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> The Stormcrow, A Superhero's Tale
Acadian
post Jun 1 2019, 07:17 PM
Post #21


Paladin
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Joined: 14-March 10
From: Las Vegas



"I think I forgot to pick that at character creation," - - laugh.gif

"Hey, you don't belong here!" a male voice cried.’ - - As soon as it looked like she was going to need to search the men’s room, I figured it would bring up unpleasant experiences from her past – a tribute to how well you have developed January as a character. I’m glad this one ended with a happy selfie instead of harsh words and/or awkward unpleasantries.

A neat episode that moves the sleuthing along nicely as well as continues to show us the growing pains and progress that this dynamic duo of superhero crimefighters are making as the Stormcrow improves her flying skills and speeds up her uniform changes. She also learns more of the capabilities Gadget has built into her wonderful Crowsuit.


Nit: ‘While was busy January took hold of the rappelling line…’ - - Looks like you're missing a 'he' or 'Gadget' after 'While'.


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SubRosa
post Jun 8 2019, 04:52 PM
Post #22


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Acadian: One fun thing about writing January and Avery is that I get to use all sorts of gaming terminology.

I was also thinking the bathroom scene could be something ugly. But I also thought of how many selfies and even videos are taken in the bathroom mirror. In the end modern internet culture won out with my decision for the Klingon to be a fan.

I spent a lot of time in this first chapter going through the nuts and bolts of January and Avery's detective work because it is the first time for them. In the future when it becomes a more common activity, I will gloss over a lot of the details and just summarize it. Unless of course, it gives me an opportunity to show January learning something new.

I did have a missing 'he' up there. Thanks for catching that.



Chapter 1.8 - Stormcrow Rising

January's home, well technically her parent's home, was a modest two story affair in Warren. It was an older suburb, so the streets were narrower, and the lots much smaller, than those in newer cities such as Sterling Heights or Clinton Township. This particular house did not even have a garage, though it did possess a two lane driveway. But even that only ran the length of a single car to the front of the house, then turned into nothing but a dirt path to the back yard.

The house itself was paneled with gray aluminum siding, which matched the gray shingles on the roof. A pair of dormers jutted from the roof on either side of the second floor, with wide windows facing out of each. A third dormer lurked farther back between them, with an even larger window set within it. The porch below was made of light green concrete. Three bright teal support beams ran from it to the long eave that overhang the front of the house and shaded the porch. A low fence of wood blocked off the front and right side of the porch. Only the left side, which adjoined the driveway, was open.

It was late when she got home, and her mother's Mini Cooper and father's Chevy Equinox were both in the driveway. January could see from the lights inside that they were still up. Just her luck, Saturday night was their euchre night. The blue Aztek in the street out front told her that the Xiang's were over. Really, who drove an Aztek?

She was about to walk in the front door when she realized that she had her armor piled up in her arms. She could not very well waltz in with that, not when Stormcrow was all over the news.

She glanced up. She could see the dormer window to her room right there beside the driveway. If only there was some way to get there without going past her parents and their friends. Of course there was. The eave was only about eight feet up. How hard could that be to jump?

It turned out to be no trouble at all for her to leap up to. Without wearing the suit, but holding it in her arms instead. That meant the jump was all her. No meta-tech involved.

She moved slowly across the roof, hoping to avoid making any creaks that might be heard from within the house. Thankfully the dormer to her room was only a few feet away. Naturally the window was closed. She could pry the screen off and open it from the outside. But she did not see the point in bending it all up. Her parents still had to see her walk in the front door, like a normal person. Instead she just set her armor down in front of the window. Then she hopped back down to the sidewalk. She barely even had to flex her knees to absorb the impact of the landing.

That made January wonder if she had possessed these meta abilities all along, or if they had only just awakened recently. Gymnastics had never been what she would call easy. It had always taken hard work and concentration. Even so, none of her classmates had ever come close to being her equal in it. In the past she had always put that down to her being more focused. She didn't waste time going to parties, or binge-watching TV, or surfing YouTube, or spending hours talking and texting friends, or shopping for clothes, and all the other things that seemed to preoccupy teenagers so much.

Now she wondered if she really had these abilities all along, just not at the degree she currently possessed. Perhaps recent events had not awakened them, so much as honed them to their current level? If so, did that mean the more she practiced, the more she focused, the more she used these powers, the greater they would become? She hoped so.

She fished out her keys and let herself in the iron barred security door, and then the actual front door behind it. She stepped inside, and the sound of voices came to her ears from the dining room. By the time she had locked the door behind her and turned back around her mother was standing before her.

"Oh I was so worried when I heard the news!" she wrapped her arms around January in a big hug. Then she stepped back, and looked her over. "You really are all right then? You weren't shot, or stabbed, or beaten?"

January's mother was short, shorter than she was, with red hair that spilled across her shoulders like a wildfire. A barely visible sprinkle of freckles dusted across her cheeks, just beneath her sea-green eyes. She wore a pair of old jeans, and a yellow tee that said "Librarians Are Sexy". January had to admit, she did not look her fifty years of age. Or was it fifty thousand? It was so hard to tell the difference with parents.

"Oh he's fine Barb," her father's voice came from the hallway behind her mother. January tried not to show it, but a knife twisted in her stomach at the sound of him misnaming her gender. It had been nearly eight years since January had transitioned, but still her father called her "he" all the time. As if acknowledging her gender would bring the stars into alignment and loose some Lovecraftian horror upon the world.

A blond man of roughly the same age as her mother, January's father Romulus was tall, and wore a pair of thin, steel-rimmed glasses. If one had to guess, one would think he was the librarian in the family. Not that a history teacher was far from that mark. Add in her brother Julian, the lawyer-to-be, and everyone in the family was some sort of academic. Except for her. She had always been the oddball. The one who never fit in anywhere.

The Xiangs popped their heads around the corner a few moments later. Mr. Xiang said that the super battle at the hotel was definitely trending. Apparently everyone was using #stormcrow to post their pictures and videos. Naturally everyone pressed her for what she saw. But all she could do was stick to the story she had told her mother earlier on the phone. She had not seen or heard a thing. Thankfully no one recognized her in the Stormcrow armor. Otherwise her parents would have definitely exploded.

She was taking selfies with fans and had a hashtag. Her fifteen minutes of fame had definitely started. Still, she had no doubt that a singing goat or grumpy dog would displace her in popularity by tomorrow morning. The attention span of the internet was shorter than that of a five-year old off his Ritalin.

January made excuses of being tired, and headed upstairs to her room. The walls were painted a soft ivory, and the floor was carpeted in a slightly darker shade of cream. A pair of ruby curtains braced the window, bringing a bright splash of color to the room. So too did the soft watermelon quilt that covered her small bed. The end table beside it bore a battered alarm clock, phone charger, and a lamp that was now draped with a multicolored scarf.

A print of John William Waterhouse's The Crystal Ball hung from one wall. A collage of female fighters such as Gina Carano and Cecilia Braekhus graced another. The third wall held a still picture of the Veil floating over Lake Shore Drive, her lean frame sheathed in elemental darkness. Next to it was an image of Blood Raven striding through Campus Martius, with the grandiose Michigan Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument towering behind her.

A simple white desk was squeezed into one corner, with a flat screen monitor and keyboard on top of it, and her refurbished Dell computer tucked away underneath. The nearby dresser, vanity, and half-size bookcase were of the same manufacture. Aside from the posters and colorful drapes, the room was plain and simple.

January shut the door behind her, and glanced briefly at the Nine Noble Virtues of Ásatrú she had tacked there on a plain piece of paper:

Courage
Truth
Honor
Fidelity
Discipline
Hospitality
Self Reliance
Industriousness
Perseverance


Each heading had a sentence or two of text beneath it, explaining its meaning in more depth. As always, her eyes fell to the last:

Never ever give up, no matter what.

January smiled faintly. She had been a viking today.

Then she leaped to the window, flung it open, and gathered up her armor. As if a larcenous squirrel might have made off with it. She immediately shoved the black and gray panoply under her bed, and carefully arranged some old shoes in front of it to shield it from easy notice.

She turned on her computer and started her Counting Crows playlist for some background music. Then she began scanning her hashtag. Her jaw dropped at all the pics and short videos. Most were shaky and out of focus. But a few were startling. There she was, framed against the broken skylight in a still picture. Her cape flowed out after her as she leaped into the sky, and a bolt of lightning arced across the firmament behind her. That seemed to be the most popular picture. There was even a meme with it already. "Stormcrow does not simply walk into Mordor. She leaps!"

Others showed her going hand-to-hand with Lighthammer. There were many comments on the fighting styles she was employing. Some said it was clearly Wing-Chun, others Jeet-Kune-Do, which made her shake her head. She had never studied either. But other posts - made by more knowledgeable people - spelled out her Karate, Krav Maga, and Muay Thai moves. Like the downward jumping elbow she had used to break open Lighthammer's helmet.

She stared at Lighthammer. He was bigger than she was. Not just taller, but more muscular. But did that mean much in this super-powered age? He had never really tried punching or kicking her. Instead he had only blocked, especially with those force fields projected from his forearms. He had attacked solely with his light blasts.

She was going to have to face him again. She had no doubt about it. How was she going to defeat him? Perhaps going for the legs might circumvent his force fields? She could try low kicks to the knees to disable him. But could he still fly in spite of that? Or might she take it to the ground? Grappling was not her strongest suit. She only knew a few holds and throws, and those were from a standing position.

She would have to put Greco-Roman wrestling on her to-do list, along with Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It would have been nice to have taken the former in school. But gymnastics had been a nightmare as it was, with people claiming that she was really just a boy trying find an easy way to excel by competing against girls. She could never do anything even remotely masculine, given the backlash that always followed. Simply practicing on the rings had always brought her sneers. Trying a traditionally male sport like wrestling had been simply out of the question.

Stormcrow shook her head. This was no time to go down unhappy memory lane. She had to plan her moves. Obviously she would need to lead with her strengths against Lighthammer. That meant striking. She would have to try to keep his hands off-line, so he couldn't shoot her. But how could she do that at close range? She would have to pinion his hands somehow.

She crawled into bed with her tablet, still looking at pictures and videos of the fight, and trying to work on strategy. She woke the next morning with the Fire 7 still in her lap. Her hair was plastered against the side of her face, along with a line of drool. She had to wait to use the shower, and passed the time by experimenting with various ponytail and ponytail braids she found on YouTube. She would need to know some for when she got her motorcycle. She no longer considered that a possibility. It would be a fact. She would have it, and that was that.

She dove into the shower once her brother was finished, and by the time she had dried off and dressed, she found that she was last to the breakfast table, as usual. It was Sunday morning, so the entire family was there for a change. She dug into her Eggos without a word, allowing everyone else to ignore her while they talked about the super battle that had taken place the other night.

"I for one think it is a good thing that we have another hero in Metro Detroit," her mother declared. "All we have had for years is Blood Raven, and she cannot be everywhere."

"And she is not exactly a hero," her father said. "How many people has she killed in just the last decade? A dozen?"

"Like that maniac who walked into the Ren Cen and just started shooting people?" her mother countered. "Or the ones who were kidnapping young girls and selling them overseas? The world's a better place without them in it."

"But what happens when she's got the wrong guy?" her brother Julian interjected. He took after their father with his tall frame, blond hair, and rectangular features. January imagined that he was handsome, given how girls seemed to flock to him. "It's only a matter of time before she kills an innocent person, just because they looked guilty. That's why we need the law, and cops, policing us. Not caped vigilantes."

"Like when those bullies were beating me up," January could not help but interject, "and the school did nothing. Oh, except expel me for fighting back. Or the school shooting where the gunman went inside, so the cop there went outside? And just how many hundreds of people in prison have been exonerated by DNA evidence? The police don't care who they arrest, so long as they don't risk their necks in the process."

"You are such a crybaby," Julian sneered. "Bullies beat me up! It's so unfair! Join the rest of the world already."

"Yeah, and like the rest of the world I had to beat the crap out of them all on my own," January said. "Ordinary people have to step up, because the people in positions of authority are too lazy, too bigoted, or too cowardly to do their jobs."

"Step up perhaps," January's father mused. "But we should stop to think about how our actions might negatively impact others first. Just because we might think what we are doing is for the better, it might still be for the worse."

"So is Stormcrow making things better or worse?" January's mother queried. "I think she is making it better, at least so far."

"So far I agree," her father said. "But it's only been one night. We don't know what she is really made of. She might just be some thrill-seeker out on a lark, or a mercenary, and end up getting a lot of innocent people killed. We'll just have to watch and see what kind of person she turns out to be really be. Assuming we see more of her."

"What do you mean?" January asked.

"She might change her mind, and decide that once was enough," her father explained. "She might not even be from here. She could have been any one of those people staying in that hotel. For all we know she might be in San Francisco right now, or New York."

"Or maybe she will get full, legal empowerment, and work with the government?" January's mother added. "Like the Sentinels in Chicago, or the Knight Defenders in the UK."

January was thinking about that, when her brother had to interject his usual brand of poison into the conversation.

"I think Stormcrow is a stupid name," Julian scoffed. "It's a total rip off of Lord of the Rings."

"What because Grima calls Gandalf that once? And Theodon twice?" January countered. She had looked it up last night. "It's just a nickname. A common one."

"Also a mighty fine medium BattleMech," her father murmured. "Or so I hear from my students of course."

"Of course, it's not like you would waste any of your time playing computer games," January's mother smiled conspiratorially at her father. Then her gaze moved to January's brother. "I hope you aren't spending your time at U of M playing online games Julian."

"Yes, you're almost ready to graduate son," January's father said. "Do you have any job prospects lined up yet?"

"I was thinking about that." January instantly recognized that Julian was squirming. The slight way he tensed his jaw muscles always gave him away. "I decided to go into criminal law instead of corporate."

"Really?" both of her parents said at once, then her father continued on his own. "Are you sure that is a good idea?"

"I've been talking it over with some of my friends at Michigan," Julian said. "We decided we are going to start our own law firm. There's a lot of money to be made in criminal cases, so we are sure we can turn a profit in no time."

"Criminal cases," January's mother mulled over. "You would be spending your time with thieves, murderers, the worst kinds of people."

"Like other lawyers…" January breathed. "I think Julian should work for the ACLU, and defend people whose civil rights are under threat."

"I may as well work at Burger Baron, for all the money I would make doing that. I am sure that's where you will end up, but not me." Julian looked down his nose at January. Then he turned back to their parents, and his voice softened. "My friends and I, we think this can work, and we'll be our own bosses."

"I hope you know what you're doing son," January's father cautioned. "It is your future after all."

* * *

January's Parents House

January's Parents House Aerial View

John William Waterhouse - The Crystal Ball

Gina Carano

Cecilia Brækhus

The Nine Noble Virtues

Campus Martius

Michigan Soldier's and Sailor's Monument

Stormcrow BattleMech

Stormcrow BattleMech Pic

U of M Law School

Blood Raven

Blood Raven

Barbara Ward (January's mom) (RL Amy Davidson)

Romulus Ward (January's dad) (RL Anthony Heald)

Julian Ward (January's brother) (RL Gabriel Mann)


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Acadian
post Jun 8 2019, 10:38 PM
Post #23


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From: Las Vegas



Clever how she got her Crowsuit into the house.
’As if a larcenous squirrel might have made off with it.’ - - Whew, good thing mALX doesn’t live in Detroit. tongue.gif

So we get to meet the parents. And brother. Your descriptions were extremely real/believable and quickly brought them to life. Like most families, there is the good, not so good and a pinch of drama.

I enjoyed the conversation about the role of superheroes and implications (good and bad) of not having to answer to any sort of hierarchy.

So a Stormcycle is in the cards it seems. I expect Gadget will apply a fair number of mods.


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Uleni Athram
post Jun 11 2019, 03:27 PM
Post #24


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From: From: From: From



A superheroine who actually knows her Marty Arties? Muay "OOOOWWWEEEEEEEEE" Thai at that?


In the words of Chancy Papa; "We will watch your career with great interest."


Ylenno in particular will. He has a soft spot for chicks with MT kicks, you see. Makes him melt. Can he have her number? kHYUCK-HYUCK-HYUCK-HYUCK. Goofy laughing impersonation and DM sliding aside, I'm in love with the way you wrote in that combat scene with Lightbulb Lighthammer. Jabbing close for an elbow? That teep-knee combo? And that thunder strike elbow that smashed his helmet to bits? HOOOOOOOOOWWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. You're making me all hot and bothered with her Thai Boxing, stop it you nono.gif wub.gif. Ylenno and I want to see what she can do in the clinch tho. We subscribe to the sanguine philosophy that the magic of Muay Thai happens in the clinch, you see.

Another thing SubRosa. Do you know Sylvie Von Douglas Ittu? She's one of the most legit Muay Thai vloggers in YT. If you haven't yet, you should definitely check out her channel. There's tons of technique vids she has available and we in the MT community just all love her to bits tbh.

*Salute*

This post has been edited by Uleni Athram: Jun 11 2019, 03:28 PM


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She said I'm insane, yeah
I might blow my brains out
Xanny numb the pain, yeah
Please, Xanny make it go away
I'm committed, not addicted, but it keep controlling me
All that pain, now I can't feel it, I swear that it's slowing me
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Renee
post Jun 11 2019, 04:30 PM
Post #25


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From: Ellicott City, Maryland



Ah, typical Renee has fallen behind. blink.gif Life's been busy though. End of school year, etc.

QUOTE
"But my supervisor told me I had to get this cleaned tonight!" January pretended that she was one of those entitled mean girls she knew from school.


Hee hee awesome. I also like when Gadget whispers the name of a maid, just when she falters in front of that cop. And the part about flipping over the USB stick around and around. mad.gif How astute. Mini USB connectors are even worse....

When she leaps into the sky that reminds me of my Sarah Phimm character who rode around on that broom. First time she did it, she had all these fears. But once she was up there she was simply astounded! Every night she'd look for a new excuse to fly again. smile.gif

Is Gadget totally clueless about her Wicca? It seems like she keeps this to herself. Which is fine.


QUOTE
"Turn on the camera in your cowl," Gadget said, "right next to the night vision."

"Is there anything this suit doesn't have?"


laugh.gif

Cool, she managed to find that ledger. What a trilling chapter hon!

This post has been edited by Renee: Jun 11 2019, 04:45 PM
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SubRosa
post Jun 15 2019, 04:58 PM
Post #26


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Acadian: I used the old window trick to sneak things past my parents into and out of the house when I was young. So I jumped to that immediately. Her room being on the second floor gave me a great opportunity to also demonstrate that her powers are from her, not the suit.

In the near future January's family is going to be the source of much more drama than her superhero life. Pretty much like reality there too...

The whole pro and cons of superheros vs. police is kind of an old trope, but I think one needed to justify the existence of superheros in the first place. So it had to go in there. Detroit having a police force as notably corrupt and under-staffed as it is only makes it work so much better. This city needs superheros, because if you call the police they will not come unless you say there is someone shooting a gun at you. So people lie about that just to get them to show up. Of course even then it takes them at least 4 hours to get there. This is literally true, my old roomate has been there, done that. One of our old police chiefs publicly encouraged people to own guns. He did not come right out and say it was because his police department could not protect them. But every Detroiter knows that is true.

I am going to have to remember to call it the Stormcycle. It will be showing up in Chapter 2.


Uleni Athram: Thank you for the vote of approval. I spent a lot of time working on that fight. I kept most of the descriptions generic so it did not get bogged down. But I saw that downward jumping elbow in an mma fight and just fell in love with it. I wish I could find that vid again. One guy just creamed another with it.

I did not know Sylvie Von Douglas. I will have to look her up. Hopefully I can get some more ideas from her vids.


Renee: That is life, we all fall behind sooner or later. The name of the made is actually an R&B singer - Gabriella Wilson a.k.a. HER. Look her up, she was a child prodigy.

You have touched on something that only came out when I was actually doing the writing: January loves flight. She never feels more alive then when she is in the sky.

Gadget is not clueless about January's study of Wicca. He does remark about the crows after all. As a techie, mysticism is not something he has a lot to offer about.

Unfortunately the suit does not have everything. Not yet at least. Like January, Gadget is still figuring out this whole super thing himself. So things will be slowly added over time as their need becomes apparent, like shielded circuitry and a rebreather.



Chapter 1.9 - Stormcrow Rising

January worked over the heavy bag. Her brother's words still draped over her thoughts like a dark shroud. Was she destined to end up working at Burger Baron? As the entire world was quick to point out, an English degree did not really qualify you for much else. Except being a teacher of course.

But she was just taking the classes to be a better writer. Her writing was going to be her future, wasn't it? Unless of course no one wanted to read her books. Who would, with them filled with gay and lesbian and transgendered protagonists? She knew from bitter experience that the last thing normal people wanted to was to be reminded that someone like her existed. But even given that, January knew that she would never compromise her ideals. She would rather be homeless.

"Take it easy," her mother said from the other side of the heavy bag. "It's supposed to be a workout, not an annihilation."

The older, flame-haired woman was trying to keep the leather bag still as January pummeled away at it with fists, feet, and elbows. Trying and failing, January noticed, for she was hammering both her and the bag back hard with every blow. January realized that she was forgetting herself, and hitting too hard. She had to be better than that.

She stopped, and took a sip of water from the bottle on the table nearby. Their basement spread out around them. A washer and dryer stood in one corner, the furnace and water heater in another. Boxes were piled up, an old bike hung from the ceiling, and an ancient ironing board was unfolded and covered with junk.

The area she and her mother worked out in had been converted into a gym. The floor was covered in thick mats. A heavy punching bag hung from the ceiling, and nearby was a smaller speed bag. A full length mirror was mounted upon one wall. Free weights were stacked up in an iron cradle against another wall, beside a bench press and an elliptical machine. Finally, an inversion bar was bolted to the ceiling, with a pair of gravity boots clipped to it.

"I'm sorry, I guess I wasn't thinking," January mumbled.

"Or maybe you were thinking too much, knowing you," her mother observed. She motioned for January to change places with her, and began a series of punches and kicks into the heavy bag. "Is something bothering you?"

"You mean more than usual?" January asked. "I don't know. I just have been wondering, what is my life going to be? What am I going to do? How am I going to afford surgery?"

"Oh honey, I wish I could tell you," her mother paused a moment to look around the bag at her. "But I know you are going to be fine. You are smart, you are conscientious, you work hard. Even if you're writing doesn't take off, I am sure you will be ok."

"You can still be an instructor at your friend Adin's dojo," her mother went on. "You are already so far beyond me, it's hard to believe I was the one who first taught you kick-boxing. Now there is so much you could teach me."

"You could even try for the Olympics again," she added. "The Olympic Committee changed the rules on pre-op transgender athletes. If you test under a certain amount of testosterone, you can compete now."

"And do cisgender athletes have to test under that as well?" January spat bitterly. "No, of course not. They make special rules just for us. They won't treat me the same as other people, because I'm not good enough to be a person in the first place."

"You know that testosterone changes-" her mother tried to explain.

"What testosterone?" January cut her off. "I've never had it. I was taking anti-androgens before that could start. I've never had any unfair advantage over other women. They have more testosterone than I do. And they at least have the advantage of being allowed to use the bathroom. They have the advantage of being able to watch a movie and see someone like themselves acknowledged to exist. That is at least as something other than a freak to be laughed at or a monster to be murdered. What about the unfair advantage they have in every part of life?"

"The Olympics can suck my ovaries!" January fumed.

Her mother ceased all pretense at boxing, and walked over to her side of the bag. She put one gloved hand on January's shoulder.

"What's really bothering you Aug... January," she said.

January tried not to cringe at the sound of her original, male name: August. Just like when someone called her "he", it was an icy dagger piercing her heart. Lighthammer's hard light was easier to bear.

"That's what's bothering me." She pushed off her mother's outstretched arm with one hand. "Even after all this time, you don't see me. And why should you? I take a shower and look down at myself, and I don't see me. I look in the mirror, and I wonder who stole my real body, and left me trapped in this… this… thing. This horror. How can I go on a date with someone, when the idea of them seeing me naked makes me sick? When do I get to be me?"

All these powers that she supposedly had, January mused, and she was still not who she was supposed to be. She could jump. She could do back flips off the wall. She could throw steel girders. But she could still not look at a normal girl without feeling jealous. They were so lucky, to simply have been born how they were.

January fought back the tears forming behind her eyes, and the knot growing in her throat. She thought of her elemental mantra. She thought of her breathing, and of moving energy back and forth, cleansing her body of all negative emotion. None of it seemed to help.

"We talked about this before," her mother's face took on that serious cast that meant she had gone from empathy-mode to authority-mode. "We simply cannot afford to pay for surgery on our salaries."

"But you can pay for Julian's political science and law degrees," January spat bitterly.

"We aren't-"

"I know what U of M costs," January retorted. "I've seen the checks with dad's name on them. Julian leaves it all sitting out. I'm sure he wants me to see, so he can rub it in my face. He can never resist that."

"Hon, I don't know what you think you saw, but your brother is paying for it with student loans-"

The ringing of January's phone saved her from hearing the excuse. January dove for it like a drowning woman for a life preserver. It was not the normal bubbling ringtone of her phone, but rather a fuzzy guitar riff from Gary Clark Jr's "If Trouble Was Money." Her heart leapt. Had Avery broken the cipher on Subramanian's ledger?

January fumbled with her gloves, tearing off the velcro strip on the back of one to free her hand to use the screen. That left the scars on her wrist plainly visible. But she did not care. She rarely felt self-conscious about them anymore. She had much bigger things to worry about these days.

She got to the phone just in time to catch it before it went to voicemail.

"Avery!" she cried as she picked it up with her now bare hand.

"We gotta roll," he said, "you know who's on the move. Get your stuff, and meet me out front."

January pulled off her other glove and tossed it on the bench press. "I have to go," she murmured. Clutching her phone in one hand, she raced up the stairs. This was something she did not have wonder about, or angst over. This was something she could act on.

* * *


Gary Clark Jr. - If Trouble Was Money

Latest Olympic ruling on transgender athletes

Cost of U of M Law School


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Acadian
post Jun 15 2019, 07:13 PM
Post #27


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From: Las Vegas



January shows us plenty of raw emotion in this powerful episode.

Good thing she has that punching bag to help drain some of her frustrations. I was pleased to see her working out with her mother and have someone to at least share some of those frustrations with. Poor thing seems like she just wants to be the ‘girl next door’ and, instead, is a superheroine trapped in the wrong flavor body!

Buffy was recently traveling Murkmire in the Black Marsh and encountered an Argonian who explained that he had been born a she and it was neither unusual nor unnatural for some Argonians to commune with the Hist, relay their desires and emerge with a full gender change - no physical trauma or social drama. Made me think of January and the ever so much more challenging path she faces.

Nice touch revealing how January used to be August!

Batman had the bat light that Commissioner Gordon would put up into the sky when it was time for the caped crusader to spring into action. Gadget has his own special ringtone as a call to action for the Stromcrow!


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SubRosa
post Jun 22 2019, 04:28 PM
Post #28


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From: Between The Worlds



Acadian: That was a very intense episode, that gives us a glimpse into the turmoil inside January. Everything about her eventually ties back to her gender dysphoria - being a nerd to escape from the 'normal' world, being a fighter, her need to stand against bullies, her ability to feel empathy for others (especially those not born 'perfect').

I also wanted to avoid infodumps on her history. So I am carefully laying little breadcrumbs about it like her mother's near name-slip. A lot more will be coming out in the next chapter.

Wow, that is very woke of ESO to include a trans person. Lucky Argonians! At least the Hist knows when it makes a coding error, and fixes it.

Actually, it is just a custom ringtone that January set her phone to use when Avery calls her. You can do that with most smartphones. But now you have given me the idea that maybe when he is in Gadget mode, he overrides that, and sends his own custom ringtone down the line.

Back in the day when I ran a tabletop Shadowrun game, the team's decker (basically hacker) was an NPC who was usually away from the rest of the team in his lair. He had a whole Man With No Name motif going, with his internet persona looking like Clint Eastwood, his attack programs being a winchester and a revolver, and so on. Whenever he would call the team I would use my laptop to play the theme from The Good The Bad And The Ugly. It was one of his shticks. Gadget could be doing something similar.



You can follow along the road trip with this Google Map. Start at the Green House


Chapter 1.10 - Stormcrow Rising

January bounded up the stairs to her room. With the door securely shut behind her, she emptied out her old gaming backpack of dice and manuals and stuffed her Stormcrow armor within it instead. Then she was off as fast as the wind, racing out the front door and down the block.

Avery lived just two houses down the street. He was just getting into his yellow Geo Storm when she arrived, and hopped in beside him. Once within she focused on the element of Fire, and took a deep breath. Then she thought better of doing her quick change so soon. It would be better to wait until they had reached their destination.

Avery drove down the suburban street, with its small houses and equally small lawns. Someone was out mowing their grass, kids rode past on bikes, and ordinary life went on as if a supervillain emergency was not about to unfold. It felt somewhat surreal to January, knowing that something was going to happen, and that she was going to be part of it. Yet the rest of the world was utterly oblivious.

Someone's sprinkler was throwing water half way across the street, and January was obliged to roll up her window to avoid getting soaked. The Geo was so old that she literally had to roll it with a hand crank. January wondered if they were still riding horses at the time it was built?

Avery drove through a cross street, continued on for another block, then turned onto Dequindre road and headed north. He nodded to the center of the dashboard, where a giant screen had rolled out to display a list of cities and times. It took January a moment to realize that it was the flight schedule for an airport.

"Our man Subramanian is booked on a flight for Atlanta," he said. "From there he's got a connection to Antwerp."

"He's flying out of Flint?" January stared at the screen in disbelief. "I didn't even know they had an airport. Why not just take Metro?"

"Maybe Flint's cheaper," Avery shrugged, "or maybe he figures no one will be watching there."

"So how is the decoding going?" January shifted conversational gears as Avery literally did the same with the Geo. He took a left onto Nine Mile, and effortlessly went from gear to gear as the little car leapt forward past the other traffic. January mused that his driving was a microcosm for his life. Avery was all about gears, moving parts, things fitting together. He somehow saw all the tiny cogs and spinning wheels under the hood of the universe. He understood how that machinery worked, and could run it, or rearrange it, however he liked.

"I broke the code last night," Avery beamed. "Pharos," he said in a loud, clear voice, "display Subramanian Ledger." The dashboard screen cleared, then a moment later filled with a spreadsheet of names, dates, and numbers.

"It took a little while," Avery explained, "but then I realized that like you said, he's not a 21st century man. So I went old school. It turns out he was using a Vigenère Cipher. After that it was easy."

"A vagina cipher?" January scrunched her nose in bafflement. "Sounds like every girl I match with on Scissr."

Avery laughed. "It's a variation of a Caesar cipher. In a Caesar you shift every letter a certain number of spaces up or down the alphabet. The Vigenère takes it to eleven by incorporating multiple Caesar shifts in the same code. Once I figured out the length of the key, I just had to use frequency analysis to crack each individual Caesar cipher."

"Then I had it, a list of all the blood diamonds he bought from a warlord named Ibrohim Alawar. I looked him up. His soldiers hack kids to pieces and gang rape little girls." Avery paused to curl a lip in disgust. "Anyway, Subramanian buys the raw diamonds from him. Then he takes them back to Surat in India for polishing. From there he brings them to the U.S. to sell. He goes all up and down the East Coast, Boston to Chicago, New Orleans to Orlando, and every big place in between. He's got every sale listed here, to shops and individuals. He's making millions, even after all the bribes he's got listed to customs officials."

"Do his bosses know about it?" January asked, staring at the list of buyers, and all of the zeros besides their names. Her head swam.

"There's no way to tell," Avery shook his head as he turned at Burger Baron and got onto the service drive for I-75. "He's making real business trips for the cartel at the same time he's slinging the blood diamonds. They aren't listed in the ledger, but I was able to get it from going back over airline records for the last six months."

"So we have to stop him from getting on that plane," January mused, "and get the police to search him and find that ledger, and whatever diamonds he has left."

"That's the plan," Avery said. He finally got onto the freeway, and immediately had to brake to avoid running into a massive Oldsmobile that suddenly cut into their lane. He down-shifted with ease. Again January was amazed at how expertly he made the machinery sing for him.

"Great driving Grandpa!" he shouted out the window. Then he turned back to January as if nothing had happened. "Just to sweeten the pot I'll dump the entire thing onto social media. Imgur, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, even Pr0n Hub. I've got bots set up to completely saturate the internet."

January mulled that over. Avery could expose it all. But unless they stopped him from escaping the country, Subramanian could go to ground anywhere in the world. With his diamond money, he could vanish into a black hole and never be seen again.

She had protected him. She had helped him. Now she was going to stop him.

January knew she had to prepare herself. No more mistakes. No losing her temper. No allowing her frustrations to control her. So she pulled her feet up onto the car seat and folded them across one another in a lotus position. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply in and out. She focused on her Wiccan energy exercises, and cleared her mind. In time the rest of the world fell away, and there was only her heart, her breath, and the energy of the world flowing through her.

"We're here," Avery's voice snapped January back to reality. She looked around to find that they had already left the freeway, and were headed down a surface street toward the airport. A massive parking lot stretched out to her right. The terminal rose up to the left, behind a smaller lot and a partial screen of trees.

They passed under a large green sign that said "Bishop International Airport" in large white letters, with arrows that pointed out the parking lots. But what January really noticed were the crows. They crowded almost wing to wing along the length of the metal sign. They all took flight when they drove underneath, in a vast murder that winged its way toward the airport.

"That is really creepy you know," Avery murmured, staring at the black shapes as they soared away.

"I think that is my cue," January said. She focused on Fire. A second later she was clad from head toe in her Stormcrow gear.

The sound of an explosion rang out from the left, and a thin stream of smoke began wafting from the terminal.

"Don't slow down." January cranked down her window, and flowed through the open space with the ease of water spilling out of a tap. Balancing herself against the wind, she leapt onto the roof of the car. For a moment she stood there, practically surfing atop the Geo. She crouched down, then leapt skyward with all the strength she had in her legs. Rising into the sky, she put her arms out and hit the twin triggers in her gauntlets. Her cape snapped out into a pair of wings a moment later, catching the wind underneath them.

She was getting better at this. Banking to the left, the long terminal building stretched out before her. It had a very modern look, with multiple scalloped overhangs curving up one over the other along the side facing the street. A driveway broke off from the nearer parking lot to run along the side of the terminal. It was directly beneath the lowest scallop, which shielded it from sun and rain.

The walls of the terminal facing the drive were entirely of glass, as were those at the either end of the massive building. A pair of flags fluttered in the breeze outside. One was the Stars and Stripes. The other was the blue Michigan state flag, with its elk and moose facing one another.

The far side of the terminal was more prosaic concrete and steel. A narrow tube-like structure - too big to be just a skywalk - jutted out across the tarmac from it, and joined the terminal to another huge rectangular building. The latter was free of decoration, unless you counted the multiple jet bridges that jutted from it, like pins from a cushion. Farther out stretched numerous concrete taxiways and the two actual landing strips, which were set at a right angle to one another.

January banked to the left, and followed the swarm of crows down toward the overhanging scallops that lined the terminal. A row of trees seemed to leap up in front of her. For a moment she panicked, and visions of impaling herself upon their branches flashed before her eyes. Then she was back in control of herself. She raised her head, and arms with it, tilting the angle of her wings upward. She lost speed, but gained lift. The top leaves of one tree scraped against her belly. Then she was past the vegetation, and one of the massive metal overhangs loomed in her face.

January ducked, and angled her wings downward. She dove for the concrete driveway below, and the scalloped overhang slipped by harmlessly overhead. Losing altitude had given her speed. She briefly noted that everything with flying seemed to be a trade-off between one thing and another. She really needed to practice flying more, maybe even read up about it.

The blare of a car horn rang out in her ears, and she spared a glance to one side in time to see a giant pickup truck barreling toward her from the right. She pulled back once more, tilting her wings so far up that they were at a right angle to the ground. That stalled her forward momentum. The truck kept on coming, and sped past her with a rushing of air. The red, white, and blue cloth of a massive American flag mounted behind the cab snapped against her nose. Then her feet touched down upon the truck's long bed. Without really thinking, she took a running jump, and used the steel bed to launch herself back into the air.

People were running everywhere. Some paused to shout and point at her, and the murder of crows that preceded her. Most just ignored her however, and got as far away from the terminal as quickly as their feet would take them.

Now before January was a long glass wall facing the driveway, punctuated by occasional glass doors. She followed the cloud of black birds through a shattered plate glass window and finally entered the building itself.

The main floor lobby stretched out to either side, and ran the length of the building. Essentially a wide open hallway, it was carpeted in red and blue. Shining metal baggage carousels jutted out from the far wall. The one before her was even decorated with a bronze statue of a man wearing an old fashioned suit and hat. She saw the name Chrysler set into the plaque at its feet, and imagined that he must be the guy the car company was named after.

To her right there was an actual car, cordoned off by a low glass barrier. January could see that it was a Buick, because it said so on the rear quarter panel in big letters. Past that on the ground floor were the ticket counters and rows of seats. But before the ticketing area was an escalator that rose to the second floor. January could see a gallery from that floor running the length of the lobby, partitioned off by a chest-high glass screen.

January banked sharply to glide down the length of the lobby, and followed the crows. There were more people here. Some ran. Some tried to hide behind the columns that held up the second floor gallery, the car, and the Chrysler statue.

In spite of her pick-up truck assist, January found herself quickly running out of altitude. That gave her an idea as the car came near. She aimed for its roof, and triggered off her wings just before it slid underneath. She hit the roof running, and leapt straight ahead. The escalator ran at a right angle to her path, rising to her left. Her leap took her high over it, directly into a sign with arrows pointing out directions to ticketing and parking on the first floor.

She rolled into ball, and hit the sign with her feet. The crows wheeled around her, winging up and to the left. She sprang out and to the same side, and not only rolled but twisted in mid air as she bounced sideways off the sign. That put her at the top of the escalator, right between a pair of men. The older one was dressed in flannel and had a full beard and cowboy hat. The other was much younger - perhaps the first man's son given their similar faces. He wore a t-shirt with an American flag brightly emblazoned across the front, and tribal tattoos crowded the length of his exposed arms.

"Excuse me," January murmured as the two startled men almost leapt out of their boots. January imagined that few people were prepared for a girl in a crow costume to come flying out of the sky and land inches away. Let alone the murder of crows that croaked past and scattered in all directions, only to vanish completely just a few moments later.




The onboard computer in the Gadgetmobile is named after the Pharos Lighthouse

Vigenère Cipher

Ibroham Alawar is based on RL Ibrahim Alawad

Flint Bishop Airport

Flint Airport aerial view

A closer view of the terminal and parking lot

The reverse view, from a model in the airport

The terminal

The baggage pickup inside the terminal. The escalator and Ticketing are visible in the middle distance

The escalator that January leaps up


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Acadian
post Jun 22 2019, 07:18 PM
Post #29


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From: Las Vegas



Nice job here, setting the scene and stakes for what seems likely to be an exciting encounter as Avery races the duo to the airport in the Gadgetmobile.

And what an entrance as Stormcrow flows out the open car window and springs into the air! Her abilities in flight are getting impressive but have been hard-gained in a very believable manner over her several flights to date. goodjob.gif


Nits?
’Some paused to shout and point at her, and the murder of crows that proceeded {preceded?} her.’
'He wore a t-shirt with an American flag brightly emblazoned across the front, ad {and?} tribal tattoos crowded the length of his exposed arms.’


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treydog
post Jun 24 2019, 05:46 PM
Post #30


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From: The Smoky Mountains



The way you weave “existing” tech in with possible future-tech, as well as just enough supernatural/maybe-it-exists-mundanes-just-don't-know-about-it elements is great. It reminds me of the way Stephen King's best work managed to draw me in- he would build a “regular” world, and get the reader nodding along, “yes, I can 'see' that.” And then- “here, let's add just a little something extra- and you were already completely involved.

QUOTE
Usually her life became much worse when people paid attention to her.


As I constantly remind Mrs. Treydog when she asks if “Anything exciting happened” at work- exciting is bad. It generally means something went wrong.

Second post- one escaped extra word note:

QUOTE
The Pepsi and schedule fell forgotten from January's hands. What should she do? Should she play it safe, and run, or hide, like the all the active shooter drills in school said? Or should she do what they always say not to, and advance?


Extra “the” after “like”.

Most excellent fight scene, again working a perfect blending of what is “current” with what is “possible”.

QUOTE
he had parked his nerdcore throne


Just perfect!

QUOTE
“You are trending, even bigger than that singing cat!"

"The cat made more sense,"


Love it!

QUOTE
"So what have you learned from this?"


Sensei Avery?

QUOTE
No girl can have any agency without being a princess


No Kool-Aid there, nope, none at ALL.

And I love that our kick-booty newest superhero can't drive a stick. I have to admit, that the protagonist having “instant familiarity” with any form of transport is one of the “immersion-breaking” things for me in a lot of movies- like how ANY car can be hot-wired by just twisting a couple of wires together under the dash, or the keys are always in it, or the fact that semiauto or fully auto weapons never run out of ammunition- except when it is “convenient” for the action. Brief sidenote- that was one of the things I loved in the finale of Season One of “Wiseguy”- Sonny Steelgrave (Ray Sharkey) steals a car, which immediately starts intoning “Check Your Fuel Level”- which of course, just piles more stress on what he is already feeling. But back to the point, from which I have wandered beyond even being able to see from here- January's inability to drive a manual transmission car is one of those perfect touches that make writing soar.

QUOTE
the mobile command center.


Another perfect turn of phrase

QUOTE
"I bet Blood Raven doesn't have to make excuses to her mom when she goes out fighting evil," January grumbled after she hung up.


And Athlain wishes that was true....

Oh my aching sides- the rotary phone = Neanderthal mammoth traps. Bless you for that image, which is now stuck in my head forever. Additional points because I grew up with rotary phones....

QUOTE
The elevator to the fourteenth floor was slower than a Hutt on molasses.


blink.gif

And another vote for the cleverest plot being foiled by the dullest of guards. A genius' greatest enemy is not another genius, but a stubborn moron....

I try hard to not be too judgmental- but … her brother will be a perfect lawyer. He is already able to justify his point of view, even if he has to tie himself in knots to do so.

And a deeply intense view of the existential difficulty of being “othered”. Because it is important (I think) to grasp that January is NOT “other”; she is herself. It is the external perceptions and forces that make that somehow “wrong.” And it is not helped by her parents unthinking differential treathment of their two children. Powerful writing.

QUOTE
It turns out he was using a the Vigenère Cipher. After that it was easy."


Extra article crept in there during rewrite- I hate it when that happens.

And now- I am caught up. Darn it. What a ride it has been!


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Renee
post Jun 24 2019, 06:52 PM
Post #31


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Joined: 19-March 13
From: Ellicott City, Maryland



QUOTE
Mr. Xiang said that the super battle at the hotel was definitely trending. Apparently everyone was using #stormcrow to post their pictures and videos.


Nice.

Also, the whole time her family's having that conversation about her, and she keeps almost slipping about her identity, getting defensive any way. That must be tough. She can't rightly just tell them though, no way. I have a feeling somebody's gonna find out though. wink.gif

QUOTE
"I for one think it is a good thing that we have another hero in Metro Detroit," her mother declared.


Ha! Such a "mom" thing to say. smile.gif Is there such thing as a Michigan accent? I keep hearing the parents sounding like Archie and Edith, which I know is way wrong. My mind keeps drifting back to the Bunkers though. Would it be similar to a typical Midwest accent?

Whoa, so that's where she lives (I looked at the house pic). Yikes! She needs somewhere more secluded, like a secret cave! laugh.gif Kidding. She's probably vulnerable there though.


QUOTE
Gabriella Wilson a.k.a. HER. Look her up, she was a child prodigy.


Sure, I will.

Two more chapters to catch up.....

QUOTE
January worked over the heavy bag. Her brother's words still draped over her thoughts like a dark shroud. Was she destined to end up working at Burger Baron?


Awww. sad.gif

QUOTE
She really needed to practice flying more, maybe even read up about it.


That is awesome. All of this is so new to her. She's kick-boxing, she's learning martial arts, oh, and hey, she's also learning how to fly.

What will happen next?

This post has been edited by Renee: Jun 25 2019, 06:43 PM
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SubRosa
post Jun 29 2019, 04:15 PM
Post #32


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From: Between The Worlds



Acadian: This will be the crescendo of the chapter. Just 3 episodes left, including today's.

Flight is one of those abilities I really want to show January slowly developing over time, as she slowly but surely practices and studies.


treydog: Thee-Dog's in the house!

I am partly taking my cues from Lovecraft with the way I use real world tech with my own supertech. Whenever he would list off a series of magic books and occultists in his stories, he would include real ones in the mix, such as The Golden Bough, Hermes Trismigestus, or Borellus and Agrippa. It lent the entire thing a sense of verisimilitude, because it puts the Necromonicon and Al-Hazred on the same playing field as them.

The other reason is that a lot of real world tech is what we would have called science fiction just forty years ago. Like the phone cloner that Gadget gave to January. The police and government really use those things right now, mining the data of ordinary people without their knowledge.

One thing nice about writing this story is that I can finally use pop-culture as a tool in my writing, which of course I could never do in Tamriel. So I glory in my nerdcores and rotary phones (which I do remember using too).

The princess remark is a dig at the Never A Self Made Woman trope, something that makes me roll my eyes every time I watch a movie or show and the only female Action Girl in it is also the daughter of the admiral, or president, or an actual king, and it is inferred that her abilities and position are ultimately due to his influence. Because it is not like any woman could ever possess her own wants or desires. She can only be what her male forebear molded her into.

January is a Millennial, so of course she cannot drive a stick shift! I cannot imagine any who can, since when would they ever be faced with one? Gadget gets a pass because of who and what he is. Machinery, gears, moving parts, are at the very heart of his nature. I did see that episode of Wiseguy! Sonny even bribes the gas station attendant with a bag of golf clubs to let him fill up his tank. Not that he has a chance to when Vinnie shows up. I loved that, because the protagonist is not the only character who should have to overcome obstacles. The antagonist should have just as much trials and tribulations to face as well.

We can be judgmental about January's brother. We will see more of him in in the future... Likewise, January's whole family situation is about to blow up.

Unfortunately, the most difficult part of being trans is not the bigotry of others, but the very sense of Otherness within one's self. Even in a perfect world, trans-people would still have to grapple with that undeniable feeling that they are not who they are supposed to be, and see a stranger every time they look in the mirror. As January said to her mother "I don't see me." One of the reasons I went with January being trans, and at this stage of her life, is I wanted her to have this very real disadvantage to struggle with. In the Champions or Gurps systems that ought to be at least a 20 point Disadvantage... wink.gif


Renee: Many people in Michigan will insist that there is no Michigan accent. "We talk normal here!" But there is definitely a Michigan accent. It is nothing like the Bunkers though. We love to put a hard 'a' in everything, even words that don't have an 'a' in them at all. Like 'to' we will say 'ta'. The Michigan accent really goes into detail. How we say Pop instead of Soda. Yoopers. How we use our hand to show where a place is in the state, and so on.


Chapter 1.11 - Stormcrow Rising

A quick glance showed the airport offices to her right, along with a pair of restrooms and a shoe shine stand. Past that was a gift shop and a book store. To her immediate left was a conference room, and farther down the hall was a small food court. It was partitioned off from the main hallway by a chest-high counter covered in ceramic tiles. Within the corral it created was a single restaurant and a small dining area.

Gift Shop and Bookstore on the right

The Food Court on the left

The rest of the second floor continued on straight ahead down a long, wide hallway. January imagined this was that long structure that branched off from the terminal. She had seen it when she had flown in. It connected to the second, rectangular building set farther back on the tarmac that had all the jet bridges prickling out of it.

Far down the hallway January saw a sign saying "Meeter/Greeter Area", next to another proclaiming "All Gates" and pointing to the right. Beside the latter sign the corridor branched out to the right and vanished from sight. While straight ahead were "Do Not Enter" signs. As best January could tell, the security screening must have been somewhere down there, perhaps in the area to the right that she could not see.

Do Not Enter sign far down the hall

She only had an instant to take all this in. The entire area was in complete chaos. People of all shapes, sizes, and colors ran and dove for cover everywhere. The chest high counter that blocked off the food court seemed to be a popular spot for refuge. So too were the desks in the open office areas to the right. The only people standing seemed to be those who were fighting, right out in the middle of it all.

There was Lighthammer, in his glowing silver, white, and blue armor. January noticed that he had replaced or repaired the helmet she had damaged in the previous fight. The small force fields projecting from his forearms glowed with blue-white light. He was putting them to good use against four opponents comprised of what appeared be living darkness.

It took January a moment to realize that what she was seeing were actually people. Each was covered from head to toe by an oval shield of blackness. One turned in profile to get a better shot at Lighthammer, and she saw that the dark shield only protected him from the front. From the side she could see it was a man wearing a sport coat and khakis. There was some sort of metal box or device on his chest, from which the darkness streamed out to form the shield in front of him. She also noted that two metal bars came out from under the cuffs of his sport coat, one at either side of his arm. They joined to form a gauntlet for each hand. Whether the metal exoskeleton extended down under his loose pants - or was only limited to his torso and arms - she could not tell.

January recognized him. He was one of Subramanian's bodyguards from the previous night. She could not remember if he was the former Army Ranger, or the former Detroit beat cop. Not that either was really preferable to fight.

The mercenary pointed one gauntleted hand at Lighthammer, and a bolt of darkness spat forth. It was identical to the energy that formed his shield. Lighthammer must have seen it out of the corner of his eye, because he twisted to the side and raised one forearm to block. The dark missile struck his force field of light, and had no effect. The light seemed to simply swallow it whole, without any impact to Lighthammer whatsoever.

The Gray Hat countered with a bolt of his own solid light. However, it too was harmlessly absorbed by the bodyguard's force field of darkness. Then the vigilante was bounding up in the air to avoid another bolt of darkness. He did a flip, and came down feet first into one of the ebony force fields. It should have flattened the man behind it, but Lighthammer's armored frame simply bounced off ineffectually.

"Elemental darkness, like the Veil from the Sentinels uses," Gadget's voice came through her earpiece. "Looks like they not only got reinforcements, but geared up with something that will nullify Lighthammer's powers. But they forgot his cancels theirs out too."

"Use your guns damn it!" A heavily-accented Indian voice rang out. January saw Subramanian step out from the gift shop, subcompact pistol raised. He punctuated his words with a string of shots directed at Lighthammer.

That was also January's direction, and that of the men standing to either side of her. As she saw the pistol come up, she turned as quick as Air would allow. Grabbing the leading edges of her cape, she flung out her arms to either side and covered the two men beside her with it. A moment later she felt the impacts, like blows from a hammer.

Please be bullet-proof, she found herself thinking, please be bullet-proof.

When the shooting stopped, she looked down and was relieved when there was not any blood. Both of the men she had shielded had dropped to a knee however, and winced in pain. So clearly they had felt some of the force of the blows, even though the bullets had not penetrated her cape.

"Better get down the escalator!" January gently nudged the two men forward, down the moving stairs. Only when they were both on the top step, and being slowly carried down and out of the line of fire, did she turn back.

Now she saw that the bodyguards had pulled out sawed off shotguns. One blasted away from a medium distance, and a bronze bust encased in glass against at the opposite wall exploded. Another struck one of Lighthammer's arm shields. An instant later a woman across from him collapsed to the floor, blood erupting from her upper arm. January noted that she had a handgun clenched in her good hand.

Ricochet, January imagined. She had to do something about these guns, before everyone in the terminal got killed.

She called upon Air for speed. With a single bound, she crossed the thirty or so feet between her and the injured woman. She gathered the olive-skinned woman up her arms, being careful not to jostle the hand that still clutched her pistol. The last thing she wanted was to accidentally get shot herself, or be responsible for that happening to someone else.

"It's ok, I'm here to help," January breathed. She lifted the injured woman with ease. She may as well have been as light as a feather. She vaulted over the chest-high barrier that cordoned off the dining area, being sure to keep her back to the action at all times. That way she would shield the injured woman with her body.

She set the woman down as gently as possible, beside a pair of other people. January scanned the injury, wishing for more experience with first aid than a brief class in high school. It was a big wound, and January could see that the cloth of the woman's top was torn to shreds around it. She did not see a splatter of small injuries, like she would have guessed a shotgun would cause. Instead it was just one big hole.

"Me Cago En Ná!" the injured woman cursed. That was something they had not taught in high school Spanish class. But she could guess the intent well enough.

"It burns!" the woman now cried in English. She dropped her gun, and reached for her injured arm with her good hand. "Get it out!"

January gritted her teeth, and stuck her fingers into the wound. It reminded her of reaching into the Thanksgiving turkey before it went into the oven. But this wasn't dinner. It was a person, all hot, wet, and torn apart.

She found the projectile and pulled it out, fingers slick with blood. It was not a pellet. Instead it was cylindrical in shape, with a wide bottom. From there it suddenly narrowed to a long center section, then tapered to a point. Obviously it was some kind of slug, but not of any kind she had ever heard of. She had thought they all looked like bullets, only larger.

Armor-Piercing Shotgun Slug

"Armor-piercing round," Gadget's said. "I've seen vids of those things going through steel plate. They came loaded for bear."

January dimly registered that it was still hot from being fired. But it did not really bother her. Whether that was thanks to her armor, or her own natural abilities, she did not know. She dropped the slug on the floor and turned back to the wound. She found that the injured woman had ripped out a long strip of cloth from her top, and was stuffing it into the injury.

"She's a cop," Gadget said in her ear.

Then January noticed the Michigan State Police badge that had spilled out of her pocket. Now her having a gun in the airport made sense.

"I'll take care of this," the state cop said though gritted teeth. "You get out there and do what you did last night."

That was all the prompting January needed. Resting one hand on the tile barrier, she vaulted over it and back into the wide hall. She saw one of the bodyguards with his back to her. Without another thought she leapt forward, and crashed into him full force.

His body bent over backwards as the momentum of the charge sent them both across the hallway, and into the opposite wall. The bodyguard struck it shield first, and the pair smashed through right through the barrier. Bits of drywall and wall studs sprayed the hallway and gift shop. They finally came to a stop in the bookstore, January atop the bodyguard's back.

Since she still had hold of him, she lifted them both from the ground, spun around, and sent them crashing back into the floor with a suplex. The mercenary took the blow belly-first. But again, his dark energy shield seemed to absorb the impact, and shattered the hard tiles of the bookstore floor beneath him.

He sent an elbow back as a thank you present. January blocked with a forearm. He followed with the other elbow, then leapt to his feet, pushing backward. They slammed into a bookshelf, sending hardcovers of the latest 80s rock band tell-all everywhere. This time it was January who slammed into the wall. She was ready for it however, and merely grunted as she felt wood and plaster give way beneath her armored back.

She let go of him. Grappling was clearly not doing her much good. It certainly was not her strong suit. Instead she struck both sides of his neck with her open hands. She hit the carotid sinus just behind the jaw. Her Krav Maga instructor had taught her that the arteries which supplied blood to the brain separated into two at that spot. A blow to either would confuse the baroreceptors there into thinking that the blood pressure within was too high. They automatically lowered the pressure to adjust. The end result was that the mercenary collapsed to the floor like a puppet whose strings had been cut.

Carotid Slap

Before January could congratulate herself, another of Subramanian's bodyguards was upon her. He came in like a bull, with a left hook that would have taken January's head off had it connected. She had only seconds to react, but still managed to duck out of the way. Drywall and wood rained down upon her head as he gouged out a chunk of the wall above her. With his black force field in front of her, she could not see his body at all, just his armored fists when they came out to strike.

She just did the best she could, and followed her Krav Maga training. Since she was starting low, she sprang up and forward, using her body like a battering ram. Her head crashed into the inky force field about where she imagined his chin might be. She instantly followed with a knee to the midsection.

He did not go down. Instead he replied with a body shot. She twisted and tensed up, taking the blow on her ribs. She leaned in closer and swept her elbow across his head, putting all of her chest and back muscles into the blow. Then while she hoped he was thinking high, she took a step away and went low with a kick to the shin.

He followed with a kick toward her knee. She raised her leg to take it on the shin. She countered with a palm strike to the head. He came back with a jab to the face that she barely saw coming. There was no time to block or dodge. She just took the hit. It did not seem to hurt though, whether from adrenaline, armor, or her powers, January did not know.

This was going on much too long. She had to put this guy down. She reached up with both hands as if to grab his head. Instead she got hold of the edges of his force field. It felt solid under her fingers, but seemed to tingle, as if it was flowing or vibrating ever so slightly. Pulling herself up with her arms, she drove a knee into where she imagined his solar plexus might be.

He was still standing however, and punched hard into her exposed midsection with both fists. January gritted her teeth, but did not falter. Still holding on to the force field, she used it to vault straight up into a handstand in the air above the mercenary. She was forced to flex her knees into a crouch as her feet pressed into the low ceiling. Then she pushed off it, and rocketed straight down.

She hit the mercenary like a battering ram, striking just behind the protection of his force field. Her body hammered against the bodyguard's forehead, and continued down across his chest. She crashed into the metal device that powered the field, and it shattered into a dozen sparking chunks of metal. The black energy vanished, and she continued on into his legs and feet.

She hit the ground hands first, and executed an effortless front handspring back to her feet. She glanced back to see the bodyguard slumped down motionless on a pile of books, head bloody and force field emitter fallen dark and silent.

January realized this would be the perfect time for a witty one-liner. Something like catching up on a good book, or not judging one by its cover. Or course nothing came to mind that did not sound trite.

"A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone."

January chuckled as Gadget's voice floated in her ear.

Quotes - "A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone."


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Acadian
post Jun 29 2019, 06:21 PM
Post #33


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Despite the superhero tech, you rendered everything clearly and easy to follow during this heart-pounding fight. Stormcrow’s carotid slap was pretty cool and very effective!

I’m curious now to see what happens next – if Black Hat slips away and if we learn more about Gray Hat. Given Stormcrow’s focus on protecting innocents, she is most definitely a White Hat.


Nit? ’Instead he replied with body shot.’ - - Do you want an ‘a’ before body shot?


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treydog
post Jun 30 2019, 12:34 AM
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Most excellent fight scene! And again, very happy with the mingling of tech and "powers". And the quote made me smile.


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SubRosa
post Jun 30 2019, 06:48 PM
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Ooops, I forgot to add some links. I went back and put in some pictures of the second floor of the airport, where the fighting takes place.

Also, is it better this way, with the links to interesting things placed within the text? Or is it better with them all at the bottom?


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Acadian
post Jun 30 2019, 07:36 PM
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Thanks for the additional links and update.

I wrestled with the same question for my fic regarding screenshots and ultimately concluded that putting them all at the end of the episode worked better for me. Though having links inserted right where they match the content is more 'responsive', I find it slightly more 'disruptive' to the reading flow. smile.gif


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treydog
post Jun 30 2019, 08:33 PM
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I tend to agree. While on the one hand, it is fun to "see" in real time- it also happens to be bad for my "ohhhh shiny!" impulse- and thus breaks the immersion.

With links or notes at the bottom- I can either click an re-read- OR click first to familiarize and THEN read. My 1/2 Septim anyway... (would that make it a "Martin"?")


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SubRosa
post Jul 6 2019, 03:49 PM
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Acadian: That Carotid Slap was something I filed away for future use when I was doing my Krav Maga research a few months ago. I was not originally going to use it in this fight. But it made its way back in the mix after I made some tweaks a few weeks ago. What I have really enjoyed writing in this fight is January's gymnastic skills, which have been a key component to defeating the mercenaries.

As you noted, these last few episodes have been again given me the opportunity to Show what White, Gray, and Black Hats are, without having to Tell anything. I am pleased with how that turned out.

Nits picked. Now I am laughing. We Michiganders always want to insert a hard 'a' into everything, even words that don't have an 'a'. How did I miss that! laugh.gif


treydog: I had fun writing this fight scene. A week before posting the first part I was looking at it, and thought it did not seem challenging enough. So I added in two more mercenaries. That did not actually make it much longer. But it did ramp up the action, and make Lighthammer and January come off feeling more super. Unlike the common lackeys in the comics, I wanted these guys to pose a real threat. They would have defeated Lighthammer if he had been on his own. So I gave them real skills and some tech-based powers of their own so they could go toe-to-toe with the supes.

Given the feedback from both you and Captain A, I decided to go back to putting my links at the bottom of the posts instead of mid-stream.



I will still put mood music at the top however, so people can listen while they read. January's fight theme



Chapter 1.12 - Stormcrow Rising

January stepped out to rejoin the battle in the hallway. She saw that even though he now only faced two opponents, Lighthammer was still taking the worst of the exchange. Like her own battles with the mercenaries, they had gone into hand to hand. These mercs seemed as skilled with fists and feet as her two opponents had been. Lighthammer less so. He was taking hit after hit. Most he deflected on his forearm force fields. Some he was able to slip or dodge away from.

But it was two against one, and his opponents seemed to know how to work as a team. One would distract Lighthammer, while the other would strike from the opposite side. He was constantly in motion, leaping, diving, and sidestepping to stay out of their way. But inevitably some of their attacks got past his shields, and steadily dented and chipped away at his armor.

Pits gouged into the ceiling and floor showed where one or the other had tried to shoot with their weapons. January did not know if those were the results of more ricochets, or if they had been intentional shots, like the one Lighthammer had used to trap her the previous night when he had made his escape.

January saw Subramanian raise the discarded shotgun of the first mercenary she had defeated. He had a clear shot at Lighthammer's back. She had seen that his force fields could deflect the slugs. But she had no idea if his armor could alone. Given that not every inch of the vigilante's body was armored, it would not help at all if Subramanian got a lucky hit.

"Lighthammer, duck!" January shouted.

The vigilante instantly dropped, and Subramanian fired. One of the other two bodyguards had been standing directly opposite him, and staggered when the armor-piercer hit his own force field of elemental darkness. But the field held, as it had against January's own blows against his partners.

Still crouched down low, Lighthammer spun and flung out one palm to Subramanian. Solid light blossomed forth, and took him full in the chest. His shotgun went spinning away through the air, shattered into numerous pieces. Subramanian likewise went flying, to land on his back several feet away.

At the same time Lighthammer raised his other forearm to block a punch from one of the mercenaries. However, the final bodyguard took advantage of Lighthammer's divided focus. He side-stepped around to get directly behind the vigilante. Then he raised his shotgun and aimed at Lighthammer's head.

But January was upon him with a single leap. She grabbed hold of the twin barrels of the sawed-off shotgun and flung them skyward. Both boomed an instant later, and gouged holes in the ceiling. The mercenary tried to wrestle the gun away from her, and January could feel real strength in the man's exoskeleton-enhanced limbs. Lightning cracked loudly, and January felt the steel of the barrels warp and twist under her fingers.

He let go of the ruined weapon, and sent an uppercut into January's stomach. She winced under the blow, and flung the useless shotgun aside. The mercenary came back with a cross, pivoting with his torso and hips to put all of his mass behind the blow. January swept it aside with her left forearm, and countered with an immediate jab to the head with her right. It had no effect, and her new opponent sent a front kick directly at her face. She barely slipped aside in time to avoid having her teeth knocked out.

As before, January could see that that striking directly at the dark force field would be useless. She had to get behind it, and disable its projector. Remembering her previous knock out, she reached out and grabbed the edges of the mercenary's force field. He stamped down hard on her instep, then kneed her in the groin. Against most people, that would have been check and mate. January just shrugged both off. Tilting backward, she pulled the bodyguard into the air above her. Squatting down for a moment, she leapt straight up with all of her might.

Out there in the main hallway the ceiling was twice as high overhead as it was in the bookstore. Still, they crashed into it as if they had been shot from a cannon. The mercenary's unprotected back hit first, and bounced off metal and drywall. She felt his body crumple behind his force field.

Then they were falling. January held on, knowing that if she let go and he fell without coordination, he might easily break his neck or crack his skull on landing. Half way down she felt hands grab under her armpits. She looked up to see Lighthammer's armored chest and head. He tried to hold her aloft. But her weight - and that of the mercenary - were plainly too much. They continued their fall, but now much slower. They struck the floor with only a light thump.

That left only one bodyguard. He leveled his shotgun at the trio and cut loose with both barrels. January barely saw it coming, and had no time to dodge. Thankfully Lighthammer was quicker, and raised a forearm. His force field caught the shot at an angle, and deflected the armor-piercing rounds into the ceiling.

January scrambled to her feet and faced the mercenary. At the same time Lighthammer fired at his face, which the bodyguard did not even bother to dodge. He just took the blast of light on his dark energy shield. But that kept the mercenary distracted long enough for the vigilante to duck and roll forward. Lighthammer came up behind the bodyguard's force field. Solid light flashed, and the mercenary fell an instant later.

January hoped Lighthammer would not shoot her in the back, and knelt down beside the unconscious bodyguard that she had driven into the ceiling. Twisting his body aside, she got behind his force field and grabbed for the emitter strapped to his chest. After several fumbling attempts, she found a pair of switches that she had to press simultaneously, and the black energy vanished.

She rose to her feet in time to see Lighthammer doing the same with the opponent he had just dispatched. A quick leap took January back to the bookstore, where she likewise disabled the energy projector of the first mercenary, whom she had knocked unconscious with the carotid slap.

She looked up to see Lighthammer standing over Subramanian. The Indian was still laying on the ground moaning. His suit jacket had been thrown open, and his pockets turned inside out.

The armored vigilante turned to face January. She saw that he held Subramanian's diamond bag in one hand. As she walked over to him, he raised a diamond in his fingers and held it up to the light to inspect it. He stuffed it back inside the bag as January came nearer, and pulled its neck tightly closed.

"So are we gonna fight now?" he asked, "or should I just say thank you?"

"I am not your enemy," January explained. "I didn't know what he was before. Now I do."

People started to emerge from hiding now. January hoped no more of them had been hurt while she was occupied by the battle. She noticed that one was the state trooper. Her injured arm was wrapped in an ersatz bandage of her torn shirt and someone else's windbreaker. Her badge was now slung from a cord around her neck. She held her gun with her good hand, pointed to the floor at a low angle.

"I'll take that as an apology then," Lighthammer smiled.

Thunder howled loudly outside, followed by a brilliant crack of lightning.

"I'm not sorry for anything," January contended. "I saw you attack a man, and I defended him. If you had gone about this differently, he'd have been in jail already."

"His kind doesn't go to prison," Lighthammer glanced back at Subramanian and spat. "He's got the law bought and paid for."

"We'll see about that," January said. "I've got his financial records all over the web already. I'll bet he's got the original still on him. All the evidence left is in your hand."

She nodded to the bag of diamonds, and extended her open hand toward him.

"What, so the cops can pocket half of them," he scoffed, "and he can use the rest to buy his way out of prison?"

"Look around Lightguy," January waved hand for effect. "We are on a dozen security cameras, and who knows how many phones. We are probably being streamed live all over the country right now. This is ratings. Every cop who touches these diamonds is going to have a microscope up their unmentionables. No one is going to skim any."

"You really expect me to just give these up, after all I've done for them?" Lighthammer stared at her. The only part of his face that was visible was his lower jaw, and that was set in a tight, hard line. But January held firm. She was not about to be intimidated by a helmet.

"Yes I do," January said. "I did my research on you. You're a Gray Hat. You only take from thieves, drug-dealers, and other criminals. You've never hurt an innocent. I've seen you hold back to avoid that. If you take those diamonds, you are no better than Subramanian. You'll just be one more link in the chain of horror and murder that they created."

"I don't think you really even need them," she continued. "You aren't going to sell them are you? You want them for your armor right? But that armor doesn't look powered. It's just protection, like mine isn't it? Your power comes from you. What do the diamonds do, help you focus it? intensify it?"

"You don't need that. It's really a crutch. In the end it'll hold you back, because you won't be making the most of your own gifts. True power only comes from within. If you want more, practice, work harder, create it within yourself."

"That's high and mighty talk for someone who wears a wingsuit." he shot back.

"I wear the wingsuit because I cannot fly," January admitted. "But who knows, with hard work and practice, maybe someday I will. I learned a long time ago that our will creates our reality. I'll practice with you any day."

"I did my research on you too, Weather Witch of Warren," Lighthammer said. Lightning flashed again, as if to underscore the title. "Okay Qui-Gon, we'll play it your way this time."

He handed her the bag of diamonds. She felt its weight in her hand. Felt the stones grind against one another. For a fleeting moment she thought of all the things she could buy with them. Sex reassignment surgery, a degree from a real university instead of just community college, a house, a car, everything she had always wanted, and more. It could all be hers.

All she had to do was betray everything she believed in.

She looked up from the diamonds, and saw Lighthammer staring intently back at her. She knew that he was measuring her, seeing what she would do now that she actually had the diamonds in her hand. This was a test, of who she really was deep down.

She walked to the state trooper, and felt a distinct wave of relief wash over her as she put the diamonds in the other woman's hand.

"These are conflict diamonds," January said firmly, "smuggled out of the Central African Republic."

"I guess you really are a White Hat," Lighthammer said behind her. "See you around Crowgirl."

He waved one hand at her in a half salute. His boots flared bright with light, and he shot off into the air. He rocketed down the corridor back the way January had come from, and vanished from sight.

"See you around Lightguy," January said after him.

"You're awful chummy with the vigilante chica," the state trooper said. January noticed that she spoke with teeth clenched. But otherwise she showed no signs of distress. January found herself admiring her. She had what Adin - her Krav Maga instructor - called grit.

With one hand January surreptitiously reached into one of the pockets of her utility belt. She found the phone-cloner that Gadget had made, and turned it on. This might be a cop worth knowing.

"He's not one of the bad guys," January insisted. "At least not today."

"Besides, I guess I'm a vigilante too," she continued. "Are you going to arrest me?"

"Not today." The older woman smiled and holstered her gun.

January could not restrain a chuckle. Then she saw Subramanian rising to his feet. She stepped over to him and clamped a vise around his arm.

"I am innocent!" he protested as she pulled him to the state trooper. "I am the victim in all this!"

"Yeah, tell that to the people you shot," January glanced down at her cape, which had blocked the bullets he would have put into her and the two rednecks.

"Search him, and I bet you'll find his ledger." January said to the state trooper. "If you can't crack the encryption, check social media. You should have all you need to burn him for what he's done."

The trooper took him with her good hand. January saw more cops coming from down the far hallway now, and decided that she had overstayed her welcome. She stepped away, so the trooper and Subramanian would be clear of her wings. The raucous cries of crows filled her ears, and January saw the birds take flight all around her. It was like they appeared out of thin air, almost like magic. She leaped into the air and popped out her wings. Following the crows, she soared out just as the thunderstorm stopped, and the sun peeked from the rapidly vanishing clouds.


Lighthammer's K.O. of the final merc was inspired by the end of the tea house shootout in Hard Boiled

For Non-Nerds, the inspiration for Lighthammer's Qui Gon Jin comment


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Acadian
post Jul 6 2019, 06:38 PM
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Another intense fight! It was very neat how Stormcrow grabbed that guy’s shield and drove them both hard up into the ceiling so her foe’s unprotected back took the blow. The unspoken cooperation between White and Gray hats during the fight was very effective in showing us a lot about both of them.

I loved the conversation after the fight between Lightguy and Crowgirl. Stormcrow certainly found the right words.

Her momentary hesitation once she had the diamond fortune in her hand reinforced that she is human, but we never doubted her choice to pass the bag to the state trooper. Despite the interwebz precautions mentioned by Stormcrow to preclude any dishonest shenanigans by the police, her decision to turn over the diamonds displayed some necessary growth. Stormcrow is realizing she has to work with, support and trust the police if she’s going to continue as a White Hat superheroine. That is a notable step given her history of unhelpful encounters with authorities.


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treydog
post Jul 8 2019, 04:36 PM
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A most enthralling fight! Then there is the deeper struggle- the contest between Lighthammer's "do what is right for me" versus January's belief that there is a larger "right and wrong." And yet, LH is admirable even in his cynicism- he acts because others refuse to do so- or are purely acting from self-interest.

Most excellent, Sensei SubRosa.


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