Atlantis Unleashed: Transhuman War -Nanowrimo 2010

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Atlantis Unleashed: Transhuman War -Nanowrimo 2010

Postby cobalt-blue » Mon Dec 06, 2010 4:06 pm

Here is the first installment of my project for Nanowrimo 2010. I hope you enjoy it as I return to my regular rotation of writing. More chapters will come as I edit and polish them. As always please take a moment to review.

The Transhuman War


Time travel makes following the flow of history especially difficult. The Transhuman War or the War for Transhuman Freedom as some have begun to call it, or as Runeclaw has been heard to comment, “that recent unpleasantness with the UN” is a perfect example of this. Exactly where did the whole mess begin?

Historians have set its beginning point at three main points: the destruction of Orlando by a devastatingly powerful nuke in late December of 2001; the creation of Krieger by the Axis powers in May of 1941, or in the Atlantean Civil War back in in prehistory.

If we were to use the destruction of Orlando, Florida as the beginning of the war, then we might as well include the September 11, 2001, or even the bombing of the USS Cole. Although the Orlando bombing did have some overtones to the Transhuman War, this author rejects it as the beginning. Events of the war were already in motion, the bombing of Orlando, tragic as it was, was not in this author’s opinion the real beginning of the war.

A stronger argument can be made for gift of the secret of the Transhuman gene to the Nazis by Shadu at the beginning of World War II. It was certainly the first appearance of a known transhuman since fall of Atlantis. The subsequent theft of the process by Aaron Stryker who eventually would undergo the process to become American Ace and its accidental release by Doctor Griffin in December of 1941 are of course the events that triggered the wide scale return of the Atlantean Gifted Gene to the human race. There is a strong argument for these events being the genesis of the “modern” transhuman war.

However, it is the firm belief of this author that the true origins of the war are lost in history and are probably not even truly understood by the key players themselves- the House of Atlyn and the sorcerer Shadu. We know that Shadu and his hatred for all things both Atlyn and Atlantean were the genesis for a great many of tragedies of history. His single minded pursuit and murder of every human family carrying the AG gene throughout history; his attempted genocide against the race known as the Mideanites; and his aid to Brother Bartholomew in founding the organization known as the Directive are all signs of a deep wound from somewhere in the past that he was trying to expunge.

In the opinion of this author, the Transhuman War began with the arrival in Ancient Atlantis of a group of teenage heroes from the early twenty-first century.




Imperial Garrison at Thule approximately 299,500 years ago- give or take a week.

Force Commander Dantienne was not a large woman. In actuality she was exactly at the minimum height and weight for an Atlantean imperial ground force soldier. Too, she was on the thin side and sometimes complained that her hip bones rubbed uncomfortably against the kilt of her armor. Her long black hair was pulled back into a regulation pony-tail to keep it from falling into her hazel eyes. Only the slight copper cast to her skin gave any indication that her great grandmother had been one of Kiera-Atlan’s Gifted- the reason she’d been put in command of this Gods-forsaken outpost in the first place. The throne hoped that her pedigree would help her win over the locals. So far that had been only marginally successful.

She blew a stray lock of raven hair out of her eyes as she studied the terrain around the garrison trying to determine from which direction the enemy was likely to attack. The door chimed and she pressed the indicator on her desk to allow entrance to the bad news she suspected as coming. She looked up as the messenger came into her office. She could tell by the look on the young man’s face that she was right: it as bad news. “Yes?” she asked.

“Commander, we just got news that the Mideanite transport bringing reinforcements was shot down two hours from here. All hands were reported lost,” the soldier told her. She could hear the resignation and near hopelessness in his voice.

“Any word from the Gifted?” she asked. Kierra Atlan’s Gifted were a dangerous force to put on the battlefield- as dangerous for the force using them as it was to the enemy. They were very unpredictable, and showed little discipline, but their raw power could be devastating.

“No Commander. But Intel says they don’t think they’ll come,” the young man said. “They’re still in chaos from the rebel attack on their town last night.”

Dantienne nodded her head and sighed. “I guess I‘d better tell his Imperial Highness. We are in serious danger of having a prince of the realm captured by rebel forces.”

“Ma’am there’s more,” the messenger said.

“Go on,” she asked feeling her heart sink into her boots.

The messenger swallowed obviously nervous at the news he was about to deliver and then said, “Intel says that Shadu’s forces have captured a battleforce of grav tanks and is closing on our position. Also, the mages say that there’s something building in the air. Granted Ma’am, I don’t understand half of what they’re talking about, but they’re saying something about a huge magestorm building.”

Dantienne nodded and said, “Thank you. I’d better tell Prince Valyn.” Then turning she left the room to head down to the Prince’s quarters. She would like to get her hands on whatever bureaucrat that approved the Valyn’s visit. This mess was about to turn into a disaster that could reach all the way to the stellar colonies.

Arriving at the door to the Prince’s quarters, the two guards outside were standing at attention. Nodding, she knocked and waited.

“Enter,” Valyn’s voice called.

Doing as she was bid, Dantienne opened the door to find Valyn strapping on his battle gear with the help of his bodyguard, Andrath. Valyn was a whipcord thin man with long luscious red hair and a ruddy complexion. He had piercing green eyes that seemed to cut one directly to the soul. From what she’d come to know of him, was that he took his role as the “spare” quite seriously and worked to find ways of being useful to his father the Emperor, his sister the heir, and his brother- her twin- who would become the High Quester, the head of the Atlantean Church. Some of the talk Dantienne had been hearing around the garrison was that it was a shame that Valyn’s sister would inherit the throne and not him.

Andrath however was short, heavily muscled with his long brown hair pulled back into a functional ponytail. He was a serious man who wielded his mindblade with a deadly efficiency in battle. The binary star burst etched into the breastplate of his armor marked him as a member of the Mideanite royal family. He was shaking his head in disapproval as helped to attach Valyn’s heavier combat armor.

Looking up Valyn said, “Ah Force Commander. I’m glad you are hear. My friend Andrath seems to be upset about something and is insisting that I get ready for battle.” The banter may have been light, but Dantienne could see worry in the prince’s eyes. One did not lightly disregard the suggestions of a mideanite guard- as they were only ever assigned to guard the personages of the imperial family.

“We’ve received some bad news, your highness,” Dantienne said. “I’m afraid your personage is in considerable danger and we have no way to get you out of harm’s way,” she said.

Andrath and Valyn looked at each other and then the prince asked, “What bad news?”

“The mideanite reinforcements were shot down, the Gifted are in disarray, and it looks like Shadu has a battleforce of grav tanks on the way. Intel says that the mages are concerned about a magestorm too.” she told him not honey-coating anything.

With a grave nod of his head he and Andrath looked at each other. “I suspected as much.” With a determined look he pushed his shoulders back and said, “I will not be captured to be used against my father or my sister.”

“Every soldier here will defend you to the death, Highness,” Dantienne told him.

The prince shook his head and said, “No. I’ll stand with them and if they go down, so will I.”

Dantienne began to think that the consensus of her troops was fairly accurate. She turned to Andrath and asked, “And you?”

Andrath gave her a look of pure contempt for daring to ask such a question. “Since the empire gave shelter to my grandsire and his brother, the Mideanite people have stood with the emperor and served as the personal guardians of the throne. I stand with my charge and my friend,” Andrath said. “Where can an old six-finger and a prince of the realm be of most use?”

“To be honest, I’m not sure. The grav tanks have changed the dynamic of the situation. If they were just attacking with small arms, mortars, infantry and some light air cover we could hold them off. But those tank guns can cut a hole right through our heaviest defenses. I don’t know how long we can stand against them,” she said.

“Any chance of retreat?” Valyn asked.

“None, Highness. This is the last imperial stronghold on Thule. Shadu has managed to kill just about everyone else,” Dantienne said. “His attack on the Gifted town last night did considerable damage. Most of the adults were killed and the children have fled into the forest. It was a particularly brutal assault. Shadu hates the Gifted almost as much as he hates the throne.” She paused a moment and looked over at Andrath before adding, “and the Darkmother’s Children.”

The prince nodded and finished snapping his helmet into place. With a wan smile, he said, “In that case let’s go see where we can be of the most use. I didn’t want to live forever anyway.” Dantienne chuckled and followed the young man out. That one had just a little too much fire in his soul and she feared that he would burn out before the battle was done.

~*~

It did not take long for Shadu’s forces to arrive. There was none of the usual posturing; no demands for surrender or the sending of messages or threats. The grav tanks simply pulled up and started pounding the reinforced walls. The garrison’s big gun took out two tanks before it went up in a huge explosion raining hot metal and plasti-steel down on the compound and breaching a hole in the wall.

As the imperial troops scrambled to seal the huge hole, Shadu’s irregular forces, consisting mainly of small squads made up of highly trained clone-troopers backed by Kheltian and Hesperian mercenaries charged the walls. Prince Valyn wasn’t sure which of the latter concerned him more. He had only pity for the clone-troopers as they had no life, no existence but to serve their twisted master. Of those that he dispatched, he did so with a sense of releasing them from their horrible fates.

The Kheltians looked like a miniature bipedal version of the of the dragons they worshiped- minus the wings of course. They were big, clawed and and carried pulse rifles that doubled as clubs. They could literally rip a man in half or even eat him- something they were known to do. Some- the soulsaurians- were capable of devouring an enemy’s life force and his very soul before eating the body. Fortunately, Shadu didn’t have many Kheltians out of fear for his own troops.

The Hesperians on the other hand, an all-female force mounted on sky riders, were very fast and extremely maneuverable. Their mounts were armed with mini pulse cannons that could punch a hole through heavy armor. Their sidearms on the other hand consisted of mono-filament blades and a rather nasty slug thrower that could bring down a saber cat with a single shot. Centuries of enmity between the Atlanteans and the Hesperians made this battle especially sweet for them. Valyn knew that he’d rather be eaten by the Kheltians than captured by the Hesperians.

The battle around him surged and ebbed as the garrison forces slowly closed the breach, but not without the cost of considerable lives. A soulsaurian had broken through and cornered a gun-crew. Before he could move to aid the soldiers, Force Commander Dantienne waded into the fight.

As he and Andrath closed with the dueling pair, he watched as she leapt onto its back, and boxed the great creature’s ears with both hands. Much to Valyn’s surprise the Kheltian psychic vampire dropped the gunner it was trying to eat, and reached around to grab the garrison commander. With a grace and power that surprised him, the woman rolled over its shoulder and came down between it and her men. Reaching into her belt she pulled out a kinetic grenade and popped the primer.

Valyn and Andrath skidded to a halt behind the Kheltian. Like a striking hood-snake Andrath’s mindblade lashed out and cut deeply into the dark blue protective plate-like scales on the Kheltian’s back. There was a bubbling and a hiss as the annihilation energy of the blade met the matter of the scales. As the molecular bonds were broken there was a flash of blackness and the blade cut through to the bone. There was not much that could stand up to the energy of one of those blades.

The soulsaurian reacted and threw its head back in agony. As it opened its great toothy maw, Dantienne darted and shoved the grenade down its throat with one hand and fired her pulse rifle directly into its right hip joint with the other. Before she could clear the area, the creature bit down.

Valyn watched in horror as black veins of power began to pop out on her skin and her life force began to flow into the creature to heal the damage to its back. Quickly he darted in, shoved his own pulse rifle under the great black jaw with one arm and grabbed the Force Commander with the other. As he pressed the trigger, he yanked back as hard as he could. With a sickening pop, her wrist pulled free as the 1.21 gigawatts of energy poured into the creature’s throat. As Valyn and the Force Commander rolled backwards, the soulsaurian’s brains were blown skyward and splattered on the plasti-steel wall behind them. Valyn was unsure if it was the k-grenade or the pulse rifle that finished it off.

Looking over, he saw the woman was definitely in shock. “Healer!” he called into his radio. “The commander is down.”

As he looked around to see the medical technician running toward them, he felt Dantienne’s hand rap on his chest. Through the haze of pain and the sheer exhaustion of having part of her life force stolen, she pulled him toward her. She gritted her teeth and said, “Save my men, Highness.”

All Valyn could do was nod. Turning to the healers as they arrived, one of them said, “Highness you’d better fall back. The enemy’s massing for another attack.”

A red haze began to grow behind Valyn’s vision. He looked over to where Andrath was rallying the soldiers to seal and guard the breach. Shaking his head, he walked determinedly toward the stairs leading to the upper levels of the outer wall. Taking the steps two and three at time he cleared the parapet in time to feel the wind began to pick up.

Looking up he saw a great black and purple cloud begin to form over the battlefield and wondered if this was the magestorm the Force Commander had warned him about. Looking down, he could see where the remaining eight grav tanks were forming up in a line about two thousand metrics away from the garrison.

He knew what they were planning. With the garrison’s main gun out, nothing they threw at the tanks would penetrate. They’d concentrate their fire to a single point on the wall and blow a hole straight through the complex. Try as he might, Valyn could think of nothing he could do to stop them.

Suddenly a levin-stroke slammed down into the clearing between the tanks and the garrison. Like a space-based bombardment, energy poured into the ground until the protective lenses of his visor completely blacked out.

When the blackness cleared, five forms stood in the middle of the battlefield. Three on the ground and two floating in the air above them. Tapping the side of his visor, Valyn zoomed in on them and saw they looked very young.

The biggest of all five stood between the rest and grav-tanks. He was wearing some kind of blue body suit with a long white cloak flowing from behind it. He was well-built with broad chest and well defined muscles. His jaw was just showing the beginnings of what would be a strong angular form in a few years. His eyes were a deep blue and his hair was a light sandy blond. He also looked as angry as a saber cat.

Next to him was another male, this one too was blond and built only slightly smaller. He was wearing a multi-colored body suit of red, white, and blue. There was something about him though that surprised Valyn. Although his form was as young as the first boys, his eyes spoke of a greater age and wisdom.

The last form on the ground was a medium sized boy with brown hair. He was wearing a black and white body suit, with a black and red jacket over it. Some kind of tool kit was around his waist and he had what looked like an energy weapon in his hand.

The first in the air was a smallish boy in a blue, yelow, and white bodysuit. He was floating the air under what seemed to be his own power. Valyn had seen some of the Gifted do this as well as the occasional Mideanite telekinetic, but never anyone so young. He looked to be barely old enough for his voice to have begun changing. His blond hair did not quite hide the blue eyes beneath them.

Lastly was a single female. She had long flowing blond hair and the beginnings of what Valyn suspected would eventually be a very attractive figure. She wore a dark blue dress-like tunic over a white bodysuit. She too floated in the air as if under her own power.

Their appearance seemed to have shocked Shadu’s forces as much as it did those of the garrison. Valyn could see the blond scalp-lock of the sorcerer sway in the wind for a moment as he studied the five new comers. Then to the imperial prince’s surprise he ordered his tanks to fire on them.

All five reacted in unison. The girl flew straight up, the boy dropped in front of the kid with brown hair. The other two closed ranks in front of him. Energy poured into the spot where they were standing. One of the cannon bolts slammed into big guy in blue. Much to Valyn’s surprise, he was not vaporized on the spot, but instead picked up and hurled back into the garrison wall by the force of the blast. A second later, the same thing happened to the other big guy as energy poured into the spot where the other two two were.

Suddenly one of the tanks rose higher into the air, turned a hundred and eighty degrees onto its back and then slammed down onto the one next to it. Then with a speed and reaction that surprised Valyn all of newcomers sprang into action. The two at the wall launched themselves out onto the tanks and in an exhibition of raw power the likes of which Valyn had never seen, they literally began to tear them apart with their bare hands.

A sudden series of bursts from the youngest punched neat holes through the what was left. Sky riders began to crash into the ground for no apparent reasons and the Kheltians turned onto each other. A glimmer of hope began to rise in Valyn’s soul as Andrath joined him at the wall. It would appear that the Gifted had joined the fight after all.




Castle Berkklam High in the Austrian Alps January 1941

He was a tall muscular man with a slight almond complexion. His blond hair was cut short in the style popular in Europe at this time and although his face did not show the signs of his true age, his gray eyes were not quite so obliging. They showed many more years than his face carried.

He was not quite the oldest human to walk the Earth, but he was definitely the oldest that was still alive. He’d used many names throughout history, but for some reason he always came back to his chosen name, his sorcerer’s name. The one he’d been given as a child had long since been lost to three hundred thousand years of memory, as had the people who’d given it to him. It had been seared away along with his magegift and his manhood by the High Quester of ancient Atlantis for daring to rebel against the throne.

It had been a long and difficult fight, but he’d eventually brought down the throne, but at a great cost to not only to him, but the Earth and the stellar empire as a whole. His second civil war had done so much damage to the planetary ley-lines that it had set off a catastrophic flood that had scoured away most of civilization. What the flood had not removed, two several subsequent ice ages had.

He’d lived the whole time; slowly hunting down the last remnants of the empire, destroying those with any sign of Kiera Atlan’s gift; anyone who carried the least bit of Mideanite blood, and wiping out as many of the non-human races as he could. He was on a one man mission to see that the last tidbits of Atlantis in general and the hated Thulian provinces in particular were relegated to the trash bin of history. Now that the gene was so subsumed into the general human DNA, it was time to bring back Kiera-Atlan’s children: to serve his purposes not hers. To bring about his final retribution on a world that would abuse him so.

Shadu looked over at the culmination of his work. He’d gone to a great deal of effort to preserve various technologies from his own time. It was not easy, and much had been lost through the intervening centuries. But he’d managed to keep what he thought he’d need, and keep it well-hidden. Now he was putting his plan into action. Bring back the Gifted, stripped of their connection to the accursed Atlantean Goddess’ influence and bend them to his own will. He would become her children’s master.

The data on his portable electronic pad- a piece of electronic technology that was still far ahead of the best even the Nazis could produce was well within the parameters he'd predicted. The serum was finished. It had already been applied to the first series of subjects and would be used to infect several more specifically chosen soldiers. They would in turn have other soldiers exposed to them. It should spread through those infected quiet easily. It would have little to no effect on those without the dormant AG gene. Those in possession of it would contract flu-like symptoms. His projections were that it would kill eighty percent of those. There was no avoiding that, the AG gene was buried to deep, or was too weak. Of those who survived between two and four percent would have the gene activated. It was a very low percentage of success, but it was all he could manage given the limitations of modern technology. Still it would also produce a much higher end product.

As his eyes scanned the names and the data on their genome, he smiled. He’d overheard the discussions from his hosts about using the survivors to breed a race of super strong highly durable soldiers. Shadu knew the secret of those particular gene structures. Creating the Gifted was far easier than getting them to breed- at least with women. Keira-Atlan designed her children in a specific manner and tying that particular gene combination to same sex attraction was part of her plan- or at least that’s what the Atlantean Church had always said.

Still he was not sure about the information his hosts had given him about some of the subjects. Based on his own projections, their favorites- the SS Captain, and the two Gestapo operatives had a less than thirty percent chance of surviving the process, and if they did and if they were endowed with gifted powers, he did not suspect they would be the impressive juggernauts the Nazis wanted. Baron von Tottenstein’s oldest son however was very likely to outclass them all. It was irony in action, that the young man sent to the experiments as a punishment to his father was most likely to survive.

There was a knock at the door, and Doctor Klaus Hauer entered the room going over a ream of paper. Shadu slipped the electronic pad into his pocket, looked up and smiled at the man’s grumblings. Although Hauer gave off a gruff exterior, he was one of the few scientists working with Shadu that he actually liked. The short man with steel gray eyes, a thick blond mustache and thinning hair said, “Herr Doctor Shadu, surely your predictions are off.”

“In what way?” Shadu asked with a smile as he looked at the hard copy of the file he was just viewing that the other researcher was holding.

“Surely Hauptmann Amsel, and Sergeants Mueller and Vogler have a higher percentage of gaining the desired adaptations than Von Tottenstein. The Fuhrer’s own geneticists picked them for this experiment.”

Shadu smiled and raised an eyebrow. “Luitger, you know my opinion of that particular group of so-called scientist and their work.” He turned from the man toward a coffee pot he had set up in the corner and asked, “I was about to prepare myself a cup of coffee. Would you like one?”

“No thank you, Shadu. I can’t stomach the stuff the army gives us claiming it is coffee.”

Shadu turned back and smiled at the man and said, “This is real, Luitger, not the chicory and acorn mix our hosts want to try and pass off as coffee.”

The other scientist raised and eyebrow and asked, “Where in Austria did you get real coffee?”

Shadu smiled and said, “I have my sources for many things.”

“In that case, I will definitely have a cup of your coffee,” Doctor Hauer said. Then as if remembering what came brought him to Shadu’s lab in the first place he asked, “Are you sure about Amsel and Mueller?”

“I’m sure, Luitger. If anyone had bothered to actually ask me I could have chosen a selection of candidates with a far better chance of success than the batch the high command has sent me. Of the three hundred we’re discussing only the four you mentioned stand even the slightest chance of having the gene activated. The rest will most likely get the flu and possibly die.”

“Then why go on with the experiments?” Hauer asked.

“Because there are things I wish to gain for myself out of this process, Luitger,” Shadu told him with a smile. “The fact that there is a higher percentage of the Gifted gene in North and Western Europe simply makes your Fuhrer’s goals and my own compatible. Nothing more and nothing less, my friend.”

Hauer looked around concerned and said, “I wouldn’t toss comments around like that too openly, Herr Doctor. The SS has eyes everywhere.”

Shadu smiled and said, “Not in this room.” He began preparing the coffee as he continued to speak. “My research indicates at its height, the Atlanteans had an outpost on an island somewhere in the North Atlantic, and that outpost was heavily populated by what they called the Gifted. When the Empire fell and Thule disappeared, those not on the island migrated and settled in isolated areas of Western and Northern Europe. They took locals as their spouses and passed the gene into the population.”

“And where do you get this kind of information?” Hauer asked.

“It’s there if you know where to look and how to dig. The problem is that the Fuhrers archaeologists have no patience for the real research that has to be done to find out these kinds of things. Instead they destroy evidence that disproves their eugenics theories and twist other finds until they are unrecognizable. I’m not here to prove the Nordicism theory correct. Yes, some of the Nordic peoples are descended from the Atlanteans, so are some of the Semitic peoples and so are some of the American Native Indian peoples. I am here to bring back that gene,” he told Hauer. "Not give credence to a racist." In three hundred thousand years, Shadu had come to realize that just about any person no matter what race was capable of the same greatness and the same depravity. Culture played a far greater influence on civilization than race ever did.

As for the the Gifted and their genes being part of the Nordic people, granted there was a higher concentration of the gene in the Nordic peoples, but it wasn’t a pure race as Hitler claimed. It was there because of the hybridization of the Atlanteans with the locals- and not a few Neanderthals from the last ice age as well. The Nordic people were not a “pure race” but an amalgam of several local groups of people who managed to survive the Great Flood and two ice ages. That was impressive enough, but it in no way made them genetically superior to humanity. He was not about to tell Hauer, the Nazis, or anyone else that there was just as high a concentration in the mountains of Scotland, Ireland, and the Southern United States- the latter due to the colonization of by the former over the last few centuries. “How are our patients doing?” he finally asked Hauer.

Hauer shook his head and said, “I hate to admit it, but you are correct. All four men we discussed earlier are showing symptoms of the flu. High fever, severe dehydration, and diarrhea have surfaced in all of them. Amsel also has a sever rash on his back and is complaining that his eyes are itching. Mueller does not look well. We cannot keep fluids in him at all. I’m afraid if the fever doesn’t break soon, that we’ll lose him.”

“And Von Tottenstein?” Shadu asked.

“High fever- to the point of delusional. We’ve had to submerge him in ice several times to avoid brain damage,” Hauer said with a slight cough. “He also appears to be gaining muscle mass.”

“I am not surprised,” Shadu said with a smile. “He will be your Kreiger. He will be the warrior you are looking for. I would suggest you get that idiot, Emdum to leave him alone. He’s very likely to eventually lose his temper and make that fool a permanent part of a wall somewhere.”

Hauer smiled and said, “I would almost pay to see such a thing.”

Shadu smiled at the man and said, “As would I my friend. As would I. The interplay between our subjects and their handlers is going to be interesting to say the least. The serum is going to be almost as valuable to the Third Reich as it will be to me." Of course what he did not reveal was that he'd weaponized virus so that it was self replicating. For several years after their survival- if they survive- these men would be carriers infecting others so that it would rewrite their genetic code. Those with the potential for a gift would become ill and those with a strong enough constitution would survive to become the new race of Gifted. Those with weak gifts would simply be destroyed. Shadu intended for the race he'd stolen from Kiera-Atlan to be stronger than the original. After all, he would be their recreator, and he intended HIS army to be like nothing ever seen on Earth. He smiled and added, "Although I'm curious about Amsel's rash. Exactly where is it?"

"In two large patches along the inside of both of his shoulder blades," Hauer said.

Shadu smiled and nodded. That indicated a bit of irony all in itself considering the man's name. He'd seen the same kinds of symptoms back millenia ago among certain of the Gifted. It was a somewhat rare modification but a useful one. He indicated a couple of chairs near a small table in his suite and said, "Please sit down old friend. I'm curious as to your plans after the war."

Hauer took the offered seat and laughed at the question. "After the war? This thing has already gone on for five years and doesn't show any signs of ending in the near future. I would like to retire somewhere and do a little theoretical research, but I don't see that happening." Shadu could sense the man's discomfort. He knew that many scientists just wanted to be left alone to do their research, and that the war was an obstacle to that.

Before he could reply there was the sound of an alarm bell ringing throughout the castle. The Nazis were nothing if not efficient, as it was only a few seconds later that the sounds of boots on the stone floors came through the door. Hauer looked over at Shadu questioningly and asked, "What?"

"I don't know, but I intend to find out," Shadu putting his coffee cup down and rising from his chair. Suddenly an explosion echoed off the walls around them with such force that the coffee pot was shaken to the floor where its glass globe shattered, spreading the steaming hot liquid in all directions. Shadu grabbed the table to maintain his balance and then when the shaking subsided he headed out the door. Behind him, he heard Hauer shout, "That was from the direction of the lab!"

Realizing that the man was right, he tore down the hall with more vigor than his hosts would have given him credit. In the distance, he heard the sounds of men calling for the fire brigade. He suddenly had a sinking feeling in his gut. This was not going to be good news. His fears were borne out as he skidded to a halt at the edge of the corridor leading to his lab. The stone walls were scorched, the heavy wooden door lay in splinters all around the floor and there was a inferno-like blaze pouring out of the lab.

Without considering his own safety, he strode down the hall, past the men trying to put out the blaze. He reached up and touched a talisman on his throat as he heard Hauer gasp behind him at the destruction. With a wave of his hand, he released the mana trapped in the talisman and commanded the spirit to do his bidding. In a matter of seconds the flames were gone and only the devastation was left.

Entering the lab with a confused Hauer right behind him he took stock of the lab. It was all gone. His equipment that he'd worked so hard to protect and maintain, that was totally irreplaceable was completely destroyed. The safe where the formula was kept had its door ripped from the hinges and was empty of all his notes- which would do nobody else any good as they were written in Imperial Atlantean- as well as the four vials of the serum he'd managed to develop were gone. "What?... How?...." Hauer asked from behind him.

"It would appear to be sabotage or espionage," Shadu said quietly. "The question is which and who."

"How can we find out?" Hauer asked.

"We, Doctor?" Shadu said turning on his colleague.

The man must have caught his suspicion as he quickly said, "We, Herr Doctor. I have a great deal of time and energy invested in this work as well. I do not like to see it undone."

Shadu thought and considered the man's words. He had, as he said, invested a great deal of energy into the work. And he did seem to be much more of a pure researcher than any kind of spy. Finally, nodding his head, Shadu replied, "I will find out."

"How?" Hauer asked.

Shadu simply nodded coldly and said, "Watch." He pulled another talisman from his pocket as Hauptmann Emdum peeked cautiously into the room. He was a big man with a lantern jaw and close cropped hair the color of freshly mown wheat. His blue eyes that normally showed only cold contempt reflected worry at this time.

“What happened to the fire?” Emdum asked.

“I happened to it,” Shadu told the soldier as if to dismiss him. “Now I will find out who did this.” He reached into his pocket and pulled forth another talisman. A few quick words and a spiral of energy began to flow out of the crystal embedded in the small piece of jewelry. He heard both Emdum and Hauer gasp as several small bat-winged beings took form.

Quickly they fell into a jabbering formation as their ugly little faces stared up at the ancient sorcerer. One of them jabbered at him in the language of imps.

“Tell me who destroyed this room, and why,” he commanded.

The imps turned to look at each other and then began to fly all around the room sniffing at things, peering into corners and staring a burnt and broken glass. Shadu knew that they were seeing time in a completely different way than humans and mortals were capable. He knew that they could tell him far more about what had happened in the lab. He was somewhat surprised though when one of them flew out the door, circled Hauptmann Emdum three times and then flew down the hall.

“What are those things?” Hauer asked.

“Mandragora, a minor form of demon,” Shadu told him. “They will get to the heart of the matter.”

Emdum swallowed hard and watched the demon who’d buzzed him fly off. He turned back to Shadu, his face much paler than it had been before and asked, “I thought you were a scientist.”

Shadu raised an eyebrow to him and said, “I am more than that, Hauptmann, much more.” He began inventorying his equipment. Most of it was beyond repair, and was irreplaceable. He’d been so careful for so many millenia with it. Against his better judgement he’d allowed the Nazis to talk him into moving it here. Now this had happened. “It is all lost.”

“You can rebuild it,” Emdum said rather quickly. “Our scientists can help you.”

“No Hauptmann, I can’t. Your vacuum tubes and radio dials are of no use to me here. You do not have infrastructure to supply me with even the most basic components.” He stopped and looked at the officer for a moment. “You do not understand just what has been lost.”

“Then explain it to me,” Emdum said. “Or better yet, explain it to Hauer and the others and stop hiding your technology. Share it with the Third Reich.”

Shadu began to explain when the imp who’d disappeared winged back into the room. In a small gravelly voice that bespoke of care to avoid damage to the tongue it said in its native tongue, “Two beings. They slipped through several unguarded passageways and into this room. They stole what was in that box, and then destroyed the contents of this room.”

Shadu asked, “Why were the corridors unguarded?”

The small impling pointed to Emdum and said, “That one ordered the men away to dispose of the body of the girl from the village that he’d murdered.” The impling looked at the Hauptmann admiringly and added, “We like him.”

Shadu raked the officer with his gaze. “I can teach the ignorant, and I can tolerate honest mistakes, Captain Hauptmann, but I have no use for stupidity.” Turning back to the impling he said, “You may have him. Recover my property and you may have the soldiers who were away from their post as well.”

“Have me?!” Emdum asked in surprise.

“Have you,” Shadu said coldly. “Your stupidity cost me equipment that I cannot replace. I have no more use for you.” In a flash all the small imps sprang toward the SS officer, their claws and teeth gleaming in the low light of the room. In a grisly blur of light and blood, and a single agonizing scream, the man was torn to pieces and devoured just before the swarm flew off into the night in search of the intruders.

Clearly shaken, Hauer looked over at Shadu and asked, “Exactly what is happening Herr Doctor? What did Hauptmann Emdum do?”

Shadu stopped a looked at the obviously frightened scientist. He knew Hauer would be useful, even necessary for his work in the future. And to be completely honest with himself, he genuinely liked the man. He was a pure researcher, a man of science, and had an inquisitive mind. If for no other reason than he enjoyed the man’s company Shadu took a moment and explained. “The Hauptmann killed a local girl tonight. I suspect she was not his first, and I suspect that murder is not his only crime on her person. He ordered the men whose job it was to guard this corridor to dispose of the body. While they were away from their posts, two agents, possibly English infiltrated the lab, stole the serum and my notes, destroyed my equipment and then left. I have sent my implings to recover what can be recovered.”

“This is serious,” Hauer said. “If we cannot reproduce the serum then...,”

“We will have to go to other options, Herr Doctor Hauer. These spies, these saboteurs have now interfered in my plans. I will not let that go unpunished. I will see the return of the Gifted to this world, and I will see that they are under my control,” he said.

The other scientist swallowed hard and asked, “What can we do now?”

“Now we clean up this mess and wait for my implings return, we will then decide on which path we must follow. Those four vials of serum are the only ones in existence.” He gestured toward the devastation in the room and added, “Because of this, they will be the only in existence for quite some time.”

“Exactly who, and what are you, Herr Doctor Shadu?” Hauer asked.

“I am the past, Herr Doctor Hauer,” Shaud said. “And the future. I am far older than I appear, and have far more power than you suspect.”

Hauer nodded and Shadu knew the man was weighing his options. He was not a stupid man and understood the situation quite well. He nodded and said, “Then we wait.”

It was nearing dawn when about a third of implings returned to the lab. Their wings were torn, their limbs were broken, and they had large bloodless wounds all over their bodies. The one who’d went on the first mission spoke again, this time in German. “They escaped. We cursed two of the vials and the papers however.” The last was added in a hopeful tone.

Shadu knew that they were hoping to avoid being punished for failure. However, he also knew that he had lain down the parameters of their agreement when he’d sent them out. Punishing them now would gain him nothing. “How is it that two humans defeated a nest of mandragora?” Shadu asked suddenly worried.

“One of them, the woman, was one of Freyja’s own,” the impling said. “She had great strength and power.”

“Freyja’s own?” Hauer asked. “Doesn’t that suggest an alliance with the Reich? She is after all supposedly a Nordic diety.”

“That has nothing to do with it. The Nordic Gods will not ally themselves with this government, no matter how much Hitler and his idiots invoke their symbols. Hauptmann Emdum’s as well as every other SS officer who wear those suwello pins so proudly are only telling the Odin’s folk where to put the blade,” Shadu said. “As for Freyja, she is her own woman. She charged her children to stand between mankind and those that would the free enchain. Your Third Reich is attempting to enslave the world. No, the Norse will fall behind the English before they will Hitler.”

He turned back to the impling and said, “How did you curse my property?”

“It will bring fire and destruction, and death to those who possess it,” the impling said. “They will still do as you intended them to do, but at a great cost to the user.”

Shadu nodded his head. It was typical of the mandragora to attach a curse to the nature of the object instead of destroying it. That way their curse would be less likely to be countered. He still had hope for the return of the Gifted, but realized now that the experiment was out of his control. Nodding, he looked at the imp and said, “You may return to your home. You’ve served me to the best of your ability. Our pact is finished.”

The imp looked warily over at Hauer and then asked, “What of him?”

“He is my friend. Do not harm him,” Shadu said, and much to his surprise realized it was true. The imp gave the ancient sorcerer a look of disbelief before disappearing in a swirling cloud of fire and brimstone.

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Issue 2

Postby cobalt-blue » Sat Jan 08, 2011 3:53 am

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Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia 1999

Devin Kirk was getting too old for this kind of crap. He’d done his time in spandex, and protected the US during the cold war. Then he’d gone above and beyond the call of duty to raise the son of a former partner, showing him the way to become the greatest of the modern heroes: Night Angel. He’d hung up his sword and his scale mail years ago, but he couldn’t let this one go. There were too many lives at stake, and if not him, then who?

Rolling across the pavement alongside Houston Mill Road like a character from a popular sixties science fiction series, he felt the peppering of concrete shrapnel as Red Scorpion’s blast blew a hole in the sidewalk where he’d been just an instant before. He was really outclassed here. Red Scorpion, Neutron, and whoever the guy dressed in black was had him outclassed six different ways from Sunday. His slightly enhanced reactions, strength, and durability couldn’t hope to stand up to three Class twelve or above parahumans or transhumans, or whatever the media had decided the politically correct term was this week. Ever since the two major comic book publishers sued
Doctor Green, the term superhero had ceased to be used in popular culture.

But he could not let them escape with the samples they’d stolen. He didn’t even know what they were, but knew that them being the hands of Richelieu Factor was a bad idea. Right now, the guy in black had the sealed metal containers and he had to find some way of getting them back. His dodging brought him to a stop behind a parked SUV as he scanned the area again.

Standing at the end of the drive was Red Scorpion guarding what was evidently some kind of high tech get-away vehicle. Devin already knew that it could fly and was evidently capable of VTOL and had stealth capabilities. Hovering over the lawn in front of the main building was Neutron- not someone he really wanted to tangle with. That particular agent’s energy blasts were enough to hurt even Runeclaw. He knew they’d punch a hole right through him. The guy in the black bodysuit was coming out of the building.

Peering into back window of the SUV, he could see a woman cowering in the front seat. On the floor just under the hatch, he could see what looked like a tire iron. He tried the latch and to his surprise found it unlocked. With a smile, he reached in and pulled out the heavy iron tool and then quietly closed the hatch. In the distance he could hear the wail of sirens approaching.

Dashing across the open yard he dodged blasts from both Neutron and Red Scorpion. He could feel the energy kick up dirt, and concrete near his feet as he zigged and zagged to avoid the lethal bolts of energy. Then he faked left and turned right. Devin had been an agent for the Department of Special Intelligence for nearly thirty years. He’d gone deep under cover behind the iron curtain on many occasions. He knew how the the game was played. He knew what was at stake. He fought to win. The figure in black never knew what hit him as Devin drove the pointed end of the tire tool into the base of his skull.

The blow was not what he was hoping for. So far the figure had not shown any signs of durability- until now. He went down, but he wasn’t out. With his free hand Devin pulled the neck of the figure’s black bodysuit outward and shoved the tire iron into it. Then reaching around he grabbed the metal containment vials from him and rolled away.

Hovering over the battlefield, Neutron did exactly what Devin expected him to do. He switched over to his favorite electrical bolts and started hurling them toward Devin. The the tire tool did exactly what Devin wanted it to do. Neutron’s electrical blasts arced away from Devin and hit the heavy chunk of iron in the back of the unknown operative’s collar.

The resulting surprise gave Devin just the seconds he needed to dash back into the building. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do after that, but at least he now had the samples and that by his reckoning a good thing. He skidded to a stop at the far end of the main doors. He knew the elevator was a bad idea, and the stairs probably weren’t much better. He knew not to run up to the top of a building where he had no way of escaping. Instead he ran headlong down the hall toward back doors that led to a small courtyard between the buildings in the complex. He hit the locking bar at full tilt and prayed to whatever gods watched over old spies that it wasn’t locked. Much to his relief they answered the prayer and he flashed out onto the courtyard.

Behind him, he heard the high pitched ‘SCREE” of Red Scorpion’s energy bolts and the rolling thunder of Neutron’s electrical blasts. He realized that he had no idea how the mysterious black-garbed operative had fared Neutron’s unintended attack on him. To be honest, he sort of hoped it had killed him. With the present Attorney General, they were unlikely to get a conviction. Instead the President would probably bomb an aspirin factory somewhere. Damn, he missed the Gipper.

Years of being a spy had honed his already augmented reflexes to something phenomenal. He’d long ago learned to trust the primitive, some called infra-human, part of his brain that warned him of danger. He quickly dove to the side as something came crashing from the sky at him.

Rolling to his feet, he turned to look and was shocked to see Neutron on the ground with a thirteen or fourteen year old boy dressed in a blue bodysuit that had large ovals cut out of it at the chest, the biceps an the thighs who was drawing back his fist to pummel the elementalist. A white cape hung at his shoulders and he wore matching white boots. Through a pair of blue wrap-around sunglasses he was wearing as a make-shift mask, the boy looked over at Devin and nodded, and that split second was all it took for Neutron to react.

Devin knew the elementalist’s file like the back of his hand. He knew that he was a master of several martial arts styles and was a deadly combatant. A point-blank blast from his powers was devastating to even the most powerful of transhumans. While the boy was looking at Devin, Neutron slid his hands up under his chin and let go with a double blast- clearly intending to take the boy’s head off.

The results were rather less than spectacular. Instead of a bloody stump left where the boy’s head should be there was only the melted lenses of his sunglasses and some singeing around the white collar of his cape to give any indication that he’d been hit. Even an old cynic like Devin was surprised at that kind of durability.

The boy turned back to Neutron and said in a voice that was surprisingly minus any Southern accent and said, “Now it’s my turn.” The fist he had drawn back lashed forward and slammed into the elementalist’s force field with such power that the lightning from it danced up and down the fist and forearm. The force field held: but barely. Devin noticed that the force of the blow cracked the bricks under the villain, as the force field began to wink out.

Suddenly Neutron dropped his hands to the boy’s midsection and fired another burst of energy. This time it hurled the new-comer off him and across the plaza. Devin watched as the kid cracked the wall of the main building as he hit it hard. Meanwhile Neutron struggled to his feet. Remembering a paper written by Gates Murphy, Devin yanked out his automatic, dropped the empty clip and slammed another one home.

He watched as the force field around Neutron flickered and wavered and waited. The kid in the wall peeled himself out of it, seemingly unfazed and came running toward Neutron again. The villain dropped to knee and fired a third double handed blast at his attacker. The energy hit the boy square in the large oval cut out of the chest of his costume. There was a loud hissing sound as it sought to get a hold on the target’s skin and burn it away. To Devin’s and Neutron’s mutual surprise the boy kept coming seeming to not feel the effects of the onslaught of devastating energy.

“Is that all you got, Neutron?” the boy asked.

Neutron’s face betrayed the fear and surprise at the kid’s durability. “I can get more, gaijin,” he said pouring more and more energy into his blast. He literally began to glow with the power he was generating.

The boy chuckled. “Gaijin? You’re the outsider, not me. This is my country you are attacking,” he said as he shrugged off the power of the continued stream of energy. Devin noted that the “splatter” from the jet was eating away at the blue material and the edges of the white cloak. At one point he noticed small metal balls fall out of the ends of the white garment as if it had been weighted.

The boy leapt forward suddenly to land directly in front of his attacker. Devin watched him lock down with his feet, twist his hips and let go with a powerful punch. Somebody had taught this kid how to punch right. Neutron saw it coming, he was a master martial artist, and reacted with a pressing block that should have stopped the blow. Should have and did, however are two separate concepts. There was an audible snap as Neutron’s forearm met his attacker’s wrist. The punch was not deflected from its target in the least and slammed into the villain’s chest.

It was Neutron’s turn to be hurled away. The blow as so powerful that Neutron’s force field failed and he was knocked totally clear of the battlefield. His body slammed through the lobby of the building and back out toward the main road. The boy turned looked over and smiled at Devin. He then turned his back, ducked his head and removed the damaged sunglasses. A quick dip into a pocket on his belt and he’d replaced them. Turning back he looked at the gun and then back to Devin before saying, “Thats really not a whole lot of use against me.”

Devin looked at his forgotten automatic and then grinned. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he withdrew an ID. “Colonel Devin C. Kirk- Division of Special Intelligence. I’m one of the good guys.”

The boy smiled and said, “In that case, let’s go see if my partners have rounded up his accomplices.”

“Partners?” Devin asked the boy. “Just how many of there are you, and how old are you?”

The boy smiled and said, “There are three of us. As for our ages, let’s just say we’re older than our teeth and younger than our mums.” The word “mum” set off bells in Devin’s head. Mum was not a word usually used by American kids, especially those in the south.

“Who are you?” Devin asked.

The boy smiled wanly and made to answer when another young voice called from out front. “Hey Blue! He got away!”

The boy, evidently known to his friends as Blue shook his head and said, “Uh sorry. I gotta go.” He then headed toward the building.

Devin wasn’t about to waste any time. He quickly followed the boy through the devastated lobby. Evidently Neutron and Red Scorpion had strafed the building with fire hoping to hit him with a random shot. What he found outside though surprised the hell out of him. Two other kids about the same age as “Blue” were standing around. Red Scorpion and the unknown operative in black were sitting back to back on the ground with their hands behind them. He could see the ends of white plastic zip strips sticking out from between them.

The air-car or whatever it was, was neatly dismantled and lying in several pieces. A thin brown-haired boy wearing a red white and black body suit with a red and black jacket over it was standing over the two would-be thieves. Around his waist was a belt with several gadgets including what looked like some kind of blaster in a holster on his right leg. He was wearing a simple domino mask. Floating in the air above them was a girl in a white bodysuit with a strange blue dress-like garment over it. She too as wearing a domino mask. None of them looked like they were old enough to drive yet.

“Neutron got away,” the girl said. “What did you do to him, Blue? He was so scared he completely forgot that he was supposed to represent the Code of Bushido.”

The boy at Devin’s side looked at the two on the ground and then over at the air-car. “Good work Cyberstar, Phantasia.” Then looking up at the girl, he said, “He hit me three times, I hit him once. I think he got the message.”

Something about the boy’s face, his mannerism, the way he took charge, and the way he held himself clicked in Devin’s mind. He was suddenly reminded of another hero, one of the first to stand against the Nazis: American Ace. This kid had the beginnings of the same lantern jaw, and the same light blond hair. Devin smiled to himself at that thought.

“Okay, they’re starting them earlier and earlier these days,” Devin said still holding the canisters. Phantasia, Cyberstar, and evidently your name is Blue.”

“Cobalt-Blue,” the boy corrected.

“Cobalt-Blue. You named yourself after a paint color?”

The others laughed and the boy blushed. It was then that Devin noticed the deep blue tinge to his blush. He shook his head and said “No. I took the name Cobalt-Blue because my blood is cobalt based, not iron.”

“Ah,” Devin said as the sounds of sirens grow closer and the steady beat of helicopter wings thumped overhead. “That makes sense, I guess. How did you know what was going on here?”

“We didn’t,” the girl said. “We were shopping and saw the commotion. We thought we’d investigate.” She looked around at the closing police cruisers and then up at the helicopter. “Maybe it’s time to leave boys?” she asked.

Both boys nodded just before they all just winked away. All Devin could think of to say or to do was look down at the two men at his feet and say, “Looks like you boys jut got your asses handed to you by a bunch of kids.”


~*~
As the world around him stopped rushing past at a breakneck speed, Adam shook his head. He was not happy with his performance on this outing. Both Willy and Katherine had stopped their foes. His had gotten away. He felt like a failure.

As they “landed” back in the barn at the farm, he felt the floor jerk under his feet. Looking around he checked both Willy and Katherine. If they’d been hurt because he’d insisted they investigate the news reports they’d picked up, he’d never have forgiven himself.

He had to admit to himself that Willy, hell both of them looked good in their respective costumes. He was very glad that Katherine had not taken them up on their first suggestion as a costume for her. In reality it had been a joke and neither one of them expected her wear what was basically two band aids and a piece of dental floss, with a pair of high boots and a cape. He was glad she’d put her foot down about it and insisted on the much more modest outfit she’d worn. It had showed off her curves quite well, but offered a far greater amount of armor protection than their original suggestion.

Both of his friends- no they were far more than that, especially after what they’d already shared- both of his lovers seemed to come out of the fight without a scratch. Katherine put her hands on her rather shapely hips and looked at him with blue eyes from under the bangs of her blond hair. Her little mouth formed a disapproving cherry colored bow above her slightly elfin chin. “We are okay, Adam. Neither of us is hurt, and whatever the bad guys were trying to steal is safe. Stop worrying,” she lectured him in that voice that always made him feel as if he were acting silly.

“Reading my mind?” he asked quietly.

“Telepathy does have it’s uses,” she said. “But I didn’t have to read it to know what you were doing, what you always do. We’re safe, ” she told him.

“At least until I screw up again,” Adam replied.

“Screw up? How?” Willy asked.

“Neutron got away,” he told him. “You two took down Red Scorpion and whoever that guy in black was.”

“He calls himself Abyss,” Katherine said.

“How do you know that?” Adam asked.

“Because like you said, I can read minds. This was his first mission for Richelieu Factor,” she said. “It’ll also probably be his last.”

“What was that they stole?” Adam asked.

Katherine shook her head and said, “They didn’t know, so neither do I.”

“Small pox,” William said as he removed the jacket he was wearing and lay it on a hay bale.

“How do you know?” Katherine asked.

“I may not be a telepath, but I’m am a cyberkinetic. While I was disassembling the air-car- which by the way gives me some neat ideas- I interfaced with its computers and tapped into the CDC’s files. That was what the files said was in the safe where the alarm was going off,” the thin brunette told them.

“Well, at least you stopped that,” a fourth voice came from the door.

All three kids spun to see Adam’s and William’s moms, and Katherine’s father standing there looking very unhappy. “Mum!” Adam protested.

“Mom!” Willy cried next to him.

“Hello, father,” Katherine said calmly.

“I think it’s time we all had a good talk,” Adam’s mother entered the room, her long strawberry blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was wearing a simple pair of blue jeans and red and white gingham blouse. To most outsiders, she seemed to be a young woman in her early thirties, not anywhere near her actual age. She was followed by both the elderly Lord Katz, who was dressed in a casual pair of slacks and a polo shirt. He carried a cane to deal with his slight limp. Although his hair had long ago turned to silver, his gray eyes showed a strength of mind that his body did not. Lastly was Mrs. Norris, Willy’s mother. She, like Adam’s mother did not show her years and appeared to be in her early to mid thirties. Her long auburn hair and green eyes set off her peaches and cream complexion quite well. Not for the first time Adam realized that both his and Willy’s moms were very attractive.

“When we told you about us, we were not giving you permission to put on spandex and go out and copy what we did,” Ms. Norris said.

“We had to stop them,” Willy protested. “If not us, then who?”

Mr. Katz fixed Willy with a steely gaze and said, “Boys, Katherine, we’re not criticizing what you did, but the way you did it. Did you think we wouldn’t find out?” The way he looked at him and Willy, it made Adam wonder if they’d found about other things as well.

“No, we knew you were going to find out,” Katherine stepped forward and guided her father to one of the hay bales. “And we knew you were going to have some displeasure with us over it.” She he helped the man sit down as she continued, “But, as you are always telling me, Father: there are points when someone has to stand up and do something. Adam, Willy, and I have the means to do something. We decided now was the time to stand up.”

“What she said,” Willy added.

“Besides, something big is coming, Mother,” Adam said. “You know, I know, and Dad knew it before he died. And if we don’t make a stand now, we won’t be ready when that event gets here. We won’t have the experience or the knowledge to deal with it.”

“We’re not arguing with you about this,” Adam’s mother said. “It’s not that you did something. It’s that we had to find out about it by turning on Fox 5 News.”

“You didn’t get the note we left on the refrigerator,” Willy said.

“And the coffee pot,” Katherine agreed.

“And the tea kettle,” Adam finally added.

“No, we didn’t get any notes,” Lord Katz said. “And you are right. You need training. That’s why Katherine and I are returning to England for her to attend Doctor Green’s Academy at Nineoaks.”

“And William is going to the her Pacifica Academy,” Mrs. Norris added.

“And we already have a place for you at the Homeguard Academy at Stone Mountain Adam,” his mom said.

Adam felt his heart dropped drop into shoes. He looked over at William and Katherine. They didn’t need Katherine’s link to know what each other was thinking. They did not want to be separated either. Katherine stepped back so she was standing just behind his left shoulder. Willy took a similar position to his right. Adam shook head and his voice dropped an octave and in a deep timbre he said, “No. We will not.” All three adults gave him a somewhat shocked look. Adam knew that for the most part, he was seen as a pretty easy going guy- a good ‘ol boy even. But this was something about which he was not going to budge. His body language and voice said as much as his words.

“We either all three go to Pacifica,” Willy said.

“Or we all three go to Homeguard,” Katherine added.

“Or we all three go to Nineoaks,” Adam concluded.

The adults looked at each other and his mother smiled, “We’ll make the arrangements. Adam got the feeling he’d just been maneuvered into something, or at least just finalized a decision among the adults, or settled an argument.

“Should we pack for California, Atlanta, or Windsor?” Willy asked.

“Windsor,” Katherine said. “It’s the only place they can hope to guarantee our autonomy or our identities.” She looked at her father and said, “But Nineoaks is a girls’ school.”

“I don’t think we’re going to get Adam in a dress,” Wily teased him.

“No,” Lord Katz told them. “But it is the sister school to Eton. The boys will attend and board there, and Katherine will be at Nineoaks. All three of you will have special dispensation to leave the grounds to attend extra classes at the Ministry 13 facilities in Windsor where you will train to use your gifts. You all of course are welcome to use the flat in London on holiday.”

The three young heroes turned and faced each other. “Why do I get the feeling we’ve been had?” Adam asked.

“Because we have,” Katherine said turning toward their parents. “You three planned something like this didn’t you?” she accused them.

“Furthermore, you’re right that something big and important is coming and you need to be ready to deal with it. I’ve already been given instructions on how to handle things,” Adam’s mother said. “Nineoaks also offers you an opportunity to build certain social and business contacts that will be important later.” She turned to Katherine and added, “And it’s an appropriate school for the future Duchess of Orkney.”

“Oh, that’s going to be an issue, isn’t it,” Adam said suddenly worried. “Here in Georgia, nobody thinks twice about you running around with Willy and me. But in England there’s going to be a lot of gossip about it isn’t there?” He was suddenly very worried about people trying to come between the three of them.

“We’ll deal with it,” Katherine said. Adam could sense the determination in her voice. In the past all three of them had been exposed to the upper nobility on a regular basis when they lived in England as young children. Two of their pre-school playmates would have shocked most of their friends in Social Circle, Georgia, and the less said the better about a certain incident with Willy and marmalade. The personage on whom he’d spilled it had been most gracious. “Besides, if they become too bothersome about “blue-blood” we can always try to get Adam to open a vein,” Katherine she added.


Orlando, Florida December, 2001

Miranda Hassan looked at the devastation that used to be Orlando as it played across the monitor and wept. She wept for the waste, she wept for the loss of life, but mostly she wept for Colton and Randi Bell. A nuclear blasts had hit the city at five pm on the Friday before the schools had turned out for Christmas Break. Reports were that the blast was centered somewhere in Disney World. Randi wondered what kind of sick bastard it took to set off a nuke on Disney.

The devastation that had hit the city had been unbelievable. Randi had worked with the FBI for most of her adult life, she had a fairly high security clearance and she knew the facts about nukes. No country in the world actually deployed a nuclear warhead of greater than 1.2 megatons anymore. There was such a thing as overkill and the world nuclear powers knew that. However the bomb that had hit Orlando in a ground burst, the bomb that had killed Colton and his daughter Randi was estimated to be between twelve and fifteen megatons. It took the term weapon of mass destruction to a whole new level.

The frightening part about it, the part that had not been released to the general public was that it was a suitcase nuke. Somebody out there had micronized a weapon that weighed over four tons, and was twelve feet long and four feet across to fit inside a back pack. The reason this was known was that a second one had been deployed in Atlanta on the same day. Only the intervention of the Homeguard Team out of Stone Mountain had stopped that city from being destroyed. Unbelievable as it sounded, that blast had been “eaten” by the young hero Dancer.

But for Orlando there had been no Homeguard, no Dancer, and no reprieve. The city was now a huge blasted crater that was fast seeping full of sea water. People had been burned by the flash for as far away as twenty miles. Only a miracle of the winds had saved Titusville, Cocoa Beach, and Cape Kennedy from the fallout as a high pressure system had blocked it from spreading further east.

As she looked over the data that came up on the monitor, she felt a presence behind her. She didn’t need her telepathy to know that it was Adam Heller, her foster-brother, her best friend, and the man who was hurting over this as much she was. His presence brought a calming to the chaos that was in her mind; and it added a steely resolve. Whoever did this, whoever was responsible for killing two million plus people, whoever was responsible for taking Colton and Randi out of her life was going to pay, and they were going to pay in the most brutal way she could come up with.

“Director Kirk of the DSI has an offer for us,” his deep baritone voice said.

Miranda turned to look up at him. He was tall and well muscled, with close-cropped brownish blond hair. His gray eyes did not hide the hurt and the anger behind them. He’d been a Navy Seal- had actually graduated the Academy and trained alongside Runeclaw. When the UN passed Resoulation 1666 that banned him as a known transhuman from military service he’d retired and gone into business for himself as underwater wildcatter. It was a job that with their ability to breathe underwater for which both he and she were supremely qualified. “What kind of job?” she asked.

“To go after these bastards,” he said. “And bring them down- any way possible.” She could hear the ring of steel in his voice.

“No trying to drag them in front of a court where they can get off on a technicality?” she asked.

He shook his head and said, “No. This is black-ops.” His use of the last term surprised her. She knew that he like her had turned down free-lance black-ops work in the past. “Is that a problem”

She shook her head as the image Colton’s and then Randi’s faces swam in front of her memory. “No. When and where do we start?”

“New York City,” he to told her sitting down next to her.

“New York?” she asked. “That takes a lot of balls for terrorists to hide out in New York City.”

He smiled at her and replied, “These aren’t the terrorists per se. They’re their enablers. We’re penetrating the most wretched hive of scum and villainy to be found on Earth: the UN. We’re going to find out who gave the terrorists the nukes, and are taking them out.”

“Won’t that cause an international incident?” she asked.

He shook his head, “Not if it’s done right. Our main goal is to find out who gave them the nuke, and how it was micronized. There are rumors that the UN is starting to build its own parahuman teams. Director Kirk wants to send in a couple of his own that he can trust.”

“Why not Runeclaw and Avalon?” she asked.

“They’re on a mission. Besides, the agency is “officially” not happy with Runeclaw right now,” Adam said making little quotation marks in the air with his fingers at the word officially.

“Meaning?” she asked.

“He and Gates Murphy have been cutting a rather wide and non-surgical swath through Richelieu Factor since August after Murphy’s son was killed by a Factor assassin,” he told her. “The agency can’t officially condone it, but they sure as hell weren’t trying to stop it.”

“So we get to be their magical, psi, and tank team to go in?” she asked.

“Well, you are a mage and a psi- like Avalon,” he said.

“And you’re as strong as Runeclaw, you just don’t get furry and a tail,” she said with a grin. “You know I almost got to meet him when I was a little girl.”

“Really? he asked.

“Yeah. He and Sundancer stopped a weretiger from hunting down and killing my friend Leighanne,” she told him.

“I remember you saying something about that,” Adam said. He stopped and looked at her, studying her face and body. She could see something play across his eyes, but respected him as a friend, and as her foster brother too much to invade his privacy. Finally, he sighed and said, “I’ll tell the director we’ll do it.”

“I haven’t said yes, yet,” she countered.

“You don’t have to. I can see it in your eyes,” he told her.

“Thought you were the gravity and density manipulator, not the telepath,” she teased him.

“I know you as well as you know me, Miranda. You want Colton and Randi’s murderers as much as I do. You know as well as I do that this will give us a shot at them.

She nodded and stood. Reaching out she gently touched his face. She could feel the raw emotions boiling deep under his control. Colton had meant as much to Adam as he’d meant to her. The three of them had grown up together in Annapolis, Maryland where Adam’s father- her foster father was Superintendent of the Naval Academy.

Miranda had come to live with the Hellers when she was just a toddler. She’d taken to following the two boys who were only a few years older than her around like a shadow. Oddly enough, neither had ever seemed to resent her presence, but simply tolerated her calling her their “little good luck charm” and occasionally, “Juju Bean” because she loved the little candies. As they all grew older, they grew closer.

She had known that Colton and Adam had been closer than best friends for most of their lives. But Adam was determined to be a naval officer and male naval officers didn’t have husbands, so they’d gone their separate ways. After Colton’s marriage to the “the were-bitch from hell” had failed, she and Colton had become lovers- with Adam’s blessings no less. But she could always sense that attraction still between the two men. She had been working on a solution to their unique situation when the terrorists had struck. They had taken that away from her, and now she was going to hurt them back- a lot.

“Yeah, I want them, and I want them bad. I want them so bad that I’m willing to work fo the government to get them. Tell Director Kirk we’ll go into the UN and get his information; and ask him if we should leave the building standing when we’re finished.”

He grinned at her broadly and turned to leave. He stopped at the door and and asked, “What code name should I tell him to use for you?”

Miranda, like her friend Leighanne had never really put on spandex and gone out and done the superhero thing. She’d always preferred to work behind the scenes. She was a skilled linguist, an MD- specializing in sports and aquatic medicine, and a marine biologist- the last she credited Colton for. She’d also worked for ten years with the FBI as a profiler, and was a rather powerful psi and a skilled mage. Now it was time to step out of the shadows and do something more hands on; to cast her net wider so to speak. She smiled at the double entendre of that thought. With a smile she told him, “Tell him Caster.”

Without turning to look at her he said, “Caster huh? I like it.”

Miranda turned back to the monitor and closed down the file on the bomb she’d been reading. She changed her search parameters and digging into the Bureau’s international files. There was a lot of data there through which she needed to shift if she was going to know where to start looking when they got into the UN proper. She needed to know on whom she should concentrate so as to not waste too much time.

She briefly wondered what kind of cover they would use to insert her and Adam into the diplomatic corps. She had strong linguistic background, and as the son of an Admiral and an officer himself, he was at least familiar with the basics of diplomacy. She wondered if they’d be assigned to John Bolton’s team. She always did like what she saw of the man on television. But the mustache needed to go.


~*~

Getting into the UN building had been far easier than Adam Heller had expected. He gave credit for that to Miranda’s spell. Still the place was a lot more heavily guarded than one would think a building supposedly dedicated to diplomatic endeavors would be. There were were guards everywhere and of course the number of guards wearing the UNIPACT insignia on their jump suits told him that there was a great deal of parahuman muscle being deployed to protect the UN delegates. That didn’t really surprise him. Ever since establishment of the United Nations International Parahuman Acquisition and Combat Teams, the UN had become overly proud of its creation. What worried Adam about the teams was the word “acquisition” in the name.

Miranda had done an excellent job of concealing their actual appearance with her glamour. It worked to change both their appearance as well as to make people want to ignore them as being unimportant. He smiled to himself at that thought. It wasn’t like these idiots would consider anyone other than themselves as important anyway. He now looked like a heavily muscled Arab, and she was a short platinum blonde.

“Where should we look first?” she asked him.

“Normally, I would expect on the 38th floor, but I don’t think the Secretary General is likely to know anything about it. To be honest, since you’re here, I would suggest the General Assembly Building,” he told her.

“You want me to scan a room full of diplomats?” she asked.

He shook his head and said, “No, I want you to scan a whole building full of diplomats. You got a better idea?”

“Yeah, tell this whole stinking organization they’ve got a month to move out and turn the building into low rent housing,” she said. “But you’ve got a point.”

The two made their way toward the huge domed building that housed the UN General Assembly. Adam was surprised that the IDs the DSI had provided them with gave them as much freedom as they did- especially since they weren’t American IDs. Two guards in blue jumpsuits stood at attention on either side of the main door. He noted the UNIPACT- Diplomatic Division patches on their sleeves. He smiled at the thought of a building that was supposedly dedicated to peaceful endeavors being guarded by what were essentially super powered thugs.

Again, their IDs stood up to scrutiny and they were allowed to enter the building with no questions. As they began to mingle with the various personnel, Miranda reached out and touched Adam’s arm gently. “Several of these diplomats are wearing some kind of artificial mind shield,” she whispered to him.

“Is it going to be a problem?” he asked.

She shook her head and gave him a look that spoke volumes of what she thought of that question. Adam understood that she was a powerful psi. Psis tended to be on the weak end of the parahuman scale. Very few were above class eight. There were of course some rare exceptions- those kids, Midean Knight and Dreamweaver that used to work for General Bramwell, were a good example of that. Avalon, and Miranda’s friend, Leighanne were another example. There were rumors of a couple of kids in England too, with a powerful gift, but he’d not seen any real data on it. Finally, she said, “No. I don’t even think that they’ll know I’ve penetrated them. These things have more holes in them than a prom queen’s panties.”

“Miranda!” Adam protested.

She just grinned up at him as she settled into one of the chairs in the viewer’s gallery. Putting on the complimentary translator’s headset, she sat there appearing to be listening. Adam knew his foster sister was instead, casting her mind around the room. After nearly thirty minutes, only a slight knitting of her brow gave any indication that she’d found what she was looking for. She reached up and pulled the headset off and nodded toward the room below them as she said, “That one. He’s about to head back to his office in the Secretariat Building. We’re going to follow him and the three of us are going to have a long talk and then there’s some papers in his safe I think Director Kirk is going to want to look at.”

“How come he’s going where we need him to go?” Adam asked.

“Because I want him to,” she said in a dark tone. “He’s the one who put the terrorist in touch with their supplier.”

“Any idea who the supplier is?” Adam asked.

She shook her head and said, “No. He just knows that it’s someone working on something called “Project Ragnarok.”

“Sounds like something to do with Trey Greenbough,” Adam said.

As the two stood and headed toward the viewing gallery door, Adam glanced down to see who it was that was leaving their seat. He was a bit surprised to see a short balding man from the Iranian delegation heading toward the door. Surely, the Iranians weren’t that stupid. He turned and quickly followed Miranda noting that she seemed to relish her discovery.

Of course he couldn’t really blame her for the chance to hurt the people who’d murdered her parents. She was Iranian by ethnicity, her parents having fled the country during the period of unrest in the late sixties when Ayatollah Khomeini was in exile. They had become persecuted and threatened with death for the apostasy of converting to Christianity. It was after their arrival in the US that Miranda had been born, and that her parents and his father had become close friends.

What nobody had expected was that some nutjob from Iran living in the US would take the fatwa pronounced back in Iran against her family seriously. That is until he’d popped up in their Maryland home and killed both of them with a knife. Only the fact that Miranda had hidden in the dog house out back saved her. A big guy with knife was no match for a American Staffordshire Terrier defending her pack. It was right after then that Miranda came to live with the Hellers. Miranda embraced her Persian heritage, but had a deep abiding hatred for the all things connected to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It didn’t take them long to get to the Secretariat building. A rather long elevator ride later, they were entering the offices of the delegate. This time it wasn’t their IDs that got them in, it was Miranda overwhelming the mind of the secretary outside the door.

As they entered, Adam locked it behind them and Miranda went over to the desk and put down a tape recorder and hit record. Adam could see the empty look in the man’s eyes as he sat behind the desk. She had him completely under her control. She smiled and sat on the desk and said, “I want you to tell me about the transaction you facilitated between the head of Operation Ragnarok, and the terrorists who attacked Orlando.”

“It wasn’t much really,” the man said emptily. “My contacts in the UNIPACT Division wanted to know if I knew anyone willing to carry out a specific type of attack, someone willing to die for the cause of Dar al-Islam. I told him that I did indeed know several people. He agreed to give me access to certain goods and services in the future for finding the right people for him.”

“And why did he want to blow up an American city?” Adam asked.

“Who doesn’t?” the man said. “The whole country is one festering sore, and an affront to Allah. Soon, though it won’t be. Soon it will be divided into fifty individual client states for this body to administered as we see fit.” Adam could have sworn the man was almost drooling at the thought.

“How?” Miranda asked.

He shrugged and replied, “I’m unsure. It has to do with the UNIPACT teams.”

“Who all knows about this?” Miranda asked.

“Just those who need to know,” he replied.

Miranda smiled and said, “Like who?”

“The Deputy Secretary of Parahuman Acquisitions for one,” he said with a smile. “He is very considerate of my country’s feelings toward the Americans.”

Miranda’s eyes suddenly became very dark. Adam could tell she was concentrating, digging deeper into the little man’s mind. Finally without looking at Adam she said, “There’s a safe in the floor behind the desk. It has a white phosphorous charge in it that’s designed to burn up the documents inside if the door is forced. Would you be a dear and retrieve the contents for me without forcing the door? Mr. Darab and I have something to do.” Her voice became very cold.

“Where?” he asked.

“Next to the wall behind the desk,” she told him.

He quickly located the safe and smiled. Adam was vaguely aware of the man opening his desk drawer as he dropped the density of his hand and arm to nothing and reached through the top of the the safe to grab the files and other papers inside. He had to work blind so it took him a few moments to make sure he had everything.

When he stood up, and turned around he was surprised to see Mr. Darab sitting in his desk holding an automatic to his temple. Adam could see the abject terror in his eyes as his mouth opened and closed like some silent gold fish. Miranda said coldly, “You helped murder almost two million people, Mr. Darab. I think that kind of service shouldn’t go unrewarded.”

“Miranda Nasrin Hassan, what do you think you’re doing?” Adam demanded.

“I’m seeing that justice is done, Adam. That’s all,” she said.

Adam crossed his arms and said, “By making him blow his own brains out? That’s not the way.”

“It’s the only way he understands,” she said. “It’s the only way that whole damn culture understands anymore.”

Adam shook his head and said, “That’s not what I mean girl. If he pulls that trigger then someone is going to know we’re in here and come to investigate. A nine millimeter makes a lot of noise in an office.” She turned to look at him in surprise. He smiled and asked, “What? You think I don’t want revenge on this bastard for what he did to Colton and Munchkin? I just don’t want them to know we’re hunting them yet.”

Suddenly she grinned and turned back to Mr. Darab. Adam watched as the man slowly pulled the gun away from the side of his head and returned it to the drawer. When he finished he turned back to where Miranda was watching him. Adam could see the sweat begin to bead up on he brow. He could also see her eyes were slightly out of focus as if she were looking at something he couldn't see.

“I’ll do it if you want,” he said.

She shook her head and said, “No. Like you said, we don’t want them to know they’re being hunted. Give me just a second as I find the right..., ah there it is.” She smiled slightly.

Suddenly, Darab stiffened in his chair and then slumped down to the left. Adam had seen enough dead men before to know that Mr. Darab had gone to whatever punishment awaited mass murderers in the afterlife. Miranda had just proven to him that she could and would kill for her friends and family. It was a sobering thought as the two left the Secretariat Building with the files, and Darab’s briefcase.

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Re: Atlantis Unleashed: Transhuman War -Nanowrimo 2010

Postby cobalt-blue » Sun Jan 30, 2011 12:39 am

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Atlantis Capital City of the Atlantean Empire 12 years after the arrival of Kiera-Atlyn’s Miracle

Lord General Valyn entered the imperial quarters at the palace. It had been a couple of years since he’d been here, and the last ten years had been hard on both him and his sister the Empress. He had been in the field dealing with the last remnants of Shadu’s rebellion and the general war that had sparked with the Hesperians, and she and their brother had been dealing with political realities of running a star-spanning empire.

“Valyn, you came!” his sister smiled at his entrance and rose from where she was sitting to greet him with a warm embrace. “We’ve missed you at the Palace. How’s Dantienne?”

“She’s well, Athienne, she’s well,” he said returning the greeting. “She sends her best.” Looking closely at her, Valyn could see the years piling on her. Her long auburn hair had just a touch of gray running through it. He knew that she refused to use an artificial coloring agent to hide it. On more than one occasion she’d remarked that each gray hair had on it the name of a member of the Ground Forces or the Areonavy who’d died defending the Empire. Her green eyes still shone with a vigor and light that the worries of the crown did not touch. She was thin, thinner than Valyn would have preferred to see her, so he wondered if she was working too hard.

“Please, sit down and let’s talk,” she said gesturing toward a small table and three chairs near the window that looked out over the city.

“Are you expecting someone else?” he asked with a smile. “Where did you misplace that husband of yours?”

She chuckled at his light teasing of the fact that she’d once forgotten to inform the imperial palace that Prince Consort was returning early to the palace from a diplomatic dinner. “He’s currently touring the facility on the moon,” she told him. Looking over at the chair she added, “I asked Talyn to join us.”

“Afternoon meal with the Empress and the High Quester. What more could a loyal subject of the empire ask?” he replied with a smile.

“More like afternoon with your brother and sister, little brother,” Talyn commented from the door as he entered and lay his cloak on the small divan and smiled. Valyn was convinced that his brother had stopped aging sometime in his mid thirties. He was a robust man with far more of a muscular build on him that Valyn who had become a soldier had. He too had the same red hair that seemed to run in the imperial family and his green eyes had little flecks of gold in them.

Valyn looked between Athienne and Talyn and said, “I’m glad to see you both!” Smiling he said to Talyn, “and a very pleasant surprise. Although I will have to admit that I’m a bit behind in my prayers, brother.”

Sitting down at the table Talyn, the head of the Atlantean Church said, “That’s okay Val. I have it on the best authority that Kiera-Atlyn and her children accept deeds in place of prayers. From what I’ve been reading about your exploits in Thule and Yuropa with her children, that you’ve more than earned an abeyance on prayers.”

“Why thank you, Your Eminence. That takes a great deal of worry off my mind,” Valyn said awaiting Athienne to sit first.

As she settled into her chair he asked, “What family news is there?”

Valyn watched as his brother and sister glanced back and forth at each other. Finally she smiled and said, “We’re finally preparing the imperial nursery.”

Valyn put his eating utensil down and enthusiastically said, “That’s great news!” And to Valyn it was more than just good news, it was a relief. It meant that with the birth of his nephew or niece, he’d cease to be “spare” and the threat of ascending the throne would be gone. He had no problems letting the joy of this news show on his face. “When is the new prince of the realm due to burst onto the scene?” he asked with a grin.

“At midsummer,” she told him. “We have not yet made a formal announcement. We’re waiting until Andreth returns from the moon.”

Valyn nodded, realizing that this was the kind of news that would go a long way in shoring up the morale of the people- especially after years of long and bloody war that had already seen the death of one Emperor and High Quester. “I can’t wait to be able to send my “official” tidings,” he said with a grin.

“Are you still worried about that whole “spare” thing?” Talyn asked.

Valyn just smiled. “You my brother and sister dears, only had to prepare for one possible role in life. I had to train for two roles, the ascension to either of which would have meant losing a much-loved sibling. There’s a reason I chose to serve the empire in Thule. It was a lot easier to put myself in physical danger than worry about going mad at the prospect of having to fill either of your shoes.”

“And here we thought the reason you stayed in Thule was because of a certain Force Commander you met ten years ago,” the empress teased him.

“Well there is that- and of course Kiera-Atlyn’s Miracle,” he told them.

“What of them?” Anthienne asked. “Are they everything the reports say they are?”

“More importantly, how loyal to the throne are they?” Talyn asked.

Valyn smiled. He suspected he’d eventually be having this conversation with his sister. He leaned back into his chair and waited for the server who was bringing refreshments to the table to be finished. When the young man had completed his task, Valyn sipped the cold drink and then said, “Those five may have arrived not being able to speak a word of Atlantean, but their actions and their attitude spoke the language of the Gifted. In the past ten years, they’ve hammered the Gifted into not only a significant fighting force, but a social one as well. There’s not a rebel, or Hesperian on Thule. They’ve pushed the rebels deep into the Karpith Mountains where they’re not likely to come out without being shot at. As for the Hesperians, they’ve retreated back to back to their original holdings in the Elinika Isles. Western and Northern Yuropa are once again under complete Imperial control.”

“Don’t you mean under Thulian control?” Talyn asked with a smirk.

“Is Thule not part of the Empire?” Valyn countered. “Our sister here controls the Empire, the Empire controls Thule, and Thule controls Yuropa.”

“And what of Kiera-Atlyn’s miracle, personally. Who controls them?” she asked.

“They are free beings who have acted honorably and in the best interests of our holdings, Anthienne. I don’t know what kind of things you’ve been hearing in court, but they are not a threat to the throne. If anything, they’re a great asset.”

“Explain,” Talyn said.

“Please keep in mind that I’ve worked closely with these five for the past ten year. I helped them master our language- which they did with remarkable speed, and I helped them acclimate to our society. The first thing they did was to help the wounded at the local Gifted village that had been attacked by Shadu. Wilyum repaired and upgraded our defensive guns and patched back together two of the grav tanks Shadu had captured that they neutralized and then insisted on one of them being placed at the defense of the village,” he told his sister.

“Wasn’t that dangerous? Those tanks would have been highly effective in defending the garrison,” his sister asked.

“We still had one tank, and our defensive gun. The village had nothing. And to be honest, neither Dantienne nor I would have been alive to argue about it if it hadn’t been for their appearance. I was willing to give up a single grav tank to help the village. Besides it paid off. Within a year, the Gifted were coming to defend the garrison.”

“How do they manage to keep the Gifted under control. Kiera-Atlyn’s younger children are not known for their ability to work with each other, much less outsiders,” Talyn asked.

“By sheer force of will,” Valyn said. “You have not met Adam nor Sloan. When they suggest that something be done, it gets done. They had to fight a few alpha leaders that wanted to challenge them at first. But they went out of their way to defeat their challengers, not humiliate them. That made a lasting impression. Beating an alpha leader is no easy feat in of itself. Making a friend out of them at the same time, is miraculous,” Valyn said.

“And how did they go about doing that?” Talyn asked.

“They treated them with respect. They refused to kill the defeated, and they made sure that fights were all fair. Afterwards they insisted that everyone share in a feast- equally, sometimes going as far as actually serving their defeated foes. Dannon and Katherienne insist that sharing a meal goes a long way in healing disagreements,” Valyn answered. What he didn’t tell Talyn or Anthienne was that he got the impression that those two however were willing to go to much greater lengths than Sloan, or Wilyum, and especially Adam to see to the success of of an endeavor and the safety of their family. Sloan was only willing to kill in battle if there was no other choice. Adam flat out refused to kill, even in battle; incapacitate, break bones, and occasionally maim, but he refused to kill. Wilyum was somewhere between the other two groups. He would kill in battle if he had to, but it discomforted him greatly. He was a builder at heart and Valyn knew the young man would always prefer being in his lab than on the battlefield.

“So you don’t see the rising power of Thule or Northern Yuropa as a threat to the throne?” Anthienne asked.

Valyn chuckled, “The only people to whom they are dangerous is anyone who would harm their family. I think they would likely make a refreshing change to the usual backstabbing treachery among the senators of the Rathamaer. Honesty and kindness are anathemas to that bunch of lying weasels.”


~*~

The universe was the story of cycles. Birth started the cycle of growth and construction. This led to maturity and then complacency. Complacency led to decline, and eventually death. Death led to decay and a return to the elements. It was true of the galaxies and stars, and it was true of the atoms and subatomic particles that made up all matter in the universe. It was the way of reality.

Demon was too mild of a term for the being. The being was an elemental force of destruction. It was the embodiment of the decline/death/decay aspects of the cycle. It had been wrangled, subdued and bound to a mask when the first stars burned in the night sky by another people on another world that had long since been recycled into dozens of other stars.

How the mask originally made its way to Earth is unknown. Being as it was indestructible, it is possible that it simply drifted to the small blue world through the void of space. Perhaps it had been sucked into a star where it remained bound by gravity until it went nova. Perhaps it had been summoned by some sorcerer, perhaps even by the one who’d recently given it a host. No one was for sure. What they did know for sure was that it was here now, and that was not a good thing for the human races.

The mind of its host had not exactly been devoured. The being in the mask still needed its knowledge to be able to function. Instead it had been absorbed and added to the minds of a thousand other unfortunate souls who were tormented by the spirits of those slain in order to charge the mask’s power. In this case it was a Hesperian slave who’d been chosen to be the host because of his physical attributes: raw physical power.

Hundreds of captured Atlantean Gifted had been sacrificed to charge the power of the mask. Hundreds of hearts had been cut from their chests and cast into the fires that fed the being. That much blood, that much power had awakened the being in the mask and it had lashed out and transformed the wearer into the juggernaught that now stalked the island of Thule.

Something was different about this time though. Something was drawing the being toward the large city in the distance. It was a something like it had never experienced before. Another being, another elemental force: its polar opposite was abiding there. It’s very existence enraged him. But the rage wasn’t mindless. The mind of his host was there for a reason: to give him information on how to proceed.

He pulled the hood of the long cloak up over his head and wrapped its length around his massive body. It was late, so there were far fewer people on the streets. There was in sight only the occasional ground car passing small groups going about their business as he silently made his way toward the focus of his rage.

The trip through the city was painful to him. This was a city on the growth side of the cycle. It was not yet ready to decay, the vibrant life in it still pulsated around him, draining his energy and making him hurt. Still he was drawn to the source of his rage, a source that he’d been directed toward by his benefactor; the sorcerer who’d given him a new host.

Finally, he came to a large wall that rose nearly twice his height. It was a strong wall, built of plasti-steel and reinforced metal. It was designed to last a thousand years before needing any repairs. The being smiled and took a moment to admire the construction of such a wall. To it the wall was a thing of beauty that would taste that much sweeter when it decayed.

He reached out and touched its surface. He watched as lines of discoloration, then flaking, and finally cracks spread out from where his massive palm rested against the wall. He flicked his forefinger slightly and watched as the black claw-like nail dug into the material and causing it to crumble into nothingness. He smiled as he watched the very atoms that made it up lost their cohesion and the protons, neutrons, and electrons floated away into the nothingness of the void space between realities.

After a few moments there was a large hole in the wall. He would not be forced to leap over it, and possibly trigger the proximity alarms above it. With surprising grace, the being slipped its great bulk through the hole and continued on his way toward the dwelling ahead. Around him, sensors failed, electronic beams did not register his presence; even video images of him deteriorated.

A brief climb up a wall brought him to a balcony outside a reinforced glass door. Beyond the door, he knew the source of his rage was sleeping quietly. It would not be long before he would destroy it and end the horrible cycle that was the being’s own life. He could shed the mortal shell that housed him, and escape the accursed mask. By killing his counterpart on the other side of that wall, he could unravel the very essence of the universe and spin it off into the peaceful death of void space.

He reached out and touched the glass and felt it begin to decay. He grinned exposing a mouth-full of sharp fang-like teeth that seemed to be designed to frighten more than for eating. In a matter of seconds he was moving on silent feet toward the three sleeping forms on a large platform. He was uninterested in the small female in the middle, or even in the other male on the opposite side. Only the large male that was foolishly sleeping with his back to the glass door held any interest for the being.

He felt the rage build inside him. He HAD to destroy this fragile man-thing. Destroying him would bring about an end to the cycle and give him respite. Stifling a low growl he reached a great clawed hand out to the smooth bare flesh. He dared not flex them this close for fear of awakening his hated foe too soon.

Suddenly the figure in the bed twisted around. A powerful kick caught him square in the chest. He heard the sleeping platform collapse under the force of the blow, as he was picked up and hurled through the wall behind him. He traced a nice even arc as he flew through the wall, out over the garden and into a small lake.

Since the first stars of the galaxy burned bright, he had not been hit like that. He felt the reinforced bones of his host body snap under the force. His foe was not as helpless as he’d been led to believe. So much the better. His blood would taste far sweeter the more he struggled. His life force would be far more nourishing for the fight. As he swam to the edge of the lake, he saw his foe standing on the shore waiting on him. A hint of his own rage was reflected in the cobalt eyes of the blond man.

No words were spoken between them. There was a mutual hatred that tied them deeper than any words could explain. Something deep down inside both of them knew that that this was an enmity for the ages. Neither could abide the other’s existence.

He roared from the water swinging his great fists at the man’s head. Again he was surprised when his fists passed through empty air. His foe ducked and rolled to avoid being hit by the powerful blow. Instead of retreating however, he rolled across the ground and kicked the being in the side of the leg. An audible crack filled the air as the bone snapped clean in two. This was the second time in a matter of moments that he’d been seriously harmed by another. It was not a situation to which he was accustomed.

With a mighty bellow, he lashed out and scooped up the dodging form. As his great paw-like hands closed around his foe, he lifted him high over his head. Screaming in rage he pulled in opposite directions trying to tear the smaller form in half. With a great heave he snapped the form taught, but it did not tear. There was no great fountain of blood and entrails to rain down upon him.

Instead the smaller form grunted once, and twisted. Then he did the unthinkable! He pried the being’s claws loose and tried to wriggle free. This was intolerable! He would demonstrate to this upstart man-thing exactly what his power was. The being concentrated on the form still grasped firmly in his left paw. He willed the very atoms of his prey’s body to decay.

Nothing happened! In all the time he’d walked on all the worlds, he’d never encountered a situation like this. How could this small man-thing resist his power? Nothing could resist the cycle of creation and decay! He flexed his great shoulder muscles and hurled the man-thing away from him and across the lake.

He watched as the man-thing sailed through the air and into the side of a building on the far edge of the his vision. It took several moments for the crashing sound of the man-thing’s body hitting the edifice to reach his ears. Surely that kind of blow had killed the man-thing.

But the rage deep in his soul did not subside. The man-thing still lived. It had withstood the being’s greatest and most powerful attack and it still lived. This was not what he’d expected. This was not what he’d been promised. He looked up to the dust rising from the building into which the man-thing had been hurled. In the distance he could the man-thing step out of the hole and shake his head.

Then the man-thing struggled through the hole left in the building. He looked around and then seemed to spot the being. Powerful muscles on both the man-thing and the being coiled and leaped. The two elemental forces met in mid air over the city. With a sound like thunder, both struck.

Had the two been on the ground, had they been locked down, each of the blows could have very possibly thrown the other half way across the island. But they were both in the air, and only their momentum, and the raw force of their muscles counted toward the damage they did. They hit each like two unstoppable forces, cancelled out each other’s momentum, grappled and fell to the park below.

For the first time in its unbelievably long life, the being felt fear, and hatred, and something else. There was a confusing emotion mixed into the combination: admiration. The being had never encountered an equal before, and the emotions that engendered were totally alien to it. He wanted to destroy this man-thing, but at the same time he wanted to understand it. For the first time in its life, the being wanted something other than to destroy. It wanted to understand.

As the two crashed into the ground, mighty muscles strained. As the being looked through the lenses of the mask with the eyes of its host, it studied the man-thing for the first time. It was on the large size for its species but was obviously young. The memories of its host indicated that the strong jaw, the yellow hair and the deep blue eyes were pleasing. The form was muscular and smooth, without beard or other fur covering.

Suddenly the screaming of another of the man-things cut through the haze of confusion from which both the being and the man-thing were suffering. With a grunt of disgust, the being shoved the man-thing away and looked toward the source of the interruption. Four other man-things were watching the battle- one a female floating in the air above the others. The being shook its host’s head and leaped away in disgust and confusion. It need to to think. It needed to consider what it had experienced. But deep in its soulless being, it knew that it would be back; that this was not over. Something inside the creature told it that the other felt as it did. Turning toward the South and West, it leapt away into the night.


Pearl Harbor Hawaii December 6, 1941

“Is there anything else Doctor Griffin?” Winter Hayes, his lab assistant asked.

Daniel smiled over at the young woman who’d been his right hand over the past few years. “No, Winter. You can can go home now.” She was medium height and somewhat on the thin side, but still very very pretty. Her most striking features were her long white hair that she always wore in a ponytail, and her ice blue eyes. There was something about her face that reminded Daniel of his twelve year old son, Dannon. Her help in deciphering the notes obtained by agent’s Stryker and Kotter from the Nazis had been invaluable. Daniel had quickly learned to trust her insight when they were working in the lab. He did not understand why she was not attempting to do research of her own.

She smiled back at him and said, “Thank you doctor. I think I’ll go into town and have a bite to eat.”

“What? You don’t want to eat on base?” he asked.

She chuckled and said, “I want my steak tenderized, not my bottom. Too many of the sailors and marines like to pinch.”

“Maybe you should eat in the officer’s galley,” Daniel said.

“Who do you think I’m talking about?” she asked with a smile as she put on her light jacket. Daniel knew the rumor mill at the base had already started about him and his attractive assistant, but they just weren’t true. For some reason his perceptions of the woman were very confusing to him. On one hand he saw her as highly efficient assistant and an excellent scientist in her own right. On the other hand he tended to see her as a daughter he never had. The idea of a romantic relationship with her had never crossed his or even his wife Mary’s mind until someone else brought it up.

“Maybe you should just join Mary and I for dinner,” he said. “I know Dannon would be glad to see you again,” he offered.

She smiled at the mention of his twelve year old son. Daniel suspected that his son had his first crush on Winter and was very appreciative the girl being careful of the young man’s feelings. “Thank you Doctor. I think I’d like that a great deal.”

“Let me lock up the safe and we’ll head on out then,” he told her. “You know, it’s been a very productive year, and I don’t think I’d be anywhere near as far along as we are without your help,” he said.

“I”m just the chief coffee maker and bottle washer,” she said with a smile. It was joke the two of them shared. Admiral Kimmel was convinced that was all she did in the lab, no matter how much he saw her accomplish. The man had some serious blind spots.

“Don’t you believe that for one moment, young lady. You designed half the equipment in this lab and built the other half. I would never had been able to decipher Doctor Shadu’s notes without your help. And God only knows how many volunteers we may have lost if you hadn’t suggested which direction to look to find the right characteristics for our subjects. As it is, we didn’t lose anyone and we have three very successful soldiers to field.”

“Don’t forget the other two,” she said. “They may not have been part of the initial testing, but they they will be valuable on the battlefield.”

Daniel smiled at her and said, “I am a man of science. I don’t put a lot of store in all this magic mumbo-jumbo.”

She smiled and cocked her head, and again Daniel was reminded of Dannon. She said, “You have to admit that both Kotter and Issacs have demonstrated abilities that can only be explained by folklore.”

“Werewolves, and magecats,” Daniel grumbled. “I still say there has to be a scientific explanation.” He picked up his hat and held the door for her.

“There is, Doctor. It’s called magic,” she told him with a smile as they headed down the long hall. “But whether it is magic or science, or both, Strike Force Liberty will be ready by the first of the year to counter Hitler’s Valhalla Squad.”

Daniel sighed. He fully expected the US to be drawn into the war before long. That was why he insisted that at least one of the test subjects be an American. He’d been very pleasantly surprised with agent Stryker had met all the criteria he and Winter had developed for the experiments. In the end, the process had been successful beyond their wildest dreams. American Ace gave every impression of being able to go toe to toe with Krieger. “I just wish that this war wasn’t brewing. I’m worried about my family here. I’m thinking of sending Mary and Dannon to Bethesda to stay with my parents.”

Winter nodded at his concerns. He’d voiced them often enough. She’d never commented one way or another about it, but only listened. “How is Dannon adjusting to the move?” she asked.

“You know how boys are. They adapt rather easily. He surprised me though. Guess what he asked for for Christmas?”

“What?” she asked.

“A typewriter,” he replied. “Why would a twelve year old boy want a typewriter?”

“Maybe he wants to be a writer when he grows up,” she said. “Maybe he’s got some stories to tell now. Can he type?”

“Would you believe: yes?” he told her as they checked out at the security check point at the entrance to the secure areas of the facility. It was a Saturday night and there was a lone marine on duty. Daniel got the feeling the young man would be glad when they were out of earshot so he could get back to the game Daniel was positive was playing on the radio under the desk. “He said he learned from watching his mother.” At first Daniel hadn’t believed his son until the boy had sat down at the machine in Daniel’s study and typed out a brief letter for him.


As they walked across the parking lot toward Daniel’s car, Winter said, “Why don’t you get him one?”

“Now you sound like Mary,” Daniel replied. He shrugged as he opened the door to his Buick so she could enter. He then hurried around to the front of the car and slid in behind the large wheel.

“Then I’m in good company,” she told him as he stared the engine.

“I would just be happier if he was as interested in baseball or football as he is in his pulp novels. You know he spends most of his allowance on those books. He literally devours them. Some of them are a little strange too. I read one of his stories by some fellow named Lovecraft. Gave me nightmares.”

“Does Dannon complain of nightmares?” she asked.

“No. He doesn’t complain about much of anything,” he told her.

“Then what’s the harm. So he’s got an active imagination. It’ll probably settle down in a few years and he’ll get interested in something else, like science or history,” she told him.

“You think so?” he asked.

“I know so,” she said with air of authority that for some reason both put Daniel at ease and bothered him.

Seeking to change the subject, Daniel asked, “Do you think that we’re going to get pulled into the war?”

She frowned at him and thought for a second. Daniel could almost see the wheels turning behind her eyes. Finally she said, “It’s not a matter of if, Daniel. It’s a matter of when, and I think it’s going to be very soon. I think it will happen before our Strike Force Liberty sees its first action.”

Daniel was surprised by that admission. He had a very bad feeling in his gut about the way things were going. He felt like Damocles with a sword hanging over his head and for the life of him, he couldn’t see the the thread. Nodding, he said, “At least if that that happens, we’ve got the serum in a location where the populace will be less susceptible to it in case of an accident.” One of the reasons they’d chosen Pearl Harbor for their research was that the locals were from Polynesian stock and had one of the lowest incidences of the AGG in their gene pool. At least that was what Doctor Shadu’s research had indicated and they had no reason to doubt that.

“There is that,” she said as turned the car into the residential section of the base. Daniel and his family had been assigned to officer’s housing, so the small bungalow style building was at least adequate for his small family. Poor Winter was stuck in a hotel downtown. He was glad for his family to share their meals with her.


They rode in silence as he navigated the straight narrow roads until pulling the car into drive. Through the large front window, he could see the family Christmas tree blinking in the fast fading light. Sunrise and sunset in the tropics came more like a curtain than the gradual fading that he was accustomed to in his home in Maryland.

As they pulled up to the house, Daniel could see Dannon’s tow-headed form dash to the door. The boy was small for his age, and at times Daniel worried about his growth, but the base doctors said he was actually a bit ahead on the physical maturity scale if not size. “I think someone is glad to see you,” Winter said with a smile.

“I think he’ll be just as glad to see you,” Daniel teased her. And of course he was. Mary was also pleased to see the young assistant and made that abundantly clear. Daniel got the feeling that at some point the two women had spoken rather frankly and Winter had passed whatever test Mary has set for her.

Dinner proved to be an excellent local pork dish. Daniel was getting to like the mixture of sweet and savory that Hawaiian food offered. He hoped that Mary would continue to explore the culinary side of the culture.

After dinner the three adults settled into the living room to chat. Dannon disappeared into Daniel’s study so the they were able to talk freely. Mary smiled at Winter and said, “Tomorrow is Sunday. Surely you two can tear yourselves away from that lab long enough for a picnic after church.”

Much to Daniel’s surprise, Winter said, “We do have to go in early to check on a couple of cultures, but we should be done by then. I think a picnic would be a great idea.”

Daniel realized that there wasn’t that much that they could really do tomorrow. Like she said, they only had to check and log a couple of hundred cultures and that would only take part of the morning. “Why don’t we go in early, get those logs knocked out and then make a day of it in Oahu?” he suggested.

“I can meet you there at five thirty if you want,” Winter suggested.

“That sounds good,” Daniel agreed. Actually it sounded very good. It would let him spend some time with Mary and Dannon in the afternoon. He knew that as the project progressed, then he’d have less and less time to spend with his family.

Mary shook her blond head and said, “Let me get this straight. You two are going in to work at five thirty so you can go on a picnic?”

“Works for me,” Daniel said with a smile. “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you take the morning off, Winter. I can handle the logs. You can sleep in.”

“Thank you Doctor,” she said with a smile.

~*~

Winter’s work was almost done. She’d very carefully, but not always subtly guided events to exactly the way they were supposed to be. It hadn’t taken very much effort to get herself inserted into her grandfather’s project. Her biggest issue had been how to feed Daniel the information he needed to decipher the Atlantean script that Shadu had used. For that she’d finally settled on using the telepathic gifts she’d inherited from both Dannon and Katherine.

Dealing with her father as a little boy was a bit more daunting. Even at eleven and twelve years old, even before his body had begun to adapt to what would happen tomorrow, Dannon’s mind was sharp and imaginative. She had to be very careful not to give herself away to him. A particular conversation with him a few weeks back stood out in her mind.

They had been on the ship from England that brought them to the other side of the world. Sitting on the deck and watching the world go lazily by, she and Dannon talked. It was strange for her in a way because her father had always seemed so much larger than life her- all her fathers did- and to see him so unsure of himself was a bit of an adjustment.

“Can I ask you a question?” the young man asked from next to her as they stood out of the way on the ship’s bow.

“Shoot,” she said turning to him.

“It’s kinda’ personal,” he said carefully.

“That’s okay. I won’t be embarassed,” she smiled and said.

“Well, I’m kind of on the small side so I get picked on a lot at school. Mr. Stryker and Miss Kotter both taught me some things to defend myself, but I’m sort of afraid to use them. I mean they’re kind of brutal. I don’t want to hurt someone over something stupid.”

Winter smiled down at the little boy and said, “It’s not stupid if it hurts you,” she said. “You have to use a measured response. If you can turn an enemy into a friend, then great. But if they keep it up, then sometimes you have to do something brutal to get their attention first.”

“Really?” he asked.

She nodded and said, “I’ll tell you what my Dad told me. When it comes to dealing with bullies, they’re basically more scared of you than you are of them. That’s why they’re bullies. Hit ‘em hard once or twice where it counts and they usually go down. But you fight to win. Anything less is what’s stupid.”

“Really?” he said again, this time his eyes large with surprise.

“Don’t go out and pick fights, go out of your way to avoid them. But when the fight comes to you, make sure you finish it,” she told him exactly what he’d told her when she’d been a little girl.

Now she was facing one of the hardest nights in her life. She knew what was coming in the morning. In a way she hated herself for putting her grandfather in the position he was going to be in. She was literally condemning him to death, but if she didn’t she’d never be born. History had to play out the way she knew it would. Still, that knowledge did not make the ache in her heart any easier.

The next morning, she kept watching the clock, dreading what was coming. At a quarter to eight her enhanced hearing picked up the low drone of the Japanese zeroes as they homed in on Pearl. The first bomb struck three minutes later.

She and her grandfather scrambled to get the cultures back into the safe. Several of them slid from the top of the stack he had in his arms. As they toppled, Daniel twisted to get under them, trying to keep it from hitting the floor and breaking. Suddenly a bomb rocked the lab and the only thing Winter heard for a few moments was a ringing in her ears.

When the smoke cleared she realized that the bomb had hit not ten feet from her. It had been her gifted gene that had protected her from being annihilated, not her powers as a Time Lord. She heard a moaning from across the room. Looking over she saw her grandfather lying in a pool of blood, the shattered cultures were dripping off his form. A large I-beam was lying across his chest. She knew what was supposed to happen.

With a heavy heart, she scrambled over the wreckage of the lab as bombs began to fall all around her. She grabbed the red hot beam with one hand and lifted it off Daniel. With a shrug she tossed it to the side. She could see the serum already working on him. The curse that lay on it was also having its own effect. She knew her grandfather only had hours of agonizing life left. He began to sweat, and glow.

Ignoring the fire around them, she reached out with one hand and touched the side of his face. She could use her telepathy quite well without touching someone, but for some reason it always helped to do so. Of course her experiences at the hands- and other parts- of Merlin had taught her that physical contact could make her powers that much stronger.

Through the haze of pain, she sent a single imperative into Daniel’s already fevered mind. “Get your family to safety. HOME!”

It didn’t take long. Perhaps it was because of the genetic connection, perhaps it was just the aching in her heart at the man she’d come to know and love without him ever realizing their relationship, or maybe it was just the emotional power of the events surrounding her, but this imperative was strong. She could feel it begin to tear at his mind as the virus rewrote his genetic structure into a thousand different directions.

She watched as his body mutated and changed into a being so warped that nature itself could not allow him to live. He’d become the ultimate plague carrier, spreading the weaponized virus that he and she had created wherever he went. She knew he only had a few hours live. Slowly his body began to burn with a cold fire that sent tiny sparkling shards of the AGG Virus into the atmosphere around him. Finally, he opened his eyes and Winter could see only the imperative left in his fevered mind.

With a low growl he took off through the hole in the ceiling above them. With tears in her eyes, Winter willed herself into sheol and watched the the drama as it played out. No matter how much she tried, she could not will herself to not care, to not cry.

She watched as Daniel flew straight to his home. She felt her heart breaking as he found his wife’s lifeless form lying in their bed. She watched as her grandfather lifted the bloody and tattered body of his barely alive son and then screamed into the morning sun at the injustice of it all.

The imperative in his mind still operating, Daniel took off into the early morning Hawaiian sky. Looking down, Winter saw a single black sailor manning a machine gun on the deck of a ship below, desperately trying to defend his shipmates from the attacking zeroes. She knew the man was Doris Miller and he would be the first black man to ever be awarded the Navy Cross for his valor that day.

She followed her grandfather as he flew eastward over the Pacific, his mind locked onto a single word, a single place: home. She watched as the cold fire surrounding his body wrapped itself around the wounded Dannon. She watched the the boy’s- her father’s- wounds close. She knew that the soon the virus would ravage his system and turning him into the first person to contract and survive the AGG virus.

As Daniel accelerated over the Pacific to speeds yet unmatched by any modern man’s vehicle, she saw the sparks fly from the cold fire and sink harmlessly into the water below. As he climbed higher, she saw the jet stream catch them and begin to spread them out like a seed. Most would fall fallow into infertile waters. But some would be carried east and southwards.

She followed him as he passed over Central California and then turned South toward Texas. He dropped lower over Louisiana, and Mississippi as he braked to catch his bearings. He came to a full stop over Northwest Alabama and floated there for long moments like a blazing angel of death in the sky. Then he accelerated again eastward. He crossed Georgia a Mach 5, and turned northeast into South Carolina, then North Carolina and Virginia as he began to brake again. The backwash of sparks caught up with him just south of DC as he dropped low and crossed the Delmarva Peninsula and into Bethesda.

Again she watched biting back tears as he came to land on the front porch of his parents home. With only enough strength left to knock, he collapsed to the ground and died, with Dannon in his arms. The look on her great grandmother’s face when she opened the door would haunt Winter for the rest of her immortal life.

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Re: Atlantis Unleashed: Transhuman War -Nanowrimo 2010

Postby cobalt-blue » Tue Mar 15, 2011 8:07 pm

Image
~*~
For such a gathering, the locale was actually quite prosaic.  It was a simple meeting room that could have been in any hotel or conference center in the world.  The tables were simple meeting tables that could be found in any office supply store around the country, and the chairs were the pseudo-comfortable rolling designs that were quite common.  The raw power gathered in this place however was anything but common.  It was staggering.  Emory looked around and sighed.  She had no idea what was going on, or how she got here, but she’d had on one or two occasions in her life to be in the presence of the divine.  This gathering however made those occasions feel small in comparison.
The mere mortals gathered here were some of the most powerful mages in the world.  She recognized Caster, Powerstone, and even Gate from World War II, and Merlin the Time Lord.  There were several others that she’d only heard rumors of. Vizier was said to be the power behind the throne in the United Arab Emirates.  He was a tall dark skinned man dressed in what was typical Arabic robes.  There was a strong sense of personal power about him.

She saw a short Japanese man with jet black hair and dressed in a business suit. She suspected he was the wizard Kasai, who’d been working behind the scenes in Tokyo to help keep the nocturnal population there in line. He exuded confidence from his very pores.  Others she did not recognize.

All of these men and women however paled before the raw power of those gathered at the head of the table.  The Council of Whispers who were a group of immortals, Forsaken vampires, and direct divine servants, all sat the head table running perpendicular to the one at which she sat.  At the center of the table was a young man with coal black hair and piercing blue eyes that reflected a deep sadness that cut all the way to her soul.  He was wearing a simple black turtle-neck sweater.

The other forms were all cloaked, with their faces hidden under a hood.  Some she knew by feel, or from personal interaction.  Most however were simply powerful beings who were capable of manipulating the very fabric of reality to do the bidding of the divinities they served.  Standing to the side was a short white haired girl wearing a simple white and blue dress.

The man in the center seemed to will everyone's attention to him.  He smiled sadly and said, “A confluence of events in this reality are focusing into a situation that requires the return of a ruling force.  While the Directive existed, the mage gift was limited to a few but powerful practitioners who were capable of standing against their might and policing themselves.  With its recent destruction the gift will once again propagate.  Other forces are also coming to bear,” he said as he  looked over to one of the hooded forms who solemnly nodded to him.  “Not the least of which is the growing power of the sorcerer Shadu.  It is time that the mages once again had a sovereign to rule them.  You all have been chosen as possible candidates for the role as the new Sovereign Mage.”

“What if we do not wish the role?” a short Asian man asked.

“Then you may depart.  However, you will still be bound by their authority,” the man in black said.

“Understood,” the man said and then disappeared in a wink of crimson light.

“Are there any others who wish to be withdrawn from consideration?” one of the hooded figures asked from the end of the table.  It was obviously a male with a rich baritone voice.  From under the hood, Emory caught just a flash brown eyes.

“I would like to know why we are including a Time Lord as one of our candidates,” a voice that was devoid of all gender asked.  Emory could sense a deep distrust and worry in the voice.

“Because he is a mage of the first order,” the man in the center said.

“But he already knows the outcome of this event,” the sexless voice pointed out.

The girl standing at the side of the room shook her head and said with a deep reverential bow, “No Honored One.  At the request of the Chair, I have blocked his memories of the future.  Although he, like the others, will have access to any non-magical resources he possesses, his memories are not among those.  The deal he struck with his father, Shaitan, will not come to play in this little drama you have set up.”  She smiled and looked at the form with the baritone voice.

“You are rather impertinent,” The baritone voice said.  

“I am only doing what the Chair asked.  Nobody said that I had to play nice.”

“I like you,” Baritone replied.

“I am honored,” she said with a smile.

The man at the head of the table turned back to the group and said, “You have been chosen to be candidates for the honor of becoming the Sovereign Mage.  Whomever takes the mantle will have dominion over all mages on Earth and the civilizations it will eventually build in the stars.  That person will be the final arbiter of disputes, and will be responsible for keeping all mages and sorcerers from disrupting the balance of power.  In effect, that person will become the direct servant, not of any God, but of the Universe itself.  There is a great deal of power, but with it comes much more responsibility.”

“I am concerned that there are those among our candidates who have direct ties to at least one Divinity,” a definitely male voice on the opposite side of the table from the baritone voice said.  Emory could feel his eyes boring into her soul.  For just a brief moment she saw his visage, and it was totally insane.  “Can they be neutral in religious conflicts?”

“Why are you concerned about that, Brother mine,” the Baritone voice said.  “Our Father denies his followers access to magic anyway.”

“Prayer is a form of magic, Brother mine,” the first voice said.  “The Northmore woman is engaged to one of Freyja’s servants.  I do not trust her to be neutral.”

“Not everyone feels the need to spread their faith,” the sexless voice said.  “As long as she has taken no oaths to the Keeper of Cats, I have not objections to her participation.”

“Nor do I,” the man in black replied with a harsh tone to his voice that said he would brook no argument.  “She stays.  I think she will at least make an interesting candidate to watch.”

“Very well.  I withdraw the complaint,” the original questioning voice said sitting back in his chair.  Emory got the feeling that some kind of drama the details of which she was unaware was just played out in front of her.  She was also worried that his objections had not been quelled.

“As one of the candidates, might I ask what power and what responsibility?” Vizier asked, his voice rumbling like a bass drum.

The man at the head of the table said, “The winning candidate will be responsible for resolving disputes between mages, for seeing to the defense of the mage gift from those that would see it destroyed again.”

“And of what kind of power are we talking?” Vizier asked again.

“The power to arbitrate disputes and the power to back it up. The power to not only block but to remove the mage gift from an offending mage. The power to tap into the life force of the planet itself to enforce your will,” the sexless voice said.

“What do we do, fight each other?” Gate asked.  

Emory raised an eyebrow, and said, “Then I would withdraw.”

“Why? Are you afraid of getting hurt, little girl?” he asked.

Emory shook her head and said, “No.  But I fight for my own reasons, not to win some prize.  I haven’t had it up to now, so not having it in the future would be no great loss.”  She looked around and added, “Most of the people in this room, I would trust with that kind of power.”
“What if it were me?” he asked continuing to bait her.

She shrugged, “Somehow I get the feeling that won’t be an issue,” she said with a smile before turning back to gathering.  “How do we proceed?”

The man in black at the table smiled and said, “You already have.  This is as much a test of character as it is a test of power.”  All of the forms nodded.  “However for the purposes of this choice we will look at your decision making skills.  The following encounters are very real. They are not staged.  They are real life events going on in real time around the world.  However, they are not always what they seem.”

Suddenly the room faded.  She was dressed in her “working” uniform and even had her cloak.  She smiled and brushed her fingertips across the material, barely feeling the feathers embedded in it. At her will those feathers would extrude themselves and allow her to fly.  It was something she would have to give up once she and Trey married, for the cloak was a Valkyrie’s cloak and would not work for a married woman.

Looking around she found herself in what looked like an old castle with which the owner was struggling with the upkeep.  She could see where doors had been recently replaced, and mortar that was in need of repair.  In the distance she heard the sounds of fighting.

Hurrying up the curved staircase from which the sound was emanating, she felt a cold blast of air come through what looked like an actual archer’s alcove.  She realized that wherever she was, it was much colder than even the London climate to which she was accustomed.   

Skidding to a stop, at the top of the stairs where she found a locked door, she considered her options.  The door looked newly replaced and heavily locked.  She was loathe to damage someone else’s property.  Instead, she decided to cheat a bit and use her telekinesis.  Turning the locking mechanism with her mind, she swung the door open and entered the long hall.  

Suddenly two men were hurled backwards through a door down the hall. Both were carrying stakes and crosses.  One looked like he was bleeding heavily from a wound to his arm.  As they rolled to their feet, the other looked up at her and shouted, “Inny panna młoda!”

Her Polish was a bit rusty as she hadn’t been in the country since before the fall of communism, but she recognized what they were saying.  “Sorry boys, but like Minmei, I’m not a bride yet,” she told them in Polish as she closed with their location.  

The men looked at each other and then back into the room from which they’d been hurled.  “He’s getting away!” one screamed, pulled an old Tokarev from his belt and started firing.

Emory rushed down and looked into the room where he saw a dark haired man transform into a bat.  “Oh great,” she muttered to herself.  She was dealing with at least a Damned vampire if not a Forsaken.

She reached out with her mind and slammed the bat into the ground telekinetically.  She had a good idea what his next trick was going to be.   Looking around the room and seeing what she needed, she raced across to where a young woman was lying, two small bloodless wounds on her throat and crimson on her lips.  Grabbing the empty wine bottle, she pulled the stopper and turned on the vampire.  

Watching him transform his small flapping form into one of mist, she smiled and ran the bottle over to where he was becoming a cloud of gas.  With a quick wave of her hand, she cast a teleport spell on the air in the bottle.  As nature abhors a vacuum, the mist was sucked inside it.  She quickly stoppered the bottle and turned back toward the two men.

Both were standing there, slack-jawed staring at her.  The one with the automatic pistol suddenly seemed to realize that he was holding a weapon. He screamed in Polish, “Witch!” and began firing at her.

With a wave of her hand, she raised her own protective spell and watched two bullets ricochet around the room.  She held out her hand and willed the gun to it.  It was suddenly yanked from the guy’s hand and made a slow arc across the room to land in her palm.  “Now does someone want to tell me what this is all about?”

The man with who had the gun ran.  His partner followed him.  She looked over to where the girl was stirring on the bed.  Looking down at the bottle and then back to the girl she cast her mind toward the newly created undead.  Scanning her confused mind, she began to realize what had happened.  

She pocketed the Tokarev, then she unstoppered the bottle and let the mist escape.  The vampire took form.  He looked at Emory and then back to the girl.  “Who are you?” he demanded.

“Someone just trying to figure out what is going on.  Go teach her what she needs to know,” she said.

Before the vampire could reply, she felt herself whisked away again.   She began to wonder if she was going to be able to resolve any issue to her own satisfaction before being sent somewhere else. The vampire had been turning his dying fiance.   She wanted to know why the hunters were after him, and how did they end up in a castle in Poland. Talk about a cliche.

She felt the ground suddenly shift under her feet and she wondered who was controlling the teleport spell.  Whoever it was, was doing a damn poor job of it. Teleportation wasn’t one of her strong points but at least she usually managed to land without nearly breaking an ankle.  

She was immediately hit by a blast of cold wind.  Looking up at the night sky she recognized the skyline of the city.  Great, right in the middle of a turf war between several mages in Chicago.  This was going to be fun.   Looking around she realized that she was in the middle of Grant Park and it looked to be about midnight.

She wracked her brain to try and remember what she’d seen coming out of the DNA’s files on the mess in this city.  The war between Doctor Leger of New Orleans and the local vampires here in Chicago had left the city without very much leadership. The mages of the city were determined to take the place of the fallen vampires but were rapidly decimating each other in their war for control.  She suspected that by the time it was over, that the mages would be so decimated that they would not be able seize control of the Windy City.

She felt the surge of magical energy several seconds before she heard the screaming. Someone had expended a great deal of energy to open a gate to another reality.   She could smell the brimstone on the cold wind.  She shook her head and asked herself, “Why does it always have to be demons?  Do these people not have any imagination at all?”

She willed the cloak at her shoulders to unfurl and billow outwards and began to rise into the cold night air.  In the distance, toward the harbor she could see the blue flame of the sulfur burning.  There were times when she actually felt a bit sorry for the demons summoned.  As Trey was apt to say, they really didn't have a dog in the fight, but they were forced to become part of it.

As she cleared the skeletal tops of the now winter-bare oaks, she could make out the glowing lines of the two huge summoning circles.  She could see two forms, each standing the middle of their individual circle.  One circle was occupied by middle aged man wearing a dark cloak.  Several of the symbols on the hood of the cloak suggested that he came from a Hermetic tradition.  The woman was tall, and ebony skinned.  She wore a slinky green dress and held a long athame in one hand.

Outside of them, between the two circles was a small army of small horned demons squaring off with what looked like another small army of iron pike armed redcaps. It didn’t matter who won or lost here, the city was going to be overrun with problems by the end of the week if someone didn’t send this whole mess back to where it came from.  What kind of idiot would turn loose an army of redcaps or imps?  She had to do something fast.

Looking down she realized that she had to either convince the two combatants to send their diminutive armies back, or she’d be forced do something very unpleasant to one or both of them.  Focusing her will, she drew the rune she needed in the air and screamed,  “Send them back!”  Her voice echoed across the park and and off the concrete canyons of the city, and out into the harbor. She suspected they heard her all the way to Canada.

For just a moment, the battlefield bellow her became still and quiet. Then with the creaking sounds of leather, every head turned to look at her floating above them.   “Who are you and why should we?” the woman on the side of the field with the redcaps shouted.

“My name is Avalon, and I’m trying to stop what’s left of the winning army from hurting the innocents of the city.”

“Why should we care?” the man on the side of the demons shouted.  “The city will recover!  Mind your own business.”

“Send them back!” she demanded again, this time her voice was low and menacing.

“No!” both combatants said hurling eldritch bolts in her direction.

She easily deflected them realizing that the two combatants had expended most of their energy in summoning their armies.  That was very foolish of them.  Especially in their rather vulnerable positions. Again, she began to draw a rune.  This time it encompassed the whole army of imps as well as their summoner’s circle.  

An eldrich bolt managed to clip her in the hip. She felt her whole leg go numb from its force.  She didn’t waver, instead she rose higher into the air to make for a smaller target.  “What are you doing?!” the man with the imps screamed at her.  

“I’m binding your army!” she told him.

“They’ll be destroyed!  She’ll win!” he protested.   Throwing his cloak aside, he began to draw on more and more energy from around him, pulling it from the sleeping earth itself.   He was a mage of the first order and was not going to let his army go down without a fight.  

“You seem to have more empathy for the demons you’ve summoned that the people in the city,” she told him as she began to weave her spell.  Hell was not a dimension with which she was accustomed to opening a portal.  She preferred not to deal with its denizens, but figured that if she got the job for which she suddenly found herself applying then she should probably get used to it.  

She closed the rune as the man pulled a huge well of energy up through the ground.  She could feel the trees dying  in the park around them.  As he the mage pulled the energy to him and began to focus it into his spell, she struck with her own eldrich bolt.  As it went wide and missed him completely he smiled wickedly.  “You’ll have to do better than that!” he exclaimed.

She smiled sadly and said, “Oh I did.”  Turning to the imps she told them, “You may have him as long as you return to your own realm!”

“What?!” the man suddenly screamed as the imps began to flow over the cut in the protective circle that her bolt had made.  She had bound the imps to her own circle, but had opened his.  The only way to send them back forcibly was to send him with them.  It was not in her nature to be judge, jury, and executioner- especially when it meant damning someone's soul, but she could do it when she had to.

Suddenly the imps grabbed him and they all disappeared in a flash of white light and brimstone.   She heard him scream once as he was dragged to Hell with the demons he’d summoned.

“Thanks for the assist,” the woman in the other circle said.  “But fair warning, my circle is made of sturdier stuff.  Your eldrich bolts won’t be of any use in cutting it.  While inside this circle, I am entirely immune to magic.”  She pointed to where the summoning circle she’d used was much smaller but made entirely of thick interlocking brass rings.  She was right.  An eldrich bolt would not generate enough force to blast it open.  And it looked like there were some serious charms for deflecting both magic and psionics.

Emory shook her head and sighed.  Looking at the redcaps who were getting ready to scamper off into the city, she called out in Alfar, “Halt.”

To the woman’s surprise, the small elflings stopped in their tracks and looked at her. One held his ugly misshapen head high and demanded.  “By what authority do you command us to halt?”

“By that of shared blood,” she said.  “By that of the cloak I wear.  Do you wish to engender the wrath of the daughter of a valkyrie?”

“What are you saying?” the woman demanded.

Emory looked at her and said, “You are stupid enough to summon redcaps and not speak their language?”

“Who are you calling stupid?” the woman demanded.

“You,” Emory said quietly as she considered the circle.  She might be able to batter the circle down eventually. That would take all night and in the meantime the redcaps would become restless.  It was  a tightly woven spell. This woman was smart.  She knew she would be facing a magical battle tonight and had woven her defenses tightly.  She could even sense several traps set against telepathic interventions.

The redcaps sat and watched the interplay between them.  For now they were content to watch and see who would command them.  They were compelled by the woman’s summoning spell, but her own right of blood and the cloak she wore was not to be lightly ignored.  With a shrug she reached into her pocket and pulled out the Tokarev she’d taken earlier.  

She’d been trained by both MI-6 and Ministry 13. She was a crack shot.  Taking aim, she fired the Russian-made automatic.  Two shots later and the brass rings were cut in two.  She looked at the redcaps and said, “She is yours. Slake your thirst and return to Underhill.”

The redcaps did not wait. They swarmed over the broken brass and began to tear at the woman, each dipping the small red cap they wore in her blood before disappearing in wink of winter’s light.

Again before she could react, she was yanked from the scene.  This time she found herself back in the room with the Council of whispers.  The others had returned as well, several of them were nursing wounds. Vizier looked like he’d been mauled and burned all at the same time.  Caster looked like death warmed over.  She appeared to not have an erg of energy left in her small form.  Kasai was holding a broken arm.  Even Powerstone looked a bit green about the gills, and he smelled like brimstone.  His duster was scorched.

“What happened to you, Sam?” Caster asked him.

“Ever played poker with a demon?” he asked.

She shook her head and said, “No.”

“They cheat,” he said in that soft Texan drawl of his. “That one won’t anymore though.”

“Why were you playing poker with a demon?” she asked.

“Because I can’t play the fiddle,” he replied with a chuckle.  “And you old friend?” he turned Kasai and asked.

“I have never cared much for Voodoun,” he said.  “Now I really dislike it.  Zombies are immune to many magics.”

“Where’s Gate?” Emory asked looking around for the other mage.

“He’s been disqualified, as has Merlin,” the Chairman said.  “They do not seem to understand that the goal of the sovereign mage is to protect humanity as much as it is to protect mages.”

“I see,” Vizier said.

“What happened to you Akil?”  Powerstone asked Vizier.

“The Pride is what happened,” he turned to the Chairman and said. “That was not a fair test.”

“What happened?” Sam asked.

“The spiritwalker of the Pride, I believe the term is, has issues,” Vizier said.

“You all have issues, Akil,” the Chairman said.  “Each and every one of you have your own demons.”  He turned to the form with the baritone voice and said, “No offense intended.”

“None taken my friend,” the baritone voice replied.

“What allowances we make for those demons or issues as the case may be is part of the test.”

“Be that as it may, I move that we also disqualify Ms. Northmore,” the insane figure said.

“On what grounds, Brother mine?” the baritone asked.

“She did not deal with that second mage with magic,” Mr. Insane replied.

“Was it required?” Emory asked the form.

“We did say that the candidates were allowed to use whatever gifts they may have in addition to their magic,” the sexless voice countered.  “I would vote nay.”

The Chairman turned to the insane  voice and said, “I agree.  We specifically said that they could use whatever gifts they had access to.”

“Except for Merlin’s memories,” the girl in the white and blue dress said.

“Except those,” the Baritone Voice interjected amused.

“What gift did she use?”  Mr. Insane asked.  “She used a gun.  Anybody could have done that.”

“Could anyone have twice hit a half inch target with a Cold War surplus Russian automatic from a hundred yards, slicing it in half?” the Chairman asked.

“Nice shootin’ Emory,” Powerstone said.

“Thanks Sam.”

“You seem to be far less worse for wear than the rest of us,” Kasai said.  “What did you have to deal with?”

“A couple of vampire hunters and a vampire,” she replied, “and two warring mages.  One had summoned a small army of imps and the other had summoned a bunch of redcaps.”

“What did you do?” Caster asked.

“It would have taken all night to batter down the magical and psionic shields she’d put around her summoning circle.  However, she didn’t shield it against physical attacks.  I had a gun so I used it,” Emory said.

“On her?” Sam asked in surprise.

“No.  The redcaps had to be quelled.  I used it on the brass ring she was using as her circle.  I gave her to them,” Emory replied.

“That was extreme, Kasai said.

“I gave both of them an opportunity to withdraw their forces and send them back.  I was not going to let an army of imps or redcaps go rampaging through downtown Chicago,” she told him.  “Since they wouldn’t willingly send them back, they had to go back with them.”

“And why did you not kill the vampire?” Mr. Insane asked.  “He was after all an evil creature of the night.”

She raised an eyebrow.  “The victim was the vampire’s fiance.  She was dying. He was simply preserving the woman he loved.  The hunters were in the wrong.  I’m not going to kill a nocturnal who is not breaking the rules.”

The council members turned to face the Chairman.  An undercurrent of conversation seemed to be carried on.  It was a buzzing that seemed to be just out of Emory’s ability to hear.  She began to feel something vibrate through her body, and her soul.  

As it built, the world around her began to fade away into a gray mist.  Finally, when there was only the gray, the Chairman took form in front of her.  “Come with me,” he said.  I have much to teach you before you take up your duties.”

Tien Vanel Colony Atlantean Colony World

  
   For over two hundred and fifty years House Atlyn had served the Empire.  Adam and his family had gone from being soldiers, to being the Atlantean equivalent of Earls, then Barons, Counts, and finally Dukes - or in Katherine's case, a Duchess.  They had fought wars, built first towns, then cities, and finally universities.  House Atlyn's holdings now included the entire island of Thule, a great deal of Northern Yurop, a large swath of the Apple Chain Mountains on Eria, two islands in the Western Atlan Ocean, one in the Western Ocean and several cities on the Southern continent.  Of course the latter were behind blast barriers to protect them from the frigid weather.

   Adam and his family had hammered Kiera Atlan's children into a military, industrial, economic, and educational force that was ranked among the most powerful in the Empire.  For most of that, he and the others credited Katherine and Dannon, for his smallest husband and his wife saw the field of politics as a battlefield and both were lord generals when it came to engaging on it.   And they had their own forces that they maneuvered upon that field with surgical precision, both against the other houses of the empire and as well as those of Hesperia.

   For even though the world of the Atlantean Empire was far more technologically advanced than the one they had left in the far future, Earth still was not a united planet. Even though the Empire had colonies on the moon, on Mars, and on Saturn's moons, as well as several around other stars, it still had a Terran rival: the Hesperian Hegemony.

   Based out of what Adam knew as Ancient Greece, the Hesperian Hegemony was a powerful matriarchal government that had its own areas of control.  It was the undisputed mistress of Gondowa, Khaetae, and the Ceana.  It too had both solar and stellar colonies, and that was what created much of the problems for the Empire.  That was why they were here on Tien Vanel, to remind the colony that splitting off from the Empire was a bad idea.

   He smiled at the thought, though.  He remembered his American History quite well, and he recognized that the Tien Vanel was in exactly the same situation as the American Colonies were right after the French and Indian Wars.  The Empire had recently forced the Hesperians off of one of their near-by colonies - a quite well developed one at that.  For years the Empire had been able to keep Tien Vanel in line by threatening to pull out its naval forces from the system and let the Hesperians have them.  Now with that threat gone, the locals had become quite restless.  And Adam and the rest of the Gifted were part of the problem.  It was his job to solve it.

   He also suspected that there were other forces at work back home as well - not the least of which was a young weak empress who had taken a instant dislike to Kiera-Atlan's children. He knew that a great deal of that had come from being influenced by the Imperial Chamberlain who was very distrustful of both the Gifted and the Mideanites.  If he were in the future civilization in which Adam had grown up, he'd have been considered a human-first anti-transhuman bigot.  Here and now he was just an ass.

   But Adam had enough faith in the Mideanite bodyguards that all members of the imperial royal family were assigned that such feelings would be quite tempered and kept under control.  Only an idiot went around insulting the very people upon whose loyalty and actions your life depended.  He also knew that when they returned that Dannon and Katherine could undo a lot of damage that was being done.  It would take a lot of effort but it could be done.

   The problem here on Tien Vanel was that the same sentiment was starting to run rampant.  In what Adam considered to be a very bad move, the Empress had rotated the regular legion garrison out and had replaced it with one made up of Gifted.  That move was surely going to be seen as the throne flexing its muscles unnecessarily.    The fact that the world was founded as a penal colony by the city of Merria, one of the more rabid anti-gifted cities in the empire, didn't help.

   As the shuttle cycled its air compressors to match the outside atmosphere, he looked back at his family.  Most of them were viewing this as a sort of a working vacation.  Only Sloan seemed to share his own worries about the situation.  Imperial Intelligence had reported certain sentiments that made both of them wary about bringing Katherine, Dannon, and Willy on this trip. Sure they could take care of themselves. Sure they'd all seen far more battle in the last two hundred and fifty years than any living being had a right to, but he still worried. Some part of him deep inside told him that he always would.

   As the shuttle's door slid to the side the digital filter field kicked in to cut the glare of Tien Vanel's twin suns.  At the sight of the twin orbs glowing in the day sky, Dannon grinned broadly.  He knew the smaller man would be literally bouncing off the walls within hours of absorbing that much spectral radiation. He smiled at the other said, "Those of us who don't eat light might want to wear eye protection."

   As they stepped out of the shuttle, Adam could see a row of protesters with big holographic signs.  He smiled at them.  It had been quite a while since he'd been called a genetic freak and a pervert.  The latter told him that there was some influence from the Kellanaire Temples from Gondowa.  There were even several signs that made disparaging remarks about their skin color.  After all, the heavy UV spectral range of the world's two suns made darker skin a survival mechanism.  

   Adam had no illusions about how they stood out among the Atlanteans.  Three hundred thousand years had resulted in quite a bit of genetic drift.  Most of the Atlantean Gifted had deep bronze skin.  Most Imperial Atlanteans and all the Mideanites were fair skinned like himself and the rest of his family. That tended to make most people underestimate them.  After all, they LOOKED like Imperial Atlanteans, but they had the powers of the Gifted.  

   Although the physical features of the Vanelians were much like that of the Imperial Atlanteans- with straight soft hair, and light eyes, the skin tones tended to run very dark, almost to a Gondowan ebony.  That made Adam and his family stand out even more than even the garrison of Gifted legionnaires that the empress had sent.  

   They were met at the bottom of the shuttle's gangway by the local imperial governor and her husband.  She was a tall woman with a very dark complexion and straight red hair.  She was a tall heavy boned and well muscled woman that had the appearance of someone who worked out quite a bit.   Her husband was a short thin man with tight curly blond hair.  His skin was a deep mocha color and his eyes were almost totally black.   

   "Welcome to Tien Vanel, Lords and Lady Atlyn.  We hope your stay here will be enjoyable," the woman said. "I am Governor Kaelienne.  This is my husband Non."

   Adam nodded and took the woman's wrist in the standard imperial greeting.  "Thank you, Governor.  This is my wife, the Lady Katherine, and my husbands, Sloan, Dannon, and William."

   He noticed the slight tightening around Non's eyes which suggested he disapproved of the arrangement.   He suspected that had something to do with the small understated ten pointed star pin on the man's lapel.  He was a follower of Kellanaire.  Which was perfectly fine with Adam as long he kept his religion to himself.  "Tien Vanel welcomes you," the Governor said.

   "Welcome to our humble planet," Non said with a smile that did not reach his eyes.

   "Please, join us for some refreshments?" Kaelienne said gesturing toward where a pavilion had been set up.  As they were technically emissaries from the empress they were entitled to and expected to bypass the main spaceport and fly directly to the planetary governmental seat.  It was a tradition with which Adam was uncomfortable.  He did not like the pomp and affectations of the government.  He'd have rather flown in on his private shuttle, docked at the star port and taken a private car for this meeting.  

   "Thank you," he told Kaelienne. "It is most appreciated." Adam didn't like the affectations, but he knew when to use them.  

   "I noticed that you are not wearing eye protection Lord Dannon," Non said.  "Are you not afraid you will harm your retinas?"

   Dannon just shook his head and said, "No.  I am quite enjoying your suns."  He smiled broadly at the other man.  It wasn't often that Dannon met another adult male who was smaller than he was.   Whereas Adam and the others had finally grown out of that awkward early teen appearance they had when they first arrived, they all still looked like they hadn't quite left puberty.  Dannon on the other hand still looked like he'd barely started it.  Ironically, he was actually the second oldest in the family.

   The brief walk over to the pavilion revealed a rather large table set up with refreshments including what looked like several local juices.  Under the intense light and through the filters of his glasses he couldn't quite tell the exact colors of the drinks.   He was offered something that vaguely resembled orange juice and took it from the servant with a gracious smile.  

   "I'm curious, Lady Katherine," Kaelienne asked.  "Exactly what is your mission on Tien Vanel?"

   Katherine smiled at the woman and took the drink she was sipping from her lips and said, "We're here to review the legions the Empress asked us to send to help with the defense of your world."

   "Asked to send?" Non asked handing William a drink as well.

   "Trust me sir, we'd much rather have them home at Thule with their families," Katherine said.  

   "Many Vanellians feel that they are here to remind the people of imperial might," Non said, his accusation barely hidden under the veneer of social graces.

   "I don't think the people of Tien Vanel need to be reminded of imperial might," Dannon said.  "After all, they only have to look to its nearest neighbor to see what the empire can do when it chooses.  For centuries the Hesperian military base at Toraq was a constant threat to your world.  Now it's in imperial hands.  The Hesperians that wish to leave for other Hesperian worlds are free to do so, and the world is no longer a threat to Vanellian trade and prosperity."

   "Then why send a legion of Kiera Atlan's gifted?" Non asked.  "Surely the Empress understands how many of the Kellanaire members of our population feel about the Gifted."

   "Because it was time for their rotation to this garrison," Adam told the smaller man.  "They are after all, loyal Atlantean citizens."  Adam thought it best to remind the man that most of the troops who were assigned here had already earned their citizenship via their military service.

   "Could her imperial highness not have skipped this garrison and rotated another legion?" Non asked.

   "Why should she?"  Sloan asked.  "Has something happened to make the Gifted unsuitable for service on Tien Vanel?"

   "It's just that we have so many refugees from Toraq that we are trying to absorb, and they don't deal well with the Gifted, especially with your...," he looked to Sloan, Dannon, William, and Katherine before looking back to Adam to continue.  "...Your unusual family structures."

   "Add into that the recent conflicts with Hesperian forces and you can understand their reticence to deal with Atlantean Gifted," Kaelienne said.

   "We are Atlanteans, they are refugees.  It's their job to assimilate into our culture, not for us to assimilate to ours," Katherine said firmly.

   "Yes, but we have be willing to accept outside cultures as equal to ours," Non replied.

   "Really?" Dannon asked the man.  "Are you willing to become a second class citizen with only the rights and privileges that your wife may or may not be willing to grant you?  Are you willing to have a slave chip implanted in your brain to ensure your fidelity to your wife?  Are you willing to restrict your travel to times when you are accompanied by your wife, your mother, or your sisters?  If the Kellanaire want to be accepted as subjects or citizens of the empire then they must learn to accept the other peoples and creeds of it as well.  If not, they can always return to the arms of the Hesperian Hegemony."

   "That's rather harsh, Lord Dannon," Non said.  "I've always been taught that the empire was a big enough place to accept all kinds of people."

   "It is, sir," Dannon said evenly.  "But to be accepted, a person must also be willing to accept.  The empire thrives because it does not allow one people or one group of people to dictate how the others should live.  Nobody is stopping the Kellanaire from living their lives they way they want to.  The law only says they may not impose their will by force on another."

   "But sending the Gifted Legions here will be seen as an affront to them, and their culture," Non protested.

   "Who would you rather offend sir," William asked in his soft voice.  "Would you rather offend the refugees of an oppressive regime that still harbor some of the prejudices that we in the empire find to be backwards, or would you rather offend the Atlantean Empress, the local garrison commander, and House Atlyn?"

   "That's putting it bluntly," Lady Kaelienne said.  

   "Sometimes plain talk is what is needed, Lady," William said.  William didn't often engage in political discussions, but when he did, what he said was usually profound and cut to the heart of the matter.  Only a fool did not heed his advice.

   "Perhaps this is a discussion for another time," Katherine suggested.  "Although one of my husbands is enjoying your twin suns, I myself am starting to develop a headache from the glare- in spite of the polarized lenses of my shades."

   Adam recognized a social obfuscation when he saw it. Katherine was wanting more information before she allowed either Dannon or William to pick a fight with the local governor.  He agreed.  It wouldn't do to return to Earth owing her imperial highness a new governor.  She might take it as a personal affront.  "I believe our wife is correct," he said.  "Perhaps we can continue this conversation at a later date. The starflight over was somewhat tiring."

   He watched as each and everyone one of his spouses turned their head to look at him. He knew that they thought it wasn't like him to play the dandy, but Katherine was right.  They needed more information and standing in the bright suns debating the issue wasn't going to get them that information.  He wanted to talk to the garrison commander, and he was sure that Katherine wanted to speak to the leader of the local Mideanite population.

~*~

   It didn't take them long to get settled into their apartments in the Governor's Palace.  Katherine had been very surprised at Adam's reaction on the pavilion.  Sometimes even she forgot just how resourceful he could be.   In some ways that was one of his major strengths.  He was so open and honest, that people didn't expect him to have a devious bone in his body.  But of course he had to be able to think in political terms.  After all, he'd managed to command the Gifted Legions for over hundred and fifty years.  One didn't pull off that kind of feat without being able to work rather well in the political arena.

   As soon as they'd gotten settled, she did exactly what Adam had thought she would do. She went looking for the local Mideanite enclave.   The children of Lilith didn’t often leave Earth, they claimed that they felt lost in the universe without being in connection with it.  She could understand that.  They'd been hunted almost to extinction by the servants of Yahweh, and only the interference of Vinciene the Grey had saved them and their mother from death at their pursuer’s hands.  That perceived rejection by their creator had left deep wounds on the whole Mideanite psyche.

   But some of them did leave Earth; either in the service of the throne, or for their own personal reasons.  On a colony world with over three hundred million souls, there were less than a hundred Mideanites on Tien Vanel, and almost all of them resided in the capital city.  It was a rather affluent neighborhood in which  they lived.  Mideanites, with natural psionic abilities usually rose to the upper echelons of society quite easily no matter the world on which they resided.  Tien Vanel was no exception.

   She had sent word over the mindsong that she wanted to meet with Nareth.  He'd been quite amicable to the idea.   Katherine had become something of a legend among the Mideanites herself.   Not many Gifted psis were capable of tapping into the mindsong, much less residing in it as well as she did.  That had impressed the Children of Lilith and they'd come close to adopting her as one of their own.  Their only hesitation was that they felt her lack of the requisite digits on her fingers and toes made her handicapped, and they did not wish to think of her as such.

   She was met at the door by a young Mideanite child, before she could ever knock.  He looked up at her from under his blond hair with big blue eyes and said telepathically, *Father said I could greet you and bring you to his study.*

   She smiled down at the boy and sent back, *Why thank you.  My name is Katherine.*

   He giggled into her mind and said, *I'm Kenzie.  It's nice to meet you.  Can I get you some refreshment?*  Katherine knew that the boy's offer was a part of the Mideanite culture.  Since Vinciene the Grey had shielded Lilith and her twin sons Kalleth and Marhawk and their wives from the angels sent to slay them, it had been a point of the Mideanite culture to offer hospitality to any stranger that came to their door.  Tradition says that it would be poor repayment for such a debt to not extend hospitality to others in need.

   "Thank you, no," she said.  "I've not traveled far."

   The boy nodded solemnly and showed her to a study door.  *Father is in here,* he said.

   "Thank you Kenzie," she said aloud and then knocked at the door.

   It opened of its own accord and she entered to find a lone man sitting quietly looking out the window into the street.  He turned to see her and stood.  Nareth did not look well.  Katherine didn't need her powers to see that he was very sick, perhaps even dying.  His thin blond hair hung limply against his skull.   His eyes were sunken and his skin was sallow.  There was aura of death about him that Katherine did not like.  *Thank you for your patience with Kenzie.  He so wanted to meet you, My Lady.*   She could feel his mind reach out to hers and touch it briefly in greeting.  

   *It was my pleasure,* she  told him.  Then lowering an eyebrow in concern, she sent to him.  *But you do not look well.*

   He shook his head and said, *No, it was a rather excellent poison they used.*

   "Who used?" she asked dropping into verbal speech at the idea that someone might poison a Mideanite.  Their constitutional powers were quiet remarkable.

   He smiled wanly and continued to speak to her with his mind, *I believe it was the Governor who ordered it done. She was not happy with some of the reports I was sending back to Earth about the rising Kellanaire problem.*

   Gaining control of her emotions, Katherine asked, *What poison did they use?*

   *My healer tells me it was an irradiated dose of tanazine.  Quiet effective and quite specific for our unique physiology,* he said quietly.  

   Katherine's heart sank.  Tanazine was a very painful death for any psionic.  It destroyed the myelin sheaths on the nerves specific to the psirebral nodes of the brain.  In psi-blind humans, this had little to no effect. However to psionics in general and Mideanites in particular it was a painful death.  Painful physically and painful psychically as well because in the final stages it caused the victim to lash out at any other psis in the vicinity.  *Kenzie?* she asked.

   *I have nobody to care for him.  My wife died in the last Hesperian raid on this world two years ago.  My family is all gone,* he said.  *He will have a very substantial trust, but nobody to care for him.*

   Without even considering what she was offering she said aloud, "We will take him."

   "I cannot ask that," Nareth was able to cough out.

   *You are not asking anything, Nareth.  I am offering and my husbands would agree.  We will give him a home and an education. Do not worry for your son. He will be well cared for,* she said.  Then grimly she added, *And I will make those who've done this pay.*  She only knew of Nareth through the mindsong and by reputation but what she knew told her that he was a good man who served his people and the empire well.  If the separatist movement wanted to play this kind of game, then she and Dannon were far better at it than they were.

   *What can you tell me of this separatists movement?* she asked.

   *They are unaware of it, but they are financially backed by several houses in the Empire who are working indirectly for the Hegemony,* Nareth told her.  *Let me explain.*

   Suddenly a packet of information began to unfold down the conversational link the two shared.  As she sifted through it, her blood began to boil.  Several houses whose stars were on the rise inside the Empire were pushing for a more open dialogue with the Hesperians.  They claimed that the atrocities committed by the Hegemony were a political fiction created by the Empire to justify the continued conflict.  They wanted a fundamental change in the rights and responsibilities of the Grand Charter.  They wanted universal suffrage granting voting rights to citizens and subjects alike.  In their minds, even those who did not earn it should be allowed to have a say in how the empire was run.

   Of course what this would do was create a permanent political voting bloc for them in the Rathamaer, and probably break the power of the the throne and the Imperial Senate, giving almost unlimited political power to the House of Citizens. It could very well spell the demise of the empire.  What most of them didn't seem to realize was that most of their funding was coming from the Hesperian Hegemony. This was warfare on a political and economic level.

   Katherine remembered what things were like in her own time. She remembered her lessons from MI-6.  When the former Soviet Union had collapsed, all the anti-West Marxists shifted gears and folded themselves into the green movement.   She saw beginnings of something similar happening here.  The Hesperian Hegemony was on the ropes, and was reaching out to re-image itself and its ideas into the Empire.

   After digesting the information, she asked her host, *How long?*

   He smiled wanly at her and said, *Maybe a month.*

   *You and Kenzie will be going to the garrison,* she told him.

   *There is nothing they can do, My Lady,* he told her.

   *They can at least make you comfortable,* she looked around and then added, *and they can make sure that Kenzie is safe.*

   *Whatever you think is best, My Lady,* he told her.

   She smiled and said, *I'm glad you aren't going to argue with me over this.*

   He shrugged before saying, *Why should I?  If it will ensure my son isn't left on a hostile world, then I'll do it.  My work here is finished.*

   *No imperial world should be hostile to an imperial citizen.  The situation here has to be changed.*

   *Good luck with that,* he sent to her.  *The Kellanaire have a strong influence here.*

   *What's their population percentage?* she asked.

   *About four percent,* he told her. *But you know as well as I do, that when they reach that level, they start making demands for cultural concessions far out of proportion to their population percentage.  They are already making noises about male clothing on the planet being ‘unKellanaire’.*

   Katherine nodded at that comment.  It would seem that the past really is prologue.   Smiling she said, *Call Kenzie.  You two gather what you will need for a stay.  I will send someone to pack your things to send to Earth.*

   Nareth nodded and said aloud, "Yes My Lady."

~*~

   William shuddered at the thought of what he knew was coming.  The news that Katherine brought back last week from her meeting with the Mideanite leader had put Dannon in his sabercat stalking mode.  The small blond man had taken a personal offense to the idea that someone had gone out of their way to make they boy Kenzie an orphan.   Dannon didn't see it as simply a dirty trick to be played in the arena of politics, he saw it as someone orphaning a child- something with which he had painful experience.

   While William, Sloan, and Adam seemingly blithely went about their tours of the garrisons, and the official ceremonies of the changing of the command and the guard, Katherine and Dannon went to work behind the scenes.   It had been just over a week and the planetary government was already showing the signs of being in turmoil.  Somebody was digging up all the dirty little secrets of every politician on the planet and was slowly leaking them to the news networks.

   While Dannon was doing that, Katherine was up to her elbows in Kellanaire politics.  As a woman, she was far more capable of moving in their circles than any of William's husbands were.  The effects she was having were truly awesome to behold.  There had already been several deaths among the Kellanaire priestesses.  It would seem that women are far more likely to go after each other with poison than with knives or projected energy weapons.

   William had become so absorbed in watching the twin natural disasters that were his husband and wife, that he almost missed something very important.  He knew he should have been more careful.  The governor had already proven herself to be untrustworthy and willing to poison someone.  He just thought that the woman would have more sense than to try and poison someone with as much immunity as Adam - as any of them.  Of course they also didn't generally advertise exactly what gifts each of them possessed.  About fifty years ago, William discovered that the vast majority of the people in the empire who knew anything about them, thought they were their own great great grandchildren.

   It was Ironday, the second day of the Atlantean week when Adam had complained that his morning juice tasted off.   Katherine and Dannon had both already left for the day, and it was just Adam, Sloan, and himself sitting at the breakfast table.  When Adam asked the servant for some more, the man's eyes had grown large and he'd left the room immediately.  "That was funny," Sloan had said.  

   "What?" Adam asked as he drank deeply from his glass of water.  

   William had only been paying scant attention to what had happened as he was, as per his habit, busy going over several files on his personal holographic assistant while at the table.  He'd long ago fallen into the habit of only listening to the general conversation at the breakfast table as he planned out his day.  The others teased him about it, but to be honest, he found that he if he only had one thing to concentrate on at a time, he quickly became bored.  A bored William was sometimes a dangerous William.

   It wasn't until Sloan commented, "Since when does jana juice turn your mouth blue?"

   "Jana juice doesn't turn anybody's mouth blue," he said without looking up from his files.

   "Well, something has turned Adam's mouth blue," Sloan said.   "And it's spreading to his cheeks."

   William looked up to at his husband to see the bigger man's face turning a bright shade of cobalt blue.   "What the?" he said reaching for the scanner he kept in his pocket.  "How do you feel, Adam?"

   "Fine, the blond replied.  What are you talking about?"

   "No tingling, hot flashes, or anything like that?" William asked.

   "Well my cheeks feel like I'm blushing," he said.

   "You are," William said as he got up from his chair, crossed to the other side of the table and began run a scanner from his belt over Adam.  

   The readings he was getting were to turn a phrase; fascinating.  He then ran the scanner over the leftover juice in both his and Sloan's glass.   Finally looking up, he asked the other blond.  "How do you feel?"

   "I'm fine," Sloan said.  "I guess I'm a little flushed."

   "You should be," William replied. "We've all been poisoned."

   "Is it serious?" Adam asked suddenly looking at him and Sloan worriedly.  

   William smiled at the concern in the big man's voice.  He could have his leg chewed off by sabercat and be more worried about William or one of the others having a splinter.  It was the way he was.  It was one of the things about which both he and Katherine had fallen in love with about Adam.    Shaking his head he replied, "No.  It's not serious. If any of us had been anyone else, it would be.  But someone didn't do their homework."

   "What is it?" Sloan asked.

   "It's a fast acting compound designed to be both topical and ingested.  Whatever didn't get absorbed by the mouth, and lips was going to get into our systems from the jana juice," he replied.

   "Why is Adam turning blue?" Sloan asked.

   "Because his body is fighting off the poison," William told him.  "The blue blood cells in his rather unique blood chemistry is going straight to the site of absorption and is neutralizing it.  It's the same reason both of us have a flushed feeling."

   "Poisoned?" Adam asked.  "Is it the same kind that was used on Nareth?"  William knew that it had taken a lot of persuading to keep Adam from tearing the governor's palace apart when he'd found out about the Mideanite scholar being poisoned.

   William shook his head and said, "No.  Neither of you two have much of a psirebreal node to poison, and mine is geared in the wrong direction for that poison to cause me much trouble either.   I doubt that anyone on this planet other than a few officers in the legion, and a handful of Mideanites even know that Dannon and Katherine are psionic.  This was meant to be a deadly and generally fast-acting poison."

   "Wouldn't that cause a diplomatic incident?" Adam asked.

   "Maybe, but probably nothing that couldn't be smoothed over after Tien Vanel was safetly out of the empire."

   "So what do we do now?" Sloan asked.

   "Now, I'm getting involved in this little fight," William said coldly.  "I don't like being poisoned and I damn sure don't like having the people I care about poisoned."

   And that was exactly what he did.  There wasn't a computer database on the planet that was safe from him.  Within a matter of days he'd managed to wrangle as much damaging information on the Kellanaire and their ties to the younger houses and those ties to the Hesperian intelligence services as he could.  It was enough.  He turned around and dumped the whole thing in the laps of Imperial Intelligence and the local and stellar news media services and sat back and watched.

   It was the day before they were ready to leave when they got the news that Nareth had died.  Katherine and Dannon were doing what they could to comfort the young Kenzie and prepare him for the trip to Earth.  They arranged for the body to be placed in stasis for transport to Earth so he could have a proper Mideanite burial.   William was up to his armpits in details of exactly how to proceed when they got back home when Dannon entered their quarters.

   "William, I love you dearly, but sometimes you scare the hell out of me," the smaller man commented as he held a printout from one of the local news services.

   "What did I do this time?" William asked not really paying attention.

   Katherine and I worked our tails off to bring down Nareth's killer. We set political traps, turned allies against each other and started turf wars among the Kellanaire in order to bring down half the Hesperian operatives on the planet, and you go and make a few key strokes on the computer nets and bring down the other half."

   "Did I interfere with any of your or Katherine's plans?" he asked knowing that he hadn't.

   The smaller man shook his blond head and said, "No, not one."

   "Then what are you complaining about?" he asked.

   "Just that you make it look so easy," Dannon replied crawling into his lap.

   "Why thank you. That's the nicest thing you've said to me in a long time," William replied.

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Re: Atlantis Unleashed: Transhuman War -Nanowrimo 2010

Postby McGuffin » Sat Mar 26, 2011 5:16 pm

I really enjoyed reading this story, good writing cobalt. I've always liked your Cadre 5 stories and Feline Factor's another good one, but I haven't gotten to the other ones yet. I'll have to save the rest for later, though, because it's entirely to late over here. Have a good one and I look forward to reading more. :)
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Re: Atlantis Unleashed: Transhuman War -Nanowrimo 2010

Postby cobalt-blue » Sat Mar 26, 2011 5:17 pm

Thank you for taking the time to let me know what you think. I really do appreciate feedback.

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Re: Atlantis Unleashed: Transhuman War -Nanowrimo 2010

Postby MasterofShadoz » Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:43 pm

Also on the "Must Read List" is Cobalt's following: Splashdown, First Pride, DragonBorn and DragonWars...

So Cobalt....we need MORE! C'mon! your Beta-Editor is Waiting!

M.o.S.

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Re: Atlantis Unleashed: Transhuman War -Nanowrimo 2010

Postby cobalt-blue » Thu Mar 31, 2011 4:22 pm

Thanks MoS. I'm working on it. But I've also been eyeballs deep in re-plumbing the apartment, which means being on a 15' ladder and that's something makes me very uncomfortable.

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Re: Atlantis Unleashed: Transhuman War -Nanowrimo 2010

Postby MasterofShadoz » Sun Apr 03, 2011 7:37 pm

Real Life is always interrupting the fun stuff.... Be safe and successful with "the chores." We're waiting
for more of your writing when you can get to it. - M.o.S.

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Re: Atlantis Unleashed: Transhuman War -Nanowrimo 2010

Postby cobalt-blue » Sun Oct 09, 2011 6:01 pm

Image

~*~
World War II



Shadu watched the battle unfold in the water bowl he was using for scrying. He still wasn't sure how the Allies were able to decipher his work so quickly. Even more how they managed to improve on the process. There was far more to this scene that met the eye. Nobody else on the planet was supposed to have the technology to do that kind of work. Yet here was the proof that they had.

American Ace, Foxfire, and Gamma Wave were all far superior not only to his own work in Krieger, but that of the natural occurring Gifted from ancient Atlantis They were more like the hated House Atlyn that had appeared out of nowhere and caused to fail his attempt to seize control of the accursed empire that had emasculated him three thousand centuries in the past.


The team that the Allies had managed to establish was impressive indeed. Erg for erg of power, American Ace was very easily a match for Krieger, and Gamma Wave threathened to be totally devastating. The Spaniard's ability to manipuate hard radiation was unheard of since the House of Atlyn disappeared just before the Time Lords interfered with his second attempt at seizing the Atlantean throne. Foxfire's pyrokinetic and flight powers put her on par with the fastest plane the Luftwaffe could field, and she could deliver a devasating blast of heat and fire capable of melting through hardened steel. The fact that team included a True Breed werewolf and one of Freyja's Magecats didn't make it any easier.

He knew that his own team was more powerful, but he had is own issues in dealing with them. Mueller and Amsel had not survived their transformation and not any of Shadu's sorcery nor the Nazi's best medical sciences could save them. His team only had one true Gifted on it, and the rest was made up of various nocturnals he could glean from Europe. Krieger was exactly what the High Command had asked for, but they were going out of their way to alienate the man. It was not his fault that the only subject that fit their criteria turned out to be both a homosexual and a man of honor. He flat out refused to engage in the kind of carnage that the SS was demanding of him. He made it clear that he would fight to defend his homeland but he would not commit the kinds of atrocities that Shadu knew were already going on behind the scenes. Jotun was exactly what he claimed to be. The only reason that this particular elemental force had been willing to work with Shadu was because of an ancient agreement they had made over sixteen hundred years ago when the Goths were sacking Rome. Bludreich on the other hand was far easier to work with. He'd managed to influence a large portion of the German High Command and had more than a few staff officers under his control. Fenris on the third hand was something out of the ancient Nordic Gods' nightmares. Shadu wasn't sure that the werewolf wasn't who he claimed to be, but even Jotun gave him a wide berth. Shadu had watched him rip through a column of tanks like they were paper. He was definitely a son of Angroboda if not of Loki himself.

Shadu watched the two teams as they squared off across a battlefield in France. American Ace was facing off with Kreiger. For some reason the two men seemed to be drawn to each other. The ancient sorcerer suspected that there was a grudging respect between the two. If there was respect between American Ace and Krieger, then there was nothing but fury and hatred between White Wolf and Fenris. Fenris towered over the snow-coated American werewolf at twice his height. But that seemed to mean nothing to White Wolf. He waded into the fight with a fury that sent soldiers on both sides of the battlefield scrambling out of their way. In the meantime, Bludriech and Gamma Wave were warily circling each other. The vampire had a healthy respect for the green and yellow clad Spaniard's energy bolts. Of course so did Shadu. In the meantime, both Foxfire and Tigress were going after Jotun like a pair of Valkyries. To be honest, Shadu as surprised at the Allies willingness to field women soldiers. They knew what was likely to happen to them should they be captured. The women though more than justified the decision to send them there. They were downright vicious.

This battle represented the first time both teams met at full strength. In the past it was always small skirmishes on the edge of the battlefield, or flanking maneuvers designed to draw forces away from the main attack point. This however was two main thrusts as the Allies tried to get a foothold on the continent. Two divisions of panzers were to the east of the battlefield, and four divisions of Shermans were on the west. In a small valley in the center of the action the Gifted forces were slugging it out in the middle of an abandoned farm . The sorcerer watched as Krieger ducked a high swing by American Ace and then caught the red white and blue clad American with a powerful body blow. It literally lifted him off his feet and knocked him backwards into the wall of a barn. With a boom and a cloud of dust the whole building came crashing down.

Krieger turned to see where Jotun was battling both a raging weretiger and the flying woman who was laying about the giant with long jets of searing flame. He shook his head. Shadu knew that the man would not engage a woman. Instead he turned to face where White Wolf and Fenris were currently tearing up the turf as they growled and feinting at each other. Each lunge was punctuated with with a rising snarl that occasionally was muffled by a mouthful of fur.

Deciding that no sane man would stick his hand in that dog fight, he instead turned to where Bludreich and Gamma Wave were stalking each other. The vampire was throwing out an occasional eldrich bolt of his own, but mostly he was doing his damnedest to avoid being hit by one of Gamma Wave's energy blasts.

Powerful legs coiled themselves like springs, and Krieger launched himself toward the flying combatant. He caught him dead in the back and carried him down toward the waiting arms of the Damned vampire. As they slammed into each other, the three rolled into a tight tangle of swinging arms and legs. Shadu could occasionally hear the sound of Gamma Wave's blasts as they went off in the furball, but he could not see what they were hitting.

For long moments, the three stayed entangled and Shadu began to suspect that far more was going on than met the eye. However when the three finally separated, Krieger looked very green and Shadu wondered if he'd received a fatal dose of radiation. He stumbled to the side of the battlefield and began to throw up. Gamma Wave's costume was torn in several places by Bludreich's claws and he wobbled back into the air. As for the vampire himself, his left arm and shoulder had deep burns, and there was a large hole burnt through his right side by the elementalist's energy bolts.

He did not, however have long to recover. With an explosion of wood and stone, American Ace launched himself out of the debris surrounding him and drove long sliver of shattered plank through the vampire's chest. Shadu could see the look of surprise on the Damned's face as he realized what had happened. American Ace reached down with both hands and looked as if he was about to rip off the vampire's head. Suddenly he was hit from the side by Krieger and the two began rolling across the battlefield.

White Wolf and Fenris' battle raged across the farm as the two constantly shifted form from near human, to wolf-man to full wolf as each sought to get the upper hand. This was truly a battle between alphas. The American was giving as good as he got, but the giant werewolf was almost impervious to any attacks.

As they rolled into German machine gun's nest one of the soldiers began to switch his fire from just White Wolf to both lycanthropes in what was obviously an attempt to get them away from his men. However, since he was not firing silver rounds they did not penetrate either shifter's hide.

With a mighty back swing the German werewolf caught White Wolf squarely across the face and sent him tumbling into the nest. Shadu watched as the men came pouring out of its protection as the fury of an enraged wolf man tore through them. There would be no lycanthropes borne of that encounter for none of them survived it.

As the American werewolf devastated the machine gun nest, Fenris shifted into his three meter at the shoulder wolf form and stalked outside snarling and snapping into the smaller spaces, trying to get in. As he lunged inward, mouth agape, suddenly White Wolf launched himself outward in his near man form, one muscular arm carrying some kind of pack. Looking closely, Shadu realized it had wrapped in it at least two grenades and what appeared to be a flame thrower tank.

White Wolf landed in front of the huge wolf and skidded to stop. Sensing he had an advantage, the huge dire wolf opened his mouth wide to snap the challenger in half. As he lunged forward, White Wolf pivoted on one foot and slung the pack- tank and all- into his mouth and then dove to the side.

The huge head crashed forward into the side of the wreckage that had been the machine gun nest. As it made contact with the stacked sand bags, Fenris' head exploded. Shadu knew that the shrapnel might not have been lethal to a lycanthrope but the fire certainly was. He might heal the concussive wound but the explosive force matched with the cauterizing effect of the fire, doomed the great werewolf.

White Wolf transformed back into his wolf form and howled into air before heading toward Jotun. The giant had fifteen foot of snarling tiger dancing around him, lashing in and coming away with huge chunks of his upper legs and buttocks. Shadu was convinced that Tigress was doing her best to castrate the ancient enemy of her people. He shuddered at the memories of having his own manhood burned away with orchalchum.

Foxfire was hitting him in strafing runs. She was flying so fast, and was so maneuverable that none of the ground forces could get a bead on her before she was out of the way. Shadu briefly wondered how long it would be before a gifted transcended the sound barrier. He knew that Dannon Atlyn was fully capable of it back when they battled for supremacy of the Atlantean Empire.

In his full wolfman form, White Wolf stood a good twelve feet tall. With a leap that cleared a forty yards, the American werewolf hit Jotun in the back. The huge red-haired man went stumbling forward into a wicked double rake by Tigress. That was enough. He'd already lost two of his forces. He couldn't afford to lose another. As it was the German High Command was not going to be happy. It was clear, the Allied forces had a firm foothold on the continent and it wasn't even the middle of June yet.

He touched an amulet at his neck and recalled his people to the circle he'd cast for just such a contingency. Unfolding himself up from the floor he straightened his clothing and strode from the room toward the summoning room. There he found Bludreich standing over what remained of Fenris' body. The werewolf had not shifted back to a man, but had remained a wolf. That suggested that he really was who he claimed to be- or at least a close kin.

"We have lost an important asset, Herr Doctor Shadu," General Prutzmann said as he entered the room. The general was a stern looking man who reminded Shadu of all the worst stereotypes about German soldiers. He was tall, of medium build with a hawkish nose and deep set gray eyes. He had the temperament of a small dog with a bone and went out of his way to couch his language in the terms that the High Command found commendable. On more than one occasion, Shadu had wondered how the man had reached command rank, much less the general staff.

"I am aware of that Herr General," Shadu said irritably. He looked over at the rest of the team. Von Tottenstein looked a bit green around the gills as they say. Jotun shrank back to a human size and removed the wooden plank from Bludreich.

"You timed that rather close, old friend," Jotun said to the vampire.

"It was necessarily so," the vampire replied coming to his feet. "We do not wish the American's to know what we have done."

"What are you talking about? Shadu demanded.

The two men looked at each other and shrugged. "We were under direction from Herr General Prutzmann," Bludreich said. "I was to infect and make a blood slave out of one of the Allied team." He turned and looked at the carcass of the dead werewolf. "Losing that idiot was a bonus."

"What do you mean bonus?!" Prutzmann demanded. "Fenris was a useful asset."

"Oh go shout at someone who cares, Prutzmann. Fenris was a monster and a loose cannon. He was more of a threat to our own men than he was to the Allied forces. White Wolf only saved us the trouble of putting him down ourselves. If you want controllable werewolf forces go talk to the Directive."

"You forget yourself, Bludreich!" Prutzmann protested.

The vampire spun on the general and growled. "No. You forget yourself. I was leading men into battle before your grandfather was even a gleam in his father's eye. I, and Jotun are here out of a debt we owe to Herr Shadu, not to you and not to your Fuhrer. We will be here still when your Third Reich is but a footnote in history. That is something you should not forget." Shadu could see Bludreich's eyes burn.

"Still, Angroboda is not going to be happy at the loss of one of her sons," Jotun said. He shrugged, but we did get you your spy."

"Exactly what spy?" Shadu demanded.

"The Allied operative, Gamma Wave," Bludreich said as the damage to his body healed before their eyes. That in itself surprised Shadu. Usually the kinds of damage he'd taken could only be healed by the drinking of vast amounts of blood. Then he understood.

"You enthralled him in that fight," Shadu said with a smile. "Well done."

"As I said, it was Herr General Prutzmann's idea. He is not a total imbecile after all. I now have eyes and ears inside this Strike Force Liberty."


Late October 2003 Cape Kennedy

Etienne DeGual also known as Sentinel, was not a patient man. Ever since the International Alliance had formed in defiance of the UN's declaration that all parahumans were a natural resource to be administered by United Nations Council On Parahuman Affairs, the advancement of a world government had slowed to a crawl. The main obstacle to a just and stable world government was the United States, and he was itching for a chance to bring them under UN control.

One of the first things that required was to neutralize the US's second generation of space based lasers. To do that, they had to stop this next shuttle launch. The intelligence the Chinese had purchased from the previous American Administration had been very helpful. The UN knew that the old satellites had already been scrapped and these were going up to replace them. All they had to do was stop this launch, destroy its payload and the US ability to use space based lasers to defend itself against the capture program that Eteinne knew was about to be implemented would be negated.

Shift, his fiance and lover, the team's teleporter was going to be their secret weapon. She only had the one power, but it was a class eighteen power. She could teleport herself and over a metric ton of other people and equipment almost anywhere in the world. She was able to get them into an area, they could strike, and she could get them out before the US could bring any real forces to bear on them.

She had studied the layout of the base and knew exactly where to land them. This was a very special strike team. It was going to be their first open attack. In the past, they'd managed to keep most of their incursions somewhat covert, but after today, the world would learn to respect the UN's power. UNIPACT Prime was going public. They were going to send a message to the US and the other Alliance Powers, especially to the Shan to warn them against joining the alliance. The UN was going to be the undisputed masters of the world and the parahumans belonged to the UN to be deployed at their discretion.

He'd picked his team carefully. Growl for his enhanced senses; Psyche because this was close to Sundancer's home territory and he wanted a psi on the team. Shift to get them here; Speedstar for her maneuverability, and Nocturne for his sonar and flight ability- and the fact that his scream can shatter plate steel. Of course he was among the physically strongest people on the planet. So far only Challenger and Runeclaw had demonstrated a strength on the same level as his own. He was firmly convinced that he was the strongest man to be born since Krieger. Then of course that was his secret weapon he had stowed away.

The team landed exactly where they planned, far enough away from the actual launch site to not set off the facilities sensors, but close enough to be able to move in quickly, do their damage and get out. But an American general once said, that no battle plan ever survived first contact with the enemy, and this mission was turning exactly into the epitome of that concept.

As they arrived, things went down hill from the beginning. Etienne did not want to kill other parahumans, he wanted to win them over, to have them join the cause freely of their own will. However, he would not allow an attack on himself to go unpunished. Etienne had rarely felt pain since his powers manifested themselves as a teenager. Runeclaw had hurt him as well as the child hero Challenger but beyond that never. He didn't like pain and the sudden flaring of pain in his knee, and then he was looking at the sky from flat on his back.

He saw the form of Sundancer dashing away his energy blade in one hand and his energy shield flaring from his wrist. Looking down he could see where the so-called hero's energy blade had sliced deep into his leg cauterizing the wound as it cut. The technology of that sword and shield alone would give the UN a significant technological advantage.

The wound in his leg hurt. If Etienne believed in hell, he'd say it hurt like hell. Instead it just hurt and he didn't like to hurt. He scrambled to his feet, and realized that their arrival had been predicted.

"Nocturne, go aerial! We need intelligence!" he called into his mic in his native French.

"Ja!" the German feral replied and the sound of beating wings filled the air.

Looking around he could see Sundancer bouncing to a stop. The red and black garbed hero turned back to face him and said, "Six against one. Hardly fair odds."

"You are the one who attacked us," Sentinel said. "Why not join us?"

"Because I'm an individual. I don't want to be part of a collective. And to be frank, I've had enough of other organizations telling me where to go and who to fight," he said.

"But you work for the American government- a government who has an illegal policy of concealing it parahuman resources," Shift countered.

"No. They asked me and I agreed to stop you," he replied. "This is US government property and you're trespassing. I'm afraid I'm going to have to arrest you," he said.

Suddenly Speedstar flashed away from Sentinel's side and off toward the shuttle in the distance. Sentinel found himself impressed by the fact that the other man did not let it distract him from the threat at hand. "If you surrender and go with us, we can promise you a good life, Sundancer," he offered. "There is a place in the UNIPACT organization for a man with your skills and knowledge."

"I have a good life with plenty of opportunity for advancement," he said with a smile. "I much prefer my freedom to fail to or succeed beyond my wildest dreams than your safety net. I have overcome far more than you can imagine," the former Gem Corpsman answered.

Etienne shrugged and replied then, "So be it. We'll take what we want and complete our mission."

"Sentinel! Watch out!" Psyche suddenly screamed.

Not knowing from which direction the attack might be coming, Etienne leapt straight up. As he cleared the area, he looked down to see nothing closing with his position. Confused he wondered what Pyche had sensed. Reaching the top of his leap, he looked around to see where Nocturne and the American operative Sky Hawk were circling each other. The American had Nocturne outclassed on power of flight with his blueish white raptor's wings, Nocturne's bat wings gave him far more maneuverability.

He landed from his leap only a few feet from where he launched himself. As he crouched to absorb some of the energy of his leap, he felt an intense pain lance through his body. Looking around, he could not find the source, but it felt like someone just stuck a hot spike through his back.

"I've got him," Psyche yelled.

Suddenly the invisible form of Dreamweaver appeared behind him, looking somewhat startled. Speedstar struck without warning. One moment the man was standing there with a blank look on his face- the next there was a flash of blue and white and his head was rolling across the ground.

"Dane!" Sundancer screamed.

"It's your own fault Sundancer," Sentinel told him. "If you'd surrendered and joined us, he'd still be alive."

"You just made a major mistake," the fomer Merrian operative said. "You invade my country, attack my country's assets and kill my friend and say it's my fault?"

With that, he charged toward Sentinel, his sword and shield in place. Etienne was worried. He'd seen films of this man's fighting ability, and he knew that he was on the same level as Night Angel, plus that sword could and would hurt him. He went into a completely defensive mode of fighting.

Blow after blow, he managed to side step, to block, or to redirect. He was being pressed backwards as Speedstar arced in and out of the fight at supersonic speeds trying to distract Sundancer. In the end all of this was only the distraction though. Growl was getting his secret weapon in place. The death of these parahumans as regrettable as they might be really meant nothing to the mission.

Suddenly a gun barked and a shadow passed over them. There was the fluttering of feathered wings on the air. In the distance an explosion rocked the air as the orbiter Freedom blew up on the launch pad. The shadow, the explosion was enough to distract anyone, but Sundancer was totally focused on Etienne.

As the body of Sky Hawk, his head exploded like a ripe melon by his secret weapons' round, slammed into Sundancer, the American was forced to raise his shield to ward off the blow. It was in the moment of the realization of his teammate's death, that Sundancer's guard dropped just a few millimeters. That was all Sentinel needed. With a quick punch he lashed out. He felt it connect square on the blond's face, and keep going. Etienne could lift a tank. That kind of force meeting all too human bone was devastating. In an instant Sundancer's skull was crushed and he was knocked across the tarmac.

Sentinel turned to his teammates and said, "It's time to leave." He looked out to where a cloud of smoke and fire was rising over the cape and shook his head. Looking down he could see his white gloves covered in blood, bone and brains.

"Wait," Psyche said running over to the body of the fallen American. "This technology could be useful to us."

She pulled the shield projector from Sundancer's arm, and then reached for the energy sword. The device looked like it was from a popular movie series and she turned it over in her hands. Shrugging she clicked what was evidently the activation stud.

The silent brilliant blue and white blast knocked Sentinel to the ground as he struggled to cover Shift with his body. Psyche was instantly vaporized as the molecular cohesion of her body was totally disrupted. He felt the force tear at his costume and burn it away as Tori whimpered under him.

"Fool," was the only thing he heard his secret weapon say before Tori's teleport took them back to Paris.

Early November 2003 Washington DC


Brandon Gordon aka Block was worried. He had no idea how things had deteriorated so fast. And to be honest with himself, he was missing Seth. He missed the steady ear the smaller man had provided for him when they'd been lovers. This is a fine time to be thinking of old lovers, he chided himself. This is a battle for life. These guys have already made it clear they're playing for keeps. At least Sarah and Lee are safe. His mind drifted back to old lovers again.

Was it only two years ago when twin attacks on the US destroyed the city of Orlando? Not long after Runeclaw, Avalon, and Gates Murphy proved that the certain factions in that body had used telepaths to force the Security Council to not veto Resolution 1666 that banned parahumans from military service. They'd doubled down and passed Resolution 1948 which declared parahumans to be natural resources to be administered by the UN. The Security Council's veto had been overruled by the General Assembly and pretty much put a huge chunk of the world on a semi-war footing. The mess in the Gulf with the Shan in late summer had upped the ante. He was surprised that situation hadn't turned into a shooting war.

Then two weeks ago, UNIPACT Prime had destroyed the Space Shuttle Freedom on its launch pad and murdered Sundancer, Dreamweaver, and Sky Hawk. In a way that was serious psychological blow to the country. Those three men had been the first team that the government had sponsored as Paraforce 1 after Night Angel had disbanded his private team by that name. Now he and the modern incarnation of that team were facing off with their murderers.

There was himself, aka Block. He always liked that name. It was a perfect description of the body of hard stone that he tranformed into. Then there was Bloodwing, another winged tank like Moonwind, except unlike Seth, Bloodwing couldn't shrink. Bloodwing's girlfriend, Amber, a powerful telekinetic. He had other suspicions about those two but didn't voice them. Electron, a young but rather powerful electrical based elementalist who had caught on quickly and developed some pretty effective power stunts. Lastly was Knightstar. He was a broad spectrum elementalists who could control fire, water, and air. Why he took the name Knightstar, Brandon would never discover.

This time Sentinel had brought in the big guns. There of course was the man himself, a moderately powerful tank, with more combat experience that just about anybody short of Runeclaw and Anchor. There was Stonewall, a Chinese version of Block who could generate and hurl nasty stone spears: Growl, a werewolf that some speculated had been experimented on; Speedstar, the English speedster who'd killed Dreamweaver; Nocturnus a hired assassin from Richelieu Factor; and finally Shift their teleporter.

Nobody had been expecting them to teleport directly into the base. Block's team had been caught totally off guard and had barely managed to marshal them together for a united stand. Amber's arm was broken and it looked like she'd been ripped up pretty badly by Growl.

They'd managed to force the fight outside away from the support staff, and the base was now on lock down, but they were still outnumbered and out gunned. Amber and Electron hovered above them. Knightstar stood next to him and Bloodwing was circling above the blood red tips of his wings reflecting the anger Block knew he was feeling over what had happened to his lover.

Sentinel was regrouping his people across the base's the parking lot. Stonewall was still fishing himself out of the Potomac and Speedstar was circling around setting up for another of her passes. Sentinel and Shift were talking in the distance. Block watched as she nodded, then turned to look at them.

Suddenly he felt the world lurch upward around him. There was loud popping noise and he realized that he was buried up to his chest in concrete and asphalt. She had teleported him straight down five feet and the concrete had shattered when his body tried to merge with it.

A groan to his left caught his attention. He felt his stomach start to revolt when he saw Knightstar's body buried up to his neck in concrete. Only his head and neck were still alive and that was quickly suffocating from lack of oxygen. Block pushed the surrounding earth and concrete away and tried to dig his way out to help his teammate. By the time he'd freed himself, the light had already faded from the young hero's eyes.

He turned to the rest of the team and said, "Take that bitch out. Let's make sure that they don't get away this time!"

"Got it!" Amber said with a grim look. He watched as her blue eyes shifted to glowing yellow, as her blond hair raised from her body in a static charged halo. In the distance he could Shift suddenly slam sideway into lamp post and collapse to the ground.

Sentinel shouted something in French. It was a language Brandon had never bothered to learn so he didn't understand exactly what it was, but he knew the gist of it. The fight was on now. That was fine with Brandon. It was time they brought this bunch of assassins and murderers down.

Above him Bloodwing went into a stoop. With a cry that reminded Block of a great raptor, he swooped down and slammed headlong into Sentinel taking him high into the air. That particular struggle was going to be in Bloodwing's domain, not the Frenchman's. Block could hear the blows all the way down on the ground.

Speedstar started racing toward them. He wasn't too concerned about her. He'd been hit by high velocity rounds moving at twice the speed of sound. He didn't think she could do a whole lot of damage to him without nearly killing herself. Electron just hovered over them staring at her. As she closed with them Block could see where lighting bolts were starting to build around her, lashing in and hitting her. He wondered what little piece of subatomic wizardry the young man was using to create the effect. Whatever it was, it was definitely throwing her off her stride- literally. She kept stumbling from the attacks and was having difficulty staying on course.

Growl and Stonewall were closing as well, each moving deliberately. He could see where Growl was trying to target Amber, but she was too high for him to reach. Stonewall in the meantime was closing with him. That just left Nocturnus sitting in the distance, his black cloak billowing in the late Autumn breeze as he reached for a high powered rifle. The same technique he used on Sky Hawk would not be as effective against Bloodwing. The latter had several effective levels of durability.


Suddenly Growl leapt into the air with a power and speed that surprised both Brandon and Amber. The sheer force of of his momentum carried him high over Brandon's head into the young telekinetic. There was a growl, a scream, and suddenly Brandon was covered in a shower of blood and viscera as the werwolf and his victim came down behind him. That was two of his teammates already down. He felt his own rage begin to grow.

He turned and began running toward the closing Stonewall. A sharp rapport echoed off the walls of the base behind him as the two stone behemoths collided with the force of a locomotive engine. He began pounding on the Chinese assassin with everything he had. Both were raining blows on each other in a sheer war of attrition. Somewhere in the distance, Block heard the rumble of thunder but was so caught up in the fight that he paid it no heed.

As the two giant stone men clashed like a couple of titans from a Ray Harryhausen movie, Block realized that he'd let UNIPACT Prime make the fight personal. He wasn't thinking anymore, he was reacting and that wasn't good. He knew he had to get control of the situation again. With a mighty heave, he kicked Stonewall away from him and looked around.

As the gray stoned villain bounced away from him, Block looked around. He felt his heart sink into the soles of his feet. In the distance, he could see a nearly crippled Sentinel standing over the body of Bloodwing. The whole right side of the hero's head was missing. Sentinel's arm hung limply at one side, and his face was a black and blue pulp. His blue and white UN uniform was splattered in blood. To his left he could see
Electron wrapped up in a nearby power-line, his neck at an odd angle, and his open eyes lifeless.

As he stood staring at the battlefield, he felt himself suddenly hit from behind. As he hit the ground face first first, he heard the sonic boom pass over him. Whatever Speedstar had hit him with had hurt like hell. Suddenly he was slammed back down into the ground again, a huge weight on his back. In the distance he heard Sentinel shout, "Aucun ne pas le tuer. Laissez-le vivant pour se rappeler de dire ce qui est arrivé ici comme leçon à d'autres qui nous défierait ! Cassez son cou ! Soigneusement !"

Before he could react something powerful slammed into his neck just above his shoulder blades. There was an audible crack and flash of pain and then Block could feel nothing. He tried to to struggle against the weight on his body, but could suddenly not feel it. He couldn't feel his body, he couldn't move his limbs.

Two white boots stepped into his view but that was all he could see. He heard Sentinel's French accented voice, "Remember this Monsieur Block. Nobody can stand against the power of the UNIPACT teams. Tell the others. Surrender, or be killed."

Unable to speak, Block could only watch as the boots retreated from the distance. Then there was only blackness.


November 2003 Pacifica school for parahuman students: San Medilla California


Froederick Thane aka Nocturne was not happy right now. It was one thing to fight American vigilantes that were defying the UN's claim that parahumans were an international resource best administrated by that governing body. It was another to abduct children and still another to kill them.

He looked around at the devastation that had once been a school. Nobody had survived and the database they'd been seeking had been destroyed. Even worse, Doctor Green had sacrificed herself to keep it away from his team. She'd leapt from the top of the building when she'd been cornered and twisted in such a way as to ensure she landed head first.

Sentinel was totally unreasonable. Ever since the beating he took from the American hero Bloodwing and the attack on Shift, he'd been out for blood. Actually several of his teammates had gone mad with power and flushed with success. It worried Froederick. Growl had come back from that mission to Florida smelling like blood, viscera, and pepper spray. It would seem that Shift had been injured enough by Amber's attack that she had to take the teleport home in stages. When the team landed in a private garden in Carlton, the home owner- an elderly woman with a penchant for gardening, had come screaming out of her home with a can of pepper spray and had emptied into the werewolf's face for daring to trample her flowers.

Nocturnus had threatened to kill everyone on that mission if they didn't get the fool under control. He'd profusely apologized to the lady and then dressed down Sentinel for being unprofessional. When they'd returned, he'd cancelled his contract with the UNIPACT and returned to Richelieu Factor. Froederick knew that he would not have been involved in this particular mission. The assassin had a strong code against killing bystanders- especially children.

Speedstar on the other hand had taken it all in stride so to speak. So far, she'd killed two American heroes and was flush with power. She was going around telling anyone who would listen at the team's home base in Paris that she wanted to see the US broken into fifty individual countries to make it easier to administer them.

But this mission, Froederick knew was going to come back and haunt them all. When the parahuman students at the school had decided to fight back instead of being abducted, Sentinel had ordered that the whole school be slaughtered. Froederick as Nocturne had done what he could to corral those children willing to surrender, and had actually managed to save a few of them, but most of them had been killed outright- the baselines as well as the parahumans. He'd had to blast Growl once to keep them away from those who'd surrendered.

Now the school reeked of blood and death. Teachers had died trying to defend their charges only to be ripped apart by Growl, skewered or crushed by Stonewall, or hit a supersonic speeds by Speedstar. He shook his head and folded his huge bat wings against his body and looked around. The only sound he heard was the sound of Sentinel's hard boots on the tiled floor as he stalked through the school looking for data.

He dared not leave his charges however. He had a good idea that if he'd left to check on their leader, that he'd come back to more slaughter. As it was these children hadn't been traumatized enough. Soon, he heard crashing noises and the sounds of brick shattering. Behind them the children trembled. What worried Froederick was the fact that even Shift sneered over at them. He was beginning to seriously question what he was doing with this team. But he also knew that he had no place to go but to one of the re-education camps in the Middle East if he complained too much. He was walking a fine line.

The debriefing was pure hell. Etienne had not calmed down one bit. He was furious that the school had access to military class computers. When it became clear that nobody was going to save them, they set off the white phosphorous charges on their hard drives. None of Doctor Green's database had been recoverable.

During one of the calmer moments, he'd asked Minister Balyuzi, "Are we still planning on a similar attack on the other schools?"

The minister shook his dark head and said, "No, not at the moment. This one was such a disaster that we cannot risk further alienation of our supporters in Western Europe. This little adventure has cost us what little support we had from the Left in England and Scotland. They've gone fully over to the International Alliance."

"Then we bring them under control too!" Sentinel demanded.

"With what army?" Balyuzi asked. "We can hit them with surgical strikes, we can take out their parahuman defenders, but we do not yet have a large enough force to hold but a single city, much less a whole country. We must wait until our forces are gown, Monsieur DeGaul.

Sentinel scowled at the man. He looked like he was about to say something, but thought better of it. Finally, he simply stalked out of the room. Froederick looked over at Balyuzi and said, "This is getting out of control, Minister. We are becoming what we claim to be fighting against."

"Speak for yourself," Balyuzi said. "I am exactly what I've always claimed to be. I am not a believer in Democracy."

Froederick nodded and only said, "Very well, Minister." He got up to leave the debriefing room, "Good day."

He stopped at the door and asked, "What has become of the children I brought back?"

"They have been moved to the reeducation camp in Riyadh," the man said.

Froederick shuddered at that thought and said, "Perhaps I did not do the right thing after all."

Two days later, the Americans announced that they were purging their files of all references to any parahuman not a member of Paraforce 1 and were closing all of Doctor Green's schools. They felt that it made the children in those schools too much of a target. A twenty-five million dollar bounty was put on Sentinel's, Growl's and Speedstar's head. A lesser one was put on the other members of UNIPACT Prime.

A formal protest was lodged by the Secretary General on targeting UN troops, but the American Ambassador to the UN told him that if he didn't like it, to turn over the team to the US for trial. Since they would face the death penalty, the offer was declined. Froederick did not like the idea of being considered a criminal and a murderer.


A week later, Minister Balyuzi's assistant was killed by an unknown assassin who'd penetrated the very complex where the team was based. Two days later another was left for dead, his body completely drained of blood. It was a clear signal to the UNIPACT organization. They weren't going after the parahumans but their handlers. More and more parahumans were pulled from the field to become bodyguards. Inside two weeks, five UNIPACT teams became two. The others became personal bodyguards for various ministers. The war had heated up considerably.

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Re: Atlantis Unleashed: Transhuman War -Nanowrimo 2010

Postby cobalt-blue » Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:25 pm

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December 2003 Tower of London 

      

              William aka Cyberstar had always lived with secrets- they weren’t that unusual for him.  He’d lived with the secret that his mom was much older than she appeared.  He’d lived with the secret that his mother along with his friends’ parents had been part of the original Strike Force Liberty.  He’d  lived “undercover” most of his life, as his parents and his best friend’s parents had taken up farm life in the small southern town of Social Circle, Georgia. 

              Of course, there had been that three year stint when he was around six that both families had packed up and moved to England.  It was at the beginning of the tensions that would eventually lead to the Transhuman Wars with the United Nations.  Then, the secrets were simply that they were involved with members of the Royal Family. 

              Now, he had a whole new set of secrets to keep.  Now for the past four years  he'd been a member of Liberty’s Legacy, the sons and daughters of the old World War II team, Strike Force Liberty.  He was back in England, at one of Dr. Green’s schools that was set up as an adjunct to the famous Eton College- the only one left in operation.   It was her school for what she called “politically sensitive” students.   William didn’t feel politically sensitive, he just felt like he always did.

              He was a little frightened, an unlike most seventeen year old boys, was honest enough to admit to that fear.  He wasn’t stupid, he knew what was going on in the world, and didn’t like it.   The United Nations had already declared transhumans the property of the world. 

              He was also excited.  He, Adam, and Katherine were  doing what they started back in Georgia, but this time with training and back up.  Not that there was a lot of crime to take out in Social Circle, but Atlanta wasn’ t THAT far away, and they’d had a certain level of success.  No, he smiled to himself at the thought,  they’d kicked ass.   Between his own burgeoning psiber-generative powers, Adam’s incredible strength and durability, and Katherine’s psionics, they’d cut a wide swath through the gang problems in Chamblee, and Five Points.  They’d even managed to stop a couple of bank robberies, an attempt on the CDC, and one hostage situation.  Okay, that one Katherine pretty much handled on her own.  He and Adam were simply there as back up.  It’s hard to pull the trigger on the gun you’ve got to a ten year girls’ head when the hammer refused to go forward, and Katherine was in your mind telling you not to.

              Now, he and Adam were attending morning classes at Eton, and Katherine and eventually Tanya were at Windsor Girls’ School.  It was supposed to be a fun packed morning of the best education that the British Public School System had to offer.  In the afternoon they met at Witchhead, the adjunct school located half way between the two old English Public schools.    There they trained not only to use their powers, but to fly advanced aircraft, practice tactics and strategy, and cover advanced equipment far superior to the technology now available to the general public.  Sometime after seven in the evening they returned to their houses at their respective schools to continue with their normal school day.  Of course that barely gave them time to get there by evening prayers.

              William had come to the conclusion that the hardest part of this life was dealing with the upper crust of the British society set.  Although he and Adam had spent several years living in the UK, and for the most part could easily shift back and forth between an English and an American accent, and therefore didn’t stand out too badly, the real problem was that many of the other students felt that he and Adam were being forced into their private little club by the Crown.  They saw him and Adam as upstarts trying to keep up with what the other students considered their betters.

              Of course, they didn’t know that he and Adam were completely able to and did pay their own way to Eton, or any other school.  Money for them was not an obstacle thanks to the investments made by their parents years ago.    But, it wasn’t old money, and it wasn’t an old English family; it was simply a case of their blood not being blue enough.  Considering Adam’s particular case that was a ridiculous argument.

              But the situation was necessary.  The Crown was concerned about Katherine’s safety, and was wise enough to realize that wherever Kat went, so did he and Adam.   That set off even more problems with the other male students.  Katherine was to inherit her father’s title as the Duke of Orkney and many of the other students considered their involvement with her to be an affront to English sensibilities.  All in all, it was a mess of secrets.

    The addition of Tanya  Washington aka Liber-T to the team two years ago had meant some serious readjustments to their team dynamics.  She didn't have the same relationship with them as the three who'd grown up together, but had been welcomed as a teammate and as a friend.  The addition of a second person with enhanced and strength and durability plus the ability to fly was very welcome indeed.  Now Adam wasn't doing all the heavy lifting- literally.
            
    Of course all of this was only running through the back of William's mind as he was closing with the UNIPACT strike force that had invaded London.  He had no idea what they were after, but so far they'd done enough property damage to make them a threat that needed to be eliminated even if they hadn't already killed several transhumans back in the States.  The Globe Theater was burning yet again, because Agni didn't like what was playing there, and Hypernia had damaged both the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London itself.
 
    Fortunately, this wasn't the Prime team, but instead was evidently their Beta Team.  So far there was Silver Lightning, a female electrical based elementalist  who was their leader; Agni a fire based elemental that the Ministry said had a god-complex; Black Shimmer, another teleporter with some dangerous power stunts; Lancer a laser projector who saw herself as a modern incarnation of the knights of old; and Hypernia a Greek woman who presented herself as a Titaness.

    As it was, Adam as Cobalt-Blue had forced Hypernia out into the Thames.   She was standing waist deep in the middle of the river with Cobalt-Blue racing across the Tower Bridge to keep her from damaging it further.   Out of the corner of his eye he saw his best friend and lover launch himself off the bridge to slam into her chest with a powerful right cross.  William knew that Adam was having to overcome his own reticence about hitting a woman- even if she was twenty feet tall and bullet proof.

    William himself was currently dodging both Lancer and and Silver Lightning.  Right now both women were of far more danger to him than any of the others.  His bodysuit was designed to harden on impact with kinetic attack and insulate him against heat and cold damage.  Lancer's lasers were far more effective than anything he'd encountered before.  Silver Lightning on the other hand could play havoc with the electronics he carried.  Although they were "hardened" against EMP, a lightning stroke was still a threat.

    Currently he was working his way along the outside of the bridge as the two UN operatives were trying to locate him.  He had his weapon- designed by him to project a bolt of hot helium based plasma at up to a quarter of light speed but currently set much lower- holstered as he needed two hands to creep along the metal railing of the bridge.  The idea was to get the drop on each of the other parahumans and take them by surprise.
    Reaching the top of the arc that supported the draw bridge portion of the deck he peeked between the blue and white safety rails to see Lancer standing on the other side of the deck looking over the rail.  Fortunately, the Metropolitan Police had already sealed the bridge of traffic and most of the visitors had escaped.  Very carefully, and very quietly he eased himself over the rail and looked around.  Silver Lightning was nowhere in sight.

    "Hey Lancer," he called.  

    The villain turned around to see him standing behind her.  He smiled and shot her in the chest.  The kinetic force alone of a field of compressed helium contained in a magnetic field slamming into her at escape velocity knocked her from the deck and into the river below.  He knew the blast had broken ribs.

    Suddenly the hair on the back of his neck raised.  Without thinking, he threw himself into a shoulder roll across the tarmac to avoid any contact with metal.  With the crack of thunder, lightning arced toward him.  However the metal around the bridge drew huge spikes of it to it and only a much weaker bolt managed to hit the ground where he'd been standing earlier.  William could feel the static electricity all over the bridge.  He reached into his jacket pocket and grabbed several pieces of circuitry and started plugging them into his belt.

    With one eye on the silver clad woman with long black hair, and the other on what he was doing, he willed the components to become what he needed to them to be.  A quick half second to check the charge on his weapon and he raced along the tarmac toward the support part of the bridge where metal cables hung.  As long as he stayed inside the metal cage-like structure of the support cables, then she was going to have problems hitting him.

    On the other hand, he had no problems with hitting her.  Even if the cables were to attract his plasma bolts- which they didn't- the bolts were moving too fast to be affected.  It was just a matter of getting the right opportunity to shoot without getting himself fried.  He tapped several studs on his watch and heard the familiar whine of several modifications he'd made to his suit.  

    As he cleared the stone tower of the bridge, he looked up to see Silver Lightning hovering above the low point where the cables swooped down in the middle of the span.  She had a wicked grin on her face as lightning danced in her hands.  She drew back and hurled the first one at him.

    He threw up his arm to ward off the bolt and felt the magnetic force field he'd just installed snap into place above his arm.  It was a curved half cylinder of golden energy that deflected the stroke into the cable on his left.   With a crash of thunder, a near blinding flash of light, and the lingering smell of ozone the lightning melted through the bolts anchoring the cable to the deck.  Only the polarized lenses in his glasses kept him from burning out his retinas.     Cybestar felt the bridge sway slightly as he drew his pistol again and through the darkened lenses fired at the UN operative.  

    The bolt made a high pitched sound like ripping cloth as it went high and to the right of his target.  A quick glance at the readout on his watch told him that his hastily constructed magnetic shield could't stop another strike.  It was time to go on the offensive.   

    He dropped to one knee and took half a second to aim.  He remembered everything Major Bailey had taught him.  He cleared his head, took a quick and careful aim and squeezed the firing stud between heart-beats.  This time the bolt was perfectly on target.  William didn't see the actual bolt itself- no matter what the movies showed, the human eye just can't follow something that small moving that fast- but he saw its devastating effect.

    He watched as the woman literally wrapped herself around the pressure wave that drove her back and high into the air.  "Another lesson in physics for you.  If you're not on the ground, it takes very little force to redirect you," he said quietly.   

    Scanning the area, he was looking for any of his teammates who might need his help.  To his right, Phantasia had Black Shimmer pinned to the tower and was telekinetically grinding him into the stone as she floated above the Thames.  Cobalt-Blue was dragging what looked like an unconscious Hypernia out of the water.   He saw no signs of Libert-T, but that wasn't too worrisome, both she and Agni were fliers so that meant they could be half-way to Ireland by now.  He knew that she was very fast too, she'd once followed Dancer into the stratosphere to stop a high-tech nuke.

    Suddenly an ear piercing scream split the air.  William ran to the Tower end of the bridge and suddenly felt his stomach churn.  He saw the charred body of Liber-T as she fell from the sky.  The immolation was so complete that she literally shattered when she hit the paving stones below.  "Teeee!" he screamed and drew his weapon again.

    Drawing a bead on Agni, he be began firing.  The first shot went wild, the second caught the Arab in the chest,  The third hit him in the left leg, spinning his floating form a hundred eighty degrees. The fourth hit him in the right shoulder.  

    The sudden burst of anger and grief must have hit Phantasia hard down the link they shared- or maybe she was sensing the death of a friend- or both.  It distracted her for the split second that Black Shimmer needed.  In an instant the bad guys winked away leaving Liberty's Legacy to collect and mourn their dead.


July 2004 Plains of Salisbury, England

    He and Dannon had come to find out what had happened to Tanya.  Sloan Carter aka Victory had known that Tanya was the closest thing to a best friend that Dannon had found when he reappeared from wherever he'd been for sixty years. The two shared a special bond- special enough that it had been Tanya who'd followed Dannon into the upper atmosphere with a nuke in his hand.  They even shared what Sloan considered an unhealthy interest in Power Ranger slash fanfiction.  But mostly Tanya had helped Dannon adjust to being out of time and without his memories.  For that, Sloan would always be thankful.

    The memories had slowly begun to return since Dannon absorbed the entire blast from that nuke- since Sloan had run his own age back and became a student at the school where he'd taught just a few months before.  On more than one occasion, Sloan had awakened to find Dannon trembling beside him in bed, his face and emotions completely dominated by unrelenting terror.  From the best Sloan could figure out from what little Dannon would tell him was that he'd been in Hell- that's Hell with a capital H.  He'd spent the last fifty years fighting a battle to stay alive.  Evidently some force decided that he was doing more damage there than trying to keep him was worth so they sent him back.  In a nutshell, Hell was literally afraid he was going to wreck the place.  

    Because Sloan had run his own age back and joined the team, that had created some friction over the leadership position.  Both Sloan and Tanya on the team threatened to tear it apart.  Finally, Tanya had been offered a position on Liberty's Legacy.  The Ministry was looking for someone to add a bit of diversity to the team, and by that time she was ready to jump at the chance to study abroad.  A second tank, or brick as some people called transhumans with enhanced strength and durability, on the team was more than welcome-especially since she could fly so fast.
    Then last year around Christmas, about the same time that she was killed, Angelsboi resigned from the team.  It seemed that Lee had been less than careful with some of his own liaisons and had managed to contract HIV. The virus had ravaged his system a whole lot faster than anyone expected.  Sloan wondered how he and Dannon as Dancer and Ethan as Shadow Shroud were going to be able to defend Atlanta.   He knew that Dannon had been crushed by the loss of Tanya and then Lee's resignation and condition.  Sloan had a bad feeling about things right now.

    Their initial arrival in England had been met with both some suspicion and with a great deal of care.  It had taken a year to get Ministry 13 to approve the investigation, but Sloan was determined to go through the proper channels.  If anybody should be on the Liberty's Legacy team it was he and Dannon. Both of them had served in the original Homeguard team back in the forties.   After Dannon's disappearance and the team had been disbanded by the War Department, Sloan had eventually graduated, and enrolled in the Army.  He'd served with these kids' parents as Victory during the war.  

    They'd literally been in the middle of watching the Ministry's tapes on the fight at the Tower of London when the emergency had come in.  An unknown sorcerer had led a second assault force onto English soil and had penetrated as far as Wiltshire.  Nobody thought it was a good idea to let a sorcerer get anywhere near Stonehenge.  Sloan and Dannon had offered their help and had been taken up on it.  A quick change and they were ready for battle.

    Sloan had to admit that the kids working with Ministry 13 had a lot cooler toys than they got in Atlanta. They had their own Stormwing Mark V jet that could get them anywhere in England in a matter of minutes; and they'd been taught to fly the thing.  He was going to have to talk to Beth and Mandy about upgrading the school's equipment when they got back home.

    As the jet came into a hovering position over the field below and then slowly descended to the soft grass, Cyberstar looked over to Cobalt-Blue and said, "And that's the way you set it down gently."

    The big blond smirked at him and made a rude gesture.  Phantasia smiled and said, "Not here, it might shock our guests."

    The blond looked at the read-out and then back to the Sloan and Dannon.  "The UN force is just on the other side of that copse of trees.  I don't think they know we're here."

    "Don't know we're here?" Sloan asked.  We just landed a jet!

    "We just landed a jet with the most advanced stealth systems on the planet," Cobalt-Blue said.  "Unless they've got telepaths with them they probably don't know we're here."

    Sloan nodded and looked around and said, "Nice toy."

    "It gets us where we're going," Blue replied as he cycled the engines down.  "Now let's go kick some blue helmeted butt."

    "Sounds good to me," Cyberstar replied viciously.

    It didn't take them long to work their way through the trees and peer out at the force massing there.  Beside him, Phantasia said, "This is new."

    There were perhaps five hundred men and women in some very advanced looking power armor staging for what looked like a main assault.  In the distance was a form that Sloan had not seen in sixty plus years: Shadu.

    With his long blond scalp-lock the sorcerer stood out among the high tech gleaming blue and white armor.   He was definitely giving orders as his officers were gathered to get their final instructions.  "We can't let those squads deploy into the country. We'll never be able to hunt them all down," Sloan told the others.

    "We're open to suggestions, Victory," Cobalt-Blue said.

    "Hit them hard, take out their officers and as much material as we can," Sloan said.  He looked over at Blue and asked, "I hear you're pretty durable."

    The younger man nodded and said, "So far, I haven't found anything that can hurt me."  He looked over at the other two and said, "At least physically."

    "Then let's take 'em down.  Anybody who can get close to Shadu, do whatever we need to do to take him out.  Somehow it fits that he's involved in all this.  I was hoping that mountain your dad dropped on him in the war, had finished him off," Sloan said.

    "How do you fight someone who can live through a cave in?" Cyberstar asked.

    "Very carefully.  Remember, he's a sorcerer, not a true mage.  He has to use talismans and summoned creatures to do his dirty work for him.   Tie up his hands, and his mouth, and you can definitely slow him down.   But be careful.  He has access to some pretty advanced tech, so there's probably no telling what he's got up the sleeves of those robes.  

    The others nodded, but Sloan got the feeling that only Dancer really understood what they were up against.  He'd fought this same war at his side sixty years ago.  But then Cobalt-Blue surprised him.  He looked to his teammates and said in a clear commanding voice that caught even Sloan's attention," Victory and I will go straight in and plow the road.  Phantasia, you and Dancer give us air cover. Hit them hard and fast, but don't stay in one place too long we want them confused.   Cyberstar, I want you to get into their command HQ and get any data on that armor that you can, and get out."  He looked down a that pistol on the brunette's hip and said.  "I want that thing set to penetrate that armor."

    The smaller teen nodded and said, "The more punch I put in, the shorter the charge."

    "If you get into trouble yell," Blue told him.

    "Got it," Cyberstar grinned as he adjusted the settings on a pistol that looked like something out of a sci-fi movie.

    Sloan looked at the boy in surprise.  He had a keen tactical mind and a natural charisma.  Sloan realized that this kid was something special.  "You're the boss on this one," he finally said and realized that he meant it.

    Blue nodded and then turned to Phantasia and Dancer saying, "Be careful up there you two.  So far there's no sign of any parahuman presence but with the UN's teleporters, that could change quickly."

    Phantasia nodded and said, "They won't get away this time though.  I'm playing for keeps now."

    As she took off, Sloan commented, "That is one very intense young lady."

    "That's one pissed off woman," Cyberstar said.  "She- we all- took Tanya's death very hard. She was a good friend, and a valued colleague."

    *We're in place,* Dannon's voice came to his mind.  

    Blue smiled at him and said, "That's our signal.  Let's go."

    Sloan as Victory was one of the physically strongest men on Earth.  He knew that the UN's Sentinel was not in his class no matter what the Frenchman wanted to claim.  He suspected the same was true of Runeclaw and Anchor as well.  But this kid who called himself Cobalt-Blue seemed to be in a class all by himself.

    He swept two of the armored forms together in his mighty arms and crushed them together like so much straw.  He didn't even slow down as he plowed through them.  For just a few seconds, Sloan held back and watched the kid work.  It was a wonder to behold.

    But he couldn't afford to delay long.  They needed him and Blue to do as much damage as they could to the five hundred or so suits of power armor.  The logistics of that alone were staggering  when he first thought of it.  But then he also knew how the fog of battle worked.  It wouldn't be long before the armored soldiers started looking for them, and when they did that, they'd be within striking distance.

    The battle was actually progressing along the lines of their plans until someone among the UN commanders seriously panicked.  Suddenly they were throwing everything they had at them.  Sloan found himself and Blue slowly forced back toward the tree line by the sheer numbers of power armored soldiers.  

    As the team regrouped Cyberstar appeared out of the crowd looking like he'd lost a fight with a badger.  His suit was torn and scorched and his jacket had several burn holes in it.  As he got closer, Cobalt-Blue asked, "What heck happened out there?"

    "Shadu got a good look at me and then went berserk," Cyberstar said.  "He called up some kind of satellite feed of the battle, zoomed in on each of our positions and went starkers.  He started drawing a big circle in the middle of the camp, all the while cursing in a language I didn't understand."  Cyberstar stopped a minute and his voice suddenly grew very serious.  "He knew me by name."

    "Well, we have been involved in defending London for the last six months," Blue said.

    "No, he knew my first name," Cyberstar said. "He called me William."

    That drew Blue up short.  "That's not good, Willie. That means he has someone on the inside."

    "I don't know," Cyberstar said. "He looked at all five of us and called us by our first names.  He pronounced Katherine's a little strangely, but he called us all by name: me, you, Dannon, Katherine, and Sloan.  It was as if he recognized us and was't happy about it."

    "What else did he do?" Sloan asked as he front kicked one of the attacking soldiers.  He watched with some satisfaction as the man went flying backwards into four of his comrades.

    "When he got the circle drawn, he killed his command staff and spread their blood  in it," Cyberstar said.

    "Oh crap!" Sloan said.  "That means he's getting ready to summon something.  With that much blood, something big."

    Before anyone could reply, Dannon and Katherine landed among the three of them. "I've about had it with this bunch," Dannon said.  Sloan could see the same weariness he'd seen in the small blond's eyes when he talked of being in Hell.  He knew that the claustrophobia of the battle was about to get to him.  This was too much like his experiences in that other realm.

    "It's about to get worse," Cobalt-Blue said.  Sloan couldn't really fault the other hero for what he said next.  He had no idea about Dannon's past. He had no idea how Dancer would react; heck even Sloan wasn't expecting it.  "Cyberstar says that Shadu is summoning demons."

    Dancer's eyes went flinty, and then smoldered into flames of pure energy.  "I don't think so!" he said as he spread his arms and rose into the air.  

    With a look of concern, Phantasia followed him.  It was clear that she had some understanding of what was going on.  The two of them suddenly lashed out.  A scythe of energy cut through the ranks of the remaining armored soldiers.  As it hit each of them, a finger of  power arced through the air toward Dancer.  The soldiers themselves suddenly became like statues.  Dancer's voice echoed across the battlefield.  "Don't do it, Shadu!"

    Suddenly in the distance two huge demonic forms rose over the battlefield.  Black horns gleamed against red scaled skin.  Eyes like fiery coals raked the now frozen battlefield.   Sloan had a very bad feeling about this.  He heard the ancient sorcerer's voice echo across the field.  There was an otherworldly timbre that bespoke of a cradle language long since dead.  Barely coherent, he screamed,  "You have hidden from me for far too long.  I will see House Atlyn destroyed!   Kill them! Kill them all and take their souls away from this place and this time!"

    Another scythe of energy swept the battlefield, this one drawing the power to the towering demons.  Sloan heard the men in the battle armor groan as their life force was leeched away.  He watched as the demons grew larger, their skin became more scale like, and fire danced between their horns.  One looked up to see Dannon.  He turned to the other and said something in low guttural language and pointed to Dannon.  

    *I don't like this guys.  Dannon's nearly incoherent with fear and rage; Shadu is the same way, and the demons look like they're scared to death.* Katherine's voice said in his mind.

     "Dannon spent the last sixty years in Hell, Phantasia," Sloan told the young woman.  "He's not exactly rational when it comes to demons."

    Sloan looked up to see Dancer bring his hands together and fire a huge double handed bolt of energy in the direction of the Demons.   At the same time, their bodies were arched forward like a hissing snake.  A wave of darkness was billowing from their mouths directly toward the five heroes.  This was going to be one hell of a clash.

    "Get us all out of here," Blue commanded.

    "You got it, Love," Phantasia said as the wave of blackness hit Dancer's energy bolt.  

    Sloan had on occasion during the Second World War been teleported via Gate's hellgates.  He had some idea what it felt like to have space warped around him.  But this was completely different.  He felt like more than just space was moving around him.  Something was definitely wrong.   For just a moment, he got a glimpse of the nightmare world where Dancer had been condemned for sixty long years.  Then a smiling young woman with long white hair seemed to yank him to the side.

    As the five of them got their bearings, they realized they were standing in an open field between some kind of high tech fort and an attacking army with sky cycles and grav tanks.

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Re: Atlantis Unleashed: Transhuman War -Nanowrimo 2010

Postby cobalt-blue » Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:56 pm

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Ancient Atlantis: The Second Atlantean Civil War

Kalleth had no idea how things had deteriorated so far so fast.  His brother Marhawk had been dismissed from his service to the Emperor as protector and bodyguard.  The High Quester, Racyn- the man Kalleth was charged with protecting- had been declared a traitor to the throne and the two of them were now on the run deep in the Central Mountains of Atlantis.

Both Kalleth and Marhawk had warned Racyn that taking a Hesperian bride was not in the best interests of the empire- especially that particular bride.  But he would not listen.  Racyn had done the one thing he'd been forbidden to do.  For millenia, the arts of war had been forbidden to the priests and the High Quester, and the arts of magic forbidden to the throne.  It was Kiera Atlyn's way of keeping the balance in the government.  

But Racyn had been seduced into not only dabbling in magic- he had some small mage talent- but into sorcery as well.  He'd traded the life force of his people for mystical power, and had brought the empire to civil war.  House Atlyn had disappeared with its legions of Kiera-Atlan's Gifted.  The whole island of Thule plus all of its holdings in other regions including the Southern Continent had simply vanished.  The city state of Meirria had broken away and was threatening to withdraw from the Empire if Racyn didn't return his brother to the head of the Church.

When Racyn had begun to study the arts of sorcery, Kacyn had approached Kalleth to teach him the arts of war.   Against his better judgement and in the name of keeping some semblance of balance between the primary forces in the Atlantean culture, he'd conceded.  He accepted full responsibility for his actions and knew that they were going to cost a great many people their lives.

He looked down at his chronometer and realized that he and Kacyn were cutting it close.  There was a battalion of  Hesperian power armored troops close behind them, and if they didn't reach safety soon, then they'd most likely be captured, tortured, and then killed. So far they'd been lucky.  By using Kacyn's magic, and his own psionic powers as well as using the mountains to block the scans, they'd been able to stay about half a step ahead of their pursuers.

He'd sent a message ahead to Midean that he needed help, but he was unsure if it got through.  The Hesperians had among them those who could sense such telepathic transmissions so he had to be careful.  He hoped it got through otherwise it was going to be one nasty fight when they reached the edge of the cliffs leading to Midean.

Cliffs really were a misnomer.  Midean was located on a large island in the middle of a inland freshwater sea at the center of the continent.  However that sea was surrounded by sheer cliffs hundreds of metrics high.  Getting down to the small beaches at their foot was a major expedition in itself.  His people guarded their privacy jealously. He did not relish a fight with his back to the cliffs and being flanked by several score of power armored Hesperians.
 
   "How much farther old friend?" Kacyn asked.  Kalleth could see where the trip had taken its toll on the other man.  He was in good shape, but this had been rough travel, and Kalleth had to admit to himself that even he was having some difficulties with the terrain.  Of course as the first son of a Primal, he was far older than the High Quester.  
 
    "It should be just over that last ridge.  I can smell the water from here," he said.
 
    "You have good senses," Kacyn said as the they picked their way down the mountain passage.  
 
    Kalleth said nothing as he cast his own mind backward.  There was a squad of Hesperians about an hour behind them.  Their pursuers knew where they were headed, and were trying to call for reinforcements to close a trap on them.  "Come on Old Friend.  We need to hurry.  Otherwise the ladies behind us are going to have a nasty surprise waiting for us at Mother's Falls."
 
    The other man nodded and they picked up their paces.  "You know there's a ley line nexus at Mother's Falls."
 
    "I know," Kalleth said.  He also knew what the High Quester was going to suggest.  Mideanites took a very dim view of anyone tapping the ley lines in their territory.   As far as Kalleth and his people were concerned, those ley lines belonged to his mother and were for her use and the use of their cousins the Iellee only.
 
    "I know how you feel about that kind of thing, Kalleth," Kacyn said.  "But you can bet that the Hesperians are not going to respect your people's beliefs."
 
    "I know," Kalleth said. "And I know that Mother would not mind, but the problem is the Iellee.  They respect me as Mother's first born, but they are quick to remind me that I am not one of them- that I'm Mideanite, not Iellee.."  He paused and added, "And they will also remind me that you are definitely not a Child of Lilith.  You're not a Child of Eve, but they do not always draw those distinctions."  He thought about it for a moment and said, "If you have to do something to save us, then do it.  I'm not going to die just to keep from offending my great nephew."
 
    Kacyn nodded his head.  "Understood.  Besides I can still use magic without drawing on the ley lines."  With a broad grin, he added, "And I'm told that I'm a pretty good mage."
 
    Kalleth laughed.  As the High Quester, Kacyn was one of the best and most powerful mages in the Empire.  Pretty good mage was an understatement.  "I'm sorry Kay.  I'm just on edge here.  For three thousand years, the House of Midean has served the emperor loyally.  To be branded an outlaw has left a very bad taste in my mouth."
 
    "I understand," Kacyn said. "It doesn't sit well with me to have my brother choose a Hesperian whore over me."
 
    "There are a lot of terms that could be used to describe the woman, but I think that one fits it rather well," Kalleth said as the trekked toward the sound of the falls.
 
    It took longer than Kalleth would have liked.  He could already sense the two squads closing from the North and the South.  The one to the East was getting closer as well.  it was going to be close. Worse yet, he couldn't find any sign that his call for help had gotten through.  With a grim smile he asked, "How do you feel about cliff diving?"
 
    "Not one of my favorite sports," Kacyn told him.
 
    "Me either," Kalleth said. "But it may be our only hope."
 
    "Nobody has ever survived that high of a fall," Kacyn said.
 
    "Would you rather fall into the Hesperian's hands?" Kalleth asked as they came into the clearing at the falls.  Kacyn's reply was drowned out by the roaring sound of water rushing head-long into the sea below.  
 
    Mist was rising all around them giving them some respite from the late summer heat.  These were called Mother's falls as they were said to be where Lilith hid herself and her children when they were fleeing Sanvi, Sansanvi, and Semengelev.  Nearby was supposedly the very place where Vinciene the Gray gave them shelter.  Kalleth knew the truth though.  The actual little stone house had long since been weathered away, and its location had been about half a day's travel on the other side of the great river that was dumping so much water below.  He should know, he'd been there when it happened, and when Vinciene had paid the price for defying the servants of Yahweh.
 
     "What now?" Kacyn asked.
 
    "Now you come back with us, and answer some questions.  After that, the Queen will probably have both of you beheaded," a voice said stepping out from behind a large boulder.  A single Hesperian force commander wearing a suit of green and gold personal armor stood before them, a rifle trained on Kacyn's chest.
 
    "Really?" Kalleth said slipping his sword into his hand and stepping between her and Kacyn.  He was still the other man's guardian, and he wasn't about to be the first of his people to lose a charge. A touch of the stud and he felt the blade begin to draw on his personal energy to power the field of annihilation energy.  Anything he touched with that blade would be disintegrated into it's component subatomic particles by the black field of death it generated.  "I only see one of you.  I don't think you have what it takes, Commander."
 
    She smiled and through her visor, Kalleth could see where the woman's teeth had been surgically altered to make them razor-sharp like a predator.  That marked her as one of the Hegemony's elite arms-men.  "Don't worry, my little Mideanite warrior.  I can get more."

Before Kalleth could reply, the sound of the waterfall was drowned out by the roar of conventional jets as three squads of Hesperian battle armor landed around them.  Kalleth slowly pushed Kacyn backwards toward the edge of the cliff, keeping his own body between himself and the Hesperians.  "We may be taking that dive after all, old friend," he said.

"Then so be it," Kacyn said. 

  As the two turned to look over the cliff, suddenly a pressure wave from the cliff side hit and pushed them backwards away from the danger.  Both men turned to see the cloaking field drop on three Mideanite heavy assault 'hopters, their magnetic drives holding them in place above the cliff's edge.  

Suddenly the 'hopter's weapons opened up and beams of annihilation energy cut through the Hesperian battle armor like a hot knife through butter.   As the few stragglers who weren't hit by the high energy projectors turned to flee, the main bay doors opened and several hundred Mideanite Marines poured out, energy bows in hand.

It took a very short time to mop up the rest of the Hesperians.  They all chose to die fighting instead of facing an interrogation against a foe who could pick the very thoughts from their minds.  When it was over, Kalleth watched as his twin Marhawk leaped down from the main bay of the 'hopter.  He grinned at Kalleth and said, "Thanks for bringing us so many Hesperians."

Kalleth smiled and embraced the other man.  "I thought we were finished."

"We didn't want to take a chance that the Hesperians had a thought sensor with them.  We wanted complete surprise."  He turned to Kacyn, bowed slightly and said, "Welcome to Midean, Your Grace.  I'm sorry for the mess, but things are a bit chaotic at the moment."  Turning back to Kalleth he added, "The emperor has ordered the Rathamaer dissolved and for two Hesperian legions to be quartered on Midean.  The Ruling Council is awaiting your vote."

"What?" Kalleth asked.  "It's that close?"  He was surprised at his people. This was a complete abrogation of the Agreements of Founding that established Midean as sovereign territory.

"Not at all, Brother mine.  We just want it to be unanimous," Marhawk told him. 

Kalleth nodded gravely. "Then consider it so.  Midean goes to war against both the throne and the Hesperians."

"No," Kacyn interrupted.  "Midean goes to war against the emperor.  He's in complete violation of imperial law."  Turning to Marhawk he said, "I'm just glad that you got Kalleth's message."

Marhawk's brows knit as he looked to his brother, "What message?"

"That we were coming?" Kalleth said.

"We got no message," Marhawk replied.  "We were acting on other instructions."

"What other instructions?" Kalleth asked.

"A young Thulian girl with white hair showed up in the Ruling Council and said to send a defensive force here and wait cloaked.  Since the Thulians have completely disappeared and taken the Gifted with them, we decided it best to act on it," Marhawk explained as they boarded the craft.

"What Thulian girl?" Kalleth asked.

"She had a strange name.  She called herself Winter.  Do you know what it means?"  Marhawk asked.

Kalleth shook his head and said, "No. Where is she now?"

"Nobody knows. She can't be found anywhere."

~*~
Two years later


  It had been a long and hard struggle against his own brother, but Kacyn was starting to see the light.  The world was in near ruins.  Eria had been bombed back into the stone age by space-based mass drivers.  Yuropa was little better, and was in total ruin. Only a few burnt out buildings were left of the cities that once reached the sky.  Gondowa and Kithum were smoking ruins, not there had ever been much there in the first place.  Midean was in chaos, and overrun, most of her citizens slaughtered.  Nobody knew what had happened to the Gifted. Thule and all of her holdings had simply vanished.  It seemed that Kiera-Atlan had withdrawn her favored children from the Empire and they were paying the price for it.

Kacyn had the people at his back. He had the old guard legions behind him, and they'd managed to push Hesperia off the continent.  Of course what his own forces had done to the Hegemony's holdings had been just as brutal as what had happened to them.  He was afraid that by the end of the century, that both civilizations would be little better than hunter gatherers.  

The planet's ley lines were acting very strange. They had been taxed to the point that they were hiccuping with surges and dead zones.  Reports were that they were shifting under the strain of being used for a global war.   The only magic that was available was on a personal level, for only a fool would try and tap them now.

  
But he couldn't stop now. The war had taken on a momentum of its own. It had become so furious, so intense that all of the off-world colonies had simply declared their independence and turned their back on Earth.  There had been talk of a galactic quarantine before the ability to talk to the stars had been lost.  

Kacyn realized that he was a driven man; driven by a lust for revenge that he knew was completely out of place for a priest.  He could have declared that the withdrawal of the Gifted had been a sign of Kiera-Atlan's disfavor with his brother, but he didn't have that much hubris.  In his mind, no man could speak for a God.

He knew that the hatred he felt in his heart for his brother had slowly come to consume him.  He was now fully embraced by Afreyi's fire.  He'd given himself over to her blood lust and sought to not only destroy his brother, but to wring the life from him with his own bare hands.  He knew that there would be a price to pay for his hatred, and by all the Gods he was willing to pay it.  Racyn had allowed his lust for a Hesperian- who now, Kacyn knew had been a pawn of the sorcerer Shadu- to destroy an empire that had stood for ten thousand years.  For that, Kacyn felt the need to spill and drink his own twin's blood.

As his grav tanks slowly made their way through the ruined and burnt out streets of Atlan City, he shook his head.  He knew this was wrong, but he knew of no other way.  He wished there had been another way.  The last of the the Racyn's forces were being mopped up.  His intelligence told him that his brother was waiting for one last stand at the palace.  He'd holed up in there and refused to come out.

It was ironic, his brother had turned out to be a far better mage than was, and he'd been a better general.  Both had excelled at the arts freely given to the other, but denied them.  He knew what the outcome of this meeting was going to be.  He knew that even if Racyn killed him, that his own soldiers would avenge him.  

The odors of burning buildings and rotting flesh assaulted his nostrils as the tank on which he was riding glided through the streets of rubble all around them.  There was no power left in the city, no food, and no medicine.  There was only death, and hunger, and destruction.   

   It didn't take long to reach the grand palace. It was more of a rock pile now instead of the symbol of Atlantean might that had stood for almost ten millinia.  Smoke was billowing from the nearby administration buildings.    Kacyn felt a bit of nostalgia tugging at his heart strings over the damage they had done.  He'd grown up in the palace and as the High Quester, he'd spent much of his time in those administration buildings.  

A lone figure stood at the crumbling entrance of the palace.  Kacyn looked closely at the massive form of his twin.  He had obviously been using magic to enhance his body and now it bulged obscenely like some kind of inhuman monster.  His long black hair was pulled back in a ponytail held in place by a single band of orchalchum.  He had stripped to the waist and held a huge two handed saber in front of his body.  His eyes glowed yellow with madness.

"Ayodi's Axe!" the aide next to him said.  "He's totally insane."

Kacyn nodded gravely to the woman said, "This is my doing. This is my responsibility.  I will deal with him.  Keep your forces back, Evienne."

She said nothing as Kacyn stepped down from the grav tank and prepared himself.  He reached deeply into his energy reserves and prepared for what he knew was going to be the battle of his life.  This was going to be battle magic at its rawest.

"So my brother returns triumphantly to the city he betrayed!" Racyn screamed at the surrounding building.  "Where's your Mideanite lap dog?"

"He's around," Kacyn said.  He wasn't about to tell his brother that Kalleth was currently hunting down Shadu in another part of the city.  That was a battle he would not care to be near.  Kalleth wanted the ancient sorcerer's head on a platter for the destruction of Midean.

Without warning, Racyn struck with an eldritch bolt.  It was every thing that Kacyn could do to dive out of the way of the soul numbing shard of energy that blasted a hole into the pavement where he'd stood just a moment before. The power of that attack had been staggering.  Much of a mage's power comes from his or her natural mage gift, but physical endurance and even strength also play a major role in determining how strong a mage may be.  Kacyn knew that people had an image of mages as being men and women who are physically weak, and had  to rely on magic to do things that others do with their back.  However, most mages make it a point to stay physically fit, because a healthy body lends a great deal of power to the resources from which a mage may draw.   Clearly Racyn had gone far beyond that.

Rolling to a stop, Kacyn hit back.  The levin bolt arced out from his fingertips, and slammed into Racyn's broad bare chest.  The grotesque thing that had once been Kacyn's brother screamed as the muscles in that augmented chest suddenly contracted and seized up in pain.  He literally doubled over as the lightning in the bolt danced around his chest and back.  Knowledge of the physical and biological worlds was just as important as that of the arcane.  "A great deal of power you may have, Brother mine, but you are inexperienced in how to use it."

As the seizures began to subside, Racyn looked up and growled.  "Is that all you've got Brother Mine?" 

"Actually, no," Kacyn said as he picked himself up off the ground.  "I have plenty more where that came from."

"It won't be enough," Racyn replied with a growl.  Kacyn could see where all of his brother's teeth were now long and pointed.  His transformation had evidently included some non-human upgrades.

"I can get more," Kacyn told him.  "This ends here, and now Racyn.  Give it up. Your forces are destroyed, the Hesperians are not able to hold their own island chain much less come to your rescue. Your name and mine are despised by our people. Our Empire is shattered.  Do you really have to see this to the bitter end?"  Much to his surprise, Kacyn found a kernel of regret in his soul for what they'd done.

"You turned against me, Kacyn," Racyn said.  "You tried to undermine my power."

"Only after you embraced our enemies, Racyn," the High Quester told his brother.  "You chose a woman over your brother.  That I can forgive, that I can even understand.  But you chose her over your own country, and your Gods.  That is something I can't forgive.  I did what I did to preserve the empire."

"And how did that work out?" a new voice asked.  

Both men turned to see a man standing next to the grav tank, his clothes tattered, his black hair and beard disheveled, and a rag tied around his eyes.  Suddenly Kacyn realized that he could no longer hear the sounds of the tank.  He looked up and saw a bird frozen in flight above the ruins of the palace.  The water running from a nearby broken aqueduct was immobile as well.  "Who are you?" Racyn demanded with a low growl.

"I am Abel, son of Adam," the man said.  "And I've come to end this."

"Aren't you dead?" Kacyn asked.

The man chuckled and said, "Not hardly."

"End this?" Racyn demanded. "This does not concern the Children of Yahweh. Go back to your valleys in Northern Gondowa and leave us to our war."

"You're war concerns the whole world," Abel said as he stepped unerringly through the rubble around his feet.  "You have very nearly destroyed it.  You are on the brink of cracking the core.  Then we will all perish. This cannot be allowed to continue."

"How are you going to stop it?  By what authority do you have to stop it?" Kacyn asked.

"By the authority of the Time Lords, and by the graces of all the Primals and the Council of Whispers.  Atlantis will be no more.  Hesperia will be no more.  The world will need time to recover from what you have done."

"Atlantis has stood for ten thousand years!" Racyn growled.  "She will rise again from her ashes."

To Racyn's surprise the man nodded and said, "Yes she will. But not for a very long time; and not under the rule of either of you."

"How long?" Kacyn had the presence of mind to ask.

"When Kiera-Atlan's children return, then the new Empire will be born in blood and fire, and war.  But it will rise again, under a new name, and on new worlds. But she will not stay on Earth.  You will be long forgotten by then, High Quester, and Emperor."

"You know what happened to the Gifted?" Racyn demanded.

"Why should you care, Brother Mine?" Kacyn asked. "You are the one who turned on citizens who'd been loyal to the empire for five hundred  years."

"The Gifted and their leaders are where and when they need to be," Abel said.  "But we are not finished here, and now."  He turned to a nearby building and shouted, "Brother Mine, bring our wayward elder brother and his foe so that we may pass on the judgement of the Council of Whispers."

Another man stepped from inside the rubble of the administrative buildings.  He drug a chain behind him with one hand and held in his other, a Mideanite mindblade.  Attached to the chain were two men.  The first was the sorcerer Shadu, stripped naked to bare the punishment Racyn and Kacyn's ancestors had inflicted upon his loins five centuries before.  Next to him was a fuming mad Kalleth, his Mideanite armor pitted and torn.  The breast plate was completely torn away revealing the twin starburst birthmark on his chest.  

"You know, there is still the matter of the judgement passed on this one," the newcomer said.  

"That is not our job, Cain.  We are here as Time Lords, not as servants of any particular deity," Abel told him.  

The other Time Lord nodded and said, "This is your lucky day, Brother."  Kacyn saw Kalleth start to speak but then seemed to think better of it.   

Abel turned first to Shadu and said, "You have sought the destruction of the Atlantean Empire for the just punishment they have carried out against you for crimes against them and their citizens.  Look around Shadu and see the culmination of that quest.  You have accomplished that.  The Atlantean Empire and the Hesperian Hegemony as you knew it no longer exists. Even more, the Atlantean Empire you knew will never return.   You have done what you set out to do."

"Not quite," the ancient sorcerer fought against whatever compulsion held him.  "I would know what has become of Kiera-Atlan's Gifted."

Cain grabbed the recalcitrant sorcerer by the tattered blond scalp-lock and yanked back.  "The only way for you to find out is for you to bring them back, sorcerer.  Do you want to know bad enough?"

"I don't understand," Shadu said.

"Of course you don't.  How long will that mystery eat at you before you succumb to it, Sorcerer?" Cain asked.  "I know, my brother knows, and the other Time Lords know.  Even our youngest Time Lord knows.  But you don't, and that will eat at you for thousands of years."

"What?  You're not going to punish him?!" Kacyn demanded.

"Oh we have punished him far more than your ancestors ever did, High Quester.  We've given him something to gnaw at his soul for millennia to come.  We've punished him far more than you ever could because he knows that one day, he WILL succumb to it and return to Earth those that he hates even more than you.   He will be their father," Abel said.  With that, he waved a hand the sorcerer became as stone, immobile and unyielding.

"What have you done to him?!" Racyn said charging at his old foe and begun pounding on him with incredible strength.

Cain smiled and said, "You can pound away all you wish, Emperor.  He has been placed in another second of time.  You can no more harm him than you can move the universe."

Then turning his blind face toward Kalleth, Abel said, "You made a foolish choice, Kalleth,  first born of Lilith and our father.  But the choice you made, you made out of friendship and love.  Your punishment will be much as Shadu's.  You will face the long millennia to come and watch all those who carry the mind gifts slowly hunted into near extinction."

"What have my people done to deserve this. If you wish to punish someone, punish me, not them," Kalleth demanded struggling against the chains.

"By punishing your people, we punish you.  But fear not, all is not lost.  Eventually the Mideanites will return to the universe, but not as a client race to the new Atlantean Empire, but as a full partner.  But your wait will be long, and your journey will be fraught with danger and heartache.  You will see the beginning of the return of your people, but you will not be allowed to see it's fulfillment.  This is our repayment for the evil done to you and your family by those acting on behalf or our mother," Abel said.  

"You grow soft in your old age, Brother," Cain said.

"Being murdered will do that to you," Abel said with a smile, as Kalleth disappeared.

"I thought you said you weren't dead," Kacyn commented.

"I got better," the son of Adam replied.

"Where did you send him?" Kacyn asked.

"Some place where he will survive what is to come," Cain said.  "I will not be responsible for another brother's death."

"What of us?" Racyn asked.

"Look around us," Cain said.  "This is what you have sewn and this is what you will reap."

"Your war has overtaxed the planetary ley lines of magic.  Only the power of the Time Lords have held them back thus far.  But it cannot be forever.  Even now the sheer power they possess builds to where even we cannot control the chaos they are about to unleash.  You will perish, as will your people, with the coming deluge of earth, and wind, and water," Abel said.

"However, the enormity of what you have done calls for far more," Cain added.  "You will live on as spirits down through the ages, forever pursuing each other, forever battling for supremacy over each other.  But neither of you will for long break the other's power.  You may only act against each other through willing mortals that you may possess."

"Let it begin," Abel said. With those words, across the globe something profound happened at the places where lines of mystical energy normally crossed and pooled.  Those lines that had been used to power spell after spell for the past two years as two world powers battled for technological and magical supremacy of the word; that had of late been held static by the raw power of the Time Lords suddenly pulsed with power.  

As the energy surged down the lines and clashed at the nexus points where they crossed and the magic pooled, the raw mystical power began to warp the very fabric of reality around them.  The Earth cracked, the wind raged, and the oceans rose up in protest.    As the world suddenly began to move again for Kacyn, he saw a wall of water two thousand metrics high towering over the city.   

Just before it crashed down, drowning  Atlantis under the sea, Kacyn felt his soul slip away from his body.   He and Racyn rose above the death and destruction below. They watched as most of the world was inundated with water, with hurricanes, and with earthquake.  Civilization as they knew it, a civilization that had reached the stars was gone in a matter of hours.  

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Re: Atlantis Unleashed: Transhuman War -Nanowrimo 2010

Postby cobalt-blue » Sun Jun 10, 2012 4:44 pm

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1945 Dachau Subcamp Number 127.

    Captain Sloan Carter codenamed Victory looked around at the devastation in the subcamp.  He'd seen a lot of inhumanity over the last two years of the of the war. He'd seen far too much death and he'd been touched by sacrifice and death on such a deep and personal level that he was emotionally numb.  But this devastation, this inhumanity was enough to reach deep inside and touch the place where he'd buried his sanity.

    It wasn't just the condition of the German camp workers- although that was bad enough.  All of them, to the very last man had been killed- their throats ripped out, their bodies drained of blood, and their necks broken.   But what really got him was the condition of the prisoners- innocent men and women who the German High Command had decided were less than human.

    They were emaciated, weak and broken.  He looked around for the two he'd been warned to watch for by the stranger who'd come to his tent last night.   He had been a short dark haired man with a hawk's nose and eyes that gleamed red in the light.   He'd told Sloan about this place and warned him about what he'd find here.   He'd also given Sloan a package for them, the things they would need to get safely to the US.

    Sloan had no more idea why he'd agreed to help the stranger, than he had of why David Rosen and Anna Sanguifeliniscu, a Jew and a Gypsy would be of interest to him.  But he did as he'd been asked.  He'd expedited their paperwork, pulled some strings with the War Department and got them out of Germany as fast as he could.  

    "Something bothering you Captain?" Sergeant Kelly asked in his rich southern accent. The slightly older man, the son of a Baptist minister from Atlanta had been something of a mentor for Sloan when he'd first been assigned to duty with regular detachment of soldiers as opposed to Strikeforce Liberty.

    Sloan shook his head and said, "Just can't seem to get over how people can do this to other people, De-." 

    The sergeant shrugged his shoulders and said, "My daddy always told me that it has been that way since Adam and Eve were tossed out of the Garden of Eden."

    "No," Sloan shook his head and said, "This isn't your garden variety naughtiness. This is evil on a level that goes all the way to the bone."

    "You mean what happened to the guards or to the prisoners?" De- asked him.

    "The prisoners, the guards got exactly what they deserved," Sloan said.

    "And what was that?" De- asked pushing Sloan to say out loud what they both
    suspected.

    "Look De- I have some orders for you and I don't want any argument about it, and I want it done before Colonel Garrett gets here.  I want you to gather about five or six of your best men and round up a bunch of those table legs we saw in the workshop."

    "You want me to stake them, don't you?  I've seen the movies," De- said.  Sloan nodded and De- asked, "Do you really believe in vampires, Captain?"

    "De- you're talking to a man who can punch through a Panzer; who lost his best friend to a portal that passed through hell.  After what I've seen here, I believe in vampires."

    "But why would he do this to the Nazis?" the sergeant asked.  "I mean it seems like the bad guys would be on the same side."

     Sloan frowned and said, "I don't think we know all the facts about those kinds of things, De-.  And I'm damn sure that Hollywood doesn't know all the facts either.  Let's just call it a case of the enemy of our enemy being our friend this time."

    "You got it, Cap'n" the sergeant said as he headed out of the tent.

    The conversation has put Sloan in a dark mood.  It had drudged up the memories of what had happened with Homeguard and Dannon.   When they first started in '42 they'd been so full of hope and enthusiasm.  

    It had all really started when Sloan at sixteen had befriended a lonely shy thirteen year old kid who'd just lost both of his folks at Pearl Harbor.  The friendship had gotten off to a rocky start because Sloan had almost died of the flu.  But when he finally did recover, he found that his body had changed.  His strength was off the charts, and he was pretty damn hard to hurt.  

    He and Dannon had slowly discovered that they were going through about the same thing, just with different powers.  One night the two of them sneaked out to just see what they could do.  They got in way over their heads.   They discovered that a very advanced German U-boat had made its way up the Potomac and was delivering some kind of war materials to a fifth column group.  

    They'd been discovered pretty quickly and the men on the shore began firing at them.   That was when Sloan picked up a nearby M4 Sherman tank and hurled it at the sub.    Two seconds later, he felt a 105 mm round from the U-boat's deck gun slam into his chest and hurl him backwards. 

    Dannon had instantly gone  berserk.   He took the air with a surprising amount of speed, and plunged into the icy cold waters of the Potomac.  Sloan remembered the sound of creaking and straining metal as the little guy lifted the entire boat out of the water and dropped it on the shore, the field of energy that protected him and allowed him to fly flaring all around the sub.   He was getting ready to start ripping into the hull of the thing when the MPs showed up.

    They might have been able to get away from the MPs if one of them hadn't recognized Sloan as "Colonel Carter's son".  So two hours later they were at the War Department explaining to his dad what had happened.  From that little outing, Homeguard was founded.  It was a special military academy, supposedly for the children of military officers and kids that were a bit of a discipline problem.  It was really a training school for the next generation of Strikeforce Liberty.

   At first it was just him and Dannon codenamed Victory and Sky Dancer- Dannon's choice of code names left Sloan wondering about the looks he kept getting from the smaller teen.  Then came Beth Nichols, codename Northwind.  She was from an upper class New England family with a lot of political connections.  Next was Amanda "Mandy" Nelson code name Yankeey Zephyr.  She was a genuine corn-fed Kansas farm girl and the fastest thing on land.  Eventually they were joined by a young mage by the name of Jack Garfield, aka Gate.

    For a year the team had a great deal of success stopping saboteurs and fifth columnists.  They even were involved in the rescue efforts of at least two major storms off the East Coast, and were busy making appearances to get people to buy War Bonds.  But mainly they were training to be able to join American Ace, Tigress, Gamma Wave, and the rest of Strikeforce Liberty on the front lines fighting Hitler's Valhalla Squadron.

    Then two years ago on a blustery Autumn Day, Sloan's life turned to ashes.  It was a routine training exercise.  It was just practice, for Pete's sake!  Jack had been irritable and argumentative for the past several days.  Then he got his ass handed to him by the much smaller Dancer in a hand to hand exercise which he didn't take very well.  In their next field exercise at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds something went horribly wrong.  

    Trying to show off for the Army, Gate opened several of his hell gates between the surface and the molten lava several miles directly below some tanks.  Nobody really understood how those gates worked, or even much about how the geology of that part of the East Coast was put together.  Sloan still didn't understand all the science involved.  Somehow he set off a volcano and an earthquake that was threatening to sink the Delmarva Peninsula.  Without hesitation, Sky Dancer had flown into the gate- something he'd on more than one occasion said gave him the creeps- and somehow held everything together.

    The American people had no problems seeing the actions of the new masked men on the news reels at the theaters, but they were't yet ready for fourteen year old kids to die in battle.  The team had been disbanded, and Sloan had buried too much of his heart at that memorial service.  He'd simply gone on with his life and when he turned eighteen and finished high school, he joined the army.

    He never got to join Strikeforce Liberty.  Instead the War Department felt it was a good idea to use his talents deeper in the war where he could take out his anger on the enemy.   So he'd been assigned to this special task force under the command of Colonel Garrett.  For his valor and actions in the line of duty he'd been mustanged to 2nd Lieutenant.  It didn't take long to make First Louie and then Captain.  While Strikeforce Liberty kept the Valhalla Squadron busy, he'd gone through the Germans in his own way like a hot knife through butter.

    That had led them to this place, one of Dachau's subcamps.  What had happened here turned his stomach.  Not so much what his mysterious visitor had done, but what the Nazis had done to the people here.   

    "Captain!" he heard one of the soldiers outside call.  

    Stepping out of the tent, he found several men struggling with a rather bedraggled looking German soldier.    He was tossing them around like rag dolls.  His skin was pasty white and there was the same glow about his eyes as his visitor last night did.

    As the German soldier grabbed and began to bite Private Finnegan on the neck, pretty much confirming his suspicions, Sloan had without thought leapt into the fray.  Grabbing the German by the back of the neck he began to squeeze.  It wasn't a flashy move, it wasn't flamboyant.  It was however very effective.  As his hand clamped down on the back of the vampire's neck, he pulled his fangs out of Finnegan's throat and screamed in pain.  "How's Finnegan, De-?"

    He watched as the sergeant leaned down and checked on the young private.  For several moments, De- Kelly searched for signs of life.  Finally, he looked up at Sloan and said, "He's dead Captain."

    "Do what you can for him," Sloan said.

    De- nodded to him and frantically tried to get the young soldier to respond. After several moments Sloan turned to the vampire that he was still holding off the ground.  Not for the first time he noted that most Germans were very short people.  "What are you going to do with him Captain?" Another soldier asked.  "We can't put him with the other prisoners."

    Sloan shook his head and reached up with his free hand to put his fingers under the chin of the vampire and felt for a pulse.  The German simply hung there limp, and cold.  Sloan briefly wondered if it was because of the pressure he was placing on his neck or if it was some kind of ruse.   "He's got no pulse. He's dead," he said grimly. That means we have to bury him."  Reaching down he grabbed one of the stakes that De- had already gathered and with a single thrust drove it through the vampire's chest.  

    "I want all the bodies of the German soldiers staked, decapitated and burned.  Collect all the ID papers you can find, and note on which bodies you found them.  If anyone asks, we're doing it to prevent a possible plague infection," he told De-.

    "Got it captain," De- replied.

    That one decision and the report he filed caught the attention of the War Department.  It meant that Sloan was able to continue his military career long past the war.  It actually lasted longer than his eventual marriage to Mandy did.

~*~
September 2006 Fort McClellan Anniston Alabama


 Jett Storm looked into the mirror and sighed.  He'd recovered most of the weight he'd lost from being in a coma for six weeks while his body fought off a highly mutated strain of the AGG virus.  That much was surprising to him, considering how little he ate these days.  He wasn't hungry, but he seemed to have plenty of energy and as he'd noted, even gained weight.  He also didn't sleep a whole lot either.  

    The doctors said it might be a side effect from whatever the AG gene was doing to him.  They said that only one other person had ever survived that  kind of exposure to an AG genesis event and that was Dancer, who had shown a very similar reaction to the gene.  As for his appearance, he couldn't really complain.  His coal black hair was longer than he usually liked it, but he really didn't feel like going and getting it cut.  The yellow discoloration in his eyes had finally cleared up, he didn't have that gaunt look anymore. 

    At six foot and lean hundred eighty pounds, he had to admit that he looked a bit more normal now.  What he couldn't understand was where all the muscle tone was coming from.  He hadn't picked up a skateboard in a months, and he sure as hell didn't lift weights.

    The last six months had been pure hell for him.  He'd come out of the closet to his dad, only to watch him die right before his eyes.  He'd been the only survivor from a terrorists attack on a restaurant, and had spent almost six weeks in a coma.  Now he was adjusting to life as a military brat.

    He'd gone from a pretty carefree life of skate boarding and private schools with his dad in San Francisco, to living in a podunk town in Eastern Alabama with his mom.  To say it was culture shock was to put it mildly.  Still, he was at least grateful for his mom.  In reality, until the day of the attack he never understood why his Mom and Dad had divorced.  It was clear that they still cared about each other and went out of their way to make sure he spent equal time with both of them.  He suspected that they even occasionally "hooked up" as they say on a regular basis.

    His dad had been a very successful avionics engineer who'd started his own company and built it into a multi-billion dollar empire.  His mom was a navy officer- not just any officer either. Now she was a fricking Admiral, and was in charge of a new military style parahuman team called Shadow Force.  But what he'd not known until the day his dad had died was that his father was an alien, a Meirrian researcher who'd been abandoned on Earth by the university for which he worked.  Evidently they cut his funding and didn't bother to send a ship to pick him up afterwards.

    His mom hadn't told the doctors that, but they both suspected that as the reason he'd survived when everyone else in that restaurant had died- his father literally melting like in a Spielburg movie right before his eyes.   Everyone else in the Air Lock, the restaurant where the virus had been released had died horribly.  Who would have ever guessed that a restaurant built out of an old bomb shelter would one day save the city.  When the old bomb shelter's sensors had detected a viral outbreak it had sealed the doors to keep it inside.

    Of course that meant that the government knew that he was now a parahuman. Jett suspected that the only reason he wasn't in a lab somewhere was because his mother had thrown a fit.  As it was, all of his doctors were military.  There was talk of putting him on his mom's team, but she and Commander Greenbough put the kebash on that idea pretty quick.  Mom said he was still a kid and she didn't want him public right now.

    Who could blame her though?  Things had only recently started to look up in the Transhuman War.  After the death of Doctor Green when UNIPACT Prime attacked the Pacifica School in San Medilla, California, the president had hunted down that forgotten academy team that had worked to put the oil fires out in the first Gulf War.  On July Fourth they came out of retirement, set a trap for UNIPACT Prime and brought them down rather effectively.  Then when it was over Challenger and Moonwind had surprised everyone by kissing on national television.  

    From that point on, with the Shift taken out of the picture, the UN teams were much more easily to deal with.  She had really been the lynch-pin upon which the team's success was based.  Still, his mom wanted him to keep the fact that he was now a parahuman on the DL.  Jett was cool with that. He was still dealing with being out of the closet- on a US Army base no less.

    Yeah, Don't Ask Don't Tell didn't apply to personnel's kids, but it could cause problems for the parent.  That is unless your mom was a flag officer.   Of course the idea of a Navy admiral operating a unit out of an Army base was bad enough. The fact that the team also included an Israeli Mossad colonel, and an MI-6 operative made things that much weirder.   But since they were operating under the auspices of the new International Alliance, people were willing to cut the whole operation some slack.

    As for Jett, he was just trying to adjust to being in a base school.  Things were very different at Fort McClellan Alabama from in San Francisco.    For one thing, he was trying to adjust to the differences in what made social status in a high school full of military kids.  He suddenly found himself very uncomfortable near the top of the food chain.

    He had some friends though, and he and Evan were sort of dancing around each other about being more than friends; and Tori, Sarah, and Keith had already started messing around.  It helped that all of his friends' were the kids of other officers working with his mom's team.  Evan was the son of the team's physician; Sarah was Colonel Bin Solis aka Azrael's daughter; Tori was the son of Captain Sanders, the team's technical engineer; and Keith was the son of Warrant Officer Tyler, the team's chief operations officer. 

    Things were definitely interesting for all of them.  Of course it had been almost two weeks since he'd spoken to any of his friends in anyway other than over the phone.  There was a nasty bug going around the school, and all four of them had come down with it.  Actually a LOT of the school had gotten sick with what they were calling the Peurto Rican Flu. It had gotten so bad that the base closed the school for two weeks.  His doctors and his mom had insisted that he stay away because they were afraid his immune system was still weak from his own bout with the AGG virus.

    After being out for two weeks, and none of his friends feeling like doing much, he was actually looking forward to school.  Granted it wasn't because of the school itself, but because of his friends.  He checked his clothes- the usual jeans and a black tee-shirt, and sneakers.  He decided that he was going to need a haircut soon.

    Heading out the door- his Mom had long since left for work, he slid behind the wheel of pride and joy, a new shiny black Mustang- and headed toward the school.  His Mom had gotten it for him last month for his sixteenth birthday and then had warned him that the MPs on base would ticket him for a single mile over the speed limit.  His friends warned him of it too, so he kept it at two miles under the limit just to be safe.  He could wait to test what she had.
   
    The trip to school was pretty uneventful.  He got a few nods from other teens, but for the most part, people left him alone.  He looked around hopefully, but didn't see any of his friends.  He'd gotten a text message from Evan saying he wanted to talk to Jett about something, but so far no sign of the cute blond.

    He quickly grabbed his books and headed toward morning study hall.  Passing through one of the more deserted corridors, he was suddenly grabbed and yanked off his feet into one of the classroom.  As he stumbled into the room, he reacted instinctively, absorbing much of the ambient heat around him.  "We need to talk," Sarah said standing with her arms crossed.

    "About what?" he asked.

    She nodded to where there was a field of black energy glowing around his hands and said, "About that."

    "And about these," Evan's voice said.  There was a rustling to his right and he looked over to see Evan, Tori, and Kieth standing there, with their arms crossed.  With a rustling sound, both Evan and Tori seemed to grow a pair of large wings that brushed the white drop-ceiling above them.  Tori's were black as night with only a hint of reflective blue along the veins of the feathers.  Evan's on the other hand were all metal, and glinted a deep copperish-gold in the harsh florescent lights.

    "That wasn't the Peurto Rican flu," Sarah said.  "At least not the strain we got."

    
    Jett looked at Sarah and asked, "How did you know..., about me I mean?"
    
    She grinned and said, "I'm not stupid.  Remember my dad is Mossad.  He taught me to notice what's going on around me."
    
    "The question is," Evan said.  "What are we going to do about it?"
 
    "So exactly what has happened?" Jett asked.  "And why did you guys wait until now to tell me?"
 
    "Because this is not the kind of thing you talk about over the phone.  In case you haven't realized it, Jett; there's a whole bunch of UN paras out there who want to kidnap and or kill us," Keith said.
 
    "Yeah, but Paraforce 1 took them down," Jett countered.
 
    "They don't call it UNIPACT Prime for nothing, Jett," Sarah said.  "Prime suggests that there are other teams waiting in the wings to pick up the slack.  We have to be very careful about how we handle this."
 
    "What's there to handle?" Jett asked.
 
    "How we're going to help out our parents without them knowing about it," Tori said.
 
    Sarah shook her head and said, "I've told you, that's not going to happen.  As much as we'd like to believe differently, parents aren't stupid.  It won't take my dad long to figure it out.  Plus the first time we run into Runeclaw or Avalon both of whom work with my dad, the jig would be up."
 
    "What do you mean?" Jett asked.  "Besides what kind of help are you talking about?"
 
    "I mean putting on some spandex and going out there and kicking some UN butt," Keith said.
 
    Jett looked over at Evan and asked, "You think this is a good idea too?"
 
    The blond boy nodded and said, "I think it would be fun."
 
    "Fun?" Jett asked.  "I already lost my Dad.  You guys saw what happened to those kids in California.  Now Liberty's Legacy has gone missing from England, and Homeguard has disbanded.  These people play for keeps guys. This isn't fun.  People can and do die at it."
 
    "I'm glad you appreciate that, Jett," Sarah said.  "That's why we need you.  You've got a good head on your shoulders and keep us grounded."
 
    Jett shook his head and said, "I can't believe what I'm hearing here. You actually want us to go out there and fight the UN thugs?"
 
    "If not us, then who?" Sarah put her hands on her hips and asked.
 
    "That's what this new team, Shadow Force is supposed to do.  Think about it, it's got Runeclaw, Avalon, and Azrael. Can you think of anybody that would want to mess with them?" Jett asked.
 
    "No, but there are exactly two teams left in the US to fight the UN- that's Paraforce 1 and Shadow Force.  Somebody's got to pick up the slack," Keith said.  "That's us."
 
    Jett crossed his arms and asked, "Okay, exactly what can you do?  I mean if we're going to go fight the bad guys, then how effective do you think we can be?"
 
    Sarah smiled at him and asked, "I'm a fair hand to hand combatant, probably the best of all five of us."  She walked over to the window and looked out at the clear October sky and said.  "Weather service calls for clear and warm today."  Suddenly a roiling black cloud began to grow in the distance.  In a matter of seconds a strong wind picked up outside and the single poplar tree standing on the other side of the parking lot bent double and then snapped.  Huge drops of rain began to pelt the windows.  She grimaced in embarassment and said, "Oops, a little too much there."
 
    "Okay, you can control the weather," Jett said. "Ever read the Mallorean
 
    She shook her head and said, "No."
 
    "I thought not," Jett replied. "Let's just hope Eddings wasn't prescient."  He turned to Evan and and asked.  "Nice wings?  Anything else?"
 
    "This," Evan said as his entire skin became the same metallic gold.  He held out his hand and Jett felt himself slowly rise off the ground as gravity ceased to have a hold on him.
 
    "Okay, I get the point," Jett told him.  "Now put me down."  He dropped to the ground much faster and harder than he rose.
 
    "And this," Evan said, as suddenly three foot flat blades of the same kid of metal suddenly popped from the back of each hand.
 
 
    Jett turned to Keith and asked, "You?"
 
    Suddenly the small brown haired boy grinned and became a being of pure shadow.  Small black lightning bolts began to dance aound him as he rose about two feet off the ground.  The shadowform said, "I can throw lightning bolts too, but I don't think that would be a good idea in here." The form shrugged and settled back to the ground and said, "And of course I can fly."
 
    Jett nodded starting to feel better about this idea. He still wasn't convinced but he was at least starting to think that maybe they had a point.  Turning to Tori he asked, "And you?  I mean besides having the whole black-winged Moonwind thing going?"
 
    She chuckled and said, "I can fire energy bolts that will punch a hole through a three foot oak tree."
 
    "Three foot tall, or around?" Jett asked with a smile.
 
    "Around, smart ass," she replied.
 
    Jett nodded and thought for a minute.  "You're right about one thing.  It won't take long for our parents to figure it out.  I think maybe we should talk to my mom."
 
    "What about you?" Evan asked. "What can you do?"
 
    Jett frowned.  There were times when he hated to consider what his powers were because they came at the cost of his father and twenty-two other people in that restaurant.  Sighing he said, "The Navy Docs think I got a similar energy absorbing and converting suite as Sky Dancer."
 
    Keith whistled lowly, "You mean what ever hits you just makes you stronger?"
 
    Jett nodded and said, "Something like that.  I can absorb and control both directed and ambient energy.  I can use it to make myself stronger, to fly, to create a force field, or convert it into several different types of lasers and such."
 
    "And you don't think you could use those powers to help keep the UN from kidnapping and killing other transhumans?" Sarah asked.
 
    "I think it has more to do with how he got those powers," Evan said softly.  Bless him. At least he understood how Jett felt about things.
 
    Sarah looked over at Evan in surprise and then seemed to realize that maybe she'd gone too far.  She too had lost a parent: her mother.  Jett knew that she understood how he felt, it was just sometimes her mouth got in front of her brain.  "Oh.  Sorry."
 
    "It' okay.  But like I said, I think we should talk to my mom," Jett told them.
 
    "When?" Evan asked.
 
    "How about right after school? We can all go over to her offices then," he replied.    


Riyadh, Saudi Arabia  UN Reeducation Camp
 
        Sarah Plainwalker had pushed for this mission.  She'd jumped at a chance to get some more payback against the UN. Yeah, she knew it was petty, and not very heroic, but she wasn't feeling very heroic.  Yeah, she knew the little triangle between her, Brandon, and her brother Seth was weird, but that couldn't be helped.  It wasn't like she was sleeping with her brother, she just shared a lover with him at one time- and none of them knew it.

    Still turning Block into a quadriplegic had left a bad taste in her mouth. Yeah, it had been Seth who'd taken their revenge on Stonewall for doing it, but she'd made sure he was able to do it.  What she hadn't really understood at the time though was how much he had invested in taking down the Chinese operative.  It wasn't until the very end of the fight that she'd realized just how much he'd been focused on eliminating the huge stone-skinned transhuman.  If any of UNIPACT Prime had realized it, or had taken the shot, they probably could have killed Moonwind without too much difficulty.  It was a testament to the whole team that they'd been able to keep them occupied.

    Add in the situation with UNIPACT Prime killing all those kids, the teachers, and even Doctor Green at their old school, and Sarah wasn't, as some jackass singer had said, "ready to make nice yet".  When Challenger was approached with the idea of joining Shadow Force on a joint mission to rescue captured American transhumans at the Riyadh facility in Saudi Arabia, she'd pressured him to accept it- especially since they'd all been here before.

    The place had been improved upon considerably since they were last here.  And it looked like the UN had done a pretty good job of cleaning up and repairing the damage Dustin had caused as Challenger when he flew an old Vietnam era Huey into the base.   That had been the distraction so they could penetrate into the base's labs to rescue Moonwind, Edge, and Morn.

    Of course they were also defended by several delta class- no she had to stop thinking in terms of the old classification system- that is class ten transhuman defenders on top of a company of experimental UN powered armor.  She was going to have a long talk with the American company building them.


    The initial insertion had been a lot smoother than she'd expected.  They'd flown in on a Storm Surge troop transport- not carrying any troops, but making sure that there would be room to get the hostages out.  Of course her brother would be able to help with that too. The ability to shrink people and things would go a long way if there were more hostages than they believed.

    At the moment however, she and Seth- both in full Feral and Moonwind costumes- were working their way toward the medical labs.  Both Azrael of Shadow Force and Challenger had agreed that Seth was the best person to analyze the situation and advise the team on the best method of extraction.  She could hear the sounds of fighting in the distance.  She knew that Runeclaw and Challenger were probably going through armored troops like a hot knife through butter. 

     Every now and again, she'd hear Runeclaw or Azrael's voice ask, "Coerced or cooperative?"  If Avalon's reply was "cooperative", it was usually followed by the sound of gunfire, or a blade sliding through flesh. That made her shudder.  She had a reputation for raw berserker violence, but these guys were cold blooded about their killing.

    So far, the resistance had not been what she was expecting.  It wasn't quite minimal, but it was far less than she would have put into place to guard such a facility.  It was as if the UN had not considered the idea of anyone mounting a rescue effort.  Well she couldn't really blame them, after all, one previous president had let American hostages sit in Terhan for over a year when she was a teenager.    

    As they made their way down the winding maze of corridors she was surprised to see just how effective her brother was with the bow he carried.  That bow had been designed to specifically handle his own levels of strength- fully capable of carrying a tank aloft.  It had been designed for one thing, to penetrate Stonewall's skin, which it did rather effectively when the time came.  Against the occasional armored soldier, it was devastating.  The arrows he was firing were solid polybdium steel, and were breaking the sound barrier as they left the bow.  The only thing that kept them from ripping his foes apart was the fact that much of of the kinetic force was simply blow through.

    She smelled them long before they rounded the corner.  Evidently the UN command and their solders didn't put the same value on personal hygiene that American soldiers did.  It was a nasty combination of old sweat, human waste, and couscous that came wafting around the corner. She picked up over half a dozen individual scents.  Yeah, having enhanced senses made it very difficult to surprise her, but there were times when what she smelled turned her stomach.  
   
    She put her arm out and literally caught her brother in the palm of her hand.  He must have sensed them too as he'd already gone into his "stealth mode" which meant he'd shrunk to six inches tall and deployed his black feathered wings.   His blond hair had turned coal black.  The irony of their situations was that when she was in human form, she looked entirely like the quintessential Native American woman.  But when she went to her feral form with ears, a tail, and retractable claws her hair and fur turned a golden blond.  In his normal walking around form, Seth was blond hair and blue eyed, but when he deployed is wings his hair turned black and his skin darkened.

    She whispered, "There are a bunch of them around the corner."

    The tiny raven haired head nodded in response to her as he leapt down from her hand, his wings fluttering him to the ground.  Drawing his bow he stepped around the concrete corner, and then dashed back to where she was waiting.  "I count eight of them, six are in combat armor; the other two look like transhumans."

    "So what do we do?" she asked.

    "Take out the transhumans first," Moonwind said.  "I doubt they're above class tens."

    "How do you propose we do that?" she asked. "It's not like either of us have any area affect powers."
   
    He grinned and she wondered if he was becoming a little too bloodthirsty.  "Let me hit the paras from a distance and then we both close for hand to hand."

    "You hate hand to hand," she said.

    "Yeah, but it will get us inside that lab," he said.
   
    She nodded to him and said, "Let's do it."

    He nodded and flashed around the corner again.  She heard the bow twang once, and then a small sonic boom as the arrow broached the sound barrier.  Suddenly a flash of heat and fire filled the upper half of the corridor.   Feral watched as he very paint on the walls peeled and blackened under the intense heat.   When it ended, there was another twang, that told Sarah she didn't have to smell burnt feathers.

    Looking around the corner, Feral saw three UN armored soldier writhing on the ground as they slowly burned to death.  Behind them were the collapsed forms the two parahumans, both with neat holes in their brain cases.  Behind them were two more dead soldiers- it looked like Seth's arrows had passed through the two parahumans and into the soldiers.  A single blue helmeted soldier in combat armor stood looking at his weapon and then up at Moonwind.  There was fear in his eyes.  He threw down his weapon and ran back up the corridor.

    "You're tuning vicious on me, Moonwind," she said.

    He shrugged and said, "I'm just dealing with an unpleasant situation.  The UN has had a substantial bounty on my head for the past several years.  They don't want me sharing my technology with the US so they're willing to kill me first.  I'm just killing them before they can kill me."

    She shook her head and said, "You and I are going to have long talk when this is over."

    The two moved quickly down the corridor and peeked through the diamond shaped window in the door.  Sarah saw red haired girl of about fourteen or fifteen, stripped naked, on an examining table.  Her feet were in a set of stirrups and the doctor seemed to be probing for something inside her body.  Two guards were standing on either side of the table leering at the girl.  “That’s disgusting,” Seth said shaking his head.

    “What are they doing?” Sarah asked.

    “Officially, the exam is to determine if the girl is of proper “breeding age”.  In reality it’s to check if her hymen is intact.  She’s worth more to certain Arabic backers that way,” he told his sister.

    Behind him, Sarah growled and leaped over him and through the door.  With a crash, she came down on top of the door as the men drew their weapons to fire at her.   Seth was always amazed at the sheer beauty of watching his twin in a fight. She was a field of destruction that destroyed anything that got into range of her claws and teeth.

    The guns the men were carrying barked twice before they were silenced never to sound again.  Both guards were dead in a pool of their own blood before the doctor even knew what was happening.  Then she grabbed him, lifting him off the floor with one hand.  “Give me a single reason not to shove one of those guns up your ass and empty the clip?”

    “Let go of me! I will not be handled this way by a woman!” the doctor demanded.  That was exactly the wrong thing to say to Feral. Dustin had told Seth that when Moonwind had been catured by the UN, Feral had casually threatened to castrate a Saudi Prince who knew where he was being held.  She got the information in short order.  

    In this case, she simply slammed the man around into a steel support beam, breaking his back, his neck and several other bones.  She dropped his dying form to the ground saying, “You’re services are no longer required.”  Turning to the girl on the table, her demeanor flowed from fury to concern.  Looking down into a small pan, her head snapped back to look at Seth and she said, “Moonwind, come look at this.”

    Seth entered the room to look into the tray.  To his surprise he saw a small stylized hammer hanging from a chain.  “I think Runeclaw would be interested in this.”

    Before he could reply, the temperature in the room suddenly dropped and the girl rose into the air.  Seth was startled to see her long auburn hair begin to whiten at the tips, as her hospital gown fell to cover her.  She wobbled in the air for second and then Seth felt a pressure on his mind, “Who are you?  Where am I.  Where is my family?” she demanded.

    Seth hit his com unit and said, “Runeclaw, you or Avalon get to the medical wing- now.”  He could feel the cold fire begin to dance around him as the girl’s mind pushed him and Sarah back.  

    “We’re friends,” Feral said beside him.  “We’re here to rescue you.”

    “Where am I?” she demanded again.

    “In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at a UN reeducation facility.  We came here to rescue you.”

    “Where’s my family?  What happened to the kindred?” she demanded.

    “I don’t know,” Seth told her, trying to calm her.  She was obviously frightened and he got the feeling this may be an eruption event for her- the first time her powers manifested themselves.  “What’s your name?  Where are you from?”

    “Aerin Snowdottir.  I was living in Kentucky with my aunt and cousin,” she said.

    Seth and Sarah looked at each other.  There had been a UN raid on a small community in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky along the Ohio River a few days ago.  They’d left no survivors.  

    “Oh no!” the girl said, as if she was picking the thoughts out of his head.  “NO!” she screamed again.  

    Suddenly the whole building began to shudder and ceiling tiles began to drop as ice formed along the floor and walls.   “Calm down, Miss,” Moonwind put on his best commanding tone.  “We’re here to resucue you and the others captured.  If you destroy the place before we can do that, you’ll put a whole lot of other people at jeapordy.”

    Lightning crashing into the room cut off any reply that the girl might have had and broke her concentration.  As the energy burned a series of Norse runes into the tiled floor and the form of Runeclaw took shape in the lightning the shaking of the building stopped and the ice ceased to grow.  As the last vestiges of it danced away into oblivion, the most famous magecat in history stepped forward and asked, “What’s the sitrep?”

    “She’s one of yours, and she’s erupting,” Feral said with a smile.  “And she’s powerful.”

    “One of mine?” Runeclaw asked.

    “She wears the hammer,” Seth told him.

    That seemed to be all the man needed.  He turned to look at the girl, raised a hand and said, “Heilsa, vinr.”

    She turned and looked at him, “Vinr?”

    “Friend?” Runeclaw said turning on the charm.  And although Seth was in a committed relationship he recognized just how much charm it really was.  The man was awesome to behold.

    “My friends are dead,” the girl said nearly to tears.  “My family is dead.  The UN killed them when they attacked my kindred.”

    “What kindred?” Runeclaw asked.

    “Mountain Hearth,” the girl replied.

    “I’ve heard of it,” Runeclaw said.  “Your gothi and warder was Gareth Jarlson.  He was an Odinsman, a good man.  I grieve with you.”

    That was all it seemed to take; an affirmation of what she’d lost.  She collapsed onto herself in tears and crashed to the ground.  In a swift movement that belied his size, Runeclaw dashed forward and caught her.  “You’re not going to believe what we found,” he said.

    “What?” Sarah asked.

    “Their breeding program was pretty specific.  Now I know why they were so hesitant to call for your murder,” the magecat said to Seth as he stroked the girl’s hair.  “They have a whole nursery full of winged transhumans.”

    “What?” Seth asked.

    “Looks like they were trying to breed angels,” Runeclaw said.  “Come on, we’ve got to get everyone out of here before reinforcements show up.”

    Seth and Sarah followed the big magecat as he effortlessly carried the young girl toward the transport.  What Seth saw there was unbelievable.  Half a hundred of transhumans in various stages of dress and health were standing in the Storm Surge.  Over half of them had wings on their back and two thirds of them were children ranging from infants to toddlers.  It looked like convention of cherubums.

    “What in the name of God is that all about?” Seth asked.

    “Not sure, but we’re getting out here,” Azrael shouted from up ahead.  We’ve got several flights of Migs closing and I don’t want to be caught on the ground.”  Slowly the door to the transport closed and Seth felt the engines of the aircraft begin to cycle.  

    “Do we need air support?” he asked.

    “This jet?” Azrael asked in humorous contempt.  “Not likely.”  


   

   
   


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