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Icons: Origins of Marvels

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This thread is for you to post the fictions I asked for.

To clarify, this isn't the origin of your powers, that's in your backgrounds

What I'd like here is the origin of why you're a hero.  Why choose this path.  

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A Day Unlike Any Other

 

Jess pulled into the public parking area at the Fire-house where her dad was stationed and took an empty spot as close to where the engine bays were located. She sat there the jeep idling, absentmindedly rubbing her hand where the strange tattoo pulsed in time with her heartbeat.

She should have been panicked, upset, but she wasn't. This thing the Starsign had chosen her, out of everyone on Earth. Her. But it hadn't told her why. It had made her a Marvel, one of the super-powered beings which where appearing more and more frequently in the wold. The Starsign an artifact/tool/weapon, imbued with a pseudo life-force, told her that it was her duty and destiny to master the the Starsign and use it's powers to protect and guide the Earth until it was ready to join the universal civilization. But she was only 20 years old how could she guide anything.

Becoming a Marvel didn't scare her, in fact it was kind of exciting. But so many of them hid who they were and their actions while mostly for the good tended to sow suspicion and even fear. Jess knew that she couldn't do that, wouldn't wear a mask or hide in the shadows. If the Starsign was to be a symbol it would be a symbol that all could see and....

The knock on the door of the jeep startled her and she did give a little jump putting her hand out of sight she looked out at her father who was looking in. John Rhodes Jr. Stepped back as his daughter and only child opened the door and exited her muddy 4wd. That told him something right there, Jessica always cleaned her jeep as soon as she finished a trip so he knew that something was up her showing up at the station with a muddy Jeep.

“Hi dad,” Jess said as she stepped into his welcoming hug. The embrace was so nice she felt the tension draining away.

“Hi pumpkin. I was wondering when you would show up.”

Jess leaned back and looked up a question in her eyes.

“Bob, came in early this morning, to get something from his locker and talk to a couple of the other guys. He steadfastly avoided me and wouldn't even make eye contact. So I know you guys had gone up the mountain for the weekend and having him show I figured something had happened between you. I tried calling you but your phone kept going to voice mail. Any longer andwithout hearing from you and I'd have called the cops, and went and found Bob and beat it out of hi. So are you okay pumpkin?” John had placed his hands on his daughters muscular shoulders and gave her a fatherly smile.

Jess gave a heavy and somewhat annoyed sigh, not at her dad but at Robert, she never used the diminutive nickname, a rookie firefighter and her boyfriend of six months, now former. “I'm fine dad, Robert and I broke up but that isn't why I'm here. Dad I need to show you something....”

At that very moment the stations alarm blared and the controlled chaos that was a working fire station exploded to life.

 

It looked like chaos as the men and women of Kingston Hose Co. #3 raced to and fro but it wasn't, each of these highly trained and dedicated firefighters knew their jobs and what was expected of them. Jessica stayed where she was for maybe three seconds as her dad quickly hugged her again gave her a quick kiss on the forehead and with a hasty “Gotta go!', raced off. Jessica watched as her father and the other fire fighter she knew and had worked with over the summer prepared to put their lives on the line again. After those seconds tick by she shrugged off her jacket and reached into the back of the Jeep where she carried her own personal response gear. She wasn't one to simply sit by and wait while others put their own safety at risk.

As she ran to the large truck bays she saw her dad and the station chief and a couple of others in deep conversation

“Multiple vehicle accident on the interstate, including an over turned tanker transporting hazardous material placard reading 5.2 still working on the exact contents. Ulster dept. is working two house fires and won't be responding East Kingston will have a truck on the way in 15, so we are it I want to roll in five,” said the chief.

“Chief,” one of the Firemen also named John, spoke up, “we are short EMS for first response, looks like 45 minutes before any of them can break free.”

“Shit,” barked the chief looking around. Jessica's dad was looking around too and saw her standing off to the side out of the way. He grimaced and the chief saw where and who he was looking at.

“Rhodes,” he shouted and not at her father. “Grab a fire coat and sign in You ride with rescue.” He turned to John Rhodes and grabbed his arm. “She can stay in the truck unless we need her. It's not like she hasn't done it before.”

Jessica called an affirmative but the others had already moved on except her dad who gave her a worried look. While she had often times worked sort of with her mother when they transported a patient to the emergency room, Fire Department policy kept immediate family members from working the same stations so the two of them had never actually been on a call before. She gave him a smile and a thumbs up then ran to the lockers and grabbed a spare coat and helmet before signing in and climbing into the Rescue truck.

Sirens blaring the station emptied and men and women raced to save lives.

 

Far above the Earth where the highest satellites orbited, a sphere of green reflective metal some 20 meters across popped out of hyperspace.

The Nok, a Sindilian Gangster of no mean reputation, glared with his skeletal features at the small blue green planet below. The sight made him want to retch. This was not the sort of world he would normally care to visit but his ship had alerted him to a very rare occurrence. The Tr i-dimensional Transverteron scanner had detected a signal that, while it could not decipher the contents, had been identified with a 98% accuracy to be a Starsign activation transmission. Those in the know knew what that meant and The Nok was certainly someone in the know. The signal had originated here all he had to do was pin point it and then... The Nok turned its skeletal head and it glowing crimson eyes gazed with adoration at a plaque attached to the wall of his control room his chuckle sounded like a death rattle. Attached to the plaque were 4 broken shattered starsigns just like the one that had chosen Jessica Rhodes, with room for more.

Spoiler

The Nok  med_1514310606_image.jpg

 

There were seven vehicles, including the tanker truck, Jessica could see as the rescue truck pulled into it's usual position. She immediately jumped out, ignoring what the chief had told her about staying put until she was called. The police and state troopers had beaten hem there and closed both sides of the interstate and set a good perimeter about 500 feet back from the immediate area of the accident. While the firefighter went about setting up to put out any fires Jessica took her medical bag and headed to where a small group of cops were gathered with several civilians sitting or lying on the ground. She counted eight persons on the ground two who were lying still, those sitting were brused and had what looked like superficial injuries. “Is this all of them?”

“No,” answered on state trooper, “we couldn't get the truck driver out until you take a look at him he isn't conscious and may have serious injuries, and the last guy is in the car wedged under the tanker. Can't get to him at all, he's conscious but incoherent.” While the trooper spoke, Jessica was examining the crash victims she concentrated on the two laying before her. Both very seriously injured with broken bones and internal injuries. Their chances of making it lessened every minute and there was no ambulance to transport them, she was all they had. She looked up at the trooper and noticed that he was only a little older than her and very handsome. She didn't have a lot of time especially with two more probably seriously injured waiting for her. “Alright Trooper, can you take the rest of these behind the safe zone while I see about rousing these two?”

The trooper glanced at the wounded and back at the wreck. “Okay, but don't take long that tanker is carrying class four and that car under it is a Tesla.” With that grim announcment the trooper gathered up theose capable of walking and started leading them to the parimeter. Meanwhile Jessica now not being watched closely laid a hand on the nearst chest and one on their forehead and concentrated. She felt two pulses her heart and that of the injured man, as she concentrated she felt the two pulses become one pulse and saw that the symbol on her hand pulsed as well energy flowed from her through the symbol into the crash victim. Organs mended bones knit. The man breathed easier and his eyelids began to flutter.

She didn't know the mechanics of what she did or really how she knew what to do except that the Starsign had told her, not with words or texts not even with instruction. But it had told her nonetheless, in a voice that wasn't a voice but sounded like everyone she had ever looked up to, had respected. The internal voice of a mentor. It was that voice that had imparted everything she knew about the Starsign, a voice that had left so much more unsaid yet to be learned.

Jessica quickly repeated the process with the other wounded driver this one a woman. As soon as both were awake, if somewhat confused Jessica waved over another cop, and asked him to take these two to outside the perimeter as well. Then she headed toward the truck.

Several of the firefighters including the chief na her father were close to where the car was wedged under the tanker. She headed up to the cab where with the assistance of the rescue truck driver, also and EMT, climbed on the the overturned cab. He had made an initial assessment.

“Likely spinal injury as well as a skull fracture, We need to get him out but unless they can get that battery in the Tesla removed we are sitting on a bomb. And the chief wants us to fall back until an engineer who can advise on that gets here.”

“These guys don't have time for that Terry, We have to get both of them out now.” Without waiting for a reply she jumped down and jogged the few yards to where the chief and the others where looking at the problem. She paused to look in to see if she could tell anything about the driver but all she could make out was the top of the mans head and that he was moving slightly and moaned as if he knew she was there.

“Rhodes! What the hell are you doing I told you to stay with the rescue truck,” yelled the chief.

Instead of yelling back Jess jogged the few yards to where they were standing away from the wreck. “Sorry chief but I couldn't help anyone from the cab of a truck.”

“Yeah well no harm I guess.” He raised his arm and made a circling motion and Yelled. “Everyone back!”

“Chief we can't leave these two they can't wait.”

“Rhodes, these Tesla pieces of crap have been known to explode after a wreck with even the slightest nudge. We got an engineer on his way by chopper who can remove the battery Thirty minutes and we'll know what we can do.”

“They don't have thirty minutes.” She looked at her dad, “Sorry dad, I really wanted to tell you about this but looks like I'll just have to show you along with everyone else.”

John Rhodes was about to ask what she meant by those cryptic words when his daughter raised her hand in a fist in front of her chest and he saw what looked like a tattoo of some sort of star on the back of her hand. His daughter didn't have a tattoo or at least she didn't before this morning. Then he saw it pulsing.

Jessica shut everything out except the Starsign, she concentrated focusing on the pulse and the Starsign opened up.

An aura of nearly translucent energy cascaded around Jessica. It was black light and it was incandescent fire, it was every color and none. The eyes of those right there saw something their brains had difficulty quantifying and each mind assigned something different. This was the cosmic energy of the universe collected, manipulated, directed.

The energy sleeve surrounded Jessic and flared. Her clothing looked like it was being eaten, consumed by the aura like acid sprayed onto a canvas, but in actuality it wasn't being destroyed it was merely being altered the molecules rearranged, leaving behind the deep red and black suit with the silver star field and hovering above her forehead like a tiar the physical manifestation of the Starsign for all to see. The suit and symbol that identified the wearer, throughout the galaxy and beyond, as one of the Chosen, a bearer of The Starsign.

Jessica looked at her father and the firefighters, saw the shock and on some the awe of what they had witnessed. She smiled at her father. “I'll explain what I can after I get these two out of this predicament. Right now dad, chief pull everyone back just in case this doesn't work.”

Know that if she gives them the chance they will start in with the questioning so she doesn't she turns and rises into the air as effortlessly as she walks up a set of stairs and flies to the cab of the truck. Terry stares wide eyed as she descends onto the cab beside him. “Terry get down and stand clear I'll get him into condition to be moved and hand him up to you.” Again she gave her shocked associate no time to dwell and dropped into the cab where she replayed the same healing actions she had done earlier. The drivers injuries were more extensive and she only did what she could to stabilize him for movement. The she kicked out the cracked windscreen and grasping the roof peeled the thin metal back folding it up like it was no more that a tent covering. Once the obstacle was cleared she picked him up and carried him to Terry and another firefighter had a stretcher staring “Get him to cover just in case this thing blows, he still needs care but he is out of immediate danger from his injuries.”

“Your one them, a Marvel.” Terry said the awe rolling off of him.

“Terry I'm still me and I still have one more to rescue. Get him to safety please. We will talk later.”

“Right.” Terry shook himself, “Come on Dave lets do what she says.” and the hefted the stretcher and began a gentle trot toward safety.

Once Terry left with the driver Jessica moved back to the Tesla looking in where the battery was clearly visible “Hope this works,” she mutters as she reaches in and grabs both terminals! The electricity flows into her but instead of electrocuting her the Starsign absorbs the energy draining the battery in moments.

As soon as the electricity was gone Jessica rips the battery from the car and tosses it aside. There explosive Tesla threat averted, car was already a totaled so no big. She then began to tear the car apart becoming her own personal version of the jaws of life. Using her own strength enhanced by the Starsign she ripped off the panels and the door and then pulled the seat back to get access to the driver who was in and out of consciousness. She healed him and gently extracted him from the wreckage and under the eyes of all the police and firefighters, including her father. As well as a news crew that had arrived, she rose once more into the air to float to where the ambulances where just now arriving.

She was greeted with cheers as she landed and immediately was surrounded and had a thousand questions thrown at her.

 

High above the earth The Nok had not been idel he had already activated the spheres stealth systems rendering it all bu invisible and had settled in to prep his various weapons for the fight to come. Taking down a Starsign was an accomplishment of great skill and tenacity, and The Nok had 4 to his name. This would be his fifth and would tie him with the notorious Shef. Starsigns were dangerous, even a newly minted one would be able to wield immense powers. So He had to act fast. As soon as the hero activated a power he would know it and where it was and then he would attack. This was a primitive civilization from what he could see so there was a good chance the Starsign would be completely surprised and have no idea how to fight advanced technology. As Nok finishes charging a double barreled disintegrator the detector sounded off again. He glanced at the read out he had the location of the Starsighn and soon he would have a fifth symbol for his plaque and the glory that went with it.

 

Jessica did her best to answer questions and calm everyone down “I'll answer all your questions at an appropriate time right now we have to let the police and firefighters finish there jobs and these people have to be taken to the hospital!”

But no one was listening they crowded her and she was still trying to gain control of the crowd when the sky erupted.

A beam of green coruscating light flashed from the sky and connected to the ground about fifty yards away with a thunderous crash, it sizzled and flashed for several seconds before the beam withdrew back into the sky like a straw being pulled into the heavens bay an angry god, leaving a smocking crater with a bluish green mound in it's center. Slowly the mound began to unfold revealing a bipedal creature clad in metallic robe with a horribly archaic helmet on it's inhuman skill like head. The Nok had arrived.

The crowd stared and Jessica pushed her way out of the press to stand in the open facing The Nok, she raised her hands shoulder high, hands open palms out ward in a gesture of peace and to show she was unarmed. “We mean you know harm...”

The Nok raised it's weapon and fired, twin beams, negative and positively charged, struck Jessica squarely in the chest the energy enveloping her knocking her back into the crowd which scattered and ran all except the law enforcement members who drew guns and opened fired on the Nok. The thunder and smoke of gunfire filled the interstate as Jessica sat up tendrils of smoke rising from her unmarred suit. Her hands emitting cosmic energy which pulsed and crackled. John Rhodes had been rushing to his daughter side when she sat up he skidded to a stop. And went to his knee beside her and helped her stand. “What is that thing?” He wasn't sure if he was asking about the Starsign or the creature attacking them. “I don't know dad, I'll ask it after I kick its ass!” She steeped away from her father and raised her glowing hands and unleashed a cosmic blast at the intruder.

Bullets whizzed by The Nok most missing, as the panicked police unloaded their fire arms, but a few hitting the monstrous being only to be tossed aside by some sort of force-filed the creature had. Laughing The Nok raised it's weapon and unleashed a fusillade of beams at the puny humans pestering it. Obliterating them had not been it's purpose there was little amusement in that instead his fire was meant to send them running in fear and confusion. It work now to collect his prize. He turned toward where the Chosen's body or what was left of it should be only to see the cosmic beam cross the distance and slam into his force-field with a crack with slit the sky and hurled him backwards. It still lived!

“Get out of here dad let me handle this!” Jessica shouted as she launched herself into the air following her beams toward the evil (he had to be evil right?) Marvel.

The Nok rolled to his feet and seeing The Starsign let off several shots in her direction before dropping the disintegrator and pulling out two molecular blades. Starsign dodged both blasts and slammed into The Nok who met her with flashing blades. The two spun and struck and dodge and parried with an occasion energy blast thrown in the exchange lasted several seconds and many blows and counter blows. The Nok was unsure of himself this Starsign was too powerful for newly chosen but it was a terrible fighter and didn't show much imagination but damn it was tough. With a flick of his wrist he threw one of his blades at the only other target in range the older human male that had run to the Starsigns aid. Jessica saw the razor like knife spinning toward her father and abandoning the villain blasted after it before it cut into her dad. She easily did this interposing herself between the blade and her father. Then with a scowl shouted, “Lets finish this!” And flew at him again putting all her might into her flight.

The Nok had expected this and had acted appropriately after he had thrown his blade he had overloaded his Force field and set it to 500% drawn a blaster sidearm and as she flew toward him raised the deadly pistol. “Lets,” he hissed back at her.

And shot the tanker.

The explosion rocked the area rattling windows up to ten miles away, All of the cars added to the blast everyone was knocked to the ground blood flowed from ears and noses from the blast pressure but there were no fatalities among the humans which had been at least fifty yards away. All except one.

Johnathon Rhodes Jr., Jessica's father, Fireman, husband, war-hero. Was bodily picked up and hurled some fifty feet by the blast where when he struck the ground he rolled limp and motionless his firefighting gear and most of his clothing blown or burned off. Jessica was knocked out of the air and while her power absorbed a lot of the blast directed at her not all of it had been taken in she landed near her father. Pain flowed through her she had broken bones and internal injuries but she felt the power of the Starsign still flowing and while her suit was torn and ren it's metallic sheen tarnished by the soot of the smoke her hands still pulsed with the power cosmic.. she opened her eyes and lay there a second then she turned her head and saw her father his eye staring at her empty, lifeless. Her breath caught her chest ached and felt like it would burst, she closed her eyes tight and opened them willing them to see something different but all she saw was her father. Dead. She screamed.

The Nok had been standing next to the truck but the force-field had been turned to 500% and all that had happened to him was that his vision had been obscured by the flames as the heat and energy cascaded off of his protection and flowed away leaving him standing unharmed. As the flames cleared he knew that he was victorious there was no way a new Starsign could have survived that and even if it had it would be so badly damage he could finish it with his boot. The last thing he expected to see was the Starsign floating in front of him not two feet away. With a scream of anguish, rage, and pain Jessica flew at the alien killer and with both hands glowing with incandescent cosmic power brought them around with a mighty double fisted hammer blow at the same time unleashing the remaining cosmic energy she had absorbed from the blast.

The Nok, had made a terrible tactical error. He hadn't taken the time to assess his target, didn't realize the this Starsign had an indomitable will far beyond that of any mere newly chosen she had a will that rivaled the oldest masters. The Starsign had chosen well. The Nok's force shield flared but it had already been over loaded and the blow and cosmic blast shredded it and sent the alien trophy hunter flying where it landed it wounded, unconscious, dying. Jessica landed by him and while she could have let him die and no one would have blamed her, she would have so she stabilized him, stripped off anything that even slightly resembled a weapon or technology and bound him with pieces of metal taken from the wreckage of the cars that had been destroy. She flew him back to the police and cautioned them then handed him over. Then she went to her father.

She landed a few feet away and was astonished to find Terry and the Chief there doing CPR! He was alive! Jessica let the Starsign go and once again clad in the clothes she had been wearing before knelt to help Her own injuries and the exertions had let her drained and all she could do was stabilize him and ride with him to the hospital where her mom was waiting for them.

 

 

 

 

 

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Most people probably didn't think about walking. Start with both feet planted. Lift one while leaning slightly forward. Catch yourself on your heel. Settle back onto both feet. Rinse and repeat until you got where you were going, adjusting for friction, gait, and footwear.

Most probably weren't born with the ability to determine their position in three dimensions with just a thought though. If the word 'born' really applied to her, since most people were made up of more than 15% human tissue by weight. The Professor had told the young woman known as Mega Girl aka 'Alison' that trivia over a surgery, tone amused as he replaced a servo in her arm with a nearly identical servo, fully conscious and paralyzed. He had always enjoyed the efficiency of multitasking and if surgery time couldn't also be bonding time, what was the point?

Alison was beginning to see how... twisted her creator truly was the longer she spent in the outside world.

She walked from one wall to the other of her temporary cave home and back again, the chill of a Canadian winter blowing through the opening. Not that she felt the chill as anything other than notable information, putting one foot in front of the other, ever so careful to make sure that it at least looked like she was putting her weight on the appendage before lifting the next foot. It was all so precarious in her mind. Get it wrong even once and, bam, on your face. So tempting to skip the middleman and just go.

But that wasn't an option, not if she wanted to play at being normal.

Play. Another thing that had been just a word until she got away from him. Alison paused midpace, frowning deeply as a memory played unbidden and unpleasant across her mind's eye. Darkness and battle wreckage and courage uncertain and fear born of seeing her own face twisted in anger, her living reflection doing it's best to beat her down again and again and again, the result always uncertain between them. If she had gone back down for ANEI despite the fear, hoped that the power remained out, hoped that her sister could have seen past their desperate competition to avoid 'upgrades' and escaped with her... Maybe... Maybe...

HOKORI suddenly wanted to punch the wall as hard she could, a choked scream escaping her lips. Wanted to, but didn't. No no no. She didn't need to bring the cave down on top of her and try to dig her stuff out of the rubble. Didn't have enough stuff to risk getting it smashed again.

Forcing herself to suck in a deep breath out of rhythm, she focused on the positive, getting past the bittersweet truth that all the open sky she'd danced in, all the delicious foods she'd eaten, all the nice people she'd met, was... maybe... at the cost of leaving of the closest thing to family behind with their torturer creator. Alone. How screwed up was that?

The world was nice, and it felt nice to keep it nice, to be 'Alison' instead of HOKORI, and put on a 'stupid looking' mask and cape over her usual hand-me-downs to go back to her own peculiar normal rather than the world's normal. Maybe... Maybe if she helped enough people... Maybe helping people extended to more back than food and clothes and useful trinkets... Enough strong people to save her when the Professor came... Enough strong people to help her try and undo her big maybe mistake...

She had floated off the ground in her funk, and sucked in another breath, centering herself on the task at hand. She touched down, balanced her weight on two feet. Enough maybes. One foot in front of the other at time would get her there. It had to.

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"All right. One last time. From the top."

"I'm private investigator. I investigate things. Privately. Three days ago I took a job from a client asking me to investigate the disappearance of Harold Trent and his daughter Juniper. I did some digging. Turns out Harold is an immigrant who took a new name when he naturalized. Used to be Herrod Teshne. Old guy, old money...I'm thinking maybe the daughter wanted a pre-emptive inheritance then skipped with the money, but...yeah, you see it...she didn't inherit because she disappeared too.

So I nosed around some more...starting with that inheritance. You gotta figure when an old rich guy vanishes, nine times out of nine it's about the money. His estate's still in probate obviously, but there was a funny thing. A work order for moving a couple of containers from their original storage unit to a new one. Containers were shown as 'sundries' on the manifest, which...doesn't help much. But since the new location was owned by someone else, I figured it was worth taking a closer look."

Triessa hadn't smoked in years, but she found the familiar old craving right where she'd left it, gnawing on her brainstem contentedly. It would give her something to do with her hands, for one...and give her an excuse to pause and think about what to say next.

"That's where the warehouse comes in. Or, I mean, that's where I come into the warehouse. I saw the shipping crate there, roughly in the middle with a big cleared out space around it. Three guys in turtlenecks...big guys, I'm going to guess ex-military mercenaries but I haven't exactly had a chance to follow up yet."

She jingled her wrists, currently chained to the table, to emphasize the point.

"Anyway, they were arguing about something while one of them fussed around with the crate. I couldn't see from where I was, so I started getting in closer and...gunfire."

Triessa shook her head. "I thought I was dead, you know? All I could think was that you can't feel the gunshot at first. I was looking down at myself, then more shots, and I finally smartened the fuck up and dropped. And it's a damn good thing I did, because a few seconds after that..."

With an exhaled 'kapssshhhhhhhhhh' noise she splayed her fingers to simulate the explosion.

"Next thing I know, I'm waking up with a headache, tinnitus, and cops shouting at me to show my hands out where they can see them."

The detective, she hadn't caught his name, was staring at her across the table with his slightly too-round eyes and his slightly sunken cheeks. "And that's all," he said flatly.

"That's all I got," Triessa sighed. "I didn't see the shooters, or what caused the explosion. If I had to guess, maybe they were rigging charges to blow the crate and someone hit the stockpile..."

"Don't guess," the interrogator cut her off, "You're not an investigator here. You're a suspect."

"Jesus fuck, man, what do you think is going on here?" Triessa demanded. "I lugged a half pound of C-4 or something all the way across town to a random warehouse I have no connection to just to blow half of it up and set the other half on fire? While I'm in it?"

Now the detective emoted, a little. He smiled a thin, annoyed smile. "Well that's the difference between us. You think and you guess, but me? I prefer facts. The fact is that I don't know what's going on, but I do know you're not telling me everything. So, lets start with who your goddamn cli..."

There was a knock on the door to the interrogation room. A sharp rap, three times. A cop-knock.

The detective sat back, still staring at Triessa. At the second knock he stood up and went to the door, then stepped outside. She couldn't hear the conversation that was going on outside, but figured it probably had something to do with her not having been officially charged with anything yet. Which could be good...or it could be a precusor to being charged, which would not be good.

A few minutes later a detective came back in. Not the one who'd left though. Triessa sat up, startled but relieved to see a friendly face. Malcolm. After a second she felt unease creeping back in. His face wasn't that friendly right now.

"Hey," she said, trying to keep her voice and attitude light and unconcerned. "Didn't think you'd be taking the case."

"I'm not," Malcolm replied tersely. "What I'm doing is potentially putting my neck on a chopping block, so I'd like some goddamn answers from you."

Triessa looked away, unable to meet that intense stare.

"Harold Trent had some containers stored there, but that's not who you were tracking," Malcolm said, as if stating a known fact. "Tell me. I want to hear it from you."

She rubbed her mouth with a couple of fingers, then said, "It was my dad. The container they were trying to get into was dad's."

"Mercenaries? Gunfire?"

Triessa fell silent for a long moment, then said, "Not mercenaries. Not guns. There was...resistance. A lot of it, actually... Things got a bit heated. And then..."

"...and then half the fucking warehouse got exploded," he finished, his voice hard and sharp as a sword's edge. "What the fuck, Triessa?"

It was finally too much. Triessa looked back at Malcolm and met his anger with her own.

"I KNOW, okay?! It was NOT my fault. It wasn't human beings guarding the place, that's why there weren't any bodies. Whoever set it up was into some dark-ass shit, and I was fighting for my life. It wasn't my spell that blew the place up!"

Malcolm narrowed his eyes. "But it wouldn't have blown up if you hadn't showed up. If you hadn't tried to fight them off instead of just getting the fuck out."

"They HAD something! Something I could have used to track them, or at least get some answers! You think I'm walking away from that?"

"Yeah, Tri. I do." Malcolm's face and voice calmed, but stayed firm...every bit the man who'd been there for Triessa and done his best to guide her when she was young and struggling to cope with the loss of her parents. "This is what people like me are for."

"The police?" Triessa demanded, "come on, you don't have department mystics. You don't have the knowledge, or the resources, or the...the..."

"Oh yeah? And how'd you do?" Hm? Did you get the container? Open it? No. You got it blown up. You got yourself in a whole heap of trouble, and you're risking your freedom and my career." Malcolm sighed and turned away, walking a few steps back towards the door.

"I'm going to smooth this over. It's going to cost me, but I can pay it. In return, you have to promise me that Triessa is not going to follow up on this and keep pushing."

She tried to stand up, but the chains anchoring her to the table caught her halfway up. "Are you kid..."

"...if someone else wants to push and push and fuck things up for themselves, I can't stop them," Malcolm went on, as if he hadn't heard her. "But see to it that Triessa keeps her nose clean. No fighting monsters or mercenaries or whatever, no blowing anything up. I'm not going to be able to do this again. Are we clear?"

Triessa paused then, frowning. Was he saying what she thought he was saying?

Someone else. Someone not Triessa. Someone who didn't look, or sound or go by the name of Triessa. Someone who's actions wouldn't be connected to hers, at least not easily. Jesus, why didn't she think of that sooner?

"Yeah," she said softly. "We're clear."

I'm not wearing spandex though. Fuck that noise.

Malcolm had his back to her, and he hadn't a drop of magic or psychic potential, but she could feel him knowing what she was thinking, and knew he had a big smile on his face as he walked out of the interrogation room. Goddamnit. That was another one she owed him.

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September 12, 2018 –

What… what was the name of that bloody TA? Bobby? Robby? Robert? Roberto?

Dr. Derek Alistair LeSayge, newly hired professor of biology at Princeton University winced blindly at the computer projector’s powerful light. He tried to cover his eyes with his left forearm for protection. “Er, ah, Robert? Could you turn off that bloody computer! I can’t see a bloody thing up here!”

The projector obediently shut off and the auditorium’s lights came up. A querulous female voice rose from the large contingent of undergrads and said, “Sorry, Dr. LeSayge.” And then added quietly, “And my name is Roberta.”

“Bloody hell! I don’t care if your name is Madame Curie! Just try not to ruin my PowerPoint presentation, won’t you?”

As his vision slowly returned, he blinked his beady, reptilian blue-green eyes to survey the disaster in front of him. Undergrads! Undergrads!!! Derek LeSayge, with an IQ of 187, two doctorates – one in biology and one in medicine -- and a Nobel Prize to boot! I mean, really? And now, he’s reduced to this – teaching Biology 101 to a herd of mindless cattle! O Death, where is thy sting?

Gripping either side of the podium for support, he started to control his breathing. He slowly recited to himself the first numbers in the famed Fibonacci sequence -- 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144….

Okay. Great. Perfect.

Smoothing his hair back into place, he addressed his… students. “Well. So here we are – a new semester of academic opportunities and all that rot. Blah, blah, blah. I have been assigned to help you useless clods of dirt learn the fundamentals of the science of biology. Hah! For the science majors here, you’ll be lucky enough to scrape a bloody D out of this course. And as for all you other scholarly dilettantes in the room….” He let the possibilities slowly congeal into an actual conclusion in their Neanderthal-like cerebellums.

He slowly and dramatically drew his thumb across his neck. “Scriiiiiiiiiii-ICK!” he announced with a sadistic smirk.

The freshmen all sat frozen into their seats, fear and confusion fighting for dominance over their young faces. One student actually dropped his iPhone onto the auditorium’s plush carpeting. Another student woke up from her sleep-deprived stupor and stared blankly at the famed neuro-biologist.

After a beat, Derek sneered at the dumbfounded assemblage. “Now get out of here, you helots, you heathens. Get out! Class dismissed.”

In no time at all, he was alone in the vast chamber… except for one. The well-dressed, gray-haired man slowly clapped his hands to punctuate his utter contempt. “Bravo. Bravo! Well done, Derek. A better performance could not be had off Broadway. Bravo!”

LeSayge just stared at the middle-aged bespectacled man as he slowly made his way up to the dais to join the professor. Once he reached the stage, Derek crossed his arms and leaned back onto the podium. “Did you like it, Sam? I worked all week on my presentation. I think it made an impression, don’t you?”

Provost and second-ranking administrative officer of Princeton University, Dr. Samuel F. Carrington angrily assessed the research scientist for a moment. “Derek, you’ll never change, will you? You got fired from Sangreal Pharmaceuticals under mysterious circumstances. No one, mind you, no one was willing to give you a job! So, you came crawling back to Princeton thinking that a Nobel Prize would help in getting a teaching position here. And you know what? It did. But believe me when I tell you, nobody here was thrilled to have you back again. This is Princeton, dammit! We don’t have to put up with your prima donna antics. You’re trouble, Derek. You’re just plain trouble. Let me put this in ‘simple’ terms, fathead. Your next class had better be more supportive and accommodating than this latest example. If we get one complaint – just one! – from any of these kids’ parents, then you’ll be looking in for a new teaching position in Antarctica. You got that?”

Fuming, Carrington stomped off out of the theater, leaving the Nobel Laureate to his thoughts.

The class bell rang to mark the end of the class period.

Derek stood brooding at the podium in the empty classroom. Blast that Carrington, but he’s right. This wasn’t for him. Hiding behind a lecturer’s podium – he was bloody Derek Alistair LeSayge! He should be… he should be….

“Dr. LeSayge?” said a musical voice tinged with a slight French accent.

Without missing a beat, Derek’s standard reply rang out through the auditorium, “What? Go away! No autographs, miss…?”

“That’s Doctor – Dr. Justine Devereaux.”

“Am I supposed to be impressed?”

“I was just about to ask you the same thing.”

At that comment, the Nobel Laureate raised his head to inspect the lithesome newcomer standing at the doorway, her arms crossed beneath her breasts. She stood about 5’6” in high heels. Slim, statuesque, weighing about 100 lbs. or so. Fashionably dressed in a professional way. Possibly in her early 30s. Shoulder-length dark brown hair framed an intelligent and perceptive face… which was now inspecting him.

“And just what are you a doctor of, Dr. Devereaux – cosmetology?”

Stepping purposefully into the auditorium, the foreign beauty made her way halfway down towards the podium. “Actually, I am a doctor of psychiatry, Dr. LeSayge. And in my professional opinion, you look like a man who has lost something very important to him… and is now searching for a way to get it back.”

Storming up the stairs to meet her, Derek exploded, “Oh, how clever! A ‘mind-reader’, eh! How quaint. Are you going to break out your Tarot cards now or ask me my birthdate? I think I’m an Aquarian or something like that.”

“Very good, doctor. You were born on Feb. 11, 1989, I believe, so that would, indeed, make you an Aquarian. I had no idea that you were so superstitious… for a scientist of your repute.” Standing coolly, she stared up into his long face with her wide, dark brown eyes – probing, studying, analyzing.

Derek Alistair LeSayge was handsome in all his glorious eccentricity. Tall and lean, standing 6’ and weighing in at 170 lbs. Long, dark brown hair combed back. Small blue-green eyes. Athletic and aristocratic, especially with his sonorous voice and faux-British accent. Very attractive when he wanted to be.

He was not trying to be attractive right now.

“Enough, Dr. Devereaux! I am not one of your patients that need suffer your intrusive psychoanalytical methods.”

“Pity, Dr. LeSayge. You look like you could use some professional help, but just in case….” She held out a business card in her right hand. Somehow, she managed to extract it from her purse without him noticing. How did she do that? Nobody could move that fast. Was she a metahuman?

Walking away up the stairs to the exit, she turned her head before leaving. “If you ever need someone to talk to, please feel free to contact me.” She smiled a most impressive smile, then left him alone.

Dr. Derek Alistair LeSayge stood dumbfounded, trying desperately to come up with a clever comeback… and couldn’t.

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October 31, 2018 –

It was late at night and Derek was working in the lab with Dr. Harrison Atwell, an experimental physicist, on an experiment involving K-level theta radiation in one of Princeton’s many laboratories. For some reason, Atwell was Derek’s friend -- his only friend, actually – ever since their days in Princeton as grad students. Lord knows Derek did little to encourage any sort of loyalty from anybody, and yet there it was: Harry was Derek’s friend.

Both scientists were wearing blue and gray protective gear of Atwell’s design – very reminiscent of sci-fi uniforms with helmets that covered their faces. (Harry was always a bit of the classic science nerd.) Derek looked very impressive in the sleek, form-hugging costume, while Harry looked short and dumpy because, well, Harry was shorter and dumpier.

“So, are ya’ goin’ to the Halloween party tonight, Derek? It’ll be at StudioLab – Fine Hall B28. It should be a lotta fun. You should go.”

LeSayge merely grunted noncommittedly as he examined the readouts on the computer screens.

Harry turned off the equipment as per standard safety protocols. Then he raised his black visor so that he could be heard more clearly. “No, honestly, Derek. You should go. Go! Get out. Be with other human beings. Mingle. Socialize. You do remember how to socialize, don’t you, Derek? Oh, yeah. That’s right – who am I talkin’ to here? Well, just go, anyway. You could use a change of scenery after… uh, after….”

The taller scientist raised his visor, turned and looked at his friend stonily. “After the death of my mother, you mean?”

Screwing up his courage, the slightly older man rushed onward, “Yeah, Derek. After your mom died. It wasn’t your fault, you know. Maybe your brothers will never forgive you and your dad can’t forgive you, but you did the best that you could.”

“And my ‘best’ simply wasn’t good enough. I mean, for God’s sake – I won a bloody Nobel Prize in medicine, Harry. A Nobel! And I couldn’t figure out a way to cure her damnable Alzheimer’s. What good is all this ‘genius’, all this education and training, if I couldn’t….” His voice trailed off without finishing the sentence.

The two men stood in silence for a bit in the well-equipped lab – one in self-inflicted pain, the other in silent anguish for his friend. The state-of-the-art machinery hummed quietly in the background.

After a while, Atwell continued his argument. “Well, in any event, you should go to the party!”

Smirking, Derek turned away to look at the pair in a nearby reflective surface. “Dressed in what, Harry? Dressed in this get-up? Honestly, I think you’ve seen TRON one too many times. And where would I get a costume at this late date, anyway?”

Smiling brightly, the out-of-shape physicist replied, “Yeah. Why not go dressed up in this stuff? It looks good on you, man. It’s a good thing you work out and eat right. Not like me.” He patted his belly meaningfully. “Me? I like my pizzas and beer, y’know?” Then Atwell got an idea. “And, as for a ‘date’, why don’t you ask that psychiatrist to go with you? Now there’s a looker, Derek! If I weren’t married to Carol –”

Derek froze. “Devereaux? Good heavens, Harry. Be realistic. I don’t need a head-shrinker, and I don’t need a date. I’m not going. I am not going. I am not….”

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Later that evening –

“…Going to get something to drink. Did you want anything, Justine?”

Harry was right. Dr. Justine Devereaux, psychiatrist, looked absolutely stunning dressed as a Gypsy fortune-teller. Everything just hung in exactly the right places in exactly the right way. How she was able to conjure up the affair in so short a time, he’ll never be able to guess. Maybe she was into Renaissance Festivals? Hmm….

In any event, he texted, she accepted, and here they were – having the time of their lives.

“Derek? Derek. I said, could you bring me a ginger ale? I have a number of appointments tomorrow morning and I need to keep my wits about me, especially around a charmer like you. I am so pleased that you invited me to the Halloween party.”

Smiling, the research scientist adroitly made his way to the bar dressed in Atwell’s protective gear. Things were finally beginning to work out. Things were definitely starting to look up –

“FREEZE, EVERYBODY! This is a stick-up. Hand over all of your valuables and no one will get hurt!”

LeSayge turned to see that all of the security guards in the room were aiming their weapons on the guests. How in the world --? Security guards? Really? They dressed up as security guards -- on Halloween?!

Scanning the area, the polymath considered his options, and he didn’t like what what he was seeing. He then saw a slightly open breaker box just within reach. Maybe, just maybe –

“I said FREEZE, hero!” A bullet exploded from an upraised pistol. The crowd immediately went silent. “Don’t move – anybody! And that means you, spaceman.”

Keeping his hands up, Derek could only focus on the junction box. If there was only a way that he could reach the breakers, he could kill the lights and trip the security alarms to notify the real police. There has to be a way! If only he could see the controls –

And then he did! In his mind’s eye, he could see each and every breaker – and he switched them off. He switched them ALL off. With. His. Mind! Somehow -- telekinetically -- he was able to turn off the breakers!

At that point, everybody began to panic. There was yelling and screaming, pushing and pulling, shots ringing out – total chaos!! He then began looking for bogus security guards. Every time he found one, he would punch them in the face, blast them into unconsciousness with a mental blast, or toss them into the air with a telekinetic blast.

Derek LeSayge was a metahuman!

It took about 20-30 minutes of effort to put down the would-be robbers (it was dark, after all!) Nevertheless, by the time the police showed up, the lights were back on, the costumed guests were being treated for shock and bruises, and the unconscious crooks were trussed up with handcuffs that each sported in their disguises.

As for Derek, still dressed in his costume, he was bent over the prone figure of Justine, whose head had been grazed by a stray bullet. Fortunately, the newly discovered superhero, who identified himself to the police as Doc Psypher -- was able to make use of a first-aid kit that he found in one of the classrooms. She was alright, but in his professional opinion, she should be checked out for a possible concussion at the local hospital just to be sure. And the paramedics agreed.

On the way to the University Medical center, Derek accompanied Justine in the ambulance on the claim that he was her personal physician. The groggy psychiatrist merely smiled while on her stretcher. Looking up at Derek, she murmured, “You know what, Dr. LeSayge? I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

 

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