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Earth 41269

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About this City Journal

Earth 41269 is a story-driven CJ that will focus on a number of very special individuals and their exploits. Feel free to give feedback and make suggestions for story lines you'd like to see. 

Entries in this City Journal

mike_oxlong

Hi everyone and apologies for the enormous delay. SC4 has not been kind to me of late; endless CTD issues have plagued me to no end. It was almost at the point of giving up as nothing seemed to work. I zoom in and CRASH! I load a bigger city and CRASH! I load a tile that's never crashed and CRASH! Needless to say, I've been discouraged. I have several chapters in reserve and no pictures to post with! Today I got lucky. I managed to get SC4 stable for a couple of hours and got what I needed. The shots aren't the best, so I appreciate your patience. Here we go...

 

 

Fox in the Hen House Part 1

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Shandiz Restaurant seemed like the perfect spot for the meet. Not too busy and in the heart of the embassy district, the cuisine was good and the wait staff friendly. Carol hadn’t had to wait long before being joined by a lone, heavy-set local. She had marked him earlier when she came in, standing near the entrance fidgeting and clearly expectant.

2rUScbK.jpg  “I am Abu Bakaar. You are from Stark,” he declared in a heavy accent. Carol simply nodded as he sat opposite her.

He waved impatiently at the waiter, who became suddenly apprehensive at his joining Carol. No longer as openly friendly, the server moved alongside the man, all the while casting furtive, almost pleading glances at Carol. He ordered Goat Karahi and with a grudging glare at Carol, Reshmi Kabab.

u5A66OL.jpg  “May I have…” she began and was immediately cut off.

2rUScbK.jpg  “You will eat what I’ve ordered, American.”

The flustered waiter begged off and rushed to the kitchen to place the order.

u5A66OL.jpg  Carol calmly looked him in the eye, “I’m not American…”

2rUScbK.jpg  “Liar! But it is of no consequence! You have the package? That’s all that matters.”

u5A66OL.jpg  She reached down to the metal case at her side, “Yes, it’s right here and…”

2rUScbK.jpg  “I am obligated to dine with you,” he interrupted, “but not to converse! You are nothing to me, cow.”

u5A66OL.jpg  So that’s how it is, Carol thought. Fine. The meal came and they dined in silence; him occasionally scowling at her, while she studiously ignored him. What didn’t escape her notice was that the restaurant had cleared out fairly quickly, with only their terrified waiter remaining.

The meal went on far too long for her liking as Bakaar grabbed the lion’s share, permitting her only a few morsels. Resigning herself mainly to water, she sat with arms crossed as he finished off the meal, belching loudly. The waiter hurriedly cleared their dishes away and scurried to the kitchen with a final, pitying glance in her direction.

2rUScbK.jpg  “And now, woman, you will give me the money and come with me. You are my prisoner,” he laughed.

u5A66OL.jpg  “Actually? You’re seriously expecting me to just up and come with you? Where’s Stark? You’re getting nothing until you hand him over.”

He brought his hands above the table with a hateful look in his eye. He held a Beretta M9 pistol, levelled directly at her. Pretty smooth, Carol noted, as she hadn’t even noticed Bakaar draw on her.

2rUScbK.jpg  “Stand up! Did you really expect us to hand Stark over to you? They will pay, and pay again and we will finally send him back, piece by piece. Perhaps they will be able to reassemble his parts in the factory,” he sneered. “In the meantime, foolish woman, not only will he craft many powerful weapons for us, but you will make a fine addition to our flock.”

Carol stood meekly as he roughly ran his hands over her, frisking for weapons of her own. He made sure to cross the line into groping as Carol envisioned putting him headfirst through the wall. Keeping her cool, she endured the indignity as he finally grabbed the metal briefcase and pushed her toward the door. She was shoved roughly into the back seat of a waiting car, next to a swarthy, bald man. Bakaar climbed into the front passenger seat and the car roared away.

 

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2rUScbK.jpg  Bakaar turned to her and gestured towards the bald man, “This is Raza. He is your master. You will speak only when spoken to and you will do as you are commanded.” Raza barely acknowledged her presence.

Carol tried her best to appear terrified and pretended to sniffle quietly, eliciting cruel laughter from Bakaar. Reaching for a box at his feet, he removed a device that looked like a portable defibrillator. He carefully balanced the case he’d confiscated on the dash and pushing the paddles on either end, applied an electric shock 3 times. Satisfied, he dropped the device back into its box and popped the latches on the case. As promised, Stark Industries had sent a lot of money. 

Looking smugly over his shoulder, Bakaar grinned, “Your tracking devices are destroyed. There is no hope for you, American.”

Raza stared out the window, watching the streets of Kabul give way to the brown wilderness of the Afghan desert.

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They had headed southwest, rather than north as Director Brand had predicted. Passing through Kandahar in the early dawn hours of the second day, they moved out of allied territory and skirted the Registan Desert. After changing vehicles three separate times and eventually switching to horseback, they arrived at their destination near the Pakistani frontier two days later. Carol’s hands had been tied the entire time and her wrists were thoroughly chafed. She had been further restrained at night and kept under guard but thankfully, no one had so much as laid a finger on her, much less spoken to her.

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They rode through an area with camouflaged netting that served to cover crates of supplies, vehicles and weaponry, up to a cave at the base of a mountain. They dismounted and made their way deep into the cave complex, coming to a large metal door. A faint metallic banging could be heard within.

8TQwHjl.jpg  Raza waved away his men and when they were alone, he addressed Carol in a fine British accent, “You’re from Stark Industries and obviously are highly valuable, otherwise they would not have sent you. Are you a scientist or an accountant?”

u5A66OL.jpg  Carol thought quickly, grateful for her military service, “I’m an engineer. I worked on the GPS upgrade for the GBU-32 JDAM ‘smart bomb’ before being promoted to VP of the Precision Ordnance division.” She was unsure of whether such a position existed but Raza was visibly satisfied.

8TQwHjl.jpg  “That’s good, very impressive,” he nodded, “I have a new project for you; just yesterday Mr. Stark agreed to build us a mighty weapon and you will aid him. He already has an assistant, but you are clearly an outstanding addition to his team. Once the weapon has been completed, we will release you.”

She knew they wouldn’t.

u5A66OL.jpg  “And if I refuse?”

8TQwHjl.jpg  Raza shrugged, “You should probably not,” and called out. Immediately, two armed men ran back to his side and undid her bonds. He unlatched the door and the banging stopped instantly.

Raza strode in, followed by Carol and the guards. The area was clearly a workshop, with tools and parts of all description strewn about. Two men stood at the far end of the workshop, hands behind their heads and eyes cast down. Carol barely recognized Tony, who’d clearly been subjected to multiple beatings. More disconcerting were the wires leading from beneath the bandages around his chest, connected to a car battery on the workshop table.

“Mr. Stark,” Raza called out and, looking up, Tony saw her immediately. The dismay on his face was scarcely concealed as Raza continued, “I’ve brought you a gift. Now you and Yinsen, “he pointed to the other, bespectacled old man, “will help me smite my enemies with 1000 times more precision.”

 

To be continued...

mike_oxlong

No Rest for the Weary

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Carol smiled as she motored down the highway. Since Hammerhead’s arrest, the demand on her time had plummeted, with a corresponding drop in crime. The Maggia’s back was broken and the organization appeared to be in a death spiral. A few small-scale busts had followed the take-down; the failing efforts of desperate individuals wallowing in a power vacuum feeding upon each other.

The hands-free began to chime and Carol sighed, shaken from her reflections. She glanced at the screen, seeing it was Bobbi Morse and happily took the call.

rMi81lh.jpg   “Hey Bobbi, how are you?”

dHNW0gM.jpg   “Well, that depends on your point of view. Are you busy?”

rMi81lh.jpg   “I’m just on the highway heading to the Palladium resort. I have a week booked there all by myself. I kind of earned it, I figure. So yeah, a little bit busy.”

Silence met her response and Carol could just feel it coming.

“What’s wrong?” she asked before Bobbi could continue.

dHNW0gM.jpg   “I’m so sorry,” Bobbi’s voice faltered, “I think you’re the only one that can help. There’s been a kidnapping…”

rMi81lh.jpg   “Oh,” Carol shook her head in confusion, “but what about your team? Felicia alone could probably get that handled, considering her specialty.”

dHNW0gM.jpg   “Carol, it’s in Afghanistan…”

What the..? Carol furrowed her brow, trying to make sense of the situation. Why is S.W.O.R.D. even involved with a kidnapping? Truthfully Bobbi had been Carol’s rock during her recovery, after being ambushed at the warehouse. Carol may well owe Bobbi her very life, if she was being honest with herself. Ultimately there was no debate as to whether she would help Bobbi without hesitation. Carol looked wistfully at the highway exit sign coming up. Either she headed south at the exit, or follow the highway and end up at S.W.O.R.D. With a sigh she watched her turn off pass by.

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dHNW0gM.jpg   “Tony’s been taken. Can you come? To S.W.O.R.D.?” Bobbi’s voice was wavering.

rMi81lh.jpg   $#!%. Carol weighed the benefits of slamming on the brakes and reversing back to her exit. Bobbi? You’re cutting out. I can’t hear you.
*click*

"Don’t worry, I’m on my way. I’ll be there in a couple of hours.” Bobbi’s relief was audible and Carol was headed north towards S.W.O.R.D.’s facility.

Carol and Bobbi were joined by Abigail Brand, director of S.W.O.R.D. Carol sat quietly as Bobbi played back the ransom video. 

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YxiUU1S.jpg   “In a follow-up message, they demanded the funds be transferred electronically. If we do that, we can be sure that we’ll never see Tony again. I have a plan, but again you’re the only one that can pull it off. We need an asset on the ground for a physical transfer of the ransom, insisting that an exchange takes place - we give them the cash and they hand over Tony. So here’s the plan…” Director Brand outlined her expectations for the exchange and what possible scenarios could take place. Carol countered with some observations and pointed out glaring weaknesses in the plan.

dHNW0gM.jpg   “But that’s just it, don’t you see? The flaws are so obvious that they can’t likely help but take advantage,” Bobbi enthused and Carol nodded slowly in understanding. “Once we get them to agree to the hand-off, we’ll arrange for you to fly to Kabul. We’ll do our best to negotiate for the meet to take place there but may need to accept a secondary location. Since Kabul is ostensibly under allied control, they may insist on a meet in less friendly territory.”

YxiUU1S.jpg   Director Brand pointed Carol toward a tactical map on another screen, “Allied forces had been advancing on an area around Gulmira when Tony was taken. He’d been there for a weapons demo and the convoy ambush happened on the way back toward more friendly territory. Given the proximity of the ambush to Gulmira, we can reasonably expect him to be somewhere within a 50x50 mile area. More than likely somewhere in the mountains and caves to the north.”

rMi81lh.jpg   “That’s 2500 square miles!” Carol exclaimed, then leaned back in her chair, coming to a sudden realization. She looked slowly back and forth at the two seated opposite her and crossed her arms, “None of you can fly, can you? That’s why you think I can make this work.”

dHNW0gM.jpg   Bobbi nodded glumly, “You’re right. I have a guy that can infuse objects with energy; a blind guy with borderline ESP; a woman that can jinx people; an introvert that can manipulate electricity and a schizophrenic ex-mercenary who gets ridiculously strong at night. Who would you send?”

rMi81lh.jpg   “Me,” Carol sighed. “What about having the team as backup?”

dHNW0gM.jpg   Bobbi pulled up her team on the screen, “Have a look. Any backup would stick out like a sore thumb over there and the op fails.”

rMi81lh.jpg   “Okay, I’ll do it. But you know I’m not bullet-proof, right? If I have to blow my cover, Stark is as good as dead.”

YxiUU1S.jpg   “That’s why you’ll need this,” Director Brand reached beneath the table and handed her a case.

rMi81lh.jpg   Carol inspected the contents and rubbed the red and blue material between her fingers, “Is it… um, graphete?”

dHNW0gM.jpg   Bobbi nodded, “Yes, it’s roughly your size and will stretch like Lycra for fit. It’s as light and comfortable as cotton and you can wear it under your civilian clothes over there.” She made a gesture as if to say, “Voila, now you’re bullet-proof.”

rMi81lh.jpg   Carol frowned at the rank insignia, designating her a Captain, “I retired at the rank of Major. This is kind of a demotion.”

YxiUU1S.jpg   “Well, we’re not really a regular armed force here,” Brand explained, “and Major Marvel doesn’t really roll off of the tongue does it? We could promote you, but does Colonel Marvel or Brigadier General Marvel work for you?”

rMi81lh.jpg   Carol made a face, “Touché. Captain Marvel it is!” She stared intently at the screen that had displayed the ransom video, paused now on a grim image of Tony surrounded by his abductors.

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Negotiations took over a week but eventually an agreement for Tony’s release was secured for $27.2 million USD. Carol would pose as a Stark Industries executive and deliver the ransom personally. She had reviewed her itinerary with mild disgust; first leg to Hong Kong and a nine hour layover. From there to Delhi with an 18 hour layover and finally on to Kabul, Afghanistan and a meet with the Ten Rings organization.

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rMi81lh.jpg   “Gah, I could fly there faster on my own,” she remarked. Unfortunately, to maintain her cover, doing so was out of the question. She settled into the business-class seat in 12K and resigned herself to the lengthy voyage. “Stark had better appreciate this.”

 

To be continued...

 

@dabadon5 @BLANKBLANK Thanks for the positive feedback! I really appreciate it.

mike_oxlong

Takedown

 

Prospects were starting to look positive. Felicia and Dr. Morse’s introduction had gone smoothly and the two had begun training the very next day. Bobbi had agreed with Carol that martial arts training would teach Felicia the clarity of mind and focus needed to gain fine control over her powers. The hope was that Felicia would eventually become a hero in her own right.

Curves ahead brought Carol back from her musing and she pushed her powerful sports car hard into the turns. The hands-free system rang and Carol quickly glanced at the caller ID on the console. It read, “The Snitch.” Bear Cattoni was his actual name. He’d once been a stunt man and had fallen in with some shady characters as his opportunities had dried up. He’d broken down in tears when Carol busted the operation he’d been a part of, begging her to help him get out. In spite of the previous ambush at Hunters Warehouse, she agreed to give him a chance. To his credit, he’d proven himself to be a valuable source of inside information.

UcGlYx4.jpg  She thumbed the button to answer the call, “Hello Bear, how’s my favourite narc?”

CKH2IMC.jpg   “Oh, you’re hilarious,” came Bear’s gravel-voiced reply, “I got what ya wanted.”

UcGlYx4.jpg   “Hang on Bear. I need to pull over.”

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The call couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment. There was a rest stop exit coming up immediately and Carol swung the Lamborghini off the highway to park. Had the call come a minute later, she would have been deep inside a tunnel. She retrieved her tablet, telling Bear to continue.

CKH2IMC.jpg   “He’s at the Eureka Tower on the 90th floor, Suite 9008. Dial 5155 on the access panel.”

UcGlYx4.jpg   “Seriously? The one with the gold-plated windows? Figures…” Carol rolled her eyes as she typed, “How credible is this intel?”

CKH2IMC.jpg   “I was there last night. It’s his place all right. Had a bunch of girls come by to entertain us too, if you know what I mean. Look, if you get in there, you can’t pin it on me, ok? I helped you out like I promised. I want out of that life. I want to be around for my daughter.”

UcGlYx4.jpg   “Don’t worry Bear. I won’t say any more than I have to.” Carol ended the call and pulled the car back out onto the highway. She mashed the accelerator hard, smoking her tires and heading back towards the city. “Looks like I’ve got a date tonight after all,” she grinned.

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Hours later, a lone figure sashayed up to the Eureka Tower and entered the secured foyer. She punched in a code on the security panel and a moment later Hammerhead’s gruesome face appeared on the display.

5UqoTCb.jpg   “What?” he spat, clearly annoyed by the interruption.

UcGlYx4.jpg   “Hi, it’s Stacey from last night. Remember me? I was kinda hoping that maybe you might want to see me again.”

5UqoTCb.jpg   “Stacey… yeah, sure. I remember you. Leave ya coat and bag wit da door guy. I can’t remember his &%@$# name. You know da apartment, right?”

UcGlYx4.jpg   “Yes, 9008. I can’t wait!”

The display went blank as Hammerhead buzzed her in. Carol almost laughed, it was so easy. “Appeal to his ego and he’ll do whatever I want,” she thought to herself as she headed straight to the elevator and up to the 90th floor.

5UqoTCb.jpg   A knock at the door to 9008 was answered quickly by Hammerhead himself. “Come on in, toots.”

UcGlYx4.jpg   With a coy smile, she cocked her head to one side, “Is it just you and me tonight?”

He nodded smugly, opened the door and stood aside to let her in.

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As she passed, Carol wound up and punched him hard in the side before he could react. She felt the bone crunch with the impact and Hammerhead dropped to the ground, groaning. She’d almost yelled out, “Right to the Getsuei,” and had to stifle a laugh.

5UqoTCb.jpg   “My ribs,” he gasped, clutching his side, “What the #&@%, you broke my #&@%ing ribs!”

Carol made a mental note to thank Mockingbird and closed the door behind her.

UcGlYx4.jpg   “Who else is here?”

A string of curses was the only response. Apparently he intended to impregnate Carol’s mother..? She caught him reaching feebly into the blazer he wore and mercilessly put her knee into his chest. He gasped in pain as she grabbed the pistol he was trying to retrieve.

“Nice Sig,” she remarked, a comment on his Sig Sauer P227. She took a moment to admire the heft of it in her palm. It was nicely weighted, and fit her grasp comfortably. She cleared the chamber and popped out the magazine to reveal .45 calibre hollow points. Satisfied, she clapped the magazine back into place and reloaded the chamber. She looked down at the incapacitated gangster with a scowl.

5UqoTCb.jpg   “What… are ya… gonna do? Shoot me?” he wheezed.

Ignoring him, she checked the safety and shoved the Sig in the back of her waistband. Carol then roughly flipped him over, eliciting another agonized gasp. With a knee in the small of his back, she drew out a pair of handcuffs and wrenched his arms behind his back. He cried out in pain and Carol looked to ensure there was no one coming to his aid.

UcGlYx4.jpg   “Unreal. A pretty girl comes on to you and you let her up here. You, all alone with no backup. I have no idea how you got this far in life, you’re so #&@%ing dumb. But you’re through. Hammerhead, you’re under arrest.”

Carol dragged him to his feet and marched him out the door and off to meet his fate before the courts.

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Not so far away from the action, another scenario was coming to a conclusion. In a well-appointed office, a large wall-mounted TV displayed Hammerhead’s downfall live. A single click on the red ‘X’ terminated the video feed from a well-positioned drone. A very large man stood up and waved at two well-dressed men across from him, who had their guns trained on a third.

QSH6E0m.jpg   “You’ve done well, Bear. You’re free to go,” he nodded to the guards and they holstered their weapons.

CKH2IMC.jpg   Bear fairly leapt to his feet, “And that’s it? You aren’t going to come after me, right?”

QSH6E0m.jpg   “You have my word. You’ve done me a great service today. While I wouldn’t quite say that I’m in your debt, I’ll allow that you’ve earned your discharge. This woman has removed my only real opposition. Perhaps I should send her some flowers! Are you certain you don’t want to share her name?”

Bear’s panicked expression was answer enough.

“A shame,” the big man sighed, “My erstwhile rival will find to his chagrin, that our justice system will offer no leniency to a man of his ‘numerous transgressions’. Quite unfortunate that any request for bail will be similarly rejected,” He shook his head in mock sympathy, continuing, “and once Don Rigoletto ‘retires,’ Wilson Fisk will be the head of the Maggia. The Kingpin, if you will.” Fisk paused a moment, “Yes, I like that.”

“The Kingpin.”

Bear turned and fled the office, wondering helplessly if playing both sides had been such a clever ploy after all. The only response was laughter behind him.

To be continued...

 

 

@korver Thanks! I really appreciate your support!

@Ln X I've been talking up this mosaic for ages. The highway image is the one you've inspired and I thank you so much for the examples you've provided. *:thumb:

 

mike_oxlong

N.B. - Apologies for the low quality and scarcity of in-game images as I'm dealing with some befuddling and unresolved CTD issues. I'm using Data Node to try and uncover conflicts but coming up empty. Also trying the old "remove all plugins and slowly put them back in", without success. It's hideously frustrating but I'll make due for now...

Revelations

HvoTpMr.jpg

 

“Irrashaimase!” the staff called out as Felicia entered the restaurant. She smiled and nodded in response before turning to the hostess.

PTBdl4O.jpg  “Hello, I’m here to meet someone…” she began.

yupY5Qd.jpg   The hostess, a pretty, young woman named Mariko, bowed to her and smiled, “Yes, please follow me,” and led Felicia upstairs, away from the main dining area.

Shogun Sushi was beautifully appointed with Japanese décor and access to the upper VIP area was gained through a Torii-style gate. Though the gate was typically found only at the entrance to a shrine or other sacred place, its presence here was clearly symbolic. A shallow Koi pond fed by an artificial waterfall on the far end made up much of the busy upper level. A single, large bonsai tree and Japanese lantern adorned an island in the middle of the pond and two bronze herons stood like sentries off to one side. A small arched bridge provided access to the island, though the bridge itself was roped off.

The VIP area was filled to capacity and several private rooms ringed the area. The private rooms had a modern version of the Shoji, a wooden lattice door with translucent paper panels. Instead of paper, these were lined with frosted white glass for privacy.

Mariko led her to one of the rooms and slid the door silently open. Bowing gracefully, she ushered Felicia in and closed the door behind her. Two women were in the room who stood as she entered. One wore dark sunglasses and wisps of blonde hair peeked out from beneath her hood. A bulky silk scarf seemingly concealed her features but Felicia couldn’t escape the feeling that she was somehow familiar. The other was dressed somewhat more formally in a burgundy silk dress, her straight blond hair spilling elegantly around her shoulders.

K6tX3YK.jpg   “Hello Miss Hardy, I understand you’ve been looking for me. I’m Ms. Marvel,” she welcomed Felicia with a firm handshake. “I’m sorry for all the mystery but discretion is extremely important where my identity is concerned. I hope you’ll understand.” She turned to the woman at her side, “May I introduce you to Dr. Bobbi Morse?” She rubbed at her scarf briefly, the voice synthesizer concealed beneath that Bobbi had lent her was a bit uncomfortable. Not nearly as uncomfortable, she reflected, as the layers of makeup and contouring she had applied in an effort to somewhat disguise herself.

Felicia shook Bobbi's hand with a confused smile.

Ms. Marvel continued, “Mariko knew to expect you, please have a seat,” she motioned to the cushion in front of the low table opposite her own seat.

Felicia’s eyes began to well with tears in overwhelming relief as she seated herself. She had no idea where to begin and was grateful when Ms. Marvel spoke again, “May I tell you about myself and how I came about my abilities?”

PTBdl4O.jpg   Felicia nodded assent as she held nothing back, save her true identity. Felicia was quiet throughout and remained so after Ms. Marvel had finished speaking. Finally, with a furrowed brow she shook her head and said, “I’m sorry but, aliens? That makes about as much sense as…”

K6tX3YK.jpg   “Superpowers?”

PTBdl4O.jpg   “Yeah. Good point,” Felicia allowed.

K6tX3YK.jpg   “Felicia, like it or not, you have powers too. You seem to be able to influence peoples’ fortune. Problem is, you don’t have control.” To demonstrate her point, Ms. Marvel held up a single finger that began to glow with contained energy. She touched the wick of the unlit candle on the table and it flickered to life. “I couldn’t do that without a hell of a lot of practice.”

xMVEAqq.jpg   Silent up until this point, Bobbi asked “Felicia, do you ever feel a strange sensation when something is about to happen?”

PTBdl4O.jpg   She pondered a moment and nodded, “Yeah, kind of a creepy feeling sometimes. Like goosebumps, now that you mention. Almost like I know something’s about to go down but I can’t shake it.”

As if on cue, the door slid open and Felicia began to rub her arm in discomfort. It was Mariko with a pot of tea. Ms. Marvel held out her cup and saucer for Mariko when they suddenly slipped from her grasp as the tea began to pour. Felicia’s hand shot out and with a deft twirl, flipped them right-side up catching the cup perfectly in the stream of hot tea. Not a drop was spilled.

The others were speechless as Felicia placed the saucer in front of Ms. Marvel, then looked up. “What?” she asked in confused reply to their amazed expressions.

Mariko quickly looked down and bowed low, offering apologies and carefully filled Felicia’s and Bobbi’s tea cups before quietly departing.

xMVEAqq.jpg   “How did you do that?” Bobbi whispered incredulously.

PTBdl4O.jpg   Felicia shrugged, “I just caught the cup. What’s the big deal?”

xMVEAqq.jpg   “You didn’t even look and you’d caught it. You moved like lightning! Could you always do that?”

K6tX3YK.jpg   Felicia shook her head, no, as Ms. Marvel leaned back and appraised her again. “This may be even better than I expected. Dr. Morse is the reason I asked you to meet me here tonight.”

Bobbi explained to Felicia about S.W.O.R.D.’s mandate and her own role within the organization, training those with "special abilities." She also touched upon the failed effort at recruiting Ms. Marvel.

PTBdl4O.jpg   Felicia was leery, “So if that's what your boss is like, what makes you think I’d be willing to put myself in that position?” She shook her head, a little miffed at the suggestion.

xMVEAqq.jpg   Ms. Marvel sat quietly with a smug grin as Bobbi sighed. “Over the past several days, Ms. Marvel has been negotiating a service contract with me. The long and the short of it is that it deals with some particulars regarding the development of your powers. Your demonstration tonight with the tea cup shows that there are some aspects of your abilities that are only just beginning to manifest and I can help you with that as well. Most importantly,” she grimaced and sighed again, “S.W.O.R.D. is bound by the terms of the contract to allow no interaction between you and Mr. Stark that you, yourself, do not initiate. The contract has been approved and signed by Director Brand and is absolutely, irrevocably binding.”

Ms. Marvel snickered softly, knowing that a woman as naturally beautiful as Felicia would have been a prime target for Tony #$%@ing Stark.

No chance of that happening now.

K6tX3YK.jpg   She leaned forward, “So what do you say Felicia?”

PTBdl4O.jpg   Felicia looked up, her gaze full of hope, “Yes! God, yes. If she can help me, I’ll do whatever it takes.”

K6tX3YK.jpg   Ms. Marvel took Felicia’s hands in her own and squeezed reassuringly, “Good, now let’s eat,” she turned her attention to the tablet device mounted on the table and began to enter their order. “Have you ever tried Unagi? It’s my favorite.”

 

To be continued...

mike_oxlong

Hammered Part IV

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Don Rigoletto was the true head of the Maggia family. The machinations he’d put into play to protect his interests had cost him several valuable assets.  His Lieutenant now stood before him to inform him that it had been for naught.

Hammerhead ran his fingers through his thinning hair, feeling the flattened surface of his reconstructed head. Knowing the fate of those who’d previously failed the Don set him further on edge. He’d been summoned to the Don’s yacht to account for his failure to capture Ms. Marvel. The analysis was brief and to the point as the one thing you didn’t do with Don Rigoletto was beat around the bush.

H6URHYx.jpg  “…and when we went back in to find out what was takin’ so long, da dame was gone an’ my guys was busted up.” There was a long silence and Hammerhead fidgeted nervously. He eyed the capo standing guard a few feet away, a gun sitting within easy reach in its holster. Glancing down, he was somewhat relieved that there was no drop cloth at his feet. No drop cloth means no blood spatter - perhaps he’d be treated leniently. Finally the Don looked up from the table where he’d been receiving a massage. Grunting appreciatively at a knot being worked out of his shoulders, he waved dismissively to the attractive woman at his side. Recognizing the need for privacy she swiftly went below deck.

e5uksK9.jpg  He spoke softly, in a voice like crushed gravel and tinged with a heavy Italian accent, “So, you’re telling me that after all that planning, you let that puttana get away? Do you have any idea how much she’s costing me? 40 years I’ve been building this famiglia and in 6 months she’s taken out over twenty percent of my business!!!” His voice rose in fury, “6 months!!! A quarter of a billion dollars!!! And you let her get away. Stronso!” He shook his head angrily, “Get me Fisk.”

H6URHYx.jpg  “Fisk? You can’t be serious boss, dat guy’s got no respect. He can’t be trusted!”

e5uksK9.jpg  Don Rigoletto pointed a finger at Hammerhead, “Basta! He’s got no respect for you! I said get me Fisk and count yourself lucky that you’re not sleeping with the fishes tonight. Now get off my boat.” He lay back down muttering, “Where the hell is Carla?”

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Hammerhead left without another word. It wasn’t a long walk back down the pier to his limousine but it felt like one of the longest walks of his life. Wilson Fisk was one of the rising stars of the Maggia, providing valuable business acumen and ruthless action when necessary. Hammerhead had recognized the threat Fisk posed to his own position and had manoeuvered him into several difficult situations. To his frustration, Fisk always seemed to escape those traps unscathed. Worse, it had forced the Don to take notice.

And now Fisk had been gifted an opportunity to succeed in the wake of Hammerhead’s own failure.

fbQxz0Y.jpg  His driver held the door open for him and hurried to start the car. “Boss?”

H6URHYx.jpg  “Take me to da #@%$& tower,” he snarled.

Across town, Felicia Hardy had just retrieved her mail and trudged wearily up the stairs to her apartment. Keeping positive had become a struggle. It seemed of late that all of her friends and family were avoiding her, apparently for good reason with all the bad luck following her around.

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The latch unlocked with reluctance as she had to jiggle the keys to make it turn. One of these days the landlord might actually respond to her complaints and fix it. Then again, she also may win the lottery, she mused with a derisive grin.

d6YGm50.jpg  “This loneliness is really starting to get to me,” she thought as she placed her cell phone and mail on the kitchen counter and reached into her liquor cabinet above the fridge. The lack of contents forced her to recall last night’s binge that had ended with her passed out on the sofa and a large booze stain on the carpet.

A buzzing from the kitchen counter brought her back into the present. She retrieved the phone and unlocked it to find a waiting text. Her hope for a friendly chat was dashed by the unknown number on the screen. With a sigh she opened the message in anticipation of spam and was surprised by what she read.

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She quickly keyed in a reply and got a response soon afterwards.

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d6YGm50.jpg  “Well, why not? I’ve always wanted to try sushi and it’s not like anyone else is asking me out.”

 

To be continued...

mike_oxlong

-Sorry for the long wait between chapters, folks! I went in for knee surgery and it's knocked me on my rear a little. 6 weeks off of work will give me a little time to get caught up! Now, without further ado, here we go with...

Hammered Part III

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The meeting with Stark had, predictably, not gone well. The accusatory dissection of her tactics had perhaps been warranted, but his condescending tone had led her to not-so-politely suggest he could “proceed to engage in intimate relations with himself.” Further and much to her disgust, he’d continually failed to maintain eye contact. She’d finally had fantasies of forcibly wiping the smug look from his face as he’d casually informed her that she’d now be working for S.W.O.R.D. and she ended up storming out.

Dr. Morse caught up to her, imploring her to stay but Carol refused.

Os7gXJW.jpg  “He’s an insufferable egomaniac. Who does he think he is, busting my chops and then basically telling me I’m joining your little gang?”

u581qYb.jpg  “Well, you’re not wrong.” Bobbi agreed, “The thing is that what we do here is so much more than taking any orders from him. But I do think there’s a lot more similarity between us than you realize. Aside from my training, there’s nothing special about me. I don’t have your abilities or any kind of super-powers. However, I’ve found a few others that do and have helped to recruit them into S.W.O.R.D. Like you, our goal is to help those that can't help themselves. There have been a number of disturbing incidents over the past few years that point to a coordinated effort to destabilize governments around the world. Unfortunately we have few leads and we're desperate for someone as powerful as you to join with us.”

Os7gXJW.jpg  “It’s a hell of a recruitment process you have here.”

u581qYb.jpg  “It’s not always like what you had to put up with. However, you’re the first one Mr. Stark has personally taken an interest in.”

Os7gXJW.jpg  “With the way he was leering at me, I could never have guessed he was interested,” Carol snorted. Bobbi held her gaze, frowning and Carol was silent.

u581qYb.jpg  “Yes, he’s pretty confident in his approach and is used to having women flocking to his side. I’m not making excuses for him or condoning that behaviour. There’s no excusing his disrespect. Truthfully, we're not even his primary focus. Stark industries is a military contractor and he's too busy with advanced weapons research to bother with managing us, let alone, being here to practice his particular brand of 'charm'.”

Os7gXJW.jpg  Carol was mollified, “Has he ever tried that crap with you?”

u581qYb.jpg  “Only once.”

Os7gXJW.jpg  “What happened?”

u581qYb.jpg  “I used a shime-waza on him. Specifically a hadaka-jime.”

Bobbi noted the confused look on Carol’s face and explained, “A hadake-jime is a Judo rear choke hold. You should’ve seen the look on his face! I wrapped him up so fast, I’m sure he thought he was about to get lucky! At least until he blacked out,” she laughed.

Os7gXJW.jpg  Carol couldn’t help but to laugh along, her mood broken. “So, I take it you’re good?”

u581qYb.jpg  Bobbi nodded, “That’s the other reason I’m here. I’m hachidan, an eighth-level Kodokan judoka. Not the highest-ranked, by any means, but I teach Judo to our team. Tactical combat and martial arts are an incredible supplement to their abilities. Stark provided me with additional resources that help to make up for what I lack in super abilities.”

Os7gXJW.jpg  “What, like guns?”

Bobbi shook her head, no, and asked Carol to come with her. They got into an elevator and descended several floors. Bobbi brought her into a gymnasium space, lined with mirrors on the far end and an array of weapons on racks on the adjacent wall. There was a padded area in the middle of the room and sparse oriental-themed decorations adorning the space. Several mannequins were located at various points in the room along with what looked like speed bags and punching bags. In the weapon racks were several Japanese swords, spears and club-like objects. Some looked familiar, others Carol had seen before only in movies.

Os7gXJW.jpg  “These all yours?” Carol asked, admiring one of the fine Katanas in its rack.

u581qYb.jpg  “No, they are for practicing Kenjutsu and other weapon fighting. I use these,” she said reaching for two non-descript metal bars, each around 3 feet long. Bobbi turned and bowed solemnly to Carol, then began to practice her craft.

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Vaulting into the center of the padded area, she struck three targets almost simultaneously. Her attacks were fluid and the bars were wielded as an extension of herself. At times she would join the two halves into a single six-foot bar and attack the mannequins in a blur of motion. Just as quickly the bar would be separated again for a close-in attack on a pair of targets. She combined her weapon attacks fluidly with judo strikes, throwing roundhouse kicks and targeting vital spots on the mannequins. She instructed Carol to pay particular attention to those vitals as she demonstrated a Gammen-tsuki strike in the Getsuei.

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u581qYb.jpg  “For a right-handed attack, a hard blow to the left floating rib, “the Getsuei”, can cause a dislocation and cripple your opponent. Though competitive judo forbids the use of striking techniques, in a real fight you would definitely need to know these kinds of moves.”

Bobbi wound down her demonstration and bowed again to Carol, who felt obligated to bow in return. She passed the bars to Carol who accepted them with as much respect as she could muster. The mechanism to connect the two was readily apparent, needing only a simple twist to click together. They were lightweight but inexplicably sturdy.

The bars were handed gently back to Bobbi who then replaced them on the rack. To Carol’s shock, Bobbi then began to remove her top.

u581qYb.jpg  “I also wanted to show you this,” she explained as Carol began to protest, her unease showing. Bobbi laughed, “No, no! This is what I want to show you,” and she pointed to the material underneath her t-shirt. “It’s one of the other perks of working for a weapons manufacturer. This is an advanced material called graphete. It’s stronger than solid steel, with less than half-a-percent of its density yet it’s as soft and pliable as cotton. It’s like a high-tech suit of armor, far better than Kevlar.”

Os7gXJW.jpg  “Well, I’m impressed. I really am. And you’re amazing, Dr. Morse, but I really don’t see a future for myself here under the control of a raging narcissist like Tony Stark.” She held out her hand to thank Bobbi. With a grimace, she accepted and ushered Carol to an exit near the top of the building.

u581qYb.jpg  Watching her fly off, Bobbi held her palm to her forehead and muttered, “Ugh Tony. You really screwed this one up.”

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To be continued...

mike_oxlong

Hammered Part II

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The room was dark and she awoke to a pounding headache and complete disorientation. Rolling off the bed, every step was agonizing. White spots dominated her vision and a wave of nausea slowed her progress. Carol paused to take stock of her surroundings. The cold, tiled floor was the first clue that she wasn’t in her home. The lack of medical equipment meant it also couldn’t be a hospital despite the fact that she wore a medical gown. A plain wardrobe and pedestal sink stood opposite the bed. There was a curtain on one side of the room and, ignoring the pain in her head, she pulled back the blinds. There was only a blank wall, not a window.

She gingerly padded over to the door. Reaching for the handle, Carol was startled when it turned and swung open. A young woman on the other side narrowly avoided being cold-cocked when Carol checked her swing.

2TpNGYF.jpg  “Well, that’s not very gracious of you,” the young woman laughed. “Please get back in your bed. You’re suffering from a concussion.” She took Carol’s arm and guided her back to lay on the bed. “I’m Dr. Barbara Morse, but you can call me Bobbi.”

SdYkKs2.jpg  “This isn’t a hospital,” Carol croaked, “Where am I?”

2TpNGYF.jpg  “No it isn’t a hospital, not exactly, although you’re receiving the best care available. You’ve been out of it for a few days now. You’re lucky we found you when we did.”

The memory of her fight with Hammerhead came rushing back. Feeling her aching elbow, she recalled landing a blow on what felt like solid steel.

“It’s a bone contusion,” Bobbi nodded, “You should be grateful that it wasn’t completely shattered. We believe that his skull is lined with a woven Adamantium or similar alloy. Based on the files we’ve reviewed on your tablet, that’s about the only thing about him we knew and you didn’t.”

Carol relaxed a bit, realizing that she hadn’t been captured by the Maggia.

“I realize that this must be a bit unusual for you,” Bobbi continued, “but we’ve been trying to find you for quite some time.”

SdYkKs2.jpg  “Not that unusual,” Carol chuckled to herself, thinking of Felicia and Oracle.

2TpNGYF.jpg  “We finally got a fix on you and followed you to the Hunters Warehouse. Hammerhead had knocked you out cold and it looked like things were about to get really ugly when we stepped in.”

SdYkKs2.jpg  “Who do I have to thank for that?”

NQvBepG.jpg  “Agent Mockingbird tracked you down,” was the reply from a well-dressed man just entering the room, “and barely got there in time to save your sorry butt.” Striding confidently to Carol’s bedside, a hand casually resting in his pants pocket, he appraised Carol with a raised eyebrow. He was handsome, sporting an immaculately groomed goatee, dark glasses and slightly greying hair.

SdYkKs2.jpg  “If it’s possible, I’d like to meet him and say thanks,” Carol asked wearily. Her earlier walk around the room had taxed her and she was growing tired.

NQvBepG.jpg  “Not him - her,” the man pointed at Bobbi.

2TpNGYF.jpg  “You’re welcome,” Bobbi nodded, “Now get some rest. You may need a couple of days off your feet still but your recuperative abilities are off the charts so it may be quicker than I expect.”

SdYkKs2.jpg  “I need to get in touch with my office. They’ll be worried about me.”

NQvBepG.jpg  “We’ve taken care of it,” the suit guy frowned.

SdYkKs2.jpg  “Uhh, ok? So, who are you and where am I?” Carol inquired.

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NQvBepG.jpg  “You’ve been brought to the Sentient World Observation and Response Department’s facility. S.W.O.R.D., for short.” He paused, waiting for a reaction that wasn’t coming. With a shrug he continued, “S.W.O.R.D.’s mandate is to manage extra-terrestrial individuals and events which is how you popped up on our radar. There really isn’t much we can do about it just yet but we’re aware of what you could call a UFO in orbit. It’s not much of a stretch to connect it to more and more people like you suddenly appearing.”

SdYkKs2.jpg  “Still not answering my question.”

NQvBepG.jpg  “I’m offended,” he said, stretching out the words and pulling off his glasses, “that you don’t know. Those were my missiles hanging off of your jet, Major. I’m Tony Stark. I also fund this organization. Now get some rest and we’ll talk about your little misadventure soon.” He abruptly turned and walked out.

Carol stared incredulously at the back of his head and looked to Dr. Morse, who’d stood silently throughout the exchange.

SdYkKs2.jpg  Bobbi could only nod in agreement when Carol flatly stated, “What a jerk.”

To be continued...

 

 

mike_oxlong

Things had gotten a little interesting. Carol had discovered the existence of a mob ring called the Maggia, apparently run by a boss calling himself Hammerhead. She also had inadvertently triggered an anomaly in a woman she’d saved, who’d later become her client. Now her job was to track herself down for a meeting with the client and somehow guide the client into becoming another of Earth’s protectors much as she, herself, had become.

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INR1Ewa.jpg  “Well, first things first,” she mused. She’d been sitting on one of her perches overlooking Hunters Warehouse, a building Carol now knew for certain to be a front for the Maggia. She’d had the building under surveillance for several months and the leads thus generated had helped her collect enough evidence to make a bust. Hammerhead’s timing had been consistent to this point, so as long as he kept to his schedule Ms. Marvel would make a guest appearance this evening.

After one last sweep of the site, she put her field glasses away but left the camera operating. The live feed on her tablet looked good and it joined the binoculars in her backpack. She flew from the observation site to return to her car in a nearby parking garage and circled the area a couple of times to make sure no one was on the upper level. Approaching with cover from the side of a nearby building, she landed as close to the upper level exit as possible. Finding the area clear, she ducked into the stairwell and pulled on a coat retrieved from her backpack. She made her way quickly and unnoticed, back to her car – one a little less conspicuous than her Lamborghini.

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Back at the office, Carol pulled out the warehouse blueprints to work through her plan for the evening. She reviewed her entry point on the seventh floor and the path to the main office area where she expected to find Hammerhead and his attendants. She counted on having to beat up a few guards along the way but anticipated only light resistance. Despite the size of the building, there never seemed to be more than twenty occupants at any given time. It was critical that she be fast and careful since being inside would negate a lot of her advantages in flight and manoeuverability. She’d never been shot but she was aware that her invulnerability would not make her bulletproof. Her closest brush had come when a thrown knife had grazed her left thigh and caused a nasty gash but thankfully the cut hadn’t been overly deep. It had left her with much more grounded expectations of her abilities.

So what to do about Felicia Hardy? Carol knew that was an issue she’d have to address but had to find a credible way of arranging a meet, while preserving the integrity of her dual identity. Reflecting a moment on Felicia’s claim of being jinxed, she had to take it at face value given the existence of her own incredible abilities. She only hoped that the bad luck that had led Felicia to hire her was the extent of the trouble.

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That evening, Carol put her plan into action, infiltrating the warehouse and subduing a couple of random grunts with ease. After gagging and securing them, she opened the access door to the catwalk above the main warehouse space and crept silently outward. From her vantage point on the catwalk there was a clear view to the main office area below. Oddly, the warehouse seemed quite empty for the amount of activity that had taken place during the past few months of surveillance.

INR1Ewa.jpg  “No time to worry about that right now.” By her reckoning, Hammerhead should arrive any moment.

She wasn’t disappointed.

He strode in with an arrogant swagger. The few men in the office welcomed the new arrivals and one of them produced what appeared to be a ledger. Hammerhead took a seat at the desk to review and Ms. Marvel made her move. She flew down from the catwalk and took out three of the five henchmen in the room before anyone realized what was happening. 

gpYJOdT.jpg  Hammerhead leapt to his feet and shouted, “It’s da broad! Get her!”

The other two pulled their guns as Ms. Marvel advanced on them. A solid punch to the temple crumpled the first, while she blasted the other with an energy bolt from her outstretched hand. Sensing Hammerhead moving up behind her, she struck out with her elbow and made contact, staggering him, but the blinding pain that met her blow stopped her cold. Shaking off the stars in his own vision, Hammerhead returned the favour with a head butt that dropped her into unconsciousness.

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gpYJOdT.jpg  “And dat’s why dey calls me Hammerhead,” he growled at her prone form. He took a glass of water from the desk and threw it into his henchman’s face. “Wake up, ya bum,” he sneered, then motioned to a couple of figures lurking deep in the shadows, “You two idiots get out here. We gots what we came for.”

rbq2h4g.jpg  Two more unseen goons emerged from where they lay in wait, exclaiming, “Great plan boss! She never saw it coming.”

gpYJOdT.jpg  “Awright, I don’t need you blowing sunshine up my butt,” Hammerhead snorted. Gesturing at the fallen hero, he continued, “An’ I don’t like being the bait to land this fish. Kneecap da broad and get her to the Don. I’m done here.” He snapped his fingers at his wet and groggy henchman, “Go get da #%@$ car.” The hapless driver scrambled to his feet and scurried to hold open the door. Hammerhead stomped out, muttering a string of curses and ignoring the other unconscious members of his gang.

The two remaining men looked at each other and once out of earshot they relaxed visibly.

rbq2h4g.jpg  “Kneecap da broad? Who talks like that?” the first laughed.

S6lLdvo.jpg“Come on. You know he thinks he’s a freakin’ ‘30’s gangster like John Dillinger or Pretty Boy Floyd,” he pointed to the fedora on his head, “Why do you think he makes us wear these get-ups? That doctor who put his head back together must’ve missed a few screws. Now do what he said and hobble her.”

rbq2h4g.jpg  “Why me? You got a gun!”

S6lLdvo.jpg  “Just do it, ya whiner.” He laughed, shoving his partner good-naturedly.

rbq2h4g.jpg  “I dunno… shooting a defenseless woman? Doesn’t feel right.”

S6lLdvo.jpg  “What are ya, Mother Teresa? Put a pill in ‘da broad’,” he mocked.

rbq2h4g.jpg  “Ohh, that’s cold,” thug number one laughed and raised his weapon. Neither of them noticed the figure creeping up silently behind them.

To be continued...

mike_oxlong

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Something didn’t make sense. It had been an entire evening wasted, sitting at her desk, poring over her surveillance photos. Carol was certain she was missing some important details. After the punk had given up all the information on the Maggia, Carol had kept Hunters Warehouse under watch. The ability to fly had made it laughably easy to find perches on which to set up her cameras.

She had noticed a pattern evolve over the course of the next few weeks of watching the building. While delivery trucks would come and go, there was always a particular vehicle that would show up at the same time every evening. The occupants were always well-dressed and met by a party of men from the building. One in particular seemed to attract a lot of their attention.

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E4mqMQg.jpg  “That must be Hammerhead,” she reasoned.

Invariably, they would stay for exactly two hours and return to their car and depart. What she couldn’t figure out was that if he were a crime boss, what was he doing spending time in the trenches? Why would he want to be directly tied to his operation?

A restless night passed and she was early to the office the next day to continue the analysis. She frowned as the phone on her desk rang. It was her receptionist, calling to inform Carol that her 10 o’clock appointment had arrived. She stood to receive her client and put on her best smile. As the door swung open, the smile froze on her face. She had met this client once before.

E4mqMQg.jpg  “Good morning Ms. Hardy, I’m Carol Danvers,” she stammered. Recovering quickly, Carol shook her hand and motioned for her client to be seated. “How can I help you?”

cGTIQzO.jpg  Her client sat and replied, “Please call me Felicia. I have uh… an unusual problem. A couple of months ago I was attacked and very nearly sexually assaulted. I told the police that I fought back and got in a lucky shot but that’s not what happened at all!” Felicia told Carol the story of how she’d actually been rescued by Ms. Marvel but in the days and weeks that followed, strange things had begun to occur. “Something happened to me that night, I’m sure of it. Everywhere I go, people seem to have bad luck. It’s not all the time, but since that night it feels like bad luck is following me around.”

E4mqMQg.jpg  Carol fidgeted in her seat, “I’m not sure how I can help you, Felicia. I…”

cGTIQzO.jpg  “Please don’t tell me I need to talk to a psychiatrist,” Felicia interrupted, “I already have and it’s not all in my head. Halfway through my appointment, his chair broke and he hurt his back!” She paused a moment to collect herself, “Please. Please,” she implored, “Can you help me find Ms. Marvel?”

Reaching into her purse, she retrieved that day’s newspaper and placed it face up on Carol’s desk. The cover story clearly showed a security camera still of a costumed woman brawling with a group of tough-looking characters.

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cGTIQzO.jpg  “You see? She really exists. I need to talk to her and find out what happened to me. I don’t know what else to do or where to turn. I’m at the end of my rope!” She put her head in her hands, obviously distraught.

E4mqMQg.jpg  Carol leaned back in her chair and nodded slowly. A slight creak form the chair made her jump and Felicia glanced up, alarmed. They looked at each other and laughed. “Ok Felicia. I’ll find her. We’ll get this figured out.”

Felicia was visibly relieved. Carol went through some documents with her to formalize their contract and sent her on her way.

E4mqMQg.jpg  “Of all the miserable luck!” Carol thought as she closed the door behind Felicia. “What are the chances she would come to me? She’s not kidding about being a jinx.” Carol leaned forward and let her forehead hit the door softly. The sound of someone being seated in her leather chair behind her snapped her to attention. She whirled on the intruder and her shoulders immediately sagged.

“Ugh,” she rolled her eyes and groaned, “Hello Oracle.”

8SgnkPs.jpg  The white-haired alien seated at her desk smiled broadly and clapped her hands, “Congratulations Carol! You’ve activated her anomaly.”

E4mqMQg.jpg  Carol shot her unwelcome guest an icy scowl, “Yeah? So how did I do that and just how was I supposed to know she had it?”

8SgnkPs.jpg  “Of course you had no way of knowing,” Oracle assured her with sympathetic nod, “but apparently the anomaly can be naturally triggered during an incidence of extreme stress or duress. Once catalyzed, the anomaly cannot be reversed. It is as much a part of you as your consciousness. Whether the powers unlocked can be effectively utilized or otherwise controlled is up to the individual. In Felicia Hardy’s case, her ‘aura’ is causing hardship to others. With time and effort, she could conceivably have direct control over the ability to influence fortune. She could be a valuable ally, Carol. Or if left to her own devices, she could come to resent her ability, much like a festering wound and become a powerful foe. Her fate is largely in your hands.”

Carol turned to look out the window. In the plaza below there was a group of cyclists gathering and crowds were going about their business, oblivious to the drama unfolding across the street.

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E4mqMQg.jpg  She was silent a moment in reflection and finally replied, “So clearly she’s right and the bad luck isn’t a coincidence. The fact she even found me proves that her power is working. How else do I explain that wretched turn of events?”

She looked back over her shoulder to Oracle as the only reply was silence. Naturally, the chair was empty.

 

To be continued...

 

mike_oxlong

Carol was exhausted. Fighting crime had become a full-time occupation. She’d chosen to terminate her consulting position with the Air Force and established a private investigation firm to better support her new career.

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A corner office in the Centre Quatre Saisons fit her needs perfectly and she already had three staff supporting her efforts. It had taken awhile to settle on becoming a P.I. but she’d found that relying on pure luck wasn’t the most effective method of vigilantism.

qjZvtEj.jpg  “Is that what I am?” she pondered, “A vigilante?”

Drug smuggling rings and dealers, a counterfeiting operation, human traffickers, kidnappers and a pedophile had all absorbed a dose of Ms. Marvel’s wrath. Each instance had ended similarly, the criminals had been incapacitated and left sitting on a mountain of evidence that the authorities could then deal with appropriately. The stories from the criminals were the same every time, “She called herself Ms. Marvel...”

Once in a while there would be grainy security camera footage showing Ms. Marvel in the act. Occasionally Carol herself would arrest the perpetrators after the fact in order to maintain her guise as a P.I. Her latest bust had borne some interesting fruit when one of the punks had tried to bargain his way out by offering up a name.

IdQ8b7w.jpg “Hammerhead!”

0GkqeFx.jpg  “Who is he?” Ms. Marvel demanded, getting right up into the thug’s face. His face blanched as she grabbed him by the collar and hauled him effortlessly off his feet.

IdQ8b7w.jpg  “He’s running the gang! He’s the one in charge! He just calls himself Hammerhead.” The punk was desperate, spilling his guts now, “We’re the Maggia, it’s a whole organization! Like a… a family!” he stuttered, “We do our part and they take care of us!”

0GkqeFx.jpg  “Where do I find him?”

IdQ8b7w.jpg  “No, please! They’ll kill me!” he begged.

0GkqeFx.jpg  “Take a look around you, guy. You’re in no position to say no.”

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Ms. Marvel had been gradually floating up, ever higher while keeping him focused on her.

IdQ8b7w.jpg  As he finally looked away and realized how high they had flown, he began to blubber, “Oh God, please don’t let me go! Don’t drop me!”

0GkqeFx.jpg“Then tell me where to find him before my arms get tired,” and as if on cue, she let him slip slightly.

IdQ8b7w.jpg  He clutched at her, frantic now, “Noooo!” he wailed, “The… the Hunters Warehouse! It’s a front! That’s where they are! Please, put me down, it’s true, I swear!”

Satisfied, Ms. Marvel returned the thug to where she’d busted the operation.

IdQ8b7w.jpg  “You’re letting me go, right?” the punk pleaded.

Ms. Marvel pulled out a set of handcuffs and secured him alongside the other members of his incapacitated gang.

0GkqeFx.jpg  “Now what makes you think I’d do that?” she asked, pulling out a burner phone. She dialed the police emergency line to report that there’d been a “disturbance” and help was urgently needed. Without a further thought to the offenders, she ended the call and flew off, the punk’s frantic pleas falling on deaf ears.

IdQ8b7w.jpg  “You crazy &$#@, you can’t leave me here! I’m dead! They’re gonna kill me!” he screamed until she was out of sight. Sirens answered in the distance and the punk was quiet for a moment.

Then he began to laugh.

 

To be continued...

 

@123deoliveira4 Anytime is pizza time! :)

@raynev1 Thanks! Glad you enjoyed.

mike_oxlong

NnXgjsx.jpg

The mugger dragged his victim down a dark alley. She struggled helplessly, her hair bunched in his fist and blood trickling from the corner of her mouth.

40ReErg.jpg“Keep quiet, girlie. This’ll go a lot easier if you don’t fight,” he hissed.

She nodded and whimpered in defeat. Five minutes ago, she was ordering pizza for a take-out dinner and looking forward to a relaxing evening in front of the TV. Not even ten steps after walking out of the pizza place, she was grabbed from behind, struck in the face and subdued.

JTMB4XK.jpg

After a furtive glance confirming the coast was clear, the attacker produced a knife from his jacket and began to cut open her blouse with obvious intent.

A cry of terror escaped her lips before someone yelled, “Stop!”

 

zGzsQ1F.jpg At the mouth of the alley a lone figure ordered, “Get away from her!”

The mugger faltered a moment, the shock of being caught quickly replaced by excitement at the realization he had a potential second victim. He quickly appraised the new arrival – blonde, fit and wearing… a bathing suit?

40ReErg.jpg“Oh yeah, this is just too good!” he exulted. “Come here, you. I can’t wait to double-down!”

Letting go of the first victim, he advanced on the blonde. “You coming from a costume party or something?” he smirked. She was dressed like some comic-book character, in a black one-piece suit, a red sash around her waist and wearing a mask. Waving his blade menacingly, he lunged for her.

It would be the last thing he did that night.

5s1vUC5.jpg

In an instant, a wave of energy burst forth and struck him square in the chest. The impact knocked him backwards and he crumpled over, laying still.

1OoS8VF.jpg  “You killed him!” cried the woman lying in the alleyway.

zGzsQ1F.jpg “No, he’ll be ok eventually. That blast only scrambled his neurons and knocked him out.”

1OoS8VF.jpg “But… what was that? You shot him! Who are you?”

zGzsQ1F.jpg A smile crept across the rescuer’s face as she helped the woman to her feet, “I’m Ms. Marvel, I’m here to help. The police are on their way – they’ll get you medical attention if you need it.” She gestured to the prone form at their feet, “This creep is going to be cooling his heels for a bit. Make sure you fill out a police report. There’s DNA evidence all over him so don’t be afraid to press charges. You’re safe now. What’s your name?”

1OoS8VF.jpg “F…Felicia…” the woman stammered, clearly on the verge of shock.

A siren wailing in the distance began to draw near as Carol hugged the grateful woman.

zGzsQ1F.jpg “Just tell them you managed to fight back and got lucky. They’ll never believe the truth!”

The amazed woman was still staring up into the dark night at where Ms. Marvel had flown off when the police pulled into the alley.

zr1zOdY.jpg

To be continued...

mike_oxlong

KBySCTS.jpg

iwouhYV.jpg You!” Carol shouted at the white-skinned alien before her, “You pushed me out into space!”

eyE3EkR.jpg Oracle pursed her lips, “Hmmm, so I did. Yet here you stand, none the worse for wear.”

iwouhYV.jpg Carol continued, undaunted, “What have you done to me?! I should be dead from being in space! Or the cold! Or burned to a crisp! I should be dead in so many horrific ways!”

As she worked herself into a fury, she failed to note either the warm, rushing sensation creeping across her skin or the glow emanating from her tightly clenched fists. Oracle calmly closed the distance between them and held out the keys she’d confiscated earlier. Carol began to snatch them away and finally noticed her hands. Startled, she broke her concentration and the glow faded away.

iwouhYV.jpg “Wh... what?” she blurted out.

eyE3EkR.jpg “Energy manipulation is one of your abilities. With practice, you should be able to project bursts of energy and even absorb energy in defense. Surely by now you realize that you are no longer a normal human. You flew with a fifteen hundred kilogram vehicle on your shoulders and withstood an environment that should kill you in the blink of an eye. As I said, here you stand none the worse for wear.”

Oracle placed the keys on the table.

"You are not unique, nor are you our first. We have identified many hundreds of individuals with the anomaly. We are working tirelessly to transition many who would stand up to the Brotherhood of Badoon and defend this world. Be vigilant; the threats will be grave and will not necessarily be obvious. For as past tyrants and dictators such as Vlad Tepes or Napoleon rose to power, so too will new ones by the doing of the Brotherhood. You’re familiar with the threat posed by Daesh in your Middle East, for instance? How do you believe they came to be?”

 

Oracle moved to the window and gestured for Carol to follow. She was hesitant, causing Oracle to smile widely.

“Carol Danvers, this is your purpose. You are one of the Earth’s Guardians. You will avenge those incapable of fighting for themselves. And you will not be alone. Some will come by their powers naturally and others, like you, will need a boost. Others will fight by your side and the Shi’ar will be ever present.”

BuVgR9W.jpg

 

She gestured to the city visible in the distance across the lake, “People will be inspired by your example. They will rally behind you. They will marvel at your exploits.”

She turned to Carol and extended her hand. Carol gripped it silently and the two women shook, as if in assent. Finally Oracle spoke, “We will see each other again, of that I have no doubt. Good luck Carol Danvers.”

And Oracle vanished.

To be continued...

 

@korver - Thanks! That means a lot to me coming from someone I consider to be a master of SC4! 

mike_oxlong

Carol Danvers was an educated woman. She owned a doctorate in physics; she’d been a Major in the Air Force; she was a candidate astronaut.

She was also plummeting towards the Earth from a height of almost 700 kilometres.

iWnhi8X.jpg

Carol had expected to be dead instantly from the vacuum of space. There had to be truth in what she’d been told about having super powers or how else could she survive? As the Shi’ar craft she had been pushed from faded in the distance, Carol recalled the words Oracle had spoken regarding her abilities, “How do you breathe, Carol Danvers?”

The thin air rushing over her skin became steadily hotter as she realized that the friction of re-entering the atmosphere would soon reach unbearably high temperatures. She managed to right herself in her end-over-end tumble and began concentrating on how to slow her descent. She felt an odd sensation, almost like an adrenalin rush and the wind in her ears began to lessen. Eventually it stopped altogether and Carol realized she had come to a complete halt.

The feeling of exhilaration was indescribable! It had taken more than an hour since she was pushed from the craft until she had managed to stop her fall. She had fallen near enough to the surface that she could make out individual contrails from passenger jets flying beneath her. She tried to gather her bearings, grateful that she’d fallen out above a very recognizable Grand Canyon.

ULrvLn6.jpg

iwouhYV.jpg “Ok, I can fly and I’m supposed to be super-fast. Let’s see if I can figure out how to get home.”

 

She oriented herself to the west and she flew! Gaining speed with every moment that passed, Carol made her way home.

The Lamborghini was right where she’d left it. Angling down, she descended gracefully. Her landing was a lot less elegant, ending with her sprawled flat on the ground.

zgaPPhI.jpg

iwouhYV.jpg “Guess I’ll have to work on that,” she laughed to herself.

She pulled the handle but the car was locked. Patting herself down, she realized that her fob was nowhere to be found. Either it was still in orbit or it had burned up on re-entry. Recalling that Oracle mentioned enhanced strength Carol leaned into the back of the car and began to push. She was able to move it with barely any effort but the tires skidded across the rough surface of the road. Concluding that she had probably left the car in gear or engaged the parking brake, she knelt down and lifted underneath the door sill. She heaved it so easily, she nearly flipped the car on its side. Quickly, but gently, she set it back on the ground. Finding a better grip, she eventually hefted it above her and concentrated. Gradually she rose off the ground and flew the remaining distance home, grinning wildly, with a bright red Lamborghini in her grip.

e3h9vw8.jpg

As she neared home, her smile faded somewhat as she realized that managing a soft landing had become her top priority. With furious determination, she eased towards the ground and managed to deposit the Lamborghini without a blemish.

EJBZ2Oj.jpg

Without her keys, she had to enter through the garage. Waiting in her living room stood Oracle.

eyE3EkR.jpg “Hello Carol. I’ve brought you a gift,” she smiled and held out her hand. It was Carol’s keys.

 

To be continued...

mike_oxlong

Taken Part II

In orbit above the Earth, a remarkable conversation is taking place...

iWnhi8X.jpg

iwouhYV.jpg  Carol was dumbfounded, “How do you know my name? And why am I not freaking out over all of this?”

eyE3EkR.jpg  For your own well-being, you’ve received a mild sedative. We’ve been observing you and others like you for quite some time. We know you as well as you know yourself, otherwise we would not have brought you here.”

iwouhYV.jpg  “Where is here? Who are you and what do you mean, ‘at war’?”

eyE3EkR.jpg  The white-skinned alien continued, “I am a representative of the Shi’ar Empire. Your word for me would be Oracle.” She reflected a moment, “Yes, you may call me Oracle.” She followed Carol’s gaze to the bug-eyed helmet cradled in her arm, “An environmental suit. We couldn’t have you getting sick by being exposed to us prematurely. You, yourself have been in a pressure suit many times, have you not?”

Carol nodded.

“For hundreds of years, the Earth has been under indirect attack by the Brotherhood of Badoon. Your planet has been declared a neutral territory between all of the major interstellar empires. Given its strategic value, the Earth would most likely eventually be destroyed as a result of the efforts of those who would bring it into their respective empires. Rather than allow that to happen, a treaty had been signed that would see the Earth forge its own destiny among the stars. Thus the Earth was declared off-limits until such time as it could determine its own path either as Empire or as subject.”

Oracle reached down and began releasing Carol’s bonds, “It has proven impossible to substantiate the actions of the Badoon, and thus we remain bound by the constraints of the treaty to not come to the direct aid of the Earth.”

iwouhYV.jpg   Carol was puzzled, “So why are you telling me this? Why did you bring me… wherever we are?”

eyE3EkR.jpg  “To help you help yourselves,” Oracle smiled. “Don’t fret, Major Danvers. Look upon your planet as it is now.”

JpjHumN.jpg

She gestured and the wall opposite began to shimmer and change color. It resolved into an image of the Earth far below and Carol realized that they must be in orbit above the planet. “Since the Badoon are able to indirectly attack; we can surely indirectly assist in your defense. The Badoon have been responsible for some of your planet’s most tyrannical leaders. Attila, Temujin and Hitler are but a few through whom they’ve attempted to gain control over your world.”

iwouhYV.jpg  “So what do you expect me to do about it?” Carol scoffed. “You’re going to help me help myself? How? By teaching me how to fly my jet and frag some ISIL grunt a little quicker? Better yet, make like Luke Skywalker and blow up these Badoon like the Death Star?”

eyE3EkR.jpg   Oracle laughed, “Not even close. Your race possesses genetic anomalies similar to those found among many of our own races and those among other Stellar Empires. We have long suspected a common origin, and the concept has apparently not been lost on the Brotherhood of Badoon. These anomalies seem to lie dormant for the most part until they are stimulated either naturally or artificially. Once activated, those who possess the anomalies unlock immense abilities.”

iwouhYV.jpg  “So what does that have to do with me? Are you saying I have the anomaly? How do I unlock my power?”

eyE3EkR.jpg  “Your session with Haella earlier has catalysed your anomaly. Her analysis reveals that you have many abilities. Among them; energy manipulation, enhanced strength, limited invulnerabilities, flight and enhanced speed.” Oracle turned and moved toward the image of the Earth on the wall as Carol rose from the bed.

iwouhYV.jpg   Carol tried to process the information as she made her way to Oracle’s side. She was quiet as the two women stared at the Earth, far below. Finally she asked, “So why did you choose me?”

eyE3EkR.jpg  “Again, we’ve been watching you for a long time. We choose those who would counter-balance the evil the Brotherhood has sown for so long. Your sense of justice and righteousness will be a beacon for those in search of hope in dark times. Nor will you be alone. Many others will rise and join you in defense of your home; some with our assistance, others will not need our technology to evolve.”

iwouhYV.jpg   “Assuming that’s the case, how do I use my powers?”

eyE3EkR.jpg   “How do you breathe, Carol Danvers?” and Oracle gave her a mighty shove, sending her tumbling into space.

Carol came to the horrible realization that it hadn’t been an image at all. It was a force-field and she was in a free-fall.

 

To be continued...

 

mike_oxlong

Taken

Exiting the highway, Carol headed north towards her acreage. She gunned the engine and the nimble sports car fairly leapt forward. She loved the throaty growl of the Lamborghini’s exhaust and mashed the pedal to the floor, working the paddle shifter furiously. The car had belonged to her father prior to his passing a couple of years ago and his estate had left her fairly wealthy.

Soon after her inheritance, she’d received an honorable discharge from her rank as a major in the Air Force. Flying a fighter had been the only perk that was she loathe to give up and managed to secure a consulting position in tactical instruction almost immediately.

knCMQyZ.jpg

She mused on what a great day it had been. Her training wing had been practicing intercepts and had won every engagement they were involved in, impeccably executing her instructions.

NAFnbfa.jpg

She slowed up approaching a sharp curve and, exiting, stepped down on the gas again. The car didn’t respond.

iwouhYV.jpg “What the hell?” she wondered aloud as the engine sputtered. She coasted to a stop as even the headlights began to dim.

“Well damn. It was a great day.” She engaged the Bluetooth phone to call for roadside service but there was only silence from the car. Cursing again, she reached for the phone in her purse. It was dead.

This time, she let fly with a string of curses that did nothing to improve the situation. “I just charged up the $#%& thing this morning! How am I out of juice?!” she swore in frustration. She knew she was less than five kilometres from home and there would be no traffic up this way at night. It was her land, after all.

She got out and leaned against the car. Exasperated, she threw her head back to look at the stars above and was flooded by intensely bright, white light.

 

5xpTwMR.jpg

 

 

Carol awoke in bed. Groaning, she made to brush the hair out of face but couldn’t move her hands. She lifted her head, trying to figure out what was going on and found herself lying not on her bed, but on a gurney in the middle of an empty room. Her arms and legs were bound by soft restraints and a strap across her torso kept her from being able to rise. Feeling strangely unruffled, she began to evaluate the situation. A door to her right slid open silently and a smallish figure walked into the room.

iwouhYV.jpg  “Well,” she remarked calmly, “That makes sense.”

 

The new arrival would’ve come to her shoulder, had she been able to stand. Being average height herself, she guessed that the being would barely reach five feet. It was slender in stature and an even grey color. Large, black eyes dominated its hairless head and no ears were apparent. It approached her cot and, reaching out, grasped her wrist gently. Satisfied, it produced a device from an unseen pocket and waved it above her head.

“I guess it’s time for a probe?” Carol almost chuckled to herself. She could scarcely believe how unconcerned she felt. She began to steel herself for what was to come as the alien withdrew the device from her view. Apparently satisfied, the alien surprised her by pocketing the device, abruptly turning and leaving the room.

She barely had time to register this turn of events when the door again slid open and a taller, willowy figure entered. It made its way with a graceful stride to where Carol lay. It reached up and placed both hands near the back of its head. There was a soft hiss as the alien began to pull. Whitish-blond hair fell out around its shoulders as the alien removed a head piece, revealing the most beautiful woman Carol had ever seen. Even if her skin was chalk-white. And she had pink eyes.

r3N6CM7.jpg

 

iwouhYV.jpg “Maybe she’s an albino?” Carol mused to herself, again remarking how eerily calm this whole situation seemed to be.

eyE3EkR.jpg The alien smiled and spoke, “Hello Major Danvers. I realize this is a lot to absorb so allow me to start by saying your planet is at war.”

 

To be continued...

mike_oxlong

Prologue II

Prologue II

High above the Earth, the massive starship that is home to the Celestials placidly orbits. Oneg the Prober has concluded his analysis on the planet and the Celestials have gathered to assess the potential for their chosen species. 

R7cQfds.jpg  “<Report, Oneg.,” the one Above All bids.

Hzeaywd.jpg  “<The candidate species is distributed across parts of the major western landmasses. Migratory pattern modeling predicts 98.73% likelihood of spread to all habitable regions. A confirmation of Ziran’s postulate; the species has the potential for significant evolutionary mutations and should readily adapt to our experiments. Where the Eternal genome meets ideal conditions the host will be a meta-being in every way. Typical mutations will include near-immunity to disease, enhanced physical attributes, extraordinary intelligence, psionic awareness and mass and/or energy manipulation. In some cases, multiple combinations of meta-abilities will manifest. The Eternal branch will benefit from a significantly increased lifespan; a near-immortal. Further, there exists a possibility of generating a Celestial among them.>”

Oneg pauses to allow comment on the startling revelation. While no Celestial offers any thought, each is mindful of the implication; this species could become one of their greatest successes.

WGCwabx.jpg  

Oneg continues, “<The Deviant genome will be more prevalent than the Eternal. Although many of the Deviant mutations will be similar in characteristic to the Eternal, the Deviant branch will be unlikely to achieve the same degree of longevity. Their greater numbers will offset their relative impact on the success of our experiments as compared to the longer-lived Eternals. Extrapolating data provided by Tefral and Ziran, this world is estimated to be capable of supporting a maximum of ~10 billion apex hominins. At an anticipated occurrence of 1 Deviant per 10 million, a peak population of 1,000 meta-individuals can be reasonably expected.>”

R7cQfds.jpg  “<At such a rate, this world would far exceed either Skrullos or Chandilar, where the Shi’ar have thrived. Explain.>”

Hzeaywd.jpg  “<This species has higher genetic diversity than any we’ve previously experimented upon. Though there is a naturally occurring warp-space portal near to the system, there are no near-field malevolent phenomena, such as neutron stars, x-ray and gamma ray bursts or singularities that are likely to adversely impact development. Therefore, the species should enjoy near-unrestricted advancement and evolution, adapting well to minor incidents such as impact events and other small-scale natural phenomena.>”

Ts3Wtls.jpg

R7cQfds.jpg  “<Tefral the Surveyor reports a number of impact events that have led to likely mass-extinction events.>”

Hzeaywd.jpg  “<Hargen the Measurer has catalogued the system and compiled a detailed analysis along with Nezarr the Calculator. There will be no further extinction-level events due to cosmic impacts for at least the following 14 million yearly cycles.>”

R7cQfds.jpg  “<You have done well Oneg. Your analysis has been thorough and we will commence experimentation.>”

 

End Prologue

To be continued...

mike_oxlong

Prologue I

In the Tau Ceti solar system, an immense starship drops out of warp space. The host of Celestials has arrived and will pass judgement on their experiments.

LVvTKm9.jpg

 

AuSYm0P.jpg     On the ship’s bridge, several armored figures sit in silence, contemplating the planet visible in the view screen.
                       The One Above All turns to the helm, commanding, “<Nezarr, set bearings for optimal orbit.>”

“<Course plotted and laid in, One Above All>”        d9e2kit.jpg                                    

The enormous vessel responds to the new coordinates, bearing down on the distant blue-green planet and settling smoothly into orbit.

HFZNOM1.jpg

 

AuSYm0P.jpg   “<Arishem!>” The One Above All addresses the Celestial at his side, “<You will lead the away team. Take Gammenon, Tefral and Jemiah and make your judgement.>”

 

Arishem acknowledges the command with a nod and gestures to the three who will accompany him to the planet’s surface. Together, they swiftly make their way from the bridge.

The judgment is swift and dispassionate. Gammenon the Gatherer samples the planet’s lifeforms while Tefral the Surveyor notes the system’s geographic features. Jemiah completes his analysis of the samples Gammenon has collected and reports back to Arishem the Judge.

 

8eR54wc.jpg     “<Arishem, our experiments have failed to produce any tangible results. The standard lifeforms have not made any significant technological progress and the offshoot of Eternals has failed to mutate into a higher lifeform. Worse, the Deviants have apparently died out altogether.>”

 

Jemiah gazes upon the cowering humanoids he holds in his palm as Arishem judges, “<Among our greater successes were the inhabitants of Skrullos who,      eXbag7p.jpg                                    

in a barely greater span of time, have established a flourishing interstellar empire. These ones have likely reached the peak of their evolution.>”                                          

 

Jemiah kneels down and gently returns the terrified primitives to the ground. The gargantuan Celestials ignore the prostrating humanoids and return to their orbiting vessel.  

 

AuSYm0P.jpg     “<What is your judgement Arishem?>” the One Above All asks.           

“<Failure.>”    eXbag7p.jpg                                                                                                      

AuSYm0P.jpg     “<To what extent?>”

“<Complete.>”     eXbag7p.jpg                                                                                                     

 

The One Above All lets out a barely audible sigh and gestures for another Celestial to come forward.

AuSYm0P.jpg     “<Exitar, this planet has failed our tests. It will die.>”


Exitar turns toward the view screen, raising his hand. A gem embedded in his palm begins to glow red.

tlYiDYj.jpg    “<It is done,>” he simply states.

The One Above All addresses the helm, “<Nezarr, plot a course away from the system. Set bearings to avoid the bow shock and make ready for warp. All hands brace.>”     AuSYm0P.jpg

The Celestials’ craft accelerates swiftly out of orbit. Their collective attention turns to the screen as the asteroid Exitar has summoned approaches and the doomed planet is struck a mortal blow.

tPBVKRj.jpg

AuSYm0P.jpg     “<Ashema, open a channel.>”

“<Channel is open, One Above All.>”     8dTgcHO.jpg                                                                              

A new figure shimmers into view on the screen; Eson the Searcher.

VvbxUQ3.jpg

AuSYm0P.jpg     “<Eson, have you found a new candidate world?>”

The reply comes, “<Behold; A spectral class G2V star system with multiple candidate worlds in the habitable zone. The most suitable has an axial tilt of 23.5° and experiences 4 distinct seasons across the majority of the planet. Composition is a molten iron core and rocky surface with active plate tectonics. The surface is approximately 71% water; of that 96.5% saline. Atmospheric analysis is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% trace gases. There is high biodiversity and the world already hosts a likely dominant life form. This hominin will readily accept mutative experimentation as has already been confirmed by Ziran the Tester. Transmitting detailed analysis of prospective life form now.>”

5kesEYZ.jpg

 

Nezarr the Calculator receives the transmission and rapidly determines the destiny of the candidate planet, “<The species will require 1,204,729 of their yearly cycles under average     d9e2kit.jpg conditions to achieve basic success. Under optimal conditions, 43,116 yearly cycles can be subtracted. Given poor conditions, an additional 122,046 yearly cycles would be required. If the Skrullos experiment is held as a baseline comparable, an additional 234 yearly cycles would be necessary to achieve interstellar capabilities.>”

 

AuSYm0P.jpg     The One Above All ponders a moment, “<Very well. Oneg the Prober will implement. Nezarr, set course for the Sol system.>”

EDdSQI2.jpg

As the ship enters warp, a dying planet breathes its last gasp and perishes…

f475rAu.gif

 

 

 

To be continued soon...

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