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  1. Life continued easily enough in Japan, the addition of another nova greatly helped, even if she was an outsider. It was just so hard for many to not like Sasha, though of course the rumor mill was always in overdrive regarding who she spent her nights with, whether it was true or not. ,, There still existed a great deal of tension between her and Ryu, but work had been good enough to largely keep them separate, save for a couple nights of eating together at small restaraunts out of the way. ,, This evening found them together again, but on business. Sasha was there to put their hosts at ease, and Ryu there as the muscle. An anonymous tip came into DSA HQ stating that one of the local shipping companies was undertaking some highly illicit trade in restricted Nova-tech, and They wanted the two novas to go in, and see what they could see. ,, The company had largely proven intractable but within a few moments, Sasha had easily gotten them inside the warehouse compound maintained south of Tokyo. ,, Long was on full alert, there was just something that didn't feel right as they were being led around and inside the massive warehouses.
  2. ,, THE PRESENT Date & Time: November 23rd, 2013, 11:41pm Location: Kaolak meteorite impact crater, approximately 3.75 miles east of Kaolak River, Alaska Coordinates (GPS): N 69 55.146, W 159 55.888 ,, Jimmy Smalls, Major in the United States Air Force, pulled up his collar and hunched his way further into his artic-rated coat as he leaned into the wind kicked up by the helicopter currently coming to rest fifteen or twenty meters away. The helicopter landed, and a moment later disgorged one of its occupants, who made his way to Smalls in the typical crouching-jog that people tend to use around helicopters. By the time the man had reached Smalls and was straightening out of his crouch the helicopter was already several meters in the air again and still rising. ,, Major Smalls saluted at the man’s approach and, once he was within earshot, half-shouted in formal greeting, “General!” ,, Brigadier General Tom Ballard returned a hurried and cursory salute without once breaking his stride, forcing Smalls to fall into step beside him or be left quickly behind. “Where is it?” the general asked, his brow furrowed and his eyes asquint as he peered into the arctic night around them, searching for the reason he’d flown all the way out here. ,, “Over this way”, answered the major, pointing off to their right, beyond the hastily assembled land-moving equipment and even more hastily assembled command tent. ,, They were more than a hundred miles from the nearest settlement large enough to be called a town – and much further away from the nearest actual city – in the middle of one of the remotest and most poorly mapped regions of Alaska’s North Slope region. Even during Alaska’s summer months travelling there would have been difficult, but in the middle of the Alaskan winter getting all of the equipment and personnel out there that they had, and getting them there as quickly as they had, was the kind of feat that only the United States Air Force could have pulled off. It was the middle of the night, but because they were so far north even if it had been daytime it would still have been dark, and there were high-intensity lights set up on poles at regular intervals throughout the makeshift camp, with a larger concentration of light set up around what the general assumed to be the actual point of impact. The temperature was well below freezing; there was hardly any snow at all, however, which Ballard thought strange until he remembered that he was standing in the middle of a recently formed impact crater. ,, General Ballard could see that the tractors and other earth-moving equipment had been busy, hauling away piled up debris from the central cone of the impact crater, forcing them to climb over and weave their way between a few different piles of recently moved rubble. He’d seen the crater’s central cone clearly from the air as he’d ridden in on the helicopter, but from down here on the ground it looked more like a small hill or large mound. Ballard had always found it strange that impact craters like this one often had these raised cones smack in the middle of them. He knew there was a scientific explanation for it, but couldn’t pretend to know what it might be. ,, As they walked the general spared a glance in Major Smalls’ direction. “Give me your report, major. What’ve you got so far?” ,, “Yes sir”, answered Smalls. Taking a breath, he dove into his report, “the object would no doubt have warranted an investigation of some kind in any case, but several anomalous events before and during its descent and impact attracted our notice and sparked the ongoing operation you see going on around you.” ,, “Anomalous events?” asked the General. “Such as?” ,, “The way the object changed course after it collided with the Radiosat 3 satellite, for one. At its mass and velocity, a collision with a satellite shouldn’t have had any notable impact on its course or bearing, yet it did. Additionally, there was the relatively small release of energy in the form of light or heat during the objects descent – significantly less than there should have been. Most of what was released was generated by the actual impact itself. Also, sir, the object slowed down significantly during its descent – down to around Mach 53 at the time of impact – much more so than can be accounted for by atmospheric drag. Especially considering the object’s actual size.” ,, Ballard cast a questioning glance in Smalls’ direction and asked, “Size? How big is it?” ,, “Much smaller than it should be, sir”, Smalls said. “You’ll have to see for yourself to really understand.” ,, They were nearing the actual point of impact as Smalls said this, so the general let the major's non-answer slide and allowed himself to be led to ‘the object’. ,, They crested the lip of the central cone and Ballard immediately found himself being led down into another, much smaller crater that lay inside of it. In the lowest portion of this inner crater’s basin was a crowd of personnel and equipment; as he and Smalls approached, some of the men turned and, seeing Ballard, stiffened in salute. The rest of those gathered quickly noticed this and turned to offer salutes of their own, standing to one side to allow the general access to whatever lay at the center. As the crowd of soldiers and workers cleared away Ballard finally caught site of Lieutenant Colonel Darnell Flowers, his officer in charge out here at the crater site, squatting over something practically at the dead center of it all. ,, The colonel turned and, seeing Ballard, stood to offer him a salute as well. The general returned it and said, “The major tells me there’s something here I need to ‘see for myself to really understand.’” ,, “He’s right, general”, Flowers told him. The officer stood to one side and gestured for the general to look into a recently-excavated pit that opened just behind him. ,, Ballard took a step forward and peered down into the pit. Lights were pouring into it from high-powered lamps, so the darkness wasn’t a problem, but the general was still having trouble working out what he was seeing. After a moment he turned back to Flowers with a curious look on his face. ,, “Is that a… a statue?”, he asked.
  3. ,, My flight from Tyche to the outermost edges of the solar system (as measured by Neptune’s orbit) winds up taking me only 5.8102 x 107 seconds, which OK, yes, that’s a long time, but I think anyone would agree that it’s a significant improvement over 7.0186 x 107 seconds. More than four month’s worth of improvement, in point of fact. Needless to say, my average acceleration has gotten better during my travels. ,, By the time I reach the last few hundred thousand kilometers of the roughly fifteen thousand astronomical units I must cross in order to reach my destination, my average acceleration over the entire length of the journey has reached a whopping 2.651 m/s2, which is only around 27% of one standard gravity. This is still only my average acceleration, however. My actual acceleration by this point is 17.6667 m/s2, which is pretty nearly two full g’s of thrust. There are two reasons for the discrepancy between my actual and my average acceleration. ,, The first reason is that, aside from a few semi-fantastical exceptions that are still not out of the “really neat idea” phase, let alone the design phase, there are no propellants or engines in existence that can maintain constant acceleration, over a scale of years, larger than a very small fraction of a meter per second squared. My own ability to propel myself through space is no exception. At “full burn”, I can maintain constant acceleration for approximately sixty-six hundred seconds at a time before I’m “all out of juice”, so to speak; if I take it easy and go at half-strength or less, the span of time over which I can maintain constant acceleration increases in inverse proportion. ,, Usually I just go full-burn until I’m all worn out, though, because something I’ve gotten even better at than generating thrust or listening for radio signals is regenerating my power levels (or battery charge or whatever it is that keeps us novas going). It generally takes me less than fifteen thousand seconds to regenerate fully, so I can typically manage slightly more than four full-burn sessions per twenty-four hour period. The actual percentage works out to pretty nearly 30% of every day that I can spend at full-burn, which in turn works out to roughly 30% of each week or month or year. And 30% of 17.6667 m/s2 is 5.3001 m/s2, which in turn is my maximum average acceleration. ,, I’m sure it’s readily apparent to anyone, but this is exactly twice the acceleration I quoted above as being my overall average, which brings me to the second reason for the discrepancy between that number and my actual acceleration. I know I’ve covered this before, but it’s worth going over again: in space, once an object is in motion it will remain that way until acted upon by an outside force. What this means in practical terms for me is that, unless I want to crash into another moon while traveling at several kilometers a second (or actually, a whole hell of a lot faster than that, given how long I would’ve been accelerating by this point), I have to start DE-celerating at about the halfway point of my journey. In essence, I must spend the first half of my journey building up speed and the second half shedding it all. The net result, from a mathematical perspective, is that my effective average acceleration over the entirety of my journey can be no faster than one-half of my maximum average acceleration. And one-half of 5.3001 m/s2 is 2.651 m/s2. ,, And there you go: basic astrodynamics. Bet you feel smarter already. ,, Something that really confuses me for a kind a long while is that my trip seems to be taking even less time than it should, even if I account for the steady increase in my average acceleration. The difference isn’t huge – especially not at first – but the discrepancy gets worse over time until I just can’t ignore it. After a while, though, I figure it out: time dilation. ,, By the time I reach the midpoint of my journey and have to turn it around and start shedding speed I’m travelling at fully seventy-six thousand, nine hundred and eighty-seven kilometers per second (that’s just shy of seventy-seven kilometers for every one-thousandth of a second, for those keeping score). A different way to say it is that I’m moving at exactly 25.68% of the speed of light. Of course, my average speed over the entire trip works out to only 12.84% of light speed, but that’s still really fast. Fast enough, in fact, for relativistic time dilation to begin to matter. ,, Overall, the net effect of the relativistic time dilation between my own frame of reference and any stationary observer is about 0.008 seconds per second. That probably doesn’t seem like much, but it starts to add up after fifty-eight million seconds. As a result, to me the entire trip winds up seeming as though it’s taken 5.762 x 107 seconds, rather than the 5.8102 x 107 seconds that it seems like it should have (and that it did take, from the frame of reference of any hypothetical earth-bound observer who might’ve been watching me during my travels). Again, the difference isn’t large, but it’s still strange to think that I’ve effectively moved more than five whole days into the rest of the human race’s future.
  4. They say that in space, no one can hear you scream. ,, But that isn’t how it works, because in space? You can’t scream. ,, I mean, sure, you can explosively expel any air you happen to be carrying around in your lungs into the deep, cold vacuum all around you – assuming, that is, that your lungs haven’t already ruptured due to the pressure difference – but you aren’t going to be making any sound when you do. And once you expel all your air and fail utterly in your attempt at screaming, you can’t even take another breath and try again. Because, you know, it’s space. There’s nothing to breathe out here. ,, I can say this from first-hand experience, because trust me: when your eruption as a nova includes a giant ball of fire falling out of the sky and dropping onto your head, only to find yourself suddenly and mysteriously dropped into orbit around a previously uncharted “cold Jupiter”, spinning through the darkness a full quarter of a light year out from the sun (instead of, say, dead from sudden-meteor overdose, for example) – well, let’s just say that screaming seems like the most appropriate response when it happens, and leave it at that. ,, They say the Refugees came from another dimension, right? And that there are potentially an infinite number of other dimensions out there besides theirs and our own, too. Knowing that, I can’t help but wonder at the highly improbable – hell, the astronomically improbable – sequence of events that led to that meteor even entering the earth’s atmosphere in the first place, let alone to it landing right where I’m standing at the time it hits me. (Which, if you’re curious, is on a small fishing boat off the coast of Mexico, thanks for asking.) I can’t help but wonder how many other universes there are out there where I get to finish my vacation in Cabo – and if those other universes don’t outnumber this one by somewhere around “infinity-to-one” – or what the odds are that I’d be the version of me that’s living in this universe instead of in one of those others. And right about here is where the whole multiverse thing starts hurting my brain, causing me to find something else to think about…. ,, I find out much later that the meteor that sparked my eruption was the source of a major mystery in the days following my own then-presumed death. Afterwards, the scientific community apparently convinced itself, along with the rest of the world, that the meteor (which estimates say was travelling at several dozen times the speed of sound when it hit our atmosphere) exploded in an air-burst when it was only a few hundred meters over the waters of the Bahia San Lucas. Which is why they call it a ‘meteor’ instead of a ‘meteorite’ – it never actually hit the ground. The only thing the scientists can’t explain is why the air burst explosion of a meteor estimated to weigh more than 12,000 metric tons didn’t wipe Cabo San Lucas off the map, because all it did do was break windows for miles around and make a really big noise. Only four people were declared dead in the aftermath (myself among them), though a lot of people were injured by all the flying glass. ‘Where did all that mass and energy go?’ you ask, but they have no answers. ,, Personally, I don’t think it went anywhere, I think it became – specifically, I think all that mass and energy became me, but even now I couldn’t tell you what really happened that day. I can only tell you what I remember, which is this: ,, There’s a sudden flash, like a second sun just popped into the sky or something, and I look up only to be blinded by a light that’s actually brighter than the sun; I’m feeling my eardrums burst under the relentless pressure of a noise that seems like it’s bigger than the whole world, along with the sensation of my skin being baked off by the heat flash the light brings with it – and then, silence. ,, And also coldness. But not just silence as in the absence of sound or coldness as in the Long Night of the Arctic Circle; this silence and this cold do not represent the lack of their opposites – sound and warmth – but the utter impossibility of the existence of those things. Think about it: when you hear a sound, that’s the molecules in the air around you vibrating, and when you get cold it’s because the air around you is cold and it’s sucking away your warmth; in a vacuum, sound and temperature can’t exist. You think you know what real silence is or what true cold feels like? No. You really don’t. ,, Anyway, it’s hard to describe. ,, Whatever the cause, I suddenly find myself floating helplessly in blackness and struggling with a crippling case of vertigo as I stare thousands upon thousands of kilometers straight down at something so large my mind is having trouble comprehending it. It’s a planet, a gas giant, and it’s literally bigger than I have a frame of reference for; it’s forcing a new frame of reference on me even as I stare at it. Distantly, it occurs to me that until just this moment I’ve never really understood what words like ‘huge’ or ‘enormous’ really meant. Later on, when I realize I have an intuitive sense of dimension and distance, among other things, I measure this planet’s equatorial radius as 76,324.607785km – bigger than Jupiter, though not by much. ,, I don’t really have time to think about all this at the time, though, as I realize that I haven’t arrived here alone. The boat I was standing on when the meteor detonated is here with me, along with what looks like a significant portion of the water the boat was floating on. And so are the three friends who were on the boat with me. ,, Tom Kerry, Fred McHenry and Sam Harris. Those were their names. Watching deep space kill people is a terrible thing. ,,
  5. Xiao Lok stood up from where he’d been kneeling, the ruined corpse he’d been examining still sprawled on the ground at his feet, and turned his gaze out towards the township of Chengxiang where it lay spread out in the valley far below him and several kilometers away. His partner Gu Bolin glanced up briefly as he rose but then turned his attention back to the desiccated corpse where it sprawled on the ground at their feet. Xiao had no idea what his partner thought he was going to find there, but figured he’d leave the older man to it; he much preferred the view he was seeing now. Though getting here had been enough of a workout to make him glad – yet again – for his status as a nova. Xiao Lok was one of SASA’s newest agents. He was a nova, even if he was what the Westerners called a ‘blip’, a low-powered nova only moderately more capable than a ‘baseline’ human. Sometimes being a member of SASA thrilled him and sometimes it galled him. Before his eruption he’d worked as a member of Chongqing’s police force and had worked many a long, hard hour to earn his way up the promotion ladder, achieving Detective status at a much younger age than was the norm. Then he’d erupted and had been immediately transferred into SASA, where he’d had to undergo rigorous training of the kind that made his days back at the police academy look like a vacation. Working for SASA was far more prestigious a career than working for some local police force – even the Chongqing local police force – but he’d still gone from being one of the fastest rising stars in the municipality to being just another greenhorn in a much larger organization. Gu Bolin was his first partner in the State Administration of Super-human Affairs, and this was only their third case working together – and if events so far were any indication it was shaping up to be an unpleasant one. Granted, SASA agents didn’t generally work cases that were dull or mundane, but Xiao hadn’t yet worked any that had been quite so inconvenient to investigate yet, either. Gu had assured him this was nothing and he just needed to give the job a little more time. Xiao wasn’t sure he believed that, but knew the case was even less pleasant for his partner – one of SASA’s baseline agents – than it had been for him, so he held his tongue. For starters, the victim – one Dengfeng Sun, a Buddhist priest – had died (cause of death and motive, if any, still undetermined) at a small temple just outside of the town of Chengxiang of Wuxi county, in the far northeastern corner of the Chongqing Municipality. For Xiao and Gu, based as they were out of the city of Chongqing proper, this had meant several hours’ drive along the Hurong Expressway, followed by a few more hours’ drive on the 102 Sheng Dao up into, and then back down out of, the mountains that Chengxiang and the upper tributary of the Yangtze river it sat next to were nestled in between. Then had come even more driving as they’d gone right on through the town of Chengxiang itself, crossed the river, and ventured out into the tiny townships of the surrounding area. An hour of this had finally brought them to the end of Provincial Road 102, after which point they’d actually had to hike on foot up what had to have been at least several thousand steps (at least!) before finally reaching their destination: Yuntai Temple, perched, at more than 1200 meters above sea level, atop Yuntai Shan. The view was spectacular. Needless to say though, this had totaled out to quite the trek. For Xiao it had mostly just been tedious and, at times, annoying (though the views, as they’d ventured further up into the mountains, really had been quite lovely), but for Gu Bolin, baseline (and older than Xiao by several years, too), it had been a veritable marathon. And, having finally arrived at the temple atop its mountain, they’d been confronted with a true mystery. Dengfeng Sun had been a Buddhist priest, of advanced age and some authority, from nearby Chengxiang. He’d been at the Yuntai temple to inspect progress on work being done there. “A temple” had been at Yuntai for more than 600 years, but the current temple, as well as the nearby bell tower and the large church building on the next hill over, were all recently built and were only the tip of the iceberg. The State-run Buddhist association had big plans for Yuntai, and once all of the plans for construction were completed the temple would be a sprawling complex draping itself over much of the mountain’s northern face and covering more than 3,300 acres. But for now it was just a small temple, a bell tower, and a (admittedly large) church building, all sitting at the very top of the mountain overlooking the river and the nearby townships thousands of feet below. According to what Xiao and Gu had been told so far, the priest, Dengfeng, had come up to the temple to inspect some recent additions, had done so, and had then exited the temple building itself, gotten about 10 meters, and had then died. In a most… unusual fashion. What, precisely, ‘unusual’ was supposed to mean in this context was not something that had been made immediately clear to the SASA agents, but they’d certainly understood what it meant once they’d arrived on the scene. Dengfeng’s corpse was emaciated – almost mummified. In fact, if it weren’t for the eyewitnesses who could verify the man’s death, Xiao and Gu would not likely have believed the body on the ground in front of them had been alive anytime in recent history. But then, that was why SASA had sent them to investigate; it wasn’t everyday that they received eyewitness reports of a man dying from on-the-spot, real time mummification while others watched in horror. Xiao Lok turned from admiring the river valley below them and looked towards the small gathering of Buddhist priests gathered nearby. “What did you say he was doing just before he died?”, asked Xiao, emphasizing the ‘just before’ part of his question and looking to the young priest who’d been acting as their chief guide so far. “Inspecting the alters inside of the temple”, was the young man’s simple reply. They’d gone over this with him before, but something about the chain of events was bothering Xiao. According to the facts they’d been given, Dengfeng had performed a perfectly routine, if very thorough, examination of the interior of Yuntai temple and, having finished with this, walked outside where he’d promptly begun screaming in apparent agony and had literally shriveled up and died while the horrified Yuntai priests attending him had watched. Bearing in mind that nothing in the case made much sense yet, these facts weren’t adding up for either of the SASA agents. Something was missing. Just then Gu looked up from where he was, still crouched next to Dengfeng’s desiccated body, and said, “Xiao, take a look at this.” Xiao Lok crouched down next to his partner and allowed the older man to point out what he’d found. “Look here and here”, Gu said quietly, pointing with a pen to some easy-to-overlook abrasions on the old priest’s clawed and shriveled fingers as well as to some kind of sediment or powder dusting the robes just underneath those hands. “It looks like he was holding something, doesn’t it?” Xiao took a moment to examine Dengfeng’s fingers and robes, then looked up to meet Gu’s expectant gaze and nodded silently in agreement. He gave the man a single pat on the shoulder and stood up again, turning back to the gathered priests. Xiao took a few steps until he was standing next to their young, priestly guide and asked, in a quiet tone of confidentiality, “Was the priest carrying anything when he left the temple? His hands look as though something’s been torn from their grasp.” While Xiao had pitched his voice in a quiet and seemingly confidential tone, he’d still – intentionally – spoken just loud enough for the other priests gathered nearby to hear. He’d observed them from the corner of his eye as he’d done so and, as he hoped, his question had gotten a reaction. A few of the priests were now nudging and whispering to each other, eyes bouncing surreptitiously between Dengfeng’s corpse, the two SASA inspectors, and the temple building behind them. “Care to share with the rest of us?”, Xiao asked them. This time his voiced was edged and hard, and made it clear that it would be in their best interest not to dissemble. Gu Bolin had finally stood up by this time and was now bearing down on the enclave of whispering monks with a glower that was something of a trademark of his firmly affixed to his face. In exchange for their services and loyalty to the Party and the State, SASA agents were given broad authority with relatively little oversight and they had already developed a reputation amongst China’s population for having a rather imperious and haughty attitude. Xiao Lok was hardly an exception, but Gu Bolin could really take it to another level when he wanted to. “Out with it monk!”, snapped the older SASA agent, having apparently chosen one of the two priests in the middle of the whispering group to bear the brunt of his indignation. “What aren’t you telling us? Or is it you we should be investigating here?” “No sir!”, the young man exclaimed and somehow managed to point at the corpse and wave both hands simultaneously. “I swear to you, I had nothing to do with this!” Gu Bolin covered the remaining distance between himself and the unfortunate target of his ire and, his glower still marring his already less-than-appealing features, jabbed a pointing finger into the poor trembling monk’s chest to emphasize his words. “You, and your companions – No! Your co-conspirators! – are hiding something!”, the SASA agent shouted. Personally, Xiao thought his partner was overdoing it, but he’d learned a long time ago that while liberal Capitalists in the West might not approve of such ‘bullying’ the truth was that it got people talking. “Just tell us what you know”, Xiao demanded, backing his partner’s play (though his own tone was noticeably less imperious). “We only want to determine what caused this poor man’s death. Once we’ve solved that mystery our superiors can ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again. Helping us helps the State.” “Yes”, Gu continued, catching his partner’s cue and running with it, “and if you lie to us you work against the State. Keep it up and I can personally guarantee that you’ll lose all of your funding for your precious temple!” As previously mentioned, Yuntai temple was to be the center of a massive rebuilding effort by the State-run Buddhist association with a final estimated cost in the millions of Yuan. Work on it all had barely begun, and to have all of that funding cut would leave the priests living and ministering here with little or nothing except a mark of shame for such a monumental failure that would haunt the rest of their priestly careers. The frightened young priest that Gu Bolin had singled out was still just staring wide-eyed at his tormentor, but one of his associates was a bit quicker to take initiative. “The Hēi Long!”, he exclaimed, “Dengfeng Sun was trying to remove its effigy from the shrine inside of the temple!” “What?”, asked Gu, his tirade cut short by this unexpected revelation. “The effigy of the Black Dragon”, declared another of the monks, “Dengfeng declared it unsuitable for a place at our shrine, saying that it hadn’t been cleared or approved by our head office in Chengxiang. We told him that couldn’t be, that the effigy’s inclusion at the shrine was one of the conditions given by our largest contributor of funds for the temple’s construction, but the elder brother wouldn’t listen and insisted on removing the Black Dragon’s effigy at once. He was carrying it when he… died.” Xiao Lok thought the monk sounded as though he’d been about to say something different and had thought better of it at the last moment, but before he could ask him about it his partner interjected loudly. “He was carrying a statue when he died? In his arms?”, Gu demaned. A few of the priests nodded in the affirmative. “Then why did you remove it?! You’ve tampered with the scene of the crime! With evidence! Explain yourselves at once!” The young monk that Gu had initially targeted for his tirade appeared to have gotten his wits back again, and this time it was he who answered first. “Pardon us, sir, but we couldn’t simply leave it there!” “Of course you could!”, Gu countered angrily, “It’s easy, you just don’t pick it up! There, simple! Problem solved!” At this the gathered monks began shifting anxiously and exchanging sidelong glances of discomfort with each other. The young monk who’d answered Gu did so again, “Oh no, sir! To do so would be absolutely unacceptable.” “What nonsense are you speaking?”, Gu lamented, “It would have been the opposite of unacceptable. In fact, I’d have commended you for it, if you had. Right, Xiao?” Before Xiao could comment, the monk corrected Gu. “My pardon sir, but I did not mean you. I meant it would have been unacceptable to the Black Dragon!” The other monks were nodding at this, and it was Xiao’s turn to ask, “What?” “Isn’t it obvious, sir?”, the monk asked him, “Our venerable brother, Dengfeng Sun, was struck down by the Black Dragon for his disrespect towards its effigy and for attempting to remove it from its rightful place at the shrine.” Xiao and his partner were both stopped up short by this remark and they exchanged a long look with each other while each tried to determine where to go from here. The Chinese Communist Party had had to pull its fellow countrymen out of the mire of superstition and religious dogma by its collective bootstraps, but even so it was not terribly uncommon to hear superstitious comments in this country. Xiao’s own mother had been fond of visiting a local fortune teller to have questions of finance and home troubles answered for her. But to hear someone – even a Buddhist priest whose religious beliefs were, presumably, much stronger than those of most of his countrymen – make a claim that was as flatly outrageous as the one that some minor god had struck a man down dead in broad daylight simply because he’d dared to move that petty god’s statue was – well, it was outrageous. “Where is the effigy now?”, asked Gu Bolin, “Back in place at the shrine, I take it?” One of the priests nodded silently. “Show us”, said Xiao. As a group the monks all turned and began walking back towards the temple building, which was not far away to begin with. As they walked Xiao fell into step next to the monk who’d suffered the brunt of his partner Gu’s wrath and who had revealed to them why it had been deemed necessary for the dragon-god’s effigy to be moved. Xiao asked him, “What did your fellow priest mean when he said that the effigy’s inclusion at your temple’s shrine was a condition of the funding you’ve received?” “Well not all of it”, answered the young man, seeming to have recovered already from his fear and now speaking in a mild tone and with a slight smile on his lips. “But the source of most of our temple’s funding was very specific in her desire that the Black Dragon have a place here at Yuntai.” Xiao nodded a little impatiently at this unnecessary clarification and asked, “And who was the source of this funding, exactly?” The monk’s eyebrows rose at the question and he seemed to hesitate momentarily, and so it was that they were passing through the temple’s doorway and the shrine and effigy in question were just coming into view as he began to answer. “It is Madam Wu herself who has provided the bulk of the funding for the building project here”, he finally answered, finishing just as the group came to a stop before the shrine. Xiao Lok stared at him. Madam Wu, he thought, well this adds a whole new dynamic to the investigation. Madam Wu, real name Wu Zhilan, frequently referred to by those who knew of her as Empress Wu, was the most powerful woman – indeed, the most powerful individual of either gender – in Chongqing’s municipality. In fact she was rapidly becoming one of the most powerful individuals in all of China, and it was rumored that one could feel her influence all the way to Beijing itself. Her husband, Wei Keung, had been the party chief of Chongqing’s municipality until his untimely demise (that some said was caused by Madam Wu herself). Wu Zhilan’s nickname, the Empress Wu, was a reference to China’s first (and, so far, only) female Emperor, Wu Zetian. It was also a reasonably accurate indication of just how powerful the woman really was, too. “The Empress” was known to have strong ties with the Communist Party’s liberal wing and had been kicking up some controversy lately because of her support for many religious activities, shrines, and temples. (This was to say, rather, that she had been kicking up more controversy than normal, as the simple fact of her being a woman who wielded great amounts of power within the traditionally male-dominated Communist Party made her the center of an ongoing controversy as it was.) Personally, Xiao admired the woman for her savvy in providing such support. The truth was that religion and superstition – in a variety of forms – was making a comeback in China. In some of the more backwater portions of the country it was more accurate to say that the Party was in retreat in the face of this religious resurgence. Madam Wu was very effectively forestalling any such occurrence in Chongqing by doing what most of the Party was too afraid to do, except in the most half-hearted of ways, and her own power and policies were now inextricably intertwined with religious and superstitious belief in the municipality. And that was all well and good, but now Xiao Lok found himself caught in the middle of what had suddenly become a very delicate situation. They would need to examine this “Black Dragon’s” effigy, and to run some tests on it as well in order to properly conduct their investigation, but doing so would make it difficult for the priests here and could potentially be seen by the Empress as a challenge to her power. And speaking of that; if rumors started to spread that a man had been struck dead on the spot simply for removing one of the Empress’s favored deities from a shrine of her choosing, the entire situation could quickly get out of hand. Gu Bolin had not heard the conversation between his partner and the monk, and so he remained completely ignorant of the Black Dragon’s exalted status as one of Madam Wu’s favored little gods. He stopped before the temple’s shrine and, his frown still very firmly fixed in place, demanded loudly to know which of the effigies before him was the Black Dragon. One of the monks pointed and Gu found himself regarding the statue of man seated, and dressed, in a manner fairly typical for such “honored ancestor”-style statues. As was typically the case for Chinese dragon deities, the “Black Dragon” was here represented as a human being, dressed in appropriately regal robes and with appropriately sage-like facial hair. All in all the Black Dragon didn’t look that impressive to Gu Bolin. “This is it?”, he demanded to know, looking from priest to priest with an expression of incredulity. “I’ve seen more impressive effigies at the family shrine in my father’s home!” The gathered monks chose, wisely, not to respond to this taunt. “Well you wasted your time”, Gu declared, turning his frowning countenance back to the Dragon’s statue. Leaning forward, Gu poked at the statue with the same pen he’d used to examine Dengfeng’s corpse, eliciting small gasps of dismay and disapproval from a few of the watching Buddhist priests. The SASA agent threw them a withering glance at this but he nonetheless pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and, using that, shifted the statue this and way and that as he gave it a thorough looking over. This seemed to appall the gathered priests just the tiniest bit less than poking it with a pen had. When Gu examined its base he immediately saw more of what appeared to be the same powder that had he’d noticed on Dengfeng Sun’s robes outside; though it appeared to be just some powdered clay worn lose from the statue’s bottom, the power and the statue would still need to be analyzed properly. Gu looked back to the monks and finished his sentence from a moment before, “we’re just going to have to move it again”, he said, “and hope your meddling hasn’t hopelessly contaminated any evidence we might have pulled off of it otherwise.” “You mustn’t do that”, said the priest who Xiao Lok had been speaking with as they’d entered the temple. “That effigy was placed there and blessed by the holy woman Plum Flower Sika herself.” “Even if I knew who that was”, pronounced Gu Bolin, adding quickly, “and I don’t – it still wouldn’t make a difference. I promise you that your statue will be returned to you as soon as our people are done analyzing it.” “Please”, entreated the young monk, “you cannot do this. The Black Dragon’s presence here brings our temple great good fortune, and if you remove it you can only bring calamity on yourself.” “Are you threatening me?”, demanded Xiao’s partner. To this the young priest could only shake his head in the negative and, bowing at the waste, say that he begged the inspector’s forgiveness for his rudeness. Gu was looking appropriately huffy about all of this, but was somewhat distracted now, as he had his cell phone in his hand and was regarding its display with a look of disapproval. “Reception up here is lousy”, he muttered. Turning his attention back to the priest before him he said, “You and I aren’t done yet. I’m going to step outside and, assuming I can get any reception on top of this mountain, I’m going to find out what’s taking our forensics group so long to get out here. Once they get here we will tear this place apart and you’ll wish it were just a ‘divine’ calamity you were dealing with. Then we’ll see how uncooperative you all are.” Gu Bolin threw one more disparaging look at the Buddhist priests before him and then he turned and walked out of the temple. Xiao Lok watched him go while debating within himself. He knew that his partner might not be so eager to mistreat the priests or their idols if he knew that it was Wu Zhilan herself who’d installed them all here, but he also knew that Gu was right about needing to go over everything forensically, and that that would mean moving the Black Dragon’s effigy – and probably carting it off to a lab somewhere for at least a few weeks, too. This was one apple cart that was going to be disturbed no matter what, and if Gu wanted to be the one doing the disturbing then so much the better. A part of Xiao wanted to tell his partner what was at stake here on Yuntai mountain, but the other (larger) part of him saw an opportunity to navigate a tricky situation with his career still intact and, frankly, he was inclined to take advantage of that opportunity now that he’d seen it. These thoughts were still passing through Xiao’s head when the screaming started.
  6. It was the last day of summer. Sasha was enjoying the last days of warmth in her Bohemian home. She had a few friends over and it was somewhat a subued affair. Music, drinks, dancing, socializing, watching the summer sun go down for the last time this year. It was quite beautiful. After this she would have to go back to the States and be assigned to some droll mission by the DSA. While she didn't hate her work, she was coasting through these nova recruits. If it wasn't for her insatiable vice for traveling, she'd have tired out in the first few months. That and the DSA's handling of her personal life. She had seen Connor since their 'breakup', but it was formal business work.They both looked for something more than that. Sasha was a worldly type, but she couldn't help be frustrated that her mentor and friend was off limits to her. Though these were things she tried to keep her mind off of. Later that night, after the festivities were over and everyone was gonee - a couple of cute normals she decided to keep for a while, but they were fast asleep - she slipped outside to starwatch. The warm breeze would be something she would miss. She looked out to the quietwater beach. It was peaceful and serene. That serenity was broken when her phone buzzed. "It's three in the morning," she mumbled at the still buzzing phone. Normally she would go on about her business, but it seemed this call WAS her business. Horst, head director of the DSA. She tapped the OK to open up the call. "Hello, darling," she said opening with an upbeat greeting, "How are you on this fine autumn morning?" Of course Horst was understanding of the pleasantries, but he had no time to chat. He quite bluntly told her that she was going to be DSA ambassador to Department Zero. That stung Sasha. Last time she was in Japan She almost made a fool of herself in front of their head agents and gained the emnity of some Russians. Fortunately the DSA knew neither of those tidbits. The DSA got a glowing report of her impromptu visit to Japan. They gave her a couple of weeks to get ready, as she would be living in Japan for a while. The amount of time she would be there would depend on how well it went. That gave her time to crash course on the Japanese language. She also did Russian, just in case she ran into any angry mob bosses. The plane ride was first class. Six planes later - Miami to Atlanta, Atlanta to Dallas, Dallas to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Honolulu, Honolulu to Tokyo - she was in Tokyo. Department Zero met her with a limo ride. It was quite fun talking to the driver, an older man who didn't know Spanish or English for the matter, so Sasha had the chance to brush up on her learned language. While she was expecting to go straight to work, the limo actually made its way to a nice apartment building. They had set her up with a penthouse overlooking the bay. While Sasha was accustom to these things, she wasn't sure Department Zero or DSA would go this all out for a liaison. There was a note and gift basket on the bed. She took the note first to read it. "Please make youself comfortable. This is all yours for the time you are here. Your luggage will be delivered shortly. The apartment is yours as long as you are in Tokyo. Enjoy your stay. PS There will be a report meeting with Department Zero this evening. We will send transportation." The gift basket was full of tourist type attraction things. Then again, being a seasoned traveler, she could spot these comps a mile away. Still that massage did look comfortable. The next few hours was preperation. Sasha Tetris'd everything into the penthouse with feng shui accuracy. After that, she took a nice long hot bath. After being on the plane for nearly a day she thought she could use some relaxation. Finally after fliping through some sightseeing planners, she got ready for the meeting. A black strapless evening dress that seemed to accentuate everything perfectly. A little make up, some heels and a ruffle through her hair and she was ready. Now all she had to do was wait for the call of her ride.
  7. Having spent a year on the run from the Russian mafia can make one very very "alert" to the point of staring at every shadow one sees. ,, Ivan has gotten to that place. To the place where he checks under the bed for assassins, and in every closet in the rooms he rents. He's never found one, but somewhere in the back of his brain is the nagging sensation that the one time he doesn't check is the time he's going to be found and murdered. Such is the way of life for one who defied the mafia. His face bears a road-map of scars, long ragged scars that remind him every time he looks in a mirrored surface that he can never be the man he was before. ,, That man died as the wounds were being opened, as he was being devoured alive and frozen alive at the same time. Only in Russia would they make sure two lethal methods of death were utilized simultaneously and so callously. Russia. The thought of the spiraling towers in Moscow brings a slow, sad smile to his face. He never got to see them in person, mind you, but the pictures always made the people in them look so happy to be at the Kremlin. It was a joyous occasion. One he will never experience. And the smile fades, the intensity in his eyes fade alongside it, as if the realization he won't ever find that joy is a weight he carries day in and day out. ,, Who cares that he was reborn something more than before. Happiness, it seems is the one thing he cannot steal. Sitting on the bed, the Russian grips the blanket beneath him with a hand unconsciously, squeezing it until his knuckles pop softly from the strain. At the noise he lets go and flexes and unflexes his digits, loosening his hand up once more. This motel room is like all the others before it. Dingy, smelling of mold and moisture, stained sheets, a lock on the door that couldn't stop a 10 year old child from breaking in...and yet there is a sad familiarity to it. A relief that there is some sense of stability, some sense of consistency in his life. ,, A long ragged sigh escapes Ivan's lips and he curses softly in his mother-tongue. Lifting himself from the bed he goes to slide the window-shade to the side, peeking into the world beyond without even thinking. He's conditioned himself to be like this. It doesn't require thought anymore. His dirty and ripped jeans allow him to blend in with most of the rabble around, faded Army surplus jacket from Wars long ago on his shoulders, surrounding him in its embrace. A subtle reminder of the war he is part of daily. A war of existence. He glances down to the aged combat boots that adorn his feet. The only thing he brought with him from Vladivostok; they were his father's, or so he believes. ,, He goes back to sit on the bed, then stops. How long has it been since he's eaten? He can't remember. Instead of settling in for the night, he digs his hands into his jean-pockets and pulls out some faded and beaten currency. Do they even use this here? A shake of the head and the scarred Russian pulls the motel door open, stepping out into the night beyond, heading for a small Chinese restaurant nearby. Dinner, it seems, will be quick and greasy.
  8. July 25th 2013 12pm Eastern Standard Time Langely DSA Headquarters ,, Rebecca decided to sleep in. By the time she woke up, it was very much lunch time on the DSA campus where she lived. The NextGen initiative has been gutted, but the young nova and her compatriots were still DSA agents... sort of. Rebecca, being the hyper competent, easily bored type went over to her computer first and started managing her Facebook and Twitter accounts. ,, Rebecca had a deep-seated melancholy lately. She was planning to pop over to the moon, but suddenly lost the interest when Naomi Minami-Hideyoshi passed... someone she had idolized. It just seemed now life seemed a bit less colorful, and to her the later vetoing of her request to start gearing up for her moon trip later only seemed to further increase her boredom towards her daily drudgery. ,, That, and on top of that was the Mexico City disaster. The Adults were still stirred up about it, but there wasn't any tell why. ,, She walked around the kid's section of the campus, eventually staring at a vending machine, seeing herself standing there wearing a pair of grey overalls she wore as pajamas, her slightly purple hair a complete disaster. ,, She cracked up laughing seeing herself, and a few people walked past wondering just what was up with their young Nova under their roof lately. ,, Scratching her head, she started considering choices from the rotating food vendor that had microwavable junky-type food.
  9. 6 March, 3:02am Tokyo Time Tokyo, Japan Hideyoshi Estate Naomi was rummaging around in the Kitchen. Her 5 little kitens within her driving her late-night feeding spree. Pickles and Ice Cream she thought was some sort of stereotype, but damn her tail she wanted it badly. As she chewed on a pickle she turns on the television. On a NHK news channel, she sees what would make her night much more interesting. "Son of a..." The scene was a familiar one. One of a city destroyed... someone lived there... worked there... children played and lovers kissed. Now... all that is there is pain and the end of life. Something she was keenly, keenly familiar with. She adjusted her maternity gown and listened to the news intently. She had a very bad feeling about this, and things were just going to get more complicated. Kamiko had left not only the family residence, but Japan entirely, her whereabouts were once again unknown, perhaps she would find herself someday. She knew Naoko was in the house somewhere. Ryu... Ryu... Department Zero might call him! "Ryu! If you're awake you'd better get in here! IF not get your tiger-striped butt awake!" She shouted. Turning up the volume in interest. She decides to switch channels from time to time between CNN, the BBC, and NHK. Trying to appraise the situation. She massaged her chin. Knowing even she might get called in. This would be a good test of Department Zero's telepresence network system. Naomi mewed, waiting to see Ryu enter the living room. She's since forgotten she took out a pint of ice cream and the pickles, which are sitting on the table in front of her. Her sensitive nose still smelling the odd combination of smells of strawberry and dill. Her face wrinkled a little, but now she felt she shouldn't be eating at a time like this. Didn't seem proper.
  10. Note Once I open the thread, others can join in at their discretion. July 1, 2013 1:30 am Japan Standard Time Tokyo University Hospital, Nova Medicine Ward ,, It was a rough delivery. Naomi had been struggling for four days without rest. Each child from her was a war against herself. A body is not designed to carry so many for a full term, and it took more and more for her to deliver each child. Then after her last child came out and the umbilical was cut, she dormed, her quantum energy utterly spent. The sound of blood and afterbirth hitting the floor sent the doctors into a scurry as Naomi let out a horrifying scream. For a few moments, they thought they could save her. But a quick scan with a portable MRI told the story... her internal bleeding was not healing, her organs had minor ruptures from the sudden change back to human. She only had minutes left... only moments. ,, A nurse came to Ryu who had heard the scream. ,, "Mister Hideyoshi, you need to see your wife... I'm... sorry... but you only have a few minutes now... maybe less."
  11. Timeframe The Events of this story take place one week after Underdark Disclaimer Due to events that will play out, it is a reminder to all that this is a work of fiction. Any similarities to RL are either coincidental or used as "dressing" for this thread. The Macguffins are entirely possible. As such I need to remind everyone that NO, I don't know how such a thing could be put into action and even if it did, I don't have the resources to pull it off anyways nor have the reason to if I did. This is a game that uses much of RL in it's timeline. A game where we play the guys that stop the bad guys (hopefully). Now that this is out of the way, let's have some fun. -TG Morning 0800 Hours 60 NM from Pearl Harbor Kei walked about the flight deck of the USS George Washington, observing the waves and watching the Naval Aircraft that were being set up for take-off after refueling. Most of them Naval aircraft still on deck that needed to be transferred to some other ship, and a couple were emergency landings due to failed mid-air refueling. She stayed on deck wearing her flight suit that has become one-part costume, and one part safety equipment, with her cormorant vest on, making her look like another pilot, but with the design of the Devilion, it looked like she should be flying something that Connor would be acting in. She adjusted the vest, and looked up. She was expecting Karrie to arrive soon with the F-35N that was requisitioned for her use on this. She also wasn't used to not having May, her operator, present for the mission, as she was away in Japan working with her counterparts on later joint-exchange programs. That and May was doing leg-work on this mission on the ground, since the subject of the coming briefing was in regards to a Japanese cargo ship being Hijacked and Pirated from. She paced near the island, waiting for Karrie's arrival. The odd mix of blue jump-suited DSA crews prepping for KArrie's arrival intermixed with Navy crews in their gear was a jarring sight. But, Kei wagered that this would be the only way she would have ever been able to experience Navy life on a carrier or have a chance to be an aviator in the Navy. After all someone as short as her would be disqualified from most duties, or perhaps even be passed up for enlistment. She stretched out, and stepped back to watch a F-18 that was refueled take off on the catapult, the last aircraft to leave before the deck was cleared. Then it comes in over a loud speaker. "Attention Deck, F-35N #5 on approach, prepare for inbound VTOL..." Kei looked up and flew to the top of the island, and watched Karrie arrive. She had faith that she knew how to operate a high-performance aircraft for a Vertical Take-Off and Landing.
  12. The three months and change since the Mexico City quake had definitely been Active ones. Humanitarian Aid poured in like never before, and while much of the city was in ruins, and work was still being done, looking now for corpses, to give the survivors closure, still great strides had been made, and A temporary settlement had been raised to house the many who did survive. What few novas who could control weather patterns were quickly employed to do so, keeping storms at bay and providing temperatures that the many workers and military personnel could function in without great inconvenience. ,, Of Course, the DSA's novas received the lion's share of the good press, through the efforts of Telluris, Vixen, Connor, and everyone else, Things were kept running smoothely. It was Karrie however who made a more startling discovery. Studying the tectonics, and all the readings provided by Rob, as well as a testimony provided by Connor, There was mounting evidence that something might have caused this quake. The entire region was unstable yes, but the volcanoes had been lying dormant for a long time, and the crustal plates were moving far far less than others. The Factors simply didn't add up for such a quake to have occurred. Of course Horst immediately classified the information as top secret, at least until the smoking gun could be produced. In an Emergency meeting with the President and Chief's of Staff, he did lay out the preliminary reports, receiving authorization to pursue this with the full abilty of the DSA. ,, Due to Japan's own well developed studies of earthquakes, the Decision was made and authorized to enlist the aid of Department Zero, adding their expertise to the DSA's. It became something altogether different, when some similarities to the Tohoku quake of March 2011 were revealed. ,, The DSA maintained a strong presence on site, the rubble was being cleared away of the old city, and already plans were being made to rebuild, though for many the question was "Should we rebuild over the bones of the old city once again, or Relocate somewhere more tenable. At any rate it was a massive undertaking, and both local buisnesses and American ones were on-site, drawn by the promise of work, and the lure of money. Many survivors worked side by side with the relief teams, they knew the area better, and one could feel the palpable awe and gratitude when a nova was found at the center of a workparty, or descended from the sky to assist. ,, ,,
  13. The wind blew cold and hard outside the Kauffman Center for the Arts; Midwest winters were always unfriendly. The other members of the charity committee board were straggling out in twos and threes, but Kitty was well ahead of them, moving briskly toward her rented car. She was eager to get away before Connor caught up with her. ,, It had seemed a pleasant commitment last November; a charity for cancer, featuring a nova auction. It was still in the formation stages, which meant they had a long time before this duty would be over. Before Christmas, Kitty had looked forward to it. Now the long months of planning seemed to drag on interminably. ,, It was so hard to see him and know that they weren’t together. It was harder to look at him and feel disappointment. Kitty felt tears sting her eyes. She’d lost Harley, her best friend, and now it felt like she’d lost the friend she’d made since Harley’s death. Damnit, Connor, why? I thought we knew where we were… ,, Kitty lifted her chin and blinked back tears. No. No more crying over Connor. She was done with moping over a man. It was a new day for Kitty Price.
  14. March 5th, 2013 ,, Connor had had a good weekend. God knows he needed it. It had been nonstop since the new year, as he ran around the world on DSA errands and State Department PR ops. he had seen scarce little of any of his comrades at the office, considering his highly irregular hours. He'd had the first and second of March off, for the gand opening of the new podbay in Houston something he didn't want to miss. ,, It was back to work though afterwards, as he was now In Mexico City, a guest of the President, who was seeking to improve US-Mexican relations. He'd been a real reformer so far rooting out corruption and on the whole truly helping redeem the Mexican central government's reputation in the eyes of the world. Of course, he made some enemies in this, but for the most part, his economic reforms had helped the nation, and the people were behind him. ,, Mexico boasted only three publicly known novas, Ming, Mariposa Esposita, and Juan Carlos Camacho, The man working for the Department of Agriculture. It was his work that had helped bring in record crops this past year, the old Ranch owner and vaquero was blessed with a gifted mind, but simple dreams. He had been offered far more money by the US in the early days of the DSA, but had remained in Mexico, much as Mariposa had. "I can do the most good for my people here." ,, He was in the Northwest, working there, and Ming and Mariposa were at the next stop on this goodwill tour. The Centro Medico Dalinde Hospital was the place where the petite Mariposa worked tirelessly to help diagnose treat an heal the sick in Mexico City, and She met the President and Connor's Entourage at the door. She shook hands with President Lorenzo, who kissed her knuckles lightly. When she came to Connor she seemed torn, and he extended a hand to her, which she took and then embraced him fondly. "I hear the two of you are well acquainted." ,, Connor smiled. "We are old friends on excellent terms." Mariposa blushed abit and regained her composure. "Gentlemen, please, I have many who would like to meet you, and much I wish to show you." She led them through the hospital into the non secure areas and the President shook hands with those patients they passed. It had all been cleared, and many were more impressed to see him there than Connor, until they came to the children's ward. There were two dozen beds in the largest wardroom, and the curtains were drawn back, they'd been told to expect a special visitor, not two, and certainly not Connor. ,, The eyes of two dozen children lit up upon seeing their guests, and They were ablaze with excitement. Both President Lorenzo and Connor spent time with each of them, and towards the end of the visit Connor even put on a miniature show for the them between two miniature copies of himself. ,, They lef and were outside the ward room when Connor felt the first tremble. He moved fast, faster than anyone there, to Shield the President and Mariposa, and then the main force of the quake shook the city to its foundations. There was a thunderous roar as the earth shook, and a high pitch Ringing that cased him actual pain. He went metal out of reflex even as the building was beginning to crumble. The ground shook and pitched, and For a moment his mind almost blanked. The hospital was already falling around him, and soon he and everyone there would be buried in thousands of tons of debris. ,, Across the city this was replayed. The military base, the refineries, every major building, all succumbed to the force of the 8.9 earthquake as monitoring stations all across the southwest detected the massive quake. most homes suffered great damage if not destruction, and fires raged across the slums and shantytowns of the city.The police were overwhelmed communications were knocked out, and what Emergency Response services that were on the streets at the time were largely all that remained in the city. The Death Toll in that first minute was over a hundred thousand, and would climb much higher by the time things were done. ,, Beneath 80 tons of stone Connor lay braced on the ground, covering three of Lorenzo's guards, the President, and Mariposa. They had all been knocked out in the fall, and Connor woke them with his tail in his minature Black lion form. "Connor?" ,, "There was an Earthquake a bad one, The hospital is around us, in shambles. The whole city was hit. Mariposa, we have a huge problem on our hands." ,, President Lorenzo awoke with a start.."Connor?" ,, "Yes sir. " ,, "My people?" ,, "I only see the five of you..." There was no hiding his sadness. ,, "More than we have any right to have hoped for. I've never felt one like that." Connor Nodded. "This building was one of the newest, and it was flattened. Sir, I recomend you appeal for immediate international Aid. There are people dying out there, and we have to help them." ,, The passion with which Connor spoke would have brought a lesser man to tears, he had no idea what brought out this nova's earnest desire to help strangers in a country not his own, but he was thankful to God for it, and He would do exactly as he said. "Your government?" ,, "Would need a Direct appeal from you sir." ,, "Do you have a phone?" ,, "No, it was destroyed in the fall.." ,, One of the guards held his up. "Sattelite, For emergencies." ,, "Now, sir, I will be honest. When I break us out of here, We may very well cause casualties. I will be careful, but I wish to state this now." ,, President Lorenzo shook his head. "There is nothing to be done. If the damage was this bad, then I may be the only one able to make this call and make it stick." Even Mariposa could only Nod. "I can feel Ming. after you free us help me get to her, she'll help." ,, Connor Nodded, and soon metal began to flow off of him as he shifted forms again. The metal encased them looking almost spherical for a moment but soon became a hand. Then, Amidst the rubble and ruin of the Sprawling Capital, an utterly massive Gundam Strike Freedom in it's gleaming black white blue and golden glory, two hundred and thirteen feet tall towering above everything else that remained.It held up it's hand its fingers uncurling. There was not much smoke around them, only due to the wind blowing it east. "Call quickly from my platform." The call was made, and Connor gave the right number and code to signify it was from him. It went first to Director Horst, The situation was explained, and he then used his clout to pass it directly to the President. ,, "President Carlson, I respectfully request Emergency Aid for my people. Thousands lay dead, and assuredly your people detected the quake that has ravaged my capital and nearly destroyed it. Please send all that you can, to help stave off any further loss of life. I know these aren't the proper channels, but innocent lives are in grave danger, and pride an bueracracy matter very little balanced against that." ,, Connor motioned for the phone to be directed to him. "Mr. President this is assistant Director Fontenot, I request immediate preparations to mobilize what personnel we can from the DSA to come down here and help these people. I'm already standing astride a ruined hospital, every building over the size of a house is in rubble, sir, these people need us." ,, President David Carlson looked to his Cabinet and the Secretary of Defense nodded. "I can have a Regiment in the air in 3 hours." ,, The Secretary of State nodded. "It will take time to get the red cross involved, and send our own Medical teams in." ,, "President Lorenzo, I will issue an order for a regiment of troops and Army Engineers to aid you, they'll be there in roughly 12 hours. What medical personnel and supplies I can muster, as well as Fire fighting crews, I will send as well." ,, Lorenzo shook his head. Twelve hours was a miracle but far too long. "Thank you President Carlson, for your prompt reply. God bless you and the American People." ,, He closed the phone and looked crestfallen. ,, "twelve hours, there's no telling how many of us will be dead by then." ,, Connor looked at him. "Dial the first number again, ask for Director Horst, I may have a sollution.: ,, He did so. "I can't hurry them any more Connor, even with such a tragedy..." ,, "I can." ,, "What?" "Get together all our people, Make Sure Dr. Richardson is there above everyone else. She's going to be the key in this." ,, It had been thirty minutes now since the quake and the news was starting to get out Everyone wanted to know what was happening, and after Connor's first Call, the Director had already recalled all DSA nova operatives to meet in one of the auditoriums in the compound. "Alright Connor, we'll do it your way I'm having everyone in the auditorium in ten minutes I'll see you then." ,, Horst Hung up and the Mexican president looked up at him. "What are you playing at?" ,, "I will save as many as I can, even if it costs me my job." He began shrinking down setting them on the ground safely, as he took a more manageable 8m tall form without the large wings. "Now, Mariposa, lead me to Ming."..... ,, ,,
  15. With all due respect to Mala, I've noticed that suddenly Sanctum Sanctorum has become a discussion point among CN players. As the conversation in regards to Quantum 6 has been mixed up with discussion on Sanctum Sanctorum, I feel that it may be a good idea to discuss how to fix/improve Sanctum/Sanctum Sanctorum as a feature in Cosmos Nova. I know something got posted in the Q6 discussion, I would like to offer something as well. I will post it in the next post for ease of reference.
  16. Simply put, it's been nearly a year, the timeline we set before we'd consider allowing Quantum 6 in this game. I personally, am against allowing it, this game is fine at the level it currently resides, and I don't really see higher quantum adding much to it. Still, this ruled by consensus, so Your thoughts, fellow players.
  17. The path up the mountain stretched above her, but Kitty didn’t mind the coming climb. She’d done three like it already, traversing other peaks in the looming mountain range. The beautiful American drew the cowl of her hoodie a little lower over her forehead, concealing more of her features. Most of her traveling companions already had seen her, and those who didn’t know who she was had been told by the others. They were giving her privacy, trying to covertly take pictures of her rather than overtly like they had done on Mt. Fuji. Kitty was grateful for the privacy, even if it was false. The Jade Spring Temple was their starting point for the difficult climb, and Kitty and the twenty other climbers fell into step behind the tour guides. Another two natives brought up the rear, ready to assist those who lagged behind. At first, the tourists were talkative, chattering in Chinese with the companions, while Kitty walked in silence. When the climb began to take its toll, quiet descended on the whole group. The only sounds were the steps and pants of her companions and guides. Kitty lasted longer, but even she started to breathe hard after a while. If I had Connor’s stamina… The thought of her ex brought a small smile to her face, but it didn’t last long. This was not the place to think about Connor. This was Harley’s trip. Harley had planned it out before her death; after the movie, she wanted to see some of the Taoist monasteries in China. Her sister had been dabbling in Taoism a bit, nothing serious. But she’d said that the monasteries were worth visiting, regardless of one’s devotion or lack. So they’d decided to go after the shoot. It wasn’t until the travel notice had come from the travel agency that Kitty had remembered. She’d almost cancelled but the moment she’d considered it, she dropped the idea. Harley couldn’t go, but she’d wanted to, so Kitty went for both of them. There was a place at one of the monasteries, she recalled, where you could buy a golden padlock and fasten it to an iron chain. You could then pray for health and safety for family and friends. It sounded stupid, but Kitty admitted deep inside herself that those small gestures meant more to the ones making them than to the receiver. Harley would understand. It was still dark when they left the hotel; the guides assured them that they would reach the summit by dawn and be treated with the most beautiful vista of the rising sun. Kitty hoped so; the climb was killing her. Her legs were starting to hurt by the time they finished climbing the three hundred and seventy steps called Qianchi Zhuang. She might have turned back at that point, but they were almost there and so they all pushed onward. The cable car met them at the top, its passengers eyeing them with a mixture of pity and adminiration. Kitty didn’t care. Harley would have wanted to climb it, just as she would have wanted to see the sunrise. The riders and walkers met together to walk into the temple and cluster together at the spot to watch the rising sun. Kitty smiled sadly as the golden light slowly suffused the mountains around them, knowing that her sister would be boasting about being right. The climb totally was worth it. When the sun had risen and the show was over, the tourists proceeded to the next stop on the circuit: the Guo Dixian’s altar. Kitty watched them go, lingering at the back of the group until she was sure they were busy with the altar and Rootless Tree and their prayers. Then she slipped away from the others, trying to find a quiet place to be alone. That proved difficult: this was a working monastery, its space limited by the impositions of the mountain it perched upon and the number of monks in residence. Some of them were very young boys but as Kitty walked around, she quickly realized they were all in supreme physical health. She wasn’t surprised when she wandered into the training area. She kept expecting them to stop her, but beyond some wide-eyed staring, no one impeded her. Leaning against the wall, she watched a middle-aged man without an ounce of fat on him instruct the boys. She was about to wander on when a nova entered the room. His status was unmistakable; no human could sustain musculature like that, nor did they have purple skin, white hair, pointed ears or a face that could have doubled for Victor’s in the 1980’s TV show Beauty and the Beast. Kitty thought about leaving, but that would just be rude. Besides, she was curious if he was instructor or student, so she remained where she was, her painfully beautiful body slouching with casual elegance against the stone wall.
  18. Rebecca's "casual" and uniform outfits Rebecca Shirasu Rathbone Age: 13 Nationality: American (Japanese and British Decent) Height: 5'0" Weight: 100 pds Hair: Black (Nova Mode has a purplish tone) Eyes: Brown (Nova mode has violet eyes) Pre-Eruption Childhood Rebecca is the Daughter of Thaddeus and Akiko Rathbone, born in Boston, Massachussets on January 8, 2000. Rebecca always loved being the center of attention in her parent's lives, and enjoyed occasionally visiting her father or mother at MIT as they did their work. Her Father, a Quantum Physicist, and Mother a Doctor of Neuroscience. Rebecca shared her parent's curiosity, but she just thought her Parents were mad scientists of one sort or another. She loved it none the less as everything seemed like some new puzzle. Eruption On Halloween 2012, She was walking with her friends doing some trick or treating in Boston. She was dressed as a Student from Hogwarts (Ravenclaw House) and her other friends were also similarly dressed. Of course as nerdy kids go, they will roleplay, and Rebecca decided to cast "Leviosa" out of jest, only to somehow cause her friend to fly up into the air 100 feet! She panicked and managed to stop her friend just inches from the ground without her wand. Everyone was dumbstruck. Rebecca had a bit of a headache earlier that day but chalked it up to her sinuses. Over the course of the next couple months, She was looked at by DSA doctors and when it was eventually realized she was a Nova with the ability to control time and space... there were many curious, puzzled, and slightly concerned faces. Rebecca on the other hand was happy to have the DSA help her understand what has been happening with her, and was proud to have been offered a chance to be in their new initiative for training young novas. Now if people would just get her to come down from flying around, perhaps she could actually attend her classes. Appearance, Personality, and Quirks Rebecca is obviously Asian. She stands at a cute 5 feet solid, and perferrs to dress in Jumpsuits (as they're her thing, and to her they look good on her when she flies). She has been considering getting a "DSA Uniform" made for herself based on the Devilion and a Cormorant vest for when she might go on important missions. She's just not sure on what colors to have for her particular suit... she's always had a hard time with that. She is a worldly girl, knowing several languages, and speaks English with a British accent. She is a happy girl, irrepressible at times, and is a habitual Doctor Who, Anime, and Science Fiction watcher. ,, Her latest idea in terms of look is going for a simple formal suit ensemble. Although her penchant for skewing towards black is noticeable when she's not "on duty".
  19. "Well, I can tell you you certainly are not a 36DD." ,, I eyed the Nordstrom Sales Associate - Cecilia according to the tag on her smart skirt-suit - reflected in the mirror of the dressing room, then at myself, my torso bare save for my black bra, contrasting sharply with my milky complexion. I arched a single brow - I could do that now. ,, "Are you sure?" I asked doubtfully. So much else was exactly as I had described my character - sometimes to my regret or embarrassment - I didn't see why they weren't as well. "I wrote down Tae - I mean, I have good reason to believe I'm a double-dee." ,, "Trust me, miss, I have almost twenty years selling women's intimates and even longer wearing them, and a 36DD isn't even close to a proper size for you." The pleasant - and tall, I couldn't help noticing - woman clucked her tongue and I suppressed a flinch as her fingers brushed my skin while she demonstrated on my bra. "The band shouldn't be riding up like this in the back, but sitting level. You shouldn't be spilling out the sides or showing any quadboob." ,, "Pardon me? Quadboob?" I thought I had overhead the term before, but hadn't dared ask. ,, "The way your breasts are bulging over the top of the cups, dear. Nor should the shoulder straps be digging in so much and the center gore of the bra should sit flush with your sternum, rather than away from your skin. Despite what Victoria's Secret may believe. And I'm guessing the underwire is digging in some?" ,, I nodded. It was all true. I'd just figured brassieres were supposed to fit that way and couldn't bring myself to ask anyone. Torturous, but better than bouncing around everywhere. ,, Cecilia took a step back, a finger tapping her lips musingly. ,, STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION
  20. Sean tried to look casual on the park bench, but there were a few things working against him. First, Shae was ‘getting them money or clothing’, and Sean sure as shit hadn’t asked how or where she planned to get them. He also wasn’t going to ask her when she showed back up with stuff. Second, it was late, and he was chilling in a park with two young girls. They were both thirteen—he hoped—but he knew that as the oldest and as the guy, he was getting the blame. Third, the neighborhood wasn’t the best; they’d already had some rough-looking dark-skinned people looking at them funny. Sean was no racist, but he was aware that he was a white kid alone with two white girls, with a third white girl out in the night doing something that was probably illicit (not that he was going to ask). An older black man had been watching them for some time. He was talking to a younger black man with him, but the guy kept looking over at them with a frown. Sean shifted and sat up straighter, only half-aware of Rebecca’s chatter as she gushed on about some computer game. She didn’t like any of the games he did; she liked thinking games. He’d asked her about it to distract her and then promptly tuned her words out. The two men stopped talking and headed for the three of them. Sean leaned forward as they approached, then stood when they were within talking range. He pulled his shades down and their progress faltered at the sight of his glowing, inhuman eyes. The older man didn’t stop and asked in a deep voice, “Young man, are you and your friends all right?” “What?” Sean asked, expecting another question entirely. The man stared at him evenly. “If you and your friends need shelter, my church has ties with a youth shelter. You don’t need to be out here if you have nowhere else to go.” “I, uh… no, we’re waiting on my friend.” Sean felt embarrassed by his assumption about the man’s intentions. “She should be back soon. Uh, but… thanks? For the offer. It’s nice of you.”
  21. The Yearly Christmas Party was a thing of beauty, in that it was paid for out of Connor's pockets, not the taxpayer's. It was friendly to all creeds, and totally voluntary, It was more about goodwill and getting everyone together than any religious tennets. The food was a sumptuous banquet of finger foods, not necessarily gourmet, but things that everyone liked. It was open to everyone, and while he didn't stock any alcohol, he didn't ban anyone from bringing it. Director Horst was there for the beginning, then excused himself. For the most part it was a baseline party, since only Connor was there first. He knew there were several new novas in the DSA, and he'd personally invited them, just to be a welcoming compatriot. There was a tree there were gifts, and he knew if Everyone showed, there'd be nowhere near enough, but still he'd made every effort, and would square it with anyone who felt left out. Or at least he'd try to. His only worry was really that Karrie would eventually show up. He'd not really spoken to her since that night beyond the needs of work, and in a social setting such as this, it could be explosive.
  22. It was late into the evening that Connor finally managed to make it back to the hotel, shower, and change. The entire experience with Supreme left him at a loss. It was all so real, and though so little time passed outwardly, he had weeks of memories with Kitty, and the rest of the crew on a movie that never was, or would be. Before setting about making a surprisingly large number of children happy, he'd shot a Text to Kitty to ask her to meet him in the lobby of the Westgate Marriot at eight. It would be a late dinner, but after something like they'd gone through together, well, he knew they should talk, and more he wanted to talk to her. He dressed casually, still managing to look ever the Dashing hero of any picture you cared to name, a veritable avatar of Adonis, perfect in every way, as he sat in the lobby, reading the day's paper. The talking Heads on the Tv gave their opinions on potential nova threats, that is, novas who could become major threats. It wasn't something he liked to consider, that some would use the gifts of quantum for darker ends, but one he knew in his bones to be true. If the those who looked to walk in the Light could think in darker terms, surely too could others. That his own name came up did surprise him. They spoke of his known abilities, and their darker uses. "I'm sure the Director is positively thrilled this drivel made it on the air.." He sighed. people thinking dark thoughts regarding those who sought only to help others, It was a sorry state of things to find the world in. Not that it was new, but For him, to be included as one with potential for great malice, that was new, and most unwelcome.
  23. I think it's about time to shake things up. ,, What I propose is fairly simple. ,, The Mexican government has been doing well to purge the corrupt from office, and military command. The major drug and arms cartels do not like this. ,, They decide they're going to strike the head from the snake in a single bold gesture, but one that would allow them to choose the next President and government assembly. ,, The big question is how they go about doing it. ,, Enter Emilio Travio, a Refugee nova of great intellect, who has rebuffed any attempts to recruit him. He is utterly dissatisfied with the way Refugee novas are treated, and refuses to use his gifts to better the world that treats him as a second class citizen. Officially he lives in Argentina as a recluse, living in a mountain estate no one gains entry to. In reality, he is a designer of arms, which he sells to whomever can pay. ,, The cartels come to him, treating the vain nova with great respect, and offer him not money, but a challenge, to make a weapon to take out a large city, without it being biological or nuclear in nature. He was intrigued, but knew he'd need materials. He negotiated hard, and the cartels agreed to his terms and his price. ,, He delivers six months later, a device roughly the size of a septic tank, and nods triumphantly handing the liason an encrypted hard drive with proper deployment procedures, and the signal for detonation. He named the weapon "The Quake" ,, ,, another month passed, and the device is detonated, in a suburb of Mexico City. The entire city is rocked by a 7.9 on the Richter scale earthquake. Kilometers away, a dormant volcano erupts. Nearly the entirety of the Mexican government is slain by crumbling buildings and debris. the major military base is wiped out and the city burns as gas mains burst and pandamonium reigns. ,, Of all the government, the Mexican President does survive, as he was on an impromptu tour of a hospital with a delegation from the DSA. He immediately asks the DSA agents on site for aid and seeing the devastation asks the US officially for aid, specifically from the DSA novas. Nearly all of which will be deployed to help restore order and the recovery efforts. ,, I envision this part to be a chance for any nova involved to be a hero in their own right, in what scale you find appropriate. ,, The second part of this is abit darker ,, The Mexican president suspects but has no evidence of the Cartel's involvement. He asks for the DSA's help in erradicating them once and for all. What would follow is a parallel of how Team Tomorrow stomped out the cartels in the main aberrant world. ,, ,, ,, ,, As this idea is world affecting, and open to any character with reason to participate, I put it all to you to see if you wish to go this route, before I begin it.
  24. FROM: Doctor William Erving TO: Director Joseph Horst ,, I know my regular report isn't due for several days, but I really think you need to know now what it'll simply confirm among the materials. ,, Naturally, I can't claim to know the details of Mr. Shreveson and Mr. Kensington's... 'relationship issues', but however, Ross has spent a great deal of time training and being tested with us... and I'm concerned by what I'm seeing. Ross was already observed to have a great deal of kinetic-based potential: kinetic energy bolts, telekinesis, defensive uses of telekinesis, self-levitation, etc. ,, This was in addition to low superhuman levels of agility, reactions, social traits and appearance. Those have remained steadily constant. But his powerset is becoming of increasingly alarming potency. ,, As the attached files indicate: first off, his telekinetic lifting capacity has skyrocketed... with some difficulty weeks ago, Ross could lift a few dozen tons... now he regularly is achieving weight loads of tons in the triple digits. Second, though his kinetic blasts are non-lethal even to baselines when controlled - I must place emphasis on 'controlled.' It takes (fortunately simple as he describes it) conscious effort to limit any energy projection... which renders a battle tank into a near if not complete wreck. ,, A normal person would become nothing more than a smear. Consider that for imagery. And speaking of tanks, Ross' practically reflexive use of kinetic and telekinetic force to protect himself most likely - based on our extrapolations - make even the heaviest of weaponry moot. Shy of a nuclear warhead, but that doesn't lend itself to fruitful thoughts. ,, I swear he's going to break the sound barrier in flight. If there's anything he's going to have difficulty with, it would be novas with potent psychic or energy attacks. ,, In short, I don't know what's going on in his head... but the young man is becoming something of a nova super-weapon, possibly some link between hormones, mood and powers, I don't know. I care for him (he's a kindly individual), and I know you do for everyone in this agency. Consider this a warning, since there are those in our government and beyond with less scruples and heart. ,, Sincerely, Dr. William Erving
  25. Shortly before the DSA Christmas Party Karrie had code-named it the Margarita. First, she loved the drinks, when she was already drunk. Second, she didn’t want to type its real name in her computer. She knew that Horst did spy on her projects. He considered it to be a preventive measure to the Apocalypse. Karrie considered it to be both an annoyance and a challenge. So “Project Get Connor Back” needed a code name. Nervously, Karrie applied her lip stick; not too much, just an accent. Too much make up would make her look whore-y, and from the text messages Inga was sending her, the whores were thick at the party already. Karrie needed to stand out, to be different. She needed to get Connor to realize that while she had fucked up, she was the better choice than Ms. Mega-Lips and the woman you could actually be allergic to. Besides, she’d done her fucking research on Ms. Mega-Lips, and she knew that girl was the Queen of Whores. She was practically the Whore of Babylon, and only the fact that the Anti-Christ hadn’t arrived saved Ms. Muse from being humped to death by Satan. Karrie had a few opinions about Ms. Muse. Those opinions had formed after learning that the woman was spending a lot of time with Connor; the research she’d done had only backed her opinions. After she had it on, Karrie decided it was too garish. Grumbling to herself, she pulled off some toilet paper and removed it. She did a quick check of her outfit again; the black skirt, silky red blouse and black boots were all clean, unwrinkled and lint-brushed. She could have whored it up; she was taking the high road. She was dressed. That left only The Perfume. Karrie held up the test tube, peering at the amber liquid inside the vial. Months of research, experimentation and resources had gone into making The Perfume. Karrie had fretted and worried that it wouldn’t be ready in time for the party, but the monkeys she’d tested it on had fucked for six hours before collapsing of exhaustion. It was as ready as it got. “This is it.” She looked at her eyes in the mirror. “This is the night I get Connor back.” Her stomach curled in anticipation and delight as she considered that in just a few hours, she could have the man of her dreams. Pulling the cap loose, Karrie used an eyedropper to collect a few drops of the perfume. The smell of her favorite scent, sandalwood, filled the air. It was an unusual choice for perfumes, but she’d needed an oil base and this smell calmed her. The scent masked the super-pheromones that she’d infused into the oil, pheromones that would be activated when warmed to body temperature. Something nagged at her, and Karrie stopped before application, peering at herself in the mirror. Something wasn’t right. Rather than assume that her conscious was warning her against trying to manipulate people by effectively drugging them, Karrie’s mind focused on what if it didn’t work. What if it has the opposite effect? What if it made her sick or she broke out in a rash? She’d have to test it. Karrie dragged the glass rod across both sides of her neck, then dipped it again and applied more of The Perfume to her wrist. She was supposed to meet Rob before the party to plan hijinks; she’d ask his opinion. Feeling as nervous as a girl at prom, Karrie capped the vial and slipped it into her purse. The night was almost electric with anticipation and hope for her, and she went to Rob’s lab with an eager smile. The Perfume Innovation 3 Mega-Appearance[12 xp] 1 Enhancement: Seductive Looks [3 xp] 1 Enhancement: Blind Bewitchment (Scent) [3 xp] Quantum 3, Quantum Pool 21 Die-pool: Perception + Awareness Damage: N/A Cost: 10 NP/18 xp
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