and the ground was cold and very wet.  There was a strong smell of sewage, but there was also a foulness to the air that chilled him even further then skin deep.  He touched his abdomen.  His lower ribs and stomach was tender and it hurt to breathe.

As he tried to stand but a sharp pain in his side shook him.  The second he placed pressure on his right leg he had to stifle a scream before he was hitting the ground hard.  He gasped for a moment, but as he heard movement a distance away Daniel was thankful he hadn't cried out.  Two men walked past in makeshift armor created from trash. Lost.  Daniel he shrank into the shadows.

How did he get here?  He remembered being home.  A pair of yellow eyes.  Bright lights.  Pain.  His mind was a jumble.  Daniel's hands went up to his forehead and found his hand come away caked in congealing blood.  A concussion maybe.  Might explain why everything was so jumbled.  Daniel searched his pockets in the dark.  No Comm. No phone.  They all sat back in his closet at home along with his mask and his bow. Daniel shuddered and lay back against the cold cement wall.

They'd never find him here.  No one knew he was gone, or where to look.  His stomach ached from hunger.  His mouth and throat was dry and his lips felt sticky.  As Daniel continued to struggle for a deeper breath he clutched his arms tightly to his chest.  His eyes hurt, they were so dry, so he closed them.  Daniel needed help and he found himself praying silently.  One name came to his mind.  Hawkeye.

He had to find him.  Had to tell him… something…  Daniel struggled to his feet.  There was something… but he couldn't remember.  He found some rebar and rags, and created a makeshift splint.  It wouldn’t helps much with the pain, but it might keep the broken leg from getting worse.  He could already see the blood soaking his jeans.  

Daniel pushed he way through the long tunnels, stopping to hide when a group of the
Lost came too close.  It was a maze and instead of finding the way out, he seemed to be going deeper and deeper into it.  Daniel changed route and doubled back, the head injury messing with his normally very attuned sense of direction.

Daniel shivered in the darkness and coughed.  He didn't know how long he had been here but he ached terribly.  It hurt to breathe and the ground was cold and very wet.  There was a strong smell of sewage, but there was also a foulness to the air that chilled him even further then skin deep.  He touched his abdomen.  His lower ribs and stomach was tender and it hurt to breathe.

As he tried to stand but a sharp pain in his side shook him.  The second he placed pressure on his right leg he had to stifle a scream before he was hitting the ground hard.  He gasped for a moment, but as he heard movement a distance away Daniel was thankful he hadn't cried out.  Two men walked past in makeshift armor created from trash.  Lost.  Daniel he shrank into the shadows.  


Daniel continued for what seemed like hours.  His leg could barely stand the weight of his movement, though he tried to be careful.  Daniel was so tired… but he knew sleep was the worst thing he could do.  The signs were not good.  Though he no longer say Lost, the number of Thorns in the tunnel had grown at an alarming rate.  He had been able to design a crude sling from a bit of half rotted clothing he had fund in a soggy box, and filled his pickets with rocks and larger chucks of metal.  It wasn’t a bow, but it was all he had.

He thought his heart was going to simply stop when the drone came into view, a tall buggish looking creature following behind it.  Daniel had never seen such a thing, and the alarms going on in his own instincts told him things had gotten really bad.  He crouched low in a bit of broken pipe until they past, thankful of some of the hunter trick he had learned on his time with Hawkeye.  This time, they might just save his life.  His picked up anything that looked useful, from a clump of old twine to a rusty pocket knife.

Once they pasted Daniel turned the corner, carefully avoiding the larger groups of these creatures.  Maybe if he found the core of the sewer system he could find an access port or and easier way up.  It would mean going deeper, but seemed the only choice.

As he came to the core, Daniel felt as it his heart along with his courage dropped all the way down to his shoes.  He had never seen anything so terrifying before, or so huge.  It was all green and the tentacles that reached out from the beast waved wildly, making it impossible to count them all.  This had just turned from a tough situation into his worst nightmare come to life.

Beyond the creature there was movement.  A green glow.  He heard a voice, too soft to catch the words, but it sounded human enough.  Could there be people trapped here?  With that knowledge, there was very little hesitation as he waded into the foul muck.  He moved around the back of the thing slowly, so that the sound or vibration of him didn’t disturb the surface too much.

Daniel got as close as he dared.  He could see what looked like a man in some sort of heavy tech armor, a robot, and a girl with green skin that was glowing.  His leg stung madly as the filth seeped into the wound, but he tried to ignore the pain best he could.  None of the three looked all that good, but the girl looked the worst off of the bunch.  Something about her seemed familiar.  He had to find a way to help.

Taking one of the rocks he had found from his pocket, he used the pocket knife to scratch out a message.  It was short, but he hoped they understood.

My name is Peace Guardian.  I see you and your friends are hurt.  I am going to try to get to the surface and get help.  Stay hidden if you can.  There are big creatures on the other side of this beast.  I will hurry.  I will find a way to get help.  I promise.

He slipped the rock into his sling and chucking it towards the man.  Of the three he looked to be the most alert.  Daniel didn’t know how he was going to fine his way out, but he had to.  It was not just him that was depending on it.  The stakes were much higher now, and he had to see it through.  He made his way back through the muck and towards a path to the back of the creature.  A new tunnel, a new chance.  With this determination Daniel felt his mind clear.  His own will pushing out the haze.  He had to keep it together.  They need him to succeed or they all would die.  With a silent prayer to the ancestors he made his way up though the new set of tunnels.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 09 December 2005, 02:26:07
The rock clanged off Jerry's helmet, and he jumped to his feet as Verte started awake with a muffled whimper.  He scanned in the vector of the rock, looking for whoever had thrown it--because it had to have been thrown, rocks don't "fall" sideways.

"Jerry!" he heard the girl say, sounding startled.  "There's writing on this!"  She read the message aloud.  But instead of brightening her face crumpled.  "Someone---someone was there!  He could have helped us, and all he did was throw a rock!  Why didn't he stay?  Why--"

Quickly Jerry knelt down beside her before she could get hsyterical, and grabbed both her hands.  "Easy kiddo.  Think a minute.  Whoever it was chucked a frikin' rock at me.  You think if he had some better way to signal us, he wouldn't have used it?  Poor schmuck is probably as bad off as we are.  Maybe one of those people the Lost are always kidnapping, that came to his senses."

She looked up at him, tears cutting streaks through the dirt on her face.  "But that just means--"

"No baby-girl.  He's got one thing going for him.  He's on the other side of those Hydra.  And he's promised to find help.  He's got a hero name--so I'm betting he thinks like a hero, even if he is a bad-off one.  He'll get us help.  And hey!  You know what?"  Suddenly something that occurred to him.   The likelihood that anyone knew where she was was pretty slim.  "I bet there's bunches of your people out there right now, tearin' up the sewers lookin' for you.  He's bound to run into some of 'em.  And the minute he tells them where you are, they'll be cuttin' through those Hydra like chain-saws."

This time he meant what he told her, it wasn't just a pep-talk.  He knew heroes, they'd go through impossible odds to get a civvie out, much less one of their own.  The only reason no one had come yet had to be because no one knew where to look.  

Well, the odds had just got tipped back in their favor.

She sniffed once, nodded, and freed one hand to wipe her eyes with the back of it.  He squeezed the other one, and let it go.  "I'll start making recon runs to make sure nothin' sneaks up on us, but it's only time now, baby-girl.  That Peace Guardian'll get through, I 'm sure of  it."

And actually, he was.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 09 December 2005, 04:57:52
((Another ME collaboration))

Whatever she had said, it had worked. Mel counted more than a handful of the Young Champions making their way into Talos Island, with a few coming towards her position just inside the station. Out of necessity, she faded into view against the wall. She'd already given the nod to Torch as he'd passed through on his way to meet Pouncy at the given address.

Effulgence's attitude was never one of her charms, but her mood was blacker than pitch as she wrung out a boot. The police bot hovered patiently nearby and watched her impersonally with a single camera eye. She resisted the severe urge to give it the finger and pulled the soggy boot over her equally soggy foot. Tapping the channel code into the comm, she called for Mel again. "Alright. I'm at the tunnel to Founder's. Let's ignore the fact I had to swim most of the way and climb a nasty piece of cliff to avoid the random Freaks on the road." She smirked as the bot apparently deemed her no threat and turned away. Her tone was more sardonic when she added, "So yeah, if anyone passes a Mickie Dee's on the way or something, I'm in for some fries. See ya when ya get here."

"Y'got it, Effie. I owe ya a year's wortha fries," Mel answered, all business. "Rest of us are comin' as soon as the rest of 'em get here."

Lady Marmalade made her way towards Mel, her face sullen and her gaze dark.  Dark Firebird and Headcase followed behind.  They had not spoken the whole way, but their close proximity to each other and the strong and deep connection that mixed thier auras so throughtly, was starting to grate on Asha's nerves.  As the three reached reached the bottom of the train platform she moved away from the two to stand by Mel.  "More coming on the next tram, sugah.  Busy at the station today."  Asha sighed.  "Tried to get ahold of Dante, but still nothing."

Mel nodded, her expression softening a bit. "Still. Well, y'know. Good that you came. Ain't heard from too many others. Guess I scared 'em or something."

Dark Firebird sat on the rail, and Headcase stood in front of her, wrapping his arms around her waist.  He knew she was worried about her friend, so was he, so they silently conforted each other knowing they would all find a way to get Verte home again.  

The next train that came in disgorged a larger-than-usual number of harried pedestrians, all practically running out of the station with their hands over their ears.  A loud "MRRROWR!!" followed them out, echoing off of nearby buildings, as a small brown felinoid bounded out of the car.

Firebird and Headcase both looked up and chuckled, and Kachine waved.  "Sonic.  Have a nice ride, senorita?"

"Mrrrowrr!" the diminuitive catgirl said, bouncing up and down.  Her fists glowed with the same golden radiance often seen around Pouncetta's.  "Mrrrrrowrrwrr!"

The blonde Cajun hid a cringe. She hadn't counted on some of the younger members showing up. It was one thing for the older students to head out on something like this, but Mel wasn't so sure about the more 'junior' Champions.

Asha looked over at Mel, something in her eyes mirroring that same concern.  "This is a bad idea, sugah."

"Ain't th' best, that's for sure." Mel glanced to the other two, as if to ask their opinions.

Kachine jumped down from the railing an croached down by Sonic.  "We are very glad you came little gato.  This will need all of us.  You have a good nose, si?"

Sonic Pounce nodnodnodded at Kachine.

Headcase looked over at Mel and simply shrugged.  "They told us not to come, and here we are.  Can't really tell the juniors not to either, huh?"

"But it's Founder's," Mel protested, her voice low. "Place is crawlin' with, well... everythin'. If it gets that messy-"

"Anything we are going to find won't be a cakewalk."  Headcase shook his head.  "It gonna be messy, sure, but we'll have to face it ready that's all.  Or as ready as we can be.   Verte is waiting for us to find her, and we will."

"Mrrrowr!" Sonic Pounce said, jaw set and eyes firm.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 09 December 2005, 04:58:14
Mel had fought with Link before, and the telltale scowl was beginning to creep over her face again. "I'm callin' th'shots, an' I don't think it's a smart call t'take th'younger ones in," she replied, defiant.

Headcare smirked.  "You want to call the shots, hey I'm not stopping ya.  But think about how well we listened when we were told to stay behind.  Rather have them follow us in than go alone?  Then it's up to you, boss lady."

"Frost's an ass an' he don't know what we can do. This is different. I've been runnin' with all y'all, an' some of ya, I don't have a damned problem taking with me. But her..." She jerked a thumb towards Sonic. "Me an' Verte found her, and if Verte can't be responsible for her, I will."

Kachine lay a hand on Sonic's shoulder.  "Sonic Pounce has never failed us in combat or in training.  I do not understand..."  She looked at Headcase and they met eyes, both silent for a moment.

"It ain't personal," Mel argued as she looked to the feline. "But Verte wouldn't drag ya someplace like that, an' I ain't gonna do it either."

Sonic Pounce growled, looking more determined than ever.

"We have to be clear in this.  Best not to put all our cards in one place as it is."  Asha smiled to Mel, and hoped the girl caught the look.  Forbidding them was like begging for trouble.  There might be a better way.  "Mel and Headcase are porters.  If we send the more exprienced team in to scout it out, we can always call the rest in.  If we get into trouble we'll need some to stay behind to get help to us right?  Think of it like any military situation.  Always best to have a comm team in case the main force gets in over their heads."

"Link can go with you. I will stay here with Sonic and wait for the others if that is all right.  Someone will need to tell then what is happening when they arrive. That way we have a way to communicate without depending on the comms, should they go down.  Is that all right?"  Kachine looked to Mel and Headcase.

"Works for me." Mel straightened up and nodded to Asha. "Guess the rest of 'em are late, anyways. Gotta haul ass."

Sonic Pounce looked rebellious, and glanced south across the bay toward the exit to Founder's Falls.

"Please, gato.  I will stay with you.  We will not get left behind.  Have faith."  Kachine whispered in Sonic's ear.

Sonic Pounce looked doubtfully at her, an ear twitching.  "Mrrrr."

Headcase smirked at Firebird and then turned to Mel.  "Okay, ready when you are."

"Okay, sugah."  Asha sighed and looked out towards the sky above the gate.  Part of her hoping Dante would suddenly appear, but hope was in short supply lately.  "Ready to roll."

"All right. Pouncy? Y'all got there yet?"

Pouncetta's voice came over the comm.  "Yeah, I'm here.  Looking at a couple of Crey plug-uglies stationed to either side of the door.  I think we've got the right address, all right."

Asha nodded.  "Okay be there soon."  She turned back to Mel.  "You're the boss.  What's the plan when we get there?"

The words tumbled out faster than one might have thought possible. "Pouncy's got point, with Link keepin' up defenses on you, her, and Torch. Don't waste 'em on me unless I ask, y'all ain't gonna see my butt if'n I can help it. I ain't as good as Verte on heals, so y'all gotta get in close an' stay close. An' if I tell ya t'haul out, y'all move, no questions."

"If we get seperated worry about them two, I got my magic to help me keep up right some.  But yeah, only if we got no choise.  Best to stay tight.  Just keep cool, cause we know this, love.  We trained it.  Now we got ta live it and make it count."  Asha gave a slight smile, then moved off towards Founders Falls.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 11 December 2005, 07:59:20
((More ME collaborative goodness))

Mel would have to remind Pouncetta to clarify the term "a couple" the next time she gave a headcount on the comm. Last time she had checked, "a couple" was decidedly less than five. Still, Asha, Torch, and the catgirl made quick work of them, most not realizing that they'd been ambushed by a trio of high schoolers before it was too late. Mel winced as a burst of flame from Royal Torch flowed across the floor and knocked one of the guards unconscious.  She looked to Headcase. "Coast is clear, I think." She glanced up at the others, the faint smell of smoke in the air. "Y'think that's it?"

"It'd better be," Pouncetta growled, dusting off her hands.  "I just hope she's here."

Blue flames washed over Torch's body.  "They'd better 'ope so too," he said.  "We're no' leavin' wi'ou' 'er."

Asha crouched down, panting.  "Yeah if it's not they're guarding something...  Either way, sugah.  We're gonna git some answers."

"All right, all right. Gonna meet up with Effie. She was checkin' out another spot while we were bein' distractin'." Mel faded from view again, stealing along the sides of the hallway.

Effulgence was considering the benefits of gray fashion habits as she stared at the hallways and doors. No wonder Founder's Falls was infamous for snipers...anyone with a love of spandex, armor, or color stuck out like a pretty target. She had been peering into yet another room when the sounds of heavy thuds told her the distraction was in order. At least -

"Damn, I hope that's the distraction." Effie muttered as the floor rattled and kept moving towards the noises. Someone had been yelling and not from inside a helmet, she thought. All this talk of a project, but none of Verte. At the niggling sense of someone or something unseen at her back, she stopped and said as dangerously as she could manage. "If you are over legal drinking age, I will blow you away." Just don't let me be talking to myself again, or I will never hear the end of it.

"You blow me away, an' you ain't ever gonna have that Happy Meal I promised ya." The Cajun moved in front of the other teen and allowed herself to be seen.

Letting out her held breath, Effie's face cracked into a relieved smile. "Damn, Mel, go ahead and scare me some more. Keeps the blood pumping, dotcha know? Lotta men in tin cans 'round here gotta lotta big frigging guns. You all okay?"

She shrugged. "Okay's kinda relative, but yeah. Ran into a bunch at the front door, but ain't nothin' that couldn't be taken care of." She rubbed at the back of her head as she glanced around. Had anyone else seen the gesture, it would have been proof positive that she was picking up some of Xander's more endearing habits. "Anythin' that points t'where we might find Verte?"

Nodding, she squeezed Mel's arm and pointed further down the hall. "No sign yet of tall, cute, and shiny green gal. Then there's this. Someone talking in there. Hear 'em?" She inclinded her head to the unintelligible voices.

Mel frowned. "Yeah... weird. Like it's got two places, down the hall an' then further away."

"You wanna go check it? S'where the talk's from, I think, but I ain't got words yet without getting too close for comfort. Sounds like some surveillance hub room, and you got better stealth moves than me."

Mel faded out with a nod. "Well, it's either down this hallway, or there's another room we ain't found, so-" She stopped, head tilting slightly. "You hear that?" As she pressed her ear to the wall, a few guards tore out of what seemed to be a control room in a panic.

Effulgence leaned in to listen as well when the rapid exit of the guards caused her to jump back and attempt to blend in. "Whatever the heck those thuds and the floor jittering around were? Some piece of machinery in this place may be about to go up like a Roman candle." She clearly didn't want to be near it when it did.

"Yeah, but... " Mel froze as she clearly heard the voice of the Shreeekit lecturing someone about 'stamina' and 'ability to perform adequately for one's species.' Before she could say anything else, the other four jogged down the hall, Link's forcefields surrounding them in a pale aqua bubble.

Asha squinted, peering in the direction Mel was looking.  "What is it, sugah?"

"I, uh... I think I know where we'll find Tharvia."


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 13 December 2005, 05:02:10
Back in Talos, more of the group had gathered. Mercury Prime had just stepped off the tram and was faced with several indignant young teens, all demanding why they had to stay at the station.

"Mrrrowrr!!" Sonic Pounce said, gesticulating frenetically.

"We must stay here until they are in need of us.  If they get into trouble we must be ready.  We dare not risk us all at once.  Not and still stay hidden."  Kachine sighed softly.  She hated confritation, and she really did understand the worried faces of her fellow students.

"Mercury, thank the Bodhissatva of compassion that you have arrived!"  Storm's normally calm demeanor seemed disturbed.  For reasons possibly related to this, it was beginning to rain.  "We require your guidance, Merc."

Xander looked at the other four, obviously overwhelmed. ReRisen merely shrugged, the younger boy clearly uncomfortable with any sort of contradiction in front of the group. "Why? Isn't Mel here? She said to meet everyone at the tram."

Kachine smiled, pulling her coat over hers and Sonics heads to shield from the rain.  "Pouncetta, Mel, Asha, and Link went to Founders fall to the father's home to look there.... we were ordered to remain here until we were needed.  I am in contact with Link now and they have arrived there, defeating the guards easily.  We are waiting for futher imformation now."

It took a moment for the information to sink in, but he frowned slightly when it did finally register. "They went in there alone? Without the rest of us? Who decided that?"

"Miss Mel and Pouncetta are in command and those were their instructions, yes."

Prim sat on the edge of the tram platform, her legs dangling over the side.  Merc heard her mutter something.  He bent down, and tried to give Prim a reassuring smile.  "Y'all think you'll be okay here on your own?"

"What are you talking about?" she asked stiffly.

"Well," he muttered, straightening up and scratching the back of his neck, "this is heavy stuff, could be real dangerous.  Don't want to get you all in trouble too." With that comment, the group erupted in a chorus of protests and loud yowls that had many of the commuters hurrying to get on the train as soon as possible. Merc's mouth opened and closed a few times, his face reddening as he tried to come up with something better to say.

Kachine put a hand up to silence the others, and she seemed to be listening carefully.  Her eyes widened and there was a deeping to her cheeks that could be seen though her tanned skin.  "Umm... well they have entered the man's home and found Tharvia there... Ay..."  She shook her head, unwilling to explain what had been found especially in front of the young ones.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moondancer on 13 December 2005, 11:31:08
Do not look for me or follow me. Know that I am safe and for the first time in over ten years, I am happy. Tell Daniel that his mommy loves him and that I am proud of what he has done with the gift he has been given. He'll know what I mean. It is good you have stopped drinking and have a good job now. I hope you find happiness or at
least peace, Michael…


The words echoes in Daniel head.  He remembered the pain knowing that his mother had left them, him.  How longs had it been?  Days?  Had he been here, or had something else happened to him?  Something he couldn't recall.   It hurt to rerun the his last memories of what had once been his home, but something in that pain and rage helped keep him focused.  There were people down there who needed him, so whatever
it took he had to keep his head.

The boy leaned again the cool cement wall, struggling to catch his breath.  Ribs we broken.  He was sure of it now, but he had no training to deal with it.  It slowed him down a bit, but it wouldn't stop him.  He swore it.  Daniel wiped his sweaty face off on the bottom of his shirt.  His leg wasn't doing much more then throbbing now.  It was almost a numb feeling.  Maybe he was just getting use to it.

After a few minutes rest Daniel was on his way again.  He was going up at least, and every so often he'd get a whiff of the air being a bit fresher.  He made marks on the wall with a scrap bit of chalk with each turn.  The marks were too faint for the Lost and Thorns that seemed to have left tale tail signs in this area of being her, but
he'd know they were there.  He had to find help.  And when he did he'd have to be able to lean them down again to them…to her.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 19 December 2005, 14:35:59
"I ain't playin', y'all. Get up here, now! Rest of th'guards are runnin' scared, an'..." Mel's eyes widened as she stood in the doorway of what was left of the doctor's personal area. "An' Tharvia's doin' what she, uh, does best. An' that ain't patrollin'," she added weakly.

Effulgence looked in around Mel in curiosity and emitted something of an odd choking sound that was no doubt a swallowed noise. After several seconds pause, she patted Mel on the back and added, "Man, I'm gonna leave this one to you guys, Mel. I'll...um..look over the guards' camera station for clues on where she got to. Sound good?" She made sure to continue before Mel could tell her to stay still for this...event. "Great, thanks, gotcha, gettin' to that."

Pouncetta finished taking care of the last Crey guard and zoomed up the hall in an aura of golden light.  She came to a stop next to Effie and Mel, and blinked.  "...oh, now that's just not right."  She sighed.  "But if it were right, then I guess it just wouldn't be Tharvia."

Headcase covered his eyes, knowing what a peep show poor Kachine was getting on the other end of the connection.  "Damn, Tharvia!"

Asha cruised past the doorway and froze at what she saw.  "Whay the hell are ya'll doin, girl?  We are bustin' our behinds here trying to save Verte from this madman, and you're... you're.."  She through her hands in the air.  "You doin' this with him?"

Tharvia's head came up.  Her pupils dilated, and suddenly she was---different.  

"What do you mean, 'save Verte from this madman'?" she asked, enunciating slowly and carefully.

"Gawd Tharv, don' yeh even keep yer comm on?  'E kidnapped Verte an' Waitron, tha's what!" Torch blurted, trying to look everywhere but at Tharvia and her much-the-worse-for-wear companion.  "She's outa 'er suit!  She's gonna die if we can' find 'er!"

Tharvia shrieked, a sound so piercing and painful that they all reflexively covered their ears with their hands.

A nanosecond later, there was a YC hanging from every one of Tharvia's limbs, trying to keep her from killing Reynard.  Asha watched the others holding the enraged girl back.  Part of her wanted nothing more then for them to let her have at the slimeball, but being in the Champions had taught her there were better ways.  "C'mon, sugah.  We need him to find our girl.  Yeah, I know he don't deserve nothing less them to paint the walls, but Verte does deserve more.  She is depending on us to find her and he's the key."

By the time they wrestled her away from her captive and Tharvia stopped struggling, Reynard was cowering and shivering and babbling.  And just a little bit more the worse for wear.

It was fairly incoherent, but they did manage to get the location out of him, while Tharvia stood and glared in a way that made them all think about laser beams and what she tended to do with them.

And--they also found out just what he'd allied himself with.

Malta.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 19 December 2005, 14:37:19
The group grew quiet with the mention of the alliance, Mel finally cutting the silence with a few choice off-color words. She let go of Tharvia's shoulder and approached the doctor. "You ain't even fit for the Zig," she spat. "Hell, if we let her at you and threw what was left int' th' sewers, it'd prob'ly make 'em cleaner."

"We need to speed this up.  How we plan to get into this place?  They're bound to have heavy security on that sort of an operation,"  Headcase smirked.  "And we're not going to have such a unigue distraction next time."

"I'm fast enough that I could probably slip right past the guards without them even noticing me," Pouncetta pointed out.  "I could scout the place, anyway."

"You an' me both," Mel added. "Ain't nobody gonna see me, fast or slow."

Headcase nodded.  "True enough, but don't really help the rest of us.  One way or anouther we'll have to get in, and I'm thinking she'll not be held someplace easy to get to by some bathroom window or something.  We need a way we can all get through at once.  We have to stay together on this."

Asha sighed and help up her hands.  "Okay.  Okay.  I donno if this helps, but I know most of the major factories have connections to the sewers.  I'd bet my waistline that a lab like that would have the same.  We pull up a  map on the comp right here of the sewer system... I bet we can find an access port in.  Plan?"

"Yeah. Gonna have t'get th'rest of 'em here somehow. Before we leave, though..." Even though she'd been listening and nodding, Mel had fixed Reynard with a dirty stare. "Gotta wonder if it's worth wasting a port tag on him. Bet Tharvia could do th' most appropriate kinda justice, all things considered."

"Tempting.  Very tempting," Pouncetta said and Asha grinned at her darkly.

By this time, Reynard had been reduced to whimpers.  "Keep her away!  Send me to the Zig!" he pled,  "Don't let her near me!"  And that was just about all they could get out of him.

Tharvia drew herself up with a dignity that belied her--condition.  "Grant him his request.  I--"  she looked at them, and deflated a little.  "I would--Verte is my friend.  I would like to come--"

"I don' thin' tha's a good idea, Tharv," Torch said quietly, before anyone else could speak.

Tharvia nodded; she looked nothing like any Tharvia they had seen before.  Sad.  Resigned.  "Then I will prepare myself and go to speak with the authorities at this 'Zig' so he is properly secured.  I--I was trying to question him.  To find out if he was a proper parental unit for Verte."  She handed the handcuff keys to Asha, who unlocked the cuffs while Pouncy slapped a transport patch on the quivering scientist.

"Yeh pick a funny way 'o questionin' Tharv," Torch muttered, as the Zig teleporter snatched up their captive.

Even Tharvia's hair seemed to go flat.  "I will see to it he is not released," was all she said, and vanished into the bathroom.

Asha rubbed her fingertip to her temples in a circular motion, shaking her head.  Part of her felt real sorry for the girl.  "Alright, loves.  Let git while the gittin is good.  It's at least a place to start."

A series of low obscene mutterings heralded the return of Effulgence, "What kind of tard makes a room clearly set as a watchpost, without any internal cameras?" She sighed and leaned against the wall. "Whatever they do here, they don't trust anyone, including themselves, to have a record of it. And that's gotta be pretty sick. It makes me wanna find the Verte. Like...now." Effie watched the assembled young heroes, tense and anxious to go.

"Well, it ain't like we can just go an' waltz up t'th'front door of a Malta camp," Mel remarked dryly. "So I guess th'sewers are gonna be our best bet. Gonna hafta let th'rest of the gang know, though." She glanced over to Headcase. "Don't worry, I'll make it all official an' shit. Just so they all know what's goin' on. Y'all get a map t'gether an' I'll go outside an' find the closest manhole cover." Fading into obscurity, she headed to the stairwell and tuned in on the secure channel.

"All right, y'all. Listen up." The Cajun voice came sharp through the comms of all those on the new frequency. "She ain't here, but we found th' asshole who took her, an' he ain't goin' anywhere. Y'all work your way t'th' tunnel t'Founder's, an' me an' Headcase'll take it from there. Gonna be messy, gonna be ugly, an' it sure as hell ain't gonna be easy. If y'don't think you're up t'doin' it, no harm in steppin' back." She took a deep breath and ran a hand through her hair. "An' for those who are, I'll see ya soon. Melilee out."


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 19 December 2005, 14:39:02
Mel peered through the grates that led to the sewers under Founder's Falls. The group inside would be there soon, ready to help her port the rest of the group that had been waiting in Talos. Nervous, she wiped her sweaty palms on her pants and brought the comm to her mouth. "Xan? You there?"

"I'm here," came the reply.  "I'm just... Prim!  Don't... gah.  Love that kid, but seriously need a leash on her."

"Let 'er go," Mel answered. "Kachine'll keep an eye on her. Porting ya first, just so they know that I ain't lying about getting that crew over here." She hooked the comm on her belt and closed her eyes. Hands extended out in front of her, she relaxed just enough to bring the young man to stand just behind the sewer grate.

Xander splashed around a moment, and sighed.  "Sewers, always sewers."  Reaching out, he touched the grating, testing it.  It was rusted, but secure.

"Don't think I can break this down, Mel."

"Don't need t'do that. As long as I can see what I'm doin', I can port th'rest of the gang t'th'other side." She offered him a wry smile. "Y'all right so far?"

"Kids are a bit restless," he muttered, and paused.  "So am I, come to think of it."

"We all are. Verte's family." She rested her head against the grate and sighed. "An' it ain't that I'm not worried about findin' her, but how she'll be when-" Mel stopped, listening intently.

"What?" Xander asked, his voice low, his hand reaching absently for Mel's hair.  He stopped as his hand came to rest on the grate, recoiling slightly.

She bit her lip. "Somethin's down there, an' movin' up this way. Slow, but..." There was another scraping sound, as if something was rubbing against the pipes. "Aw, hell."

Xander spun, and hissed a warning.  "Get back a bit.  And get Link and Kachine down here, I might need some help.  We can bring the kids when..."

He set himself.  "When it's clear."

Crouching, squinting to make out something, anything, he moved off into the darkness.  Mel opened her mouth to protest, but he was already gone. Gritting her teeth, she blended into nothingness against the stone.

"Link?" Mel's voice came hoarsely through the comm. "You guys almost here?"

She was greeted with silence, only lapping water, and the dull muted echoes of the sewers.  She strained to listen, to anything - willing her comm to answer or for Merc to make a sound, just to let her know he was there.  

Lapping water.  

Muted echoes.

And finally, a scream.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 19 December 2005, 17:21:07
Jerry made sure the kid was hydrated before he left, and safely tucked back up in the sewer pipe.  There seemed to be an increasingly narrow line between when throwing heals made the kid look a little better and when they exhausted her.  He hated stepping over that line, but they didn't have much choice.  There was something badly broken inside him that her heals were at least putting a patch on, and they both needed that.

And she needed to burn those rads, though, ironically, it was probably being out of a classic containment unit that was keeping her from deteriorating faster.  In a standard suit her rads would just be reflected back at her, damaging cell walls further.  He wondered in the back of his mind what sort of spiffy tech she had had going for her before she'd been ripped out of it.  Be something to see....

He didn't need to be ruthless with her, though.  She was quite ruthless enough with herself.  He had the feeling if he told her to get up and run, she'd try.

Not such a "kid."

He stealthed up the tunnel in the direction he had not wanted to try--because that was the direction the Rikti had come from.  Still...what he and the others had run into could just have been a patrol.  Or the pack could have moved on.  Or someone might have taken them out.

Time to find out.

He had to rely on his own memory, following the path they'd taken in and reversing it.  Good thing he had a great sense of direction.  That was one of the reasons he'd been tapped to go into his suit, really.  The Crisis Units were supposed to be guys who were self-reliant and able to work with half their tech down if need be.  Unlike the Voltaic and Cryo Tanks...or the Protectors, who were fairly mindless...point them at something and let their training take over.    That was why you didn't often see Protectors outside of a Crey facility, they just weren't what you would call reliable.

Urban ranger, that was what he was.  He was trained to look for tiny differences as turnings, places where there was a slightly different pattern of bricks, or damage, or where someone had scratched graffitti into the wall, and what it was.  Trained to remember all that.  There wouldn't be any crossing-lines for a while, but this tunnel twisted and turned like a snake doing a Paula Abdul dance routine.

And he was trained to listen, to not rely on his tech, but to use his ears as well.

Which was why, before he rounded a corner, he froze.  There was something in the water around that corner....

....a lot of somethings.

He pressed himself into the wall, then dropped down below eye level and peered around the brickwork just as he heard the tell-tale sound of a Portal beaming something in.

Rikti.  Lots of them.  Mentalists, Guardians, Gunners....at least as many of the armored ones as unarmored.  And a Portal.  

And--

They were organizing themselves.

Coming his way.

Heading for Verte.

His side shrieked in protest as he scrambled to his feet and set off back towards her at a dead run.  The Rikti were in no hurry; by the time they rounded the corner he'd be three turns ahead of them.  And their sense of hearing was a lot duller than his.   He was going to have to count on that.

As he skidded around the last turn, hand pressed to his side, he saw Verte peeking cautiously out of the pipe.  She must have heard him coming.

"Trouble, baby-girl," he said grimly.  "Big trouble.  Rikti--"

She started to try and drag herself out.  He blocked her.  "Nothing you can hit, kiddo.  trust me.  Assuming you can hit anything in your state.  I want you to crawl back there with your bot as far as you can and still reach me with a heal, and I'll plant myself here--"

"Wait," she said, eyes big and scared, but chin set.  "Maybe Waitron can help."

He shrugged as she ordered the bot out of the pipe.  "Waitron, access Jet Li archives."

"Accessed."  The flat voice made him shake his head.

"Idenitfy Crisis Unit Jerry, category teammate."

"Identified."

His eyes stung.  Teammate.  Dammit kid....  He couldn't explain why that felt--good.  But it did.

She paused for a moment as a spasm of pain passed over her features, threw a couple more heals that eased his side, and continued.

"Include in category: foe anything that is not teammate or in your memory bank.  If attacked by foe execute pattern: Cobra Strike, Thunder Kick, Crane Kick, Body Punches, and repeat until foe falls.  If teammate is attacked by foe target his foe with same pattern and repeat."

"Affirmative."

Just talking had drained her.  Her skin was more gray than green.  "Jerry, I dunno how much help she'll be--"

He patted her shoulder awkwardly.  "She'll get some of their attention off me. " He glanced back over his shoulder.  "We're runnin' out of time, kiddo.  Get way back in the pipe."

He heard her dragging herself into the darkness and set himself in place as the first splashes of the Rikit echoed around the corner.

"All right, Waitron," he said grimly.  "It's showtime."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 29 December 2005, 18:59:00
((OK.  I'm back from Santa Fe.  Think we can get a day together when we can all pop into the Moon file and get this puppy wrapped?))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moondancer on 29 December 2005, 19:03:15
((V is currently out of town as well but I believe she will be back in a day or two... let me know and I will be there dears))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 30 December 2005, 03:10:04
((Returned and aching to do some writing!))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 31 December 2005, 14:12:58
((OK how soon does everyone want to do this?

Since not everyone will be able to sneak in at that same time, perhaps we ought to devote a whole day to people putting in their two cents?  With one person appointed to coordinate the final version and post?

Furry would like you to do the coordination and posting, Mori, since you've been doing such a bang-up job so far.))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 31 December 2005, 17:34:20
((Aye aye, ma'am!

I think that if we offer the 2nd and the 3rd for input, with revision/edits/posting to happen on the 4th, that should be enough time. Other thoughts?))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 31 December 2005, 18:16:59
((I  am so good with that!))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 02 January 2006, 08:34:15
((OK folks, it is official.  Today 2nd and tomorrow the 3rd for your inputs on the rescue.  Please log into the file as you can and have at.))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 03 January 2006, 18:33:51
((Reminding everyone again... final edits will happen tomorrow - Jan 4th - in the afternoon. If you need to add something, PLEASE go to ME and do so. Thanks!))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 04 January 2006, 11:25:32
"Let... me go!"  Daniel grimaced in pain, struggling against whoever who had ahold of him and to keep from crying out again.  The pain in his ribs from the arms that squeezed his chest and from the added weight on his injured leg made his head spin.

Xander held fast, and pinned Daniel to the wall.  "Who are you?" he demanded.

Daniel grunted.  "I... My name is... Peace Guardian," he managed to gasp out.  He waited for any sign of the grip lessening or a chance to break free.  He had to get out, and no one was going to make him fail those people down there.

"Peace Guardian," Xander repeated.  "What the... hero?"

The smaller boy struggled to take a few deep breaths before answering.  "I guess... I have a hero card... if you mean that."

Daniel heard an indecisive breath, a huff, and the arms that bound him broke away.  Before he could move, he was illuminated by a soft light.  He squinted in the sudden light.  

Xander held the opened comm unit high over them, letting the blue glow bath them both.  The darker boy's skin had a sickly grayish cast and he blinked rapidly at the light.  "Okay I told you..."  Daniel took a few more short breaths.  "My name. Who are you?"

Xander watched him, ready to grapple him again.  The kid didn't seem to be a danger.  In fact, he seemed weak and disoriented.  Finally, he shrugged.  "Name's Xander.  What the hell are you doing down in this dank-" and then, as his eyes adjusted to the light "-Hey!  You're hurt!"

"No... idea."  Daniel leaned his head back against the cold wall.  "Don't matter right now.  We got people down there... worse off then me.  Got to... get help to them.  I... I promised."

"You're not looking so hot, kid.  We got it.  We're already here on a rescue, I don't suppose getting more people out will be a problem."

"Really?  You know how... to track and look... for the marks a hunter leaves... to mark a trail?"  Daniel shook his head.  "I know the way... I'll have to... lead you..."

"Alright, hold it, hold it," Xander interrupted.  "Take a breather, we got help coming, we'll need to regroup."  

The boy simply nodded, leaning heavily against the cement wall.

Xander brought the comm down to his mouth, and whispered into it.  "Mel, get the group here, I'm about two hundred feet below you, seems clear.  We've got... we've got another situation here."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 04 January 2006, 11:31:08
Bella had begun this expedition in a simmering rage at Frost Djinni for not telling her what was going on with her protege.  

The rage had turned into grudging acceptance, and Bella really wasn't one to hold a grudge.  Well, against the Rikti, maybe.

The acceptance was mutating as well, now.  The more she observed, the more she was coming around to admiration.

The trick with Sister Shuma had gotten them safely into the building.  That fellow Hawkeye was the ideal inside-scout; he got them as far as the rooms where Verte had been, and where the remains of her suit were lying on a table, waiting to be taken apart.  The sight awoke her rage again, but this time it was all directed at the no good SOB who'd done this to his own daughter....

She had half expected Frost to waste time confiscating the suit.  He didn't.

Instead, he destroyed it, right there and then, stuffing it into a hazmat incinerator and torching it.  The helmet turned towards her in time to catch her expression of shock.

"Miss Aura," came the slightly hollow voice, sounding surprisingly gentle, "No worries.  There's duplicate suits for her waiting back at Nash."

She flushed a darker shade of green.  "I should have known you'd have back-ups," she said apologetically.

A curt nod; a moment of stillness as he consulted something there inside the darkness of his helmet.  "She's not in the building.  She's on the same level but--"

"Sewers," said the archer, instantly, one hand to his ear.  "I just got a report from Daji.  She got up into a crawl-space and out to a sewer pipe; Daji found a radioactive trace."

Frost nodded.  "Resourceful.  She's half-rescued herself."

Bella looked from the archer to Frost and back again.  "You mean she got out of here under her own power, then into the sewer system somehow?"  Sewers...she didn't want to think about what was in the sewers under Founder's Falls.

"Matching up the beacon I--I asked to have implanted in her with the map of the sewer system, that's exactly what she did."  Another curt nod.  "There's an entrance to the section--Hawkeye, we need to get out of here and back to the street."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 04 January 2006, 12:50:11
((feel free to comment and speculate folks.  we'll be wrapping this up over the course of the next couple days and I know all the authors in question are dying for feedback.  These posts are all mutli-author even tho Mori and I are doing the posting))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 04 January 2006, 18:00:45
Between the two of them, Link and Mel had managed to port the rest of the group within a few feet of the grate. While the group surveyed the rusted grate, the blonde leaned against the wall and held her head in her hands. Shouldn't have let him go in there, not by himself. Shoulda ported him out, or gone in with him, or something. Damn, damn, damn...

"Okay, we all here?"  Headcase looked around and nodded.  "Good.  Lets go find your boy first then, Mel."

She opened her mouth to protest, to say something about needing Pouncetta to scout ahead first, when Xan's voice crackled through the comm. "Situation? What? Come back on that, an' are ya all right?"

"Fine," Xander answered, his tone insistent.  "Just get here, I've got someone here that's hurt.  He could use some empath lovin'".

Asha smirked.  "Empath lovin'?  How cute."

Pouncetta started to hum an old Marvin Gaye tune.  "'When I get that feelin', I need...'"  She paused as everyone turned to look at her.  "Ah...never mind."

Mel glanced at the group assembled. "Don't have an empath, but might have somethin' just as good." She gave Effie a weak smile. "How d'ya feel 'bout dark sewers an' the dumb heroes who run in 'em without backup?"  Kachine who stood by the younger YCs looked at Headcase who simply smirked.  

Effulgence looked off down the tunnels warily. "I think I'm feelin' a like a damn pot being introduced to Mr. Kettle. That empathic enough for ya?" When the humor fell flat, she looked around at the team assembled. "You mean I'm your medic? Oh well then, I'll just play radiation nightlight down here." Despite her first love of working out her attitude through assault, Effie did understand her real job was defender, "You know the drill. If you're outside of the glow, the world hurts more. We good? We good."

"Let's go then all.  We'll patch whoever was dumb enough to come down here alone and then we go find Verte.  The clock is tickin."  Asha cracked her knuckles on one hand, then the other.  Too many delays, and she was already worried.

"All right, y'all. Stay still, an' hold on t'your butts. Link, you're first." Without any other warning, Mel began the process of porting everyone behind the rusted grates. "An' nobody runs off from the group down here, got it?" She waited for the round of nods and mumbled affirmations.

Kachine nodded, and glanced back at Sonic and Prim.  "We are prepared."

"Rest of ya?" Another hushed chorus answered her. "Then let's get movin'."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 04 January 2006, 22:38:25
((99.9% by Moondancer))

Daji had helped Hawkeye clear the area of the linked labs when they arrived, and now patrolled the perimeter.  It kept her focused and calm.  Helped keep the lava pit inside her from boiling over.  She had to keep it under control even though every bit of her wanted to do nothing more them burn this accursed place to the ground.

Verte's suit.  The SOB had taken away her suit.  It was her life line.  Without it she would slowly begin to die.  Painfully.  Daji swore they had better find this Reynard and put him in jail for a very long time.  His life.  Or she would just have to call upon the Windaji part of her to take care of the evil another way.

She moved position.  It was not the way of the Alliance.  She knew much of the ways of her people had to be set aside to follow the rules set here in the AoC.  It did not keep back the righteous rage she often felt when she saw one of her kids being hurt, or in danger.  The past few hours worrying about Verte's fate had tested her very limits of control.  Now, seeing that suit, lying there flat and lifeless, knowing that it took a team of techs to even get her into it even when they did find her…

Daji knew Frost.  This suit was damaged.  He would destroy it rather then let it get into the hands of the enemy.  He would waste no time trying to recover it.  He was certain to have a spare back at the labs at Nash Tech.  He also thought ten steps ahead.  This would be no different.  

They had to find Verte soon and get her back.  If they failed, she would be lost to them.

The rage that began to well up in her again was satisfied slightly as a guard came into view.  Daji knew the drill.  A few moments choking for air, ash and smoke in his lungs sent the man to the floor unconscious.  She quickly and quietly tied and gagged the guard, baring closed the door of the storage shed she hid him in.  

As she moved back towards the group, and idly looked up, that was when she saw it.  Above the gurney that had hours ago held a girl she cared very much about was what looked like a ceiling tile that was not quite in place.  Daji moved the gurney under a set of pipes near the opening.  She stood on the gurney, pulled herself up un the pipes, then swung into the opening, kicking the tile out of the way.  

It was a small crawl space.  Verte would not have gotten up her on her own, hurt and weak as she was, but with Waitron's help she might have.  Daji needed to be sure.  She switched to Hawkeye's secure channel.  "Hawk, I may have found something.  Need you to cover the perimeter while I check it out."

After a confirmation from her teammate, Daji looked around the space.  The light was dim, she assumed coming in as leakage from the light sources in the ceiling.  As she crawled forward, she touched the dial on the skin that shielded her from the emotions of those around her.  An ambush in this position could be deadly.

The air was hot and stale, and there was warmth to the metal.  She pulled out the Geiger counter frost had given her earlier before they left the base and began to scan the area.  The needle jumped and Daji laughed.  "Left us some bread crumbs didn't ya, baby girl."

Daji picked up the pace as she followed the readings.  They led her to a wall, and she could hear the sound of running water far off.  The sewers?  Oh, my poor girl.  Do you know what's down there?

After relaying what she found to Hawkeye Daji moved back down the crawlspace to gather up with the others.  She trembled, trying not to think about the injured girl down there.  There was not time for discussion or planning.  They had to go and go now.  Goddess, Mother of all.  Look after my girl while I cannot, and guide those that love her, to Verte's side.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 05 January 2006, 06:33:00
Pouncetta reached the pair first. "Holy cr...ud. Are you okay? No...no, you're not okay, are you. Hold on, help is on the way."

Catching sight of the strained new face as she caught up, Effie winced, muttering, "God, do not let whatever did that still be around here."

"Holy shit," Mel breathed. She cringed at the sight of the young man. "You ain't lookin' all too healthy. Effie, think you can make 'im feel just the tiniest bit better?"

"Tiny might be the word for it..." Effulgence considered the damage she could see, and the wheezing, creaking noises that only hinted at the boy's internal damage. "...but yeah, enough maybe." The green glow began at her hands and eventually crept over her whole form. It blazed multiple times in varying patterns of light, hypercharging the healing response and boosting the metabolism of anyone caught in the light.

Daniel waved off any more fuss.  "Listen, there is no time for this.  There are people down there.  There is a guy in armor and some robot, and a young girl.  None of them were lookin' too hot if you ask me."

"A girl?" Mel frowned. "How young?"

Daniel nodded, wincing as he moved wrong on the bad leg.  It was better after Effie's help, but it throbbed.  "Late teen I guess.  Couldn't get close enough to get a good look.  Green skin, kinda pretty.  Big thing in the way, monster of some kind, or I'd have brought them out with me.  Place is heavy with other things too, nothing I have even seen before."

Asha looked back at the other, her eyes dark.  "Green skin?"

Kachine shook her head.  "It couldn't be... could it?"

"Verte's always in her armor," Mel replied slowly. "Outta it, she'd be dead in a day, wouldn't she?" She glanced to Xander and Torch for some kind of affirmation.  Torch nodded, his face pale.

"Wouldn' las' too long, tha's for sure," he said quietly.

"Didn't see any armor on the girl, but there was a green glow to damn near everything back there.  Kinda like your medic here."

At the comparison, Effie pursed her lips tight and sighed. "We don't have to like the result, but the fella paints a pretty good picture of her." She straightened and cracked her knuckles. "Sounds like she got herself as far as she could go. Now we go get her the rest of the way home."

Headcase scowled, and stood from the crouching positon he had been in.  "You can take us there you said?  You remember the way?"

The Navajo boy nodded.  "After a good dose of the green stuff there, my head is clearer.  I laid hunter marks along the way, I can follow those."

Asha looked over the boy.  "You're hurt.  You just tell us how to find your signs and we'll take it from there.  You're in no shape to go anywhere."

"Have to be a trained hunter in the ways of my people to know what to look for and what the symbols mean."  Daniel took a few steps, his jaw set.  "No time for that.  No telling how long they have been there or how long they have before those things get to them.  I'm going. I promised I would bring help.  Do I have that help or not?"

Jamming his helmet on, Torch ignited, his body covered in tiny dancing flames.  "Go," he said, his voice hollow.  "We'll follow yeh close."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 05 January 2006, 11:16:46
"I have the full 'port suite," Bella said, looking around at the group.  "Other than 'porting a foe."  She looked wistful for a moment.  "Back before so many of the High Flighters hit Hero of the City status we used to all team a lot. and I got the mass 'port for when everything went to hell and I needed to evac an entire team to somewhere safe that I could revive them."

Frost, Daji, and Hawkeye all nodded.  "That will save time," Frost replied.  "Go with Hawkeye to the sewer entrance and 'port the team there."

It was amazing; somehow Hawkeye managed to avoid every strolling guard, every scientist out looking for coffee, every wandering Malta agent to get them both out of the building.  Granted, most of the guards were still busy with the chaos Sister Shuma had created and the DE swarming over the site--Bella blinked as she realized that from the moment of the explosion to this one, it could not have been more than a few minutes, fifteen at the most.  Time seemed to have somehow been compressed.

Once in the open air, she did what she always did in FF:  fly straight up to safe height, then straight down to the coordinates.  Hawkeye was already there, and popped the door to the sewer open as she got there.

With a quick adjustment to her device, and a concentrated surge of her rads to power it, Bella hauled the whole team from Malta lab to sewer platform.  She leaned against a wall for a moment while Hawkeye slammed the door shut and Frost relayed the new pickup point to the evac team.  If--

--no, when--

--when they found Verte, the team would be waiting right outside that door for her.

Hopefully she would be the only one that would have to be evacuated.

Well, that's why I'm here, and Daji's no slouch at the healing either.  That's the job.  Keep the team on their feet.  With enough good heals keeping them on their feet, a good team can out-perform a Hero of the City.

At least that was what she was going to keep telling herself as they all moved deeper into the sewers.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 05 January 2006, 16:28:13
"Down here!"  Daniel shouted back at the group following him, before starting down an access pipe into a darkened room.  "It's not far!"

Suddenly, Xander was next to him, gripping the younger boy's shoulder tightly.  "Wait," he said, his head cocked as he listened.  The rest of the group approached slowly, ready and watchful, bathed in the faint light from Torch's flame.

"What is it?" Mel asked.  They could all hear it now, an eerie hum coming from up ahead.

Xander frowned.  "I'm not sure.  But it's not good."

"Drones," said Pouncetta.  "We should find another way around."  

Up ahead, the hum changed pitch.  It was clearly headed towards them and suddenly a pair of Rikti drones appeared out of the darkness in front of them, with more armed Rikti close behind.

"Too late," said Asha grimly, as Royal Torch charged forward, his flames burning brighter as the Rikti fired en masse.  Asha sighed and charged in right behind the impetuaous Brit, fist and feet flying, knocking anything that tried to escape back into her teamate's flames.

The buzzing hum of the drones made his bones shudder as energy blasts scythed through the air, slicing into the shroud of flame that protected his body.  Gritting his teeth, Torch willed the fires hotter, slamming his fists into a rifle-toting Rikti taking aim at someone behind him, then winced as a massive Rikti sword crashed into him from behind.  Spinning, he pushed out a wave of flames.  A couple of the drones cracked, spitting sparks into the rank air, but the Rikti were still coming.

"Oh no you don't!  Let's go BOWLING!"  Pouncetta suited word to deed as she let loose with energy blast after blast, slamming drones into walls, ricocheting them off the ceiling, and slamming one into a conscript's chest like a football.

"Mrret mrro mrrrrorrring!!!" Sonic Pounce said, imitating Pouncetta as best she could.  Then she opened her mouth and emitted a loud roar, knocking a half-dozen Rikti on their keisters.  "Mrrrrowrrr!"

Shouting encouragements and warnings as she saturated the surroundings with more of her own radiant auras, Effie danced the line between being in striking distance and being too far out to do her team any good. As Torch's light flashed brighter, she thought she saw another face in the battle, marked with black tribal tattoos and yelling something to her. The searing crackle from an energy rifle broke the spell and the image was gone. Ash...always with the sewers and the Rikti and the saving lost hurt kids...like she was doing now. Growling, she poured the anger into more healing and more buffs. "Keep it coming, people!"

"Y'all gotta get in closer!" Mel's frantic voice echoed as she backed up against one of the pipes. A burst of white light from her outstretched hand sent one of the smaller Rikti stumbling backwards. As she summoned a familiar green aura about the group in the center of the battle, she glanced back to Link. "How you holdin' up, Headcase?"

"Doin' fine, Mel!"  Link grimaced, not being entirly honest.  He had seen little of the aliens that had laid waste to his home and butchered his family.  Now here he was in the midst of them trying to save a friend, while keeping ahold of his own sanity.  He felt Kachine's gentle and compassionate touch in his mind.  It brought him peace and dertemination.  He looked up to see her near Torth, flames blazing high around them.  Headcase raised a hand to refresh the bubbles surrounding his friends as they fought.

Asha's eyes were cold as she continued her assault on the Rikti.  She hated touching those filthy aliens but her mind focused on her sister on the other side.  That bastard had taken her suit and if they didn't reach her soon, Verte was gonna die.  She'd paint the walls with all these beasts before she'd let them anywhere near their friend.  "Push 'em back, sugah.  We need to get through."

Jerry heard the sounds of fighting over the noise that he and Waitron were making.  The bot, much to his astonishment, was doing a much better job than he had ever dreamed she could.  He thought she'd be scrap before the first clash was over, but she'd taken down one drone on her own and had put some sizable dents in his foes.  The kid had clearly chosen the best possible combination of punches and kicks for her.  He just hoped whatever she used as an energy source was going to hold out.

But now--now he could hear someone else wading into the Rikti from behind.  And from the other direction, where the Hydra were--the sounds of someone else blasting away at them.

He took a chance.

Between punches and slams, he muttered, "External speakers.  Amplify.  Max."  Whether this was going to irritate the Rikti or not, if this was help coming, he needed to let whoever it was know that he was not the enemy.

"Hey!  Champions!  Got your Verte here!  Don't shoot me, I'm on your side!"  That was about all he had time for between getting slammed with an energy blast and ducking one of those sickeningly huge swords.

His reply came in the form of a emerald glow, not nearly as powerful as Verte's but nonetheless effective. From across the way, he saw a blonde girl nod once before she appeared to melt into thin air. Moments later, he found himself flanked by no less than three sober... well, they looked like ghosts, but a bit more substantial. Emotionless, they charged ahead to take the brunt of the assault from the sword-wielding Rikti soldier.

Well, that took care of the Rikti side.  He just hoped the Hydra side had heard him too.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moondancer on 05 January 2006, 16:52:15
The team moved swiftly through the cracking cement tunnels.  The putrid water dripped from the aged pipes and the sound echoed.  The tension of the group was high, and all were on alert.  Daji was at her regular spot at Frost’s side, and she tweaked the knob on her suit to allow in more emotional input in case of ambush.  

Moments after the Windaji took her hand away from the controls she felt it.  A look from Hawkeye told her he has as well, and they soundlessly signal the group to expect company.  They each moved into position and with a swift gesture from Autumn the air crackled with lightning, the ozone smell tickling Daji’s nose.

The first few waves were of little significance.  Mainly Lost.  Whereas the most disfigured of their kind has strong mental abilities, they had little effect of the seasoned group.  The rectors feel quickly to choking ash and the feel of Frosts ice sword, which cut a swift path though their ranks.  The rain of arrows was blinding, and the air was chilled as the stragglers flew against the hard walls and slumped to the ground.  

Daji knew as the descended this was no gauge of the luck they’d have further down.  This proved to be true as they came upon the covens of Thorns that seemed to cover these areas.  The Windaji snarled low.  She had little patience for those that corrupted the natural magic flow for their own pleasures.  It was only her oath to the Alliance and her loyalty to Frost that kept her from exterminating them like the vermin they were.  As it was, her flames grew fast and high over the filth-covered cement, cleansing it.  With an expert medic like Bella, Daji was for once free to let loose and feel deep into the battle fury that had once been her calling.

A cool armored covered hand of her shoulder brought Daji swiftly back to the present as the moved past what was left of the beaten coven.  Soon the transport would take the last injured remaining, and in the wake of the Champions, more would come to take their place.  The dark warrior wiped sweat from her forehead and followed her partner and her team quietly.  There was a focus, it flowed like a song in her mind.  A sweet face cleared the rage for the moment, and she brought herself fully within that. To focus on the girl who eyes touched the woman’s soul.  We are coming for you, baby girl.  You hear me? We are coming and nothing will stop is

Her silent promises we tested as the mass of dark shamans and the bullets of their dead servants swarmed over the group like a wave.  The next few levels were these, and it churned Daji’s stomach.  Not just the truly dark corruption of the lines, but the fact they her own father had been one of these.  This was a deep shame that at time haunted her even in sleep.  Facing them was like facing him.  The betrayal, the disgust, it overwhelmed her at times.  

She threw a carpet of flames and felt herself against the cool metal.  She knew he was there, his back to her back.  He called out the battle formations they had come to know as a pair, and if filled her heart with strength.  The healing rippled over her, the warm glow from Bella too casting away the shadow and steeling her spirit to the foe that lay before them.  She heard the other yell, alerting each other the position of the enemy and calling an alarm as the moved forward if more were engaged.  All of this brought her faith and hope that soon they would reach their goal.  That soon Verte with be with them again and they could all leave this accursed place.  

Daji felt her head spin and her stomach churn as the descended lower.  There was something down there, and it seemed to reach out to her, the empathic energy she felt from it made her shiver and feel dizzy.  She leaned to Frost and whispered.  “There is something down there.  I have never felt anything like it before.”

Frost nodded and grunted.  “Hawkeye can watch for ambushes.  You shouldn’t push it.”

She sensed the concern in his voice and reluctantly switched off the switch.  The world seemed to wider, as the dark feeling that accompanied the empathic silence fell upon her again.  She knew he was right.  This was the worse place to leave herself open and vulnerable.  

They continued to cut a path though the deep levels of the sewer system, now finding almost exclusively Rikti.  Daji had never seen such things.  They were horrible and their faces held such hate, it chilled her to the core.  

What they had faced before were cherubs compared to what laid waiting for them all at the center of the tunnels.  Daji cried out in horror at the sight.  “Goddess!”


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 06 January 2006, 06:25:56
There was a thud at the side of the pipe, and what hit it was clearly Jerry.  Something had slammed him into the wall, and from the way he slid down it, He wasn't going to be getting up soon....

But immediately following that, there was a powerful green explosion that washed the end of the pipe.  And Verte heard Bella shouting at the top of her lungs.

"Get 'em, kids!  Mop 'em up while they're stunned!"

Bella?  Bella?  What--

She redoubled her efforts, throwing heal after heal until her vision tunneled down, and she had to lock her elbows to keep herself upright.

The pulse of energy got Effulgence's attention more than the shocked Rikti. "Whoa...guys, I think we found the place." She grinned and finally let off an offensive blast, channeling her own rads into an energy eye beam. "And if not, the company's good."


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 06 January 2006, 11:15:54
They were, according to Frost, nearly at Verte's location.  It hadn't been easy.  First Circle of Thorns mages, then Lost, then Banished Pantheon...almost every foot of pipe they'd traversed had been fought over.

Now...

Now a small army of some of the ugliest creatures in Paragon faced them.  Hydra.  Bella had fought Hydra with Harrier, and it had not been pretty.  She was just glad there were no Kraken down here with the Hydra.

And Frost?  Her grudging admiration turned to real admiration when he turned to her.  "I expected something like this," he said calmly.  "Miss Aura, you are able to port, correct?  If I give you coordinates, can you port an object instead of a person?"

She nodded.  "I should be able to.  What is it?"

"I'm taking a chance here.  The Hydra are a lot like slugs in physical composition.  I managed to get about five hundred pounds of road-salt on short notice; it's in a pile beside the med-evac unit."  A tap on his comm sent her the coordinates.  "If you can port that to about a foot over their heads--"

"I'll have to do it in several loads—porting stuff has to be done in small batches, I can’t use the team-port on it."

"Even better."  He sounded pleased.  "It won't get them all, but if salt works on them the way it does on slugs, we can take out about half that gathering."

She made sure the coordinates were right and hit the 'porter, with her target about three feet above the heads of the center of the Hydra group.

A hundred pounds of road salt plummeted down on the Hydra.  For a moment, the only reaction was a bellow of affronted outrage.

Then the howls of pain began.  Frost Djinni had been right.  They were rather like slugs.  And like slugs, the salt dissolved them.  But Bella had no time to admire Frost's cleverness.  She was already porting the second mass.

As the fifth lot hit the Hydra, Frost was already directing the rest of his team, disposing them with an eye to their strengths and weaknesses.  They waded in, with Frost as the point of a wedge-shaped phalanx of fighters, with Hawkeye back and to the side, peppering the Hydra with specialty arrows.  Bella kept close to all of them, throwing heals, throwing buffs, and giving the Hydra a little taste of her own rads in the form of bolts and beams of concentrated energy.  But only when Frost had their attention.  She was very much aware that a single Hydra could take her down if it wanted to.  She had a "poison pill" to deploy, but it would leave her depleted and helpess for several moments after she threw it, so she needed to be careful about when--

Then came the shout from the other side of the Hydra.  "Hey!  Champions!  I've got your Verte here!  Don't shoot me, I'm on your side!"

Bella made a quick calculation in her head.  "Frost!" she snapped.  "I have an EMP available.  If I ported myself to where that voice is, I can get whatever he's wading into and the last of the Hydra from behind."

A nod.  A tap on his helmet in between slicing up a Hydra with a sword of ice.  "There's Verte's coordinates.  Aim about ten yards to the right; that matches up with the center of the tunnel there.  Make it count, Aura."

"Damn straight."  Of all the weapons in her arsenal, this was the gem.  She keyed the coordinates into the port unit.  "Heads up people!" she shouted.  "You're about to lose your healer!"

"On it, Bella!" At that Daji moved smoothly into place to Frost's back.  She was not the full bore healer Bella was, but she got the job done.  The area had been heavily covered with her own magical flame, but this effect lessoned as she now moved the core of her inner strength to healing, and the occasional choke and hold.

There was the disorienting wrench of the porter, and then--there she was.  And there was Waitron, fighting mechanically and--

A Crey Crisis Unit?

Never mind.  Verte was alive and he'd said that he was on their side.  That was good enough for her.  And at just that moment, he took a blast from a Rikti gun that set him crashing into the wall beside a cut-off end of a sewer pipe.  No time to lose.  Before the Hydra and Rikti she'd 'ported into could react, she built up her rads and triggered them in a mighty pulse of power that washed the whole place in green light, made the drones drop, and sent everything else reeling.  And as she herself dropped to her knees, she saw something else.

The kids.

The YC kids, who must've been fighting their way through the Rikti coming at Verte from the other side of this conduit.

"Get 'em kids!" she shouted, breaking through their shock.  "Mop 'em up while they're stunned!"

And that was basically all she was good for until the fighting was over.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 06 January 2006, 15:53:29
"Come on out, baby-girl," she heard Jerry say hoarsely.

Using the last of her strength, she crawled towards the light.

And there they were.  Her family.  Kneeling next to Jerry was Bella, throwing her own far more powerful heals that trickled a tiny bit of strength back into her, but were clearly making Jerry and the others feel better by the moment.  On one side, the Young Champions, looking like champs, maybe battered and bruised but triumphant and victorious.  Torchy, her knight in shining armour; Xander, her big brother.   Mel of the tender heart, looking shocked and as if she was about to cry.  Link, braver than even he had any idea of; Firebird, a warrior in miniature,   Pouncy looking more like a fighting Great Cat than ever--Effie, good grief!  Where had she come from?  Asha, drawn and pale but determined and with fire in her eyes, and a young kid that looked as bad as Verte felt--Sonic, jumping up and down like nothing bad had happened--Storm with a touch of anxiety showing through his serenity--Prim with her fists clenched and her jaw set as if she dared anyone to deny her the right to be here and Joey scared and shaking and braced to take anything that came despite his fear and that shy, shy kid Mike...

All of them.  They had all come for her.  Without thinking about what they were getting into probably, but even if they had, not caring because they were family, her family, and not the phony family her so-called "father" had promised.

The family she'd chosen, who'd chosen her.

They'd come for her.

And on the other side, the adults.  Front and center, Frost.  Miss Hayse, Miss Gizam, Endal, some people she didn't even recognize.

All of them, like the YCs, had come for her.  Not because they had to, because it was a job.  But because they, too were family.

"You came," she murmured, and felt the corners of her mouth crack and hurt a little as she smiled.  "You came, you came for me..."

Her vision began to tunnel down again.

"Verte? Chere, that really you?" Common sense lost in the confrontation with the Rikti, Mel stumbled towards the pipe with little regard for the radiation that all but poured from the cracked and fractured metal. A hand caught her shoulder as she tried to take another step.

"Mel--don't--I-I'm lethal," Verte managed.  She moved her head blindly until she could see Frost's white and blue suit, leaning slightly in her direction.  She reached out her hand toward him.

"Sir--I--they took my suit, sir," she got out.  "I--they--I'm sorry--"

Frost's voice echoed in the tunnel.  "Don't concern yourself with that, Verte.  We'll take care of it."

Verte.  He'd called her "Verte."  Not "Miss Virtue," not "young woman."  Verte.  She was forgiven.  It wasn't her fault.  The corners of her mouth hurt a little more as she smiled, coughed, and blinked up at him.

"Please sir, take me home," she whispered, and dimly saw him stoop down, felt him scoop her up as if she weighed nothing.  And felt, beneath the hard shell of his suit, how those arms that held her trembled.

She leaned her head against his shoulder, closed her eyes, and let go.

"Mel?" Xander shook her shoulder gently. "C'mon, we need to move so he... so Verte can get out," he managed. "She's right, she's lethal."

The gentle motion snapped her back to reality. "Out. Right, we need t'get 'em out. Coast is clear so, we can just retrace steps an' all," she muttered.

Tired and filthy as they were, Effulgence gave Mel her first honest smile all day. "Nice work. Found the Verte alive, and everyone goes home. I'd almost call that getting it done."

"Yeah. Done," Mel repeated softly. She glanced at the adults, a long sobering glare to Frost Djinni before she spoke again. "Pouncy, time t'break out th'toys, right?"

Pouncetta nodded.  "Right.  Um, this is something that Dr. St. John-Smythe cooked up."  She pulled out a small wristwatch-like device.  "It's an anti-rad bubble, good for four minutes.  Um...he said not to be wearing it when the timer runs out, but it should last long enough to get her out."

At Frost's nod, Pouncetta fastened it loosely on one dangling wrist and pushed the button.  An LED countdown timer appeared, counting down from 4:00. With the exception of a few hushed whispers from the younger YCs, the ascent from the sewers was thankfully silent.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Robotech_Master on 06 January 2006, 17:29:55
The sun was sinking low behind the war wall in the western sky, casting a reddish-cyan glow over the city, as the weary adventurers finally made their way out of the sewers and into the clean air above. They came in the same way the students had, as it turned out to be a shorter route than that the adults had taken; everyone was too tired to be amused at how Frost Djinni shattered with a single icy blast the rusted grating they had taken such cares to leave intact.

At Djinni's insistence, most of the students had stayed a healthy dozen or so yards back from where he carefully carried the injured Verte Virtue; he didn't entirely trust the anti-rad gadget, especially upon hearing its four-minute time limit. However, Pouncetta insisted just as strongly upon pacing him, so she could keep a watchful eye on the timer as it ticked down. Djinni was altogether too tired to object.

And so it was that as they stepped out amid the smoking fragments of rusted grating Pouncetta's eye was on the timer as it ticked down 15…14…13…, and Frost's eyes were on nothing in particular—until the clatter of submachine gun bolts being pulled back announced to them both that they were not alone. Pouncetta looked up and gasped at the sight of a half-dozen black-clad Malta agents with guns trained on them. Their leader, an imposing man in a black Stetson gestured at them with the massive chrome revolver clutched in one hand. "That's far enough. I think you've got something that belongs to us."

Pouncetta's eyes flickered from the Malta to the timer. 6…5…4… "Then here, have it back!" Her arm a blur, she plucked the box off of Verte's arm and lobbed it through the air. It floated slowly, so slowly toward him, and Pouncetta could read the timer as it tumbled. 3…2… She quickly looked away and covered her eyes.

The Malta agent caught it reflexively with his left hand. "Huh? What's—" 1…0. The box detonated with a sharp crack and a blinding red flash.

When Pouncetta opened her eyes, the Malta were scattered like dry leaves in various states of injury. "Wow." Pouncetta considered, then slapped another anti-rad box on Verte's arm. "I…think you'd better get her to some more solid shielding pretty quickly."

Frost Djinni could only nod in agreement.


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 07 January 2006, 08:20:38
The medical evac team sped off with not one, but three victims in their charge.  Fortunately, none of those was from either the AoC "official" rescue party nor the strictly unofficial--not to say clandestine--YC rescue party.  Which now stood before Frost Djinni in various attitudes of defiance.

How to handle this...

"You... lot... came down here against orders."  He surveyed them.  Not one trace of remorse.  Not that he expected any.  "I should disband the Young Champions for this."

Gritted teeth.  Angry glares.  And who could blame them?  Not him.

"You all think you've proven something to me," he continued before anyone could interrupt him with an outburst.  He gave them a once over, and nodded.  "And you have."

He was answered with silence, but their expression had changed somewhat.  Still defiant, though somewhat mollified.  A few of them, however, were beginning to look alarmed.

"You might be, as Nash has claimed more than once, as capable as adults at your same level.  You successfully tracked down Verte and reached her at the same time we did, without recourse to her homing beacon.  And if I disband you, I am fully aware that you will not go quietly back to your homes and families to mature.  You will simply take your hero licenses and find someone else, some place else, to do what you are doing now.  God help us, you might even go organize yourselves, but without the support net we've put up for you."

A certain amount of justifiable smugness, some guilt, and plenty more defiance.

"So.  The Young Champions will remain intact.  And you will get exactly what you wanted.  From now on, I will be treating you as adults.  Exactly as I treat the adults of the AoC."  He smiled grimly inside his helmet.  "Morning training sessions will start earlier, at six A.M. sharp.  There will be no exceptions unless you are sick or badly enough injured to be bedridden.  When I give an order, you will follow it, because I will make no allowances for your age.  I don't care if you are twelve or thirty--an order I give will be for the person with the given skill-set, and until you prove yourselves better at strategy and planning than I am, you will follow those orders.  I expect to be promoting some of you as team and squad leaders, and when I do, it will not be on the basis of a popularity contest.  You will keep your grades up.  No matter how hard I have made you work.  Going to school is mandated by the state, and we will follow state mandates.  Fail to follow orders or keep your grades up and you will recieve demerits.  Too many demerits and you will be grounded--no extra-curricular activities, only school and hero-assignments.  Grounded too many times, and I will throw you out on your ears.  Am I understood?  Good.  Now get back to the dorm.  I'll let you all know how Verte is as soon as I find out myself."

He didn't wait for an answer.  He turned on his heel and launched himself skyward.  He wanted to be there when Verte woke up, to see her face when she realized that she was waking up in one of the duplicate suits they'd had ready once the prototype was proved....


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 07 January 2006, 08:21:28
Bella raised an eyebrow at the kids.  "Well.  We've got our marching orders.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I could go for pizza and ice cream about now.  Harrier's treat.  Meet you all back at the dorm?"

As kids chattered back and forth, some voices more worried than others, Effie just shook her head and chuckled. "What a turnaround. More rights. More rules. Damn guys, can't tell where you got off on this. Enjoy that pizza though." Jokes slipping for a second, she added more somberly, "Oh, and give the green and blue wonder some good luck from me when ya see her."

"Ain'tcha comin' with?" Mel glanced expectantly at the other teen.

The confusion on Effulgence's face showed that she hadn't even thought of it. "Um....dorm. Not my pad."

Bella raised an eyebrow again.  "I distinctly thought I heard a half pie and a quart of Hagen-Daszz calling out the name of Effie...."

"Oh really?" The smirk slid back into place. "In terror, or awe? Okay, just tell me you'll show me that trick with the pulse blast and I swear I'll sit quietly for...oh, 30 minutes, tops." She crossed her fingers behind her back. "Scout's honor."

Bella laughed and linked her arm through Effie's.  "Remind me to talk to you about the benefits of belonging to High Flight.  No uniforms, no base to keep clean, a good dental plan and best of all, free tickets to all of Harrier's DJ shows."

"Tempting...tempting..." Effulgence couldn't tell if she was teasing or just pleased at the offer. "How's about I promise to not go randomly looking for trouble and think about it? That good enough?"

Bella pretended to think.  "Well--I suppose if you decided to hook up with the YCs, that would be almost as good."

"Y'get all th'Twizzlers an' pixie stix y'can eat," Mel offered dryly. "Tootsie Roll pops on Sundays an' everything."

"Be still my heart. No really, on that much sugar, I'd get a coronary. Mel, sweets, ya did a hell of a thing today. I'm not blowing smoke. I just...there's Tisha and I ain't letting go of those that needs me. Whether it's Verte, or my own sad little clubhouse." She offered out a hand to Mel, "If you need me for anything, you got me. But let's not go getting Mr. Frost's metallic undies in a wad quite yet. If he thought this stunt was something, he wouldn't want me." And she believed every word of it. "And ma'am, I'll look some stuff up and let you know about playing nice with others." She offered Bella a wink before breaking off the arm link and running like a child. "Now, I say I'm gonna have it all eaten before you guys even get there!"

Bella typed in a delivery order on her comm and took off like a rocket.  "Last one to the base gets stuck with anchovies and melted vanilla!"

"Hey!  I like anchovies!" Pouncetta protested.

"Mrranmrrorries!" Sonic Pounce echoed gleefully.


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 07 January 2006, 12:39:57
Verte and the Crey tank and the young boy who had guided the kids to Verte had all been sent off in the hands of the med-evac unit.  Verte and the one called "Jerry" were headed straight for a very special Nash "hospital."  The boy was going to the more conventional ER.  Hawkeye had looked utterly stunned when he'd seen the kid, and had not left his side since.  Frost was going to have to have some words with him on that front.

The lecture had been delivered.  Praising with faint damns.  He had never been so glad, and yet so angry, to be wrong.  Glad, because given the strength of the opposition, he was not certain that the adults would have been able to take down the Hydra and the Rikti combined.  Angry, because the kids had proven themselves, had shown they were as capable as adults, and that meant--

Well it meant he was going to have to let them go in harm's way.  And he did not want to do that.  They were going to be hurt.  Some of them might die.  Just as Vic--

He felt his teeth clench, and stopped to take a moment.  

Only one thing he could do now.  Train them.  Train them as hard and as ruthlessly as he had trained himself.  Train them so that they had every possible edge that there was.  It was no longer an option, because as he had said, the City accepted them as real heroes, and they would just take their licenses and find someone else, some place else, to work from.  Someone else would not be as careful as he was.   Someone else might exploit them.  And God only help them if they set up on their own, the "New Young Champions" or some such nonsense.

He hated it.  He didn't want to see any more young lives cut off too soon.  But--

His mind flashed back to the first time he had seen Verte Virtue standing in his office, telling him, her face flushed with mingled anger and sincerity, that this was what she had to do.  This was her life.  Did the others feel like that?

Did he?

He had never intended to become a hero....

Now he waited, with Belladonna Aura and Daji at his side, for Verte Virtue to wake up.  The techs had, with consummate gentleness, replaced damaged connectors, then carefully hooked her back up.  

The doctors had warned him, then reiterated the warning for Daji and Bella, that they were only going to get the time in for a few words.  When Verte came out of the blackout that injuries, pain, exhaustion and damage had sent her into, the docs were going to make sure there had been no permanent damage, then let the suit put her back to sleep.  She'd heal faster asleep, they said.  His arms vividly retained the impression of impossible fragility, the pressure of a head trustingly against his shoulder.  She'd weighed next to nothing when he scooped her up.  She'd looked like hell, skin more gray than green.,,.

Now she was back to being about the right shade; someone had gently washed and dried her hair, which had been filthy and matted with what he was afraid was blood.  Beneath the bangs, her eyes fluttered, then opened.

Then widened, as she felt--or rather, did not feel--pain.  She held up a hand, now encased in her familiar armored gloves, and stared at it, as if she didn't quite believe what she was seeing.

"You didn't think we wouldn't have duplicates, did you?" he said, and maybe his voice was a little gruff with--

--never mind.

She turned those luminous green eyes on him, and smiled.  "I should have known better, sir," she said, sounding both exhausted and elated.  "You think of everything, sir.  Sir, I'm sorry I--that I let them--"

"And you were supposed to do what, exactly?" he interrupted.  "You were with someone you should have been able to trust.  You had a guardian with you.  You did everything right.  I will point out that you are a credit to yourself and your training.  You got yourself out of their hands and to a point where we could retrieve you.  Good job."

He didn't say more.  He felt the old emotional filters clamp down, as they always did.  Even now, even for this, a part of him refused to crack.

She blinked, and smiled.  "Thank you, sir.  I--"  She paused, and her eyes grew very bright.  "You've given me a family, sir.  A real home.  I couldn't ask for a better one.  And--you, too sir, you mean--you mean a lot to me too--I'd like to make you proud that you did all this, for me, for us, some day--"

"Sleep," he ordered, before she could say anything more.  Her words were too familiar, and rang with the remembered sincerity of another, so long ago.  They battered against his tired heart.  It was a good call anyway, seeing the glaze come over her eyes, as the sedatives the suit decided she needed started pouring into her.  "Whatever it is, it can keep."

Obediently, she closed her eyes, and slipped into slumber without even a whisper.

He turned to see Bella smiling warmly.  "Good job yourself, Frost.  I'll admit I've had second thoughts about leaving her with you people.  Not anymore."

Her green eyes, wide and full of candor, gazed warmly into his as if she could see his face through the visor.

"Glad to hear it," he said, gruffly.  "That is, I--"

"Look, it's rude to interrupt, but let me tell you that--I've had a few second and third thoughts about letting these kids put themselves into risk," she said, and shook her head.  "I mean, they're kids.  They should be getting crushes, worrying about history exams, fretting over pimples.  Not taking down Council and Rikti.  Except...except that they have these powers.  They're going to use them.  And they have hearts, they see people getting endangered and they're going to try and help.  And Verte--" she spared a glance at the sleeping child, as a medic gently fitted the soft sleeping helmet over her head.  "--she has it bad, the hunger to help, the need to act.  It's like a calling.  A religious vocation.  I think not being able to--I don't know what that would do to her, but I don't think any of us would like the result."  She sighed.  "And besides, at her age--I was taking down the Rikti too."

He did a quick calculation in his head, and blanched, felt the blood draining from his face and was glad the helmet hid it.  "The war," he said, flatly.

She nodded.  "Area 51.  They grabbed every super they could find.  I was just a paramedic with healing powers, but I was the only healing super there was.  My offensive arsenal came on-line triggered by stress.  It was grim.  I was completely untrained, and I probably made a hash of it.   If I had been trained, I probably could have saved more of my team than I did.  Dumb luck that I lived through it.  These kids deserve better than that."

The war....

"They do," he replied, "And I'm going to see to it that they get it.  Whether they like it or not."


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Moriyaku on 08 January 2006, 04:17:28
The celebration had almost wound down until someone had suggested charades, boys against girls to make it interesting. In the midst of Torch doing his best to act out 'I Feel Pretty' to the delight of the rest of the group, Tharvia entered, and the common room suddenly became very quiet.

Finally Torch cleared his throat awkwardly.  "So, Tharv.  Reynard's in th' Zig, like?"

"No, actually.  He is no longer in the dentention area you know as the Zig."

Various cries of indignation rose from the group at Tharvia's reply. "Where in the holy hell is he then?"  Asha scowled.

"He's out? They let him post bail?" Mel's fists clenched.

"Oh, good, then we can... wai', where th' 'ell is 'e, then?"

Tharvia waited for the uproar to die down, feeling just a little bit better and a little bit smug about her cleverness.

"Septimus Reynard," she said crisply, "Is currently in the custody of the Federal authorities, awaiting his trial on the charges of--"  she counted them out on her long, slender fingers "--child abuse, practicing medicine without a license, fraud, collusion, attempted murder, and kidnapping.  The lawyer that the aristocrat Jude Law used to s--"

She stopped herself before she completed the sentence, --used to send me a restraining order.

"---uses, I mean, and whom I hired, was quite helpful.  I pointed out that Septimus Reynard was not super-powered and did not belong in the Zig.  He pointed out that the gravest charges against him are Federal, rather than State, charges.  I am not certain what this means, except that Reynard was transferred to the Federal Penitentiary in New York City and is currently awaiting his trial date to be set."

She looked at them all in shadowed triumph.  She was still not feeling good about the fact that she had been dallying with her dear friend's abuser while poor Verte was--

No. She would not think of that.

"Trial date?" Mel frowned, arms crossed. "If it ain't set now, then he's prob'ly got his assistants tryin' t'get him Michael Jackson's defense team, or somebody along those lines."

Asha snorted.  "A rich man like that, likely, sugah.  People like him buy their way outta trouble all the time."

"Aw, no.  Yeh mean 'e migh' go free, like?"

"My attorney also made some calls to other high-profile defense attorneys.  It is safe to say that Septimus Reynard will soon find that he is having difficulty hiring anyone."

((And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes this chapter in the adventures of the Young Champions and the Alliance of Champions on the Virtue server. Kudos to everyone who took the time and patience to keep the ME craziness going!))


Title: Re: And Then There Were None
Post by: Clarion Call on 08 January 2006, 05:34:58
((Now THAT was a story arc. I can only imagine the badge/souv. Heh. Had a serious blast all, thanks.))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: victoriavictrix on 08 January 2006, 11:57:23
((Ladies and gentlemen, it's a wrap.

Thank you, thank you, thank you all.  Your characcters displayed all the cleverness I could have imagined, and your writing is exemplary.

And Verte loves her family.))


Title: And Then There Were None
Post by: Red Saviour on 08 January 2006, 12:35:17
((well done, all! And thanks for giving Tharvia the Scooby Doo closer!))