This post was updated on .
==Settings (In Order- location shifts and stops are made in between)==
“…Judge not what a man has done, but judge what he could have done if he was a different bloke altogether. For art thou a leper? And a leper can changeth his spots…” --Rudy Wade, Misfits (Series 4, Episode 8)
This post was updated on .
In the outskirts of a desert town near Odessa......
A man looking like the hero of a spaghetti western entered the El Dia Saloon. El Dia was supposed to be a replica of an old style saloon. However remarkably, the whole concept was limited to one sign outside the door. The place had modern taps and plumbing and even had a real refrigerator in every room. So it was actually very awkward to see the figure of Archer Flegn enter. Not one to stand and attract attention, Archer immediately entered the bar and everyone returned to what they were doing. As Archer looked around he immediately found who he had been looking for: an old scarred white male that matched the description set.
“Hello, Mr. Brown, I’ve been looking for you.”
“ Would you like to settle this nicely outside or do I have to do this the hard way?”
Archer’s target, Mr. Brown’s first response was, “What the ****? Who are you?”
Archer replied, “I’m the Grim Reaper and its your day to die”
“100 dollars to everyone who sides with me” said Mr. Brown.
Countless guns were taken out and pointed at Flegn from the various patrons of the bar. This included many multihanded wielders.
“It seems that you are outnumbered,” said Mr. Brown arrogantly after hiding behind one of his new “friends”
“Not a problem,” said Flegn.
Before anyone could blink, Flegn fired an angled bullet and it hit the man dead on in the head-a near perfect shot.
The crowd stood amazed.
“I don’t have 100 dollars to give you, but I can guarantee a bullet in the heads of anyone that wants to kill me.”
The crowd slowly moved back frightened by the skill of the gunman.
“Just kidding, I’m filthy rich once I claim the bounty. Drinks are on me.”
And with that the men in the saloon cheered and went back to what they were doing and Mr. Brown still lay dead on the floor. While Flegn started with the first beer he had in a while, a gold toothed man in a robe sat next to him.
“Your skills are good, boy but don’t you find it being wasted on 2 bit targets like Mr. Brown." Archer finished his beer.
“What are you trying to say? Do you want to hire me? I have to warn you though my price is high.” The man tossed a distinctly gold coin in front of Archer.
“24 karats and this is just the tip of the iceberg”
“I’m listening,” said Archer, a little interested. He had lied about being filthy rich and he needed some cash fast.
The man sat forward. He was large and portly--something strange in this brave new world--and he had a grizzled and gray beard. His hat and his jacket were tattered and weatherworn, but there was a spark in his eye and a strength in his thick fingers that made Archer Flegn think twice about letting down his guard.
"It doesn't really matter who I represent," he began.
Archer grunted, but he had already pegged the man as an outsider. His skin was too pale, the gold tooth showed inflammation from where it had recently been implanted, and the hat he was wearing had been out of style in these parts for about half a year. Not to mention a smell like clamoring fruit wafted from his breath. Flegn scoffed--a diabetic this far away from civilization was a Pixie stick away from shuffling off the mortal coil.
The Diabetic continued. "There are some men coming this way from Santa Fe. I want you to take care of two in particular." His hairy hand delved into his vest pocket and emerged with a torn photograph. Archer took it and examined the man.
Flegn's mismatched eyes swept over the visage like a speed-reader, soaking up details. He was tall-ish, with silver hair--not old at all, however. Skinny man, but with enough muscle on his frame to make him agile. Had a few tattoos, which would make him faster to definitely ID. What got Archer, though, were his red irises. If he didn't hide those, he might as well have a target on his back.
A ghoulishly white palm broke into his thought process. "Capture that one, but don't kill him. If he dies, then his bounty is forfeit," the Diabetic rasped.
Archer narrowed his own eyes behind his sunglasses. "Fair enough. What about the other target?"
"The other target, we don't want you to meet. Don't come into contact with him. That being said, we will make you very wealthy if you comply." A second photo fluttered over the table.
Archer Flegn was struck by confusion and forboding. It was Wayne Cobane.
He whipped off his sunglasses and stared at the Diabetic with his red and green eyes. He watched the man shudder subconsciously as he asked, "What kind of game are you playing at?"
The Diabetic stood. "The kind of game where you become a rich man."
Archer spat. "Fine."
He watched the man leave, waited a moment, and then stood up to follow him. He got out of El Dia and saw the edges of a tattered cloak slip around a corner. Archer slipped up to the edge and drew his revolver. On the handle, the letters W.C. were scratchily engraved.
"I commissioned him. I think he'll do what we asked," he heard the Diabetic intone.
"Good," a voice snarled. Archer jumped a bit. It rasped like a tumbler full of stones, popped like a snare drum, rattled like a propeller. Whoever was behind that was someone he wouldn't want to meet late at night; he couldn't even tell if it was male or female.
The Diabetic added (with a bit of a tremor), "What if he meets Wayne anyway? They do have history."
"Not a problem. I'll kill Wayne in his sleep if they meet up. I've been itching for an excuse to murder that bastard. After all, we have history, too."
The chills hadn't stopped running up and down his spine when the voice broke in again with the force of an army boot.
"You hear something?" Footsteps crunched down the alley to his position.
Archer dove back inside the bar and contemplated his next move.
Hiding behind the wall on the inside of the bar, Archer heard the gravelly, gender-neutral voice say, “No, never mind. It doesn’t look like there’s anybody over here.”
Glad to have avoided a confrontation with the mysterious person, Archer relaxed. He leaned away from the wall and holstered his revolver, thinking that he would wait a little while, maybe get another drink, and then leave.
“Ha!” He had let his guard down too soon. Spinning on the balls of his feet, Archer drew the revolver again. His almost supernatural quick-draw ability meant that he already had the gun out and raised before he was even fully turned around, but for the first time in Archer’s life this was a bad thing. He was greeted by a solid fist to the cheekbone, forcing him to stumble back and fall. The revolver flew from his hand, only to be deftly caught by his assailant.
Lying on the floor in front of the El Dia’s saloon doors, Archer glared at his attacker. It was a young woman, whose face certainly did not match her grating voice. Between the chocolaty eyes, the reddish-brown hair, and the gratuitous figure, Archer figured that the only unattractive thing about her appearance was the two guns pointed directly at his head.
Jolyne smiled. “Sorry about that, Flegn. I couldn’t just have you listening to our conversation and let you get away unpunished. So I’ll tell you your choices. You either swear on your honor that you’ll do as we say, or I’ll shoot you. Repeatedly.”
Archer gave her a look of pure malice. “You want my word?” He asked. “Did it ever occur to you that I would rather break my promises to you then betray my best friend?”
Jolyne shook her head slowly, keeping her eyes firmly on Archer the whole time, which admittedly went a long way towards ruining the effect. “Flegn, I know assassins. Most people on the street wouldn’t guess it, but you’re men of your words. That’s what separates you from simple murderers and guns-for-hire; nobody would consider paying them half up front.”
Archer scowled. She was right. “I’ll make you a deal, woman. I’ll capture the first man, the tattooed one for you; I don’t care about him. And sure, I’ll steer clear of Wayne too. But if any harm comes to him, I’m coming after you.”
“It’s admirable how you stood up for your friend, Flegn,” Jolyne said in what would have been a purr if she had a normal feminine voice. “But Wayne Cobane is the one I really care about. So here’s your final offer: either make the right decision, or you’ll never make any decisions again.”
Archer glared at her with an expression of sheer hatred that crossed his face like a thunderstorm, only to be replaced by a confident smile. “I made the right choice a long time ago,” he said, and rolled beneath the bar’s Western-style saloon doors.
Jolyne swore, letting off two shots that were far too late to hit Archer. She quickly teleported outside the El Dia, only to see that Archer was already on his feet and running. He barreled down the alley, knocking the diabetic out of his way with Jolyne right behind him.
Jolyne was trying to aim both revolvers while running, a nearly impossible task. She let off two shots, each one veering through the walls on either side of the street.
The two of them raced in a bloodthirsty procession around Odessa. At one point Archer broke out of the backstreets into the main roads of the town, attempting to use the crowd as cover. The seemingly heartless Jolyne only continued to fire into the crowd, however, so after several passersby were wounded he returned to his initial strategy of bolting through dark alleys, never staying in one straightaway long enough for her to accurately aim both her weapons.
Eventually the hunt in the streets came to an abrupt end. Archer flew into another alley, only to find himself face-to-proverbial-face with a brick wall. It was a dead end, and Archer was suddenly struck by the coincidental relationship between that and what was bound to happen for him next.
Thinking quick, Archer assessed the situation. Full-size, two story buildings on three sides, leaving him in a peninsula of concrete road. There were no windows on the first floors. The two structures to his left and right were wooden, the one behind him made of irregularly laid bricks. The building to his right had a fire escape, but it was raised about fifteen feet off the ground. Not helpful. There was inappropriate graffiti scrawled all over the street, a trash barrel in the corner. Nothing he could use.
Jolyne came around the corner after him, sweating like a dog, hair messed up, face contorted in fury. She smiled an insane, demonic grin when she registered Archer's plight. Knuckles white with tension contrasted with strained, reddened skin as she raised the revolvers to shoulder level, sighting directly down the barrels at the hapless assassin. She pulled both triggers.
Automatically, Archer entered Enhanced Reaction Time. The bullets coming at him seemed to spiral through the air at the speed of a flood of molasses, leaving tiny trails like those of a jet behind them. He ducked and twisted to avoid the first shot streaming towards his chest and leaped above the second, grabbing on to one of the many protruding bricks in the wall behind him. Dangling from the wall now, Archer watched the two projectiles crash through the bricks, sending up puffs of dust.
Suddenly he was struck with an idea. Finding a foothold on the uneven wall, Archer reached above his head and began to climb. From below, he heard Jolyne growl at him. “You’re not getting away, Flegn. I’m gonna shoot you down right now. Right. Now.”
Archer grimaced as Jolyne let off two more synchronized blasts. Here goes nothing… Pushing off from his perch on the brick wall, he sent himself flying high. Spinning in midair, Archer landed perfectly on the raised fire escape and hit the metal deck running.
“DAMN IT!” Jolyne screamed, contorting her pretty looks into something resembling what Jack’s mother probably looked like when she got angry. If that goddamned Wayne Cobane hadn’t stolen her photon gun, Flegn would be long since dead, she was sure of it! But there was still time to finish the deed; her quarry hadn’t gotten away just yet.
Teleporting onto the fire escape behind Archer, Jolyne fired again. A single bullet this time soared through the air, about to intercept Archer straight in his path. He did a spontaneous flip, the shot zooming straight past him mid-rotation, and smashed feet first through a window into the building.
It seemed to be some sort of abandoned warehouse. Running through its myriad rooms and passages, it seemed to Archer be a veritable labyrinth. He stumbled across a staircase, rocketing down it to the first floor.
This level was nothing like the one above. It was a single huge, empty, open space dotted with support columns for the floor above. From up there, Archer could hear through the floorboards Jolyne’s running footsteps, random gunshots, and screams of anger: “I’m going to kill you, Flegn! I’m going to ****ing murder you! You’re a dead man!”
He chuckled to himself. The poor woman seemed to be growing more and more insane by the minute. It was time to get down to business, before she found her way down and made good on her promise. Archer drew out one of the most powerful weapons in his arsenal, a deadly submachine gun. He didn’t use it often, preferring the smaller feel, precise shots, and deadly poeticism of the pistol, but he certainly knew how to use the baby.
Propping the butt of the gun against his shoulder, Archer looked down the sights, aiming at the floor above. He followed Jolyne’s footsteps with the barrel, waiting for the perfect moment. It came quickly.
Just as Jolyne moved over one of the supporting columns, Archer opened fire at the point where it met the ceiling. Tearing through the clip in seconds, Archer’s hail of bullets shredded the wooden pillar. With the satisfying sounds of crunching and snapping lumber, a section of the ceiling collapsed taking the stunned Jolyne with it.
Re-holstering the SMG and striding to where Jolyne laid on a heap of demolished wood boards, Archer ripped one of the revolvers out of her hands. He examined it until he saw the faded initials W.C. carved into the handle. Jolyne was still too dazed to move, but she wasn’t completely out of it. Placing a foot on her chest, Archer pointed the newly reacquired gun at her forehead. “Trust me when I say this, woman,” Archer growled. “Wayne Cobane and that other guy are going to be hearing all about this.”
He strode away confidently, pausing as he opened the door to the exit. Looking back in Jolyne’s direction, Archer Flegn tipped his hat to her. “And that’s what you get when you mess with the Saint of Guns.”
All hail the king of dunces! You best hold on, I'm opening up my mouth.
This post was updated on .
==Back in Santa Fe==
The last of the Santa Fe Resistance were now packing up what few belongings they'd maintained through the chaos of deposing the Emo King, and preparing to head elsewhere; now that they'd paid their respects to their fearless leader Tamara, some were going to head to Odessa, and some beyond. As the former residents of Santa Fe all got their bearings, Ivan, Jack, Pierce, Flores, Nadia, Tessa, Wayne and Damien had congregated around the steps of the cathedral built in Tamara's honor (by a few very gracious geokinetics).
"I feel almost like we're missing something..." Jack mused to himself.
"Yeah, like we should be doin' somethin'...or tellin' everybody somethin'." Ivan scratched his head, the gears of his mind rustily clanking as he contemplated his hardest.
The thought quickly jumped to Tessa's mind.
"The Stone!" she blurted, catching the attention of the various supers. At the mention of some stone, a great deal of them immediately thought of the Evolutionist's Stone, making them turn around with more than just a little intrigue. The supers all stopped getting ready to leave and turned to face the blonde telepath, giving Jack little time to get together his stately bearing. He quickly shifted to a serious and leaderly demeanor and his entourage arranged themselves heroically around him.
"My fellow superhumans...I must apologize. A matter of grave importance had escaped my mind when we arrived here in Santa Fe." More and more people, human and superhuman, gathered to hear what the half-demon had to say, "You see, when we first arrived here, we had a simple mission: to spread word about a great discovery that I and my like had found back in Arizona a time ago."
He pulled the stone from his jacket pocket and let the crowd stare at the unamazing rock momentarily, before putting it back away.
"That is what many of you know as...the Evolutionist's Stone. And with it, we plan on taking down the rest of the Overlords and Overladies, with your help."
The crowd murmured doubtfully, and looked at Ryder with suspicion. Finally, a skeptical male precog spoke up.
"If that's the real Stone, and YOU had it this whole time, why didn't you use it to get rid of the Overlord?!" the precog's skepticism got the crowd murmuring again, and grumbling in disbelief. Jack thought quick to remedy this.
"Well, you see, friend, we had to protect it from the overlord at all costs. What do you think Trelaine would have done with that kind of power? Some say it can not only heighten a super's power, but also bestow powers on regular humans. Do you want that?" The precog fell silent, and looked to either side of him, before looking back to Jack again.
"Well, uh," the precog started again, "if that IS the stone, and I'm not saying that it's NOT, but if it IS...then give us a little demonstration." The others around him agreed and looked to Jack expectantly.
Ryder thought to himself, what to do? It had to be something that was quick and seemed otherwise impossible for him and his allies to do. The thought now coming to mind, he held out the stone and asked Tessa and Nadia to put their hands on it. They did as he asked, and the spectacle began. The blond telepath was the first to receive the surge of power; her mind left her body, and manifested as an astral form, to the amazement of the crowd. The ghostly projection floated over the supers, looked down at them and then swooped down just in front of the precog that had questioned Jack Ryder. The apparition then vainshed with a 'poof' sound, and Tessa stood back up, a bit bewildered. Her spirit had returned to her.
Then it was time for Nadia to get a jolt from 'the stone'.
Jack looked over to Nadia, and the thermokinetic closed her eyes, concentrating on the coldest thing she could imagine. Her last boyfriend's heart? No, not quite cold enough. New York snowstorm? No, that was more wind than cold. Arctic tundra? Ah, yes, that would have to do...
In a second, Nadia's skin went deathly cold, and the crowd could feel the temperarture drop. Her skin was now harmlessly covered in patches of frost (something that would have frostbitten the hell out of anyone else) and cold air roiled off her skin, visibly surrounding her like a bride's veil. Her comrades shivered hatefully and wished for her demonstration to quickly be over. But it had yet to reach the finale.
Her power went one step further, now that she had the juice. The air grew slightly more hateful, nipping spitefully even at the more durable supers, and the sky was dyed a grim and morbid gray.
One of them with a particularly keen eye looked up and pointed in amazement, "Look! It's SNOWING! IN SANTA FE!"
And sure enough, the sky was pouring forth snowflakes. The crowd looked in amazement at Jack and his crew. Through their bitterly-bitten lack of internal body heat, the crowd erupted into a roar of thunderous applause (their breath all clearly visible). Nadia let go of the stone, and Jack pocketed it again. The crowd was about to move forward to get a closer look at the stone for themselves, but Ivan, Flores and Pierce stepped forward menacingly.
"What, we can't see the Stone for ourselves?" the precog demanded, adamantly.
"Nope. That ain't what we-all showed you the stone for..." Ivan retorted.
"That's right," Jack called out to the crowding supers, "We came here only to give you our message. And to ask that you pass the message on to others. WE'LL handle the use of the stone; trust us, we know what we're doing."
The group backed off and he called out to them one final time.
"DO WE HAVE YOUR SUPPORT?!?"
A roar of excited agreement and applause.
"ARE YOU WITH US?!?"
More of the same.
"WILL WE TAKE THEM DOWN?!?"
The crowd was eating up Jack's ambition, and he was loving their praise.
"GOOD! ALL I HAVE TO SAY NOW IS, YOURE THE BEST!" Jack raised a hand to say goodbye, and Ivan and Pierce caught him as he let himself slump dramatically. They escorted him down the stairs and through the roaring, screaming, cheering crowd like a rockstar after his best concert ever. He made his way to the limousine that some of the supers had hijacked after the hostile takeover of Trelaine Manor, and climbed inside, followed by his entourage. Ace was getting better and better at acting important.
And from there, it would be a fairly quick ride to the train station and from there, Odessa, Texas.
“…Judge not what a man has done, but judge what he could have done if he was a different bloke altogether. For art thou a leper? And a leper can changeth his spots…” --Rudy Wade, Misfits (Series 4, Episode 8)
Jolyne just woke up from getting pummeled by Archer. Clearly Archer was the superior of the two when it came to head-on fighting.
“I see you’ve gone and failed again Jolyne.,” said a deep voice belonging to a man whose face was hidden in the
“ It’s almost as if you wanted to fail. With the rate you’re going, I might have to bring you in for conspirating with *transforms into a person similar looking to Jolyne*”
“So Jolyne, have you heard from me?” said the shapeshifter in a sarcastic voice.
Jolyne suddenly got the urge to want to kill her savior.
“ If I were given the chance, I would have left you for dead, but it seems that you still are useful to us. Don’t worry, I have a way to fix your failure. It’s very simple really, all we have to do is kill Wayne Cobane and put the blame on Jack”
*transforms into a teenager wearing black*
The shapeshifter bent down next to Jolyne.
“Oh, I know about your relationship with Wayne. Don’t worry, I can be Wayne for you”
*transforms into Wayne*
“Ansel!!!!!!”, yelled Jolyne
At this point Jolyne leapt at the man, but the shapeshifter instantly changed into a smaller more muscular form and caught Jolyne and slammed her on the ground.
“Now, listen up. Out intelligence network has just discovered that Jack and Co are planning to make an army and transporting them by train. But we can’t have that, can we? Your job is simple. Teleport me on that train then derail it in the middle of the desert. While the group is after you, I'll take care of Wayne"
*transforms back to teenage form*
Ansel bent down next to Jolyne’s face which was full of grime from the floor
“You got that, Action Barbie,”
Jolyne spit at Ansel’s face.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” said Ansel as he wiped the spit off.
The Diabetic walked in.
"What do I do?", said the Diabetic who was still recovering from being knocked over.
"Just don't get in the way.," yelled both Jolyne and Ansel who were both surprised that they had something they agreed on.
==On the Way to the Train Station==
Jack's limo pulled off into the dusky road and headed for the train station.
"Y'know, Jack, I could get used to this kinda treatment..." Pierce reclined in his chair with a smile, hands behind his head, and Tessa laying across his chest.
"Me too," Ivan stretched, reaching for one of the sodas provided in the limo's built-in cooler, "Gotta love rockstar treatment..."
Fitz reached forward, "Don't ya need t'know where we're headed, Mr., uh, Limo Driver guy?"
"Nah, they told me ahead of time, you're headed for the train station."
Fitz shut up, and looked around the limo's cab. Realizing he had no more idle conversation in mind to discuss, he looked back behind the limo and watched the dust it kicked up. He decided it was best to leave conversation to the people who WEREN'T socially awkward...
In about thirty minutes, the limo pulled up to the train station.
"Here we are..." the limo driver called back to Jack and company. Nadia pushed Fitz to wake him up, and then the gang filed out of the limo to the Train Platform.
“…Judge not what a man has done, but judge what he could have done if he was a different bloke altogether. For art thou a leper? And a leper can changeth his spots…” --Rudy Wade, Misfits (Series 4, Episode 8)
The train car was plush and quiet. It would take them to Odessa proper, and when Jack looked out the window he could see the desert that had been his stomping grounds for so long slowly turn into scrub brush, and the scrub brush turn into greener and greener landscapes.
Wayne was sitting next to him, reading the United Train Times. It was onionskin and kind of yellowed--but it was the first sign of any kind of press he'd seen in the New West.
A beautiful attendant came up to him and tapped him on his suit jacket shoulder. He made a noise like 'ah, excuse me', and gave her his ticket. She looked at it and then said, "Sir, there's a problem with your ticket."
Wayne's eyebrows shot up. "Beg pardon?"
She flashed him a brilliant smile. Her eyes were beautifully blue. "Look, I'm sorry. But it doesn't look kosher." She gestured toward the next cabin. "There's a roster through the next car, if you want to double-check. Otherwise you'll need to pay for another ticket."
Ivan looked up from his nap. "You want me to spot you some quid, mate?"
Wayne waved the offer off and followed her into the next car. It was a luggage car, and suitcases and steamers were stacked on top of each other and bound down by straps. The light diffused in the dusty air, lending a sepia light to the scene. The attendant stopped and Wayne stopped behind her, ready to follow her to wherever this roster was.
She whirled around and smacked him with unnatural force. He flew into a stack of suitcases and laid there, stunned and surprised. This was not going to be good.
She leapt for him, skin peeling back from her hand to reveal a blade made of bone in midair. Wayne whirled out of the way and her handknife punched through the tough leather footlocker he'd been laying on like it was nothing. He fumbled for his gun instinctively before he remembered--he'd had his weapons taken from him. By this false stewardess, no less.
He stood and spread his hands. "I at least give my targets a reason before I finish the job. Whatever happened to common courtesy, sweetheart?"
Her lips spread wide to reveal her white-toothed smile--too wide, too many teeth. "Oh Wayne, sweetheart? You're dating yourself. In this day and age, you have to be really sure you're talking to someone you want to call sweetheart." She stood straight and her features rippled like boiling mud. The figure that emerged from the shift was skinnier, paler, and considerably more male. He wore a suit identical to Wayne, though he looked about 20 years younger.
Wayne winced. "You got me good, son. Nevertheless, I feel as though it's time to explain yourself."
He (she? it?) seemed to mull it over for a moment, then cried, "Nah!", grabbed a huge crate, and hurled it at the assassin.
Wayne caught it and staggered a bit; whatever this was, it was stronger than it looked. He turned and hurled the crate back at the man, and it smashed open when it hit his lunging form. Clothes scattered everywhere, but this wasn't substantial enough to stop the man's unnaturally dense frame. They collided.
The fight got close and nasty. Wayne Cobane pulled a knife from his vest, making it emerge from invisibility as he drove the point though the man's bicep. He cried out and punched Wayne once, twice, before grabbing him by the throat and flipping their positions so he was on top. Wayne couldn't breathe, let alone move, under his weight.
The man breathed out. "Now that I have you where I want you, I guess I can oblidge." As it flipped its black hair out of its eyes, Wayne saw blood coming both from its slashed arm and the frayed cut on the suit jacket.
"My name is Agent Ansel Cedric. I work in a division of the US government, and I'm an associate of Jolyne Isonov. I understand she was under orders for quite a while to try and subvert you to our cause."
Wayne gargled out a response, but Cedric shushed him and continued. "We hoped that you would be able to split up your little group of rebels. Not only because you're destroying our interests and moving closer and closer to home--but because you actually have something we want."
Wayne's eyes widened as Ansel Cedric's bloody arm raised. As he watched, the shapeshifter's wrist fused, his hand became all bone, and the flesh melted off to reveal a perfectly smooth, perfectly deadly knifehand. Ansel smiled his too-wide, too-toothy grin again as he added, "Of course, if I wanted to tell you what, I'd be an awful trained killer."
This thing had caught him with his pants down, and Wayne knew it. Unarmed, on his own, something like 6 feet away from help but totally stranded. He was a goner. He swallowed hard and closed his eyes behind his sunglasses as Ansel smiled, "Nighty-night, Cobane."
The government agent raised his hand, elbow straight up in the air--and then yawned. He shook his head and started to list. Even as his hand began to unfuse and his eyes grew heavy, he half-cried, "What's going on? What're you--?" Ansel Cedric yawned again, and then a third time. He stood up, or tried to, before his legs collapsed beneath him and he fell heavily to the wooden floor. His features began to blur in his dim panic as a skinny pale Italian man opened the door and walked through.
"The only person taking a big sleep here is you," Damien Caste said dryly.
One final push, and the would-be killer was sleeping like a baby.
Ansel Cedric slumbered peacefully under hateful eyes.
Flores glared at him from his seat across the cabin. "Goddamn shapeshifters. Snakes in the grass, every one of them."
Without taking his eyes off Cedric's skinny face, Jack muttered, "Some of my best friends in high school were shapeshifters."
The fiery strongman barked out a laugh. "Well, Aceman, I got some bad news for you..."
Nadia cast him an icy glance before addressing the group. "Can we just dump him off the train? There's nothing but scrub and chaparral for miles. Not hurting nobody--except him." She grimaced. "And even then, not for very long. Probably turn his bones to noodles before hitting."
Fitz scratched his beard. "Why was he here, anyway? Is he a hitman you recognize, Wayne?"
Wayne swallowed. "No. He said he was with the government."
Everyone sat up and paid attention. Pierce was the first to speak. "The US? Why would they be all the way out here?"
From behind his sunglasses, Wayne muttered, "I don't know."
Jack stared at him for what seemed to be a week before breathing deep and adding, "Well, it looks like nobody knows. And if this Ansel fellow almost killed a career assassin with his bare hands, we can't let him wake up to talk to him." Jack turned to Tessa, who was lounging catlike across two seats. "Can you pick his brain for us?"
Tessa stretched and said, "I've already tried. He might look human on the surface, but whatever's inside his skull isn't any neural tissue I'm familiar with. I'm getting thoughts from his knee, gut area, left bicep--and it feels like they're moving around. I guarantee you that if we cut him open, we wouldn't recognize anything human."
Ivan swore under his breath.
Mark Yamada was about to add his two cents when Ansel Cedric groaned in his sleep and gesticulated drunkenly before adjusting his position. His sarcastic bite turned into a "YIPE!" and he scurried to the other side of the train car. "Jesus Christ on a bike, Damien, can't you put him in deeper?!"
Damien shrugged. "Sorry, dude. All I can do is get him down, I can't control when...he...dreams..." He looked up to see 8 people staring at him like he was made of gold. "What're you all looking at?"
Wayne grinned. "Can't you go in dreaming people's heads--regardless of what barriers they might have up for a telepath?"
Immediately the dreamwalker flustered. "Well, yeah, but I can't control what he's dreaming about! He could be having a dream about why he's here, he might not. I can't control that!"
Ivan shrugged. "Worth a shot. We at least have to try."
Damien hemmed. Damien hawed. But in the end, he urged Tessa from her spot, closed his eyes and entered the homicidal shapeshifter's fevered dreams.
The cellist counted a measure in 6/8 and the string quartet started Pachelbel's Canon.
Damien looked around. He was on a lamplit balcony by the beach, looking out into the Gulf of Mexico. It was night, and the moon was huge above the waters, shimmering on it, dancing as the waves rolled underneath it. People were ballroom dancing behind him, too, dressed up in 3 piece suits and curvaceous dresses. Damien looked down; he too was in a fancy, fancy suit. He made a face of surprised satisfaction at his threads, then looked up. It was Cedric's dream; he was bound to be here somewhere.
Just then, a beautiful woman with long black hair whirled past him, followed by a heat haze and the sound of wind chimes. If this wasn't the dreamer, he didn't know who else would be.
Damien was a little unnerved by someone he'd last seen to be male wearing such an attractive body, but then again Ansel Cedric was a shapeshifter. The real question was if this represented his/her/its original form--but even as he watched, Cedric's form shifted like a watercolor and was as hazed as a pointillist painting. Well, there was only one way to get in.
Damien cut in and began to dance with her.
None of the malice apparent in her waking hours was visible here. Ansel was as carefree as a butterfly in the wind, and she laughed and giggled like a schoolgirl. They waltzed for an indeterminate span. Damien had walked in many dreams, and in all of them, time meant nothing. When they felt like it, they walked over to the punch bar--which conveniently only became apparent when they needed it to be.
Damien sipped the red liquid, perfectly aware at any moment it could turn into spiders or blood. "Nice moves, Ansel."
She laughed and threw her waist-length hair over her shoulder. "You, sir, have me at a disadvantage. I don't know you, but that's okay!"
Damien forced a laugh. "I know you by reputation. Government work, right?"
Dream-Ansel groaned and tossed the punch over her shoulder. "Don't remind me. I hate my job." She brightened up again. "Come on, let's get back out there!" Ansel started to tug on his shoulder, but Damien stayed where he was.
"Hold on, hold on! Tell me more about it."
Ansel Cedric's tongue flowed freely down here. "Okay, okay. So I'm in this Black Ops thing--don't tell anyone, okay? Hushity hush--and I basically do what the chiefs tell me to do. I'm just an office worker...with a gun and a license to kill. Still okay with me?"
Damien smiled a huge, fake smile. "Perfectly. What's your mission now? Do you have one?"
Ansel's pointillist face fell. "That's top secret. I can't tell you."
He swallowed and said, "I'll do one more dance with you."
Her watercolor aura rippled a rainbow of colors and what he could see of her eyes flashed darkly. "I'm following around a bunch of rebels out west. One of the team members is the most powerful we've ever seen for what he does. This getting you?"
"He's pretty much a walking weapon. If we could get inside him and figure out what makes him tick, we could bring back our glory days. We could bring back the status quo."
Damien could not control the goosebumps and the chills running up and down his spine. "Who is it, suh...sweetheart?"
"Fitz Tanner," Ansel Cedric breathed.
Damien sat bolt upright. "Dump her!"
Pierce looked at him. "Who's her?"
He shook his head, "Him! Him! Dump Cedric!"
Ivan opened the window and grabbed the shapeshifter by the collar. He began to open his eyes and mumble. "Who...wuh...is this--" He saw Damien and froze. "YOU! Get away from me, you--you--sick son of a--"
Ivan threw Cedric out the window. He watched him bounce twice before turning away. "Rid of him, then."
Jack looked at Wayne and then back at Damien. "What'd he want?"
Damien wiped the sweat off his brow. "Fitz. He wanted Fitz. He was sent here to get Fitz and take him back to make a superweapon. If they're going to this much effort, I'm going to guess he's a pretty big target."
The gang looked at Fitz, who blushed and shrugged--simultaneously proud and terrified.
Wayne let out a long, silent breath. Flores shuffled back into his spot and closed his eyes.
"Well, not much else we can do. We already threw him off the goddamn train, what're we going to do, go back there and kick his corpse? Hour and a half to Odessa--I'm going to get a nap in."
There was a collective grumble of agreement, and everyone was passed out in a moment.
This post was updated on .
The Habanera played quietly in the dark of the background. Unfortunately, it wasn't accompanied by the words, however, because Tessa didn't know them.
The darkness of the mindscape shifted from silent, dark void, to a cliff on the side of a mountain, that overlooked a tropical forest. Time for she and Pierce to relax.
The blond telepath fumbled through the closely-packed minds for the one that belonged to Pierce and beckoned to him. His image materialized in the mindscape, and he looked around at the place, amazed.
"Very nice, Mandy...secluded...quiet...very nice." He grabbed Tessa and kissed her on her neck a few times, causing her to giggle girlishly.
"Ever made love on a beach?" Tessa looked up flirtatiously, getting a very intrigued look from Pierce.
"No...and definitely not in a girl's mind..." He grinned.
"Well, everything's better when it turns out exactly as you imagine..." Tessa smiled, took Pierce's hand and popped him and herself to the beach below.
In her laughing and giggling, she hadn't thought to scan her mind for potential intruders...
The two popped instantaneously from the peak of the immense cliff to the sands of the beach's shore, looking out at the deep cerulean as it ebbed and flowed from the ocean. It was so vast and seemingly-endless, even if it was just a thought in Tessa's mindscape.They turned from the waves of the mindscape's ocean and faced one another. Pierce admired Tessa's hazy-gray eyes, while Tessa smiled at how well the blue-green of Pierce's eyes matched the color of the sea she'd imagined.
Pierce leaned in, caressing one cheek with his hand, and almost kissing-close, he said to her, "Wanna run on the beach?"
And that they did. Along seemingly-endless, sugar-white, sandy coastline, the two laughed and ran amidst the rushing waves of the shoreline. They ran and ran until Pierce had found the perfect spot and grabbed the blonde telepath, taking her to the sandy ground on top of him.
The two eyed each other again, hot and heavy, and began kissing and caressing each other's bodies.
Little did they know, the two of them were in for a very big surprise...
Tessa had imagined a nice, comfy blanket for the two to rest on (even illusory sand threatened to ruin a sexual mood), and the two started to undress one another, when they were greeted by none other than...
"DAMIEN!" the two shouted simultaneously at the dreamwalker's presence. He had been walking down Tessa's dream beach exploring the mindscape, minding his own business, when he stumbled upon the two.
"Uh, hi..." Damien blinked vacantly, then put a hand up in a weak wave, more than a bit shocked. He thought to say, 'Oh, wow, sorry", but he figured it would go without saying.
Instead, he forced himself to not say "OHMYGODYOUTWOARENAKED" by replacing it with, "Oh...I'm guessing you guys are busy..."
"YA THINK?!" Pierce quickly imagined himself with his trunks back ON...
"DO YOU MIND?!" Tessa put her hands across her chest.
In the real world, Damien, Tessa and Pierce could now be seen grimacing, in their sleep, at the whole situation.
"I AM SO SORRY! I usually go dreamwalking when I can't sleep, but I see that's YOU GUYS' thing, too. Soooo..." Just as quickly as he'd popped in, he popped out, and left the two lovers to their awkward silence. Hopefully, Ivan would have much less twitch-inducing dreams to spy on.
Meanwhile, Jack found it all but impossible to stay alseep. His time in Santa Fe still had him pumped, and so he watched the scenery as it passed by with moderate speed. The deserty-brown of the landscape became more and more green, until finally, the train's conductor (a xenoglot) announced over the intercom that the train was about to come to a stop (in about ten different languages). Jack woke everyone up, and thought to start making his way toward the front of the train, but was stopped by a male clerk who had taken a seat in the booth in front of them.
"Uh, excuse me. Were you in the booth just behind me?"
"Yeah..." Jack looked back to the booth he'd come from, then back to the clerk.
"Well, then I guess these are for you."
The clerk invited Jack to look inside. He peeked his head in, and caught sight of fully-packed luggages, nicely arranged in the booth and stacked on the seats. Strangely, they were actually stacked in the order that the others came to see what was going on. First Jack, then Tessa, then Ivan, then Wayne, then Fitz, then Nadia, Mark, Damien and Pierce from the booth across them.
The luggages weren't large, but along with a few changes of clothes, they seemed to be equipped with things that the supers all needed (or really wanted). Fitz had a watch, a comb and some shaving supplies (for his newly-developing five o'clock shadow); Tessa got a brush and a mirror; Jack got a Swiss army knife; Nadia got a flash drive and her favorite gum; Flores got a double-edged pocket knife and a pair of gloves; Ivan got a pair of condoms, a fresh pair of briefs, and a mean-looking knife. Even for Mark, there was a small flashlight (strangely, accompanied by a larger one). However, the last three gifts seemed the least conventional.
"Uh, I got...a taser." Pierce looked at the device quizzically, wondering if it was really for him...
"A clip for a gun that I don't even have..." Wayne shook his head with a smile.
"Well, at least you got THAT. I got breath mints, some gum and some spray." Damien looked over to the clerk, "What're you trying to say?"
The clerk laughed, a bit amused, before answering, "Sorry, sir, I wasn't the one who got these things for you. I was told that they were for you, and I just delivered them."
"Who sent this stuff?" Nadia asked, putting her things back into the luggage. Without answering, the clerk looked up as the announcement came that they were about to board. He left the supers to their own devices. The others seemed to need more help unloading for Odessa.
Pierce looked his luggage over, and his hands ran over a construction-paper-thick tag. He looked at it and called to the others, "Oi, look here! A tag. It says... C. Davis. Any o' you know a C. Davis?"
They all shook their heads no, before Flores volunteered the idea that maybe they would find this mysterious C. Davis somewhere in the town ahead. It seemed a fair enough notion (C. Davis knew they'd be on the train, so maybe he/she knew they were headed for Odessa) and so they all got their things together and filed off the train with the other passengers.
This post was updated on .
A black woman in pink hippie garb (complete with a big smile, and a flower stuck neatly in her thick, brown afro) sat in the chair at the threshold of her kitchen. The mellifluous smell of burning laurel leaves, mixed with the tasty aroma of soul food cooking, wafted through the kitchen and permeated the house.
"COOKIE!" A harsh voice, unbefitting the serene scenario, called out from the other room, "You burnin' LAURELS again? You KNOW I hate that SMELL!"
"Silly sister," the hippie smiled to herself, "I've got people I'm looking out for. You know laurels help me concentrate."
She put her sister's sourpuss attitude out of mind for the moment, and closed her eyes to commence her meditation. Her smile fell from her face, and within seconds, she no longer heard her sister. Instead, she heard a small group walking through the streets of Odessa. Instead of the lovely smells that sprawled out from in her kitchen, she smelled the masculine musk of a Cockney Brit, the coy perfume of a blonde telepath, the spicy scent of a temperamental temperature-manipulator, and the shy mild-manneredness of an Irishman. Perhaps the most disturbing smell, though, was the last one she could make out. It was the smell of brimstone and pine.
"Jack..." the oracle mused.
It was good to smell them here in ODESSA. They had been in Arizona a while, and she figured after that they would head straight for Texas. But then there was that extended stay in Santa Fe. So now that they were here, she couldn't wait until they "stumbled" upon her humble abode. It would certainly do her some good to offer them the information they would need to overcome the Overlords they would face.
They stepped off the train, through the station, and into the town.
Odessa was pure color. Green grass under a blue sky, surrounding bleached buildings connected by a black, black street that stretched through the hills. The sidewalk under their feet was gray, and the people walking by were dressed in red, dressed in purple, dressed in long shawls and brown shorts and orange hats. They were all colors too, but the one thread that ran through them all was the white of their grins--flashing here and there, beaming out from the surroundings, shifting in conversations, smiling in contentment.
Odessa was a haven.
Nadia looked around, beaming. "This is...this is a miracle."
Despite the group's rapture at the scene, Flores stared at the ground and adjusted his bag. Ivan bumped Flores in the arm. Flores gave him a fisheye, and that was when Ivan was the first of them to realize that Flores would never be happy, never be calm inside, always have a burn in his throat and a grit between his teeth and a haunt to his face unless he was fixing something for someone somewhere or hitting something hard, and that this would make him very dangerous if they halted for even a moment.
He suppressed a cold chill and punched Flores lightly on the shoulder.
Jack didn't notice any of this. He smiled at the crew of superhumans. "Let's look for a hotel or something like that. C. Davis has to be around here somewhere."
He took one step and promptly hit a woman running right for him. This was no accidental scrape, no minor collison. Jack was knocked square on his back as his bags went flying from his grasp. Fitz squawked and tried to grab for the luggage, but got toppled by the duo like they were a 300-pound domino halfway there and fell to the ground beneath them. He made a muffled groan.
Tessa bit her lip to hold in the laughs, but Ivan took a slightly more mature approach to the situation by picking the woman up bodily and setting her on her feet. "What's wrong with you? Can't you watch where you're--" He then noted the woman's eyes were half-shut and her gaze was several yards past him, almost as though she was...
Pierce winced and muttered, "Open mouth, insert foot."
To his credit, Ivan made an attempt at recovery. But he didn't make it past a few mumbled phrases before the black woman smiled and shushed him. "Everyone's done that at least once in these parts. No need to apologize, Ivan."
Mark jerked out of distraction. "How did you know his name? Who are you?"
Without turning toward him, the woman said, "No need to be suspicious. Nobody here's going to hurt you." Nevertheless, everyone's shadows began to grow a little longer and the air fogged like a steamy mirror. As Mark began to call on his power, the shades of the past began to sharpen, and he noticed something very strange. The lingering shapes of the local ghosts, instead of wandering mindlessly over the landscape, gravitated to the woman. This usually happened to places, places where evil lived--but the spectres didn't seem to be there to mourn. Instead, they tapped her on the shoulder or nudged her between the ribs or simply whispered in her ear, and then went their merry way. In fact, now that he noticed it, the woman seemed to be aware of these well-wishers. Perfectly aware.
Mark's eyes cleared and the 2 or 3 spectres faded back into the landscape. He looked the woman dead in her sightless eyes. "Do you know...do you know a C. Davis?" he ventured.
The other 8 looked at him as though he were mad, but the black woman smiled and adjusted the flower in her afro.
"Follow me," she said before stepping out into the busy street.
The blind woman was unerring. She navigated her way down streets, around corners, past bright houses and dogs and happy people who she greeted with a smile and a wave. Like ducklings all in a row, the 9 heroes, assassins, and revolutionaries followed her blindly to whatever location she was going. She cut through lawns, paused in odd places, sniffed the air, talked to cold spots. They had no choice but to stop with her, and in doing so, they noticed strange things.
Wayne saw a hawk lock its wings and tumble down like a crumpled cloth before disappearing behind a tree.
Flores saw a dog mark a tree, and then sit down beside it to rest. It growled at anyone who approached.
Pierce saw a snake try to climb a tree to reach fledgling bluebirds in a nest.
Fitz saw a squirrel scurry down and chatter at the snake until it left.
Jack saw a charred scrap of money.
The woman, of course, saw none of this. She just walked on and on and on until the 9 revolutionaries found themselves in front of a homey little bed and breakfast surrounded by a white picket fence. The swinging sign read in engraved and boldened words: DAVIS FAMILY BED AND BREAKFAST. They looked at each other behind her back; Wayne's invisible eyebrows shot up in reflex and Nadia drew in a sharp cold breath.
The woman walked right up on the porch, opened the front door, and invited them in.
Inside, it was a narrow hall covered in wood leading to a small foyer and an oaken reception table, which was currently unmanned. There were a set of stairs to its left, and the desk itself sat in between two long halls which led to the outdoors. The woman turned to Ivan and spoke at her eye level--which was about his throat.
"You all head upstairs and make yourself comfortable. There'll be food on the table around 3, so don't spoil your appetites!"
Pierce had a dulled sense of the surreal, but even he found the situation a little off. Still, he trudged upstairs, along with Ivan and Fitz and Flores and Nadia and Tessa and Mark and Wayne and Damien and--
The blind woman caught Jack's arm. "Hold on there, Jack. I got to talk with you."
She led him onto the porch in front of the house. Trumpet vines grew on latticework along the sides, and there was a worn swing that she sat him onto. He looked down at where he was sitting; these cushions had to be as old as he was, at least. Jack fingered a stain as he glanced up at a darting hummingbird. Ruby throated, if he'd remembered the old Audubon books right. The woman returned with a towel and a tall glass of iced tea. He took it absentmindedly.
"So," he said mid-sip, "Where's C. Davis? I'm sure he wants to meet us."
She sat down beside him and said with as much innocuousness as a human voice could hold, "That's me."
Jack Ryder spat out half the glass all over the porch.
Ms. Davis continued with her speech while blindly handing him the towel. "My name is Cookie Davis, and though I've never met you, I've heard a lot about you. Now, don't worry, news of y'all hasn't reached here yet. You still got surprise on your side. Naw, I get my information from other sources."
Jack felt a chill go up and down his spine and a cold wind move through the porch.
Cookie frowned and actually turned and looked at a point above and behind Jack. "Get out of here! Stop scaring the boy!" The feeling left as quickly as it came, and she tutted. "Pesky spectre. Some kinda mischief-maker. Refuses to leave. He's a sweetheart though."
Jack gave her an askance glance that he wasn't sure registered past her milky-white retinas. "Are you a...medium?"
She laughed out loud. "Of a sort. Yeah, medium's a good word for it. But the truth is, it's not just with the dead. I get impressions from things--woodsmoke, birdsong, the feel of the sun on my face, curls of smoke--you name it, it's game."
Jack looked down at the tea-soaked towel. "And those impressions let you see the future, and things that aren't right in front of you."
Cookie's grin grew wider. "Smart boy. I've been keeping track of you since you got Trelaine all pissed--I could smell that wafting in from Santa Fe. You-all are good people, doing what you do."
He started a half-hearted deflection of the praise, but she cut him off with a finger. "I'm not done," she said from her dead, straight-ahead stare. "I called you here because there's going to be failure in your path."
There was a long silence broken by "Go on."
"All nine of you go to New Orleans to pick up Ben, Byne, and Francesca. But when the 12 of you head out to New York..." She fell silent. "I don't know what happens next, but even now I can smell the death on the wind. Your death. Like brimstone and rot."
Jack stared ahead with her for a long while. He finally said, "What would you suggest we do?"
Cookie threw up her hands. "Boy, I'm clairvoyant, not...well, I kinda am psychic. But my point is, I don't know how you can avoid this without disbanding the group altogether and throwing in the towel." She shrugged and sighed. "Hate to be the bad news bear, but if you stick with these guys, you--you personally and a few of your friends--are going to die." She patted his shoulder and left.
Jack sat there, very, very quietly as the hummingbird whirred around him, drinking deep.
When they came down to eat, there was a note under a plate.
GONE TO FINISH THE JOB
DON'T FOLLOW ME
This post was updated on .
Fitz walked into the dining room first, and noticed the note right away. He grabbed it and promptly showed it to his comrades.
"What's that?" Nadia asked quizzically, before noticing that Jack was the only one of them that was missing, "And where's Jack?"
"It says that Jack went off somewhere. And that we shouldn't go look for him." Fitz read the note, before setting it back.
"Well, that's good enough f'me! Let's eat!" Ivan was about to dive hungrily for the table full of soul food, but Pierce stopped him.
"Wait...you mean Ace went off by himself? And he has the Evolutionist's stone? And we SHOULDN'T follow him?" Pierce tossed a small electrical spark hand to hand, "That's bollix. I say we tail him."
But something told Flores that it wouldn't be a good idea.
"Normally, I would be ready to find Ace right along with you, Streaky, but Jack usually knows what he's doing. I say we take Ivan's lead and dig into this soul food."
And everyone did just that, sitting down to their delicious meal (long grain and wild rice, baked chicken and collard greens), and waiting for their host to join them. As they took their places, they were joined by Cookie, and strangely enough, a second woman that looked just like her (with the exception that her face was MUCH less welcoming).
"So, who do we have here?" Cookie's sourpuss doppelganger demanded meanly of the newcomers.
The supers introduced themselves, but in response, only got a "Hmph; Well, I'm Ginger, Cookie's twin sister"; Cookie followed up to request that they bow their heads to say grace.
"I know not everyone here is big on God, but here we still say grace. If you don't want to, fine, but bow your head anyway. And if you touch your food before grace is over, you won't get those fingers back..." Cookie smiled, half-joking.
The blind clairvoyant said grace with heartfelt sincerity, and then everyone was free to eat. It felt like such a long time since they had had good food (or at least a while since they could EAT it without having to worry about having an overlord, or an assassin, or a government official on their trail).
Pierce footsied Tessa under the table, eliciting a girlish laugh from the blond telepath as the two tangled tootsies. They were promptly stopped by a glare from Ginger that could have melted candle wax. Damien looked over at how austere the black woman's demeanor was (especially in comparison to her sister), but when she turned in his direction, sensing that she was being stared at, he quickly turned his attention back to his plate. Nadia decided to ignore Cookie's grumpy double and struck up words with Ivan.
"Ever had collard greens before, Ivan?"
"No..." Ivan answered, feeling very Un-American, before remarking, "Ever had blood puddin'?"
"Ugh...no." Nadia responded, face cringed.
"Oh, really?" Cookie spoke up, "It's delicious; I tasted some the other day, and--"
"You was in England the other day? That's the only place you could get it, love."
Cookie started to respond, but Fitz felt compelled to explain, "Ivan...she's an esper. I'm sure she received a clairgustant sensation. Am I right?" he asked, digging into his food.
But Cookie only laughed, "Nope. I have a teleporter friend. Goes by Torres. Sometimes, he brings me back things from his trips."
Everyone except Mark's, Damien's, Cookie's and Ginger's jaws dropped.
"You know Torres? How?" Nadia asked.
"How else? I got a vibe, and my hand had the urge to write; I wrote him, and we've been friends ever since."
"So," Damien finally pulled away from Cookie's delicious cooking, before asking with his mouth full, "what else do you know? WHO else do you know?"
"Don't talk with your mouth full, baby..." Cookie laughed, "it's not polite. And if I find out anything else, I'll let you know. Or, rather, when the time is right, ALL things will be revealed..."
Mark thought to ask just what the hell the blind, hippie oracle meant by that cryptic answer, but realized that her eyes had gone back down to her plate, and decided against it. So did everyone else. They went back to eating, and talking about other things, and kept their many, many questions to themselves.
This post was updated on .
"Not gonna let you go alone", said Wayne as he stood in front of the dark alley at night blocking Jack's path to the train depot.
"You better get out of my way," said Jack who was barely recognizable under his cloak.
"You won't be able to take on the overlords just by yourself," said Wayne.
"Says the lonely guy that didn't have any friends before we came along," said Jack
"That's different," said Wayne.
"You won't be able to go anywhere", said Wayne as he turned the area within eyesight radius invisible. You'll be walking into walls all night.
Some of the people in the nearby alleys were surprised to see two men in the alley nearby and many of them left not wanting to get caught in a battle between superhumans.
Jack saw that many of them were unable to escape as they were caught in the maze of invisible walls and he turned to face Wayne.
"I don't want to do this," said Jack as he slowly released his claws which shone in the moonlight.
"I'm doing this for your own good" said Jack nervously.
"And I'm doing this for yours", said Wayne confidently drawing out his pistols.
"If I have to: I'll break all your ribs, and drag you back," said Wayne.
"Just try me, then," said Jack.
Jack started to activate his tattoos but the trained assassin fired forcing Jack to dodge with a roll.
Wayne was nowhere to be seen once Jack got back up.
Suddenly a fist came flying at Jack's head but Jack raised his claws to block.
A loud clang was heard as Jack's claws hit Wayne's concealed brass knuckles.
Wayne did not let up and started to throw a roundhouse with his left.
Suddenly Wayne was blasted back with unnatural air force and he landed onto a pair of garbage cans which became visible after impact.
Jack's four elements tattoo glowed in the darkness and an aura flowed around the half-demon.
"You don't know anything, Wayne. Of course you don't, you're an assassin. You kill people. What do you know about feelings of losing people that you love.," said Jack.
Wayne coughed up some blood and spat.
"I know a lot more than you think I do, why do you think I'm trying to stop you so hard." said Wayne opening his hand.
*Dunk, duck* came the sound of a smoke cannister that Wayne rolled toward Jack"
With a quick Fwoosh smoke quickly started pouring out into the alley and just as quickly Jack dispersed the gas by blowing it away.
Wayne was nowhere to be seen again.
"This is getting old Wayne," said Jack.
"Is it?," said Wayne.
Jack turned around at the sound and followed it.
"Bonk", Jack crashed into a metal ladder.
"I really don't have time for this. I have a train to catch," said Jack holding his hands in front of him less he hit another object more threatening.
Suddenly Wayne came from behind, elbowed Jack and got him into a sleeper hold and shoved Jack against a wall.
Jack saw his face reflected from a mirror on the other side which Wayne forgot to turn invisible.
"You're going to have to miss it.," said Wayne.
Jack struggled but it was no use. Wayne had him trapped.
Then a dark figure appeared of the mirror behind the two heroes locked in combat.
A gunshot rang out and Wayne released his grip. It was tranquilizer. One more shot rang out hitting Wayne's leg immobilizing him and causing him to fall down on the ground.
Jack turned around to see the shooter more clearly, but the person disappeared and Wayne fell on the ground.
"Hehehehe," chuckled Wayne as he lied down upon the floor beaten.
"Guess fate is siding with you," said Wayne. The surrounding area became visible again. "Now go ahead and finish me off"
"No!!!!!", said Jack.
"An assassin should never fail twice. If you want to go alone, you have to be prepared to kill your enemies or else face death yourself. Finish me off." yelled Wayne weakly as the tranquilizers slowly took effect.
His voice reverberated in the alley.
"No," said Jack who had calmed down and retracted his claws
"What are you doing? Finish me offffuh.
Wayne had fainted from the tranquilizers that were shot at him.
Jack slowly left the scene, unsure of what risks that he would have to take or what would become of his friends as he left them.
Jack reached a nearby person that saw the scene. The man was shaking in fear due to having seen one of the superhumans that was fighting a minute ago.
"There's a person in the alleyway that I think needs medical attention. Here's some money. Take him to a doctor."
The man looked confused at what had happened and all he could do was stare and look at the money.
"What are you waiting for get a doctor.," said Jack.
"Yes, sir" said the man hurriedly running away.
Jack rushed toward the train station to make up for lost time
The train had been delayed so he made it just on time and boarded.
A man on the platform slowly lowered his glasses revealing a pair of red and green eyes. He had found someone that he recognized.
Slowly dragging his motorcycle, Archer Flegn slowly prepared to board the train......his way.
This post was updated on .
After the superhumans had had their fill of Cookie's cuisine, they decided to take it easy. The boys headed upstairs to get their showers, but Tessa and Nadia had been discussing, and had another idea in mind.
Tessa tried to walk up to Cookie to ask her a question that she and Nadia had, but Ginger stepped in front of her.
"Back back, white girl, Cookie has other stuff to do. You know, what with running a bed-and-breakfast? And, ya know...helping you deal with the Overlords and all?"
Kind of immobilized by the "white girl" comment, Tess stepped back a half-step, and so Nadia decided to do the asking.
"Chill, Scary Spice, we just want to ask tu hermanita a question. Cool?" She excused herself past the defense of Ginger blocking her sister, easily matching the elder Davis' serpentine glare, and Cookie turned to face her.
"Yes?" the blind oracle asked, picking up the remainder of the empty plates.
"Well, we were sort of wondering...could you do a reading for us? We have somebody we want to contact..." Nadia looked back at Tessa, who urged her that she was doing the right thing.
"Well, just let me put these away." Cookie put the dishes in the sink for Ginger to finish, and then walked with the two into the parlor, "Take a seat."
They went upstairs and into the last room to the left. They each took their seats around the table at the center of the room, and Cookie looked to each of them.
"Okay, girls...so, who am I looking for? Anyone special?" Cookie closed her eyes and focused, attuning to the Spirit World like usual.
Nadia and Tessa exchanged glances again, before Tessa responded, "Tamara McShay and, uh...Caleb Trelaine..."
Cookie gasped, and so did Pierce, who overheard as he passed on his way to the shower.
"Are you sure?" Cookie asked, "The encounter might not be pretty."
"That's fine..."Tessa answered, "I just have to know...what happened to them."
"Eh...did I just hear what I heard? The seer's doing a reading?" Pierce looked down, and covered himself when he realized that he was wearing nothing but his briefs, "Uh, I'll be right back..." As he headed back for his and Ivan's room to get decent, he alerted the others that Cookie was about to help Tessa and Nadia contact the other side.
Everyone hurried excitedly to the table where Cookie's mother, and her mother's mother had been mediums before her. A few of them took seats at the table, while the others stood around.
"I've never seen somebody medium before..." Mark remarked, posted up against the wall with a smirk.
Cookie quieted them, and motioned for Pierce to join them at the table. He WANTED to remain standing, but something about him seemed particularly RIGHT for this astral encounter (perhaps the fact that HE was one of the only three people remaining who had come into physical contact with him...even if it was just to get tossed out the window by him). So Pierce took a seat to the left of Cookie, and she decided to begin.
"Now everybody, be quiet..." Her head fell, "Calling out...Tamara. Tamara McShay. Can you hear me where you are?"
A slight pause, and Cookie's voice changed.
"Huh--what? Where is this?" Tamara.
"What? Tam, you're in Texas. Odessa. We found a medium, by the name C. Davis." Pierce seemed the most anxious to hear from her. He took Cookie by the hands, which were now Tamara's hands, and looked into Cookie's eyes, which were now Tamara's eyes.
"Oh...it's good to see you guys," spoke Tamara's voice through Cookie. Everyone said their greetings, to make up for their missed chance to say goodbye.
"What's it like?" Damien asked curiously.
Cookie looked over to Damien with Tamara's familiar expression, and answered with a laugh, "It's weird...it's warm. And always lit up, the color of psychic energy. There's voices without faces, and faces without voices. But... Mom's here, so..." her voice trailed off solemnly.
"Well, it's good to hear from you", Mark smiled, "Tell Sue I say hi."
"I will...but, for now, I have to go..."
"Go? Go where? It ain't like you got some appointment....y'got forever, in case you forgot just where you was..."
"Real nice, Ivan..." Tessa rolled her eyes, "Well, Tamara, just where are you going?"
"I don't know. Maybe figure out just how this 'being dead' thing works...you know, test the waters of spectral manifestation. See if I can get in touch with you guys without needing to bother C. Davis. See you guys later..." Tamara's voice laughed. And then, after everyone said their goodbyes, she faded.
"Any chance we could talk to somebody famous? Like Thomas Jefferson or Albert Einstein or--?"
"Sorry, Fitz", Cookie interrupted, her voice finally returned to normal, "But Tessa asked first, and she had somebody else in mind..." And with that, she began to try contact with her REAL intended target.
"Calling Caleb. OVERLORD Trelaine... Calling out to the former Overlord of Santa Fe...Hello? Hell--"
The call out to the Great Beyond was answered promptly by a sudden psychic disturbance that was very unlike the warm cheer of Tamara's presence; Tessa felt a shiver, and Mark got a creeping jolt, but the disruption would even make itself known to the non-psychics in the room. The candles lit in the room went out. The two mirrors situated at opposite sides of the room began to fog up, and an ominous chill touched each of the supers, making their breath visible in frigid wisps.
"Gettin' anything?" Flores was the first to break the awkward silence.
Cookie looked up, and responded, with a voice unchanged by any supernatural entity, "Uh...this is curious...I don't think I've ever channeled empty space before..."
"What?" Flores and Nadia looked at Cookie simultaneously.
"Empty space...that's all I feel. Empty...Man, Tamara must have really did a number on him."
"So, what," Mark spoke up, confused, "He doesn't exist?"
Cookie shook her head, thoroughly befuzzled, "Well, no... he exists. But from what I can tell by the impression I get, the combined imprints of Caleb and Tamara...oh my. Curiouser and curiouser..."
"WHAT?" Everybody demanded expectantly.
"Well, his body was vaporized by the pure psychic pressure, that's for sure. But Tamara's hatred for the Overlord, and her desire to get rid of him, combined with her incredible elemental psychic power... it did more than that...she pushed him so far into the hinterlands of the Astral Realm, that even other ghosts can't perceive his presence...Mark wouldn't even be able to summon him or sense him, if it weren't for me, and the imprint that clings to Pierce."
Cookie put her hands together and looked around at the others. They looked at her in awe, as she got up and headed out of the room.
"Alright everyone, fun's over. It's about time to calm down for the day. I have some more cleaning to do, and you-all have to recuperate. Wouldn't want to be slack while you face your Overlord enemies, would you?" She made her way down the stairs, and left them to process what they'd just heard.
Meanwhile, Jack was thinking of the very "you-all's" in question. He swirled through the golden-bright train car in his long black cloak, found his seat, and sat without removing the hood obscuring his face. Jack awkwardly crossed one foot over his knee and looked out the window.
As he pulled away from the station, he heard a motorcycle roar.
He was lost in thought after that, thinking about his future and how he would even begin to accomplish this alone and relatively vulnerable, but weird noises kept breaking in. He figured that was just how a train sounded, with the screeching and the crunching and the mechanical thumps from the caboose. Jack was so deep in thought, he didn't even notice a male figure come in and gracelessly sit down beside him.
"I tell you what, man, saving a buck in this day and age is murder," Archer Flegn puffed.
Jack made a noise of assent.
Archer brushed off his clothes, still adjusting his bags beneath the seat. "So what's your name?"
Jack caught himself. He was a stranger in a strange land; best to lie. "Greg Patillo."
Archer Flegn smiled a bit. "Good name. Rolls off the tongue." He extended a hand. "Archer Flegn."
Jack took it and shook it, and in that second Flegn thought he saw some very red eyes beneath the hood--but the moment passed and the man turned back to the window. Archer looked at his seatmate's fixation on the window and decided to risk a conversation. "Looks like you left something back there. Running away?"
Jack mused over this. "In a sense. Got a psychic that told me that I need a new path if I want to get ahead."
Archer laughed a little. "In the Preevent days, people used to scoff at psychics. It's weird to see a medium having legitimacy for a fellow like me. But I've got you at an advantage. Only fair to tell you my thing." He sighed and leaned back. "Don't wig out or anything on me, but I'm...well, let's say I'm a mercenary. Some woman back in Odessa wanted me to take care of a Jack Ryder character. I didn't bite, because she'd managed to get my best friend mixed up in the deal somehow--small world, right?" Archer jibed as he nudged the stranger's shoulder.
Jack mumbled and tried to look as much as he could like Greg Patillo.
Lost in his reverie, the sharp eyes of a top 10 assassin were focused somewhere on the ceiling. "I really got to find the guy though. That Jolyne is a tough character, and she's got connections. And as my high-school buddies so often reminded me, I'm not the only fish in the sea. Wayne can take care of himself--but Ryder looks like a wimp."
Jack almost blew his cover, but he was interrupted by something he hadn't seen in months. They were passing over a river, and it must have been flood season because there was a pretty intense wave heading right for his car--
A dark mass in the water hit a window and shattered it. The three figures comprising that shadow stood up and shook themselves; two men and a woman. The woman stepped forward.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I am Marina Delite, and this is Muerte and Millions. We're here for a tall man with red eyes and white hair. Give him up, and you all can tell this story later."
Jack Ryder swallowed hard.
This post was updated on .
Archer shot 'Greg' a shocked glance, and then looked back to the strange-looking supers before him. Marina was perhaps the least weird looking, with only the red eyes to keep her from appearing human, but Muerte had PURPLE hair, and this 'Millions' character had gray. What a strange-looking trio of thugs...
"Well...?" Marina caught Archer's glance, and looked him over suspiciously, "Got anything to say?"
"Uh..." Archer searched for a quick lie, "I'll let you know if I see 'em...You, Greg?"
Jack looked down, making sure to keep the hood concealing his hair, and thought to lie as well.
"You know, I actually think I saw a guy like--" He got up to go "find Jack", only to have Muerte quickly grab him by the forearm, trying to put him into a hold that reminded him of one of those cop shows.
The two struggled, and in the struggle, Jack's hood fell back, revealing snow-white...
"It's him!" Quickly, the thug known as Millions tried to grab Jack, and Archer jumped up, reaching for his gun. The two met each other's glances, pointing guns at one another, while Jack ducked between them, and decided to use the opportunity to escape.
Marina hastened after him, with Muerte behind her.
That left Millions and Archer matching stares, guns pointed at one another menacingly...
"Y'know, I could just shoot you, and leave you here bleedin' before you even had the chance to twitch..." Archer mused with an air of challenge in his voice.
"Why don't you, if you got an itchy trigger finger? Think I'm scared o' you?" Millions thanked his lucky stars that he could hide his trembling beneath his layers and layers of bling.
"I don't know...are you?"
Archer twitched, and Millions blanched. Perfect, the assassin thought to himself...
Meanwhile, Jack hurried down the aisle of the train car, shooting precautionary thorns back at his pursuers. They dodged the rather blunted projectiles, and finally Marina called out to the people just six booths ahead of Jack.
"Excuse me! Train Booth C-12!"
Just as he reached it, the man in that booth looked out to see who the hell was calling him, just in time for Jack to collide with him bodily. A nearly concussion-inducing blow to both parties, Jack tried to get up as quickly as he could, but too late. Marina and Muerte had already caught up to him, and Marina had her whip drawn. The man, who was merely a tool to Marina's plan, was permitted by Marina's glance to slide gently back into the booth where he sat. He did so with haste, and Jack looked up at her defiantly, wondering what she planned to do with him.
"Save it, Ace. You're coming with us, like it or not, so don't give us more trouble than you're worth."
"Don't think so, Wet 'N Wild!" Jack retorted smartly. With that, he wrenched his legs around Muerte's legs and flipped Marina's ace to the floor harshly, before then sweeping his other leg under her, and causing her to topple as well. This was certainly not a position to crack a whip, as Marina soon realized, giving Muerte a lash meant for Jack. Now that his pursuers were down, he sprang up from being nearly supine, and began again to take off down the train car hall.
But Marina wouldn't have it. She couldn't simply let the half-demon escape. If nothing else, it made for bad reputation, and so, setting the whip aside, she called the waters of the river they crossed, into the train car. With a mighty crash of water and windowpane, the poor man from before opened his room door yet again and unleashed the torrent that had been swept through his booth window. Looking back out onto the scene, he wearily retired back into his booth, not thinking this time to close it again.
Jack heard the commotion behind him just as he reached the end of the car. He whipped around, hoping he wouldn't see what he saw. Unfortunately, before he had time to react, he caught sight of Marina now back up on her feet, sending a monstrous wave of river water to do the pursuing that she was now tired of doing.
"Oh, you gotta be--" The crash of the water interrupted his thought of sheer annoyance, as it washed mud and water bugs all over him. However, it didn't simply fall off his person, like normal water. Marina still had it under her control. With her mind's power, she tried to semi-solidify the water, to grab him and drag him back to her. Jack struggled as hard as she could, and finally decided that if she wanted to play 'elemental', he would gladly play along. Hoping that his power wouldn't fail him before he had dealt with the gangsters, he felt his tattoos as they lit up, and simply let his instincts take over. With a single, angry motion, the waters fell flaccid at his side. And despite her hardest efforts, Marina couldn't get them to rise again.
Jack smiled devilishly as he came to the realization that the upper hand was his. This was no evil version of Tamara; her powers extended just over water. And without it, she was perhaps only matched in skill with an overlord's goons. Seemingly realizing what Jack was thinking, Muerte jumped out in front of her to protect her from the impact of the devastating wind blast that flew from Jack's direction at them. As the two flew back from the impact of the wind strike, he followed it up almost instantly with a steam of flame that easily dwarfed that of a flamethrower. Muerte ducked down, taking Marina back down to the floor with him, before Jack called up the very water that Marina had tried to use against him, and sent it back in her direction.
Having caused all the distraction that he needed, he spared himself the effort of overkill, and jumped into the booth at the end of the car.
"Mind if I join you guys a while?"
The passengers shook their heads absentmindedly.
"You gonna let me past, Goldilocks?" Archer smirked, hoping he wouldn't have to kill a person who looked so ridiculously funny as Millions.
"Yeah, if you put down the gun..."
"And what makes you think I won't just shoot you right here, so I can help out Jack?"
"Why haven't you already?" Millions retorted.
'Because all that freaking GOLD would probably shield you from the bullet!' Archer thought to himself. He glared menacingly at the bling-covered thug. Thinking finally to help Jack, Archer thought, 'Screw it, this clown is just too distracting!' and kicked his shoe up with all his might, catching the bling-covered baddie square in the jaw. As Millions fell to the floor, seeing stars, Archer thought to himself, 'Why the hell didn't I do that before...?" and rushed out to help the half-demon he'd known formerly as 'Greg'.
He peered out into the hallway, venturing cautiously, "Gre--uh, Jack?" He caught sight only of Marina and Muerte creeping slowly for the booth where Jack thought of a plan of escape. He noticed that Marina had picked up her whip again, and Muerte was following her, with his gun drawn. Coincidentally, Muerte noticed him as well. He quickly whirled around upon hearing Archer's voice, and aimed at the assassin, his face grim and expressionless. Archer, however, was not so cool and aloof. His reflexes kicked in in an instant, and he fired a blurry-quick shot from his own gun, the bullet shattering one of the light fixtures outside of where Jack was sitting.
Muerte and Marina ducked, startled, and Marina finally turned to acknowledge Archer; obviously he wasn't going to let her pursue Jack without some repercussions...
"Why do you want Jack so bad, anyways?" Archer barked adamantly.
"None of your damn business. You think just cause you're the Saint of Guns, that you can scare off the likes of me? Good luck..."
Archer smirked. His reputation preceded him. Too bad he couldn't say the same of Marina.
"Well, then, that poses a problem..." Archer started, "y'see, you know I'm the Saint of Guns. And yet, you still don't think it's a good idea to back off. What does that say about me, Marina?" Marina hesitated, still eyeing him defiantly, before he continued, "That says that I have to show you just how I came to be known as the Saint of Guns. You know, what with having a reputation and all..."
Marina and Muerte readied their weapons to meet his challenge, but before they could establish a good plan of attack, an ambush was already upon them. Archer fired off another startling gunshot, causing his foes to duck again, which he took advantage of to leap at the both of them. He lunged at Muerte, and swung off of the thug's side, effectively slinging Muerte while hurling himself bodily into Marina at the same time. He collapsed on top of the Oasis Angel heavily, and pinned her down, trying his best to ignore her struggling.
By the time Muerte got his bearings and got up to retaliate, Archer already had Marina in a chokehold that could easily turn into a neck-snap move. Muerte lowered his gun slightly.
"D-don't hurt her..." The first words he'd uttered since getting onto the train.
"Oh. A soft spot...good. Then you know what to do." Archer nodded at the gun that the thug gripped tightly.
"No!" Marina interjected, hatefully looking up at Archer and struggling, "Shoot his f***ing brains out!"
"You really wanna try that, champ?" Archer chuckled, "Y'know, I can always shoot another light out, in case you forgot just how quick I am." Muerte hesitated.
"You hurt her, man," he spoke through gritted teeth, "and it won't matter how good your reflexes are...I'll kill you." He looked at Marina, who had dropped her whip in all the confusion. Archer acknowledged the threat, which seemed only fair, and then nodded again at Muerte's gun. Muerte looked at it, and then hesitantly...turned around and tossed it to the other end of the train car.
"JACK, YOU CAN COME OUT!" Archer called to Jack, who had been contemplating how to land safely off a train car. Jack gladly heeded the call, tattoos aglow, powers at the ready. Realizing that Archer had a handle on Marina for the time being, he jumped out of the car, and thrust out a hand, quickly sending the river water at Muerte to incapacitate him in icy constraints. He thought of how exactly he would handle the last remaining gangster. He approached Marina, who was still clutched in Archer's hold, and she hissed venomously, "What're you gonna do to me? Huh? Kill me? You try me, and I'll--"
"You'll what? " Jack snapped, "You'll attack me with water? Or your whip? In case you hadn't noticed, Archer here is gonna handle you in case you try anything funny."
"You want funny?" Marina retorted, "This'll be hilarious." She finally got in the right position, and with just the right momentum, kicked backward with all her might, her boot landing square in--
"MY F***KIN' BALLS!" Archer doubled over in pain, giving Marina just the opportunity she needed to wrest control of her own body again, and pick up her whip. However, she realized that she wouldn't be able to take Jack down on her own, even with her whip. Jack kept his powers at the ready, to make sure that Marina saw him as a threat. It seemed only best to get out of there soon as possible. With that, she quickly gathered her bearings, and took off down the hall. She raised a hand on her way, and released Muerte before returning to find the just-returning-to-consciousness Millions.
"Muerte, get him!" She ordered her right-hand man to pick up the bling-studded bumbler so he wouldn't slow them down. She took one last look back, "We'll be back for you, Ace", and then called the puddle of water back to her side. The three gangsters hopped together onto the puddle, which was now a solid structure for them to stand on, and hightailed it out of the same window they came in.
In the hallway, Jack let go of his powers, stumbling to the ground, thoroughly exhausted. Archer mustered up what little testicular fortitude was afforded him at the time, and clambered raggedly to his feet, helping Jack up as well. As the two finally got situated, Flegn could find no other words but, "Damn, you're popular." before looking back and noticing that the older gentleman from before couldn't help but treat himself to a superhuman fight scene. Upon being noticed again, heslid quickly back into his booth, bringing exhausted smiles to both Archer and Jack's faces.
This post was updated on .
All the excitement from Cookie's amazing psychic revelation had sort of worn off, and so the supers decided that it was definitely time to get some sleep. Of course, though, they wouldn't just let the conversation die down. They still had questions, and since Cookie wasn't intending on answering them, they would at least settle for speculation amongst themselves.
"Oi, Pierce, whaddya think Jack is up to?" Ivan asked, undressing down to his briefs and laying on his stomach across the bed.
"Hell if I know." Pierce shrugged, pulling his shirt over his head, before sitting on his bed, "I mean, what did he think he would accomplish by leavin'? He's got the stone, and we ain't around to help him, and if somebody tries to take the stone from him--"
"Let's hope tha' ain't the case." Fitz interjected, appearing suddenly at the doorway. Ivan lay across his bed, and shot Fitz a look of doubt.
"Well, we can hope all we want, but Jack ain't exactly a chameleon. White hair, red eyes, and taller than most. And the government has people everywhere. Y'never know who could be already after him." Ivan hated to be pessimistic, as it went against his nature, but it only made sense. It seemed they were always being pursued.
"Yeah, but--", Pierce paused, hesitating, "You really think somebody could be after Ace?"
"You really think they ain't?" Ivan retorted. Pierce went quiet, and the awkward silence between the three of them let worries build up in the corners of their minds. When Ivan could no longer stand it, he jumped up from his bed, reached down to pull his pants back on, and motioned for Pierce to get back dressed.
"Wait, wait, wait! Wha' d'ya think yer doin'? Y'don't even know where Jack is! Not to mention, Wayne is missin', too. You gonna go after him as well?" Fitz looked at the two as they got their clothes back on, and got ready to leave. At just this moment, Flores showed up at the doorway, startling Fitz.
"Hell are you two up to?" he grunted.
"We're goin' after Ace." Ivan looked out the window hoping it wasn't raining. The night sky was clear as ever.
"You're goin' out without Tessa and Nadia?" Flores asked.
"Well, yeah, they're--"
"Count me in!" Flores smiled. He went back to the room he shared with Fitz and got his shoes. Getting his shoes on, he looked over into the room where Damien and Mark slept. They probably wouldn't be needed, so he decided to let them stay asleep. He returned to Pierce and Ivan's room, and let them know he was ready to go.
"I'm ready to roll... so, how are we gonna get there? You got a ride?" Flores looked out the window for some approaching vehicle. Seeing none, he looked, confused, back at the two.
"We don't got a ride. Sorry." Ivan shrugged.
'Damn idiot', Flores thought angrily, 'always thinking of great plans and having no way to get them done.' Speaking aloud, he said the same thing, but a bit more "colorfully".
"Hey, hey, hey! Wait a minute!" Fitz stepped between the two to prevent the impending altercation, "Let's not be hasty. Ah'm sure we can find a way to reach wherever Jack is. Ah mean, we have plenty of psychics in the house, right? Let's--"
"Ooooh, no. We ain't wakin' up Tessa, Nadia, Damien, Mark, Cookie an' Ginger jus' to find Ace. That's too many people to bring along!"
"Maybe we need a lot of people, Ivan! Ever think of tha'?" Fitz did an annoyed facepalm at Ivan's apparent lack of foresight, before continuing, "Alright. If we don't want to bring everyone along with us, then just ask Cookie for some help. She can talk to spirits, right? Maybe we can get some spirit information on where Jack is, and what Wayne is up to..."
Everyone nodded in agreement at Fitz's suggestion, and then quickly volunteered him to do the job. It was his suggestion, after all. He crept down the stairs, sneakily as his awkwardness would allow. As one would guess, that wasn't much. After only five steps, he stumbled over the carpet on the stairs, and had to prevent himself from taking a tumble all the way down the staircase. Catching his composure, he continued downstairs, and looked for the room that Cookie and Ginger slept in.
He finally reached her room (as he could tell by sensing the strength of her ESP, and the texture of her Mediumism), and stared at the door a second. He hoped that Cookie would be willing (and more importantly, that Ginger wouldn't hit him or something for waking them up so late). He reached slowly for the door knob, only to be startled by the sight of it turning on its own. He gasped deeply at the sight. Had he encountered one of the many ghosts that Cookie said made their homes here?
No, he realized. When the door opened completely, he was met by the sight of Cookie, wiping the feeling of sleep out of her inoperable eyes. She blinked twice.
"Yes?" She asked, just above a whisper.
"Uh, hey. I was wonderin' if you could help us with somethin'. We need to find Wayne and Jack."
Cookie smiled, "I knew you'd ask me that." She invited him into her room, and the two sat on her bed.
"Now, you know, to find them, it might take a few minutes. Might be a taste, a vibration, or a smell. But, give me time, I'll find the two of them." She closed her eyes and mentally called out to the spirit world.
Fitz looked at her as she concentrated diligently. She seemed a walking, talking beautiful contradiction. Her dark skin was so smooth, and her hair was so...not. She was blind, and yet could see better than most. She seemed the most down-to-earth person you could want to meet, and yet her grasp of the supernatural was awe-inspiring. Fitz had never really been so up-close to a black woman before (no matter how hard he'd tried in the past, it always ended in rejection), and so now that he could see one up so close, it seemed surreal.
His musing thoughts were interrupted by a sudden jolt that slightly shook the bed. Startled, Ginger jumped up from her bed, and grabbed for the bat she concealed under her bed.
"Who's there?!" She looked over at the two, "Oh. It's you. The hell you doin' in our room?"
Before Fitz had the chance to answer, Cookie looked at him, and said, "Jack is in trouble. Wayne is okay for now, but something tells me that won't last too long, either. I say you get after Jack, first, though."
"What? Why? Maybe we can split up into groups and find--"
"No. Find Jack first. Then look for Wayne." Cookie tried to shake the shaky feeling that clung to her nerves. Then she looked to her sister, and said, "I can see where he is, but it's a long way from here."
Ginger nodded, wiping the feeling of sleep from her eyes. She approached Cookie's bed, and nudged Fitz to the side.
"Move, Fritz, I need some space."
"Uh," he said moving to the edge of the bed, "It's Fitz."
"Hush," Ginger snapped, "nobody asked you. At least I cared to try... Now, Cookie, make room, so I can sit."
Cookie motioned for Fitz to get off the bed, and she did the same.
"You're gonna astral-project, right? That's your power; how's tha' gonna help?"
"Stop talkin'! Don't you know it's rude to interrupt?" Ginger took her place on Cookie's bed, and tried to get comfortable; in seconds, her head fell. A glowing, pinkish-purple manifestation of Ginger arose from her now-dormant body. The spectral form glided across the bed, and hovered at Cookie's side.
"Now, I'll be back in a little bit. Make sure that Fritz and those other perverts don't try anything while I'm away." And before Fitz got to correct her mispronunciation of his name again, her form had vanished into the astral realm. Time to find the teleporter, Torres.
Ginger's astral body drifted across the Astral Realm like she had done so many times before. She hoped that finding the teleporter would prove less difficult than it sounded. The bright, pinkish, purple energy fluxed and ebbed around her, and she could feel so many doorways. Fortunately, the expanse of the astral realm was familiar to her. It didn't work the same as the material world, and it didn't require the same effort. It was governed by thought, feeling and emotion, instead of what humans perceived as logic.
So, with that in mind, she concentrated hard on Torres' tanned skin, his laid-back demeanor, and, as though the very Astral Realm itself was alive, it responded to her inclinations, and thrust her through its expanses at a speed that would have blinded and deafened her physical body, to the Astral counterpart of Torres' location.
Trusting that her power hadn't failed her, she shifted her wispy spirit form out of the Astral Realm, and appeared right before Torres, who was just leaving a Car Show in Osaka, Japan.
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" Torres cried, "Corrina?"
"Nope...sorry, T, it's Ginger." Ginger corrected, much to Torres' relief, "Look, I need your help. We got a friend we need to find. White hair, red eyes, goes by Jack."
Torres stopped, and thought a second.
"Is Jack in trouble?"
"Cookie says he will be. Come back with us, so we can get him back."
"Well, can't you just astral-project to him?" Torres asked.
"And do what?" Ginger retorted, "threaten to phase him to death if he doesn't come back? I can find him, but I can't do anything in this form...you'll need to come back with me."
Torres looked back at the convention center where the cars were being shown, and groaned lightly. Then he nodded, and agreed to meet her back in Texas. The two disappeared at the same time.
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