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Aberrant: Nova Reality - Meeting in the 'Burbs


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A young man with light brown hair and a blue Eufiber suit, accented with yellow details enters a one story office building in Oak Brook, a suburb Northwest of Chicago, just off of Kingery Highway. He pulls the mask back like a hood exposing a handsome face with an easy smile, and plenty of idealism still in his eyes. He takes the mail out of the mail box and begins sorting through it as he heads for the office door to the side of a window, where a young somewhat heavy woman is seated, typing at her terminal with a headset on.

The office is decorated a little sparsely, sky blue seems to be the predominant theme, above the window is the stylized logo "Dreams of Flight". On the walls are several framed pictures all of the young man in costume, shaking hands with various celebrities, business owners, and city officials. He stops at one, it shows a very pretty purple-pink haired Asian girl in a flight suit and himself, apparently in a restaurant eating hot dogs.

"Hey the new picture's up! Great!" said the man as he stopped in front of it and then headed for the door. "Angela, any messages?" he asks as he walks into the office.

"The usual Mr. Lowry, N! affiliates want an interview for the 3am Opnet Radio show, the mayor's office called and wants to know if anyone has responded yet. It will cost $450 for the criminal background checks." says the woman as she watches the screen flash through several documents.

"So much?" he says as he drops a few envelopes into the trash.

"Well, they insisted that we look in all international files if they were available."

"OK, go ahead, we'll bill them later I suppose. Anything else?"

"Yes. Someone named Blackstar sent a message asking for directions, same with another called Epicenter. Another named Bandwidth said that I need to clear a space in front of a terminal, and leave it on between 11:15 and 11:20 Central time. Do you know what he's talking about?"

Peter raised his eyebrows a second. "Oh! Bandwidth, right. Yeah, just move your chair back and take your coffee break at that time. He says he travels through the Opnet cables. OK! Well things are coming together! I don't have any flights today right?"

"No Mr. Lowry. Your next isn't until tomorrow."

"Great. OK, well, I'll be in my office, let me know of any new messages."

"Yes Mr. Lowry." said Angela, returning to her terminal, but not before checking behind it real quick. She shook her head after that.

In his office Interceptor opened up a folder that contained sketches of logos and costumes.

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Bandwidth is sitting at his own terminal, working on a last few bits of programming, carefully keeping his eye on the clock. He left pretty strict instructions to the woman on the other end of the phone not to be directly in front of her terminal, but he didn't quite know how his clock lined up with hers.

His wrist watch chimes marking 11:15. He sets his glasses back on his nose. They aren't any sort of prescription, but he's been wearing them so long he just doesn't feel like he can perform with them not being near. He grabs his briefcase and sets it on his lap and then proceeds to wipe the sweat off of his forehead.

Bandwidth settles in his seat and lays his hand on top of his terminal, his eyes turn dark and binary code flashes in them, then appears on his monitor.

01000010 01100001 01101110 01100100 01110111 01101001 01100100 01110100 01101000

The code vanishes travelling across the Opnet and appearing on the monitor in the small office building. Suddenly he leaps forth from the terminal barely missing the secretary. He stands up looking at the surprised secretary.

"Hi, I'm J.C., I have an appointment to meet Intercepter, he probably knows me by the name of Bandwidth though." he states as he walks around to the other side of the desk. "I think I may be a bit early though."

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Angela is gasping on the floor, having been literally knocked out of her seat by the entrance. If she hadn't just dropped her pen...

"Oh! Mr. Bandwidth!" she looks at her watch. "I wasn't expecting you for another two minutes. Um...welcome. I'll let Interceptor know you're here." she says as she struggles to get up.

"That's OK Angela, I heard." says Interceptor from the door of his office. He walks out briskly, hand extended to Bandwidth.

"Hi, hope there wasn't a lot of...traffic." he says, wincing a bit at his lame joke. "Pete, Pete Lowry." he introduces himself.

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BlackStar is looking out of his office´s window to the busy street below. But he´s not seeing the people or the cars. He´s thinking about his new venture with this fellow, Interceptor, in Chicago. It seems like a good job. But he have been a lone wolf for so long. He wouldn´t have problems working with Jager, and he thinks Alchemist would be a good companion also. But, what about the others?.

Even in the profound thought state, his heightened senses keep relaying a lot of information to his brain. Before his old friend and associate, the Ray, could enter the building, BlackStar knows it. He had made all arrangements to left the agency in his capable hands.

*Right, I must make my move. I´m not going to say goodbye another time*.

In an instant the black form of his now changed body disappear.

And in another he reappears in Chicago, in the top of one of the Sears Towers. He have been there years ago.

The people visiting the Tower have a glimpse of a black outline in human form for a moment. Then they see it disappear and look each other surprised, not sure what they have seen.

In a discreet place in the interior, BlackStar changes back to human form. Then, he goes down to the street and takes a cab to the Oak Brook suburb.

Last time he have been in Chicago, was in a quick job. He doesn´t know most of the city. BlackStar senses absorb information about it on many levels as the driver takes him to Interceptor´s place.

When they arrive, he pays the driver and looking to the building he notices the symbol of Interceptor´s business, "Dreams of Flight". He climb the stairs two at a time, apparently without effort, to the office and knocking on the door, enters.

He then sees an almost comical scene. The poor secretary is liying on the floor with a surprised look on her face. And there are two novas there. One of them seems like Interceptor for the description he did on the Opnet Board of his uniform. The other one is unknown to BlackStar.

He helps the woman to her feet and then presents himself.

"hello,I´m BlackStar, Interceptor, I suppose?.

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Interceptor is shaking Bandwidth's hand when yet another Nova walks in. Initially he seems to not recognize him. He takes a quick glance back in his office, where he has the files and dossier of various Novas that have answered his invitation. He sees a picture on one of his files, and raises a finger in the air in recognition.

"Blackstar! Wow, I wasn't expecting you so soon, what timing! I hope you had no problems finding the place." he watches as Blackstar helps up Angela. "Oh, this is Angela Richards, my assistant." he offers his hand to Blackstar.

"Hello" she says, blushing a bit to Bandwidth. "Hello, thank you." she says to Blackstar. "Can I show you to the conference room?"

"Yeah, let's head there. Go ahead and show them the way, I'll be along with my files in just a moment or two. Then Angela, maybe we could order fom that caterer?"

"Certainly Interceptor. This way please." says Angela leading the two Novas to a modest meeting room. It's equipped with another Opnet terminal, a table, and still more pictures of Interceptor and local celebrities.

Interceptor returns shortly with an armload of files, folders, forms, and drawings. He places them onto the table and spreads them out for all to see.

"So I'm thinking lunch, how about beef sandwiches?" he says as he takes his seat.

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As he's walking into the office he apologizes to the secretary, just now fully realizing the effect of his haphazard entrance. "I'm sorry Angela, I forgot to coordinate times with you over the phone. I promise if I ever need to travel in a similar means I will call you right before hand as well."

He's led into the room along with the nova known as BlackStar. He looks around as he enters the meeting room. His eyes first jump to the OpNet terminal. He always seems to be aware of open OpNet terminals. His attention then diverts as he begins looking around at all the photographs of Interceptor with celebrities, recognizing a few of them.

As he gazes at the celebrity images he hears Interceptor state something about beef sandwiches. He wirls around to face him.

"Anything is fine with me as long as it's edible. "

He turns to look at the one Interceptor called BlackStar extending his hand. "We haven't been formally introduced yet. My name is J.C. Thompson, but I go by Bandwidth mainly."

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After he was sure the secretary is fine, BlackStar turns to shake Interceptor´s hand. At the same time he smiles to Angela and says: "hello, pleased to be of help, madam". To Interceptor: "the tourists in the Towers Skydesk would be a bit shaken. But it´s the place that I remember best from my only visit to your beautiful city. And after I take simply a cab".

He goes to the other room after the secretary and hears the other nova excuse himself with her. He takes the ambiance of the meeting place and notice the interest of the unknown nova for the Opnet terminal. BlackStar then recall the person called Bandwidth who is a computer specialist from the N! board. As he´s thinking about this, Interceptor enters with a big load of papers and ask about eating beef sandwiches. He answers: "no problem for me", grinning friendly.

Then his hunch about the other nova is confirmed as he presents himself. Shaking hands BlackStar tells him: "pleased to meet you, Bandwidth, I was looking eagerly to know in person the people I only know through the board".

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Interceptor heads over to the terminal and turns it on real quick and clicks on a link to an Opnet radio station, playing soft music from the 90s. "It helps me think." he says as he lowers the volume so it's not distracting and then heads over to Blackstar holding out his hand again.

"I didn't introduce myself before. I'm Pete Lowry, Interceptor." he says as he shakes hands. "It's not a very well kept secret, my name that is. More like a stage name than anything else."

"So, beef sandwiches then? OK, one second." Interceptor steps out of the conference room for a moment and heads to the door. On the table are various sketches of logos and team names, as well as costume ideas. It seems that Pete is something of an artist and perhaps even has some training in ad design.

"Angela? Order a party platter of beef sandwiches from Portillo's. And umm..." he ducks back in to the conference room. "You guys like chopped salad? It's really good." he sees some nods of agreement and then ducks out again. "And get the party sized Chopped Salad. We still have sodas right? And coffee?"

"Yes Mr. Lowry. I'll place the order." replies Angela.

"Great." Interceptor returns to the table. "Can I get you anything before we start? Coffee? Soda? Juice?" he heads to a room attached to the conference and all can see it's a small snack room with a microwave, coffee maker, sink, and refrigerator. He returns with a selection of beverages.

"OK. Well first off, I'm glad you could make it. This can really help get things going around here. I've put together a few ideas for things like a team name, and some options on costume ideas. Just throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks you know? Some of the names I've come up with are:

1. The Windy City Knights

2. The Great Lakes Knights

3. The Great Lakes Protectors

4. The Midwest's Finest

5. The C.N.D; Chicago Nova Defense (Acronyms often test well, even if they don't mean anything)

6. The Windy City Task Force

7. Project Aegis

"Those are just a few I came up with. It's definitely a work in progress. More important though is coming up with a contract and terms and agreements with our potential backers. The best way to get that going I think is to state plainly, what you expect out of this collaboration. So, either one of you, why don't you go ahead and let us know what you're thinking about this."

Angela enters the room at this point with a small laptop computer, and she begins transcribing the meeting.

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Epicenter hangs up his cell after getting his directions from the secretary.

Grumbling about directions, and traffic, he pulls off Kingery highway. Checking the address again, he pulls his truck to a stop outside. Stepping out of his truck, he nearly runs into some passersby, mumbling his apologies, and taking note of their gawking expressions.

He walks through the door, trying to get off the street as soon as possible, best not to attract any more attention.

"Yes, I just called, I have an appointment with Interceptor," he says to the secretary behind the desk.

Feeling a bit under-dressed standing in his jeans and faded flannel shirt, he follows her lead to Interceptor's office.

"Sorry I'm late, I still have to travel the old fashioned way. What did I miss?" as he steps through the doorway.

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The Spanish nova laughs and says: "sorry, but I don't think we could use the *Aegis* name. My friend Georges Kapetelis could sue us. It´s his *nom de guerre* and I know for sure it´s registered. But I like the acronym. Chicago Nova Defense, it sounds nice".

"As for my reasons to be here, I give one on the board. The work in my usual area of influence is scarce. And I have the idea of expanding a bit in other parts of the world. Moreover, the possible opportunity of working with my friend Jager. And with the rest of you of course. As I said, is an old desire to know some of the people of the board in person".

Then, as BlackStar is speaking, the door opens and another unknown nova appears.

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"...By the way, I'm Eric Jeffries, or Epicenter. Either one is fine by me."

He shakes everyone's hand one by one, and locates a nearby empty seat, sitting down a little heavily. His eyes wander over the sketches and logos, testing each one in his head.

"are there only four of us? or are there more of us? I'm not quite sure about picking a "group" name if we don't know who we have with us, or what we all can do?"

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He gives Epicenter a firm handshake, one that feels pale in comparison to what he is getting back.

"I'm kind of fond of Windy City Knights, it's just kind of catchy, but I do agree. I think we need to know more of what we can do before re settle on a name."

Bandwidth pulls the glasses off his nose and places them in the pocket of his trench coat and starts to look around at the different logos, dedicating each of them to memory.

"You look like you have some past talent in this area, I'm glad to see everybody so enthusiastic about this project so far."

Bandwidth sits at one of the remaining empty chairs awaiting for the meeting to become less greeting and more discussion of expectations.

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"I kind of figured Aegis might be taken. Different versions of it could work, but why bother going through the trouble of fighting for it? I'm kind of partial to the Windy City Knights myself, but more as a nickname rather than the official name. I like the CND, like I said acronyms just kind of work well, they make for good logos, and it sounds good when delivered. 'Look! It's the CND!'."

"I majored in ad design in college, it's funny, I erupted shortly after I finished an interview for a job. As far as other people, Alchemist has asked for directions on how to get here, so he might even be joining us today. Jager, Continuum Girl and Mafdet have expressed a lot of interest, I just don't know how keen the backers for this project would be on them joining. April Rice and Tangent have also expressed interest."

"So back to the original question. What do you expect out of this? For example, are there things that you refuse to do? There's likely to be plenty of good will type activities; opening schools and hospitals, giving speeches, signing autographs, meeting ambassadors and political figures as well as business execs and celebrities, rescue work, emergency services, fighting crime, advanced Nova relations (possibly combatting them), TV appearances, possibly product endorsement. Those are all conceivable things we could be doing. Basically being celebrities and representatives of Chicago and the surrounding area."

"That's what I mean here. These are the things that we are very likely to be expected to do. Our lives will lose a lot of privacy, and we'll be civil servants. People a lot less powerful, lot less intelligent, a lot less...anything, will be given a great deal of sway over us, if we agree to this. I'm not trying to scare anyone off or anything, but better to hear it from me now, before anything is set."

"The advantages? Well, there's a very nice salary, paid for partly by tax money, but also by a consortium of businesses. There's likely to be a headquarters. The headquarters will be highly visible. And I mean visible. There will be camera footage most of the time. N! is one of the potential backers, upon the agreement that they get high access to us so they can make a Superhero reality show. There'll be a substantial budget for research and development, as well as facilities. There'll be access to scientists who are well trained in Nova development and quantum abilities, to help with our own training and development. We'd also be licensed in the use of emergency hover vehicle operation, and have access to advanced weapons, armor and equipment. You'd have control over your image and likeness, and get plenty of oppurtunity to market that likeness. Nova Toys and Comics is a bustling industry, worth lots of money."

"So, that's my little speech on this. That's the minimum of what we can expect to go with this project. That's why it's important, especially for contractual means, that we all know what we want out of this, and if this is right for us. So, does someone want to begin? What do you hope to get out of this, what are some restrictions that you need, or considerations?"

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"I have no problems with footage being taken of us inside the headquarters, as long as we are able to regulate it a little bit, like in our private quarters or in a research lab, these are places where secrecy needs to be kept for ourselves, and for our work. To get in these facilities I would like for it to be scheduled and be supervised."

"I have no troubles doing civil service as well. I'd be honored to be able to open places like hospitals and schools, etc. I can't fight though, and that's written in stone. They can't expect me to fight as I'm no more durable than Joe Baseline and most novas could make short work of me in a matter of seconds."

"I do want to be able to control my likeness. I don't want my image and my character being thrown around without my permission, I would like to see anything using our likenesses as a whole to pass through the team as well, but I guess that's open for more discussion."

"I do hope we can do plenty of good though. A city the size of Chicago has a ton of opportunity for us to do good, not only in emergency situations, but in fundraisers and technology. I can't wait for this to progress a bit."

"I'm going to stop talking now though and give some other people a chance to speak up a bit."

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BlackStar hears Interceptor´s talk and Bandwidth´s answer with interest. Then for the first time his face loses the joviality. "I have no problem with the civil service. And I think is reasonable that if N! is going to back us, they are going to expect this kind of agreement. But I have some reservations. First, my real identity is secret for various very good reasons. Second, the full extent of my abilities would not be known. In my usual line of work, this knowledge could means the difference between life and death. Not only for me, but for the people I could be protecting in the future. I´m not implying that I would not use them if it´s really necessary. But I would do all I can to prevent that they could became public knowledge".

"Another idea I would like to make clear from the start. If I, or we as a group, are making any protocolary mission. And I detect a peril or a criminal action being made. I am not going to explain anything to anyone. I would move to stop it and after I would give all the explaining".

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Hanging in the air above Oak Brook, April quizzically compares a printed out map with the grid of streets far below. Finally working out where, exactly, she is, she picks Dreams of Flight's building out of the suburban sprawl.

A moment later, a sudden gust of wind whips the building's parking lot, sending loose paper debris fluttering through the air, and April appears in a blur just preceding the gust. Blown up dirt and dust briefly outline the lower half of a spherical bubble wrapped around her as she hovers a couple of feet above the pavement. The bubble disintegrates with a quiet *pop* of equalizing air pressure, and she touches down - already walking quickly toward the door.

Seeing no secretary and hearing voices further in, she finds her way to the office's conference room. As she approaches, April catches the majority of Interceptor's summation, and she edges in quietly (very quietly) during Bandwidth's comments.

Clearing her throat slightly and stepping forward, she speaks up when Bandwidth is done: "Um. Hey, guys - I'm April Rice. It looks like I'm a little late, which I guess is sort of ironic. [embarrassed grin] Anyway, hi."

She touches the back of a chair, but remains standing - apparently reluctant to sit still for very long. Listening to Blackstar add to Bandwidth's commentary, she steps in afterwards:

"I mostly agree with ... Bandwidth? I can pretty much do any of those things, except fighting. I have my force bubble, but I really don't think that'd actually keep me safe in a fight. At least not against novas. But the rest sounds great. Civil service isn't any kind of problem, and I'd probably actually be pretty good at rescue work. Mostly, I just want to be able to get a job where I can live like a nova, you know? And this look particularly cool, since I can help people out while I'm at it. If there's going to be all this public relations stuff, too, that's fine so long as it doesn't end up being what the job's about."

"I obviously don't have a secret identity or anything - though really, I guess I might want to come with a nova name for, like, advertising and everything. Still, I don't know how much I'd really want to be monitored. Would the N!Prime cameras only be at the headquarters? For me, that would be ok, as long as I can go home to an apartment or whatever and get some privacy."

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Interceptor nods at their suggestions and observances and makes a note or two. Then when April arrives he stands up and shakes her hand then allows her to continue.

"OK, that's great to hear these things, and it's important to find out now. The people financing and organizing this need to know ahead of time. Maybe in their mind they do want a team that is more... aggressive. If we point out that that is not our purpose, they need to know sooner rather than later. Um...Epicenter. Why don't you let us know what you expect out of this? Then we can break for lunch."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Realizing he'd dazed off, he answers Interceptor, a little quizzical at first, "Expect? It's safe to say, I'm not in this for flashy press, or endorsements. I wanted to go out and do some good, and this is what popped up. I'll be happy with whatever comes, as long as people benifit from the work we're doing."

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  • 3 weeks later...

Looking into his hotel's bathroom mirror, Billy Marsh wishes he could think of himself as Hellbilly Horrorshow.

I still feel like me. I still act like me. He slaps some Neuvo into his hair and adjusts his ragged N!ghtmare tie so that it rests slightly off-center. He brushes his teeth, being particularly careful about the canines. He's always been worried about them breaking. His father lost his teeth in a car accident and Billy had a long string of insecurities concerning oral hygiene, driver safety, and controlled alcoholism passed down to him because of it. He knows this, but knowing it doesn't stop him from worrying about it.

Billy lets out a long sigh.

I never did interview well. Why do you think that is? Map in hand, Billy Marsh rests his hand on the doorknob.

"Fuck it."

Billy Horrorshow steps out of the hotel room.


About an hour later he's in the office of one Mr. Lowry.

"So...Angela is it? Should I be calling him Mr. Interceptor, Mr. Lowry, or what? I always wonder when it comes to these thing."

"Um. No. I don't have an appointment." Billy looks about mock-thinking for a moment before smiling back at Angela. "Oops?"

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Angela nods and gets up from here chair and heads for a back room behind her desk and pokes her head in the door.

"Mr. Lowry, you have a representative from N! here to see you. And the delivery person for lunch should be arriving shortly." and she returns to her seat after a slightly muffled 'Thanks Angela' is heard from behind the door.

Moments later Pete Lowry comes out of the room, his costume on, but his mask pulled bakc like a hood. In the meeting room can be seen an assortment of quantum powered individuals discussing some plans.

Pete steps quickly from behind the office hand extended.

"Hi, Pete Lowry, Interceptor. You're from N!? I hadn't expected anybody yet. Come on in. Meet the rest of the hopefuls." he says as he ushers him into the meeting room with the rest of the Novas.

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"Hopeful seems to be an accurate description. From the sound of things, you've got a potentially great project going on here." Billy looks around the room, waving to the assorted group within the office.

"So what stage are we at here? I'd hate to be the asshole who shows up late and makes everyone start over. I'm Horrorshow, or Billy Marsh...depends on what kind of meeting this is at this point...youknowhowitis. I heard you guys were looking for more "hopefuls" as well as someone from N! ?"

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