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Aberrant: Mutant High - [ST-Dave] Day of the Dreadnoughts (Redeux)

Dave ST

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Los Angeles

Dusk approached and slowly washed its shadow across the giant city of Los Angeles California. The city was at relative peace with commuters returning from their jobs or setting off to the late shift while still more people were simply just enjoying the warm night air as sun set along the western horizon.

Several along the boardwalk looked up as a strange shadow caught their attention before it plummeted from the sky and smashed into the asphalt with a motorized impact. The thing was robotic, humanoid and stood at about twelve feet. Flat metallic paint coated its frame as it looked about before out stretching its arm. Compartments slid open and several barrels retracted about the radius of the machine's forearm and begun to spin slowly in an ominous whine.

Mutant Gene Detected:

Commence Termination

Shards of orange light ejected from the whirling barrels at a pace that no human would have kept up with. One by one they tore into people on the streets, average people that no one would have suspected to be carrying the X-Gene. A man carrying groceries was torn to shreds his strange bluish-green blood smearing along the walls and businesses he was passing by. A woman, who had been jogging along the boardwalk when the excitement begun had managed to shift her skin into granite a moment too late as the things beams rocketed through her stony body leaving a searing hole where her chest used to be. Thunderously it stomped on the road as people stood paralyzed with fear while others ran for their lives.

"Mutant Gene Detected: Commence Termination" Its voice modulated aloud granting warning and, indeed, pause to those who knew they weren't mutants who now stopped to watch the machine do what it was programmed for: slaughter. Reaching down it tore the roof from an SUV as the mother and her two children screamed in fear. Reaching in it plucked the twelve-year old daughter out of the front seat while she was struggling to undo her seat belt. The mother screamed and yelled for the thing to stop but it did only what it was programmed to do.

The girl screamed as she hit the concrete hard on her back, taking the breath from her lungs. The crowed turned away as a grizzly splatter smeared across the street when the machine's massive foot smashed down upon the young girl. The robot looked to the mother who was in a tear filled panic with shock not to far away. Its metallic hand have her an approving 'thumbs up'. "Thank you for your cooperation ma'am, vote Obama in 2012."

Thrusters kicked on from its back, launching its massive body into a power slide across the asphalt to continue its patrol of Los Angeles streets.

Manthattan, 24 hours later…

The plan was a simple one, take the new student Renaldo out for a fun night and give him the opportunity to spend some time a few of the other students, make some friends and help his adjustment to the academy go a bit smoother. They'd been given free movie passes, once again proving that sometimes LHA made having a good time too easy but you'd hardly hear them complaining. Sonja, Renaldo, Kia, and Josh exited the movie theatre, Sonja collecting a good share of whistles and propositions as they did so. Underworld: Awakening turned out to be pretty cool but just getting out of the school for a few hours was more than worth it. Director Drumm really trusted them it seemed, sending them into Manhattan with no chaperones or supervision.

'The only good mutie is a dead mutie!'

'Tell a mutie to kiss yer booty!'

'We were here first!'

And other colorful slogans were spray painted all across the walls of the buildings they passed while the walked to the garage a few blocks away where the van was parked. They passed by the front of an electronics store where the current news caught the attention of the four students. The newscaster talked to the camera as the message 'Mutant Hive Routed in Los Angeles!'

"Tonight's top story," He started. "Trial run of the Dreadnoughts has been hailed as a triumphant success as a mutant hive in Los Angeles was uncovered and neutralized with no civilian casualties. Authorities are still uncertain as whether or not the cell was linked to anti-human bombings and attacks in both New York and Washington. Department of Defense officials however say that evidence is undeniable."

Professor Jensen appeared on the screen standing behind a podium speaking before a board of her 'peers' as the newscaster's voice continued. "Human rights campaigners and Amnesty International have both condemned the action as 'inhuman and unconstitutional', provoking a stern White House response."

The camera switched to a scene where a man the screen introduced as General Conrad Drogan. "The President wishes to reaffirm his support for this project and offers his most sincere congratulations to the federal employees behind it. "We will not give into mutant terrorist threats like those from this so called 'Brotherhood'."

The camera goes back to the newscaster. "Heavy stuff there, we'll continue to follow this story as it develops. When we return Tiger Woods announces his seventeen million dollar contract promoting Durex condoms." The commercials began and the young mutants were left on the cold dark streets of Manhattan suddenly feeling very alone.

Sometimes it's not easy being different from everyone else...

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"Madre de Dios." Ronaldo said under his breath as he watched the news. "The world is going crazy."

He looked at the news, and it just struck him how being in the United States put him closer to these events. Of course, international media had covered the 'Brotherhood' activities but he had been buys with his planned move to the Academy. He and Gonzalez had been busy setting up alternate identities and secruing 'care packages' here and there in case Ronaldo got into trouble in the U.S. Caches of survival supplies in urban and more rural places that he could retreat to. Ways to contact Gonzalez in case things went wrong ... the same sort of precautions they took back home as mutants.

These ... dreadnaughts ... these were the monsters. Or maybe it was the borterhood, or just the people who hated mutants for being what they were born to be.

"It has been such a good time tonight, getting to know all of you. Going to this wonderful city. It is a shame that these things are going on." he said, asking the others "Do any of you know more about these bombings? This Bortherhood? I have seen some things in the newspaper, but in South America the coverage is maybe not as good."

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"The Brotherhood? Mutant terrorists," Sonja said with a sharp sniff as she reached into a coat pocket and pulled out her smartphone phone, looking small in her long fingered hands. "Giving people a reason to hate all mutants. They say they fight for mutant freedoms, but all that happens is stuff like this, thanks to them. Gimme a sec guys, I'm calling my mother, my family lives in LA. Not that I think anything's happened, but..."

She gestured angrily at the TV then shook out her platinum-blonde hair and held her phone to her ear, letting it ring. These dreadnaughts things were horrible and seeing the graffiti on the walls and hearing the self-righteous exhortations of General Drogan, Sonja hunched her shoulders, though there was little chance of making seven feet of girl in a vivid pink longcoat anything less than conspicuous.

Sonja was having a surprisingly good time out with Kia, Josh, and Ronaldo. The movie had been okay, even good, and Sonja idly wondered how'd she look in a catsuit like Selene's - even if it was more 'Neca's style than hers - and a real pair of heels - even if she liked them, she didn't wear them much, and imagined she'd wear them even less now. She did like the longcoat though. I should look at getting something for when I'm not in a pink mood...

They hadn't been hassled at all, well not for being mutants. The enormous Bahaar sister still drew a lot of eyes and not a few comments - of all sorts - but so far, it seemed more for a young woman of unusual stature and unusual proportions and not for being a mutant. The huge disparity between her and Kia - standing two feet shorter, the top of her head barely reaching the bottom of her breasts - making Sonja's size all that much more prominent.

Asa Yngveldurdottir-Bahaar, the mother of both the Bahaar sisters, despite their disparity in everything, answered on the second ring, her voice husky, smooth, and warm with mirth. "Sonja-hon, this is a pleasant surprise. You and your sister are getting along, right?"

"Whuh? Am I... Me and 'Neca are doing... fine. Well... there is that whole sudden growth spurt thing, but I was calling about you. Are you okay?"

"Why wouldn't I be, hon? Your father and I are in wine country, doing a round of taste-testing. It's been very fine, so far."

"But - nothing weird has happened? Nothing?" Sonja hunched around her iPhone, her voice dropping so any passerbys wouldn't be able to make out the words. "The news - they were saying that they activated this Dreadnought Initiative in LA, wiped out a group of... mutants. When I heard that, I was worried. You haven't heard a thing?"

"The only noteworthy thing so far today is this incredibly pretentious Frenchman who may get thrown into the lake if he continues his disparaging diatribe and what some people believe can be blended into wine." Sonja's mother chuckled with wry warmth. "Don't fret, Sonja, I've been living off the commune for more than thirty years now, I'm pretty sure I can take of myself without my Skjalmo of a daughter rushing to my rescue. These Dreadnoughts do sound dreadful though. Hmm, your father is trying to get my attention. Keep an eye on your sister - is she still in that phase? - and tell her I love her. Hope you girls come visit soon. Kisses, bye!"

"Huh." Sonja stared at her phone, a brow arched quizzically, then looked around at the others and shrugged. "Mom's fine. Didn't hear a peep of whatever happened back home. Well, there's that at least." She slipped her phone back into its pocket and snorted. "Anyway, I've been having a great time tonight and I don't plan on letting some shitty news on TV mess it up. How about we find someplace to go eat? There's lots of good places in Manhattan and we don't stand out too much."

"You don't stand out too much?!" Kia said with a choked giggle.

"Not in that way," Sonja amended with a wry, irritated smile as she gestured at herself. "People stared at the 'twins' before, of course, but I think I can count on one hand the number of people who have actually made eye contact with me tonight." She shook her head and waved away the thought. "Anyway, food. Who wants to go get some before we head back to the academy or find something else to do?"

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Wow, what a night. How long has it been since I've gone out to see a movie? How long since I've been off campus? and I've never been off campus with friends, much less to do something as cool as going to a movie.

Josh hadn't been as happy since Sonja had taken him to the New Year's party at the boat dock. The graffiti on the wall barely soiled his mood. Ignorant ravings of small minded people. Josh just shook his head in disappointment.

The news program, on the other hand, actually tempted him to use his powers for the destruction of private property, something that had never actually ever crossed his mind before. He listened to the report, to Ronaldo and to Sonja, letting his anger at the ignorance run rampant that was displayed on the news before he spoke.

"The Brotherhood is just as closed minded and ignorant as those behind this Dreadnought program. Terrorism never works to bring about justice, history has proven that. Also, committing genocide, or attempting to, because a sub-group is resisting, committing terrorism or otherwise being a nuisance has also been proven by history to be a flawed reaction. What this amounts to is if our government had started killing Arabs and indiscriminately leveling their cities after 9/11 simply because they shared an ethnic group with the perpetrators. The longer this goes on, on both sides, the harder it will be for mutants and non to coexist peacefully. Both have more than enough to offer the other, but the more bad blood there is between the two, the harder it is to see." Josh let out a long sigh and straightened himself in his powerchair. It was good to have that off his chest, but he hoped that nobody too close got the wrong impression. He had hope and faith that mutants and humans could live, work and coexist together peacefully and beneficially... but this particular moment may not be the best of times to test that theory.

He looked around at the others, almost apologetically, then added, "Yeah, some dinner sounds nice. I could go for some nice, real Italian. I know a couple of good places just a few blocks over if everybody else concurs." He looked around the group for their reactions. Being a local helped sometimes.

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Kia turns from the storefront to present her worried face to the others. "What does that even mean?" she asked. "A mutant hive? Neutralized? That doesn't tell us anything! Was it some kind of mutant bug-men or something? I mean, who builds hives? And did they take them prisoner? Like, knock them out? Neutralized could mean anything!"

Of course, the anxiety on her face and in her voice suggested that she understood perfectly well the possible definition of 'neutralize' that she didn't quite dare utter.

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"It doesn't sound good, that's for sure," Sonja agreed, looking down to give the petite freshman a crooked, understanding grin. "And 'hive'... I think they mean like a commune or gang or book club or something, just trying to make sound more... sinister, y'know?"

Sonja nodded at Josh and the TV. "But Ms. Jensen was talking about it, so we can ask her about it when we get back to the Academy. Sound good? For now, let's stop thinking about how the government is trying to screw us even more - scary as that is - and go get some quality Italian, 'kay? This has been a great evening, let's not ruin it with politics."

After everyone made their assents, they students of LHA continued on their way to where they had parked the school van, so far the most expensive part of their night out in Manhattan - parking was a killer. As Ronaldo pulled out the keys - it had proven too tight a fit for Sonja to drive - and Kia joined him in the front, Sonja opened the rear doors and worked the lift for Josh's power-chair. She could have done it by hand, but knew Josh didn't like that unless it was absolutely necessary.

Once Josh was in, Sonja joined him, taking up most of benchseat in the rear of the van herself, and looked over her shoulder at him as she pulled out her iPhone and opened it the GPS app. "So, where to, Josh?"

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Ronaldo winked when tossed the keys, and as everyone got in Josh recommended a few of the nearby places. He handled the vehicle well.

There was fairly quick discussion, some deliberation when it was apparent that finding parking would be harder than finding the actual places Josh mentioned.

"I am fine with anything ... except something they maybe claim is from Sud-America. If it is OK, I would like to try new things."

Driving by the same places three times revealed a little pay lot tucked away where they hadn't seen it before. As Ronaldo pulled up and put a bill into the automatic ticket reader he said "I will get this, its not so bad ... consider it my part of the gratuity." he though for a moment, his English still a bit formal "... there is another word for this. For gratuity, at an eating establishment?"

They were not too far from a couple of the places suggested, and parking here would only be four bucks an hour. Not bad.

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  • 2 weeks later...

They left the lot, walking at a comfortable pace laughing and sharing a few stories with Ronaldo. The cold New York night encouraged them to walk fast (or roll in Josh's case) towards their destination, but the merriment and camaraderie certainly shrugged of any chills. "oh, no, no, no..." Sonja laughed, shaking her hands as Josh tried to tell a story. Both were cracking up, but Sonja was attempting to spare herself some upcoming embarrassment with Josh's rendition. "See... what had happened was-"


The sound of metal slamming into asphalt startled them all to attention until the shockwave of the impact caused them to stagger. The figure was a full twelve feet in height with a matte chrome body that was humanoid and straight out of one of Josh's favorite Dr. Who episodes. It's mouth lit up in sync with each syllable. "Greetings genetic deviants. Please remain where you are as the termination of your life functions commences. Have a nice day."

It raised it's left arm and the forearm broke apart into plates that slid back in perfect synchronicity where a barrels, like that of a minigun, extended the circumference and without warning began to engage in a tell-tale spinning. The soft glow that began to kindle within the weapon's power source told the mutants that this machine meant business.

Keep in mind that Josh can not dodge like you guys can. He's in a wheelchair. No initiative rolls, assume you guys go first in any order you agree upon, I'll have the dreadnought go last.

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Sonja regained her balance swiftly, standing tall and looking ahead, raising open hands in the belief the clang was a runaway vehicle of some sort. She had always been tall, taller than most girls and many boys, and even more so since her latest growth spurt, so she was surprised when she found herself eye level with a navel of circuits and steel. She craned her neck, looking up at huge, metal figure as it made its command in a boom, synthetic voice, punctuated by the whine of rotating barrels.

"Eep!" It was a surprisingly small sound coming from such a big woman. But she didn't let her shock and fear surprise her, the adrenaline pumping through making her move like an escalating avalanche, her voice coming loud and resonant. "Scatter! Find cover! I got Josh."

Suiting action to words, Sonja took a spinning step in front of Josh, grabbing his power-chair under the arms and hefting it and Josh's weight with ridiculous ease. Josh found his face almost buried in the huge girl's colossal cleavage as with long, powerful strides, Sonja ran for cover around the corner of the restaurant, making sure she kept herself between the giant-metal-death-machine.

After one step and the way Josh's face had rippled, she forced herself to keep to a relatively moderate pace so he wouldn't be crushed by the g-forces, smoothly shifting the chair and Josh in time with her jukes from side to side in an effort to throw off the aim from the reject from The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Brave Sir Sonja Ran Away (For now)
Activating Escalating Avalanche (Hyper-running + Enhanced Movement): -4qp

Max Running Speed: 122m/turn, going about a quarter of that.

Action: Dodge, preferably with Josh. ;)

Dodge Roll (First 2 dice Mega): 12d10.hitsopen(7,10) = 3 successes (+1 Difficulty to hit due to Hyper-running)

QP: -4 | WP: -0 | HL: -0

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Even after seeing the news, Kia was prepared to assume it was some kind of bizarre viral marketing, or even a joke, at first. It looked so cheesy with its pointlessly glowing mouth and head-to-foot chroming. It didn't look military, or dangerous. It looked like something out of a hilariously bad science fiction movie.

But the gun looked real, and it brought things back to reality in a hurry. Worse, Sonja ran off! She was maybe the only one who could fight this thing and win, and she was gone! Vaguely Kia realized she was helping Josh, but she felt suddenly very alone.

She could change herself, she knew that. But even with a shell, she doubted she was bulletproof. Even with claws, she doubted she could rip through armored steel. Worst of all, she knew she could escape. One jump, and she'd be away from there.

Then she saw Alex and the others, and realized she couldn't do that either. So Kia ran. Not as far as Sonja...just up to a car that she jumped up onto, slid across the hood of, and took cover behind. She had no idea what to do next, and only the shot of adrenalin was keeping abject panic at bay, but she wasn't gong to leave her friends.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Of all the things that Josh had expected tonight, attempted murder of his person was the last on his list. The thought that someone, anyone would kill someone different, him of all people, just because they were different, was as foreign to him as having a conversation with extra-terrestrials. And as much as he might admire the construction and artificial intelligence (he hoped that there wasn't someone inside or directly controlling it), that standing in front of him was the antithesis of everything that Josh was, in every way possible.

Josh was the Master of Motion, but as Sonja whisked him away he couldn't think of anything to do. The monstrosity had already stopped moving, so he couldn't do anything to alter that, and it was so massive that he didn't see anything in the immediate area that he could swap movement with. Then, as the whine of the spinning gun reached its' height, an idea came to Josh.

Over Sonja's shoulder, Josh concentrated. If he knew anything about precision machinery in general and firearms in particular, messing up one part would throw the entire thing out of whack enough to make it (at least temporally) inoperable. Josh used his mojo to try and make a single barrel on the whirling gun move backward instead of to the side. Hopefully that would disrupt the operation and possibly cause secondary and possibly tertiary damage to the arm and hand mechanism without endangering anybody nearby.

Momentum Rotation on a (non-specific) gun barrel

Roll: [4, 9, 8, 9, 2] + mega [4]. Total Successes: 3. - that is enough to make the gun barrel stop moving sideways and to start moving up the arm (toward the elbow) at the same speed

If I need to roll something to 'hit', just let me know what it would be and I'll roll it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The whir of the barrels was cut short by a sudden crash as one of the minigun barrels launched backwards. It slid back, ricocheted off the Dreadnought's steely forearm and bounced up into its eye. The plexi-lens shattered as the behemoths head arced back violently. When it leveled the barrel was sticking half-way in its head. "Warning. Dreadnoughts are government property. Damaging or defacing a Dreadnought will result in criminal prosecution. Please remain where you are while I terminate you so that the proper authorities may come and make an arrest."

Another compartment opened on it's opposite forearm and a second minigun began to whir.

"Oh, you've gotta be kidding me." Kia mumbled. "Is this thing serious?"

Bullets tore through the car she was hiding behind. She screamed in panic as lead, steel, glass and upholstery whipped past her as her cover was shredded. Truth be told, had it no been for the massive steel engine she was using in the front portion of the car, she'd have been dead ten times over. She sat still... "...yeah, it's serious."

Bullets tore through the streets as the whir of the barrels spat hot lead in Sonja and Josh's direction. The cover of the buildings corner protected them and they both heard the crash of the front window shattering. The people inside had no idea what hit them as high caliber munitions tore them to shreds. Slowly it stomped of in Sonja and Josh's direction, leaving Kia alone...

You guys have adequate cover for now, so I'm foregoing a ton of rolls. Nice use of powers, Star. I have no idea what Ronaldo is doing so I assumed he took cover.

It's currently marching in Sonja and Josh's direction, so Kia and Ronaldo will be left alone for the time being.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The salty smell of pulverized brick and the iron tang of blood assaulted the enormous blonde's nose as she felt her gorge rise at the terrible sounds of screaming cutting of suddenly and with finality. Sonja's jaw tightened and her deep indigo eyes narrowed as she fought back tears of self-recrimination. It was her fault! She'd been so focused on getting Josh clear she hadn't considered what would happen when the Dreadnought continued firing in their direction. And now people were dying.

"Keep your head, Josh, I'm gonna try its attention," Sonja said in a low, firm voice as she straightened to her full towering height, but Josh could hear a tremble of fear in it. She was tough but not tough enough to ignore that! But she wouldn't hide and let others pay the price.

Sonja spun back around the corner and charged the Dreadnought like a beautiful and blond behemoth, moving even faster than before. "You want a genetic deviant? Here I am!"

As she passed one of the bullet-riddled cars, Sonja reached down and pounded a fist through the hood, metal compacting under her grip as she lifted the car easily. Moving at hundreds of miles an hour, she closed the distance between her and the Dreadnought in an instant, and got another hand on the Honda Civic as she heft it to her shoulder.

"Hope you've got good insurance!" Sonja yelled as she veer slightly to the side and brought the car around like a huge baseball bat, which exploded into flying bits of steel and fiberglass from the tremendous impact. Sonja didn't stop, but kept going, glancing over her shoulder to see the results of her hit.

Swing Battah, Battah!

Hypermovement increases to Rank 2, Enhance Movement multiplier is now x3. Sprinting at 375m/turn, +2 Difficulties to hit Sonja; can take no actions except for Hyperspeed Slam and Hhperspeed Strike. Spending WP on the attack. Action: Full Strength Hyperspeed Strike with Car (+1 Difficulty)

Hyperspeed Strike (+1 Difficulty; 1st 2 dice Mega): (9d10.hits(7)= 7 successes -1 (Difficulty) + 1 WP = 7 successes

Damage: Str + [Mega-Str] + Weapon + Threshold successes = 5d10 + [10] + 10d10 + 5d10 = [10] + 20d10

QP: -4 | WP: -1 | HL: -0

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Still huddled behind the car, Kia winced at the titanic clash between Sonja's improvised automotive weapon and the robot. She must have put Josh somewhere safe, but there was no way Kia could let her fight that monster alone!

"I've gotta help her," she whispered to her 'cover-mate,' along with, "Don't get close to that thing."

Probably the lifetime award winner for 'unnecessary advice,' but what the hell. She wasn't going to follow it, after all.

Her legs thickened and grew temporary muscles that made them bulge in kind of unsightly ways...then she launched herself upward in a power leap that sent her hurtling in a nearly vertical arc to the top of one of the nearby buildings. She just hoped that Sonja's attack had distracted it enough that it wouldn't be able to lock onto her...or whatever it did...in mid-jump.

Atop the roof she quickly somersaulted away from the edge so it couldn't shoot her without first shooting the building down...and then she concentrated on more...intense changes than just buffing out her legs for a jump.

Chitinous bones erupted from her skin, forming a carapace of thick, overlapping plates....as strong as she could make them. As they formed her skin and muscles and tissues were writhing and swelling; she almost looked like she'd become amoebic, or liquid as she expanded. Her cells frantically divided and divided at a growth rate that would have been cancerous in any non-mutant. Her clothes were absolutely ruined.

In the end though, what stood in her place had no resemblance to the pixie-ish high schooler that had been there. Rather, something that looked a little like a cross between a giant insect and a humanoid rhinoceros with no horns was there. The 'new' Kia hunkered down and listened for an opening. Once that gun started firing, she'd come down onto that robot like a LITERAL ton of bricks.

Actions! Quantum Leap up onto a building so I can shapeshift without losing cover. Then shapeshift! The roll:

SalmonMax *rolls* 7d10: 5+10+2+8+4+3+2: 34

[salmonMax] 1:35 pm: And now the megas...

SalmonMax *rolls* 2d10: 8+3: 11

[salmonMax] 1:35 pm: Youch, kind of a bad roll.

4 successes. 3 go into Armor for +9 lethal/bashing soak. 1 goes into Sizemorph Grow for +2 Strength (Strength is now 5 mega 2) and +1 Stamina (now Stamina 5 mega 2), and another bruised health level (now have 4 bruised health levels; 11 HLs total). Kia is +1 to be hit or detected due to being about nine feet tall and weighing nearly 800lbs (the double size/double mass given in the book ignores square-cube law...in reality if you double size you multiply mass by eight assuming all that volume is the same density). Total soak: 16 bashing, 12 lethal. Unarmed attack is 8 dice (inc 2 mega) and does (10) 5d damage. Might have to shapeshift again if that's not enough. :) Mutagen Pool is now 18 out of 22)

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  • 2 weeks later...

The car literally snapped in half from the impact of Sonja's hyper swing against the beasts carbonadium framework. The half that hit fell to the ground close to where she swung at him while the other remained firmly in her grip. The machine was thrown backward staggering backward swiftly with a series of violent 'clangs' from where it's feet smashed the pavement. Finally as it slid itself to a halt, bracing and causing large trenches to from in the street, large hook-like claws flipped out from it's feet and dug into the ground, helping it brace itself to regain balance. It's armored body was banged up and dented from the impact and spark and wiring dangled and flickered about in brilliant flashes. "Mutant thread level high. Initiating gamma protocol." It's modulate voice muttered as a hatch on it's shoulder slid open and a small weapons platform popped up revealing a single micro missile (the bunker buster from Iron Man 2, except this one does work).

To cover it's firing protocol it swung up it's arm and the barrels of it's weapon spun about as a spray of minigun fire erupted through the street again. Sonja planted her half of the car she was holding and braced herself, thinking quickly to allow it to provide her cover. Kia was dfferent matter entirely, leaping from her spot she smashed into the mechanical hunter from her hiding place and quickly the two embroiled in a melee. To her credit, Sonja was safe, as the gun fire had stopped...

...on the other hand, she was now battling a mechanical super beast and she had no clue what she'd gotten herself into. The gun collapsed into its forearm and it immediately proceeded to grapple and pummel the insectoid mutant. She closed her eyes and braced for the impact, expecting her head to pop like a melon and indeed... it hurl like hell... but... she lived. Through the first blow she lived, and then a second... and a third...!! She could withstand the onslaught, pain not withstanding! Self preservation kicked in and Kia slammed her chitin serrated fist into the mecha's face and to her surprise, despite the sting, she wrecked its jaw with a shower of sparks and twisted metal shavings.

Sonja, their companions, and every pedestrian brave enough to peek, stood in awe as the two giant figures battled it out like wild beasts dueling on the Serengeti plains. They exchanged blows and rolled in the rubble of the pavement. Chitin cracked and the clang of metal echoed through the streets but Kia kept her hold of the mechanized assassin with all her might, it was amazing what she could accomplish when the instincts in her mind screamed 'don't let go or this thing will kill you'. Finally she rolled it over and pinned it on its back, reaching back to assert her fist into its carbonadium cranium when the gamma protocol initiated and the firing sequence engaged.

A shower of exhaust threw sparks out from underneath the Dreadnought but Kia thought swiftly. Instead of punching her attacker she gripped the launcher before the missile fired and with her immense strength bent and twisted the launcher downward and with a great slam of her fist shoved it clean into the shoulder lodging it into a flight path directly inside the monster. She rolled off and tried to scurry for safety but the missile went off too soon, exploding and ripping the machine to pieces. The force of the blast sent her, and her great bulk, flying forward where she slammed into the ground and slid over by where Sonja was her carapace making an awful grinding sound as she came to a halt by her friend...

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There was a moment of weird silence, shocking after the din of gunfire and explosions. Then Kia coughed. It sounded like a car backfiring in slow motion.

"Did we get it?" she rumbled. There was blood oozing out from between the cracks in her organic armor, and it was so normal looking that it seemed out of place on this creature. "I sure hope so...cuz...I think that's all I got."

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"Um... yeah, we got it," Sonja affirmed, indigo eyes wide as she helped Kia to her feet, the remaining half of the car clanging as she let it drop to the ground. Cute, little Kia who was barely level with her navel but at the moment towered over nearly as much at the Dreadnought, and massing almost as much, looking more like a Savage She-Bug. The oversized Barbie Doll of a woman frowned uncertainly at the bright red blood painting green-black chitin. Sonja could heal swiftly, and Morri could even quicker, but it was still an uncommon ability.

"Are you going to be okay, Kia?" Sonja quickly looked around. "I think we should considered getting out of here - there might be more of them, and we have to warn Drumm about them, in case any other students are out here." The leggy blonde stalked down the wrecked street, her long, pink coat swirling around her legs, looking around for Josh and Scorpion. "Guys? Everyone okay? We should head back to the van."

Sonja bent over and picked up the scorched and battered head of the Dreadnought, then gave her friends a shrug and crooked grin. "Proof. And maybe the brainiacs can find out where it can from or something." Sonja winced, eyes tight, hearing the moaning and cries of the injured in the restaurant. She didn't know much about first aid, but she wanted to help, even if they didn't want any helps from mutants. She pulled out her phone and quickly dialed nine-one-one. "Um, yes, there's been a terrible incident at..."

Sonja quickly gave the address and implored them to send ambulances for the many injured before hanging up, then round up Josh and Scorpion. "Okay, anyone know first aid?" She chewed on a lip, silently debating. "We can try to do what we can for the injured until help arrives, but I think we should book. If anymore of those things show up, it's not just us at risk - the damn things don't give a fuck 'bout collateral damage. Any votes?"

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"I'm...okay I think," the Kia-thing said. The blood flow did seem to be slowing, though the cracked plates were not visibly healing. "I'll be fine soon. Um..."

She rolled carefully onto her side and delicately started trying to get up while simultaneously favoring her injured side and making sure she didn't squash anyone.

"I...need some clothes before I change back..."

It was easy to not think of it, as her armored shape had none of the relevant attributes, but her dramatic change had pretty much shredded her nice little 'on the town' outfit.

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Giving Kia a steadying hand, Sonja looked at her, lips forming a frowning moue of consideration. "Oh! Yes, I guess we should do something about that before you switch back. Hmm... gimme a minute."

Pausing a moment to make sure Kia could stand on her own, Sonja let her go then buttoned up her longcoat before pulling her arms up inside the sleeves. There was a bit of rustling and writhing beneath the pink leather, then a moment later, she slid her arms back into the sleeves, her pale mauve, oxford shirt in hand.

"Here, this should do well enough, y'know, if you shrink back down to cute and tiny Kia," Sonja said with a tight grin as she offered the shirt to the She-Bug. It was only a shirt, true, but normal two foot difference in height should let the shirt reach her knees at least. "Then we should get back to the van."

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Kia took the shirt gingerly in her armored, oversized hands and nodded.

She began to shrink down...the plates on her body first ground together, then cracked more and started falling off of her. The armor wasn't shrinking like the rest of her body. It wasn't made of cells, but rather chitin or keratin or some other organic, but not actually living, material. This was actually a blessing, as for a second, Kia's restored human form was able to crouch behind a pile of shed armor long enough to preserve her modesty from anyone but Sonja. Even so, the shirt went on fast and dropped down to just above her knees.

Kia was still a bit bruised as she came out, self-consciously tugging at the hem of the shirt, but the cuts had sealed and even the discolored marks were fading away. Her hair was a mess...she was lucky she kept it fairly short. She gave Sonja a shy, grateful smile, her cheeks flaming at the whole embarrassing situation.

"Okay, lets get out of here. I do not want to do that again."

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  • 2 weeks later...

"And tonight's top story: Mutant Terrorism." The large screen showed wreckage that was wrought across the entire city block by Sonja and the others earlier that evening. "This was the scene earlier this evening as unidentified mutant terrorists attacked and destroyed nearly an entire city block. Their target? Authorities believe they were targeting a small bistro where several high profile DoD personnel were dinging and discussing the future of the President's Dreadnought Initiative. Were it not for a Dreadnought putting an end to the terrorist attack, many live surely would have been lost."

A man appeared on the screen, obviously a highly decorated general. He was well in his sixties with piercing eyes and a menacing look. "Tonight's attack proves the efficiency, and necessity for my Dreadnoughts. Through this initiative we can ensure peace for humanity and continued prosperity despite the constant mutant threat. Genetic deviants and terrorists will not be tolerated upon American soil. We will continue to keep the American populace safe from these... mutants."

"Powerful words in a statement earlier from General Drogan, head of the Dreadnought Initiative implemented earlier this month." The news caster nodded sagely. "After the break, New York high schoolers were rocked today when they discovered that it's quite possible that not everything they see on the internet is true. That shocking story when we return..."

The television went black as Miss Childs flipped the power button on the remote. She leaning, one leg up on the Director's desk as Director Drumm taped the tips of his index fingers together, with a sigh his expression shifted to a 'wow, that's messed up' look before he turned and faced the four students sitting in front of his desk. Miss Childs did an excellent job of making this feel like some sort of disciplinary meeting, they'd not even gotten cleaned up, the bruises and dirt still clung to them like fresh battle scars.

"So," He said finally. "That's the media's version for the story. Why don't you guys tell me the truth. What happened?" He was serious, but his expression was an understanding one. His eyes expressed to them a compassion that relaxed them, assuring them that he didn't believe a word of any of the 'official' story.

"Director, regardless of the media, they still turned an entire city block into a war zone." Miss Childs, always the Devil's Advocate, wanted to keep the perspective on how irresponsible the students were. "People could have gotten killed."

"And I understand that," He said calmly, his eyes still keeping that glimmer of compassion. "And we'll deal with that as a separate issue. Right now I want to know the truth so I know whose political backside I need bury my political boot in. All students here are under our care, and when something, or someone, comes to call on them with bad intentions in the back of their mind they answer to us." He looked to the students again and managed an uneasy grin. "Please, guys, try and remember everything you can."

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Kia sighed and brushed her hand through her hair. Her body had mostly mended by now, and even her hair had grown back out again, but it still felt weird to her. It was new somehow...didn't quite feel the same as the rest.

"We were just walking back to head back to school," she said slowly, trying to remember the details. "There was this news show playing in a shop talking about a mutant 'hive,' but we didn't watch for long. And this giant robot just...landed in the street right by us. It said something about...detecting mutants or...something like that, and then it said 'Have a nice day' and then these guns came out of its arm and it started shooting."

She took a deep, shuddery breath. "I jumped behind a car, but Sonya and Josh were caught out...so she grabbed him and ran off. Then she threw a car at it, and smashed it up...so while it was fighting her, I jumped up onto a building where it couldn't get at me, and changed." Kia hesitated, then elaborated. "It was...okay, I never tried to fight with my powers before. So I didn't know what it would be like. I just knew I couldn't let Sonya fight it alone. So I got as big as I could, and I grew the thickest, toughest shell I could...and then I jumped on the robot from the building. So it shot at me, and it hurt, but I was okay to fight. So I started punching it and hitting it and trying to get it so it wouldn't hurt the others. And it said something about gamma protocol? Gamma...something. I don't know. But it had another gun...like a missile launcher."

"Anyway, we managed to make it shoot itself with the missile launcher, and...I don't know what happened. There was this huge explosion, and it knocked me away and the next thing I knew Sonya was asking me if I was okay...and it was over. Sonya let me wear her shirt since I tore up what I was wearing when I got big, and during the fight."

She wiped her eyes quickly. "It was awful. It was like wrestling a tiger, or an alligator. It was hurting me, but I knew if I stopped even for a second, it would kill me. I've never been that scared."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sonja crossed her arms over her chest, making sure her coat was securely fastened, mortified at standing in front of the Director that half the female students had a crush on it seemed with only a bra on underneath. Her face was pale with shock, but points of red high on her cheeks betrayed her anger too.

"I... I think people did die, Ms. Childs," the enormous blonde admitted in a low voice.. "The screams and cries in the restaurant, the way they... stopped..."

She glanced down at Kia and shook her head before looking back at the Director. "Mr. Drumm, we were just going out for a bite to eat when the killer-robot thing just landed right there in the street and said it was gonna terminate us. It sounded cheerful- said please even! Then it started shooting at us!"

Sonja began gesturing emphatically, the top of her coat beginning to gape wider, revealing her bare collar-bones. "I got Josh and me out of the way, taking cover behind the corner of the restaurant, but the Dreadnought didn't care - it just kept shooting, right through the building! And it kept coming for us - I guess it hadn't see Kia and Scorpion as a threat. Josh did do this momentum thing, breaking one of the guns, though that barely slowed it down. It had another."

Her jaw tightened, hands balling into fists as she snorted angrily. "I couldn't just let it keep coming with those innocent people in the way, so... so I engaged it." A distinct swallow indicated the remembered fear of doing so, even as she stood tall and proud, not regretting her action. "I grabbed the first thing I could find - the car was already perforated by gunfire, by the way! - and hit it, trying to knock it down and get its attention." She frowned. "All I did was knock it back, some."

She waved a hand at Kia and nodded, "Then Kia went all Bug-Hulk on it and you know the rest. We called 9-1-1 for those who were injured, then got to the van as fast as we could and drove out of the Manhattan in case more of them showed up and there was more collateral damage." Herb broad shoulders slumped as she glanced quickly at the blank TV screen. "Yeah, it looks bad - and it is! - but it's not our fault, really! We just tried to stop it before worst happened. Or you know, it killed us."

She sighed in frustration, raising a hand to brush white-blond hair from her face. "How can they get away with doing stuff like this?"

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Sonja's observation about the restaurant hit Kia about the way that car had hit the robot. For a second she couldn't breathe; her throat closed. She hadn't even been thinking about other people. She'd been entirely focused on her friends, and saving her own neck, once the fight had started. There hadn't been time to worry about bystanders. If she'd been distracted even for a second, the robot would have shot her head off!

But now she realized with a sickening lurch that Sonja was right. People HAD probably died. And she may very well have killed them.

"Oh my god," she moaned, starting to cry for real now. "Oh my god, I didn't... I didn't MEAN to hurt anyone..." Thoroughly horrified and humiliated, she covered her face and tried desperately to control herself...but the sobbing wouldn't stop. It was all just too much!

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Kia felt a large, long-fingered hand engulf her slender shoulder as Sonja reached down to give her a comforting squeeze. Her chest was tight as she sniffed repeatedly, trying to hold in her own tears.

"Don't cry, Kia," Sonja pleaded in a rough, quavering voice. "You're... gonna... make me... cry!" A tear leaked from the corner of a deep indigo eye, making a glistening trail down one cheek. "I didn't think too - I just wanted to get Josh and me out of the way. I never even considered what the robot would go through to get to us. I thought putting a building between us would make us safe. But... but... but it didn't do anything for those still inside."

Sonja angrily scrubbed the tears from her eyes and cheeks with the back of her hand, pulling Kia against her side in a mutually supportive, one-armed embrace. "You didn't hurt anyone, Kia. We didn't. It was the dreadnought!"

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  • 3 weeks later...

Josh raised his head slightly, he'd been staring down at his useless tennis shoes almost since Sonja had put him down behind the bistro. Practicing with hockey pucks or tennis balls was one thing, fighting for your life, and the lives of those around you, against something that huge... Josh promised that he'd do better next time. Next time no one dies.

"It was like Sonja said. We saw the news report of the other one, we all got heated at that, but then we decided to get some italian food before we came back to school. If we hadn't those people might still be alive... but if we'd been in the van when it attacked, or back here at the school..." Josh's words faded as the images of him trapped in the van while it was riddled with bullets and the campus in flames with his dead roommates around... sometimes having a vivid imagination wasn't a good thing.

Josh shuddered in his powerchair and then went on. "It's guns were rotating, so I jammed the one that started shooting first. I didn't think about how we'd get it to stop, but I figured if it wasn't shooting that that was better. I'm sorry I didn't stop the other one. Maybe I could've added to Sonja's impact with the car, maybe incapacitated it sooner." Josh raised his head to look Director Drumm in the eye, then quickly let his eyes go back down to his shoes. "I'm sorry that I didn't do more to protect those people and my friends. I could've done more, but I didn't. I'm sorry." Josh spared a quick look down the line of students that he'd just called friends, then dropped his head sullenly, the weight of each stranger's death on his shoulders.

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  • 4 weeks later...

"Okay," The Director's voice was calm and soothing, but it seemed to do little for the rush of emotions present in the room. "Sonja is right: you three didn't hurt anyone. That thing would have come after you regardless of the civilian casualties. It's not your fault." He knelt beside Kia and rubbed her knee, offering her a comforting smile as any father figure might. "You were all very brave, and if anything you saved more people than you know by standing up to that thing and facing off against it."

"Bravery and stupidity is a very fine line..." Miss Childs chimed up, still rather angry at her students for fighting instead of running.

Director Drumm looked over his shoulder at her. "A matter of opinion. Often times I find it stupid for people to just sit idly by and let the evils of the world over run them. These four stood firm in the tempest and showed courage where others would have showed cowardice. Notify their families, I want them in advanced power placement by Monday morning. They're perfect for the Sentinel Program."

Miss Childs's eyes swelled to the size of silver dollars. "Jericho!" Te lack of formality was not dismissed by the four students listening. "They're just kids. You can't possibly be serious! These are students placed in our charge, they're here to learn and I will not be an accessory to you encouraging their deviant behavior with advanced power training instead hitting the books. They're supposed to be lawyers, doctors, engineers. They're supposed to make a difference in this word... not... not..."

"Not what?" Jericho asked quietly. "Not learn to harness their ability and use it for the greater good? Not," He lingered for a moment then his voice took on a sympathetic tone. "Make a difference?"

"Lawrence scrapped it for a reason, Jericho. They're not ready."

"No," He replied quietly. "We weren't ready. Monday. Advanced placement. This discussion's over."

Miss Childs sighed and glared at the man as he turned and left the room. She folded her arms angrily then turned about face on her heels and glared at the students. "Well, I hope you're all pleased with ourselves..."

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Kia...a little more calm as she wiped her eyes and sniffled into a kleenex she'd found in the office...gave Miss Childs a hurt look.

"Pleased? I don't understand....what's 'advanced placement' mean? I thought we were all already being trained to control our powers."

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